How to learn dhamma as Māhāvihāra Theravāda Buddhists?
How Māhāvihāra Theravāda Buddhists learn kammaṭhāna and dhamma for over 2600 years?
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This is through teacher and student lineages through though the years some changes have occurred.
Early on the Dhamma was also preserved this way through oral tradition handed down from teacher to pupil.
One of the best preserved lineages is that handed down from Ledi Sayadaw which has teachers like: Saya Gyi U Ba Khin, S. N. Goenka. It is believed that this is the exact teaching transmitted to Burma through Sona and Uttara. This probably would have the best resemblance to that was taught at Māhāvihāra early on.
I concluded this subject from cakkhupālatheravatthu in dhammapadaṭṭhakathā and vinayapitaka and commentary. My every topics base on Māhāvihāra Theravāda Buddhism. You can see pali source in Māhāvihāra Theravāda Buddhism cannon.
Cakkhupāla lived with upajjhā, who must graduated in bhikkhuparisūpaṭṭhāpaka course, to practice himself to be graduate in nissayamuccaka course, by memorization method (mukkhapatha).
What is nissayamuccaka course, that every monk, like cakkhupāla, must be done, before choose his way in ganthadhura or vipassanādhura?
There are 2 course of beginner, layman/novice course and nissayamuccaka course.
In the introduction of khuddakapātha-commentary said about that 'At 1st saṅgāyanā, 500 bikkhu had concluded some little texts, that popular to teach the newbie in buddhism. It was called kuddhakapātha. It content 9 texts: saraṇa, sikkhāpada, dvattiṃsākāra, kumārapañha, maṅgalasutta, ratanasutta, tirokuṭṭa, nidhikaṇḍa, mettasutta'.
Note: this is the reason the why all theravāda country always teach to memorize these 9 sutta first. They teach follow to 1st saṅgāyanā commentary's syllabus.
(for person who has done the first course)
In ovādakasikkhāpada-commentary wrote about 7 titles course syllabus:
These 7 titles must be done, to be nissayamuccaka. Nissayamuccaka can go everywhere without upajjhā.
When cakkhupāla had done nissayamuccaka course in 5 years, then he made the decision between ganthadhura, or vipassanādhura.
In cakkhupālatheravatthu declared Ganthadhura and Vipassanādhura as:
Ganthadhura is job of nissayamuccaka or higher, who memorized tipitaka and learn commentary such as 1 nikāya, 2 nikāya, or whole tipitaka.
Vipassanādhura is job of nissayamuccaka or higher, who has not enlighten, then trow every stuff, go to live without 5 kāmaguṇa, then do udayabbayañāṇa and higher, with a purposeful mind (can trow away their life to enlighten) to go to enlighten.
Both need to memorize tipitaka more than nissayamuccaka, too. Ganthadhura memorize books, but Vipassanādhura memorize their sutta and commentary, that they use to meditate.
See also: http://unmixedtheravada.blogspot.com/2016/09/tipitaka-memorization-is-rule-of-monks.html
pabbajissāmevāhaṃ, tātāti tassa viravantasseva satthu santikaṃ gantvā pabbajjaṃ yācitvā laddhapabbajjūpasampado ācariyupajjhāyānaṃ santike pañca vassāni vasitvā vuṭṭhavasso pavāretvā satthāramupasaṅkamitvā vanditvā pucchi – ‘‘bhante, imasmiṃ sāsane kati dhurānī’’ti? ‘‘ganthadhuraṃ, vipassanādhuranti dveyeva dhurāni bhikkhū’’tiฯ ‘‘katamaṃ pana, bhante, ganthadhuraṃ, katamaṃ vipassanādhura’’nti? ‘‘attano paññānurūpena ekaṃ vā dve vā nikāye sakalaṃ vā pana tepiṭakaṃ buddhavacanaṃ uggaṇhitvā tassa dhāraṇaṃ, kathanaṃ, vācananti idaṃ ganthadhuraṃ nāma, sallahukavuttino pana pantasenāsanābhiratassa attabhāve khayavayaṃ paṭṭhapetvā sātaccakiriyavasena vipassanaṃ vaḍḍhetvā arahattaggahaṇanti idaṃ vipassanādhuraṃ nāmā’’tiฯ ‘‘bhante, ahaṃ mahallakakāle pabbajito ganthadhuraṃ pūretuṃ na sakkhissāmi, vipassanādhuraṃ pana pūressāmi, kammaṭṭhānaṃ me kathethā’’tiฯ athassa satthā yāva arahattaṃ kammaṭṭhānaṃ kathesiฯ
so satthāraṃ vanditvā attanā sahagāmino bhikkhū pariyesanto saṭṭhi bhikkhū labhitvā tehi saddhiṃ nikkhamitvā vīsayojanasatamaggaṃ gantvā ekaṃ mahantaṃ paccantagāmaṃ patvā tattha saparivāro piṇḍāya pāvisiฯ manussā vattasampanne bhikkhū disvāva pasannacittā āsanāni paññāpetvā nisīdāpetvā paṇītenāhārena parivisitvā, ‘‘bhante, kuhiṃ ayyā gacchantī’’ti pucchitvā ‘‘yathāphāsukaṭṭhānaṃ upāsakā’’ti vutte paṇḍitā manussā ‘‘vassāvāsaṃ senāsanaṃ pariyesanti bhadantā’’ti ñatvā, ‘‘bhante, sace ayyā imaṃ temāsaṃ idha vaseyyuṃ, mayaṃ saraṇesu patiṭṭhāya sīlāni gaṇheyyāmā’’ti āhaṃsuฯ tepi ‘‘mayaṃ imāni kulāni nissāya bhavanissaraṇaṃ karissāmā’’ti adhivāsesuṃฯ