http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... canon.html
Just before Buddha’s remains were about to be cremated, a group of monks arrived from Pava. They were headed by Mahakassapa (‘Od-srung chen-po, Skt. Mahakashyapa), who insisted that the cremation wait until they had paid their last respects. Mahakassapa was a brahmin from Magadha who had become a monk in his old age a few years earlier. When Buddha had first met him, he had given Mahakassapa his old worn out robe in exchange for the brahmin’s new one. Later, this presentation of Buddha’s robe was taken to represent the transmission of authority and the start of the line of Buddhist patriarchs.
Buddha, however, had stated explicitly to his disciples on several occasions that, after he had passed away, the Dharma itself would serve as their teacher. He wished his community to continue on the model of the parliamentary system of Vajji. He did not intend for them to model themselves after a kingdom like Kosala and Magadha and have a single chief monk as its head.
Nevertheless, after Buddha’s passing away, there seems to have been a power struggle between Mahakassapa and Ananda, in other words a struggle between a traditional Indian system of transmission of autocratic authority from guru to disciple and a more democratic egalitarian system of mendicant monks living in small communities and following a common set of practices and principles. Mahakassapa won out.
After Buddha was cremated and his relics distributed, the monks agreed to Mahakassapa’s proposal to hold a council in Rajagaha the next rainy season to recount, confirm, and codify what Buddha had taught. Mahakassapa was to choose those elders who could attend. He chose only arhats, those who had attained liberation, and these numbered 499. At first, Mahakasspa did not include Ananda on the grounds that he had not yet attained arhatship. Mahakassapa excluded him despite Ananda having the best memory of Buddha’s discourses. In addition, Ananda was a strong supporter and vocal advocate of Buddha’s wish for his order not to have a singular leader. Perhaps another factor involved in Mahakassapa’s dislike of Ananda was the fact that Ananda was the one who had convinced the Buddha to ordain women. This would have offended Mahakassapa’s conservative brahmin background. In the end, however, the monastic elders protested Ananda’s exclusion and Mahakassapa gave in and allowed Ananda to attend. According to the Theravada account, Ananda attained arhatship the night before the council.
While waiting for the council to convene, however, Ananda met Vassakara (dByar-gyi rnam-pa, Skt. Varshakara), King Ajatasattu’s prime minister. Ananda learned from him that in addition to the attack on Vajji that the Magadha forces were preparing, they were also preparing for an expected attack from King Pajjota (Rab-gsal, Skt. Pradyota) of Avanti (A-banti’i yul, Skt. Avanti), the kingdom to the west of Magadha. Thus, although Buddha did not intend for there to be a line of patriarchs heading his community, Mahakassapa’s taking over the leadership undoubtedly contributed to the survival of Buddha’s teachings and monastic community through these perilous and uncertain times.
Just want to spark a discussion on the pros and cons of transmission of Dharma, through a guru/disciple system; in comparison to more of a egalitarian way of propagating the Dharma to the next generation.http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=106&t=11615
In older forms of Buddhist thought like abhidharma, philosophy and general sutra, you don't need a guru. They wrote it down so people could benefit from it and hopefully gain the means to liberation. I believe that a guru as a precondition for liberation was a later development in Buddhism in India which was eventually transmitted to China. Post-Gupta India saw the rise of feudalism with both Hindu and Buddhist doctrines shifting towards dependence on living authorities rather than scripture. In other words, more pressing concern with hierarchy and authority than before. That is not to say this is a negative thing that should be rejected, but just that in the classical exoteric approach having a guru is not a precondition for liberation.
In a lot of Classical Indian thought it seems assumed that you can become liberated through reading, understanding and realizing the content of scriptures. There is no particular need for it to be transmitted from a superior to you. You just need to accurately understand the content and apply it. For instance, Nāgārjuna's basic model suggests dhyāna coupled with realization of emptiness (wisdom) as a means to liberation. He doesn't mention a guru as a precondition, though perhaps it helps to have reliable spiritual friends. However, liberation in this context is not identical to attaining buddhahood.
So, presumably if you master dhyāna and read scriptures while maintaining a moral lifestyle you'll advance towards liberation. It might not be a lineage or identifiable tradition you're following, but then in earlier periods I don't detect much concern for such things.....
I suspect that towards the end of the Gupta (550) and the rise of Indian feudalism thereafter we can identify practices or lineages that insist on a guru as a precondition for liberation. This was perhaps tied in with vast cultural and religious changes in north India where authority, both political and religious, came to be heavily emphasized. This likewise applied to Hindu schools of thought as well. Buddhist institutions like Nālandā became fortresses with abbots acting effectively as lords over the peoples in their territories. In such a cultural context authority and deference to authority seem to have become a lot more emphasized than ever before.
Does anyone agree on the necessity of a guru/disciple transmission as a means for continuation of the teachings? As a way to insure that the next generation receives the correct or right teachings of the Buddha?
What if the sangha itself have had served a greater role in the continued transmission of the Buddha Dharma? How would the propagation of the Buddha-Dharma fare, if it was transmitted exclusively through the community of practitioners?