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The Pudgalavāda (Sanskrit; Chinese: 補特伽羅論者; pinyin: Bǔtèjiāluō Lùnzhě) or "Personalist" school of Buddhism, was a grouping of early Buddhist schools that separated from the Sthavira nikāya around 280 BCE. Prominent groups classified as Pudgalavāda include the Vātsīputrīya nikāya and the Saṃmitīya nikāya.

Pudgala or "person"

The Pudgalavādins asserted that while there is no ātman, there is a pudgala or "person", which is neither the same as nor different from the skandhas. The "person" was their method of accounting for karma, rebirth, and nirvana. Other schools held that the "person" exists only as a label, a nominal reality.

Criticisms of the pudgala theory

Pudgalavādin views were sharply criticized by the Theravāda (a record of a Theravadin attack on the pudgala is found in the Kathavatthu), Sarvāstivāda, and the Mādhyamaka. Peter Harvey agrees with criticisms levelled against the Pudgalavadins by Moggaliputta-Tissa and Vasubandhu, and finds that there is no support in the Pali nikayas for their "person"-concept.[1]

Relationship to the Saṃmitīya

Among the most prominent of the Pudgalavādin schools were the Saṃmitīya. Étienne Lamotte, using the writings of the Chinese traveler Xuanzang, asserted that the Saṃmitīya were in all likelihood the most populous non-Mahayanist sect in India, comprising double the number of the next largest sect,[2] although scholar L. S. Cousins revised his estimate down to a quarter of all non-Mahayana monks, still the largest overall.[3] They continued to be a presence in India until the end of Indian Buddhism, but, never having gained a foothold elsewhere, did not continue thereafter.


  1. ^ Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, pages 34-38.
  2. ^ Lamotte, Etienne. History of Indian Buddhism. 1988. pg 539-544
  3. ^ Cousins, L. S. "Person and the Self." in: Williams, Paul (ed.), Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Vol. 2, 2005; pgs 84-101

See also

Further reading

  • Priestley, Leonard (1999). Pudgalavāda Buddhism: The Reality of the Indeterminate Self. Toronto: Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto.
  • Thích, Thiện Châu (1984) The Literature of the Pudgalavādins, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7 (1), 7-16
  • Thích, Thiện Châu (1987) Les réponses des Pudgalavādin aux critiques des écoles bouddhiques, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 10 (1), 33-54
  • Thích, Thiện Châu, Boin-Webb, Sara (1999). The literature of the Personalists of early Buddhism, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

External links