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The Dārṣṭāntika were an early Buddhist school identified as a branch of the Sarvāstivādins.[1]

Jan Westerhoff states:

The Dārṣṭāntika school, which is described in Abhidharma treatises as disagreeing with the Sarvāstivāda tradition, was closely related to the Sautrāntika, but the exact nature of their relation is not entirely clear. It may be that the Dārṣṭāntikas represent an earlier school and that the Sautrāntikas split off from this,[2] though Yaśomitra claims that the Dārṣṭāntikas are a particular type of Sautrāntikas, not the other way round.[3] Matters are further complicated by the fact that when both schools are referred to the term Dārṣṭāntika frequently appears to have a pejorative ring to it, a connotation not present in the case of the term Sautrāntika.[4] Their name, derived from dṛṣtānta (‘example’), may result from the assumption that they ‘were known for their active effort in popularizing the Buddha’s teachings, employing poetry and possibly other literary devices…and were particularly skilled in utilizing similes and allegories in demonstrating the Buddhist doctrines’.[5][6]

According to Charles Willemen, the Dārṣṭāntikas are the Sarvāstivādins who kept the long, traditional vinaya, in contrast to the shorter Dasabhanavara of the Vaibhāṣika school.[1]

Note that term Dārṣṭāntika has sometimes been used interchangeably with Sautrāntika in some commentaries.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Charles Willemen. Email conversation with Dorje108. July 8, 2020
  2. Westerhoff cites: Willemen, Dessein, and Cox 1998:108
  3. Westerhoff cites: Cox 1988:70, n. 4
  4. Westerhoff cites: Willemen, Dessein, and Cox 1998:108
  5. Westerhoff cites: Bhikkhu Dhammajoti 2009:74
  6. Westefhoff 2018, "The Abhidharma Schools".


  • Book icoline.svg Westerhoff, Jan (2018), The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy (Kindle ed.), Oxford University Press 

Further reading

  • Cox, Collet (1988), "On the possibility of a nonexistent object of consciousness: Sarvāstivādin and Dārṣṭāntika theories", Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 11: 31–87 
  • Cox, Collet (1995), "2.2: Dārṣṭāntikas and Sautrāntikas", Disputed Dharmas: Early Buddhist Theories on Existence, Tokyo: The International Institute of Buddhist Studies 
  • Dhammajoti, Bhikkhu K. L. (2009), Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma (4th ed.), Center of Buddhist Stuides, University of Hong Kong 
  • Willemen, Charles; Dessein, Bart; Cox, Collet (1998), Sarvastivada Buddhist Scholasticism, Brill