This thesis offers the hypothesis that early Mahayana Buddhism is institutionally co-extensive with the sects of Sectarian or Background Buddhism. Indian Mahayana Buddhism may be studied primarily on the basis of its literature. This literature can be stratified through internal and external criteria, and the putative authors of the literature grouped in this way are postulated as constituting a Mahayana community. This thesis explores the concerns of one such hypothetical Mahayana community, that of the authors, editors or redactors of the Maharatnakuta Collection of sutras.
Specifically, an important text, the Ratnarasisutra, is carefully studied. It is found that the authors of this text were primarily concerned with orthopractic issues of the maintenance of monastic discipline. Detailed attention is given to their concern with the proper ascetic, what constitutes an evil monk, ascetic practices, and the institutional organization of the monastic community.
As material for this investigation, and as a contribution to the study of Mahayana literature in general, a complete, annotated translation of the Ratnarasisutra is given, along with critical editions of the Tibetan canonical translation, with Sanskrit fragments, and the Chinese canonical translation, with testimonia.