Dhamma Sangayana (Buddhist Councils)

(550 BC) First, Second and Third Buddhist Councils and Establishment of Tipitaka (Buddhist Canon)

First Dhamma Sangayana: First Council

Conqueror lived eighty-four years, fulfilled all his duties and left this world in Kusinara. Light of the world was extinguished.
Subaddha’s Evil Comments: After the death of Buddha, due to Subaddha’s evil comments, five hundred monks gathered to establish the truth.

(Author’s Note: Mahavamsa does not say what these evil comments are. According to Chulavagga in Vinaya pitaka, Subaddha has told “Friends…since Buddha is dead there is no one to tell us what to do and what not to do. Hence we can do whatever we want”.

Place to Hold the First Council: King Ajasatthu provided a place to hold the first council.

Mahakassapa’s Advise to Ananda: At this time, Ananda still had not attain Arahathhood. Mahakassapa said to Ananda, that the council would gather tomorrow, therefore strive hard and reach Arahathhood. Next day five hundred bhikkus met together and left a seat for Ananda. When Ananda finally came to the meeting hall, he flew through air to the seat.

Thera Upali for Vinaya Pitaka and Thera Ananda for Rest of Dhamma: The gathering of the bhikkus selected Upali Thera to explain the Vinaya pitaka (code of discipline) and Thera Ananda for rest of the Dharma. Mahakassapa questioned Thera Upali on Vinaya pitaka. Thera Upali explained the Vinaya Pitaka as he heard from Buddha.

After establishing the Vinaya pitaka, Mahakassapa questioned Ananda thera on sutta pitaka. All the theras repeated Dharma, in turn after Ananda. It took seven months to compile the complete Dharma.

Since the canon was established by the theras, it was known as Theravadha.

(Author’s Note: Mahathera Mahanama, the author of the first section of Mahavamsa, goes through the first Sangayana briskly. Detailed account of the first Sangayana is given in Chulavagga in Vinaya pitaka. Chulavagga account is considered to be the oldest version of the first council).

Chulavagga (Vinaya Pitaka) Account of First Council >


Second Council

One hundred years after the Parinibbana of Samma Sambuddhassa, during the reign of King Kalashoka, bhikkus of Vajjis considered ten points to be legal. These ten points included carrying salt in a horn and taking a mid day meal.

To straighten out the ten points raised by Vajjis, the second council was held by thousands of bhikkus under the leadership of Revatha Mahathera in Vesali. During this council, ten points of Vajjis were rejected.


Third Council

After the second council, heretical bhikkus founded the school, Mahasamgika. From this arose Gokulika, Ekavyaharika, and various other sects.

King Asoka’s Conversion to Buddhism: As King was standing near the window, he saw twelve year old samanera Nigrodha, walking in the road. The King was very impressed with the calm and quiet composure of the samanera and sent men to bring the Samanera to the palace.

When Samanera Nigrodha came to the palace, King requested the samanera to sit in a fitting place. Samanera Nigrodha seeing no any other monks, sat on King’s throne. At this time Samanera Nigrodha preached Appamadavagga.

After listening to Samanera Nigrodha, King became an adherent of the conqueror.

King’s Son and Daughter Become Bhikkus: King’s son, Mahinda and daughter, Samghamittha was ordained by Moggaliputtha Tissa Mahathera and Dhammapala Theri respectively.

Refusal To Hold Upostha Festival: During this time some bhikkus refused to hold the Upostha festival claiming that there were heretics among bhikkus. King sent a minister to solve the problem that was boiling among bhikkus. The minister told the bhikkus to hold the Upostha festival, but they refused. The minister cut the heads of some monks and forced them to hold the Upostha festival.

King was deeply disturbed by this incident and asked Moggali Puttha Tissa Mahathera whether he was responsible for the crime. Mahathera answered that, since there was no intention in the part of King, he is not responsible for the act of the minister.

After this incident, thousands of bhikkus got together under the leadership of Moggali Puttha Tissa Mahathera and held the third council in Pataliputta. During the third council, Kathavatthu pakarana (Seventh book of the Abhidhamma pitaka – Edited by A.C Taylor, Pali Text Society) was established.

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