Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Historicity of the First Buddhist Council




One of the most important events in the Buddhist history after the Buddha passed away was the first Buddhist Council or Pathama Sangayana. We can note that today there are different concepts and views on Buddhist Councils between Theravada and Mahayana traditions but both sects had accepted the first Buddhist council without any huge controversial issue concerning this event. 



First Buddhist Council
   After 7 days the Buddha passed away, the fragrant wood on the Buddha’s corpse was not catches fire. So the king asked to the Anuruda why was it happened like this? Then Anurudda answered that it was because Mahakassapa was not here and he was travelling from Pava to Kushinagara together with 5oo monks.
On the way to Kushinagara, Mahakassapa met with the naked ascetic and asked do you know our teacher Buddha? The naked ascetic responded that I knew him and he passed away a week ago, then after hearing this news, some ordinary monks cried and lamented over the death of the Buddha. But the monks who are already attained Arhantship silently bore their grief.
At the time one of the monk called Subhadda came front and told to all monks not to be lament and sad for the Buddha passed away because we are now free and there is no one who can prevent not to do this or not to do that, now we can do whatever we like.
The monk Subhaddha openly rejoiced at the loss of the Buddha who exasperated the monks with his observation; he proposed that the Bhikkhu, now free of all restraint, should live as they liked.[1]
After this incident, Mahakassapa was shocked and unhappy over the Subhadda. This irreverent speech made him more anxiety for the future purity of the Dhamma. Mahakassapa and his followers traveled to Kusinara for the last respect of Buddha. When they arrived to Kusinara, they gave their respect to the Buddha and the fragrant wood was automatically catch fire.
After the Buddha cremation, there was not any ash or charcoal but relics. And several kings and warriors demands to get Buddha’s relics and the Brahman named Sona divided into 8 portions and distributed to each kings.
After finished of the contributing Buddha’s relics, huge amount of number monks were gathering for the first Buddhist Council and Mahakassapa stated the case of Subhadda rude speech and encouraged to hold Buddhist council then other participant monks agreed with his suggestion and led the Mahakassapa to be selected the monks for the first Buddhist Council.
In order to ensure that indiscipline would not infiltrate the order, Kasapa proposed that the monks perform a joint recitation of the Law (dhamma) and discipline (vinaya). He chose 499 Arhats but, at their request, also convoked Ananda who, although he was not an Arht, was best acquired with the Buddha’s teaching.[2]
Mahakassapa selected 499 Arahant monks for the first Buddhist Council. CCounciland dand he did not selected to Ananda at first because other monks may blamed or criticized him if he choose Ananda because he is He did not select to Ananda because other Arhant monks might blamed or criticized him over selecting the one who did not attended Arhantship yet but without Ananda the first Buddhist Council would not be successful. Because Ananda is only one who lived closely with Buddha and he learned a lot from the Buddha, he could recite the Buddha words as in original. Later others monks suggest to include Ananda in order to be 500 Aranhats, then Mahakassapa selected Ananda to take apart in the first Buddhist Council.
And for the place to be hold the event, everyone agreed to choose Rajagaha because there were many temples and many lay supporters who could support throughout long period of the event. And Mahakassapa forbid the monks not to stay in Rajagaya except 500 Aranhats because this event took long period of time and if some monks came to front and against to the council then the first Buddhist Council would not be successful.
Ananda and others monks went to the palace and asked the king to renovate the 18 temples for the council, so that the king repaired all the temples.
Ananda practiced his best before the council started and he attained Arhanthood while trying to lie down at bed. It was weird that he attained Arhanthood while his body was in middle level of bed and the body was not touch yet at the bed.
In the next day, the all Arhant monks gathered at the particular place for the council, Mahakassapa asked about Vinaya, the cause of laid down each rules and Upali answered clearly every questions of Mahakassapa, then other 500 Arhant monks also approved all the answers, then all Arhant monks divided into many chapters and arranged the major or manor rules list in order.
After finished all questions and answers successfully for the Vinaya Pitaka, all 500 Arhant monks recited well done three times. The next section for the Suttanta Pitaka started. All monks selected Ananda to answer of all questions concerning Suttanta Pitaka. Mahakasapa questioned each Suttas, the main cause of appear the suttas and how importance it was and also questioned about five Nikayas. Ananda gave answers very clearly and accurately. Others Arhant monks accepted and arranged each Suttas and divided into five Nikaya such as Digha Nikaya, Maggima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Angutra Nikaya, and Khudaka Nikaya.
After finished questions and answers for the Dhamma, all Arhant monks recited as Well done three times. So the most important event the first Buddhist Council was done successfully. After finished the first Buddhist Council, Ananda told other Arhant monks in respect that the Buddha told to Ananda before he passed away that if Sangha community wish or agree to remove some minor rules or Sakhapada in future, you could do it. But Ananda did not ask to the Buddha which rules were belonging to minor rules?
 Some Arhant monks said Parajika 4 and Sangadisaysa 13 are major rules, the rest are minor rules but some Arhant monks said Parajika 4, Sanghadisaysa 23, Aniyata 2, Nisaggi Paccitiya 30, Pacittaya 92 are major rules, the rest are minor rules. There were some controversial among them for omission of some minor rules. Mahakassapa gave suggestion to all Arhant monks that lay people have already known the rules for the monks such as monks are not allowed to have dinner, not allowed to cut down the trees. If we removed those minor rules and if monks eat dinner then lay people may criticize on it, blame on it, therefore we should not remove any rules and we should preserve the Buddha’s Dhamma as original.
All Arhant monks were agree with Mahakassapa suggestion and decided not to remove any rules and not to change any minor rules. Then the most important event in the Buddhist history the first Buddhist Council was successfully done.
There were some controversial matters that Ananda was arraigned by the other Arhant monks for the five matters.
1        The Buddha mentioned during his life time to Ananda that if most monks wish or want to remove some minor rules, the Buddha allowed it but Ananda did not ask which are minor rules or major rules clearly so that Ananda was blamed and criticized for it.
2        On the other day, Ananda sew the Buddha’s robe by putting it under his feet so other monks were not happy to see this and blamed to Ananda for disrespect action upon the Buddha’s robe.
3        After Buddha passed away, many women from distance came for giving   last respect to the Buddha, Ananda let women to give respect first and women cried and tear drop down into the Buddha body. So other monks blamed to Ananda to let women first giving respect.
4        The Buddha can live longer to guide right path and give Dhamma talk to human beings but Ananda did not say to the Buddha to live longer for all beings. Monks blamed to Ananda for his defect or fault.
5        Ananda asked the Buddha to allow women ordination for three times and the Buddha allowed women ordination. Others monks blamed to Ananda for trying to allow women ordination. These were the shortcomings or defeats of Ananda.
Ananda confessed that all those cases were his fault or defect to be satisfying other Arhant monks.
Briefly, the proceedings of the First Council achieved four results (10) the settlement of the Vinaya under the leadership of Upali, (2) the settlement of the texts of the Dhamma under the leadership of Ananda (3) the trail of Ananda, and (4) the punishment of Channa.[3]
The First Buddhist Council took long period of time in order to complete successfully and finally it was done by 500 Arahant monks. According to Theravada tradition, Mahakassapa and king Ajatasatu approved to create the Buddhist era or calendar that accounted from the year of Buddha’s passed away.
Conclusion
The first Buddhist council was the most important event in the Buddhist history and there was not any big controversy unlike other Buddhist Councils. To be done of this council successfully, the king Ajatasattu sponsored through, and the council was held at Saptapani cave which was outside of Rajagaha. The Rajagaha was the capital of Maghada kingdom.  Mahakassapa was the leader of this council. And he selected 500 Arahat monks for the council. Upali and Ananda two of Arahat monks have recited vinaya pitaka and sutta pitaka. The first Buddhist council was done successfully led by Mahakassapa and 500 Arahat monks participation. The main purpose of this council was to preserve the purity of the Buddha’s teaching and to maintain as original.



[1] Lamotte.E, History of Indian Buddhism, Peeters Press, Paris, 1956, P.125
[2] Lamotte.E, History of Indian Buddhism, Peeters Press, Paris, 1956, P.125
[3] Bapat. P.V, 2500 Years of Buddhism, Publications Division Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Government of India, New Delhi, 1878, P. 36

Picture credit to  http://earlyworldhistory.blogspot.hk/2012/04/buddhist-councils.html

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