The First Buddhist Council
After the Buddha passed away a meeting was held to preserve his teachings.
the Buddha's death was a great loss to most of his followers,
except the deeply realised disciples, and many were plunged
into deep grief. Yet there was a monk who had entered
the order in his old age, who rejoiced at the Buddha's
not be sad, brothers," he said. "Cry not. We
are now free of the Great Ascetic. He constantly worried
us, saying 'This is suitable, this is not suitable.' Now
we are free do do what we like."
unexpected words spoken by a monk hardly a week after
the death of the Great Teacher caused the Venerable Maha
Kassapa, the third chief disciple of the Buddha, to call
a meeting of the leading arahants in order to protect
and preserve the teachings. The other elder monks were
consulted and they all welcomed the suggestion.
Ajatasattu was informed of the intention of the order
of Monks and he made all necessary arrangements for
the monks to meet at the entrance of the Sattapanni Cave
hundred seats were arranged and prepared in the large
hall, but only 499 famous arahants were chosen for the
meeting. The empty seat was reserved for the Venerable
Ananda, who was still only a sotapanna.
there was only one more day before the meeting was to
begin. The Venerable Ananda thought, "The meeting
is tomorrow. It is not right for me to go to the meeting
as a mere learner and not an arahant. I must try very
hard to purify my mind in the little time left to me".
spent much of the night in the Contemplation of
the Body, one of the meditation exercises taught
by the Buddha for the purification of mind. When it was
almost dawn, he thought, " I shall lie down,"
but he kept mindful of the body. Before his head touched
the pillow and after he raised his feet off the ground,
all the remaining defilements disappeared from his mind.
He had attained arahantship. And so he went to the council
meeting as an arahant.
meeting started three months after the passing away of
the Buddha. That meeting is now referred to as the First
Venerable Maha Kassapa was the president at the First
Council. Venerable Upali was chosen to answer questions
about the Vinaya, the monks' and nuns' disciplinary rules.
Venerable Ananda, who had the honour of hearing all the
discourses of the Buddha and who had an unusually good
memory, was chosen to recite all the discourses and answer
questions about the teachings.
First Buddhist Council collected together and arranged
the Buddhist Scriptures known as the Pali Tipitaka, which
have since been handed down from one generation of monks
to another. In the early days of Buddhism, there was no
written record of the teachings. The monks had to memorise
the scriptures and then teach the next generation of monks
in the same way, it being an oral tradition.
83 B.C., during the reign of the pious Sinhalese king, Vatta
Gamani Abhaya, a Council of Arahants was held in Sri Lanka
and the Tipitaka, for the first time in the history of
Buddhism, was put down in writing on ola leaves.