Monday, 28 March 2011

Collection and Classification of Teachings

At the last part of the Buddha’s life, he had given instructions to monks for the protection of dhamma and vinaya for future. Therefore there did not arise a need to appoint a successor to lead the Buddha’s dispensation after his death. The µahAparinibbAnasutta of DN records an incident where Ven. Ānanda requests to appoint the next leader. The Buddha answered “O Ānanda! Whatever dhamma I have preached and vinaya I have promulgated will be teacher after me” (yo vo Ānanda mayA dhammo ca vinayo ca desito paJJatto, so vo mamaccayena satthA)
Establishing of dhamma and vinaya in the master’s place was a great responsibility for monks to respect it and protect it for future.
When the Buddha was living there was only a little room for dhamma and vinaya to be collected and established as single whole. When Ven. Ānanda was appointed as the attendant of the Buddha, one of his requests from the Buddha was to preach at another place without Ānanda’s participation as a listener. This shows that at that time of Ānanda’s appointment there was no a program to collect the dhamma. When it was the time after the Buddha’s demise, the need of an effort to collects dhamma was much felt. There were some monks who wanted to changed and misinterpret the dhamma and vinaya as they wished. Bhikkhu Subadda’s words which occur in CullavaggapAli are well-known in this regard.

ålaM Avuso ma socittha, ma paridevittha, sumutta mayaM tena mahAsamaNena, upadduta ca mayaM homa idaM vo kappati idaM vo na kappati, idani pana yaM mayam icchissAma taM karissAma yaM na icchissAma taM na karissAma.

According to the earliest record on Buddhist councils, the first Buddhist was summoned mainly due to these words of Subbadha. These words were taken very seriously by the elder disciples of the Buddha who were keenly interested about the protection of the teaching and dispensation. This was understood as a repentation of ideas held by a bigger number of monks. There. They decided immediately to call for a council in which necessary activities could be taken to protect the words of the Buddha. Great disciples thought if these kinds of thought and similar practices are allowed it would be great danger regarding the future of Buddhism. If there were encourage adhamma instead dhamma and avinaya instead of vinaya could have become prominent in the time to come.
In this background the first Buddhist council was held. The presidentship of the council of the council was taken by elder µahAkassapa who so far lived in the forest. The council was held for three months time. And as result of this historical meeting the following benefits were recorded to have made.

1.   Collection of Buddhist dialogues given to different person at different place on different ground and under different topics into one central point.
2.   Classification of the dhamma into different sections groups and sub-section sub-group.
3.   Giving appropriate names to discourses chapter section groups and collections.
4.   Deriving important teachings and concepts, composing them together and making agreement no to argue with them.
5.   Entrusting classified teachings to groups of monks under the guidance of a prominent monks.
6.   Making arrangement dhamma and vinaya to be preserved in oral tradition for future.
7.   Composing hand-books (PAtimokkha, ∂hammapada) on needed area of doctrine and discipline.
8.   Composing text to dispel disputes and wrong views.
9.   Making text explaining dhamma in simple terms for the use of common people.
10. Establishing the unity discipline and order of dispensation.

Lectured on 19.05.2005
The second Buddhist council was conducted one hundred years after the demise of the Buddha. Seven hundred monks participated in that meeting. The reason was the ten points of wrong discipline introduced by monks at Vajji (Vajjiputtaka monks). The place was VAlukarAma at Vesali to examine the ten point a panels of expert elders was assigned and it was called UbbAhika and it included Ven. Revata Ven. SambhUta, Ven. Yasa and Ven. SumaNa from Acina province, from the city of PAva Ven. SabbakAmi Ven. Salha Ven. Khujjasobbita and Ven. VasavagAmi. These theras from PAva belonged to the tradition of Ven. Ānanda and Anuraddha. These panels of monks decided to refuse ten points of Vajji monks completely. After the rejection they rehearsed the dhamma in three baskets.

The second was conducted mainly due to a disciplinary issue. The arguments among monks on the ten points were that strong without such a big meeting it could not be settled. It is well-known that after this council monks formed different groups mainly to first those accepted the decision of councils and those who rejected it. There schism was the beginning points of emerging different Buddhist schools thought that were eighteen in number at Asokan times.

The third Buddhist council was held 218 after the demise of the Buddha. The venue was AsokarAma at the city of PAtaliputta. The main sponsor was Emperor Asoka and president was Ven. Moggaliputtatissa. The main purpose of the council was to send away misconducting pseudo monks. Therefore the council was held after the reformation of the order of monks (sAsanasamsodhana). One of the significant contributions of the councils is the composition of KathAvatthuppakaraNa by Moggaliputtatissa Thera established 500 correct views and dispelling 500 wrong views. The following the councils another historical incident to place making Buddhism spreading further. Emperor Asoka sponsored Buddhist missionaries mainly to nine areas inside and outside of India and subsequently to other places also. This is the first time in which it went outside the boundary of JumbudIpa the birth place of Buddha.

The three major Buddhist councils mentioned about contributed in different ways to protect, faster and propagate. If they were not held, Buddhism would have faced a short living fate as in the case of some Indian religions contemporary to the Buddha. Councils protected dhamma and vinaya in original core. For that preservation that contribution made by participation elders at councils are so important that otherwise they could have been polluted very soon.

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