Council

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A council (saïgãti) is the meeting of a group of persons for some specific purpose. After the Buddha’s passing, senior monks decided to hold a council to agree upon his teachings and commit them to memory so that they could be preserved for future generations. This meeting, called the First Council, was held at the Sattapaõõi Cave in Ràjagaha and was attended by 500 arahats (Vinaya 2. 283-88). About a hundred years later a second council was held in Vesàli to settle a dispute on monastic discipline after which all of the teachings were again recited and agreed upon (Vinaya 2. 293-306). Tradition says that King Ashoka held a third council in Pàñaliputra although firm historical evidence of this is lacking. Disagreements within the Sangha are said to have been resolved, errant monks and nuns expelled and missionary monks sent to different regions of India and beyond to promote the Dhamma. After this, Buddhism gradually broke into different sects and it was no longer possible to have a council that represented all Buddhists, although different countries sometimes held their own councils. In 1956 the Burmese government held what was called the Fifth Council in Rangoon which was a Theravada endeavour, although it only received lukewarm endorsement from other Theravadin countries. After this council a new and corrected edition of the Tipitaka was published.

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