Sixth Buddhist council
The Sixth Buddhist Council (Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana), as it styled itself, was a general council of Theravada Buddhism held in Kaba Aye in Yangon (Rangoon). The Council was convened eighty-three years after the Fifth Buddhist council was held in Mandalay. The Council commenced proceedings on Vesak, 17 May 1954, in order to allow sufficient time to conclude its work on Vesak, 24 May 1956, the day marking the 2,500 year Jayanti celebration of the Lord Buddha's Parinibbāna, according to the traditional Theravada dating.
The Sixth Buddhist Council was sponsored by the Burmese Government led by the Prime Minister, the Honorable U Nu. He authorized the construction of the Maha Passana Guha, "the Great Cave," in which the work of the council took place. This venue was designed to be like the cave in which the First Buddhist Council was held.
As in the preceding councils, the Sixth Council's aim was to affirm and preserve the genuine Dhamma and Vinaya. The 2,500 participating Theravadan Elders came from eight different countries, being Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw was appointed the noble task of asking the required questions about the Dhamma to the Venerable Bhadanta Vicittasarabhivamsa, who answered all of them learnedly and satisfactorily. By the time this council met all the participating countries had had the Pali Tipitaka rendered into their native scripts, with the exception of India.
The Council took two years, and the Tipitaka and its allied literature in all scripts were painstakingly examined with their differences noted down, the necessary corrections made, and collated. It was found that there was not much difference in the content of any of the texts. Finally, after the Council had officially approved the texts, all of the books of the Tipitaka and their Commentaries were prepared for printing on modern presses. This notable achievement was made possible through the dedicated efforts of the 2,500 monks and numerous lay people. Their work came to an end with the rise of the Full Moon on the evening of 24 May 1956, the marking of the 2,500 anniversary of the Lord Buddha's Parinibbāna, according to the traditional Theravada dating.
This Council's work was a unique achievement in Buddhist history. After the scriptures had been examined thoroughly several times, they were put into print, covering 52 treatises in 40 volumes. At the end of this Council, all the participating countries had the Pali Tipitaka rendered into their native scripts, with the exception of India.
Today the Tipitaka can be found in English and many other languages, with large parts available online at no cost.