Open main menu

First Buddhist council

First Council at Rajgir, painting at the Nava Jetavana, Shravasti
The Saptaparni Cave in Rajgir, where the First Buddhist Council may have been held.

The First Buddhist council was a gathering of senior monks of the Buddhist order convened just after Gautama Buddha's death in ca. 400 BCE.[1][2] The story of the gathering is recorded in the Vinaya Pitaka of the Theravadins and Sanskrit Buddhist schools. It is regarded as canonical by all schools of Buddhism, but in the absence of evidence from outside the Buddhist sutras some scholars have expressed doubts as to the event's historicity.


A council of 500 Arahants was held at Rajgir (Sanskrit: Rājagṛha) three months following the Buddha's death to agree on the contents of the Dhamma and Vinaya.[1][3] It is said that following the Buddha's death, 499 of the Buddha's top arahats were chosen to attend the council, with one seat reserved for Ananda, then a sotapanna. As the meeting approached, Ananda trained himself until the dawn of day of the council. When the dawn arrived, he decided to lie down and before his head hit the pillow he became an arahant.[4]

The meeting was led by Mahakasyapa under the patronage of the king Ajatashatru. Its objective was to preserve the Buddha's sayings (suttas) and the monastic discipline or rules (Vinaya). Even though the Buddha allowed the Sangha to abolish the minor rules, the Sangha made the unanimous decision to keep all the rules of the Vinaya. Ananda recited the Suttas, such that each begins: ‘Thus have I heard’ (Pali: Evaṃ me sutaṃ).[1] The monk Upali (Sanskrit उपालि upāli) recited the Vinaya.[1] According to D.N. commentary's introduction, the Abhidhamma Pitaka and ancient commentary was also included.


Tradition states that the First Council lasts for seven months.[5] Scholars doubt, however, whether the entire canon was really recited during the First Council,[1] because the early texts contain different accounts on important subjects such as meditation.[6] It may be, though, that early versions were recited of what is now known as the Vinaya-piṭaka and Sutta-piṭaka.[7] Nevertheless, many scholars, from the late 19th century onward, have considered the historicity of the First Council improbable. Some scholars, such as orientalists Louis de La Vallée-Poussin and D.P. Minayeff, thought there must have been assemblies after the Buddha's death, but considered only the main characters and some events before or after the First Council historical.[8][9] Other scholars, such as Buddhologist André Bareau and Indologist Hermann Oldenberg, considered it likely that the account of the First Council was written after the Second Council, and based on that of the second, since there were not any major problems to solve after the Buddha's death, or any other need to organize the First Council.[10][11] On the other hand, archaeologist Louis Finot, Indologist E. E. Obermiller and to some extent Indologist Nalinaksha Dutt thought the account of the First Council was authentic, because of the correspondences between the Pāli texts and the Sanskrit traditions.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Harvey 2013, p. 88.
  2. ^ Bechert, Heinz; Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, eds. (1995). When did the Buddha live?: the controversy on the dating of the historical Buddha. Delhi, India: Sri Satguru Publications. ISBN 8170304695.
  3. ^ "Life of Buddha: The 1st Buddhist Council (Part 2)". Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  4. ^ "Life of Buddha: The 1st Buddhist Council (Part 2)". Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  5. ^ Buswell & Lopez 2013, Council, 1st.
  6. ^ Gombrich, Richard (2006). How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings (2nd ed.). Routledge. pp. 96–7. ISBN 978-0-415-37123-0.
  7. ^ Hirakawa 1993, p. 69.
  8. ^ Prebish 2005, p. 226.
  9. ^ Mukherjee 1994, pp. 453.
  10. ^ Prebish 2005, p. 231.
  11. ^ Mukherjee 1994, pp. 454–6.
  12. ^ Mukherjee 1994, p. 457.


External LinksEdit