The First Council

At that time the Blessed One had not long en­tered Parinibbana. Kassapa was stay­ing in Vesālī at the Monkey Pond, the Hall with the Pointed Roof. There was a great Sangha of 500 bhikkhus there, and all were ara­hants ex­cept for Ānanda.

[Mahakassapa] said to the bhikkhus: ‘Earlier I was trav­el­ling from Pāvā to­wards Kusinārā. While in be­tween the two coun­tries I heard that the Buddha had passed away. At that time I was con­fused and lost in my heart, not able to con­tain my­self. All vil­lage bhikkhus, bhikkhu­nis, lay­men, and lay­women cried, fell down and rolled on the ground; there was no-one who was not cry­ing and wail­ing, sigh­ing: “Too soon the world is af­flicted, empty, the world’s eye is gone.” At that time Upananda had al­ready ar­rived there: “Stop every­one” he said. “That el­der was al­ways say­ing, you should do that, you should not do that, you should train like that, you should not train like that. Now we’re free from this suf­fer­ing! We can do what we want with no op­po­si­tion. Why are you all to­gether cry­ing?” I heard what he said, and was se­ri­ously wor­ried. Even though the Buddha has en­tered Parinibbana, the Vinaya still re­mains. We should gather in unity for a Council. Don’t let Upananda es­tab­lish a sep­a­rate fol­low­ing and ruin the true Dhamma.’

All the bhikkhus com­pletely agreed, and said to Kassapa: ‘Ānanda al­ways waited on the Buddha; he is in­tel­li­gent, has learnt much, and re­mem­bers the Dhammapitaka. Now he should be al­lowed to be num­bered among the bhikkhus.’

Kassapa said: ‘Ānanda is still a trainee. Because he still has greed, ha­tred, delu­sion and fear, we should not in­clude him.’

At that time Ānanda was stay­ing in Vesālī, day and night teach­ing Dhamma to the four­fold as­sem­bly. People were com­ing and go­ing al­most like when the Buddha was alive. There was a Vajjīputtaka bhikkhu sit­ting med­i­ta­tion up­stairs in that build­ing. Because of the noise and con­fu­sion he could not get the lib­er­a­tion of samadhi. He thought: ‘Now Ānanda is a trainee, he has not yet fin­ished what he has do do, and al­ways is among the bus­tle of teach­ing.’ Then he en­tered samadhi and ob­served that [Ānanda] could achieve the task. And then he thought: ‘Now I should speak to shake him up and be a cause for awak­en­ing.’ So he went to Ānanda and spoke the fol­low­ing verse:

‘In a se­cluded place, sit­ting un­der the tree
The mind goes to Nibbana
If you med­i­tate not heed­less
Why is there much talk­ing?’

All the bhikkhus also said to Ānanda: ‘You should quickly do what is to be done. Kassapa now wishes to col­lect the Vinaya-dhamma, and won’t al­low you to be in the gath­er­ing.’

Having heard that verse from the Vajjīputtaka bhikkhu, Ānanda fur­ther heard that Kassapa would not let him in the Vinaya gath­er­ing. Throughout the night he prac­ticed walk­ing med­i­ta­tion, re­flect­ing on gain­ing lib­er­a­tion. But he was not able to get it. As night was end­ing, his body was so tired, he wished to have a lit­tle lie down. While his head had not yet reached the pil­low, sud­denly his mind was freed from the de­file­ments.

All the bhikkhus now said to Kassapa: ‘Last night Ānanda found lib­er­a­tion! Now he should be in­cluded in the Vinaya gath­er­ing.’

Kassapa ap­proved, and then had the thought: ‘Where can we find suf­fi­cient food and drinks, and lodg­ings? Where we can get suf­fi­cient sup­port to hold a Vinaya gath­er­ing? Only in Rājagaha is there suf­fi­cient wealth to sup­port such a gath­er­ing.’ Thereupon he an­nounced in the Sangha: ‘These 500 ara­hants should stay in Rājagaha for the vassa, not even one other per­son should go there.’

Having made that rule al­ready, the 500 ara­hants went to Rājagaha. In the first month of the vassa they re­paired the dwellings. In the sec­ond month they all freely en­joyed the var­i­ous jhanas and lib­er­a­tions. In the third month they all gath­ered in one place.

Then Kassapa said to the Sangha: ‘May the ven­er­a­ble Sangha hear me. I will now ques­tion ven­er­a­ble Upāli in the Sangha re­gard­ing the Vinaya. If the Sangha is ready may it con­sent to lis­ten.’

They said: ‘So be it’.

Then Upali also said to the Sangha: ‘May the Venerable Sangha lis­ten. I will now an­swer Kassapa re­gard­ing the Vinaya. If the Sangha is ready, the Sangha should lis­ten.’

They said: ‘So be it’.

Kassapa then ques­tioned Upāli: ‘The Buddha was stay­ing in what place when he laid down the first pre­cept?’

Upali said: ‘At Vesālī.’

He fur­ther asked: ‘On who’s be­half was it laid down?’

‘On be­half of Sudinna Kalandakaputta.’

He fur­ther asked: ‘What was the grounds?’

He an­swered: ‘Having sex with his for­mer wife.’

Again he asked: ‘Was there a sec­ond for­mu­la­tion?’

The an­swer: ‘Yes. There was a bhikkhu hav­ing sex with a mon­key.’

Kassapa then asked: ‘Where was the sec­ond pre­cept laid down?’

Answered: ‘At Rājagaha.’

Asked: ‘On who’s be­half?’

Answered: ‘Dhaniya.’

Again asked: ‘What was the grounds?’

Answered: ‘Stealing Bimbisara’s tim­bers.’

Kassapa asked: ‘Where was the third pre­cept laid down?’

Answered: ‘At Vesālī.’

Again asked: ‘On who’s be­half?’

Answered: ‘On be­half of many bhikkhus.’

Again asked: ‘What was the grounds?’

Answered: ‘Taking the life of one­self and oth­ers.’

Kassapa then asked: ‘Where was the 4th pre­cept laid down?’

Answered: ‘At Vesālī.’

Again asked: ‘On who’s be­half?’

Answered: ‘On be­half of the Vaggamudā bhikkhus.’

Again asked: ‘On what grounds?’

Answered: ‘Vainly boast­ing of su­per­hu­man dham­mas.’

Kassapa thus pro­ceeded to ques­tion all in the midst of the bhikkhus. In the Sangha said: ‘This is the bhikkhu Vinaya. This is the bhikkhuni Vinaya. Together is called the Vinayapitaka.’

Then Kassapa said to the Sangha: ‘May the ven­er­a­ble Sangha hear me. I now wish to ques­tion ven­er­a­ble Ānanda in the Sangha re­gard­ing the Suttas. If the Sangha is ready may it con­sent to lis­ten.’

They said ‘So be it’.

Then Ānanda also said to the Sangha: ‘May the ven­er­a­ble Sangha lis­ten. I will now an­swer Kassapa re­gard­ing the Suttas. If the Sangha is ready, the Sangha should lis­ten.’

They said: ‘So be it’.

Kassapa then ques­tioned Ānanda: ‘Where did the Buddha teach the Ekottara Sutra? Where did he teach the Dasuttara Sutta? Where did he teach the Mahānidāna Sutta? Where did he teach the Saṅgīti Sutta? Where did he teach the Sāmaññaphala Sutta? Where did he teach the Brahmajāla Sutta? Which Suttas were taught to bhikkhus? Which Suttas were taught to bhikkhu­nis, lay­men, lay­women, male and fe­male deities? Ānanda an­swered all as taught by the Buddha. When Kassapa had taught all the Suttas, in the Sangha he said: ‘Here the long sut­tas are col­lected in one part called the Dīrgha Āgama. Those sut­tas nei­ther long nor short are col­lected in the Madhyama Āgama. Those taught to bhikkhus, bhikkhu­nis, lay­men, lay­women, and male and fe­male deities are now col­lected and called the Saṁyutta Āgama. Those from 1 dhamma up to 11 dham­mas now col­lected and called the Ekottara Āgama. Miscellaneous teach­ings are now gath­ered in the Khuddaka Pitaka. This is called the Suttapitaka.

‘From this day on we have now al­ready gath­ered the Dhamma. What Buddha has not es­tab­lished should not be mis­tak­enly es­tab­lished; what is al­ready es­tab­lished should not be de­vi­ated from. As the Buddha in­structed we should sin­cerely train.’

Ānanda then said to Kassapa: ‘I per­son­ally heard it from the Buddha: “After my Parinibbana, if it is wished, I al­low for the lesser and mi­nor pre­cepts to be re­scinded.”

Kassapa ime­di­ately asked: ‘Do you know which are the lesser and mi­nor pre­cepts?’

Answered: ‘I don’t know.’

Then asked: ‘Why don’t you know?’

Answered: ‘I didn’t ask the Buddha.’

Then asked: ‘Why didn’t you ask?’

Answered: ‘At that time the Buddha’s body was in pain, so I was afraid to trou­ble him.’

Kassapa in­sisted: ‘That is a wrong-doing for not ask­ing. You should see your fault and con­fess.’

Ānanda said: ‘Venerable sir; It was not out of dis­re­spect­ing pre­cepts that I didn’t ask this ques­tion. I didn’t wish to dis­turb the Buddha. So I didn’t dare. So I don’t see it as a fault. But out of faith in the Venerable I con­fess.’

Kassapa again in­ter­ro­gated Ānanda: ‘When sewing the Buddha’s sang­hati you used your toes. This is a wrong-doing. You should see your fault and con­fess.’

Ānanda said: ‘Venerable sir; It was not out of dis­re­spect­ing the Buddha; there was no-one to hold the fringe, so I used my toes. So I don’t see it as a fault. But out of faith in the Venerable I con­fess.’

Kassapa again in­ter­ro­gated Ānanda: ‘Three times you begged the Buddha to al­low the go­ing forth for women in the sad­dhamma. This is a wrong-doing. You should see your fault and con­fess.’

Ānanda said: ‘Venerable sir; It was not out of dis­re­spect­ing the Dhamma. But Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī raised the Blessed One un­til he was grown up and could go forth and achieve the great path. Because of this merit should fruit, I asked three times. So I don’t see it as a fault. But out of faith in the Venerable I con­fess.’

Kassapa again in­ter­ro­gated Ānanda: ‘Near the time of the Parinibbana, the Buddha hinted to you that one who had de­vel­oped the four bases of psy­chic power could, if they wished, live for an aeon or more than an aeon. The Tathagata is ac­com­plished in mea­sure­less samād­hid­ham­mas. So he dropped a hint to you three times. You didn’t beg the Buddha to re­main in the world for an aeon or more than an aeon. This is a wrong-doing. You should see your fault and con­fess.’

Ānanda said. ‘It was not that I didn’t wish the Buddha to live on. Mara the Evil One had clouded my mind, that’s why this hap­pened. So I don’t see it as a fault. But out of faith in the Venerable I con­fess.’

Kassapa again in­ter­ro­gated Ānanda: ‘The Buddha asked you for wa­ter three times but you didn’t give it. This is a wrong-doing. You should see your fault and con­fess.

Ānanda said. ‘It wasn’t be­cause I didn’t wish to of­fer. At that time 500 carts had just crossed over up­stream and the wa­ter was muddy and not clear. I was afraid of caus­ing af­flic­tion, so I didn’t of­fer any. So I don’t see it as a fault. But out of faith in the Venerable I con­fess.’

Kassapa again in­ter­ro­gated Ānanda: ‘You al­lowed women to first wor­ship the [Buddha’s] corpse. This is a wrong-doing. You should see your fault and con­fess.’

Ānanda said. ‘I didn’t want to en­able women to wor­ship first. But the day was end­ing and I didn’t want them to not be able to en­ter the city gate. That’s why I al­lowed them. So I don’t see it as a fault. But out of faith in the Venerable I con­fess.’ Ānanda out of faith in Kassapa con­fessed six wrong-doings in the midst of the Sangha.

Kassapa again in­ter­ro­gated Ānanda: ‘If we agree that the sekhiyas are lesser and mi­nor train­ing pre­cepts, some bhikkhus will say that up to the four pāṭidesanīyas are also lesser and mi­nor train­ing pre­cepts. If we agree that the pāṭidesanīyas are lesser and mi­nor train­ing pre­cepts, some bhikkhus will say that up to the pācit­tiyas are also lesser and mi­nor train­ing pre­cepts. If we agree that the pācit­tiyas are lesser and mi­nor train­ing pre­cepts, some bhikkhus will say that up to the nis­sag­giya pācit­tiyas are also lesser and mi­nor train­ing pre­cepts. Now we have these four kinds of opin­ions, how can we gain cer­tainty?’

Kassapa then said: ‘If we don’t know what the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the lesser and mi­nor rules are and mis­tak­enly re­scind them, mem­bers of other sects will say: ‘The Dhamma of the as­cetics, sons of the Śakyan, is like smoke. While their Teacher was alive they prac­ticed what was laid down, but straight af­ter the Parinibbana they were not will­ing to train.’ Kassapa then said in the midst of the Sangha: ‘We have now al­ready gath­ered the Dhamma. What Buddha has not es­tab­lished should not be mis­tak­enly es­tab­lished; what is al­ready es­tab­lished should not be de­vi­ated from. As the Buddha in­structed we should sin­cerely train.’

At that time Thera Purāṇa was liv­ing in the south­ern dis­tricts. He heard that the Buddha passed away in Kusinara and the el­der bhikkhus had gath­ered in Rājagaha to re­cite the Vinayadhamma. Like a strong man would bend his arm he and his fol­low­ers ap­peared in the as­sem­bly and said to Kassapa: ‘I hear that the Buddha has passed away and the el­der bhikkhus have gath­ered in Rājagaha to re­cite Vinayadhamma: is this true?’

Kassapa said: ‘Venerable sir, it’s true.’

Purāṇa said: ‘Please re­peat that recita­tion.’

Kassapa re­peated the recita­tion as above.

When re­cited, Purāṇa said to Kassapa: ‘I per­son­ally heard it from the Buddha: stor­ing [food] in­doors; cook­ing in­doors; cook­ing one­self; one­self tak­ing food to have an­other per­son of­fer; one­self pick up fruit to eat; re­ceiv­ing from pond wa­ter; when there is no-one to make al­low­able, eat­ing al­low­able fruit af­ter eject­ing seeds.’

Kassapa said: ‘Venerable Sir, these 7 items were tem­porar­ily al­lowed by the Buddha while stay­ing at Vesālī dur­ing a time of famine when alms­food was hard to come by. He im­me­di­ately re­scinded four, and when he re­turned to Sāvatthī he re­scinded [the re­main­ing] three.’

Purāṇa said: ‘The Blessed one would not al­low what was al­ready re­stricted, or re­strict what was al­ready al­lowed.’

Kassapa said: ‘The Buddha is the Lord of Dhamma, he dwells in Mastery of Dhamma. If he were to al­low what was al­ready re­stricted, or re­strict what was al­ready al­lowed, what blame would there be?’

Purāṇa said: ‘I ac­cept these ex­tra rea­sons re­gard­ing these seven items, and am not able to prac­tice them.’

Mahakassapa then said in the midst of the Sangha: ‘What Buddha has not es­tab­lished should not be mis­tak­enly es­tab­lished; what is al­ready es­tab­lished should not be de­vi­ated from. As the Buddha in­structed we should sin­cerely train.’

[Following this is re­counted in brief the episode re­gard­ing the pun­ish­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the bhikkhu Channa. Unlike the Pali, there is no men­tion of King Udena]

At this gath­er­ing of the Vinayadhamma, Aññākoṇḍañña sat in the el­der seat. Purāṇa sat in the sec­ond seat. Tan mi sat in the third seat. Tuo bha Kassapa sat in the fourth seat. Bhaddakassapa sat in the fifth seat. Mahākassapa sat in the sixth seat. Upāli sat in the sev­enth seat. Anuruddha sat in the eighth seat. There were a full 500 ara­hants, nei­ther more nor less, that’s why it is called the 500 gathering-dhamma.

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