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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