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Council

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A council (saṅgīti) is the meeting of a group of persons for some specific purpose. The Pāli word literally means ‘chanting’ (gīti) ‘together’ (sam). 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 Sattapaṇṇi Cave in Rājagaha and was attended by 500 arahats (Vin.II,283-88). About a hundred years later a second council was held in Vesāli to settle a dispute on monastic discipline, after which all of the teachings were again recited and agreed upon (Vin.II,293-306). Tradition says that King Aśoka held a third council in Patna although firm historical evidence of this is lacking. Disagreements within the Saṅgha 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 Sixth Council in Rangoon which was mainly a Theravāda endeavour. After this council a new and corrected edition of the Tipiṭaka was published.

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