The Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana, The Sixth Great International Buddhist Council
(B.E.2498-B.E.2500, equivalent to May 17, 1954 – May 24, 1956) at Yangon, Burma
This huge hall was built to house the Sixth Buddhist Council convened in 1955 to recite the Pali Tipitaka and authenticate the texts. On the 2,500th Anniversary of the Buddha’s final passing away (Parinibbana), 2,500 monks assembled from the Theravada Buddhist countries.
Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw performed the central role as Chief Questioner (Pucchaka), which was fulfilled by Venerable Mahakassapa in the First Council, held three months after the Buddha’s passing away.
To house this great hall, an artificial hill was constructed by voluntary workers at Kaba-Aye in Rangoon. This great hall is still used to hold the examinations in the Tipitaka. Accommodation and a grand Sima hall were built on the same site for the monks participating in the Council. The Kaba-Aye (World Peace) pagoda is also in the same park.
The First Buddhist Council (543 years before the Christian eras) at the Sattapanniguha, Rajgir, India
The First Buddhist council was convened in the year following the Buddha’s Parinibbana, which is 543–542 BCE according to Theravada tradition, at various earlier dates according to certain Mahayana traditions, and various later dates according to certain Western estimates. According to late commentarial accounts, King Ajatashatru (Sanskrit अजातशत्रु) sponsored the council. Tradition holds that the Council was held in a hall erected by Ajatasattu outside the Sattaparnaguha Cave (Pali: Sattapanniguha) in Rajgir, three months after the Buddha had died. Detailed accounts of the council can be found in the Khandhaka sections of the canonical Vinayas.
According to this record the incident which prompted the Elder Mahakassapa to call this meeting was his hearing a disparaging remark about the strict rule of life for monks. This is what allegedly happened. The monk Subhadda, who had ordained late in life, upon hearing that the Buddha had expired, voiced his resentment at having to abide by all the rules for monks laid down by the Buddha. Many monks lamented the passing of the Buddha and were deeply grieved. However, the Elder Mahakassapa heard Subhadda say: “Enough your Reverences, do not grieve, do not lament. We are well rid of this great recluse (the Buddha). We were tormented when he said, ‘this is allowable to you, this is not allowable to you’ but now we will be able to do as we like and we will not have to do what we do not like.”
Mahakassapa was alarmed by his remark and feared that the Dhamma and the Vinaya might be corrupted and not survive intact if other monks were to behave like Subhadda and interpret the Dhamma and the Vinaya rules as they pleased. To avoid this he decided that the Dhamma must be preserved and protected. To this end after gaining the Sangha’s approval he called to council five hundred Arahants. Ananda was to be included in this provided he attained Arahanthood by the time the council convened.
With the Elder Mahakassapa presiding, the five hundred Arahant monks met in council during the rainy season. The first thing Mahakassapa did was to question the foremost expert on the Vinaya of the day, Venerable Upali on particulars of the monastic rule. This monk was well qualified for the task as the Buddha had taught him the whole of the Vinaya himself. The Elder Mahakassapa asked him specifically about the ruling on the first offense parajika, with regard to the subject, the occasion, the individual introduced, the proclamation, the repetition of the proclamation, the offense and the case of non-offense. Upali gave knowledgeable and adequate answers and his remarks met with the unanimous approval of the presiding Sangha. Thus, the Vinaya was formally approved.
The Elder Mahakassapa then turned his attention to Ananda in virtue of his reputable expertise in all matters connected with the Dhamma. Happily, the night before the Council was to meet, Ananda had attained Arahantship and joined the Council. The Elder Mahakassapa, therefore, was able to question him at length with complete confidence about the Dhamma with specific reference to the Buddha’s sermons. This interrogation on the Dhamma sought to verify the place where all the discourses were first preached and the person to whom they had been addressed.
Ananda aided by his word-perfect memory was able to answer accurately and so the Discourses met with the unanimous approval of the Sangha. The First Council also gave its official seal of approval for the closure of the chapter on the minor and lesser rules, and approval for their observance. It took the monks seven months to recite the whole of the Vinaya and the Dhamma and those monks sufficiently endowed with good memories retained all that had been recited. This historic first council came to be known as the Pancasatika because five hundred fully enlightened Arahants had taken part in it.
The Sattapanni Cave in Rajgir, where the First Buddhist Council may have been held.
Ananda reciting the Sutta Pitaka.
The Second Buddhist Council (About 100 years after the Buddha’s Parinibbāna) at Vesali, India
The Second Buddhist council took place in Vesali, about one hundred years after the Buddha’s Parinibbāna, in order to settle a serious dispute on Vinaya. The orthodox monks were able to convince the monks whose behaviour was under question. Accounts of the dispute are preserved in the Vinaya texts of several of the early Buddhist schools. Virtually all scholars agree that this second council was a historical event.
Some time after the Second Council, schisms occurred within the monastic Sangha, which resulted in the formation of several subgroups such as Sthaviravada, Mahasanghika and Sarvastivada.
The dispute arose over the ‘Ten Points.’ This is a reference to claims of some monks breaking ten rules, some of which were considered major. The specific ten points were:
Storing salt in a horn.
Eating after midday.
Eating once and then going again to a village for alms.
Holding the Uposatha Ceremony with monks dwelling in the same locality.
Carrying out official acts when the assembly was incomplete.
Following a certain practice because it was done by one’s tutor or teacher.
Eating sour milk after one had his midday meal.
Consuming strong drink before it had been fermented.
Using a rug which was not the proper size.
Using gold and silver.
The key issue was the use of ‘gold and silver’, which is an Indic idiom that includes any kind of money. The monks of Vesali had taken to wandering for alms with the specific goal of collecting money, to which the visiting monk Yasa objected. Some of the other points are also important,
for example point 6, which would allow monks to not follow the Vinaya on any point which their teacher did not follow or practice.
This behaviour was noted, became an issue and caused a major controversy. The monastic Sangha is structured so that all actions and decisions must be unanimously agreed upon through consensus. Since the monks accused of breaking these ten rules refused to be reprimanded or acknowledge fault, the Sangha was unable to resolve this dispute in any other way than by convening the Second Buddhist Council.
Some of the Ten Points were against minor (dukkata or sekhiya) rules. Before the Buddha’s Parinibbāna he told Ven. Ananda that the community may (unanimously) relinquish the minor rules of the Vinaya but at the First Buddhist Council there was uncertainty about which rules he was referring to and it was unanimously decided to keep the Vinaya as it was during the Buddha’s lifetime. However, 100 years later some monks felt that certain rules could be relaxed.
The Second Buddhist Council made the unanimous decision not to relax any of the rules, and censured the behaviour of the monks who were accused of violating the ten points.
Third Buddhist Council (About 250 years before the Christian eras or about 2,261 years ago) at Asokarama in Patiliputta, India
The Third Buddhist council was convened in about 250 BCE at Asokarama in Patiliputta, supposedly under the patronage of Emperor Asoka. The reason for convening the Third Buddhist Council is reported to have been to rid the Sangha of corruption and bogus monks who held heretical views. It was presided over by the Elder Moggaliputta Tissa and one thousand monks participated in the Council. The council is recognized and known to both the Theravada and Mahayana schools, though its importance is central only to the Theravada school. Tradition has it that Asoka had won his throne through shedding the blood of all his father’s son’s except his
own brother, Tissa Kumara, who eventually got ordained and achieved Arahantship.
The account of the background to the Third Council is as follows: Emperor Asoka was crowned in the two hundred and eighteenth year after the Buddha’s Mahaparinibbāna. At first he paid only token homage to the Dhamma and the Sangha and also supported members of other religious sects as his father had done before him. However, all this changed when he met the pious novice-monk Nigrodha who preached him the Appamada-vagga. Thereafter he ceased supporting other religious groups and his interest in and devotion to the Dhamma deepened. He used his enormous wealth to build, it is said, eighty-four thousand pagodas and viharas and to lavishly support the bhikkhus with the four requisites. His son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta were ordained and admitted to the Sangha.
Eventually, his generosity was to cause serious problems within the Sangha. In time the order was infiltrated by many unworthy men, holding heretical views and who were attracted to the order because of the Emperor’s generous support and costly offerings of food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Large numbers of faithless, greedy men espousing wrong views tried to join the order but were deemed unfit for ordination.
Despite this they seized the chance to exploit the Emperor’s generosity for their own ends and donned robes and joined the order without having been ordained properly. Consequently, respect for the Sangha diminished. When this came to light some of the genuine monks refused to hold the prescribed purification or Uposatha ceremony in the company of the corrupt, heretical monks.
When the Emperor heard about this he sought to rectify the situation and dispatched one of his ministers to the monks with the command that they perform the ceremony. However, the Emperor had given the minister no specific orders as to what means were to be used to carry out his command. The monks refused to obey and hold the ceremony in the company of their false and ‘thieving’ companions (Pali, theyya-sinivāsaka).
In desperation the angry minister advanced down the line of seated monks and drawing his sword, beheaded all of them one after the other until he came to the King’s brother, Tissa who had been ordained. The horrified minister stopped the slaughter and fled the hall and reported back to the Emperor. Asoka was deeply grieved and upset by what had happened and blamed himself for the killings. He sought Thera Moggaliputta Tissa’s counsel. He proposed that the heretical monks be expelled from the order and a third Council be convened immediately.
So it was that in the seventeenth year of the Emperor’s reign the Third Council was called. Thera Moggaliputta Tissa headed the proceedings and chose one thousand monks from the sixty thousand participants for the traditional recitation of the Dhamma and the Vinaya, which went on for nine months. The Emperor, himself questioned monks from a number of monasteries about the teachings of the Buddha. Those who held wrong views were exposed and expelled from the Sangha immediately. In this way the Bhikkhu Sangha was purged of heretics and bogus bhikkhus.
According to the Pali and Chinese accounts, the Elder Moggaliputta Tissa, in order to refute a number of heresies and ensure the Dhamma was kept pure, compiled a book during the council called the Kathavatthu. This book consists of twenty-three chapters, and is a collection of discussions on the points of controversy. It gives refutations of the ‘heretical’ views held by various Buddhist sects on matters philosophical. The Kathavatthu is the fifth of the seven books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. However, the historicity of this has been questioned, as the account preserved in the San Jian Lu Pi Po Sho (Sudassanavinayavibhasha), although otherwise almost identical, does not mention the Kathavatthu.
Moggaliputtatissa told Ashoka that the doctrine taught by the Buddha was the Vibhajjavada, the Doctrine of Analysis. This term is used in various senses, and it is not clear exactly what it meant in this context. Traditionally, however, the Sri Lankan Theravadins and other mainland schools of Early Buddhism identified themselves as Vibhajjavada.
see also Greco-Buddhist monasticism
Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Ashoka (260–218 BCE).One of the most significant achievements ascribed by Theravada tradition to this Dhamma assembly and one which was to bear fruit for centuries to come, was the Emperor’s sending forth of monks, well versed in the Buddha’s Dhamma and Vinaya who could recite all of it by heart, to teach it in nine different countries.
Country name Missionary name
(1) Kasmira-Gandhara Majjhantika/Mahyantika Thera
(2) Mahisamandala (Mysore) Mahadeva Thera
(3) Vanavasi Rakkhita Thera
(4) Aparantaka (Northern Gujarat, Kathiawar, Kachch and Sindh) Yona-Dhammarakkhita Thera
(5) Maharattha (Maharastra) Mahadhammarakkhita Thera
(6) Yona (Greece) Maharakkhita Thera
(7) Himavanta (area in Himalayas) Majjhima Thera
(8) Suvannabhumi (Myanmar / Mon) / The Khmer Empire (The Great Cambodian Empire composed of today’s Cambodia, including Kampuchea Krom, Laos, Thailand) Sona Thera and Uttara Thera
(9) Lankadipa (Sri Lanka) Mahamahinda Thera
Map of the great Khmer Empire:
Results of missions
The Dhamma missions to Sri Lanka and Kashmir and Gandhara were very successful, leading to a long-term presence and dominance of Buddhism in those areas.
It is not clear exacly how influential the interactions to Egypt and Greece may have been, but some authors have commented that some level of syncretism between Hellenist thought and Buddhism may have started in Hellenic lands at that time. They have pointed to the presence of Buddhist communities in the Hellenistic world around that period, in particular in Alexandria (mentioned by Clement of Alexandria), and to the pre-Christian monastic order of the Therapeutae (possibly a deformation of the Pali word “Theravada”), who may have “almost entirely drawn (its) inspiration from the teaching and practices of Buddhist asceticism” (Robert Linssen).
Possibly Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have also been found in Alexandria, decorated with what may be depictions of the Dharma wheel (Tarn, “The Greeks in Bactria and India”). Commenting on the presence of Buddhists in Alexandria, some scholars have even pointed out that “It was later in this very place that some of the most active centers of Christianity were established” (Robert Linssen “Zen living”).
In the 2nd century CE, the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria recognized Bactrian Buddhists (Sramanas) and Indian Gymnosophists for their influence on Greek thought:
“Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over the nations. And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were the prophets of the Egyptians; and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians; and the Druids among the Gauls; and the Sramanas among the Bactrians (“Σαρμαναίοι Βάκτρων”); and the philosophers of the Celts; and the Magi of the Persians, who foretold the Saviour’s birth, and came into the land of Judaea guided by a star. The Indian gymnosophists are also in the number, and the other barbarian philosophers. And of these there are two classes, some of them called Sramanas (“Σαρμάναι”), and others Brahmins (“Βραφμαναι”).” Clement of Alexandria “The Stromata, or Miscellanies” Book I, Chapter XV 
The Fourth Buddhist Council (First century BC in Sri Lanka) and the Second 4th Council in 100CE/AD (1,911 years ago) in Kashmir, India
Fourth Buddhist Council is the name of two separate Buddhist council meetings. The first one was held in the first century BC, in Sri Lanka. In this fourth Buddhist council the Theravadin Pali Canon was for the first time committed to writing, on palm leaves. The second one was held by the Sarvastivada school, in Kashmir around the first century AD.
Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka
The 1st Fourth Buddhist Council (Theravada tradition) was held in response to a year in which the harvests in Sri Lanka were particularly poor, and many monks subsequently died of starvation. Because the Pali Canon was in that time solely remembered by heart, the surviving monks recognized the danger of not writing the teachings of the Tipitaka down, so that even if some of the monks (whose duty it was to study and remember parts of the Tipitaka for later generations) died, the teachings would not be lost. This Fourth Buddhist Council took three years.
The Fourth Buddhist Council was held in Tambapanni (Sri Lanka) under the patronage of King Vattagamani. The main reason for its convening was the realization that it was now not possible for the majority of monks to retain the entire Tipitaka in their memories as had been the case formerly for the Venerable Mahinda and those who followed him soon after. Therefore, as the art of writing had, by this time developed substantially it was thought expedient and necessary to have the entire body of the Buddha’s teaching written down.
King Vattagamani supported the monk’s idea and a council was held specifically to commit the entire Tipitaka to writing, so that the genuine Dhamma might be lastingly preserved. To this purpose, the Venerable Maharakkhita and five hundred monks recited the words of the Buddha and then wrote them down on palm leaves. This remarkable project took place in a cave called, the Aloka lena, situated in the cleft of an ancient landslip near what is now Matale. Thus the aim of the Council was achieved and the preservation in writing of the authentic Dhamma was ensured. In the Eighteenth Century, King Vijayarajasiha had images of the Buddha created in this cave.
After the Council, palm leaves books appeared, and were taken to other countries, such as Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. The Tipitaka and its commentaries were originally brought to Sri Lanka by the missionary monk Mahinda of the Third Buddhist Council.
Fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir
The 2nd Fourth Buddhist Council (Sarvastivada tradition) is said to have been convened by the Kushan emperor Kanishka, perhaps around 100 CE at Jalandhar or in Kashmir. The Fourth Council of Kashmir is not recognized as authoritative in Theravada; reports of this council can be found in scriptures which were kept in the Mahayana tradition. The Mahayana tradition based some of its scriptures on (refutations of) the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma texts, which were systematized at this council.
It is said that for the Fourth Council of Kashmir, Kanishka gathered 500 monks headed by Vasumitra, partly, it seems, to compile extensive commentaries on the (Sarvastivadin Abhidharma, although it is possible that some editorial work was carried out upon the existing canon itself. The main fruit of this Council was the vast commentary known as the Mahā-Vibhāshā (“Great Exegesis”), an extensive compendium and reference work on a portion of the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma.
Scholars[who?] believe that it was also around this time that a significant change was made in the language of the Sarvāstivādin canon, by converting an earlier Prakrit version into Sanskrit. Although this change was probably effected without significant loss of integrity to the canon, this event was of particular significance since Sanskrit was the official holy language of Brahmanism in India, and was also being used by other thinkers (regardless of their specific religious or philosophical allegiance), thus enabling a far wider audience to gain access to Buddhist ideas and practices. For this reason, all major (Sarvastivad and Mahayana) Buddhist scholars in India thereafter wrote their commentaries and treatises in Sanskrit.
The Fifth Buddhist Council (A.D.1871) at Mandalay, Burma
The Fifth Buddhist council ) took place in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar) in 1871 AD in the reign of King Mindon. The chief objective of this meeting was to recite all the teachings of the Buddha according to the Theravada Pali Canon and examine them in minute detail to see if any of them had been altered, distorted or dropped. It was presided over by three Elders, the Venerable Mahathera Jagarabhivamsa, the Venerable Narindabhidhaja, and the Venerable Mahathera Sumangalasami in the company of 2,400 monks. Their joint Dhamma recitation lasted five months.
It was also the work of this council to inscribe the entire Tipitaka into 729 marble slabs in the Myanmar script after its recitation. Each marble slab is 5½ feet high, 3½ feet wide and about 5 inches thick. This monumental task was done by many skillful craftsmen. Upon completion, each slab was housed in beautiful “miniature Pitaka” pagodas on a special site in the grounds of King Mindon’s Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill. It is the world’s largest book that stands to this day.
The Fifth Buddhist council was a Burmese affair, and most other Buddhist countries were not involved in it. It is not generally recognized outside Burma. It has been argued that, since the Theravadin multinational Sixth Buddhist council received the name of “Sixth Buddhist council”, this involved implicitly recognizing the fifth, even though most other nations were not involved in the fifth council, and the results of the fifth council were limited to the Burmese edition of the Pali Canon only. However, there were a number of other councils held in Ceylon and Thailand between the fourth and sixth, so the total can be made up in other ways.
The Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana, The Sixth Great International Buddhist Council
(B.E.2498 – B.E.2500 equivalent to May 17, 1954 – May 24, 1956) at Yangon, Burma
The Sixth Buddhist Council (Pali: Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana) was a general council of Theravada Buddhism, held in a specially built cave and pagoda complex at Kaba Aye Pagoda in Yangon, Burma. The council was attended by 2,500 monastics from eight Theravada Buddhist countries. The Council lasted from Vesak 1954 to Vesak 1956, its completion coinciding with the traditional 2,500th anniversary the Buddha’s Parinibbāna. In the tradition of past Buddhist councils, a major purpose of the Sixth Council was to preserve the Buddha’s teachings and practices as understood in the Theravada tradition.
Over the two-year period, monks (sangīti-kāraka) from different countries recited from their existing redaction of the Pali Canon and the associated post-canonical literature. As a result, the Council synthesized a new redaction of the Pali texts ultimately trascribed into several native scripts.
Timing and participants
The Council was convened 83 years after the Burmese 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 Council was sponsored by the Burmese Government led by the Prime Minister, the Honorable U Nu. He authorized the construction of the Kaba Aye Pagoda and the Maha Passana Guha, or “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 Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. A temple in Japan also sent delegates. The only Western monks to participate were German-born, Sri-Lanka-residing Ven. Nyanatiloka and Ven. Nyanaponika.
The late Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw was appointed to ask the required questions about the Dhamma to the Ven. Bhadanta Vicittasarabhivamsa, who answered them.
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. During the two years that the Council met, the Tipitaka and its allied literature in all scripts were painstakingly examined with their differences noted down, the necessary corrections made, and collated. Not much difference was found 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 2,500th anniversary of the 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.
Dhamma Society Fund 6th Buddhist Council Tipitaka Edition
Since the year 1999, the Dhamma Society Fund in Thailand has been revising the 1958 Sixth Council Edition with other editions to remove all printing and editorial errors.   This romanized version in 40 volumes, known as the World Tipitaka Edition, was completed in 2005. The 40-volume Tipitaka Studies Reference appeared in 2007.
The Dhamma Society Fund is currently printing the World Tipitaka Edition in Roman Script based on the B.E. 2500 Great International Tipitaka Council Resolution (1958 Sixth Buddhist Council) with sponsorship from the Royal Matriarch of Thailand, Tipitaka patrons and leaders of business community, for distribution as a gift of Dhamma worldwide, with a priority for the libraries and institutes around the world which had received the Siam-script Tipitaka as a royal gift from King Chulalongkorn Chulachomklao of Siam over a century ago.
The World Tipitaka Council B.E. 2500 (1957).
His Holiness Samdech Dr. Jotannano Chuon Nath is one of the great Pali & Tipitaka scholars from the total of 2,500 Theravada Buddhist Monks worldwide, who gathered at the historic convocation. Digital Archives from Dhamma Society’s World Tipiaka Project in Roman script.
Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:43 am
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