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Buddhist councils/Addendum

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This addendum is a continuation of the article Buddhist councils.

This page covers councils other than the standard six covered in the main article.

First Mahayana Council

Mahayana sources mention a council held shortly after the First Council, under Ānanda, reciting their scriptures. Historians regard this as entirely fictitious.

Mahāsāṅghika Council

A variety of sources refer to this council, signalling the first schism in Buddhism. According to Theravada sources it was held by the losing side in the Second Council shortly after it. However, the Mahāsāṅghikas' own account of that council tells its story from the same point of view as the Theravada (and all other surviving ones), so specialist scholars reject this account. Other sources variously date it 16, 37 or 60 years later, or even at a date after the Third Council, and give a variety of quite different accounts of what it was all about. One version, argued for by Nattier and Prebish and accepted by a number of other scholars, holds that it was a protest against supposed attempts to add new rules to the monastic discipline.

First Sinhalese Council

The Thai tradition lists a council in Ceylon not long after the Third Council. This was not included in the lists of councils traditional in Ceylon or Burma.

Council of Kaniṣka

He was a ruler whose date continues to be debated among historians: last century BC to 2nd AD. The council is said to have been held in Kashmir. The earliest surviving sources ascribe it to a school called Sarvāstivāda, and this is followed by a number of scholars. Later, Mahayana sources appropriated it for themselves, but this is rejected by historians. The late Monseigneur Professor Lamotte regarded this council as entirely fictitious.[1] According to the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism[2] this view is now generally accepted among scholars.

Western scholars often call this the Fourth Council, though it is not clear whether any Buddhists ever regarded it as such.

Sammitīya councils

Sources surviving from the now extinct Sammitīya (or Sammatīya) school date its 3rd to 5th councils at 400, 700 and 800 years after the Buddha's death.[3]

Commentary Council

The traditional Thai listing includes a council in Ceylon about 27 BC at which the commentaries were edited by Buddhaghosa. Earlier sources date him to the 4th century and most scholars to the 5th, so the date is wrong if such a council took place.

Council of Lhasa

Tibetan tradition tells of a council held late in the 8th century at Lhasa or Samye. It took the form of a debate between the Indian teacher Kamalaśīla and a Chinese monk named Mahayana, representing Chan (Zen). The Indian side "won" and was adopted as the official basis for Tibetan Buddhism. However, in modern times archaeologists discovered a Chinese source saying their side "won". Some scholars consider this council a conflation of different events; some consider it entirely fictitious.

Councils in the traditional Thai listing

There are three more of these:

  • 7 Ceylon, 1044
  • 8 Chiengmai, 1477
  • 9 Bangkok, 1788

The last of these is unusual in including some laymen.

"Robes Council"

A council was held under the King of Burma in 1785 to resolve a dispute as to whether monks should wear their robe over one shoulder or both. It decided in favour of the latter, which remains the practice in Burma, along with those branches in Ceylon derived from Burma. In Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, and the branch in Ceylon derived from Thailand, the robe is worn over one shoulder.

Council of Ratnapura

This council in Ceylon in 1865 is included in the traditional Sinhalese list of councils, according to some authorities.

Modern Thai councils

One Thai source[4] applies the description "council" to those who produced the first (incomplete) collected printed edition of the Canon in 1893. Another source[5] lists both that and the compilation of the complete Thai edition, giving the date 1925 and a length of 5 years (comparison with other entries in the table suggests this means 1925-30, not 1920-25).

Around 1946 a council is said to have been held here (and another in Japan) to approve Christmas Humphreys' "Twelve principles of Buddhism" (the Burmese leadership refused to sign).

A council is said[6] to have been held in 1982-4 or 1984-6 to approve the Dayyaraṭṭha edition.

Councils associated with the Sixth

The following have sometimes been described as councils:

  • preparatory meetings in Burma and Ceylon
  • follow-ups in Burma to prepare editions of commentaries and subcommentaries
  • follow-up in Ceylon, 1957[7]

Notes

  1. Teaching of Vimalakirti, Pali Text Society, 1976, page XCIII
  2. 2014, page 200
  3. Berkwitz et al, Buddhist Manuscript Cultures, Routledge, 2009, page 56
  4. Phra Rajavaramuni (Prayudh Payutto), Thai Buddhism in the Modern World, Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, Bangkok, [1992?], page 21
  5. [1], page 46
  6. [2], page 16
  7. Bond, Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka, University of South Carolina Press, 1988, page 79; he does not say what this council was for, other than reciting the Canon; perhaps it recited the text incorporated in the Buddhajayanti Tripitaka