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The First Council
 
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The First Council

The Buddha passed away in His 8Oth year on the full-moon day of Vesak. His death was an irreparable loss. All His followers, with the exception of Anagamins and Arahants, were plunged in deep grief and were weeping and lamenting. But an immoral Bhikkhu named Subhadda, who had entered the Order in his old age, was the only one that rejoiced over His death.

"Grieve not brothers," said he. "Weep not. We are now delivered of that Great Ascetic. He constantly worried us, saying ’This is suitable, this is not suitable.’ Now we are free to do what we like."

These unexpected words that fell from the lips of a disciple, when hardly a week has passed since the death of the Teacher, induced the Venerable Kassapa, the third chief Disciple of the Buddha to Hold a Council of Leading Arahants in order to protect and fortify the Sanana. The other Theras were consulted, and they welcomed the suggestions.

King Ajatasatu was informed of the intention of the Sangha, and he made al! the necessary arrangements for the Sangha to assemble at the entrance to the Sattapanni Cave in Rajagaha.

Five hundred seats were prepared in the spacious hall, but only Four hundred & Ninety Nine distinguished Arahants were chosen for the Convocation. The vacant seat was meant for the Venerable Ánanda who was then a Sotapanna. But in due time, as anticipated, he attained Arahantship and appeared on the scene by his psychic powers to occupy the vacant seat.

The Venerable Kassapa was the presiding Thera. The Venerable Upali and Ánanda were chosen to rehearse the Vinaya and Dhamma respectively.

The first council was held three months after the Parinibbána of the Buddha, in the eighth year of King Ajatasattu’s reign. It lasted seven months.


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