Buddhist Councils


Buddhist Councils

Buddhist Councils are gatherings that met in the centuries after Gautama Buddha's death to recite authorized scriptures and settle doctrinal disagreements. These Buddhist councils were crucial in the propagation of Buddhism.

Since ancient times, six councils have been convened in Buddhism. Here are some specifics regarding each council:

First Buddhist Council (483 BC)

  • Held at – Sattapanni caves, Mount Vebhara (Rajgriha).
  • Under the patronage of King Ajatashatru (Haryanka dynasty).
  • Presided by Monk Mahakasyapa.
  • Agenda – to preserve the teachings (Sutta) of the Buddha and the monastic discipline and guidelines for monks (Vinaya).
  • It was held 3 months after the Buddha’s death.
  • Buddha's teachings were classified into three Pitakas.
  • The monk Ananda recited Suttas (collections of Buddha's lectures on doctrine and ethical principles) and Upali recited Vinaya Pitaka's (rules of the Buddhist order).
    • Ananda and Upali were two of Buddha's top 10 disciples.
  • The authorized scriptures were then recited by 500 monks.
  • In this council, the Abhidhamma Pitaka was also recited.

Second Buddhist Council (383 BC)

  • Held at Chullavanga, Vaishali (Bihar).
  • Under the patronage of King Kalasoka (Shishunaga dynasty).
  • Presided by Sabakami.
  • Agenda – to settle the disagreements of different subdivisions.
  • Held 100 years after the Buddha’s passing.
  • The Mahasangikas were rejected as canonical Buddhist writings by this council. As a result, the council is regarded as historical.
  • Buddhist order was divided into 
    • Sthaviravadinis (Sri Lankan Theravāda, 'Way of the Elders') followed the original teachings of Buddha in its strictest form, and,
    • Mahāsaṅghikas, who practiced Buddhism in a relaxed form and followed the Vaishali monks.
  •  It also records that the monks of the Vajjī country were in the habit of practicing the Ten Points (dasa vatthūni) which were regarded as unorthodox by Venerable Yasa.
  • The ten points or indulgences at issue were as follows: 
    1. Storing salt in a horn. 
    2. Eating after midday. 
    3. Eating once and then going again to a village for alms. 
    4. The observance of the Uposatha in different places within the same Sīmā. 
    5. Carrying out official acts when the assembly was incomplete. 
    6. Following a certain practice because it was done by one's tutor or teacher. 
    7. Eating sour milk after one had his midday meal. 
    8. Consuming strong drink before it had been fermented. 
    9. Using a borderless seat which was not the proper size. 
    10. Using gold and silver as alms.

Third Buddhist Council (250 BC)

  • Held atAsokarama Vihar, Pataliputra in the Magadha Empire.
  • Under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka (Maurya Dynasty).
  • Presided byMoggaliputta Tissa (Upagupta).
  • Agenda –  to analyze the different schools of Buddhism and to purify them.
    • Because the royal patronage of the Sanga dynasty drew some of the opportunistic Buddhist groups.
  •  It lasted nine months. 
  • Upagupta documented all the discussions in the Kathavatthu, one of the books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka.
  • This council was responsible for the completion of the final version of the Tripitaka.
  • Following this summit, Emperor Ashoka dispatched multiple parties to various countries to propagate Buddhism.

Fourth Buddhist Council (72 AD)

  • Held at Kundala Vana, Kashmir.
  • Under the patronage ofKanishka I (Kushan dynasty).
  • Presided by –  Vasumitra & Asvaghosha (Deputy).
    • Mahāvibhāṣā, the greatest book of Buddhism is written by Vasumitra.
  • Agenda – the reconciliation of various conflicts between different schools of thought.
    •  serious conflict between the Sarvasthivada teachers of Kashmir and Gandhara.
  • Important texts were converted from Pali to Sanskrit.
  • Buddhism was divided into Hinayana and Mahayana sects.

Fifth Buddhist Council (1871)

  • Held at Mandalay, Burma (Mynamar).
  • Under the patronage ofKing Mindon of the Kingdom of Burma.
  • Presided by Jagarabhivamsa, Narindabhidhaja & Sumangalasami.
  • Agenda – to recite all the Buddhist learning and scrutinize them in minuscule details.
  • This council is mostly unrecognized outside of Myanmar because no significant Buddhist nations other than Burma sent representatives.
  • Buddhist teachings were engraved on 729 stone slabs.

Sixth Buddhist Council (1954)

  • Held atKaba Aye in Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar.
  • Duration – May 1954 to May 1956.
  • Under the patronage of Prime Minister U. Nu of the Republic of Myanmar.
  • Presided by Mahasi Sayadaw & Bhadanta Vicittasarabhivamsa.
  • Agenda – to uphold and preserve the authentic Dhamma and Vinaya of Buddhism and to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the death of Gautama Buddha. 
  • A special Maha Passana Guha (an artificial cave) was built which was similar to the cave where the first Buddhist council was held.
  • The assembly of monks from Myanmar (Burma), India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Pakistan reviewed and recited the whole text of the Pli Theravada canon.
  • This meeting was attended by 500 Buddhist experts from eight different nations.

Following the Sixth Buddhist Council and the Theravada Buddhists' celebration of the 2,500th year of Buddha's death, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar held a dramatic conversion ceremony in Nagpur. 

Thousands of Dalits switched to Buddhism in this mass conversion ceremony as part of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's quest for a religion that did not recognise caste divisions.

He also published "The Buddha and His Dhamma," a book based on his own interpretations of Buddhist teachings.

In short,

Buddhist CouncilsTimeVenuePatronPresided byFeatures
1483 BCRajagrihaAjatashatruMahakasyapaTripithakas were compiled
2383 BCVaishaliKalasokaSabakamiDivision into Sthaviravadins and Mahasanghikas
3250 BCPataliputraAshokaMogaliputta TissaTo analyze the different schools of Buddhism and  to purify them
472 ADKashmirKanishkaVasumitraDivided into Mahayana and Hinayana
51871 ADMandalay King MindonJagarabhivamsa, Narindabhidhaja & SumangalasamiTo recite all the Buddhist learning and scrutinize them
61954 ADKaba AyeU. NuMahasi Sayadaw &
Bhadanta Vicittasarabhivamsa
To preserve the authentic Dhamma and Vinaya Pitaka


  • Most no.of Buddhist followers in India are found in – Maharashtra (58.3%).
  • Balachandran Chullikkadu, the malayalam poet, is a Buddhist follower in Kerala who converted to Buddhism in 2000. 

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