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The Background of Four Buddhist Councils for the Development

of Mahyana
Lectured By Rev. Uttamnanda
Mahyna, (Lit. the Great Vehicle) is one of the three main existing branches of
Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophy and practice. The origins of
Mahyna are still not completely understood,

though the earliest texts probably developed in
the ndhra region of South India. The Mahyna tradition is the largest major tradition of
Buddhism existing today, with 56% of practitioners, compared to 38% for Theravda and 6%
for Vajrayna.
According to the teachings of Mahyna traditions, "Mahyna" also refers to the
path of the Bodhisattva seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings,
also called "Bodhisattvayna", or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle." A bodhisattva who has
accomplished this goal is called a Samyaksambuddha. A Samyaksambuddha can establish the
Dharma and lead disciples to enlightenment. In the course of its history, Mahyna
Buddhism spread from India to various other Asian countries.
In the present day, there are two major schools, Theravda and Mahyna, in
Buddhism in which the latter emerged against the former. There are some facts in the Four
Buddhist Councils that can be found the concept of Mahyna to be arisen. Actually
Mahyna was later development based on the Councils and it was clearly started at the time
of Third Council.
The First Council was held after three months of the Buddhas demise in Rjagaha
supported by King Ajtasatthu. In this occasion, there made an attempt to collect the
doctrines expounded by the Buddha in his forty-five years of journey long and they were
recited as Dharma and Vinaya headed by venerable Kassapa, venerable Upli and venerable
nanda. Then venerable Pura came to Rjagaha being unaware of the Council and he was
invited to participate. Venerable Pura replied your Council is blessing and I however
prefer to remember the teachings of the Buddha as I had heard from the Master {Vin II 189
f}. This event and venerable nandas uncertainty on minor Rules were seen a sign of
disagreement and led to a conception of further council then.
The Second council was held at Vaili a century after Buddhas Parinibbna to solve
the ten points held by Vajjian monks. The leaders of this Council were venerable Sabbakmi
and venerable Revata. King Klasoka was a great supporter. The Vajjian monks who wanted

to change some minor Rules were exiled from the Council and they held Council at Kosamb
in competition with former. The Vajjian monks were called Mahsaghika and the monks
who did not wanted to change the Rules were called Theravda. Later long, the former was
divided in to seven sects and the latter was divided into eleven sects again. Then Mahyna
idea which condemns Arahant idea and prefers Bodhisatvas idea came out.
The Third Council was held at Paliputra supported by King Aoka in 3
BC. Then
there were various interpretations concerning with the Buddhism and the monks who respect
Vinaya and the monks broke Vinaya were the same roof of Asokrma monastery. Being
denied to perform Uposatha Ceremony, many virtuous monks were killed by the foolish
minister. Then the King Aoka requested to a monk who was able to solve this problem and
to verify good and evil monks. The King himself had studied Buddhism well. The leader of
the Sagha was Venerable Moggaliputttissa who arranged Kathvatthu to solve the
controversial points grasped by various sects and Buddhism was Vibhajjavda then.
After Third Council, several Councils took place and these were seen as different lists
presented by Theravda and Mahayna. Most of the monks who were rejected from the Third
Council migrated to Kahmir and they had held a council there with the support of King
Kaniaka in 1
AD. Under the supervision of venerable Parva, many commentaries on Pli
called Vibha were composed with verses. Each Piakas has 100,000 verses. These
Mahyna texts were studied and taught in the north and south west of India. This was called
Fourth Council by the Mahyna though Theravda denied it.

Key Words: Theravda, Mahyna, Council

1. Mahayana (Web)
2. 2010 Lecture Note By Rev. Uttamananda
3. Bapat, P.V., 2500 Years of Buddhism, Ministry of Information and Braodcasting,
Government of India, 1956.

Notice: This lecture is mainly discussed about Mahayana and its idea based on relevant