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ABHIDHAMMATTHA - SANGAHA of Anuruddhācariya A manual of ABHIDHAMMA- Pali Canon Online The Original Words of the Buddha-Abhidhamma Pitaka-
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of Anuruddhācariya

A manual of ABHIDHAMMA-

Pali Canon Online

The Original Words of the Buddha-

Abhidhamma Pitaka

Edited in the original Pali Text with English Translation and Explanatory

by Nārada Thera, Vājirārāma, Colombo


CHAPTER I - Different Types of
Consciousness (citta-sangaha-vibhāgo)

Introductory Verse
Subject - Matter (Abhidhammatthā)
The Four Classes of Consciousness (catubbidha-cittāni)
Immoral Consciousness (akusala cittāni)
(18 Types Of Rootless Consciousness)
“Beautiful” Consciousness Of The Sensuous Sphere - 24
(Form-Sphere Consciousness - 15)
(Formless-Sphere Consciousness - 12)
(Supra Mundane Consciousness - 4)
(121 Types of Consciousness)
CHAPTER II - Mental States (cetasika)
52 Kinds of Mental States
Different Combinations of Mental States
Immoral Mental States
(Beautiful Mental States)
Contents of Different Types of Consciousness
Supra mundane Consciousness
(Sublime Consciousness)
Sense-Sphere Beautiful Consciousness
Immoral Consciousness
Rootless Consciousness
CHAPTER III - Miscellaneous Section
(i. Summary of Feeling)
(ii. Summary of Roots)
(iii. Summary of Functions)
(iv. Summary of Doors)
(v. Summary of Objects)
(vi. Summary of Bases)
CHAPTER IV - Analysis of Thought-Processes
Five Sense-Door Thought-process
Mind-door Thought-Process
Appanā Thought-Process
The Procedure of Retention
Procedure of Javana (13)
Classification of Individuals
Section on Planes
Diagram IX
Summary of Rebirth Procedure
i. Four Planes of Life
ii. Fourfold Rebirth
iii. Fourfold Kamma (29)
iv . Procedure with Regard to Decease and Rebirth
v. The Stream of Consciousness
Analysis of Matter
Classification of Matter
The Arising of Material Phenomena (52)
Grouping of Material Qualities (57)
Arising of Material Phenomena (58)
Nibbāna (59)
Diagram XIII
CHAPTER VII - Abhidhamma Categories
Introductory verse
(Immoral Categories)
Diagram XIV
Mixed Categories
Factors of Enlightenment (28)
A Synthesis of ‘the Whole’ (36)
CHAPTER VIII - The Compendium Of Relations
Introductory verse
The Law of Dependent Arising
The Law of Casual Relations
CHAPTER IX - Mental Culture

Introductory verse
(Compendium of Calm)
Suitability of Subjects for different Temperaments
Stages of Mental Culture
Signs of Mental Culture
Rūpa Jhāna
Arūpa Jhāna (22)
Supernormal Knowledge (23)
Different Kind of Purity
The Path of Purification




Abhidhamma, as the term implies, is the Higher Teaching of the Buddha. It
expounds the quintessence of His profound doctrine.

The Dhamma, embodied in the Sutta Pitaka, is the conventional teaching
(vohāra desanā),
and the Abhidhamma is the ultimate teaching (paramattha

In the Abhidhamma both mind and matter, which constitute this complex
machinery of man, are microscopically analyzed. Chief events connected with the
process of birth and death are explained in detail. Intricate points of the
Dhamma are clarified. The Path of Emancipation is set forth in clear terms.

Modern Psychology, limited as it is comes within the scope of Abhidhamma
inasmuch as it deals with the mind, with thoughts, thought-processes, and mental
states but it does not admit of a psyche or a soul. Buddhism teaches a
psychology without a psyche.

If one were to read the Abhidhamma as a modern textbook on psychology, one
would be disappointed. No attempt has here been made to solve all the problems
that confront a modern psychologist.

Consciousness is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and classified chiefly from
an ethical standpoint. All mental states are enumerated. The composition of each
type of consciousness is set forth in detail. The description of
thought-processes that arise through the five sense-doors and the mind-door is
extremely interesting. Such a clear exposition of thought-processes cannot be
found in any other psychological treatise.

Bhavanga and Javana thought-moments, which are explained only
in the Abhidhamma, and which have no parallel in modern psychology, are of
special interest to a research student in psychology.

That consciousness flows like a stream, a view propounded by some modern
psychologists like William James, becomes extremely clear to one who understands
the Abhidhamma. It must be added that an Abhidhamma student can fully comprehend
the Anattā
(No-soul) doctrine, the crux of Buddhism, which is important both from a
philosophical and an ethical standpoint.

The advent of death, process of rebirth in various planes without anything to
pass from one life to another, the evidently verifiable doctrine of Kamma and
Rebirth are fully explained.

Giving a wealth of details about mind, Abhidhamma discusses the second factor
of man-matter or rūpa. Fundamental units of matter, material forces,
properties of matter, source of matter, relationship of mind and matter, are

In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha there is a brief exposition of the Law of
Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations
that finds no parallel in any other philosophy.

A physicist should not delve into Abhidhamma to get a thorough knowledge of

It should be made clear that Abhidhamma does not attempt to give a
systematized knowledge of mind and matter. It investigates these two composite
factors of so-called being to help the understanding of things as they truly
are. A philosophy has been developed on these lines. Based on that philosophy,
an ethical system has been evolved to realize the ultimate goal, Nibbāna.

As Mrs. Rhys Davids rightly says, Abhidhamma deals with “(1) What we find (a)
within us (b) around us and of (2) what we aspire to find.”

In Abhidhamma all irrelevant problems that interest students and scholars,
but having no relation to one’s Deliverance, are deliberately set aside.

The Abhidhammattha Sangaha, the authorship of which is attributed to
venerable Anuruddha Thera, an Indian monk of Kanjevaram (Kāñcipura), gives an
epitome of the entire Abhidhamma Pitaka. It is still the most fitting
introduction to Abhidhamma. By mastering this book, a general knowledge of
Abhidhamma may easily be acquired.

To be a master of Abhidhamma all the seven books, together with commentaries
and sub-commentaries, have to be read and re-read patiently and critically.

Abhidhamma is not a subject of fleeting interest designed for the superficial

To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide and an
intellectual treat. Here there is food for thought to original thinkers and to
earnest students who wish to increase their wisdom and lead an ideal Buddhist

However, to the superficial, Abhidhamma must appear as dry as dust.

It may be questioned, “Is Abhidhamma absolutely essential to realize Nibbāna,
the summum bonum of Buddhism, or even to comprehend things as they truly are?”

Undoubtedly Abhidhamma is extremely helpful to comprehend fully the word of
the Buddha and realize Nibbāna, as it presents a key to open the door of
reality. It deals with realities and a practical way of noble living, based on
the experience of those who have understood and realized. Without a knowledge of
the Abhidhamma one at times’ finds it difficult to understand the real
significance of some profound teachings of the Buddha. To develop Insight
Abhidhamma is certainly very useful.

But one cannot positively assert that Abhidhamma is absolutely necessary to
gain one’s Deliverance.

Understanding or realization is purely personal (sanditthika).
The four Noble Truths that form the foundation of the Buddha’s teaching are
dependent on this one fathom body. The Dhamma is not apart from oneself. Look
within, Seek thyself. Lo, the truth will unfold itself.

Did not sorrow-afflicted Patācārā, who lost her dear and near ones, realize
Nibbāna; reflecting on the disappearance of water that washed her feet?

Did not Cūlapanthaka, who could not memorize a verse even for four months,
attain Arahantship by comprehending the impermanent nature of a clean
handkerchief that he was handling, gazing at the sun?

Did not Upatissa, later venerable Sāriputta Thera, realize Nibbāna, on
hearing half a stanza relating to cause and effect?

To some a fallen withered leaf alone was sufficient to attain Pacceka Buddha

It was mindfulness on respiration (ānāpāna-sati) that acted as the
basis for the Bodhisatta to attain Buddha hood.

To profound thinkers, a slight indication is sufficient to discover great

According to some scholars, Abhidhamma is not a teaching of the Buddha, but
is a later elaboration of scholastic monks.

Tradition, however, attributes the nucleus of the Abhidhamma to the Buddha

Commentators state that the Buddha, as a mark of gratitude to His mother who
was born in a celestial plane, preached the Abhidhamma to His mother Deva and
others continuously for three months. The principal topics (mātikā) of
the advanced teaching such as moral states (kusalā dhammā), immoral
states (akusalā dhammā) and indeterminate states (abyākatā dhammā),
etc., were taught by the Buddha to venerable Sāriputta Thera, who subsequently
elaborated them in the six books (Kathāvatthu being excluded) that comprise the
Abhidhamma Pitaka.

Whoever the great author or authors of the Abhidhamma may have been, it has
to be admitted that he or they had intellectual genius comparable only to that
of the Buddha. This is evident from the intricate and subtle Patthāna Pakarana
which minutely describes the various causal relations.

It is very difficult to suggest an appropriate English equivalent for

There are many technical terms, too, in Abhidhamma which cannot be rendered
into English so as to convey their exact connotation. Some English equivalents
such as consciousness, will, volition, intellect, perception are used in a
specific sense in Western Philosophy. Readers should try to understand in what
sense these technical terms are employed in Abhidhamma. To avoid any
misunderstanding, due to preconceived views, Pāli words, though at times
cumbersome to those not acquainted with the language, have judiciously been
retained wherever the English renderings seem to be inadequate. To convey the
correct meaning implied by the Pāli terms, the etymology has been given in many

At times Pāli technical terms have been used in preference to English
renderings so that the reader may be acquainted with them and not get confused
with English terminology.

Sometimes readers will come across unusual words such as corruption,
defilement, volitional activities, functional, resultants, and so forth, which
are of great significance from an Abhidhamma standpoint. Their exact meaning
should be clearly understood.

In preparing this translation, Buddhist Psychology by Mrs. Rhys Davids and
the Compendium of Philosophy (Abhidhammattha Sangaha) by Mr. Shwe Zan Aung
proved extremely helpful to me. Liberty has been taken to quote them wherever
necessary with due acknowledgment.

My grateful thanks are due to the Kandy Buddhist Publication Society for the
printing of this fourth revised volume, to the printers for expediting the
printing, to Miss Rañjani Goonatilaka for correcting the proofs, and to Ven.
Bhikkhu Bodhi for his useful suggestions.

Above all I have to thank Mr. Lankatilaka, a most distinguished artist of Sri
Lanka, for his beautiful and symbolical dust jacket design.

Nārada 14.7.1978/2522.

(letter of Narada)
(Title 1 of first edition)
(Title 2 of first edition)


Pali Canon Online

The Original Words of the Buddha

Abhidhamma Pitaka

The seven books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the third division
of the Tipitaka, offer an extraordinarily detailed analysis of the basic
natural principles that govern mental and physical processes. Whereas
the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas lay out the practical aspects of the
Buddhist path to Awakening, the Abhidhamma Pitaka provides a theoretical
framework to explain the causal underpinnings of that very path. In
Abhidhamma philosophy the familiar psycho-physical universe (our world
of “trees” and “rocks,” “I” and “you”) is distilled to its essence: an
intricate web of impersonal phenomena and processes unfolding at an
inconceivably rapid pace from moment to moment, according to precisely
defined natural laws.

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Title Hits

Dhammasangani - Enumeration of Phenomena


Dhammasangani Commentary I


Dhammasangani Commentary II


Kathavatthu - Points of Controversy


The Origin of the Pali Canon

‘Suppose a monk were to say:
“Friends, I heard and received this from the Lord’s own lips: this is
the Dhamma, this is the discipline, this is the Master’s teaching”,
then, monks, you should neither approve nor disapprove his words. Then,
without approving or disapproving, his words and ex­pressions should be
carefully noted and compared with the Suttas and reviewed in the light
of the discipline. If they, on such comparison and review, are found not
to conform to the Suttas or the discipline, the conclusion must be:
“Assuredly this is not the word of the Buddha, it has been wrongly
un­derstood by this monk”, and the matter is to be rejected. But where
on such comparison and review they are found to con­form to the Suttas
or the discipline, the conclusion must be: “Assuredly this is the word
of the Buddha, it has been rightly understood by this monk.”

- DN 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta - The Great Passing, The Buddha’s Last Days

The authentic teachings of Gotama the Buddha have been preserved and
handed down to us and are to be found in the Tipiṭaka. The Pāli word,
‘Tipiṭaka’, literally means ‘the three baskets’ (ti=three +
piṭaka=collections of scriptures). All of the Buddha’s teachings were
divided into three parts.

1. The first part is known as the Vinaya Piṭaka and it contains all the rules which Buddha laid down for monks and nuns.
2. The second part is called the Suttaṅta Piṭaka and it contains the Discourses.
3. The third part is known as the Abhidhamma Piṭaka and comprises the psycho-ethical teachings of the Buddha.

It is known, that whenever the Buddha gave a discourse to his ordained
disciples or lay-followers or prescribed a monastic rule in the course
of his forty-five year ministry, those of his devoted and learned monks,
then present would immediately commit his teachings word for word to
memory. Thus the Buddha’s words were preserved accurately and were in
due course passed down orally from teacher to pupil. Some of the monks
who had heard the Buddha preach in person were Arahants, and so by
definition, ‘pure ones’ free from passion, ill-will and delusion and
therefore, was without doubt capable of retaining, perfectly the
Buddha’s words. Thus they ensured that the Buddha’s teachings would be
preserved faithfully for posterity.

Even those devoted monks
who had not yet attained Arahantahood but had reached the first three
stages of sainthood and had powerful, retentive memories could also call
to mind word for word what the Buddha had preached and so could be
worthy custodians of the Buddha’s teachings. One such monk was Ānanda,
the chosen attendant and constant companion of the Buddha during the
last twenty-five years of the his life. Ānanda was highly intelligent
and gifted with the ability to remember whatever he had heard. Indeed,
it was his express wish that the Buddha always relate all of his
discourses to him and although he was not yet an Arahanta he
deliberately committed to memory word for word all the Buddha’s sermons
with which he exhorted monks, nuns and his lay followers. The combined
efforts of these gifted and devoted monks made it possible for the
Dhamma and Vinaya, as taught by the Buddha to be preserved in its
original state.

The Pāli Tipiṭaka and its allied literature
exists as a result of the Buddha’s discovery of the noble and liberating
path of the pure Dhamma. This path enables all those who follow it to
lead a peaceful and happy life. Indeed, in this day and age we are
fortunate to have the authentic teachings of the Buddha preserved for
future generations through the conscientious and concerted efforts of
his ordained disciples down through the ages. The Buddha had said to his
disciples that when he was no longer amongst them, that it was
essential that the Saṅgha should come together for the purpose of
collectively reciting the Dhamma, precisely as he had taught it. In
compliance with this instruction the first Elders duly called a council
and systematically ordered all the Buddha’s discourses and monastic
rules and then faithfully recited them word for word in concert.

The teachings contained in the Tipiṭaka are also known as the Doctrine
of the Elders [Theravāda]. These discourses number several hundred and
have always been recited word for word ever since the First Council was
convened. Subsequently, more Councils have been called for a number of
reasons but at every one of them the entire body of the Buddha’s
teaching has always been recited by the Saṅgha participants, in concert
and word for word. The first council took place three months after the
Buddha’s attainment of Mahāparinibbāṇa and was followed by five more,
two of which were convened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
These collective recitations which were performed by the monks at all
these Dhamma Councils are known as the ‘Dhamma Saṅgītis’, the Dhamma
Recitations. They are so designated because of the precedent set at the
First Dhamma Council, when all the Teachings were recited first by an
Elder of the Saṅgha and then chanted once again in chorus by all of the
monks attending the assembly. The recitation was judged to have been
authentic, when and only when, it had been approved unanimously by the
members of the Council. What follows is a brief history of the Six

The First Council

King Ajātasattu sponsored the First Council. It was convened in 544
B.C. in the Sattapaāāī Cave situated outside Rājagaha three months after
the Buddha had passed away. A detailed account of this historic meeting
can be found in the Cūllavagga of the Vinaya Piṭaka. According to this
record the incident which prompted the Elder Mahākassapa to call this
meeting was his hearing a disparaging remark about the strict rule of
life for monks. This is what happened. The monk Subhadda, a former
barber, 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 Mahākassapa 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'’. Mahākassapa 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
Saṅgha’s approval he called to council five hundred Arahants. Ānanda was
to be included in this provided he attained Arahanthood by the time the
council convened. With the Elder Mahākassapa presiding, the
five-hundred Arahant monks met in council during the rainy season. The
first thing Mahākassapa did was to question the foremost expert on the
Vinaya of the day, Venerable Upāli 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. First of all the Elder Mahākassapa
asked him specifically about the ruling on the first offense [pārājika],
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. Upāli gave knowledgeable and adequate answers
and his remarks met with the unanimous approval of the presiding Saṅgha.
Thus the Vinaya was formally approved.

The Elder Mahākassapa
then turned his attention to Ānanda in virtue of his reputable expertise
in all matters connected with the Dhamma. Happily, the night before the
Council was to meet, Ānanda had attained Arahantship and joined the
Council. The Elder Mahākassapa, 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. Ānanda, aided by his
word-perfect memory was able to answer accurately and so the Discourses
met with the unanimous approval of the Saṅgha. 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
Paācasatika because five-hundred fully enlightened Arahants had taken
part in it.

The Second Council

The Second Council was called one hundred years after the Buddha’s
Parinibbāṇa in order to settle a serious dispute over the ‘ten points’.
This is a reference to some monks breaking of ten minor rules. they were
given to:

1. Storing salt in a horn.
2. Eating after midday.
3. Eating once and then going again to a village for alms.
4. Holding the Uposatha Ceremony with monks dwelling in the same locality.
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 rug which was not the proper size.
10. Using gold and silver.

Their misdeeds became an issue and caused a major controversy as
breaking these rules was thought to contradict the Buddha’s original
teachings. King Kāḷāsoka was the Second Council’s patron and the meeting
took place at Vesāli due to the following circumstances. One day,
whilst visiting the Mahāvana Grove at Veāsli, the Elder Yasa came to
know that a large group of monks known as the Vajjians were infringing
the rule which prohibited monk’s accepting gold and silver by openly
asking for it from their lay devotees. He immediately criticized their
behavior and their response was to offer him a share of their illegal
gains in the hope that he would be won over. The Elder Yasa, however
declined and scorned their behavior. The monks immediately sued him with
a formal action of reconciliation, accusing him of having blamed their
lay devotees. The Elder Yasa accordingly reconciled himself with the lay
devotees, but at the same time, convinced them that the Vijjian monks
had done wrong by quoting the Buddha’s pronouncement on the prohibition
against accepting or soliciting for gold and silver. The laymen
immediately expressed their support for the Elder Yasa and declared the
Vajjian monks to the wrong-doers and heretics, saying ‘’the Elder Yasa
alone is the real monk and Sākyan son. All the others are not monks, not
Sākyan sons'’.

The Stubborn and unrepentant Vajjian monks then
moved to suspend the Venerable Yasa Thera without the approval of the
rest of the Saṅgha when they came to know of the outcome of his meeting
with their lay devotees. The Elder Yasa, however escaped their censure
and went in search of support from monks elsewhere, who upheld his
orthodox views on the Vinaya. Sixty forest dwelling monks from Pāvā and
eighty monks from the southern regions of Avanti who were of the same
view, offered to help him to check the corruption of the Vinaya.
Together they decided to go to Soreyya to consult the Venerable Revata
as he was a highly revered monk and an expert in the Dhamma and the
Vinaya. As soon as the Vajjian monks came to know this they also sought
the Venerable Revata’s support by offering him the four requisites which
he promptly refused. These monks then sought to use the same means to
win over the Venerable Revata’s attendant, the Venerable Uttara. At
first he too, rightly declined their offer but they craftily persuaded
him to accept their offer, saying that when the requisites meant for the
Buddha were not accepted by him, Ānanda would be asked to accept them
and would often agree to do so. Uttara changed his mind and accepted the
requisites. Urged on by them he then agreed to go and persuade the
Venerable Revata to declare that the Vajjian monks were indeed speakers
of the Truth and upholders of the Dhamma. The Venerable Revata saw
through their ruse and refused to support them. He then dismissed
Uttara. In order to settle the matter once and for all, the Venerable
Revata advised that a council should be called at Vāḷikārāma with
himself asking questions on the ten offenses of the most senior of the
Elders of the day, the Thera Sabbjakāmi. Once his opinion was given it
was to be heard by a committee of eight monks, and its validity decided
by their vote. The eight monks called to judge the matter were the
Venerables Sabbakāmi, saḷha, Khujjasobhita and Vāsabhagāmika, from the
East and four monks from the West, the Venerables Revata,
Sambhuta-Sāṇavāsī, Yasa and Sumana. They thoroughly debated the matter
with Revata as the questioner and sabbakāmī answering his questions.
After the debate was heard the eight monks decided against the Vajjian
monks and their verdict was announced to the assembly. Afterwards
seven-hundred monks recited the Dhamma and Vinaya and this recital came
to be known as the Sattasatī because seven-hundred monks had taken part
in it. This historic council is also called, the Yasatthera Sangīti
because of the major role the Elder Yasa played in it and his zeal for
safeguarding the Vinaya. The Vajjian monks categorically refused to
accept the Council’s decision and in defiance called a council of there
own which was called the Mahāsaṅgiti.

The Third Council

The Third Council was held primarily to rid the Saṅgha of corruption
and bogus monks who held heretical views. The Council was convened in
326 B.C. At Asokārāma in Paṭaliputta under the patronage of Emperor
Asoka. It was presided over by the Elder Moggaliputta Tissa and one
thousand monks participated in this Council. Tradition has it that Asoka
had won his throne through shedding the blood of all his father’s son’s
save his own brother, Tissa Kumāra who eventually got ordained and
achieved Arahantship.

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 Saṅgha 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 Appamāda-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 vihāras and to lavishly support the Bhikkhus with
the four requisites. His son Mahinda and his daughter Saṅghamittā were
ordained and admitted to the Saṅgha. Eventually, his generosity was to
cause serious problems within the Saṅgha. 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 Saṅgha 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 [theyyasinivāsaka]. 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 Saṅgha immediately. In this way the Bhikkhu Saṅgha
was purged of heretics and bogus bhikkhus.

This council
achieved a number of other important things as well. The Elder
Moggaliputta Tissa, in order to refute a number of heresies and ensure
the Dhamma was kept pure, complied a book during the council called the
Kathāvatthu. This book consists of twenty-three chapters, and is a
collection of discussion (kathā) and refutations of the heretical views
held by various sects on matters philosophical. It is the fifth of the
seven books of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka. The members of the Council also
gave a royal seal of approval to the doctrine of the Buddha, naming it
the Vibhajjavāda, the Doctrine of Analysis. It is identical with the
approved Theravāda doctrine. One of the most significant achievements of
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. These Dhammadūta monks included the
Venerable Majjhantika Thera who went to Kashmir and Gandhāra. He was
asked to preach the Dhamma and establish an order of monks there. The
Venerable Mahādeva was sent to Mahinsakamaṇḍaḷa (modern Mysore) and the
Venerable Rakkhita Thera was dispatched to Vanavāsī (northern Kanara in
the south of India.) The Venerable Yonaka Dhammarakkhita Thera was sent
to Upper Aparantaka (northern Gujarat, Kathiawar, Kutch and Sindh].

The Venerable Mahārakkhita Thera went to Yonaka-loka (the land of the
lonians, Bactrians and the Greeks.) The Venerable Majjhima Thera went to
Himavanta (the place adjoining the Himalayas.) The Venerable Soṇa and
the Venerable Uttara were sent to Suvaṇṇabhūmi [now Myanmar]. The
Venerable Mahinda Thera, The Venerable Ittiya Thera, the Venerable
Uttiya Thera, the Venerable Sambala Thera and the Venerable Bhaddasāla
Thera were sent to Tambapaṇṇi (now Sri Lanka). The Dhamma missions of
these monks succeeded and bore great fruits in the course of time and
went a long way in ennobling the peoples of these lands with the gift of
the Dhamma and influencing their civilizations and cultures.

With the spread of Dhamma through the words of the Buddha, in due course
India came to be known as Visvaguru, the teacher of the world.

The Fourth Council

The Fourth Council was held in Tambapaṇṇi [Sri Lanka] in 29 B.C.
under the patronage of King Vaṭṭagāmaṇi. The main reason for its
convening was the realization that is was now not possible for the
majority of monks to retain the entire Tipiṭaka 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 Vaṭṭagāmaṇi
supported the monk’s idea and a council was held specifically to reduce
the Tipiṭaka in its entirety to writing. Therefore, so that the genuine
Dhamma might be lastingly preserved, the Venerable Mahārakhita 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
Āloka 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. Later, in
the Eighteenth Century, King Vijayarājasīha had images of the Buddha
created in this cave.

The Fifth Council

The Fifth Council took place in Māndalay, Burma now known as Myanmar
in 1871 A.D. in the reign of King Mindon. The chief objective of this
meeting was to recite all the teachings of the Buddha 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 Mahāthera
Jāgarābhivaṃsa, the Venerable Narindābhidhaja, and the Venerable
Mahāthera Sumaṅgalasāmi in the company of some two thousand four hundred
monks (2,400). Their joint Dhamma recitation lasted for five months. It
was also the work of this council to cause the entire Tipiṭaka to be
inscribed for posterity on seven hundred and twenty-nine marble slabs in
the Myanmar script after its recitation had been completed and
unanimously approved. This monumental task was done by some two thousand
four hundred erudite monks and many skilled craftsmen who upon
completion of each slab had them housed in beautiful miniature ‘piṭaka’
pagodas on a special site in the grounds of King Mindon’s Kuthodaw
Pagoda at the foot of Māndalay Hill where this so called ‘largest book
in the world’, stands to this day.

The Sixth Council

The Sixth Council was called at Kaba Aye in Yangon, formerly Rangoon
in 1954, eighty-three years after the fifth one was held in Mandalay. It
was sponsored by the Burmese Government led by the Prime Minister, the
Honorable U Nu. He authorized the construction of the Mahā Pāsāna Gūhā,
the great cave that was built from the ground up, to serve as the
gathering place much like India’s Sattapānni Cave–the site of the first
Dhamma Council. Upon its completion, the Council met on the 17th of
May, 1954. As in the case of the preceding councils, its first objective
was to affirm and preserve the genuine Dhamma and Vinaya. However it
was unique in so far as the monks who took part in it came from eight
countries. These two thousand five hundred learned Theravāda monks came
from Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and
Vietnam. The late Venerable Mahāsi Sayadaw was appointed the noble task
of asking the required questions about the Dhamma of the Venerable
Bhadanta Vicittasārābhivaṃsa Tipiṭakadhara Dhammabhaṇḍāgārika who
answered all of them learnedly and satisfactorily. By the time this
council met, all the participating countries had the Pāli Tipiṭaka
rendered into their native scripts, with the exception of India.

The traditional recitation of the Dhamma Scriptures took two years
during which the Tipiṭaka and its allied literature in all the scripts
were painstakingly examined. Any differences found were noted down, the
necessary corrections were made and all the versions were then collated.
Happily, it was found that there was not much difference in the content
of any of the texts. Finally, after the Council had officially approved
them, all the volumes of the Tipiṭaka and their Commentaries were
prepared for printing on modern presses and published in the Myanmar
(Burmese) script. This notable achievement was made possible through the
dedicated efforts of the two thousand five hundred monks and numerous
lay people. Their work came to an end in May, 1956, two and a half
millennia after the Lord attained Parinibbāna. This council’s work was
the unique achievement of representatives from the entire Buddhist
world. The version of the Tipiṭaka which it undertook to produce has
been recognized as being true to the pristine teachings of Gotama the
Buddha and the most authoritative rendering of them to date.

The volumes printed after the Sixth Saṅgāyana were printed in Myanmar
script. In order to make the volumes to the people of India, Vipassana
Research Institute started the project to print the Tipiṭaka with its
Aṭṭhakathās and ṭikas in Devanagari in the year 1990.

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