This article contains brief description on the Four Buddhist Councils.
From time to time four different Councils of the Buddhists were called to celebrate important events or to decide policy matters of great importance.
1. The First Buddhist Council
The first council was called in about 487 B.C. on the occasion of Buddha’s death at Rajagriha, the Capital of Magadha.
About five hundred members came to attend the First Buddhist Council. They collected teachings of Buddha and compiled them in three books called Tripitakas (or three Baskets). They are in the Pali language and are named as Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka.
2. The Second Buddhist Council
About a hundred years later, i. e., 387 B.C. the Second Council of the Buddhists was held at Vaishali. In it an effort was made to relax the monastic discipline and to bring about some changes in the monastic life. Some reforms and changes were also introduced in the old scriptures.
3. The Third Buddhist Council
The Third Buddhist Council was held in 251 B.C. during the reign of Ashoka at Pataliputra. It was presided over by Tissa Moggaliputta, the most renowned Buddhist of his times. In this Council some of the internal differences of the monks were patched up and several reforms were introduced in the monastic life with the chief aim of bringing purity in it.
4. The Fourth Buddhist Council
The Fourth and the last Buddhist Council was held during the reign of Kanishka at Kundalvana in Kashmir in the first century A.D. It was presided over by Asvaghosa. In this Council also every effort was made to patch up the differences, but this time they were too wide to be patched up and hence Buddhism was divided into two sects—the Hinayana and the Mahayana. However, on the sacred scriptures of the Buddhists two elaborate commentaries—the Upadesa and the Vibhasha—were prepared.