Second Buddhist council (c 383 BCE)
The Second Buddhist Council was held at Vaisali (or Vaishali), an ancient city
in what is now the state of Bihar in northern India, bordering Nepal under the
patronage of King Kalasoka while it was presided by Sabakami. This Council
probably was held about a century after the first one or one hundred years
after the Buddha's Parinibbana, or about 383 BCE.
The historical records for the Second Buddhist Council derive primarily from the
canonical Vinayas of various schools. In most cases, these accounts are found
at the end of the Skandhaka portion of the Vinaya. While inevitably disagreeing
on points of details, they nevertheless agree that the root dispute was points
of vinaya or monastic discipline.
The Second Council resulted in the first schism in the Sangha. Modern scholars
see this event as probably caused by a group of reformists called Sthaviras who
split from the conservative majority Mahāsāṃghikas. This view is supported by
the vinaya texts themselves, as vinayas associated with the Sthaviras do
contain more rules than those of the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya.
The Second Council was called 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:
Storing salt in a horn.
Eating after mid-day.
To eating once and then going again to a village for
Holding the Uposatha Ceremony with monks dwelling in
the same locality.
Carrying out official acts when the assembly was
Following a certain practice because it was done by
one's tutor or teacher.
Eating sour milk after one had had his mid-day meal.
Drinking strong drink before it had been fermented.
Using a rug which was not the proper size.
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 Kalasoka
was the Second Council's patron and the meeting took place at Vesali due to the
One day, whilst visiting the Mahavana Grove at Vesali, 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 behaviour 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
behaviour. 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 Vajjian 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 be wrong-doers and heretics saying, "the
Elder Yasa alone is the real monk and Sakyan son. All the others are not monks,
not Sakyan sons."
The stubborn and unrepentant Vajjian monks then moved to suspend the Venerable
Yasa Thera without the approval of the rest of the Sangha. 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 Pava and eighty monks from the southern regions
of Avanti who were of the same mind, 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, Ananda 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
Valikarama with himself asking questions on the ten offences of the most senior
of the Elders of the day, the Thera Sabbakami.
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, Sabbakami, Salha, Khujjasobhita and Vasabhagamika, from
the East and four monks from the West, the Venerables, Revata,
Sambhuta-Sanavasi, Yasa and Sumana.
They thoroughly debated the matter with Revata as the questioner and Sabbakami
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 Sattasati because seven-hundred monks had taken part in
This historic council is also called, the Yasatthera Sangiti 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 their own which was called the