Second Buddhist council
The Second Buddhist council took place between 60 to 100 years after the death of Gautama Buddha, and the main topic was a disagreement over the interpretation of the Vinaya, the monastic code of conduct. It is generally believed that one group of monks wished to enforce a stricter code of conduct through either adding additional rules or elevating the importance of certain rules, and another group resisted this approach. The inability to resolve these differences of interpretation led to the first major schism within the early Sangha, based on two interpretations of the Vinaya.
The schism resulted in the following two groups of monastics: (1) those who favored the stricter code were called the Sthaviras, and (2) those who rejected the stricter code were the Mahāsāṃghikas.
According to the traditional Theravadin account, the dispute arose over the 'Ten Points.' This is a reference to claims of some monks breaking ten rules, some of which were considered major. The specific ten points were:
- Storing salt in a horn.
- Eating after midday.
- Eating once and then going again to a village for alms.
- Holding the Uposatha Ceremony with monks dwelling in the same locality.
- Carrying out official acts when the assembly was incomplete.
- Following a certain practice because it was done by one's tutor or teacher.
- Eating sour milk after one had his midday meal.
- Consuming strong drink before it had been fermented.
- Using a rug which was not the proper size.
- Using gold and silver.
The key issue was the use of 'gold and silver', which is an Indic idiom that includes any kind of money. The monks of Vesali had taken to wandering for alms with the specific goal of collecting money, to which the visiting monk Yasa objected. Some of the other points are also important, for example point 6, which would allow monks to not follow the Vinaya on any point which their teacher did not follow or practice.
This behaviour was noted, became an issue and caused a major controversy. The monastic Sangha is structured so that all actions and decisions must be unanimously agreed upon through consensus. Since the monks accused of breaking these ten rules refused to be reprimanded or acknowledge fault, the Sangha was unable to resolve this dispute in any other way than by convening the Second Buddhist Council.
Some of the Ten Points were against minor (dukkata or sekhiya) rules. Before the Buddha's parinibbāna he told Ananda that the community may (unanimously) relinquish the minor rules of the Vinaya but at the First Buddhist Council there was uncertainty about which rules he was referring to and it was unanimously decided to keep the Vinaya as it was during the Buddha's lifetime. However, 100 years later some monks felt that certain rules could be relaxed.
The Second Buddhist Council made the unanimous decision not to relax any of the rules, and censured the behaviour of the monks who were accused of violating the ten points.
- Harvey, Peter (2013). An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pg. 88-90.
- Skilton, Andrew. A Concise History of Buddhism. 2004. p. 49, 64
- Twelfth Khandhaka: On the Council of Vesal, Internet Sacred Texts Archive