On This Day

65 Years Since Thousands of Monks Began Sixth Buddhist Council in Yangon

By Wei Yan Aung 17 May 2019

Sixty-five years ago today, 2,500 years after the Buddha’s death, the state-sponsored Sixth Buddhist Council opened in Yangon to review and settle doctrinal disputes relating to the entire text of the Exalted One’s Theravada teachings. Joined by 2,617 Buddhist monks from Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere, it is the most recent synod, or Sangayana. At the First, Second and Third Councils, convened in India between 544 B.C. and 308 B.C., the texts were purified and revised orally. At the Fourth Council in Sri Lanka in 94 B.C., the teachings were revised and documented on palm leaves. After the Fifth Council in Mandalay in 1871, the texts were inscribed on 729 stone slabs.

Then Myanmar President Dr. Ba U (seated, front row) attends the opening ceremony of the Sixth Buddhist Council in Yangon in 1954.

The opening ceremony of the Sixth Council at the Mahapasana Cave of Kaba Aye Pagoda was attended by Myanmar’s then President Dr. Ba U and Prime Minister U Nu. The heads of religious orders from Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, as well as the Indian president, the kings of Nepal and Thailand, and the Sri Lankan prime minister sent congratulatory messages. The state Burma Broadcasting Service aired the ceremony live. The council ended in 1956. Since then, the revised version of the Theravada texts approved by the Sixth Council have been available in printed form.

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