25 June, 2022


Could Proposed Sangāyanā Clean Up Sāsana?

By Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

Many voices are being heard from many quarters on the need to conduct a Sangāyanā for the betterment of Buddha Sāsana. It has been in the work plan of the government since its inception as well.

Good thoughts. And probably a well-timed move as well. But there are several concerns that one should take into account before moving in this direction.

There had already been six Buddhist synods in three different countries – India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar – since the demise of the Buddha with four main purposes, protecting the original Buddha’s word; keeping authenticity of the teaching of the Buddha; keeping the unblemished practice, extinguishing defilements (greed, hatred and delusion); realization the highest truth for attaining highest bliss – Nibbāna and longevity of the Sāsana for the benefits of many.

The definition of Saṅgīti or Saṅgāyanā, the Buddhist synod or councils is “Saṃ ekato katvā gāyitabbā kathetabbā’ti “saṅgīti” – having gathered (all scattered teaching) as whole; should be recited by the one who are in concord (sāmaggi). Both “Saṅgīti” and “Sangāyanā” are in Pali but the former is the most common in tradition, though the latter is more familiar among the Sinhalese tradition in the present context.

All six former Saṅgīti or the councils had been to resolve one or the other challenging issues to Sāsana of that particular period. Learning about these six noble events would certainly shed a light on the necessity, lessons learnt and way forward for the proposed seventh Saṅgāyanā in Sri Lanka.

BBS MonksThe first council was held in Sattapaṇṇi cave pavilion at Mount Vebhāra near the city of Rajagaha in India, in the same year of the Buddha’s death, due to an uttering of Bikkhu Subaddha. Fearful that the community would dissolve through uncertainty over the founder’s teachings, mainly with such attitudes of some monks like Subaddha, the Sangha held a council to preclude that possibility. Maha Kashyapa Thera, one of the Buddha’s chief-disciples, was appointed president of the council and selected five hundred Arahat monks participated. Functionally, this important event established authority for the group in the absence of its leader for thousands of years to come.

The second synod took place just around one hundred years after the Parinibbana (demise) of the Buddha in the city of Vaisali (visālāmahanuwara) to resolve a dispute over supposedly illicit monastic behavior, such as accepting gold and silver – equal to money of the day. Imagine, disputes over the discipline of the monks had erupted even such a short period after the demise of the Buddha and this council deliberated such ten issues of possibly inappropriate monastic behavior including the use of money. Each point was rejected by the council, the offending practices were outlawed, and concord reestablished, although significant disagreements had obviously begun to appear in the still-unified Buddhist community. It is widely believed that Buddhist sectarianism began shortly after this council.

King Ashoka organized the third council in the city of Pataliputra around 250 BC under the guidance of Moggaliputtatissa Maha Thera with the objective of establishing the orthodoxy of the Dhamma. It said that 60000 ascetics infiltrated into the Sangha Order, polluted the Saasana by their corrupt lives ad heretical views. A thousand monks were assembled to the council, various viewpoints were considered and either sanctioned or rejected, with the proponents of rejected views being expelled from the city.

Before the fourth synod held in Matale Aluviharaya, there had been a locally recognized Vinaya synod at Thūpārāmaya, Anurādhapura, Srilanka. However, the fourth council was held due to the challenges of maintaining the oral tradition and Dhamma was recited and inscribed on palm leaves. This was during the regime of Vaṭṭagāmini Abhaya alias king Valagambā, in 94 BC.

Both fifth and sixth synods were held in Myanmar, or the then Burma. The fifth council was convened at Mandalay in Myanmar in November 1871 at Dhakkhinārāma monastery supported by King Mindon. It was held basically to ensure the presence of entire Tipitaka in the country with no errors and also to find a long lasting solution in maintaining palm leaf inscription.

However, the most significant was the sixth council which was held in line with the 2500 Buddhajayanthi anniversary. The event held on the full moon day of “Kason” (May -June )1954 in the Mahāpāsāna Guhā (great cave), Kabā-Aye, Yangon, had two main objectives – purification of the teaching and the propagation of the Sāsana within the country and internationally. It not only reviewed the canonical Pāli Tipiṭaka but also the commentaries and sub-commentaries were re-examined for the authenticity. Several Sri Lankan learned Theras including Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Maha Thera played a key role in this synod. It was a great success mainly due to the fact that it initiated a state Saṅgha Mahanayaka Committee comprising all sects (nikāya) in the country while recognizing and uniting nine such Nikāyas. It translated some texts into English while founding two State-Pariyatti-Saasana Universities for standardization though the country had a good Monastery education. Following the practice of third council, there were Buddhist missions to different states of the country as well as to foreign countries while perpetuating and propagating the Sāsana for moral enhancement of the entire nation.

The proposed seventh Sangāyanā should be considered within this context, especially on how to contribute to this process with our existing capacity. Some leading monks question the necessity to review the entire Tripitaka and its commentaries (Atuwawa) since there exists an unchallengeable literature, mainly with Buddhajayanthi literature both in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The issue is the practice of these teachings, mainly the Vinaya (discipline) aspect due to various interpretations and offending practices. Thus, as it happened during the second and third synods, this proposed Sangāyanā should target a massive clean-up of its practitioners.

Such an exercise should examine – purely according to Vinaya teaching – whether the monks could enter into governance by directly contesting elections, get engaged in state sector (or even private sector) jobs and draw monthly salaries, mobilize masses against another ethnic community and drive them for violence – and the list could continue.

But the challenge would be securing necessary learned, knowledgeable and well-disciplined Buddhist leaders within the clergy not in dozens but in hundreds in conducting such a massive exercise. The process could continue for months under a divided responsibilities system, yet knowledge should be deep, well versed in Theravāda Buddhist text and language skills – mainly Pali – should be second to none. Personally I have my own doubts on this issue of necessary skills unless we look at Myanmar or Thailand. In any case this will not be a Sri Lankan Sangāyanā – but for entire Sasana wherever it exists. But the necessity is mainly here, especially for the massive clean-up through a robust review of Dhamma and Vinaya based on pure order and teaching which has to be reestablished within this Dharmadveepa.

This exercise should also take the lead from the sixth council in Myanmar and embark on digitalization of Theravāda – Tripiṭaka with commentary and relevant texts as it required a Nano space today we can re-elaborate and expand all the shorten portions in various texts.

Another contemporary issue that needs such high level attention is the Teravada-Bhikkhuni (the Buddhist-nun tradition) which is impossible to reestablish now. But providing women with proper recognition to learn, practice and live a spiritual life is not impossible. For example, Dasasīl Maata in Sri Lanka, Sayalay in Myanmar, or such organizations should be recognized without contradicting their lives with teaching. These practices should be renamed or re-interpreted.

There could be a few other objectives such as establishing a sound Buddhist academic system in Sri Lanka. However, we need to define the objective of the proposed Sangāyanā first and then outline the agenda and its necessities. The order of the deliberations is purely based on consensus. If we do not get into the right way of conducting such a gigantic and sensitive exercise, it could do more harm than good. Crucial deliberations could be manipulated, consensus be reached according to hidden agenda and wrong perceptions would be established and documented. That could be a disaster to Sasana.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    I think Mahayanna sect is the biggest offender of Vinnana.

    Their main point of convergence is Arhat is a selfish pursuit and Buddhahood must be the ultimate goal. This is a misconception that can be easily corrected.

    An effort should be made to re-converge the Sangha and pool resources.

    • 3

      It is time the Theravada Buddhist Sangha in Sri Lanka, were encouraged to do Social Service for the People in Prisons, Old Folks Homes and Hospitals. This goes for Politicians too!

      At the moment the majority of the Sangha, appear to be interested only in Tying ‘Pirith Nool’ on Politicians, and enjoying lavish ‘Daval Dane’s’.

  • 10

    It’s just a tragedy that the Buddha’s message of The Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path has been contaminated by ‘Religion’!

    True followers of the Buddha need to only apply these principles of behavior to their lives to be ‘good Buddhists’. The rest of the extraneous treatise by various entities are just complicating the matter for the benefit of those who gain materially from these so-called ‘doctrines’.

    Just take a look around our temples and the behavior of the mostly obese incumbents and their accumulation of wealth and power. The ‘real’ monks are the ones who spend their time in meditation and following the principles expounded by the Buddha. They need no Sasana or Sanganaya to achieve Nirvana!

  • 4

    What a coincidence this is…

    It is only yesterday I got this email from a mate,which was titled Our New Srilanaka.

    What a thrill it was to open it and I was’not disappointed.

    There were at least half a dozen or more chicks, looking like under 18 and , celebrating a B’day I guess, in spunky clothes.

    The toys, sorry the presents were even better.

    One was wearing a strap on and showing off the skills.

    Another was licking one which was mounted on the cake. Th last one was sitting on the groin of one, which was being passionately tasted by the other, along side another girl girl combination in intimate embrace.

    My partner’s response was “I don’t want to know and I don’t to see”.

    May be she is old fashioned.

    Now this Cleaning up our Buddha Sasana up must be to catch up with this new Yahapalana Culture and Customs.

    I know the very first undertaking our loving FM gave the UN in appreciation of their efforts to install Yahapalanay, was to agree to their same sex marriage Resolution..

    Which is fair enough.

    But what I would like to know is who initiated this “Sanaganaya of the 21 Century”.

    Is it Norwegian Nikaya , or Is it Cameron, UNP London and Diaspora Niyakaya.

    • 2

      K.A Sumanasekera

      “Is it Norwegian Nikaya , or Is it Cameron, UNP London and Diaspora Niyakaya.”

      After all, the Norwegian Nikaya and the Diaspora Nikaya initiated the BBS Nikaya.

      The Various Norwegian Agencies That Supported BBS Personnel – Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP


    • 2

      K.A Sumanasekera

      “Is it Norwegian Nikaya , or Is it Cameron, UNP London and Diaspora Niyakaya.”

      After all, the Norwegian Nikaya and the Diaspora Nikaya initiated the BBS Nikaya.

      The Various Norwegian Agencies That Supported BBS Personnel – Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP


      Query on the Norwegian Nikaya.

      Amarasiri ‏@Amarasi69467474 20 Jul 2014 @SolheimDAC @taylordibbert So You Funded the Sinhala Buddhist ‘Fascists’ in saffron robes? Den Dritt Norske?

      Erik Solheim ‏@SolheimDAC 17 Jul 2014 Øyer, Norge @Amarasi69467474 @taylordibbert For sure we funded BBS. As we have always funded LTTE, Mahinda and ths islamic jihadists in #SriLanka.

      Amarasiri ‏@Amarasi69467474 17 Jul 2014 @SolheimDAC @taylordibbert Mr Solheim Did Norway Fund BBS with Norwegian, Israeli and American Christian Fundamentalist Money? Yes or No?

  • 7

    The Sangha in Sri Lanka urgently needs reform. I came across the 227 rules laid down by the Buddha himself for monks in the following link:


    It is time for an introspective review of how many of these rules are followed by our monks, how many are valid in our times and the % of monks who follow what is considered relevant in our times.

    I observed novice monks buying lottery tickets In Galle about two years back! Their innocent faces lit up, when they noticed I was photographing them. They apparently had not been taught that it was wrong for a monk to gamble.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0

      Dear Doctor,

      Are you Anglican,Roman Catholic,Orthodox, Born Again, Kings Revival or just a Pojahari from Polmuddai?…

      Because I know all the above send around the collection plate, with some charging 10 % of your income / wages as admission fees to heaven.

      I am not sure about the last.

      So most probably you are from Polmuddai Or is it Nalloor where a prayer costs only one LKR. which is very reasonable.

      And really cheap for your mates with the Dollar hitting 200 LKRs by the time you worship in your dedicated own Homeland…

      • 0

        Why so much racist bile K.A Sumanasekera ? Is it because you are a third class citizen in Australia and are transferring your feelings of inadequacy back you your fellow Lankans ? The only Dalit is you.

  • 3

    Dear Dr.Ranga Kalasooriya,

    I personally thank you for the profound and very descriptive article which rarely appear in the domain of printed media.

    It is sad to see and hear that many so called Buddhist monks actively involve in politics and other sphere of activities which totally irrelevant to perform and discharge as a true disciple of the Buddha.

    Not all but some Sinhalese Buddhist monks truly attempt and strive to diligently practice while they encourage and guide lay people who compassionately support them.

    Not only conducting Sangayana but also must impose, implement and enforce the law to repudiate and exclude from Sangha Sasana those who violate and breach the rules as a Buddhist monk.

    Unfortunate current situation is deplorable.

    When we study the disciplinary code of novice and fully ordained monk, some monks behaviour and the way they speak and act is horrible and wickedly ruin the excellent and exemplary profile of the true disciple of the Gotama Buddha.

  • 1

    Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

    RE: Could Proposed Sangāyanā Clean Up Sāsana?

    “There had already been six Buddhist synods in three different countries – India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar – since the demise of the Buddha with four main purposes, protecting the original Buddha’s word; keeping authenticity of the teaching of the Buddha; keeping the unblemished practice, extinguishing defilements (greed, hatred and delusion); realization the highest truth for attaining highest bliss – Nibbāna and longevity of the Sāsana for the benefits of many.”

    What are you trying to protect? Hegemony of the monks? To protect the Theology from those mad monks running berserk, like BBS and Para-Sinhala Ravya who now follow Mara instead of Buddha, to keep their Power and hegemony?

    What is Buddhism? The Promoted View. A Basic Buddhism Guide: 5 Minute Introduction – BuddhaNet.


    What is Buddhism? An alternative view from a different angle. Have All the Data and make your inference based on data, based on reason.

    Buddhism The Great Evil — Part 1


    Buddhism The Great Evil — Part 2


  • 3

    I am surprised that no one has commented on and that no effort is being made in any of these clean up initiatives to rid the different Nikayas of their caste restrictions. The Buddha himself like most religious leaders opposed caste division and while dalits in India converted to Buddhism as they saw in it, a religion free of caste differences, our Buddhist religious leadership publicly accepts and maintains a caste based system. Will the government have the courage to insist that state support/sponsorship will be available only if caste restrictions are removed ?

    • 3

      It is not only the Caste System, as in the Nikayas, but a lot of so-called Cultural Activities that has become the Downfall of The Buddha’s Dhamma in Sri Lanka.

      What can a few people like you do, if the Majority believe that Peraheras, Building Pirith Mandape’s and Vesak Thoranas are the ultimate meaning of the Buddhist Agama.

  • 4

    Bravo Dr Kalansooriya!
    In this dark and ignorant world, your frank and clear message stands out as a very bright light, that distinctly illuminates the entire world! Thank you good Sir, and I salute you! Now, as a seasoned septuagenarian and presumably a ‘man of the world’, you re-echo my very thoughts and advice, for the existence and propagation of the unadulterated Dhamma- This greatest gift to the world!
    Needless to say, it is depressing and disgusting to see certain bhikkus behaving in a manner that is ‘not becoming’ of themselves!
    Clenched fist waving, finger pointing,spitting and uttering obscenities is not only deplorable but calamitous acts of desperation indulged in, by the cheap and the vulgar.
    Let us all face the fact that the Sangha needs to be preserved and well protected by ourselves, and hence the need for strict guidelines to prevent those ‘hell-bent’ on trying to corrupt it.
    There must be a concerted and a well organised procedure in operation, and,attempts at all times,to ‘keep it clean and honourable’. There should be an honest and incorruptible ‘body’ elected/ appointed, to maintain such high standards.
    Futile acts like thuggery, issuing ‘death threats’ and labelling devotees with cheap political labels, should cease forthwith. Let us all remain transparent,correct ourselves from misdeeds, and proceed towards a common goal!
    Maithree to you all!

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