After the Buddha's death, his disciple Mahakasyapa took over leadership of the Sangha. One of Mahakasyapa's first acts as the new Buddhist leader was to convene a council of 500 arhats to collect and preserve the teachings of Buddha.
The First Council, as it is known to Buddhist history, took place at Rajgir, the capital of the Magadha kingdom. The Buddha's most important disciples were asked to recite his teachings from memory.
The first to recite was Ananda, the Buddha's cousin, attendant and constant companion for more than 30 years. Demonstrating impressive powers of memorization, he recited not only everything he had heard, but the place in which each discourse was given. Other monks were then asked to confirm Ananda's recollection.
It was also at this council that the Buddha's teachings were divided into three categories or "baskets" (pitaka): discourses, discipline and higher knowledge. The Tripitaka that was formed at this meeting is the same canon used by Buddhists today.
- - John Bowker, ed., The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (Cambridge UP, 2002), p. 80.
- "Buddhism." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004. <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9105944>