Venerable Maha Kassapa and the noble monks convene a great council [sangayana] to preserve the religion up to the present day
The time of the cremation of the Buddha's body at Kusinara was one when monks had come together in greater numbers than any other time. Thus when the cremation was complete, Venerable Maha Kassapa, who was the senior monk there, called a meeting of the Order, the first, at Kusinara.
The subject of the meeting was the sangayana, the review and authorization of the teaching of Dhamma and Vinaya that the Buddha had given. Maha Kassapa brought to the council's attention the matter of the "thorns in the religion" that he had seen with his own eyes on his way to Kusinara, when the old monk rejoiced at the Buddha's passing away.
The meeting selected three senior monks to be the chair of the council. They were Venerable Maha Kassapa, Venerable Ananda and Venerable Upali. In this, Maha Kassapa was to be the chairman with the duty of choosing the number of monks to attend the council. Maha Kassapa chose altogether 500 monks for the council and chose the city of Rajagaha in Magadha as the venue. The time of the council was to be from the first day of the rains retreat onwards, or in three months time from that day.
After that, the monks who had been chosen to participate in the Sangayana traveled by stages to Rajagaha. Arriving there, the Order asked for assistance from the city in the form of repairs to dwellings for the monks, and preparation of the place for the council, which was a cave in a hill just outside the city.
The Order of monks asked for assistance from the civilian authorities in forbidding disciples of other sects and monks other than those invited to the council from entering the city of Rajagaha for the entire duration of the time of the council. Thus was in order to prevent obstacles which may arise, which might have been a cause for the council not proceeding smoothly.
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