Significance of Navam Poya
By Premasara Epasinghe
The Navam Pura Pasalosvaka Poya Day, which falls this year today, is a significant event in Buddhist calender. The two very significant incidents that took place on the Navam Pura Pasalosvaka Poya Day were the first congregation of Maha Sangha or the First Buddhist Council, and the appointment of two chief disciples of Gautama Buddha as Aggasavakes namely Sariputta and Moggallana. The first Buddhist Council was held three months after the passing away of the Buddha. It was chaired by one of the most senior monks in the order - Mahakassapa.
Five hundred bhikkus participated in the Council. Mahakassapa Thera kept a vacant seat for Ananda Thera, as he was not an arahat till the day before the Council. Anyhow, on the eve of the council, Ananda attained the arahathood and he participated in and played a key-role in Council. Ananda, was a cousin of the Buddha. He was also a brother of the famous Devadatta and one of the ten Great Disciples. He accompanied the Buddha for more then 20 years.
He attained enlightenment after the demise of the Buddha under the guidance of Mahakassapa.
At the first Buddhist Council, Arahat Ananda, famed for his excellent memory, recited the Sutta Pitaka. The Sutta Pitaka is the second of the three divisions of the Tipitaka, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. The Sutta Pitaka contains more than 10,000 suttas (teachings) attributed to the Buddha.
The scriptures tell how the First Council held shortly after the Buddha's death collected together the discipline (vinaya), and the dhamma in five collections.
The word Vinaya is a Sanskrit term denoting the rules of disciplines that monk required to follow. There was a need to recite all the vinaya rules soon after the passing away of the Buddha since there were some uprising and misinterpretation of them among the members of the order.
The Suttas literally mean a thread on which jewels are strung are prose texts, each introduced by the words "Thus I have heard – which was attended by Ananda in Suttas.
These words are ascribed to Ananda. He is supposed to have retained the discourses of the Buddha in memory and to have chanted them at the Council.
This council was held at Rajagaha, near the present town of Rajgir, Patna District, Bihar. Then it was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Magadha. According to late commentarial accounts, King Ajatasatta sponsored the Council. Tradition holds that the Council was held in a hall erected by Ajatasatta outside the Sattaparnaguha Cave (Pali: Sattapanniguha) in Rajgir.
Mahakassapa presided and Venerable Upali, one of the ten major disciples of the Buddha recited the vinaya. Upali was known as the foremost in observing the precepts. Upali had joined the order, at the same time as Anuruddha, Ananda and Devadatta.
It is said that at the first Buddhist Council, Upali recited the vinaya while Ananda recited the suttas.
The next most important incident took place on a Navam Pura Pasalosvaka Poya day was the appointment, made by the Buddha, of two major disciples in the order. Sariputta and Moggallana were appointed Aggasavakes – chief disciples.