Abstract: The First Council and Suppression of Bhikkhuni Order

by Mettanando Bhikkhu

The First Buddhist Council was also the origin of Buddhist canonical literature, the Tipitaka.  The details of the council are described in a section in the monastic code for Buddhist monks and nuns.  The nature of the First Council in Rajagaha was not what it has been claimed, i.e., to canonize the words of the Buddha for the prevention of the future corruption and decay of the Buddhist religion, but it was to suppress the nuns who were active and successful in their promotion of Buddhism.

From the council emerged a set of Eight Rules of Heavy Duty for each member of the Nun Order to follow for the rest of their lives.  By following the rules, which are highly discriminatory against women, the Nun Order became weakened, finally leading to the decay and destruction of Buddhism in India.  Comparing to a number of texts in Jainism and Law Books of Hindu and several sections in the Buddhist canons, it was found that the section of the Eight Rules of Heavy Duty (Garudhammas), in the myth of the origin of the Nun Order, was actually an interpolation which took place soon after the passing away after the Buddha.

The members of the First Council, although honored as saints, were faithful followers of Brahmanical Laws than Buddhist mendicants who had been dissatisfied with the administration of the Buddha that women were allowed to be ordained equal to men.  Thus, the real intention of the First Council was not for the preservation and protection of the Buddha’s teachings as claimed by the tradition, but to marginalize the nuns.