Mahakasyapa Convenes a Dharma Council
At this time, Mahakasyapa pondered, "How can I now cause this Buddhadharma, obtained through [such great] difficulty across the course of three asamkhyeya kalpas, to be preserved for a long time? After pondering like this, [he said], "I know that this Dharma can be caused to remain a long time. We should collect together and compile the Sutras, the Abhidharma, and the Vinaya and make a three-fold repository of Dharma. In this manner the Buddha-dharma may be able to remain a long time. People of future generations may be able to receive it and cultivate it. Why is it [that we should do this]? Because in life after life, out of compassion and pity for beings, the Buddha was diligent and endured suffering to study and obtain this Dharma [so that he could] expound it for mankind. We too should undertake to put the Buddha's teaching to use, propagating and converting [people]."
At this point, after Mahakasyapa had formulated this discourse, he went to the summit of Mount Sumeru and, striking a bronze gandl (gong), uttered this verse:
All [of you] disciples of the Buddha,
If the Buddha [now] you do recall,
[You] should all repay the Buddha's kindness.
Do not enter [yet] into Nirvana.
The sound of the gandl accompanied by the voice of Mahakasyapa reached everywhere throughout the great trichiliocosm so that everyone heard and was aware of it. Of all of the disciples throughout the realms of existence, those who had gained spiritual powers all came and assembled at the place of Mahakasyapa.
At that time, Mahakasyapa told all of those assembled there, "The Buddhadharma is about to become extinct. Out of compassion and pity for beings, the Buddha, for three asamkhyeya kalpas, was diligent and endured all manner of suffering in studying and obtaining this Dharma. After the Buddha's parinirvana, all of those disciples who knew the Dharma, upheld the Dharma, and recited the Dharma followed the Buddha and also crossed into extinction. Now the Dharma is about to become extinct. The beings of the future are extremely pitiable [for] they will have lost the eye of wisdom and shall [be lost in] the blindness and darkness of ignorance. With great kindness and compassion the Buddha felt pity for beings. We also ought to undertake [the work of] putting the Buddha's teaching to use. We must wait until we have collected and compiled the repository of scriptures. Then we may cross into extinction whenever we wish. All of those who had assembled there accepted the instruction to remain.
At that time, Mahakasyapa selected a thousand men. All of them except for Ananda were Arhats who had attained the six superknowledges, who had attained the complete liberation, and who had attained the liberation devoid of doubt. They had all attained the three knowledges and coursed freely in dhyana samadhi. They were able to practice all of the samadhis [in both] ascending and descending [order], and in all cases without hindrance. They could recite and had studied the three repositories [of Dharma] and had knowledge of all the esoteric and exoteric scriptures. They had completely studied and knew the eighteen kinds of immense scriptures of the non-Buddhist schools [of thought] and were all able to debate and defeat [the adherents of] heterodox [realms of] learning.
English translation © 1996 Dharmamitra. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Kalavinka (http://www.teleport.com/~dh-mitra/)
In this region the substance of the teaching is in sound,
These songs and praises wonderfully penetrate the spiritual realm.
Gandharvas inhale the incense and arrive,
Kinnaras hear the music and descend.
Creatures with conditions all are saved,
Wilted plants and trees come alive again!
All perfect the wisdom of all-modes,
And together realize Bodhi, becoming greatly enlightened honored ones.
—— Changbai Mountain Monk in the year I-wei (1979)