A council (saïgãti) is the meeting of a group of persons for some specific purpose. The Pàëi word literally means `chanting' (gãti) `together' (sam). After the Buddha's passing, senior monks decided to hold a council to agree upon his teachings and commit them to memory so that they could be preserved for future generations. This meeting, called the First Council, was held at the Sattapaõõi Cave in Ràjagaha and was attended by 500 arahats (Vin.II,283-88). About a century later a second council was held in Vesàli to settle a dispute on monastic discipline, after which all of the teachings were again recited and agreed upon (Vin.II,293-306). Tradition says that King Asoka held a third council in Patna although historical evidence of this is lacking. Disagreements within the Saïgha are said to have been resolved, errant monks and nuns expelled and missionary monks sent to different regions of India and beyond to promote the Dhamma. After this, Buddhism gradually broke into different sects, and it was no longer possible to have a council that represented all Buddhists, although different countries sometimes held their own councils.
In 1956 the Burmese government held what was called the Sixth Council in Rangoon which was mainly a Theravàda endeavour. After this council a new and corrected edition of the Tipiñaka was published.