illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
• the Mahavagga, notably on the Buddha's and his great disciples' awakenings, as well as rules on ordination and uposatha (buddhist day of observance);
• the Cullavagga, notably on the First and Second Buddhist Councils, the schism by Devadatta, the establishment of the community of Buddhist nuns, as well as rules for addressing offences within the community.
The Cullavagga (XI.1.11) acknowledges that the standardisation of the first council was not necessarily taken by all:
« Now at that time, Venerable Purana was wandering on a tour of the Southern Hills with a large community of monks, approximately 500 in all. Then, having stayed as long as he liked in the Southern Hills while the elder monks were standardising the Dhamma and Vinaya, he went to the Bamboo Park, the Squirrels' Sanctuary, in Rajagaha.
On arrival, he went to the elder monks and, after exchanging pleasantries, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, they said to him, "Friend Purana, the Dhamma and Vinaya have been standardised by the elders. Switch over to their standardisation."
[He replied:] "The Dhamma and Vinaya have been well standardised by the elders. Still, I will hold simply to what I have heard and received in the Blessed One's presence." »
So Theravādins —creators and preservers of the Pāḷi Canon— admit, in the Canon itself, that the Canon is debatable.
The suttas were recollected by Ānanda, the personal assistant of the Buddha for over two decades but, by definition, this means Ānanda was not present for the first two decades of teachings…
Moreover, Purana might have understood the individualisation of the teachings: it is said that the Buddha was a great pedagogue who adapted his teachings to the conditions and circumstances of his audience. As such, Purana might have reasons to consider that what was not said to him was simply not intended for him. He thus avoided the idolisation of the Buddha or of his words, i.e. the attachment to rituals (one of the three lowest fetters, dropped by stream enterers).
It is one thing to read and study and get inspired by 25-centuries-old teachings… it is another to cling to them as the undebatable truth or the only relevant texts.
photo: Bodhisattva, Japanese Kamakura period, attributed to Kaikei (1185–1220).