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R.S. Goenka

{ From 'Vipassana Pagoda',1997 }

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        Ever since the earliest times, efforts have been made to preserve the words of the Buddha in then pristine purity. When Gotama the Buddha gave his discourses, those of the learned monks who were with him memorised his discourses. Special mention must be made of Venerable Ananda, who was with him as his private secretary for the last twenty-five years of the Buddha's life. Ananda had an understanding with the Buddha, that whenever the Buddha gave a discourse in the absence of Ananda, the discourse will be repeated to him. Ananda, with his computer-like memory, was able to recite these discourses at the time of the Pathama Sangayana (First Council) for the benefit of the members of the Sangha. Bhikkhu Upali recited the Vinaya. In those times memorizing was the only way of preserving the teachings for posterity. Thus, the Sangayana served an important function to recite and verify the accuracy of the teachings committed to memory by a congregation of learned monks

        The first Sangayana, sponsored by king Ajatasattu and presided over by Elder monk Venerable Mahakassapa, was called three months after the Mahaparinibbana of the Buddha. This Council recorded and systematically classified the teachings, which later came to be called the Tipitaka . None other than the gathering of five hundred eyewitness arahant monks certified the authenticity. Down the ages five more such Councils were called to verify the authenticity of the words of the Buddha. The latest of these Councils was sixth in the series, and was conducted in Yangon under the sponsorship of U Nu, the then Prime Minister of Myanmar. Heading this Sixth Council of 2,500 learned monks from various countries in the years 1954-1956, was Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw.

Authenticity of Tipitaka

        The words of the Buddha were originally taken to various neighbouring countries at the time of Emperor Asoka. Myanmar and Sri Lanka received the Tipitaka along with the practice of the Dhamma during this period. Later the Tipitaka travelled to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and other countries along with the spread of the Dhamma to these countries. For over two millennia, these countries preserved the Tipitaka as a precious treasure, and it was considered a great unwholesome deed to make any changes in the text.

       The first written text was produced at the time of the Fourth Sangayana held in Sri Lanka in the year 29 B.C , during the reign of King Vattagamanini, when the text was recorded on palm leaves, the only available writing medium. Before this time, and until the Third Sangayana. the only way of recording and preserving the teachings was to commit them to memory. Later, after the Fifth Sangayana held in Mandalay (Myanmar) in 1871 A.D., during the reign of King Mindon, the entire Tipitaka was recorded on marble slabs.

       During the last over two millennia, with the efforts of the devoted monks, the Tipitaka was preserved very carefully wherever it went. During all this period, the countries were separated by long distances, without adequate means of transportation and communication. Still, when the Tipitaka was recited in the presence of 2,500 learned monks from various Theravada countries, there was no difference in the text as preserved in the different countries with different scripts, and different pronunciation. The only differences recorded were of a minor nature, in the form of certain spellings etc. The text preserved in regions far from each other was found to be the same after a period of over two millennia; this shows that there were no changes in the original words.


        Over the ages the words of the Buddha have been preserved in whatever medium was available at the time. With the dawn of electronic preservation of documents, a need was felt to preserve them in this modern form so as to make them easily available. Moreover, with the spread of patipatti in the form of Vipassana, the meditation technique taught by the Buddha to purify one's mind of the defilements, Pariyatti had to follow. Vipassana students wanted to read the original words of the Buddha and the accompanying commentaries. Students from all over the world who started taking Vipassana courses began to express deep interest in studying the theoretical aspect of this scientific technique— which is available only in the Pali literature. To this end the Vipassana Research Institute was established in 1985 at Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri, for research and publication of Pali and other Dhamma literature.

       Vipassana Research Institute started entering the Pali text into computers with a highly motivated team of dedicated workers, including computer specialists, programmers and Pali scholars in the year 1991. It was decided to use the Pali text as finalized and authenticated by the most recent congregation of Bhikkhus from all over the world gathered in Myanmar in the Chattha Sangayana (the Sixth Council). The initial purpose was to publish the whole Pali Literature into Devanagari and other scripts. Many volumes have already been printed. But, for research purposes. the CD-ROM was found to be a very efficient modern tool, where one could quickly refer to any passage in the voluminous texts, and search any word to which one wanted to refer. Hence, when all the Pali text was entered into computers, work on the development of special software needed for a CD ROM was started in the year 1996

        The Chattha Sangayana CD-ROM is now ready for the use of scholars world wide, with its wide-ranging facilities that make it extremely user-friendly. This CD-ROM is designed to preserve the words of the Buddha in modern electronic media; it offers an easy search-and-navigation facility through the voluminous text and serves as a valuable tool of research. Some of the features of this CD-ROM are as follows.

       1.Besides the main Tipitaka volumes, it contains the most comprehensive collection of the Atthakathas, Tikas and Anutikas . It has a total of 146 volumes, extending to 52,602 pages. At the click of a button one can open any volume, view any chapter, paragraph or page.

        2. An easy-linking facility has been provided to see the corresponding passages in the main Pali text. Atthakathas, and Tikas.

       3. The text can be viewed in the following three scripts Devanagari, Roman and Myanmar.

        4. The page numbers of the printed texts in Devanagari, Roman and Myanmar are simultaneously displayed on the screen.

        5. For readers in Devanagari, a Pali-Hindi dictionary that gives the meaning of Pali words with a click on the word.

        6. Search for words and phrases is extremely easy, giving a powerful tool to research scholars

        For the next version of the CD-ROM, work is progressing in the following fields.

  • i. To provide viewing facilities in Sinhalese, Thai and other scripts.
  • ii. To provide dictionaries in English and other languages.
  • iii. To include some more rare Pali texts.

        Dhamma is too precious to be given at a price. It is a precious gift that should be given free of cost. The cost is met with donations from grateful Vipassana students. This tradition has been maintained in teaching the Vipassana practice. The same tradition is maintained in giving away the CSCD free of cost, as Dhammadana to all those who can use it.

Ciram Titthatu Saddhammo!

May the Truth-based Dhamma endure for a long time!


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