WHEN the Blessed One had passed away into Nirvana, the disciples came together and consulted what to do in order to keep the Dharma pure and uncorrupted by heresies.
Upali rose, saying: "Our great Master used to say to the brethren: 'O bhikkhus! after my final entrance into Nirvana you must reverence and obey the law. Regard the law as your master. The law is like unto a light that shines in the darkness, pointing out the way; it is also like unto a precious jewel to gain which you must shun no trouble, and be ready to bring any sacrifice; even, should it be needed, your own lives. Obey the Dharma which I have revealed to you; follow it carefully and if as in no way different from myself.' Such were the words of the Blessed One. The law, accordingly, which the Buddha has left us as a precious inheritance has now become the visible body of the Tathagata. Let us, therefore, revere it and keep it sacred. For what is the use of erecting dagobas for relics, if we neglect the spirit of the Master's teachings?"
Then Anuruddha arose and said: "Let us bear in mind, O brethren, that Gotama Siddhattha has revealed the truth to us. He was the Holy One and the Perfect One and the Blessed One, because the eternal truth had taken abode in him. The Tathagata taught us that the truth existed before he was born into this world, and will exist after he has entered into Nirvana. The Tathagata said: 'The truth is omnipresent and eternal, endowed with excellencies innumerable, above all human nature, and ineffable in its holiness.'
"Now let us bear in mind that not this or that law which is revealed to us in the Dhanna is the Buddha, but the entire truth, the truth which is eternal, omnipresent, immutable, and most excellent. Many regulations of the Sangha are temporary; they were prescribed because they suited the occasion and were needed for some transient emergency. The truth, however, is not temporary. The truth is not arbitrary nor a matter of opinion, but can be investigated, and he who earnestly searches for the truth will find it. The truth is hidden to the blind, but he who has the mental eye sees the truth. The truth is Buddha's essence, and the truth will remain the ultimate standard. Let us, then, revere the truth; let us inquire into the truth and state it, and let us obey the truth. For the truth is Buddha our Master, our Teacher."
And Kassapa rose and said: "Truly thou hast spoken well, O brother Anuruddha. Neither is there any conflict of opinion on the meaning of our religion. For the Blessed One possesses three personalities and each of them is of equal importance to us. There is the Dharma Kaya. There is the Nirmana Kaya. There is the Sambhoga Kaya. Buddha is the all-excellent truth, eternal, omnipresent, and immutable: this is the Sambhoga Kaya which is in a state of perfect bliss. Buddha is the all-loving teacher assuming the shape of the beings whom he teaches: this is the Nirmana Kaya, his apparitional body. Buddha is the all-blessed dispensation of religion; he is the spirit of the Sangha and the meaning of the commands left us in his sacred word, the Dharma: this is the Dharma Kaya, the body of the most excellent law.
"If Buddha had not appeared to us as Gotama Sakyamuni, how could we have the sacred traditions of his doctrine? And if the generations to come did not have the sacred traditions preserved in the Sangha, how could they know anything of the great Sakyamuni? And neither we nor others would know anything about the most excellent truth which is eternal, omnipresent, and immutable. Let us then keep sacred and revere the traditions; let us keep sacred the memory of Gotama Sakyamuni, so that people may find the truth."
Then the brethren decided to convene a synod to lay down the doctrines of the Blessed One, to collate the sacred writings, and to establish a canon which should serve as a source of instruction for future generations.