History and function
8th-century Chinese limestone sculpture of Ānanda
Buddhist tradition has it, based on the commentary to the Dīgha Nikāya, that the formula was first used by the disciple Ānanda during the First Buddhist Council held at Rājagṛha (present-day Rajgir). This was when the Buddhist Canon was established, as Ānanda was given the role of '
rapporteur' (Sanskrit: saṃgītakāra) of the Buddha's teachings, being the personal attendant of the Buddha. The formula is usually followed by the place where the discourse is given, as well as the names and numbers of those it is given to. In the Chinese exegetical tradition, the formula is known as the generic preface (pinyin: tongxu), as opposed to the subsequent part that differs between discourses, introducing the specifics, known as the specific preface (pinyin: biexu). In some Early Buddhist Texts, other similar constructions are used, such as 'This was said by the Blessed One' (Pali: Vutaṃ hetaṃ bhagavatā) in the Itivuttaka.