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Friday, August 31, 2007

Buddhism unites Myanmar and Sri Lanka - Daily Mirror

Buddhism unites Myanmar and Sri Lanka

By L.B.Senaratne

Myanmar (then known as Burma) had connections with Sri Lanka for many years. Even before the Ven. Welivita Sangharaja Thera thought of bringing the Upasmapada from Thailand, 500 Buddhists monks arrived in the country from Myanmar and bestowed Upasampada on the banks of Mahaweli Ganga at Getambe in Kandy. It was one of these monks Ven. Suriyagoda Thera , who became the mentor for Ven. Welivita Sangharaja Thera.
The Sri Dalada Maligawa stone pillars are gifts of Burmese devotees. The exposition casket, the large glass canopy over it, the intricately worked out tusks used during the exposition of the Sacred Relic are gifts from Myanmar.

It was in this backdrop that the Myanmar Acting Prime Minister and Members of the Cabinet on their visit to Sri Lanka gifted the two Tuskers to Sri Dalada Maligawa.

But, there is an interesting object within the inner Shrine Room of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, which is a 'Hair Broom’.

At a time when questions arise whether the Alms Bowl has been gifted to some other country one school of thought believes the Alms Bowl remains within the perimeter of Kandy and perhaps at one of the Dagaba's in the Natha Devale premises. This surmise is testified by Ven. Professor Warakawe Dhammaloka Thera who is the incumbent of Natha Devale

On record is a fact that around 1576, the Burmese King received a delegation from the Kingdom of Kotte with the Alms Bowl and a note saying it is fashioned out of stone. Whether this record is genuine or not is a matter of opinion, but many believe the Alms Bowl is to be in the vicinity of the Sri Dalada Maligawa perhaps at the Natha Devale. There is also an object which is of equal if not greater interest gifted to the ‘service’ of the Sacred Relic and this is a broom made of Human Hair presented by the Burmese King - Bayinnaung, who ascended the throne in 1662, around the same time King Dharmapala ascended the throne of Kotte in Sri Lanka.

The Burmese King is said to have gifted this broom to the Sacred Tooth Relic when it was housed in Kotte. It had been the practice then and perhaps, even now to gift human hair to temples in Burma, to sweep the floors as a token of penitence. It may have been in the same spirit that King Bayinnaung gifted this broom to the Sacred Relic at Kandy. The human hair was that of the Queen and King himself.

The question that arises is whether this broom of human hair that now remains in Kandy is the original broom of hair the Burmese King gifted so long ago. It is most likely it is so, because in Sri Lanka there has never been a tradition to offer human hair belonging to dead or living persons to any temple. The practice is most certainly a Burmese one.

History records that the Relic was brought into the country in 311 AD during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Meghavarana. The Mahavansa records that in the ninth year of the King, a Brahmin woman brought (denoting Anuradhapura) from Kalinga country, the Tooth Relic of the great self (meaning Buddha)" The Mahavamsa also has a few lines of reference to the entire Anuradhapura period spanning the 4th to the 11th Century.

Yet how the Sacred Tooth Relic and the Alms Bowl were later accepted by the Kandyan Royalty as provisions of their inheritance is not known. According to the ' Mahavamsa', it’s a fact that both these sacred objects came into the open from around 12th to 11th centuries or in the mid-period.

According to historical records King Bayinnaung was considered one of the greatest Burmese Kings and from the earliest period of his reign he was committed to the protection of Buddhism, not only in Burma but, elsewhere as well.

In fact it was the orthodox monk Shin Arahan, who significantly brought about a re-emergence of Buddhism when Hinduism looked set to take over Buddhism at that time.

In fact, King Bayinnaung is said to have conquered parts of China and also the whole of Indo-China.

The Portuguese who were mighty during this period, spreading its tentacles of their empire throughout Asia feared and respected Bayinnaung.

King Bayinnaung's foremost thought would have been to protect Buddhism, not just in Burma , but throughout the Buddhist World. He also would have realised that to wage a War against the once formidable force - Portuguese would be unwise.

When news reached the King that with the ascent of Dharmapala to the Throne of Kotte Buddhism could be in peril, he lost no time in sending a delegation to inquire about the welfare of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

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