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Sunday, July 27, 2008

King Ravulu Vijayaba

King Ravulu Vijayaba
This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
By Halaliye Karunathilake Edited and translated by Kamala Silva Illustrated by Saman Kalubowila

1. The modern town of Kandy, which was really 'Senkadapura,' had its beginning during the time of King Parakramabahu IV. It was called 'Siriwardanapura' at that time. Asgiri hermitage in Kandy also began during this time. It was 1312 A.D., then. It is on the invitation of this king, that the 'Jata kattha kathawa,' was translated into Sinhala as the 'Pansiya Panas Jathaka Potha.' Books like 'Dalada Siritha' and 'Bodhivamsa' were written under this king's patronage.

2. It is during this period that Rev. Vilgammula Sangharaja, too lived. It is stated that Parakramabahu IV ruled till 1336 A.D. but nothing definite is available about his last days. There is evidence to say that there was a rebellion in Kurunegala, towards the end of his rule. This king has ruled for 24 years. Buwanekabahu III succeeded him. He is well known as Vanni Buwanekabahu.

3. This king's period of rule was 6 years. We do not come across any important events connected to this king. He was succeeded by Vijayabahu V, who was also known as 'Ravulu Vijayaba.' He was the last ruler of Kurunegala. From here begins the Gampola period. Buwanekabahu IV, was the first king of the Gampola period.

4. It may be due to troubles from the North, that the kingdom had to be changed from Kurunegala to Gampola. By this time kingship too, had been changed to another line of kings. Scholars believe that the leadership of the northern areas too, would have undergone change by this time. The Arab
traveller Ibn-Batuta, came to Sri Lanka, in 1344 A.D.

5. The ruler in the North, at that time was Aryachakravarthi. The ruler of Rameshwaran too happened to be an Aryachakravarthi. Therefore it is believed that the Aryachakravarthi of the North, would have accepted Pandya supremacy.

However, either Arychakravarthi or a ruler who preceded him, would have changed the line of kings before
1344 A.D. This change has been to the Javaka line of kings.

6. In an inscription which belongs to 1360 A.D., there is mention of an Aryachakravarthi and he as, 'Ravulupathi' - which means the leader of 'Ravulu' people. The areas over which their power spread, were known to the Sinhala people as, Javaka provinces.

'Ravulu' and 'Javaka' seem to be words having a similar meaning. Scholars point out that the word 'Ravulu,' is derived from Javaka, according to Telegu usage.

7. The period when Aryachakravarthi was powerful in the North, the royal families of the Sinhala people were also named 'Ravulu.' They would have used this name as they came from the Javaka area in the North. In one of the Pali texts, written during this period, King Vijayabahu V- Savulu, is described as belonging to the line of Parakramabahu. Here the mention is to Parakramabahu I. He too belonged to the Kalinga dynasty.

8. Javakas are also described as Kalingas. It is with pride that the Kalinga kings, who ruled in Polonnaruwa, claim that they are descendents of the generation of Sri Vijayaraja. This has led
some to accept that the King Ravulu Vijayabahu was connected to either Chandrabhanu's line or to Magha's line of kings.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sidath Wettimuny: A Great Cricketer With Real Buddhist Mind

Sidath Wettimuny:

The Great Cricketer With Real Buddhist Mind !

Music and sport, a winning combination

Sharmini talks about life with veteran cricketer Sidath Wettimuny:

Cricket and Symphony Orchestra, a blend of two extremes, has been `rhyming well in the field’ for the past 20 years for Sidath and Sharmini Wettimuny who have a lot to talk about.

Pix:Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

Sidath, one time Romeo or the dream suitor of many young

princesses both the Cricket lovers as well as non-lovers, has been steady with his love for Sharmini. “After a seven year affair we got married on June 4 in 1988,” says Sharmini beginning her life story with Sidath.

“I’ve heard about him a lot from my friends. Though I was also a Cricket fan, I had a little interest in him as a cricketer when I as a teenager,” she continues.

Sharmini Tara de Silva was born on November 1 in 1961 to Charitha Prasanna de Silva, a top pioneer figure in the business management in Sri Lanka and Shusheela Paul at Nawala.

“I was the middle among two brothers. My parents led a wonderful married life and gave us a lot of comfort, love, security and happiness. My mother was a Masters graduate of Smith College, USA, and taught earlier. She sacrificed her job in order to give us, her children the fullest attention which was followed by me as well, when I quit my Banking job after my son’s birth,” she smiles.

Sharmini’s father who was honoured with `Deshamanya’ recently has rendered an immense service to the country by being the pioneer to introduce many new business ventures. He was the Chairman of Aitken Spence group for many years, and pioneered the leasing business by forming LOLC.

His service was appreciated by the Japanese government who honoured him with the `Order of the Rising Sun’ - Gold and Silver stars from Emperor Hirohito in 1998, the highest honour given to any foreigner. Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl were the other foreign recipients who received this honour that year.

“And my father was the only Asian who received this that year and has been the only Sri Lankan to receive it so far,” says Sharmini proudly.

Question:You seem to be really proud of your father?

Sharmini: Why not? I grew up with him as my role model.

Sharmini had her education at Ladies’ College, Colombo and was one of the brightest stars in the school. She was the Head Prefect and House Captain in 1980.

The same year she was the Leader of the Choir and Leader of the Debating Society. Except Cricket, Sharmini did many other sports including Tennis and Swimming. “We hadn’t heard of women cricket at that time,” she laughs.

Sharmini was a much involved and active student at school. Music was her forte though she excelled in the Maths and Economic stream. Following her mother’s footsteps, Sharmini entered Smith College, Massachusetts, USA and graduated in Magna Cum Laude degree.

“There too I was involved in the university Choir. My stay at Smith College was memorable as those three and half years were really enjoyable. The course was four years, and we were allowed to do one year of it in an university in UK. So, I entered University College, London, and did my third year where I also got the opportunity to take part in an operetta - `Gwendoline’ by Chabriere,” she recalls.

Sharmini returned to Sri Lanka in 1984, and commenced work at Citibank N.A. as the first female Sri Lankan Executive Officer in which she handled and headed many responsible sections while getting training in Singapore, India, Philippines and Malaysia on Financial Institution and other banking affairs. Sharmini was the first Sri Lankan Citibanker to be sent to New York for training at the Citibank Centre in 1986.

Question:After holding that sort of lucrative post with many of such rare opportunities, how did you feel when you quitted it?

Sharmini: Hmm... I had everything to the fullest. I saw how my Mom sacrificed her job for us. And it was my turn to take the same decision. I wanted to be a good mother to my children.

Since 2006, Sharmini has been the (Honorary) Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, the only Orchestra that performs regularly in this whole SAARC region.

“There are 300 permanent members of Sri Lanka. We do a lot for the prevalence of the Western classical music. We all perform with love for music and not for money. We are trying to publicise it among schoolchildren within suburbs and outstations as well. Our next concert, `Young Soloist’ will be held at Ladies College in August,” she says.

In addition Sharmini was the Choir Director (Honorary) from 1998 to 2000, and accompanist for the Ladies’ College Choir.

Question:Your meeting with him?

Sharmini: Interesting...(laughs)

Sidath Wettimuny was born on August 12 in 1956 as the fourth of five boys to Ramsay Gregory de silva Wettimuny, (Wettimuny Senior) Mechanical Engineer cum a Buddhist Scholar and Indrani de Silva at Park Road, Colombo. Sunil, Mitra, Ranjan, Sidath and Nimal, the five sons of Wettimuny family marked Sri Lankan history in many ways.

Except Ranjan all the others played Cricket, and among them Sunil, Mitra and Sidath were Opening Batsmen for Sri Lanka while Nimal was restricted to Club Cricket. Sunil chose his career as a pilot while the other brothers got involved in the lucrative garment industry.

Sidath’s father who was an enthusiastic cricketer encouraged his sons a lot in taking up with sports, though he didn’t live to see his sons excellent performances. Sidath was 17 years when his father passed away. Wettimuny Senior was the engineer who constructed the train for the foreign film `Bridge over the river Kwai’ shot here at Kithulgala in 1960s.

He was a learned figure who had a versatile knowledge of all the religions and philosophies. He wrote many books introducing the relationship between Science and Buddhism. Seated at his father’s feet Sidath was used to listen to his long Dhamma discussions with his learned colleagues since he was a small boy.

Ananda College, Colombo taught Sidath Cricket and gave the Buddhist background and discipline. He did his A/Ls in the Commerce stream, but opted to a career as a professional Cricketer. He first represented his school, at the age of 10 and held the captaincy for Ananda College in 1975.

He won the All Island Best Batsman of the Year Award (school cricket) in 1974-75. Sidath represented Sri Lanka in Cricket from 1977 to 1987. Some of his cricketing highlights are that he scored the first test century for Sri Lanka in Faisalabad, Pakistan in 1982, scoring 157.

He was the first Sri Lankan to carry his bat through in both a Test match in New Zealand, and a One Day International in Sri Lanka against England. His highest Test score of 190 is a record even today, as the highest score made by a batsman in his country’s first Test appearance at Lords, the Mecca of Cricket.

He was also the first Sri Lankan to be named Wisden Cricketer for the Year in 1984-1985. His highest First Class score was 227 not out for Sri Lanka against India in 1987. Sidath was honoured by the Jaycees in 1985 as one of the Ten Top personalities of the Year. No doubt about that as it was stated above, he was one of the most adored dream princes who stole many hearts.

Sidath has served on three past Interim Committees for Cricket and he held the membership at the ICC Cricket Committee and ICC Board representing Sri Lanka. He has been both a selector and Chairman of Selectors for Cricket and an ICC Match Referee after retiring from Cricket. He was made an Honorary Life Member of two of the most prestigious cricket clubs in the world - the MCC in London the Cricket Club of India in Bombay, for his past cricketing achievements.

Sidath is currently the President of the Sri Lanka Cricketers Association and a member of the current Interim Committee at Sri Lanka Cricket.

Question:That was all about him. Why not reveal your romance with him?

Sharmini: I first heard about him when I was attending Oosha’s class of ballet. I was about 13 years then. It was just some information. But, I first met him at the Grindlay’s Bank Manager’s place at Queen’s Road in 1977. My father was invited attend to this function where both England and Sri Lankan Cricket teams were also graced.

Though the invitation was for my parents, I jumped to the idea as I was a Cricket fanatic at that time, but didn’t have any `enthusiastic hero’ as such in my mind. So, my mother `donated’ her invitation to me(laughs). I attended to it with my father, and Sidath was introduced to me there for the first time.

Question:What was your first impression about him?

Sharmini: Hmmm.... he was handsome and looking good (laughs). Very impressive, I have to be honest. Also he seemed to be very shy. I just shook hands with him as I did with other Cricketers.

Question:Your second meeting?

Sharmini: Oh! you need all that (laughs)? Well we were residing at Nawala, we had an informal friends’ club called `Nawala Lane Friends’ which included all our playmates residing at the lane we stayed. Thushantha has been a mutual friend of mine since I was a kid.

His birthday falls on November 4. He and Sidath were schoolmates at Ananda. So, both Sidath and I were invited to his birthday party, and it was the second time I met him. We introduced ourselves and started to talk. Sidath had found my phone number and called me after two days.

He was good looking, and I was excited to receive a call from him. So, that was it. I had a very strong interest in Cricket. That was something common between us. We had a month to talk to each other as he had to go to India with his Cricket, and before he returned I flew to USA for my higher studies.

We used to write and phone each other once a week as we didn’t have SMS facilities and Chatting Computer facilities as today’s lovers. All his Cricket money might have been spent on our massive phone bills (laughs).

Question:Both of you have been coming from two different backgrounds. How did it affect your relationship?

Sharmini: It did affect at the beginning. He was from a strong Buddhist background while mine was a devoted Anglican set up. Both were influential families, so that we had to face a lot of obstacles and disturbances. Even Sidath was not sure whether I would fit in with his culture.

However, I would frankly state about his mother who has always been ready to accept me since she first met me. Her love and care played a vital role in the relationship of Sidath and mine. Seven years...(pauses) quite a long time. We don’t regret as we got the opportunity to know each other well. We tied the knot at lavish wedding at Hotel Hilton finally (smiles).

Question:Married life with a famous personality?

Sharmini: Never been problem as we have had good communication skills since the very inception. Thanks to the mobile phone facilities, we are in touch with each other throughout. He is the Vice Chairman of his own family business, the Nobles Group of Companies.

He could spend a lot of time at home as he manages his factory managerial work through the phone. That’s relaxing. Sidath is a person who is very particular about his physical fitness. Very calm and revered personality. He meditates a lot. It was he who taught me the importance of being mindful. He is very special. In his thoughts and actions - he is extraordinary generous. He is very good with people, and maintains an excellent PR with anybody. He rarely holds anything against anybody, and is unusually good. Sidath practises what he believes in wholeheartedly.


Sharmini: I might have been told, but I couldn’t remember anything that bothered me. We have a good understanding. Music is our common subject. I play the piano and he is an excellent singer. In fact he released a VCD of Buddhist songs recently. I practise my religion and he does his. Apart from that we are both involved in charity work a lot.

Both our children are Buddhists. Our son, Sanjay is 18 years now, and is doing a degree in Aviation in New South Wales for a commercial pilot licence. He wants to be a pilot. Sanjay was a Junior National Golf player and represented Sri Lanka junior golf. He played Cricket and swam for the school. Our daughter Shamara is 17 years, and is very versatile. She is extremely good in sports, dancing and singing. She is the current football captain and Prefect of the school. Both my children are at the Colombo International School.

Question:Future plans?

Sharmini: To lead a good life while doing my best to promote the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka.

Is it a must for Buddhists to go to temple?

Is it a must for Buddhists to go to temple?

Ven. Thalpavila Kusalangnana Thera

In Buddhism, discussion of the Dhamma has been considered a vital part for studying and understanding the Dhamma.

However this is rarely done today. In instances where most Buddhists congregate, such as temples on poya days, they idle away the time. If the excess time had been used for discussions based on the Dhamma, it would not only make up for the excess time, it would also benefit the upasaka (lay adherent) by expanding their knowledge in the Dhamma.

Dhamma Discussion is solely for the benefit of our readers. Any questions you have regarding Dhamma may be addressed to Dhamma Discussion , Sunday Observer, Lake House,

35, D. R. Wijewardhana Mawatha, Colombo 10.

Answers provided by Ven. Thalpavila Kusalangnana Thera

Q: Some believe that no matter from where you worship the Buddha the potency of merits that is acquired, is the same. Consequently is it a must for Buddhists to go to the temple?

A: The Temple is considered to be a place where the Triple Gem resides. The surroundings of a temple are formulated so that one can achieve calmness of mind. One’s mind that is flustered due to the day-to-day hustle and bustle of the workplace and home life will be calmed upon entering a temple.

The best place to pay homage to the triple gem and soothe ones mind is the temple. The temple is the one and only place where one can pay homage to the Sharirika dhatu (bodily elements), sacred Bo Tree used by the Buddha and statues of the Buddha erected in his name.

However, though going to the temple and paying homage to the Triple Gem is of utmost importance it can not be practised every day, when one is leading a hectic life. But this is no excuse to prevent oneself from worshipping the Triple Gem. Buddhists should go to a temple at least once every weekend and make it a point to worship the Triple Gem every day at home, at least once.

Buddhists should go to a temple at least once every weekend

Unfortunately Buddhists are gradually losing their grasp on practices such as worshipping the Triple Gem, as one family. Today the Devils box - in other words the television - has taken that place. The television is responsible for the deterioration of most of our ethics. The responsibility of teaching children to worship the Triple Gem lies with the parents.

Q: Must one who observes the five precepts well without violating it, need to repeatedly observe Sil?

A: What is more important is not merely observing Sil but maintaining it without violating the precepts. No amount of observation would be of any use for those who do not adhere to the steps of training. It is like washing a piece of cloth while repeatedly soaking it in mud. However repeatedly observing Sil may be a source of reminiscence, of what sort of Sil we are supposed to adhere to.

This would be beneficial for the Buddhist to observe Sil without violating the precepts. Repeatedly observing Sil can be considered as Silanussathi meditation as well, it involves reminiscing Sil. Observing Sil repeatedly would also be exemplary for others around us.

Q: Should a person who does not have the calmness of mind to meditate, adopt giving alms and observing Sil, or should he or she strive to master the art of meditation?

A: The Buddha has said that - like the ocean that deepens in several levels, Nibbhana also has a strata. And the first stratum is Dhana (giving alms), middle is Sila and the deepest level is (Bhawana) meditation.

It would be a lie if one said that meditation could not be mastered by one who gives alms and observes Sil properly. Because giving alms weakens the defilement of avarice, by observing Sil one can suppress many other defilements.

Through meditation one can weaken, suppress and ultimately totally eradicate defilements. A person who gives alms and observes Sil will find it easier to concentrate while meditating.

However meditating is not as easy as giving alms or observing Sil. During the first stages of meditation an unexpected amount of unfavourable thoughts will cross ones mind.

The suppressed defilements will emerge and begin to trouble the meditating mind. A person who possesses a weak mind will give up at this stage, fearing for ones wellbeing and happiness. One who continuous to meditate in spite of hardships will later realize its boundless contentment.

The first man who ate rice for the first time may have thought that it was not that appetizing, but today we can not survive without rice. Meditation is no different. Mind refuses novelty, but one must learn to persevere and conquer.

Q: What are the benefits and objectives of wearing blessed thread (pirith nul)?

A: Pirith is the sacred word of the Buddha, the power contained in it is immeasurable. Water and thread are the substances that are best capable of harnessing the immense power generated by these sound waves.

A person who wears a thread in which this immense energy is instilled will surely constantly benefit by the goodness of it. These powers contained in the blessed thread will not expire after a few days. But it is advisable to obtain a new one when it gets dirty.

As people of other religions wear different items to symbolize their own religions, the Pirith nula has symbolic values for Buddhists. Since the right hand is considered more important its tied on the right hand.

Commencement of the Buddha’s sublime mission

Commencement of the Buddha’s sublime mission

On Esala Full Moon Poya day:

Painting of the Buddha preaching the Dhamma Chakka Pawathna Sutta

Thousands of Buddhists world wide will gather at Isipathana in Benares, on Esala Full Moon Poya day to commemorate the great day that the Buddha’s sublime mission commenced with the preaching of ‘Dhamma Chakka Pawathna Sutta’ to the five ascetics.

Two thousand five hundred and ninety years ago, seeing the Buddha heading his way towards Isipathana, the five ascetics who were of the view that Siddratha Gauthama was returning to them, having failed in all the attempts made to attain Nibbana, were determined not to take any notice of his arrival.

But as the Buddha advanced towards them , they could no longer give him the cold shoulder. Kondangna, Vappa, Baddiya, Assaji and Mahanama, one time colleagues of Siddartha Gauthama got up from their seats as a gesture of homage and was ready to listen to his discourse.

Herds of deer would have roamed freely in Isipathana not knowing the content of the discourse the Buddha preached to the five ascetics.

But it was meant for all living beings, not only for humans. The Buddha’s unconditional love and compassion knew no limits and boundaries.The heart of his teachings lies in the Four Noble Truths which he expounded in this sermon.

The essence of “Dhamma Chakka Pawathna Sutta” is the explanation of the Four Noble Truths: The Noble Truth of Suffering or dissatisfaction or conflicts (Dukkha), the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.

“Bhikkus” said the Buddha addressing the five ascetics,” These two extremes ought not be practised by one who has gone forth from the household life. There is devotion to the indulgence of sensual pleasures, which is low, common, the way of ordinary people, unworthy and unprofitable; and there is self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable. “

“Avoiding both these extremes. the Thathagatha has realized the Middle path: it gives vision, it gives knowledge and it leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment to Nibbana. That Middle Path is simply the Noble Eight Fold path namely ,

1. Right view (Samma Ditthi) 2. Right thought (Samma Samkappa) 3. Right speech (Samma Vacha) 4. Right action (Samma Kammantha) 5. Right livelihood (Samma Ajiva) 6. Right effort (Samma Vayama) 7. Right mindfulness (Samma Sathi) 8. Right concentration (Samma Samadhi)

‘Dhamma Chakka Pawathna Sutta’ set in motion the great Buddhist tradition of the Sangha and the five ascetics who entered the Order at the end of the discourse became the first disciples of the Buddha.

Also it was on a Esala poya day that the Bodisatta was conceived in the womb of Queen Mahamaya, the wife of King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu.

As finely described in the Buddhist literature, many a thousand years ago, one night, Queen Mahamaya went to sleep to see an unusual dream. The four Deva Rajahs (four guardian deities of the world) carried her with the couch to the foothills of the Himalayas where a snow white baby elephant awaited her arrival.

The baby elephant who had a white lotus in his trunk walked thrice round the couch of the sleeping queen and then entered into her womb from the right side of her abdomen. That unusual dream indicated the conception of Boddhisatta in the womb of Queen Mahamaya.

The birth of Prince Siddartha brought immense happiness to the King and the queen who did not have children for twenty years, on top of that, the prince’s birth was a great relief to the entire human race groping in the dark, not knowing the way out of suffering.

At the age of 29, the prince decided to leave his palace and beloved ones in order to find the way out of the universal suffering. Again this Great Renunciation too had taken place on an Esala Full Moon Poya Day, about 2600 years ago.

Great renunciation

It was on the same Esala full moon day that Prince Rahula, the only child of Prince Siddartha and Princess Yasodara had born. He saw the whole world including his wife and child are suffering not knowing the way out of it. Determined to find a way out of universal suffering the Prince left home at the height of his youth.

It was on an Esala Poya day that the Buddha had explained Abhidhamma to Matru Divya Rajaya (his mother) in the Thavuthisa heaven .

Esala Poya also marks the beginning of ‘Vas ‘ season when Bhikkus stay in their own temples without going out for dhana for three months. The first Vas was observed by the Buddha and his first five disciples- the five ascetics at Isipathana in Benares.

Apart from this, Esala Full Moon Poya day is ranked quite high in the order of importance to the Sri Lankan Buddhists as it was on such a day that the Buddha Sasana was established in the country during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa.

Under the instructions of Mahinda Thera, who arrived in Lankadeepa in the 3rd Century B.C as the missionaries of Asoka Emperor of India, the King took necessary steps to ordain the children of the country and teach them the Dhamma.On the Esala Full Moon Poya day, Mahinda Thera preached ‘Wassupanayikkandaya’ to the king and the group and on the same day the nephew of the king, Aritta and fifty five other children were ordained thus establishing Buddha Sasana in the country.

Highly interested in reestablishing higher ordination in Sri Lanka, King Keerthi Sri Rajasingha (1747 to 1780), invited 18 theras from Siam Deshaya( now Thailand) including Upali Thera to visit Sri Lanka in 1753. As Mahavamsa reveals these theras arrived in the country by a Dutch Ship in the month of May and resided at Malwatu Viharaya in Kandy.

On the Esala Full Moon Poya Day of the same year, out of great veneration, the king headed his way towards the Malvathu Viharaya by foot and invited these theras to establish the Higher Ordination in Sri Lanka.

Thus Sinhalese Samaneras, including Weliwita Saranankara, Thibbotuwawe Siddartha, Kobbakaduwa, Navinna, and Hulangamuwa Unnanse obtained higher ordination while Upali thera played the role of the instructor (Upadya) and Brahmajothi and Maha Punna thera appeared as teachers (Archarya). Subsequently Siyam Nikaya too was established and up to this day it is also called ‘Shyamopali Maha Nikaya’ indicating its origin.

Laying of the foundation for the Ruwanwelisaya and its enshrinement of relics by King Dutugamunu too had taken place on an Esala poya day as revealed by Mahavamsa.

Here in Sri Lanka almost the same importance is given to Esala Full Moon Poya day, just like for Vesak Poya or Poson Poya. The Esala festivity is already in the air with a lot of decorations and preparations for processions.

It will reach a climax when the Esala perehara of Kataragama starts parading through the streets shortly. The most grandeur of all- Kandy Esala Perehara will however commence in mid-August as usual.

The induction of the Triple Gem to Sri Lanka

The induction of the Triple Gem to Sri Lanka

By Gamini Jayasinghe

As a result of the conversion of Dig Vijaya policy of the emperor Dharmasoka to that of Dharma Vijaya policy Buddhist missionaries were sent to various countries in the world and to Sri Lanka. Emperor Dharmasoka sent his own son, Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera to lead the delegation. Arahants Ittiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Baddasala accompanied Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera in this missionary. Sumana Samanera also joined them. The only layman in this mission was Bhanduka Upasaka who had attained Anagami or the third of the four paths or stages leading to Nirvana. Sumana Samanera was the lay time son of Arahant Sanghamitta Maha Theri.

King Devanampiyatissa was an unseen friend of emperor Dharmasoka. In modern terms they were pen friends. They had exchanged presents through messengers. In a letter sent to king Devampiyatissa by the emperor Dharmasoka through an envoy named Aritta a mention had been made about the best possible present he could offer. “I have taken refuge in the Triple Gem and you may follow suit” the message said. The king did not know what his friend meant by the term “Triple Gem.” He was anxious to know the details about it. The king was contemplating on the greatest treasure he was about to receive.

Before the advent of Buddhism, Poson Full Moon Poya Day was the day of sports in Lanka.

It was a pleasant day with fine weather and king Devanampiyatissa followed by his men engaged himself in a game of hunting in the royal park, “Missaka Pawwa.” A well built deer ran swiftly by the king’s side. The king had no time to spare. No one other than the king himself was to kill the biggest deer on that festive day. He pulled out an arrow and aimed at the deer. His arrow did not move.

A ray of light radiated from the mountain top at the foot of which the king was standing. He heard his name being called in a sweet voice. The king was seriously concerned as to who in this world was dared to call him by his name. Further, presumably he would have been sorry that he missed his game. However, he was not annoyed as the words were pleasing .The king looked up from the foot of the Mango tree where he was standing dumb founded and saw the figure of a human being in yellow robes with rays radiating from the spectrum. The king could not remove his eyes away from this fascinating figure. He was amazed. “This should be a supernatural being,” the king thought.

Hitherto the king saw only one figure. The other four arahants, the samanera and the upasaka too emerged one by one. Arahant Mahinda ascertained that the king was prepared to listen to him.

“Samana mayan Maharaja Dhamma Rajassa Savako- Imaya Aanukampaya – Jambu Deepan idha gatha.” (We are the disciples of the great teacher, Buddha who has discovered the Noble Path to the total emancipation and have come here from Dambadiva to be of assistance to you.)

For the mighty king, the charm of Missaka Pawwa was that on it stood the treasure he was longing for. His bow and arrow fell from his hands. He put his hands together on his forehead and knelt down on the ground under the Mango tree. Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera decided to test the king’s knowledge and intelligence and to ascertain whether he could understand the Dhamma by delivering it in the normal way.

King’s intelligence was proved beyond any reasonable doubt. Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera delivered “Chulla Hatti Padopama Suta” to the king and his followers to convince the fact that the profound Dhamma of the Enlightened One should be understood through one’s own effort. One should realize the core of Dhamma. One cannot rely on what some one says unless he or she is convinced of the facts. For example, it was pointed out that one should not judge the size and breed of an elephant by the size of its foot prints because a foot print is not the only criterion to determine the nature of an elephant.

After listening to Chulla Hattipadopama Sutta the king and his followers took refuge in the Triple Gem (Thunsarana) Buddha, His doctrine-Dhamma and His disciples – Sangha. The king invited Mahinda Maha Thera and his followers to proceed to the inner city. Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera accepted the invitation but put it off for the following day. The king called the lay member of the mission, Bhanduka Upasaka to a side and inquired about the status of individual members of the mission. He was highly pleased that Arahants led by the emperor Dhamrmasoka’s own son and the grand son were among the missionaries. Having being satisfied with the hospitalities he could offer to the missionaries the king left them with plans in his head to receive them ceremoniously in the inner court yard on the following day. Later on that day arahant Mahinda Maha Thera ordained Bhanduka Upasaka and preached SamacittaPariyaya Sutta to those who were present on the occasion.

On the following day the missionaries were conducted the palace in a grand reception. After providing seating accommodation the king entertained them. Mahinda Maha Thera delivered pethawattu, vimana wattu sacca sanyutta to the assembly. Five hundred women including the Viceroy, Mahanaga’s Queen Anula Devi attained sowan, the first of the four paths or stages leading to Nirvana. The king’s palace was not spacious enough to accommodate all the people who thronged to see the missionaries and the elephants’ kraal was arranged for the purpose. At the elephants’ kraal the Maha Thera preached Devaduta Sutta and more than one thousand attained sowan. The crowd was such that even the elephants’ kraal was not spacious enough. The king got Nandana Uyana prepared for the crowd. The discourse delivered there was “Bala Panditha Sutta” hearing which more than one thousand women attained “sowan” The missionaries spent the night at Mahameuna Uyana. The king wished to offer Maha Meuna Uyana to Maha Sangha and inquired from Mahinda Maha Thera the merits and demerits of making such an offering. Thereupon the Thera delivered Veluwanarama Puja Katha; Anula Devi attained Sakurdagami and expressed her wish to enter the Order of nuns. However, she had to wait until the arrival of Arahant Sanghmitta to enter thee order. On the instructions of Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera King Devanampiyatissa sent a delegation led by his minister Arittha requesting the emperor Dharmasoka to send Arahant Sanghamitta Theri with a sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi. Arahant Sanghamitta Maha Theri arrived in Sri Lanka with the sacred Bo tree which was planted in Mahameuna Uyana on an Unduwap Full Moon Poya day. Meheni sasna – Order of Nuns was established. The king poured water to Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera’s hands from a golden pitcher and offered Maha Meuna Uyana to the Maha Sangha. Maha Thera went round the park accompanied by the king and marked the places which were to be sacred. The places where the Sima Malakaya, Gini Gal Geya, Laha Bath Geya, Dana Shala, and Ruwanweliseya were to be established were marked. Mahinda Maha Thera delivered Aggikandopama sutta and more than ten thousand persons attained various stages to Nibbana. Another thousand persons who listened to Asivisopama sutta on the third day entered paths to Nibbana. When the thera was sojourning at Tissa Vihara, the king went there and enquired whether Buddhism had been established in Sri Lanka.

King Devanampiyatissa got a temple built at Tissarama for venerable Mahinda Maha Thera. This temple is known as Kala Prasada Pirivena. The king also got a number of buildings such as Maha Bo Geya, Loha Prasadaya, Laha Bath Geya Danhala, Sunhatha pirivena Dighawankamana Pirivena, Palagga Pirivena, Marugana Pirivena together with ponds and bathing places constructed for the Maha Sangha. The pirivena constructed by the king’s army commander, Dikanda Senevi is known as Diksanda Seneviya Pirivena.

After spending twenty six days Maha thera proceeded to Chethiya giriya followed by the Maha Sangha, but before that he preached Maha Appamada sutta for the king. The king went to Chethiya giriya in search of the Maha Thera and having listened to Wasthupanayikakkbhanda sutta preached by Mahinda Maha thera the king’s nephew minister Maharittha and his brothers fifty in number entered the Order and attained Arahantship. This is the first group of arahants in Sri Lanka. At the request of the Maha Thera the king got Thuparamaya built in Anuradhapura and enshrined Buddha’s clavicle relic. This is the first dagoba built in Sri Lanka.

Half way on the Mihintale rock there is a rock inscription belonging to the tenth century A.D. This rock inscription had been made by King Siri Sanghabodhi Abhaya. This gives an account of the role to be played by the Bhikkus in Sandagiri Vehera and the duties of employees.

The first ever Mihindu Perahera was conducted by King Maha Datika Maha Naga during the first century A.D. The kings who succeeded him had conducted Mihindu Perahera and during the reign of Sri Meghawarna a statue of Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera was made and it was carried in the procession.

--- The Daily Mirror

Upasampada; the crowning moment for all Buddhist monks

Upasampada; the crowning moment for all Buddhist monks

--- The Daily Mirror.LK

By L.B.Senaratne

The Buddhist rituals of the Upasampada ceremony held at Malwatte and Asgiriya Viharas in Kandy are similar to the first ceremony held 255 years ago on July 20, 1753.

It was on this day that the Upasampada ceremony begun by king Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe when he presented the ‘Vatapatha’ , giving his royal patronage The ‘ Vatapatha’ is normally used by the Buddhist monks when they preach sermons. Handing over the vatapatha at the Upasampada ceremony indicates the right to attain higher ordination.

In fact the revival of Buddhism began during the period of King Wimaladharmasuriya and later with the reformist movement initiated by Ven. Welivita Sri Saranankara Thera. During the period of King Wimaldharmasuriya II, monks from Burma visited Sri Lanka and conferred Upasampada to Suriyagoda Unnanse who later became the teacher of Ven. Sri Saranankara Thera. These Burmese monks ordained and conferred the Higher ordination to those monks qualified to receive at a location close to Getambe on the banks of Mahaveli.

The crowning moment for any Buddhist monk is the conferring of Upasampada or Higher Ordination. In order to receive this single honour he must be without physical disability and morally sound and knowledgeable in Buddha Dhamma.

Thailand, then called Siam is from where the Upasampada ceremony was introduced to Sri Lanka. It was a time, when there were no monks who had received Upasampada. At present Asgiriya and Malwatte Maha Viharaya are where Upasampada ceremonies are held according to Buddhist rituals in the same manner when it was introduced from Siam .

It is a member of the Sangha who had been conferred with Upasampada or Higher Ordination who could perform ‘Vas’ or rain retreat. This is, the season meant for Buddhist monks to mediate and deliver to lay Buddhists, so that they could develop their morals for the benefit of society.

However, there was a period in Sri Lanka when Buddhism declined. There was not a single Buddhist monk, who had received Upasampada. The Buddhist revival movement began when King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe sent Buddhist monks to Siam, and introduced the Upasampada ceremony, though he was a Hindu.

The Buddhist rituals of the Upasampada ceremony held at Malwatte and Asgiriya Viharas in Kandy are similar to the first ceremony held 255 years ago on July 20, 1753.

It was on this day that the Upasampada ceremony begun by king Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe when he presented the ‘Vatapatha’, giving his royal patronage The ‘ Vatapatha’ is normally used by the Buddhist monks when they preach sermons. Handing over the ‘vatapatha’ at the upasampada ceremony indicates the right to attain higher ordination.

In fact the revival of Buddhism began during the period of King Wimaladharmasuriya and later with the reformist movement initiated by Ven. Welivita Sri Saranankara Thera. During the period of King Wimaldharmasuriya II, monks from Burma visited Sri Lanka and conferred Upasampada to Suriyagoda Unnanse who later became the teacher of Ven.Sri Saranankara Thera. These Burmese monks ordained and conferred the Higher ordination to those monks qualified to receive at a location close to Getambe on the banks of Mahaveli.

After some time, Upasampada tradition introduced by Burmese monks declined. It was Ven. Welivita Saranayakara Thera and King Kirthisri Rajasinghe who were responsible for introducing the Upasamapda ceremony.

The decline of Buddhism began when Buddhist monks came to be called as ‘ganinnase’ who led the life of lay people Ven. Welivita Sarnankara Thera was born at Welivita. During his childhood he wanted to enter the Sangha order and was tutored at Suriyagoda vihara. He was not satisfied with the learning he had received at Balana when he was living in two caves. One he used for his meditation and the other for his stay and for his bathing.

It was during this time, the king entrusted his brother-in-law Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe of the Nayakkar dynasty – Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe to be tutored in matters of the state as to how a Buddhist King should perform.

Ven. Welivita Saranankara Thera saw this opening as to use his influence to introduce the Higher Ordination into the country. He also secretly yearned that once Vijaya Rajasinghe came ascended the throne, the new king would embrace Buddhism and reject other religious practices from the Kandyan kingdom.

In the meantime there was a power struggle in the Kandyan court when mighty individuals in the court rallied around Unambuwa Bandara, alleged to be the illegitimate son of King Narendrasinghe. This may be the reason that this monk was accused for having brought Vijaya Rajasinghe to the throne.

However, king Vijaya Rajasinghe embraced Buddhism and Ven. Welivita Saranankara Thera made use of this opportunity to influence the king to introduce Upasampada ceremony.

Ven. Weliwita Saranankara Thera was able to influence the king, as a result, the first delegation left for Siam, on the February 20, 1741.

The first delegation left for Siam got perished in the high seas. The second delegation also failed. However, the third delegation left Kandy on Thursday the July 12, 1751 at the auspicious time finally reached Trincomalee and from there they left b ship on the July 25, 1751.

Two years later, the Sri Lankan delegation returned with Upali Maha Thera of Siam on January 21,1753.

Upali Maha Thera was offered accommodation at Malwatta Viharaya. A special mandapaya was erected an on the 19th a pirith ceremony was held and followed with an alms giving where nearly 300 persons were participated.

Following is an extract of an account by a British official J.A.Dickson who recorded the event of Upasampada ceremony at Malwatta Vihara in 1872.

“From the Sri Dalada Maligawa , the novices mount on tuskers and are taken in procession three times from the Temple Square. Thereafter novices are taken to the respective maha viharas.”

The Upasampada ceremonies are described in “Upasampada Kammavaca” which sets out the form and manner of conducting the ceremonies.

According to Dickson, this manual has been translated into Italian in 1776 under the title “ Kammava Ossia Trattato della ordinazlio dei Yaalopnini del seconde online detti Penzi “ by one Padre Maria Percoto.

I was able to witness the same rituals described by Dickson at Asgiri Vihara. The novice accompanied by his tutor dressed as a layman, after leaving yellow robes of a monk. He wears the Kandyan dress showing that he was to be a layman for the last time in his life. The novice now pays his obeisance to the Mahanayaka Thera of Asgiri Viharaya.

Upasampada ceremonies are conducted on Vesak and Posaon Days. On these days only one monk will be conferred Upasampada who is popularly called “ Wahal Naga”. In the past kings used to send robes when monks receive upasampada.

Arrival of Buddhism: The cultural, social development in Sri Lanka

Arrival of Buddhism: The cultural, social development in Sri Lanka

By Gamini Jayasinghe

Until the introduction of Buddhism, the inhabitants of this country believed in ghosts, sun, rocks, mountains, trees, fire and the dead which are lifeless objects. They had spectral or phantasmal powers and viands were offered to demons and ghosts which benefited them in no way but instead increased their awe inspiring terror and dismay. They thought they were punished if they failed to make the offerings. After the introduction of Buddhism, the offerings were accepted by the Buddha and His disciples, Sangha who were human beings like themselves. They could talk to the priests and get their problems clarified. They came to know that the Bhikkhus were not offended even if offerings were not made

Gauthama Buddha visited Sri Lanka on three occasions and preached Dhamma to the rulers in the Northern and Western regions and the central hills.

However, Buddhism had not been established firmly in this country with the visit of Buddha as in the case of North India and Nepal presumably because most of the then inhabitants, most of Yakkhas, Rakshas and Asuras and some of the Nagas were heathens who did not realize the value of Buddhism.

In spite of the untamed nature of certain heretics and heathens who were the inhabitants of this land during the time of the Buddha’s visit, there is historical evidence of invasions from the neighbouring country, India, which had presumably resulted in the flow of cultured population which prepared a suitable arena for Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera to propagate Buddhism.

King Panduwasdev married a princess from North India. Queen Bhadddhakaccayana was related to prince Siddharaatha and her six brothers who had accompanied her had built their own colonies in Lanka. They called them Gamas.

These Gamas or colonies, Ramagama, Anuradhagama, Uruwelagama, Vijithagama, Dighayagama and Rohanagama were established in different parts of the country. Seemingly the queen’s brothers had brought people including craftsmen from India for the construction of these colonies. In spite of all these developments there is no debate regarding the fact that the overall development of the country had started with Mahindagamanaya – the arrival of Arahanat Mahinda Maha Thera with Buddhism, followed by his own sister, Arahant Sanghmitta Maha Theri who brought the oldest sacred tree in the world, Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka.

Thus the recorded history in Sri Lanka began when Buddhism paved way to a cultural revolution more than 2000 years ago. In the wake of the Cultural Revolution there came an era of unsurpassed achievement. Fashioned lifestyles fostered the arts and inspired the creation of Dagabas, temples, monasteries, statues, numerous man-made reservoirs and irrigation systems which even today defy engineering interpretation.

The mission of Arahant Mahinda Maha thera was the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. In a bid to establish Buddhism firmly in this country as envisaged by the Enlightened One Himself Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera established the order of monks and caused to establish the order of Nuns-Meheni Sasna. For worshipping of the devotees, relics of Buddha which are sharirika Dhathu and most importantly the treasured Paribhogika Dhathu, the Jayasiri Maha Bodhi were brought from time to time.

Until the introduction of Buddhism, the inhabitants of this country believed in ghosts, sun, rocks, mountains, trees, fire and the dead which are lifeless objects. They had spectral or phantasmal powers and viands were offered to demons and ghosts which benefited them in no way but instead increased their awe inspiring terror and dismay. They thought they were punished if they failed to make the offerings.

After the introduction of Buddhism, the offerings were accepted by the Buddha and His disciples, Sangha who were human beings like themselves. They could talk to the priests and get their problems clarified. They came to know that the Bhikkhus were not offended even if offerings were not made. They taught the cause and effect of everything, merits and demerits, virtues and sins, but no compulsions were imposed. They were taught that they themselves were responsible for their own fate. There were no outside forces or spirits to stand on their way to spiritual development. Priests provided education to their children.

The Noble Eight Fold Path led them to final emancipation. Panchaseela is a guidance to lead peaceful day to day lives. Attangika seela, Dasa sil and priesthood led them for spiritual development. Thus the teachings of Thathagatha which were introduced to this country by Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera who is regarded as Anu Budhu or secondary Buddha in Sri Lanka brought about a civilized society in Sri Lanka. People even rose against the rulers when they found them unrighteous. An Upasaka named Tissa had reportedly refused to kill a fowl even on the orders of king Saddhatissa. They learnt the virtues of looking after their old and feeble parents. Hospitality or friendly and generous reception of guests or strangers, treating the sick, helping the poor and needy and kindness to animals are some of the other virtuous qualities they acquired from Buddhism.

Buddhism is not against any other religion and hence Buddhists can live in harmony with the other religious groups. Buddhism thus played a pivotal role in building a strong united nation.

The progress in the field of education was solely due to the introduction of Buddhism. Most of the rock inscriptions recovered from Sri Lanka and Asoka rock inscriptions in India are written in Brahmi scripts. The modern Sinhala alphabet is a gradual evolution of the Brahmi script. This alphabet was brought to Sri Lanka by Buddhist missionaries. On the guidance of Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera Buddhist commentaries were translated into Sinhala. The substances of most of ancient Sinhala literary works is the Buddhist doctrine. In the effort made to explain the Buddhist philosophy into the Sinhalese language gradually developed. Buddhist monasteries were converted to educational institutions. The Sinhala literature was improved in quality. Educational opportunities were available for the common man. Lyrics scribbled on Sigiriya rock bare witness.

Building construction was in a very poor state at the time when Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera arrived in Lanka and introduced Buddhism to the inhabitants led by King Devanampiyatissa. The king had only his elephant kraal to be offered to the Maha Thera and his followers. After the arrival of Buddhism, a number of Buddhist temples were established throughout the country. Sri Lankan craftsmen came in contact with their counterparts in India from whom they learnt various forms of architecture. They gained experience in the construction of shrine rooms, alms halls, image houses, preaching halls and relic depositaries were constructed. Indian craftsmen had played a pioneering role in these construction works. There is evidence in chronicles to the effect that emperor Dharmashoka had sent skilled craftsmen to Sri Lanka to attend to the construction work relating to Sri Maha Bodhi. Local craftsmen had gained experience by working with these Indians.

Another important aspect that was developed consequent to Mahindagamanaya and Dumindagamanaya is sculpture. Sculptors who could depict the super human extraordinary serenity in the countenance of the Buddha image in a clear, calm and lucid manner were emerged and substantiated from the Samadhi Pilimaya (Buddha statue in the meditation posture) at Mahameuna Uyana and Avukana Buddha image among others. Paintings on the walls of image houses are evidence for the development of paintings.

Methods of surveying and levelling, weighs and measures and the monetaryu system was introduced to them. There is historical evidence to the effect that consequent to Mahindagamanaya, Sri Lanka had engaged in foreign trade. Traders had come from India, China, Japan and many other Asian and Arabic countries.

Teachings of Gauthama Buddha enabled the people to get their lives adjusted in a righteous manner. They observed Pansil and abstained from killing, stealing, adultery etc. There is no compulsion but they observed the Buddha’s teachings voluntarily and willingly as they knew the virtues of it. They reared their domestic and farm animals not for killing but for milk and to be used in farms and in transport.

Singalowada Sutta Vyaggapajja Sutta etc. provided guidelines in spending virtuous lives. They learnt the causes for ruining from Parabhava Sutta and refrained from sinful ways including unethical and inequitable trade.

Thonigala and Badigala rock inscriptions disclose information of banking system under which the villagers deposited their savings of cash and grain. They later accepted foreign economic systems presumably because they were in keeping with the sublime teachings of the Enlightened One.

Rulers adjusted their systems of administration according to the Buddhist teachings. Protection of Buddhism and looking after the people were their main responsibilities.

They observed these principles by word and deed. King Devanampiyatissa was probably the first king to observe the principles of Buddhism. He was enthroned for the second occasion on the advice of emperor Dharamasoka of Dambadiva.

It is to be noted that king Devanampiyatissa was engaged in a game of hunting and was chasing after a deer when Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera and his followers were standing on Missaka pawwa having come in a religious mission of Emperor Dharmasoka. The king was completely reformed after embracing Buddhism. According to the available chronological evidence he and the kings enthroned after him sought the advice of the clergy in all important matters. Thus the clergy took serious interest in the administration of the country.

Thus Buddhism was accompanied by social, cultural and economic values which resulted in an overall development in the country.

--- Daily Mirror.LK

The existence of Buddhism before the arrival of Arhath Mahinda in Sri Lanka

The existence of Buddhism before the arrival of Arhath Mahinda in Sri Lanka

Poson full moon day is associated with the official introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Arhath Mahinda around 236 B.C. This happened over 250 years after the passing away of Buddha. During this long period of time did Buddhism exist in Ceylon (Sri Lanka)? Mahavansa the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, Deepawansa the History of the Island and Samathapasadika the Pali translation of the Sinhala commentaries of the Vinaya Pitaka; mentions of three visits by the Buddha, during his lifetime to this island. First visit took place in the fifth month after the enlightenment. The Naga Maniakkhika of Kalyani, we are told, accepted the Buddhist faith during the first visit of the master. The second visit took place in the fifth year after the Enlightenment. This visit was to save two clans from an impending war. After settling there dispute the Buddha preached the Doctrine and eighty kotis of Nagas were converted. Three years later the Buddha visited the island again at the request of Maniakkhika, during which Buddha is said to have left the imprint of his foot on the peak of Sumana Mountain (Adam's peak).

What is interesting is the fact Mahavansa was written 1100 years, Deepawansa after 900 years, Samathapasadika after 1000 years after the passing away of the Buddha. Dr. E. W. Adikaram in his Ph.D (London) thesis, a brilliant masterpiece of original research, "Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon" says: "these visits are recorded only in the Deepawansa, Samathapasadika and Mahavansa. No mention of is made of them in any part of the Pali Canon. This negative evidence, though a weighty one, is not sufficient for us to arrive at a decision and deny the truth of this tradition. This tradition may probably have risen from the arrival, before the advent of Mahinda of some Buddhist missionaries from India and also from the existence in Ceylon of a considerable number of Buddhists among the earlier inhabitants, namely the Yakkhas and the Nagas.

The Mahiyangana thupa, says the grate chronicle, existed in Ceylon long before the arrival of Mahinda. When the Buddha first visited Ceylon the deva Mahasumana of the Sumanakuta Mountain requested the Buddha to give him something to worship. The Master took a handful of hairs from his head and gave it to the deva. The latter enshrined it respectively in a thupa which he built at the place where the Master had sat. After passing away of the Buddha, the Thera Sarabahu, a disciple of the thera Sariputta, brought the collar bone of the Buddha and deposited in the same thupa. Later Uddhaculabhaya, the son of king Devanampiyatissa's brother's, saw the wondrous cetiya and covered it over afresh and made it thirty cubits high. Still later king Dutthagamini, dwelling there while he made war upon the Damilas, built a mantle cetiya over it eighty cubits high". Dr. Adikaram goes on to say: "the arrival of princess Bhaddakacchana and her retinue too, brings us to the same or more decisive conclusion'. Bhaddakacchana was the youngest daughter of Pandu, a cousin of the Buddha. She is said to be very closely related to the Buddha, and one may rightly infer that she and her friends were not all ignorant of the teachings of there royal Kinsman.... Secondly we are told they came disguised as nuns (Pabbajita)... considering the locality from which they came and their connections with the Buddha’s family, it is very likely that this word (Pabbajita) signified Buddhist bhikkhunies".

What was the society like before the advent of Arhath Mahinda in Sri Lanka? Again we turn to Dr. Adikaram book.

1. Brahmanism, from the very beginning, since the arrival of Vijaya and his followers in about the year 483 B.C. the Brahmis enjoyed a prominent status in Ceylon. There were Brahmanas who came along with Vijaya to Ceylon. Upatissa was one of them. He founded the village Uppatissagama which was for some time the capital of Ceylon. The same Brahmana held the post of chaplain (purohita) to king Vijaya. Pandukabhaya as a young price received his education under the brahmana named Pandula. The son of the latter became in due course the chaplain to Pandukabhaya (394 - 307 B.C.). When Devanampiyatissa sent presents to Ashoka, the price Arittha was accompanied by the king's chaplain who was a Brahmana. The presence of these Brahmanas naturally implies the existence of there religious beliefs in Ceylon at that time.

2. Worship of Yaksas: King Pandukabhaya built a temple for the Yaksa Cittaraja. The conditions, in pre-Buddhist Ceylon of the Yaksa cult appear to have been exactly similar to those in North India in the time of the Buddha; and in spite of the adoption of Buddhism as the national religion of the earlier Yaksa worship flourished side among the masses and has persisted down to the modern times.

3. Tree Deities: Pandukabhaya fixed a Banyan tree near the western gate of Anuradhapura as the abode of Vaisravana, and a Palmyra palm as that of Vyadhadeva. Here we have two instances of the worship of tree deities in pre Buddhist Ceylon.

4. Patron Deities: the Vyadha-deva, mention above was the patron deity of the hunters. Another such deity was Kammara-deva, or god of the blacksmiths. In addition to those deities of particular trades these was also a guardian deity for the whole of Anuradhapura city.

5. Jainism: Pandukabhaya is said to have built dwelling places for the Niganthas (Jains) named Jotiya and Kumbanda. Another Nigantha called Giri lived in the locality where Jotiya was. The monastery of Giri was demolished by king Vattagamini Abhaya (29-17 B.C) and in its place was built the Abhayagirivihara, which in subsequent times, played an important part in the history of Buddhism in Ceylon. Ever since the arrival of Vijaya, there was a constant flow of immigrants to Ceylon from India.

6. Paribbajakas, Ajivakas etc: the Paribbajakas, a class of wondering teachers or Sophists and Ajivakas the followers of Makkhali Gosala (contemporary of the Buddha) too were known in early Ceylon. Pandukabhaya built a monastery for the Paribbajakas and another for the Ajivakas

...... As shown in the preceding pages, there lived in pre-Mahindian Ceylon, people belonging to almost every religious sect then existing -in India. Even Ajivakas who were, by no means, so numerous as the followers of the Buddha, are mentioned as living in Ceylon. How then is one to account for the absence of any Buddhists? The only explanation possible is that silence was observed with regard to there existence in order to create a dark background on the canvas on which the enthusiastic narrator of Buddhist history might successfully paint his glowing picture of Mahinda's miraculous conversion of the island.

Again, when we consider how rapidly the conversion of Ceylon (Lanka) took place, it is difficult to believe that the people were till then entirely ignorant of the teaching. After the very first discourse of Mahinda forty thousand people including the king embraced the Buddhist faith. His other discourses, too were equally successful (seven discourses followed in all) all these facts help us to conclude the Buddhism did exist in Ceylon (Lanka) before the time of Mahinda, though it was only after Devanampiyatissa's conversion that it became the state religion of the country. Moreover, it may be justly said that Mahinda's mission had as its chief aim not to mere introduction of the teachings of the Buddha to Ceylon but the formation of the monastic order and thereby the "establishment' of the Sasana in the island". The arrival of Arhath Mahinda took place 236 years after the passing away of the Buddha.

During this long period of over two hundred years how did Buddhism fare in India? In the "2500 years of Buddhism" the Indian government publication, Dr. A. C. Banerjee says, "the Buddha's saying and their commentaries were handed down orally from teacher to disciples. Unlike the Vedic texts, how ever not enough care was not taken for the preservation of the actual words of the teacher, not to speak of their interpretations. In the Mahaparinibbhana Sutta, the teacher apprehended that his sayings might suffer distortion, and so as noted above, he cautioned his disciples about the four ways in which his instructions were to be verified. A centaury is a long time, and about a hundred years after his passing, differences arose among the monks about the actual words of the teacher and their interpretations. Once the monks took the liberty of bringing dissensions to the Sangha, they went on multiplying till the number of sects reached the figure of eighteen in the second and third centuries after the Buddha's death". Writing in the same publication, Bhikshu Jinananda MA. PhD (London), Professor of Pali and Buddhalogy, Nalanda Post Graduate Pali institute, says: "Moggaliputta Tissa is reputed to have converted the Emperor Asoka to the Buddhist faith. According to the Mahavansa, he was born in a Brahmana family and learned the three Vedas before he was sixteen. He was however won over to the new faith by the Thera Siggava and very soon attained to Arhatship with all its attendant supernatural powers. It was under his influences that the emperor made over to the Buddhist order his son Mahinda and Daughter Sangamitta. These two crossed to Lanka and converted to the Buddhist faith.

....... The venerable monk instructed the king in the holy religion of the Buddha for a week. The king thereafter convoked an assembly of the whole community of Bhikkhus. He called the bhikkhus of several persuasions to his presence and asked them to expound the teachings of the blessed one. They set fourth there misguided beliefs, such as the doctrine of the external soul, and so on. These heretical monks numbering sixty thousands were expelled from the brotherhood by the king. He thereafter interrogated the true believers about the doctrine taught by the blessed one and they answered that it was Vibhajjavada (the religion of analytical reasoning). When the Thera corroborated the truth of this answer, the king made request that the brotherhood should hold the Uposahta ceremony so that the whole community might be purified of evil elements. The Thera was made the guardian of the order.

Thera Tissa thereafter elected a thousand bhikkhus of the brotherhood who were well versed in the three Pitakas to make a compilation of the true doctrine. For nine moths he worked with the monks and the compilation of the true Tripitaka was completed. This council was held in the same manner and with the same zeal as those of Mahakassapa and Thera Yasa (first and second Buddhist councils) respectively. In the midst of the council Thera Tissa set fourth the Kathavatthupakarana wherein the heretical doctrines were thoroughly examined and refuted. Thus ended the third council in which a thousand bhikkhus took part. One of the momentous results of this council was the dispatch of missionaries to the different countries of the world for the propagation of the Saddhamma. From the Edicts of Asoka we know of the various Buddhist missions he sent to far - off countries in Asia, Africa and Europe."

The third Buddhist council was held in Pataliputra (Present Patna) in the year 253 B.C. Megasthenes the Greek ambassadors to the Imperial Court of Chandraguppta (Asoka's Grandfather) has described in detail the beauty and splendour of the well planned city of gorgeous wooden buildings, which was 9 miles in length and 11/2 miles in breadth in the shape of a parallelogram. Greek Ambassadors to Bindusara (Asoka's father) was Deimachos and Dionysios was Greek Ambassador to Asoka at Pataliputra. Asoka's thirteenth edict, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) is mentioned as one of the many countries in which conquest by the Dhamma had been made by him. Dr. S. Paranavitharana in his book "The Greek and the Mauryas" makes reference to Yavana (Greek) kings with whom Dharmasoka maintained friendly relations and the succession of rulers in the kingdoms founded by Alexander's general's, in the Magadha kingdom. It was Anatogona Gonata who maintained friendly relations with Dharmasoka, and gave permission for the preaching of the Buddha-dharma in their respective territories. Mahamahendra-sthavira, who according to these sources, was a brother and not a son of Asoka, is said to have visited all these three countries, and preached the Dharma some time before he came to Ceylon.

Dr. S. Paranavitharana in his book "Sinhalayo" says: "when saint Mahinda preached Buddhism for the first time in Ceylon, he gave the explanations, as he had received them from his teachers, of certain words and expressions in the Pali Sermons. These were handed down orally with great care in the monasteries; and later teachers continued to add to this exegetical literature".

(Writer is a Doctor of-Medicine and Master-of-Arts in Buddhist studies)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spreading the message of dhamma through song >>> Ven. Rambukana Siddhartha Thero

Spreading the message of dhamma through song

“ Lama viye kiri suwanda giye nethi lama viyedima
Kasawathak henda, podi hamuduruwo punchima kale,Thaniyama hithilada mahana wune”….
The child who questions podi hamuduruwo about his choice of a ‘robe’ is bewildered as to how podi hamuduruwo is capable of walking so piously without being distracted by the play grounds. “Sansun gamanin koheda wadinne sellam pittani pasu karala”?

Gifted with musical words, Podi hamuduruwo of yester- year is an eminent lyricist today. The Nation met Ven. Rambukana Siddhartha thero to discover more about his lyrical faculties.

By Randima Attygalle
Q: Can you tell us about your childhood?
I was born on a Vesak poya day and as a result I was named Ananda. The temple was adjoining our school in Rambukana in Morawaka. It was the centre of our lives. We were taken to the temple by our school principal for budun vendeema etc. When I was older, I went to the daham pasela of the temple. During this time, there was a strong desire in me to be ordained as a priest. My family did not influence me to take this step. When I was about 12 years, I was ordained as a samanera. Thereafter I studied in pirivenas. I went to Sunethradevi Pirivena in Pepiliyana and later entered the University of Kelaniya.

Q: As a child what did you feel about the early days as a samanera?
Since it was my decision to be ordained, I never felt restricted and felt that my new life was mundane. I suppose that if I had been gifted to sasana without my liking, things would have been quite different. The lyrics of ‘Lama viye kiri suwanda giye nethi’, sung by Malini Bulathsinhala where the young podi hamurduruwo is questioned as if it was his own decision to be a samanera, is in fact a reflection of my early days as a priest.

Q: Can you recollect your life as an undergraduate?
I entered Kelaniya University in 1974 where I specialised in Buddhist Philosophy. My subsidiary subject was Mass Communication. This was the golden era of Sinhala songs. Other than newspapers, SLBC operated as the sole media and it was like an unofficial university. SLBC exposed us to a world of refinement. As undergraduates we were fortunate to have been enriched by work of eminent lyricists, artistes and other scholars. Like so many others of this generation, I too was inspired by creations of Mahagama Sekera, Chandraratna Manawasinghe, Madawala S. Ratnayake, Dolton Alwis, Pandith Amaradeva and Master Khemadasa.

Our undergraduate era was a very rich one where there was revival in all forms of art and literature. We studied the work of Martin Wicramasinghe, Gunadasa Amarasekera, Prof. Sarathchandra, G.B Senanayake etc.

Q: What drawbacks do you identify in the present system of education compared to that of your student days?
I think today’s education system is only exam-oriented. Children are unaware of the society around them, they don’t know the history. During our times, the education system cultivated a sense of aesthetics in the student, which we don’t see today. After our Ordinary Levels and Advanced Levels, we were competent to impart our knowledge to our juniors with confidence because we had an in-depth education. It is sad to say that today there is hardly any difference between the school education and university education. Prior to 1956, all intellects, both clergy and laymen were produced through our two main pirivenas — Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara. Scholars such as Prof. Malalasekera, Sir D.B. Jayatilake, Prof. Senerath Paranavithana, Prof. E.W. Adikaram were some of those eminent products of piriven education. After pirivens were converted into Universities, the culturally rich, disciplinary atmosphere of these institutions eroded. Today they are very political institutions divided into various camps. It is a tragedy that these institutions of education have become embattled fields where violence dominates.

Q: What inspired you to become a lyricist and what were your earliest lyrics?
I grew up in a Buddhist atmosphere. As a child I used to read Yashodarawatha and Thunsaranaya for my grandmother to listen. On Poya days I observed sil with other village children. This spiritual background coupled with the influence of the golden era of the Sinhala songs in the 70s, inspired me to compose lyrics. My first song ‘Kalpa kalak gathawanathuru’, an ode of Sri Maha Bodhiya, was sung by Visahradha Dayaratne Ranatunga. ‘siyak ayu leba mageth ayu gena’ (sung by T.M Jayaratne, music by H.M Jayawardane) and ‘Budu hamuduruwo’ apith dakinnethi (sung by Victor Ratnayake) are among my early songs.

Q: How would you analyse the relationship between the teachings of Buddhism and the artistic medium of song?
The true essence of Buddhist precept nachcha geetha vadana, (forbidding dance, song and performance), referred purely to entertainment which was a hindrance to nirvana. Song had occupied a place in different dimensions in Buddhist culture. Buduguna alankaraya, Subashithaya, Lo weda sangarawa, all this carry the teachings of Lord Buddha, how to win both this life and life after. The Sinhala meaning of gaatha in Pali, means geethaya or song. This does not mean any song which is empty in meaning, but something which can express the reality of life.

Buddhism does not restrict the aesthetic sense in a human being. Lord Buddha is considered the greatest advocate of esthetics in the world or the greatest saundarya wediya. In the chaotic and busy world we live today, a song is an effective mode of expression, a way of communicating a social message. In the ancient days, bana was preached for 12 hours because people had time to spare; they did not have problems such as war or cost of living as pressing needs.

Today people can hardly spare one hour to listen to bana because their minds are not at peace. In such society, a song is a strong means of conveying the social reality. One can enjoy a song while engaged in other day-to-day activities, which is another advantage of this medium. However we should bear in mind that a song is also like a knife. A knife can chop vegetables and at the same time it can inflict harm. A song is similar. We can convey a deep philosophy and at the same time it can destroy young minds. ‘Pipunu male ruwa emala dakeedo’, ‘hari hamba karapu deval duk mahansiyen’- all these songs convey social themes. Therefore even a Buddhist priest can use the medium of song in a Buddhist context, to pacify chaotic minds and to impart wisdom, not merely as a tool of entertainment.

Q: What is the biggest void you identify in Sinhala song today?
It is the lack of standards. It’s the same with other mediums of art as well. There is no authority to judge or question them. This is an evil of open economy as well. With the open economy, many things flooded this country with no standards. Till the late 70s, each song, each artiste and even an advertisement was brought before a panel at SLBC. Singers were graded and there were standards. Today the song has become an empty medium, just words which make no sense.

At a time when we were aping Hindi melodies, artistes such as Ananda Samarakoon and Sunil Santha took our music to a different path and created an authentically Sri Lankan genre of music. This trend was followed by lyricists such as Mahagama Sekara, Madawala S. Ratnayake, Chandrarathna Manawasinghe and later on by Dharmasiri Gamage, Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne and Dr. Ajantha Ranasinghe. Their creations reflect their knowledge of literature, language and Buddhist philosophy. Sadly, we don’t see this kind of a new generation today simply because they are not aware of their predecessors. Without studying the creations of those before you, you cannot create for the future. In whatever the form of art, we see only a superficial study which is very tragic.

Q: You have written songs for several generations. What is the secret behind this ability to bridge many such eras?
From the times of our grandparents to modern generation of grandparents, I have witnessed social changes, change of values etc. But despite all those changes, there is one thing which will stand true to all times. This is the truth of dhamma. This is what I convey through all my songs, directly or indirectly. Through this eternal truth, I can cater to many generations.

Q: As the Registrar of the English Section of Sri Jinarathana Vocational Training Institute (affiliated to Gangaramaya) you associate with young adults. As a Buddhist monk who works closely with youth, what are your comments about the present generation’s association with Buddhism?
I’m happy to say that despite all evils dished out by the electronic media, there is still a large cross section of young people who have identified the correct path to take in life. They are inspired by learned people and an intellectually-rich atmosphere. When Vesak and Poson approach, we see many enthusiastic young people actively participating in dhamma discussions, meditation and sil programmes which is a very positive trend. Many young people have realised the repercussions of alcohol and smoking which clearly shows that we still have a segment of future generation with potential.

Q: In the turbulent times we live, what do you think the role of a Buddhist priest should be?
Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka thrice. On all three occasions, He came as a mediator and a messenger to resolve disputes. As followers of Lord Buddha, it is our duty to carry this message of peace and to act for the betterment of human beings. We can carry the word of Lord Buddha in various means - through art, song and literature. The prime role of the Buddha puthra should be to bring solace where there is sorrow, to bring equality where there is disparity.

(Pix by Ishara S. Kodikara)

****The Nation. LK***

May a lamp be lit in every home >> Last Poson , 2008

May a lamp be lit in every home
Remembering Arahat Mahinda’s historic mission on Poson Poya day
By Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon

Poson Full Moon Day recalls a historic mission
During the reign of King Devanampiyatissa;
The Noble gift of Dhamma and great Compassion
Is elaborated in the literary source, the Mahawansa.

It was a memorable day in our recorded history,
When Mahinda Thera met the King; the moment
Of a great awakening for Sri Lanka, a day of
Festivity, with the royal sport of hunting.

Arahat Mahinda volunteered to visit Sri Lanka
At the request of his father King Ashoka;
His meeting with King Tissa at Mihintale peak
Is the holiest moment in Sri Lanka’s history.

The brief conversation – to judge the king’s wisdom –
Launched an era of virtue and wisdom; Mahinda
Delivered the “Chullahaththipadopama Sutra”,
Revealing the Dhamma’s perpetual illumination.

The first discourse of Arahat Mahinda Thera
Rapidly brought peace and prosperity to Sri Lanka;
Forty thousand followers joined the new faith,
People rejoiced in Mahinda’s mission.

Dedicated to propagating the Dhamma in Sri Lanka
Mahinda Thera passed away peacefully aged eighty,Adoringly remembered by all Buddhists who
Follow the Dhamma expounded by Samma Sambuddha.

Pilgrims trek 1,840 steps yearly to Mihintale to
Venerate the Peak, then named Ambastale;
Enriched by crafts, sculpture, economy, cultural
Heritage, the Sinhala race rose to its zenith of glory.

Most Ven. Mahinda Thera is honoured today,
With veneration each Poya day; may a lamp be lit
In every Buddhist home to commemorate the
Holiest day for Buddhists in Sri Lanka!

< The Sunday Times >

How went on "Thanthirimale" On Last Poson

Thanthirimale beckons pilgrims
By Athula Bandara
The Sunday Times

Spreading over an area of about 200 acres, the rocky terrain of Thanthirimale has a scenic beauty that captivates all who come upon it. Located in the midst of thick jungle, just 41 km from Anuradhapura, on its north west lies the famous Wilpattu park.

Yet, it is because of its historic and religious significance that thousands of devout pilgrims journey here every Poson Poya. There is a reference in the Mahawansa to Thanthrimale in the story of the Bo sapling that was brought to Lanka by Theri Sangamiththa, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in Anuradhapura.

Thanthrimale chaitya

The King who accepted the relic at a place called Dambakiolapatuna, on his way back to Anuradhapura had spent the night on the rocks of Thanthrimale with the visitors. The place was then known as Bamunugama and was in charge of a Brahmin named Thivakka. He was also associated in the planting ceremony of the Sri Maha Bodhi in Mahamewuana Uyana in Anuradhapura. As a token of appreciation a shoot of the Bo sapling was also given to the Brahmin to be planted in his village Thivakka Bamunugama and can still be seen today.

Thanthrimale is also archaeologically significant because of its Samadhi pilima and the Sleeping Buddha hewn out of rock. There are four more incomplete statues, for which archaeologists have different interpretations. Some believe that a natural disaster may be the result for them being left incomplete.

There is a Pothgula (library) also erected in rock and rock huts which are believed to have been the meditation rooms of Bhikkhus of the time.

For the pilgrim there is much to see at Thanthirimale – ruins and lots of Buddha statues, sellipi inscriptions and also a dagoba in ruins, all sadly vandalized by treasure hunters. The water courses around the area are replete with lotus flowers adding to the pastoral beauty of the landscape.

The drawings on the walls of huts in Thanthrimale indicate the lives of those who lived centuries ago.
Thanthrimale was a forgotten region not long ago. It was the late Ven. Kudakongaskada Wimalagnana Thera who pioneered the restoration of this historic place and renewed development of the region.
Threats from LTTE cadres were repelled with the help of the Army and the current Viharadhipathi, Ven. Thanthrimale Chandraratana Thera has worked tirelessly to make the place what it is today.

Today Thanthrimale has become a place of pilgrimage that every Buddhist yearns to visit at least once in his/her lifetime.

Aloka Pooja 2008

Wijeya Newspapers Ltd, will for the fifth consecutive year support
the religious programmes being held at Thanthirimale on Poson Poya.

The programme is as follows:

June 18- Poson Poya
6 a.m Observance of Atasil and Buddha Vandanava
8 a.m. Sermon
9 a.m. Religious discussion
10.30 a.m. Buddha Pooja
1 p.m. Religious discussion at Thapovanaya
6 p.m. Observance of Pansil and a short sermon by the
Chief Incumbent Ven. Thantirimale
Chandraratana Thera
6.45 p.m. Inauguration of Aloka Pooja by the Chairman WNL
followed by his speech
7 p.m. Presentation of uniforms and gifts to teachers of the Daham Pasala
8 p.m. Bakthi Gee Contest
June 19
6.45 p.m. Inauguration of Aloka Pooja by Director /Editor

Lankadeepa, Siri Ranasinghe, followed by the distribution of uniform and other material to children of the Daham Pasala

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