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Friday, July 25, 2008

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

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