Liberation of the Buddhist Woman
|When Princess Prajapathi, foster mother of the Buddha wished to enter the order of the Bhikkunis, He at first discouraged her, but she along with her royal relatives, shaved their heads and put on the yellow robe and came to Buddha.|
Buddha the Sakyamuni Gautama was an outstanding personality of exceptional calibre. His was a heart full of compassion, a heart bent on service for the emancipation of all- the entire humanity. Buddhism is of special significance with regard to the liberation of women.
When Princess Prajapathi, foster mother of the Buddha wished to enter the order of the Bhikkunis, He at first discouraged her, but she along with her royal relatives, shaved their heads and put on the yellow robe and came to Buddha.
He then admitted them into the order. At a time that human rights were denied with hardly any recognition given to women due to Brahmana teachings, the permission granted by the Buddha to enter the Sasana under the leadership of Prajapathi was an achievement in Sasanic history.
The social revolution thus emerged in India had a definite bearing on the Lankan society. It is a well-known fact that a similar situation arose in Sri Lanka with the advent of Theri Sanghamitta on this day of Unduwap Poya.
According to ancient chronicles with the introduction of Buddhism by Ven. Mahinda the message of the Buddha gave the people a definite way of life with an ideal to aim at.
When the King's (Devanampiyatissa) sister-in-law Queen Anula and her retinue were anxious to enter the Bhikkuni Sasana, the King informed Emperor Asoka, Theri Sanghamitta was dispatched immediately. When she arrived for the purpose she brought with her a Bo-sapling from Sri Maha Bodhi at Bodh Gaya.
The King accorded her a grand welcome when she first arrived at Northern Dambakola Patuna (present Sambilithurai) accompanied her, in a colourful procession and it was planted in Mahamevna gardens at Anuradhapura amidst much ceremony and grandeur.
The sacred sapling brought on this Unduwap Poya day lies majestically giving immense Sraddah to the devotees who turn out in thousands daily. Deepawansa mentions that Theri Sanghamitta was accompanied by 11 Bhikkhunis: Uththara, Hema, Aggimitta, Pabbatha and Dhammadasi to name a few. With the ordination of Queen Anula and her retinue of 500 ladies the Unduwap Poya marked the inauguration of the Bhikkuni Sasana in Sri Lanka. They had been accommodated in a place called Haththalahaka built by the King.
History reveals that when Theri Sanghamitta set foot in Sri Lanka people belonging to 18 crafts arrived here along with her for the safety of the Bo tree. The skilled labour, connected with metals, clay, textiles, domestic utensils, masonry and agriculture etc. leading to the creation of an industrial class, paved the way for extensive commercial activity.
There was a distinctive change in the social and religious life of the country, also in the economic sphere.
Another major event of importance is the evolution of the customary tradition centering the Bo tree worship. Ever since the arrival of Theri Sanghamitta Bo tree worship became an important aspect of Buddhism.
Saplings from the main Bodhi tree were planted in the premises of other viharas, and later it became customary for every vihara to have a Bodhiya.
According to 'Sumangala Vilasinee' a Bhikkhu must consider it his duty to preserve and look after the Bodhiya with tender care and it is said that he must behave, as if he is in the presence of the Buddha himself.
The establishment of the Bhikkuni sasana and the introduction of the Bodhi worship are therefore events of great historical importance attached to Unduwap Full Moon day.