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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Full Moon Poya Day of Poson - 2554

Full Moon Poya Day of Poson - 2554

by Walter Wijenayaka

It was on a Full Moon Poya Day of Poson, 2318 years ago today that, king of the island, Devanampiyatissa with a retinue went on a ceremonial deer-hunt in the mountain of Mihintale where they encountered the mission sent by Emperor Dharmasoka of India – Jambudvipa – to disseminate the Dhamma of the Sakyamuni Gauthama Buddha – under the leadership of his own son Arahant Mahinda accompanied by four Arahant Bhikkhus, one Samanera Bhikkhu together with a lay disciple and on having listened to the sermon based on Cullahatthipadopama Sutta preached by Arahant Mahinda, they all took refuge in the Triple-Gem and embraced Buddhism – making the event one of the most significant happenings in the annals of Sri Lanka.

Since then Buddhism flourished in this island, but after two millenniums, since 1505 it disclosed a decrease in the process of its progress with the advent of three Western Nations – Portuguese, Dutch and British in turn with the influence of their Christian/Catholic missionaries.

However the pure doctrine of the Buddha brought by the Maha Thera precided Mahinda after it was redacted by Arahants at the Third Great Buddhist Council held under the aegis of Emperor Dharmasoka and the presidentship of the Arahant Thera Moggaliputta Tissa, continues to flourish here today.

It should be kept in mind that the credit for preserving the Dhamma of the Buddha untarnished, and for its spreading throughout the world is deserved by the people of Sri Lanka.

In his exercise Mahinda Thera, with great ease established the Bhikkhu Sasana (Bhikkhu Sangha community) with the ordination of Prince Arittha. After all he went back to the Missaka Pabbatha as its environment was calm and quiet.

On the following morning he went to Meghavana Park (Maha Meuna Uyana) to respect the Ministers of the king who invited him on the orders of the king. The then bestowed the park to the Thera.

The gift was formed the nucleus of the Maha Vihara which was later to become a historic seat of Buddhist learning in Sri Lanka. The Buddha Sasana was firmly established in the Sri Lanka’s soil and enjoyed royal patronage. The treasury provided for the maintenance of the Bhikkhus who had joined the Order in large numbers as they could not always rely on the charity of generous lay folk for their sustenance. Part of the country’s agricultural surplus was also used to construct religious edifices called stupas or chetiyas and cultural embellishments associated with them.

Arts and crafts, painting and sculpture, language and literature received a fresh impetus as the doctrine took root in the country. Every Buddhist shrine in the country were based on the Indian models and in the wake of the Mauryan Buddhist mission came the arts and crafts of India as well.

The arrival of Arahanth Mahinda Thera was soon followed by the bringing of a sapling of the historic Bo tree from Buddha Gaya under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, by Sangamitta Therani, the sister of Arahanth Mahinda Thera.

She established the Bhikkuni Sasana with the ordination of Princess Anula, the wife of the king’s (King Devanampiyatissa’s) younger brother. Civilization attached to Buddhism and the arrival of Therani Sangamitta and the establishment of Bhikkhuni Sasana.

Civilization attached to Buddhism and the arrival of Therini Sangamitta along with the numerous master-craftsmen brought about a distinctive religious and cultural pattern in Sri Lanka.

No story of ancient Mihintale would be complete without a brief reference to two persons who were associated with the preservation and discovery of the monuments, during the first half of the last century. Between 1900 and 1914, it was the fiery orator and Buddhist leader Walisinghe Harischandra whom agitated with the colonial government to hold back vast extent of temple property that was to be appropriated under the Waste Lands Ordinance. The other person was Prof. Senerath Paranavitane, the Archaeological Commissioner who identified and restored our heritage at this hallowed spot.

The people of this country in the ancient times worshipped rocks, trees etc. They prayed to super natural beings, gods, demons etc. for the fulfilment of their wishes. What ever it is, they were aware of the message – the doctrine of the Buddha as the Buddha has visited Sri Lanka thrice – the first to Mahiyangana, second to Nagadipa and the third to Kelaniya.

The Arahant Thera Mahinda having worked hard for the propagation of Buddhism inthis small island for forty eighty years and passed away at the age of eighty years while residing at Mihintale during the reign of King Uttiya.

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