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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Duruthu signifies Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka

Duruthu signifies Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka


By Premasara Epasinghe

This year’s Duruthu Pura Pasalosvaka Poya Day falls on Wednesday, 19th January, 2011. On this day, thousands flock to temples all over the island to pay their homage to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. They engage in giving alms to Bhikkhus or needy people (Dana), dedicate this particular Holy Day on behalf of the Triple Gem (Seela) and concentrate on Meditation (Bhavana). They follow the Noble Principle of Buddhism in refraining from evil-doing; indulging in doing good and cleansing the minds. In short, this is what Buddhism is all about:

‘Sabbapapassa Akaranam –

Kusalassa Upasampada –

Sachitta Pariyodapanan –

Etam Buddana Sasanam’

Dhammapada – Verse 183 (Treasury of Truth)

Buddhism and the Sinhala culture are inseparable. With the advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka during the reign of the king Devanampiyatissa, he made a world of difference and their lifestyles were made according to the Buddhist principles, Metta, Muditha, Karuna and the loving kindness to the humanity become the corner-stones of life.

Even the yearly Sinhala calendar was inter-woven with significant events of Buddha’s life. It began with Duruthu (January), Navam (February), Medin (March), Bak (April), Vesak (May), Poson (June), Esala (July), Nikini (August), Binara (September), Vap (October), Il (November) and Unduvap (December).

The noteworthy text is that each Poya Day is closely connected to a significant event that took place in the history of Buddhism. For example, two most important Poyas for Sri Lanka are Vesak, the day of the birth of Prince Siddhartha, the Gautama Buddha, the great teacher, and his attainment of the Buddhahood (Enlightenment) and His passing away at the city Kusinara.

Vesak is celebrated among six hundred million people mostly in Asia. Poson signifies the advent of Buddha in Sri Lanka.

Then what is the importance of this Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day?

The Buddhists in Sri Lanka believe that on this Duruthu Purapaslosvaka Poya Day the Blessed One, Buddha, visited Sri Lanka for the first time. According to the chronicle, it states "Buddha arrived in Sri Lanka to free this beautiful, resplendent island from Yakkas."

Buddha gave a clear message to the inhabitants of the country and advised them to mould their lives and follow the five precepts, the cardinal principles of peace and happiness, namely: (a) abstain from destroying living beings, (b) abstain from taking things not given, (c) refrain or abstain from sexual misconduct, (d) abstain from false and (e) refrain from taking anything that beget intoxication or heedless-ness.

In his first visit, Buddha arrived at Mahiyangana nestlings in the banks of Mahaweli River on one side. We believe that Mahiyangana – Mutiyangana stupa was constructed at the place where Buddha laid His footstep in Sri Lanka.

The purpose of His mission to Sri Lanka was to restore peace in this resplendent island. This event took place on Duruthu Pura Pasalosvaka Poya Day. Today, we pay our respect to Gautama Thathagatha.

Another significant incident that took place on the Duruthu Poya Day was the meeting of Buddha and an incumbent deity of Siripada, the God Sumana, at Bintenne, Mahiyangana. When God Sumana kindly requested Buddha for a souvenir, Gautama Buddha has given God Sumana some locks of His hair. It was on a month of Duruthu that God Sumana placed his hair in an urn inside Mahiyangana - Mutiyangana stupa. Many devotees therefore will pay their homage to Mahiyangana stupa on this Duruthu Poya Day.

There are 16 (sixteen) important Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka. Out of these 16, the most significant shrine is considered as Mahiyangana.

The others are: Nagadeepa, Kelaniya, Divaguhava, Dighavapi, Jayasri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweliseya, Thuparama, Abhayagiriya, Jetavanaya, Sela Chaittya, Kataragama, Mirisawetiya and Tissamaharama.

According to the Mahavamsa, when Gautama Buddha’s passing away, Sarabhu, a disciple of Sariputta, with his miraculous powers, received from the pyre of the Gautama Buddha, with honour and respect, the collar-bone and brought it to Sri Lanka, enshrined it in the Mahiyangana chaitya.

The other Sinhala kings who improved the infrastructure facilities and constructions of Mahiyangana stupa were Greet King Dutugemunu and Sirisangabo. The son of Devanampiyatissa’s brother, Prince Uddachullabaya reconstructed the Mahiyangana stupa. There is evidence that deity Sumana, to safeguard the stupa, constructed a Devalaya. Further, an annual procession was held with pomp and glamour at the vicinity of the Mahiyangana stupa.

The Blessed One made his second visit to Nagadeepa and the third to Kelaniya.

Buddha, through love and compassion to all Sri Lankans, arrived at Kelaniya on a Vesak Full Moon Poya Day.

As a result of the first visit of Buddha to Sri Lanka, on a Duruthu Poya Day, the Buddhist culture was established to a certain extent but the real propagation of Buddhism began with the arrival of Mahinda Arahat Thera from India during the reign of Devanampiyatissa.

The King Voharikatissa (204-225 AD) built a parasol over the Mahiyangana stupa. Further, Sena-II (885-896 AD), Kassapa-IV (896-918 AD), Vijayabahu-I (1059-1114 AD) and Parakramabahu-I (1410-1468 AD) were some of the kings who gave their utmost royal patronage to the development of the Mahiyangana Maha Seya which became the centre of Buddhist activity.

Today, Buddhism is a religion, philosophy and a teaching followed by a large segment of the world’s population. Buddha is undoubtedly classed as one of the greatest religious leaders of the world like Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam.

The Blessed One’s love certainly extended beyond mankind. This great religious leader recognised the rights of the human beings. Even His visit to Mahiyangana on a Duruthu Poya clearly shows His philosophy was to abstain from taking life of human beings, Sabbesatta Bhavantu Sukhitatta. May all living beings be well and happy!

We wish our readers a very Happy New Year of 2011! On this Duruthu Poya, we wish them with a blessing from Jinapagaraya Piritha thus: ‘Sabbava Mangala –

Mupaddava Dunni-mittam –

Sabbiti roga Gahadosa Masesa Ninda – Sabbantaraya Bhaya –

Dussupinam Akantam,

Buddhanu Bhavana – Dhammanu Bhavana – Sangahanu Bhavana –

Paraniena Payatu Nasam’

(All ill luck; misfortunes; ill-omens; evil planetary influences; blame; danger; fears; undesirable dreams; may they all disappear forever with the power of noble Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha!).

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