The role of Mahinda thēro introducing the Buddhism in Sri Lanka by D.K. Manathunga & Dr. Nadeesha Gunawardhana

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The role of Mahinda thēro introducing the Buddhism in Sri Lanka by D.K. Manathunga & Dr. Nadeesha Gunawardhana

Authors: Senior Lecturer D.K. Manathunga & Dr. Nadeesha Gunawardhana

Abstract

Asōka patronage the third or Pāṭaliputra council, after this council, under the instructions of the far sighted Moggaliputta-Tissa, the president of the council, missionaries for the establishment of Buddhism were sent out to nine countries among which Sri Lanka was included. Asōka’s son Mahinda was entrusted with the task of establishing Buddhims in Sri Lanka. The emperor, perhaps, felt that his work would be most fruitful in this island, for Devanampiyatissa, the king of Sri Lanka, had already expressed his friendship by sending ambassadors with valuable gifts to the Indian empire. Sri Lanka was the most fertile of all fields for the Buddhist activities of Asōka.

Introduction

The official introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka is took placed during the 3rd century B.C.E. by the Aśoka’s son Mahinda. The mention is made in Divyāvadāna to prove that there were Buddhist traders who visited the Sri Lanka. The many Indian traders have visited Sri Lanka at the time of the Lord Buddha. Divyāvadāna mentions the construction of the prāsada called chandanamala by using the Sandalwood of Sri Lanka to dwell the Lord Buddha (Senevirathna Ariyadasa 1999: 59). A trader called Poorna has visited six times to Sri Lanka and later he listened the doctrine of Buddha and became a monk under the Lord Buddha (Senevirathna Ariyadasa 1999: 48). As recorded in the chronicles of Sri Lanka the lord Buddha has visited three times to Sri Lanka in his life time. The Buddha has visited in the nine month of his Buddhahood (M.V. 1950, 1:19-20) the fifth year (M.V. 1950, 1:44) and the eighth year of his Buddhahood(M.V. 1950, 1:72).

The Tera Moggaliputta had brought the third council to end and sent 9 missionaries to a 9 areas, to spread Buddhism. The great thēra Mahinda visited the island with four other monks, Iṭṭhiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Bhaddasāla (M.V. 1950, 12:7). The mention is made, that the thēro reluctant to visited during the reign of king Mutaseeva, as he was old. The Mahinda thēra visited the Sri Lanka at the 12th year of a monk (M.V. 1950, 12:1).

The thēra has spent six month preaching dhamm in South India and reached the Vēdisagiri, the city of his mother Dēvi and visited his mother (M.V. 1950, 13:6). The mention is made in Mahāvaṃsa that the great Indra invited Mahinda to visit Sri Lanka. According to the Dīpavaṃsa god śhkra, called Vāsava has invited Mahinda thēra to visit Sri Lanka (1992:12:30). There were two relatives of Mahinda thēro in his party which was composed of seven, Suman Sāmaṇēra, the son of his sister, Sanghamittā and Bhanduka upāsaka, the son of his mother’s sister’s daughter. Their inclusion in the party signified, perhaps, a particular intimacy with and friendliness toward Sri Lanka.

The very first meeting of Mahind and king Devanampiyatiss took placed on the Missaka Pabbata, today known as Mihintalē about eight miles of Anurādhapura. The king was hunting a dear at this movement. The Pāli chronicles record having asked few questions for the king thēro realized that the king is intelligent and having capacity of understanding the Buddhism. This can be regarded as the first recorded intelligence test in history. Thēro preached the monarch the Cūllahatthipadūpama sūtra (M.V. 1950, 14:22). When the Sumara Sāmanēra announce the time of preaching the Dhamma or Kālagośā, many god also gathered and thēro preached the Samachitta sūtra (Illangasinghe Mangala 1997: 195) When the queen Anulā had come with five hundred women and had bowed down and made offerings to the theras he preached the Pētavatthu, the Vimānavatthu and the Saccasaṃyutta (M.V. 1950, 14:58). The thēro Mahinda had preached the doctrine in two places in the speech of the island. (M.V. 1912, 14:65). He preached the Dēvadūtha sūtra at the hall of the state elephants. The thēro has preached the Bālapaṇḍitha sūtra at the nandana garden in the royal park (M.V. 1912, 15:3-4). When the queen Anula request the ordination Mahinda thēro guided the king to send missionaries to Pataliputra asking bhikkuni Sangamitta to visit Sri Lanka. The thēro has preached Aggikaṇḍhōpama sūtra, Ashirshōpama sūtra and Anamathaggiya sūtra within the third day at the park of Nandana. The thēro has preached fifteen sutras within 13 days of his visit.

1 Cūllahatthipadūpama sūtra (1st day)
2 Samachitta sūtra (1st day)
3 Pētavatthu (2nd day)
4 Vimānavatthu (2nd day)
5 Saccasaṃyutta (2nd day)
6 Devaduta sūtra (2nd day)
7 Bālapaṇḍitha sūtra (2nd day)
8 Aggikandhopama sūtra (3rd day)
9 Ashirshopama sūtra (3rd day)
10 Anamthaggiya sūtra (4th day)
11 Khajjanīyaka sūtra (5th day)
12 Gōmayapiṇḍika sūtra (6th day)
13 Dhammachakkapavatthana sūtra (7th day)
14 Mahāpramada sūtra (13th day)
15 Vassupanaikkaṇḍha sūtra (13th day)

The most of these sermons dealt with the transitoriness of life, the dreadful nature of saṃsāra, and the noble life necessary to escape from saṃsāra and to attain Nibbāna (Rahula Walpola 1956 :56). The mentioned is made in Mahāvaṃsa that the thēro brought eight thousand five hundred persons to convert to Buddhism within seven days. The king’s nephew the chief minister Mahā Arittha who stood near the king with his fifty five elder younger brothers, and heard the Vassupanaikkaṇḍha sutra and received the pabbajja. The prince Mattābhaya, the king’s younger brother who had faith of the Buddhism received the pabbajja of the doctrine with a thousand of his followers (M.V. 1950, 17:58).

The Mahāvaṃsa mentions that the king has built house for the great Bodhi tree, the Lōhapāsāda, a Salāka house. The king Devanampiyatiss had built many parivenas in an excellent manner under the guidance of thēro Mahinda. for an example

  • The pairvena on the bank of the bathing tank is called the Sunhata parivena.
  • The paivena on the spot where the excellent light of the island used to walk up and down is called digha cankamana.
  • Where the thēro had meditation that brings the highest bliss is called Phalaga parivena.
  • Where many hosts of gods had sought him out and sat at his feet is therefore called the Marugana parivena.

The holy city of Anurādhapura was originally planned and laid out by Mahinda. He introduced art and architecture into the island. He can be regarded as the father of the Sinhalese literature. Buddhagōśa says that Mahinda brought to the island of the Sinhalses the commentaries of the Tirpiṭaka and put them into Sinhalese for the benefit of the people of the island.

Bibliography

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