HISTORY OF BUDDHISM SRI LANKA

 

In order to understand and appreciate the history of early Buddhism in Sri Lanka we should have, as a background some general idea of the India of the third century B.C from where Buddhism come to Sri Lanka and also of the pre-Buddhist Sri Lanka to which it was introduced. When the Indian missionaries brought Buddhism to this Island they carried here with them not only the teaching of the Buddha but also the culture and civilisation of Buddhist India. Almost all Buddhist rites , ceremonies, festivals and observance of Sri Lanka were with slight local changes and modification, the continuation of Indian practice which the early Buddhist missionaries introduced into this country. It necessary there at the time of the advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

Buddhism began as an intellectual and ethical moment in the sixth century B.C with the first sermon preached by the Buddha to the five ascetics at Isipathana near Benares.It spread gradually during the life-time of the Buddha along the gangetic valley and found its way into several kingdoms in north India between the vindhya mountains and the Himalayas Kings and ministers ,bankers and wealthy merchant ,brahmins and peasants became the followers of this new teaching which was a revolt again some of the accepted theories and practices of the day.

At the time of the Buddhas death about 483 B.C almost all the important states in North India seemed to have been deeply influenced by the new teaching. According to the Mahaparinibbna- sutta eight countries clammed, on various ground, a portion of the ashes of the Buddha,which shows that he had already gained many ardent devotees in these states. Yet there is no evidence to show that the teaching of the Buddha had been adopted as the state religion of these kingdoms till long after his death.

Immediately after the Buddhas death a council was held at Rajagaha during the rainy season under the patronage of Ajatasattu, king of Magadha, which Maha-kassapa as its president the mojstsenior of the disciples of the Buddha then alive.Its purpose was to decide and settle the authentic teaching of the Master. The Buddhas immediate deciples, likeAnanda and Upali, were the principal protaganists in this great event.

About a century later, in the fourth century B.C during the time of King Kalasoka of pataliputta, a group of monks known under the generic name of Vajji bukkhus, residing at the Mahavana monastery in vesali raised ten new points of indulgence which perturbed the orthodox authorities. Under the guidance of Yasa, Revata and Sabbakami three leading theras of the day, a great council was held at Vasali and the ten joints raised by the Vajji bhikkus were condemned as false and heretic. The authentic and genuine teaching of the Master was defined for the second time.

After this second council the bhikkhus, who were condemned as unorthodox and heretic assemled elsewhere, held a rival council and inaugurated a new sect called Mahasanghika (orMahasangiti),different from the theriya sect. The following century sawthe rise of eighteen sects in all including the various schools of the theravada.

In the last years of the century B.C chandragupta Maurya had founded and organised a large and powerful empire extending approximately from Afghanistan to Mysore. Territories whish are even now outside the Government of India were part of the Indian Empire under chkandragupta.

The missionaries for the establishment of Buddhism were sent out to nine countries among which Sri Lanka was included. King Asokas own son Mahinda was entrusted with the task of establishing Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The emperor perhaps felt that his work would be most fruitful in this Island for Devanampriya-tissa the King of Sri Lanka had already expressed his friendship by sending ambassadors with valuable gift to the Indian emperor. Wherever they went the Indian Buddhist missionaries were successful. Even Greeks like Yonaka Dhammarakkhita become Buddhist bhikkhus but Sri Lanka was the most fertile of fields for the Buddhist activities of Asoka. So far as Edicts are concerned, Sri Lanka is mentioned as Tamraparni in Rock Edicts II and XIII and as the country already included by Asoka in the list of countries to which he despatches his Dutas or messengers to prosecute his scheme of Dharma Vijaya or Moral Conquest, thus by the time of these Edicts 9258-257 B.C Sri Lanka was already a sphere of Asokas missionary activities which according to Rock Edict II

In the third century B. C the capital of Sri Lanka was ANURADHAPURA. It was Pandukabhaya (377-307B.C).who developed the original Anuradhapura in to real nagara or coty. and he seems to have organised it very efficiently. Before Pandukabhaya there was nothing which could properly have been called a city in Sri Lanka. All centres of population were called gamas villages , but the words gama and nagara in the early part of the Mahavamsa are used indiscriminately both for village and city or town and do not help us to decide on the size and extent of place. Before Anuradhapura came into prominence there were other places like Tambapanni VIJITAPURA and Upatissagama which served as the seats of government for short periods. But from the time Anuradhapura was raised by Pandukabhaya to the eminence of a city in the latter part of the fourth century B.C it remained as the capital of sri lanka for a about twelve centuries.

 

By the end of the third century B.C the architectural developmentof Anuradhapura seems to have reached a fairly high stage Pandukabhayas grand -undle, Anuradha, who originally established the village of Anuradhagama calling it after his own name built for himself a house which was call RAJAGEHA.

When Pandukabhkaya entered Anuradhap-ura , after the destruction of his enemies the old chief offered his house to his victorious grand-nephew. and went to live in another house. Pandukabaya is not reported to have built a place for his residence .But there is mention made of various buildings erected by Pandukabhaya in Anuradhapura and its suburbs. We are told also of a particular building called Ekathunika in Upati-sagama, the seat of government before Anuradhapura. This house which which as its name implies, stood on one pillar, was constructed by Panduka-bhayas uncles for the specific purpose of imprisoning their sister citta in a futile attempt to prevent her from begetting a son. It was ventilated with windows (gavakkha).

All the same there seems to have been a few buildings in Anuradhapura even in the time of Devanampiya-Tiss could not,for instance,find a suitable house as residence for Mahinda. He hurriedly builds a house of mud and dries it with torch-fire. On account of the method adopted for drying it the wall became dark and the house was called Kalapasada-privana, Dark Residence. How the house built is not quite clear. But it is evident that there were no burnt brinks available for the purpose, at least locally or within easy reach.

Devanampiya-Tissa would never have offered such a residence as this to the grest royal missionary, son of Emperor Asoka and a visitor from India,if he had been in a position to provide more suitable accommodation.

It may be argued that Devanampiya-Tissa out of great respect did not wish to offer the holy man a house which had been occupied by others. But this does not seem likely, because Devanampiya-Tissa invited Mahinda, on the second day of his arrival to spend the night in a house in Mahameghavana and the latter consented. The house had undoubtedly been used by other people-at lease by the king and his queen and other members of royal family.

It would seem that there was no large hall in the city for a public gathering. When the townspeople desired to see and hear Mahinda, the king seeing that there was no room within the premises of the place, ordered the hall of the State Elephant to be cleansed and arranged for the purpose. It was here that the citizens assembled to listen to the royal visitor. As Mahindas audience grew bigger and bigger the venue had to be shifted from the Elephant hall to the bigger Nandana Garden outside the southern gate of the city, where open-air meetings were held in the royal park, thickly shaded, cool and covered with verdure.

These instances would show that there was a general lack of buildings in Anuradhapura at that time. It was only after the introduction of Buddhism that massive buildings like the Lohapasada began to rise in Sri Lanka. Although various religious buildings are said to have been built by Pandukabhaya there is no evidence of the existence of a single building spacious enough to accommodate large assemblies, this further indicates that either no public meetings were held, or if at all they were held in the open air. Perhaps it may be that it was only after the introduction of Buddhism that the people of Sri Lanka began to hold organised public gatherings for specific purposes such as listening to a religious discourse.

Sanitary conditions in Anuradhapura seem to have been of a high order. During Pandukabhayas time there were scavengers of the candala caste, 500 in number for cleaning the city ,2000 for cleaning the sewers; 150 for taking dead bodies away to the cemeteries and 150 as watchers. Pandu-kabhaya is reported to have created a new post called Nagara-guttika (guardian of city) for his uncle Abhaya, his predecessor, who was helpful both to Pandukabhaya and his mother. The duty of this officer was the administration of the government for the night time (ratti-rajjam). From that time onward there were Nagara-guttikas in the capital. This perhaps was the prototype of mayor in later time.

There were two parks near the capital.The Nandanavana (or jothivana as it called later ) almost adjoined the city, just outside the southern gate. It was here that Mahinda delivered most of his sermons immediately after his arrival. The Mahamaghavana, which was laid out by Pandukabhayas son, Mutasiva was provided with fruit trees and flower trees.

This was neither too near nor too far from the city, and was situated outside the eastern gate of the city. There was in this park a pavilion (Raja-gaha Royal house) built for the use of the king. It was in this house or pavilion that Mahinda spent several days soon after his arrival.Within thin the park were beautiful tanks and pound. Mention is made of a little tank called Kakudhkavapi within the enclosure and also a beautiful pound called Murutta to the north of the royal pavilion.

Pandukabhaya built a tank to supply water to the city, although there was already a tank built by Anuradha, his grand uncle. Outside the city there was a ganeral cemetery called Mahasusana laid out by Pandukabhaya, and there was also a place of execution.

The Candalas who were employed in the city ,had their village known as Candalagama to the north-west of the general cemetery. This village seems to have had a population at least of about 2000 people during Pandukabhayas time, judging from the numbers given in the Mahavamsa To the north-east of this village there was a cemetery exclusively for candalas known as Nicasusana(Lover cemetery). Mention is made of a stable for horses assamandala, near the city during the time of Devanampiya-Tissa.There were also four suburbs, Dvaragam laid out by Pandukabhaya.

By the third century B.C practically the whole of Sri Lanka with the exception of the hilly country and the eastern coast, seems to have been populated though not very thickly perhaps. Almost all the habitable spots were were occupied. Henry Parker argues in favour of Mahagama and its surrounding villages as the first settlements of the early Aryans who landed here. Kirinda in the south according to him being the actual landing place. He says that all the early settlements of the leading chiefs were termed gama village and the capital became Mahagama the great village of the country.

Weather we agree with this suggestion or not there is no doubt that the area watered by the rivers Valaveganga,Kirindi-oya , Manik-ganga and Kumbukkan (modern kataragama).The representatives of these Ksatriyas were amongthe distinguished personages who attended the celebration held in honour of the Bodhi-branch brought from India by Sanghamitta.One of the first Bo-saplings was planted at Kajaragama.Devanampiya-Tissas brother, the vice-regent Mahanaga, in order to escape the dangerous consequence of the queens treachery, fled with his family from Anuradhapura to Ruhuna ,and ruled in Mahagama. The fact that Mahagama suggests that the Ksatriyas there were connected with the royal family at Anuradhapura. Throughout the history of Sri Lanka we find Ruhuna, the last refuge and sanctury of freedom. Whenever there was danger at Anuradhapura, either from foreign invasion or from internal conflicts, Kings, ministers, monks and others who desired freedom and protection took shelter in the SOUTH.

There was another settlement called Candanagama, hitherto unidentified, where too there were Ksatriyas. The representatives of these also were among those present at the celebrations of the Mahabodhi at Anuradhapura during Devanampriya-Tissas reign. One of the first Bo-saplings was planted here.

Mahanagas journey to Mahagama for safety shows that there was communication between Anuradpura and Mahagama. The road between these two places ran through centiyagiri

(now Mihintale) Kacchakatittha (Magantota) or Vaddhamanakatittha (known also by the names Sahassatittha (dahastota) and Assamandalatittha) Mahiyangana(modern Aluthnuwara) Dihavapi and Guttahalaka (BUTTALA).This road also served always as a military route. There is no doubt that there were on this road many places of habitation though much of the road lay across desolate jungle (antaramagge agamakaranne).

Anuradhapura and the surrounding districts, within a radius of about 60 or 70 miles, seem to have been well populated. Pandukabhaya in his military campaign against his uncles, in order to subjugate the border districts (paccantagama) is reported to have withdraws as far south as Dolapabbata (supposed to be the modern Dolagalavela) in the Bintanna district. Thus at least the districts between Anuradhapura and Dolapabbata were well populated.

The districts to the west and north-west of Anuradhapura the area where some of the earliest villages were established, were also well populated. There were four road connecting the capital with four famous sea ports situated along the coast between north and west namely Mahatitta (mantai near Mannar) Jambukolapattna in the north Gonagamapattana(oa the eastern coast) and the sea port at the mouth of the Mahakandara river (probably in the north).The last three have not yet been definitely. The localities round these sea ports were without doubt inhabited and the four roads ran through many villages, great and small. It is said that when the Bodhi-branch was taken from jambukulapattana to Anuradhapura the procession halted at several places. Particular mention being made of village of a brahmana named Tivakka.

There was another settlement in Kalyani (modern Kalaniya) About a century after Devenampriya_Tissa, in the second century B.C, we know definitely that there was a kingdom at Kalaniya. Duttha_Gamanis mother the daughter of king Tissa of Kalyani the famous Vihara-Mahadevi, came from this principality. The Rajavaliya says that Yatala Tissa, the son of mahanaga,Devanamoriya_tissas brother who fled from Anuradhapura ruled in kalaniya and built the cetiya there. It is quite reasonable to assume that this principality was among the earliest settlements in Sri Lanka.

The Mahavamsa -Tika says that the early Aryans who came to this Island opened up new settlements in areas where water was easily available. These were mainly along the principal rivers of Sri Lanka. Anuradhagama and other early gamas (villages) such as Upatissa, Ujjeni, Uruvela and Vijita were on the rivers Kadambanadi Malvatu-oya) Gambhira-nadi and kala-oya .Then there were settlements along the Mahavali-ganga and the Amban-ganga,particularly round about Kacchakatittha (Magantota) In the south settlements were distributed among the four rivers Kumbukkan-oya, Manik-ganga(kappakandara) Kirindioya and Valave-Ganga. Another settlements was along the valley of the Kalani-ganga where there was no river water easily available, large reservoirs were built in order to make the settlement habitable. Thus there is reference quite early in history to tanks builts by Anuradha and Pandukabhaya.

This great concern for an abundance of water in reserve proves the fact that the early settlers(as well as the later Sinhalese) depended on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. The Mahavamsa reports that Pandukabhayas uncle Girikanda-Siva cultivated an area of 100 Karisa9about 800 acres)

 

The Roll Of A Buddhist Monk in Sri Lanka

Buddhist Remaining In Jaffna