Gautama Buddha visited Lanka for the second occasion five years after the Enlightenment and four years and three months after His first visit to Lanka to settle a dispute between Yakkhas and Nagas.
The Buddha’s second visit to Lanka on a Bak Full Moon Poya Day was to quell a rebellion among Nagas themselves.
Nagas of Nagadeepa were divided as rivals. One group led by Naga king Mahodara (Big Tummy) and the other group led by his nephew Chulodara (Small Tummy) were up in arms. The bone of contention was a Mini Palanga – Gem throne- a seat made of gem.
War between two groups
The Buddha, who was dwelling in Sevath Nuwara Dewram Vehera with His divine eye envisaged an eminent destruction in a dreadful war between the Naga king Mahodara and his nephew Chulodara. During that time the Northern and the Southern regions of Lanka were ruled by Nagas and the hill country by Devas.
Naga king Mahodara who ruled the Northern region from Naga deepa owned a gem throne – a Mini Palanga, inherited from his ancestors. His sister’s son Chulodara too claimed ownership to the gem throne.
He too had a large number of followers and both sides were equally strong. Neither of them were willing to give in. They were about to wage war and the destruction was inevitable in case of a war between the uncle and the nephew. There was no one to appease them.
The Buddha contemplated and having seen that only He could be of assistance to both sides by preventing a war.
With compassion and loving kindness towards the Naga rulers, their followers and the whole universe in general, He decided to step in at Nagadeepa, where the dreadful war was about to begin.
The Enlightened One envisaged that His visit to Nagadeepa was the only way to prevent a horrible and formidable disaster taking place.
Accompanied by deity Samuddhi Saman, who was haunting the Kiripalu tree near Dewram Vehera the Enlightened One proceeded to Nagadeepa in Lanka in a bid to prevent the Naga rulers and their followers from getting one another destroyed in a dreadful war.
In the words of the Omniscient One craving leads to destruction
“Hanti Bhoga Dummedhan, No ce para gavesino Bhoga Tanhaya Dummedo, Hanti Anneca Attanan”
Wealth destroys the fool, and not them, who seek the goal .Through craving for wealth the fool harms not only himself, but also the others.
Only the Buddha was able to bring under control Choladara and Mahodara who had turned arch rivals by that time.
However, it was not possible to appease them merely by preaching. Hence the Exalted One created a dense darkness to make the Nagas realise the powers of their visitor.
The Nagas, including Chulodara and Mahodara, were frightened and scared because they had not experienced such a situation earlier in their lifetime. They realised that the Buddha possessed super natural powers.
The Enlightened One thus subjugated and brought Nagas under control and the atmosphere created by Him was congenial for Him to direct them in the correct path.
When the Nagas were ready to listen to the Buddha He preached Kokalika Jathakaya to make them realise that nothing could be gained by being rivals.
Buddha also preached Latukika Jathakaya in which Bodhisatwa was born as a snipe, who got his life saved by observing satyaparamitha.
It was a conflagration or a large fire in which a lot of land, houses and lives were destroyed but the Bodhisatva’s life was saved because he observed Satyaparamitha.
The Buddha made the Nagas to realise that hatred is never appeased by hatred.
It is appeased by non hatred.
“Esa Dhammo Sanata no”
The Exalted One also made them to realise that some people quarrel due to their ignorance and that they do not gain anything but perish themselves by quarrelling.
“Parecana Vijananthi Maya metta Yamamahe, Yeca tatta Vijananti Tata samanatti Medhayo.”
Those who quarrel do not realise that they perish by quarrelling. If they do realise they will never quarrel.
Avariciousness leads to sorrow and fear
The Buddha also made the Nagas realise that avariciousness leads to sorrow and fear.
“Thanhaya Jayathi Soko, Tanhaya Jayati Bhayan, Tanhaya Vippa Muttassa Natti soko kuto Bhayan” -Dhamma Pada.
Avariciousness leads to sorrow and fear. Those who have given up lust and avariciousness or extreme desire will be free from the pain of fear and sorrow.
By making the Nagas realise these facts the Omniscient One was able to bring about reconciliation between the rival groups of Nagas. They became very pious and embraced Buddhism. Neither Chulodara nor Mahodara had any desire to own the gem throne, which they cherished so far.
The Nagas came to a conclusion and offered the gem throne to the Buddha.
Reposed upon the Mini Palanga the Enlightened One preached Dhamma again.
Thereupon the Nagas requested for an object for them to worship. The Exalted One gave them the Mini Palanga – the gem throne, which had by then become a Paribhogika Wasthu- an item used by the Omniscient One.
Circumstances which paved way for Buddha’s third visit
These circumstances paved way for Buddha’s third visit to Lanka. Maniakkhika was the ruler of Kelaniya.
He had gone to Nagadeepa to provide support to his nephew, Mahodara in the war. He too had been directed to the correct path by the Buddha. After listening to Dhamma from the Enlightened One, Maniakkhika Naga king too embraced Buddhism and made an invitation to the Buddha to pay a visit to kingdom Kelaniya.
With compassion and Loving Kindness the Enlightened One accepted the invitation and during the eighth year after the Enlightenment He visited Lanka for the third and the final occasion.
Commencement of the civilization in the country
According to Mahavansa the Buddha’s second visit is an important land mark in the history of Sri Lanka as it was the commencement of the civilization in this country. The Naga kings had built a shrine named Rajayatana at the place where the Buddha preached Dhamma. The area where the shrine was constructed was known during that time as Nagapattan. King Salendra of India too had built a Buddhist temple known as Naga Pattan.
During the 1867 archaeological excavations, a large number of Buddhist statues were recovered from this place. This is evidence to the fact that Lankans and the people in that locality in particular, had observed Buddhist religious rites in the past. Buddhaghosa Maha Thera who had translated Buddhist scriptures into Pali had come to Lanka from Nagapattan.
King Agga Bodhi II, who was a devoted Buddhist, had renovated Rajayathanaya Viharaya and the Relic repository to facilitate devotes to worship. Close to the Jaffna peninsula there is a small island called Nainathivu. This island is also known as Nagadeepa. There is also a recently built temple in this island. Some Buddhists believe that this is the place where the Buddha had set foot on.
However, substantial evidence is not available to take it for granted that this is the exact place where Buddha had set foot on. According to the available legendary evidence and archaeological findings it is in the Jaffna peninsula itself that the Buddhist events had taken place.
Prince Aritta, who served as king Devanampiyatissa’s envoy carrying his message to the emperor Dharmasoka in Dambadiva – ancient India- requesting him to send a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi had embarked at Dambakola (Jambukola).
Arahant Sanghamitta Maha Theri who brought the Sri Maha Bodhi sapling to Sri Lanka too had disembarked at the port of Dambakola.
Archaeologists suspect that this port was situated at Sambuthurai (Jambuthurai) about three miles away from Kankesanthurai (Keerimalai) Ruins of a Buddhist monastery were recovered from this place and the people of the area call this place Gothumalu, meaning Bodhimlu, in Sinhala.
According to legendary evidence, one of the eight sprigs of Sri Maha Bodhi (Atta Maha Phala) had been planted there.
About half a mile to the South of Sambuthurai there is a place called Thisamalai (Tissa Maluwa).
This is believed to be the site of Tissa Maha Viharaya built at the place, where king Devanampiyatissa awaited the arrival of Sri Maha Bodhi. Ruins of Buddhist temples have been recovered from Kandarodai village in the Jaffna peninsula.
This place is mentioned in the Sinhala Nampotha as Kadurugoda Viharaya.
This is believed to be the place where the Buddha preached Dhamma to Nagas. There is no legendary evidence to be sure about the exact place in the Jaffna Peninsula (Nagadeepa) at which Buddha had stepped in.