“Vadinu Menavi Nidukanani” - Land of Dhamma Established 2,340 years ago is heading towards Anarchy
- A clarion call to
H C P Bell, former Director of Archaeology, says, “Mihintale”, is the perfect sanctuary for the sons of Buddha that they could find throughout the length & breadth of Ceylon”
Poson poya is significant for Sri Lankan Buddhists. The appearance of Arhath Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka in Sri Lanka from Jambudvipa shaped the destiny of its people and the future of the country. It is an incident unparalleled in human history. Before the arrival of Mihindu Thera, there was no structured religion, as such, people were occupied in devotional actions which would delight the deities whom they believed in; mainly the reverence of Yakkas, and nonliving things like rocks, trees, and celestial objects. Confirming to the Buddhist tradition, Arhath Mahinda progressed step by step changing the character of society. This resulted in resuscitating the socio-religious status of the island. His mission was not to introduce ‘Buddhism’, but to polish the Dhamma which has already been expounded by the Buddha and to established the national order of Sangha in the Island.
A religion known as ‘Buddhism’ was not in existence in this Island or in any part of the world then. The purpose of this article is to examine the success of Arahath Mahinda’s endeavours two millennia before and its significance in today’s context, where the practice of pure serene Dhamma is fast deteriorating, or being overshadowed by the practice of new socio-cultural pooja systems.
“Samanamayam maharaja- Dhammarajassa savaka,-Thaveva anukampaya -Dambudipa idhagata.”-
We are hermits, O Great King, adherents of the Buddha. With concern towards you all, have come hither from India.
Arahath Mahinda, tested the IQ of the King Devanampiyatissa with a sequence of questions which is renowned and welcomed as the first IQ Test documented in any part of the world
The simplest way to describe religion is to describe it as a ‘belief in’, or the reverence of a God. Religious groups establish powerful and convincing ‘insights’ in men by creating thoughts of what is moral and what they believe is immoral. For a great number of people, religion presents the power and strength necessary to deal with unending difficulties or misfortunes. Religion has been at the receiving end of disapproval for decades for its vicious effects in society, for example holy wars, Jihad, terrorism through brainwashing. They argued that religious standpoints are irrational and without a logical base. Religious activities seem to become institutions. However, for many religious values are the inducements to become superior people.
Buddha Dhamma is rational and practical and it offers a pragmatic view of life and of the world. It does not lure people into living in a fool’s paradise; it does not scare and worry people with all kinds of fantasy reservations and guilt-feelings. It does not produce religious fanaticism to upset the followers of otherfaiths. Dhamma tells us precisely and impartially what we are and what the world about us is and explains us the way to ideal tranquility, peace, liberty, and happiness.
On Poson day devotees flock to Mihintale, for it was there that Arahat Mahinda enlightened the then, King Devanampiyatissa with the Dhamma.
Arahath Mahinda, tested the IQ of the King Devanampiyatissa with a sequence of questions which is renowned and welcomed as the first IQ Test documented in any part of the world. Happy with the king’s wisdom, he preached the ‘Chullahasti Padopama Sutta’ of the Majjima Nikāya.
The hilly forest abode of hoofed animals, such as deer, sambur and elk, Mihintale provided the ideal hunting ground for King Devanampiyatissa’s favourite past-time. It was where the Ambatthala Ceitiya now stands, where the summit of King Devanampiyatissa and Arahath Mihinda took place. The meeting at Missaka Pawwa premises, was the crucial moment in our ancient history. Due to the presence of numerous dagobas that adorned the rock, it was also known as Ceitiyagiri. There are ruins of an old hospital complex, and the evenly built 1840 rocky steps leading to the summit. Among the other ruins, Sinha pokuna, the Dana Salawa, Sannipata salawa or assembly hall, Naga pokuna, Kaludiya pokuna and quite a few of other archaeological interests. Arhath Mahinda, lived at Mihintale until his Parinibbana, preaching on the word of the Buddha to the King and the people. He was deeply involved in converting and cautiously watching the progress of the nation towards a ‘Dhammadveepa’.
Dr E W Adikaramrefers to Samantha pasadika version of Mahinda’s arrival, agreeing with the Mahavamsa account which states, after the third council Mahinda Thera was requested by the Sangha to visit Ceylon and inaugurate the order in the island. Arhath Mahinda deferred his visit as the then king Mutasiva who preceded Devanampiyatissa, was too old and frail to comprehend the Dhamma. The king and the people of the country gradually became followers of the Dhamma. Ref. - “Early history of Buddhism in Ceylon”
This resulted in a cultural revolution, influenced by the teachings of the Buddha. Sri Lankan culture became a Buddhist culture; which remained intact for more than 18 centuries. The rulers of the island as a practice intervened in religious matters and their actions were based on Buddhist morals. A king whose pastime was hunting became a vegetarian, followed by a large section of the population. Agricultural economy replaced the traditional meat industry. Arhat Mahinda’s visit followed six months later with that of his own sister, Sanghamitta Therini, who arrived with the purpose of forming a Bhikkhuni Sasana, in the island. The Bo sapling she brought with her -- a branch of the Siri Maha Bodhi -- was planted in the Sacred soil of the Mahamevuna Uyana, which continues to bless the nation.
Foreign attack and dominance for four and a half centuries have, to a certain extent transformed the cultural uniqueness of Sri Lankan people, especially in coastal towns, when the Portuguese, Dutch and British cultures influenced the local societies to some extent but the cultural and religious identity of the nation as a whole remained unaffected . The introduction of tobacco, alcohol and animal slaughter for food by Europeans changed the lifestyles of elite segments of locals.
Offering one hundred thousand flowers of different varieties; one hundred thousand of Jasmines or one million Araliya, peraheras with hundred elephants, Wesak pandals illuminated by ten million bulbs, are not the true Buddhism. We need learned Bikkhus to preach pure Dhamma discourses, in a similar manner that Arahant Mihindu Thera did. Let us determine on this significant occasion, to re-establish inter-religious, inter-ethnic harmony that we have failed to achieve for several decades. An alcohol-free, anti-tobacco nation and be free from slaughter of millions of animal for human consumption, while practicing the basics
While few sophisticated viewers are shocked by the incidence of religious violence, there is one noteworthy exception in this regard; there remains a continuing and general belief that Buddhist societies in fact are nonviolent and harmonious. This assumption is evident in the response of surprise many people have to events like those which took place in recent past. How, many doubt, a Buddhist society — especially Buddhist monks, can become so violent in their speech in relation to ethnic and religious relations. Aren’t they supposed to be compassionate and pacifist?
As Buddhism’s coverage broadened, it came across new ways of thought. In some Mahayana societies, for example, the law of karma, the belief that righteous actions create happiness in the future and non-virtuous measures create disaster, was modified to contain new emphases on the usefulness of ritual measures and devotional performance. A third Buddhist movement, Vajrayana meaning ‘Diamond Vehicle’; [also called Tantric], developed in India a millennia ago. This pressure group was influenced by magical currents prevailing at that time aspiring to find spiritual freedom and wholesomeness more quickly.
In spite of these vicissitudes, Buddhism did not discard its basic philosophy. Instead, they were rethought, and reformed in a process that led to the formation of a great literature. Most believers of the world’s religions assert that their traditions place a premium on virtues like love, forgiveness and compassion.
History has shown us that religious traditions are human dealings, and that no matter how dignified they may be in their objectives, they display a variety of both human failings and virtues. However, there is no shortage of historical illustrations of violence in Buddhist societies. Myanmar is one good example; Sri Lanka’s ethno-lingual conflicts since 1950s, for example, involved to some extent Buddhist nationalism mainly due to Sinhalese nationalists forces. In modern Thailand too, political violence, has often been influenced by “Buddhist” involvement. Dalai Lama’s sect of Buddhism in Tibet includes actions like the razing of monasteries of rival sects.
Let us resolve to build a violent free society in this thrice-blessed island.
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