Jayasri Maha Bodhi – the most sacred tree for Buddhists
After the Parinibbana of Lord Buddha- the Enlightened One- there are three kinds of items for the worship of the Blessed One by the devotees. The first kind is “Saririka Dhathu” – relics of the Enlightened One, the eminent example being the Tooth Relic-Sri Dalada in the Hill capital. There are Buddha relics enshrined in dagabas in various places in Sri Lanka and other countries in the Buddhist world. The second category of Buddhist worship is “Paribhogika Vasthu” –items used by the Blessed One. The bowl Relic and most importantly the Asathu Bo tree which provided shelter to ascetic Siddhartha Gautama at the time when he attained the Enlightenment are examples. The third kind of Buddhist worship is Uddesika Vasthu –images of the Blessed One. The Samadhi statue at Anuradhapura Mahameuna Uyana in the seated posture, Aukana statue in the standing posture and statues in the reposing posture at Kelaniya, Bellanwila and various other places are examples.
The sacredness of Jayasiri Maha Bodhi
The most sacred tree in the world today is the Jayasiri Maha Bodhi standing at Mahameuna Uyana. It is the oldest tree of worship in the world. Sri Maha Bodhi which is now at Buddhagaya is not the original one, but the branch planted at Anuradhapura Maha Meuna Uyana on the Unduvap full moon poya day, two thousand three hundred and twenty two years ago, during the reign of king Devanampiyatissa in Sri Lanka and emperor Dharmasoka in India –Damabadiva still remains intact as the oldest sacred tree in the world.
Digvijaya policy and Dharmavijaya policy of emperor Dharmasoka
The ambition of King Asoka was to be the sole emperor of Dambadiva and for that he had to wage war against regional rulers. He was an ambitious ruler having no sympathy over regional rulers. A title was conferred and he was known as Chandasoka.
Need for a Paribhogika wasthu and fertile soil for Sri Maha Bodhi found in Sri Lanka
It occurred to Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera that Sri Maha Bodhi – the greatest Paribhogika wasthu would be the crest on the head of the king and his followers and that the land was fertile enough to establish the Sri Maha Bodhi. He was considerate of the need to establish Mehenisasna – the Order of Nuns. Princess Anula, the wife of king Devanampiyaissa’s viceroy who had already .attained Sowan – the first stage or path to Nirvana together with many others being anxious to enter the Order of Nuns. Hence Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera requested the king to send a message to emperor Dharmasoka to send Arahant Sanghamitta Theri who was the emperor’s daughter and Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera’s sister with a sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi in Buddhagaya.
Response to King Devanampiyatissa’s request
Any harm caused to a Paribhogika wasthu is a great sin which no one will dare to commit. However, Arahant Moggaliputta Tissa was aware of the fact that it was the will of the Blessed One Himself for the establishment of Sri Maha Bodhi in Lanka. Hence Arahant Moggaliputta Tissa Thera held a golden bowl and the branch of Jayasiri Maha Bodhi was separated from the main tree miraculously and was placed in the golden bowl held by Arahant Thera and Emperor Dharmasoke.
King of Lanka enraptured
The king stepped into the sea when he saw Sri Maha Bodhi being brought and proceeded until the water reached his neck. He received Sri Maha Bodhi on his head and after bringing to the shore placed it in a chariot and had set out in a procession to Anuradhapura.
Eight fruits emerging from Sri Maha Bodhi
At Anuradhapura eight fruits emerged from Sri Maha Bodhi. The king who was delighted and enraptured when he saw Sri Maha Bodhi and the eight fruits (Asta Phala) emerged from it accepted them with extreme honour and respects under Swetha Chatra- white umbrellas as of royalty and anointed them.
The Sri Maha Bodhi was planted at Mahameuna Uyana.
The site was selected by Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera and the plantation ceremony was organized by Arahant Sanghamitta Theri’s son, Sumana samanera. The ceremony took place on Unduvap full moon poya day that year. Jayasiri Maha Bodhi was planted on a high terrace, twenty feet above the ground and was surrounded by a railing which has since been gold plated.
The most sacred relics of Buddhists
Sri Maha Bodhi is today regarded as one of the most sacred relics of Buddhists not only in Sri Lanka but in the entire world. The parapet wall around the compound where Sri Maha Bodhi is planted is about 900 feet in length. This wall had been constructed during the reign of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe to protect Jayasiri Maha Bodhi from wild elephants.
Rights available for women
Arahant Sanghamitta Theri correctly made use of the rights available to women under the teachings of the Thathagatha and extended them to the other women who sought refuge in the Triple Gem.
The order of nuns – Meheni Sasna was established in Sri Lanka by Arahant Sanghamitta Theri with the ordination of princesses led by princess Anula, the wife of King Devanampiyatissa’s viceroy.
Religious acts of merit
Thus the month of Unduvap, the Unduvap Full Moon poya day is of special significance to Sri Lankan Buddhists and to mark this occasion a series of religious acts of merit or special observations or festivals are held on Unduvap full moon poya day, one of which is the Sanghamitta perahera.
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