A section of the Tipitaka
The Pali Tipitaka volumes form the foundation source of the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition. Tipitaka Dharma constitutes of the Sutra Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka and the Abhidharma Pitaka apart from including the Atthakatha and Teeka.
This is the most prominent sacred heritage in the world history which has been brought forward for generations by listening to verbal recitation and memorising. Since the first Dhamma Sangayana to the transcription of the Tipitaka at the Matale Alu Viharaya in 1st Century A.D, the Maha Theros and their student generation preserved this Dharma through oral form.
The Buddha’s teachings were divided into nine parts during his lifetime. During the first Dhamma Sangayana it was divided into three parts as Sutra Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka and the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Dhamma preached by the Buddha over the 45 years was preached by 500 bhikkhus jointly by memorising those teachings, at this first Dhamma Sangayana. After that the great responsibility of preserving this Vinaya Pitaka for the benefit of the Sasanaya was vested in Ven. Upali Maha Thero and his student generation.
The Sutra and the Abhidhamma Pitaka, since the first Dhamma Sangayana, was also handed over to each respective generation. The bhikkhus who were given the responsibility of continuing and preserving each part of the Tripitaka was named as ‘Bhanaka’. Accordingly, Bhanaka Theravaru was titled as Diga, Majjima, Sanyuktha, Anguththara, Dhammapada and Maha Ariyawansha and in ancient Sinhala stone inscriptions (Shilalipi) they were named as Majimabanaka, Sayunabanaka, Utharabanaka and Pelabanaka.
The responsibility of a Bhanaka is to carry forward the Dhamma from generation to generation. The well experienced and intelligent monk will achieve the status of Bhanaka for the section of the Tipitika, which he can memorise in a more sustainable manner. Accordingly, the monk who learns the first 50 Suthra of Majjima Nikaya will be called Majjima Bhanaka while the monk who knows the Jataka tales, Atuas and Dhammapada by remembrance as Jataka Bhanaka.
The education system of the bhikkhus of Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya also included capturing the Dharma explained by the educator by listening as well as to preserve it for generations. We have pride when taking into the consideration the manner in which the bhikkhus of the Maha Vihara preserve this Tipitaka Dharma to continuously maintain the preservation of Budda Bashitaya, the most complicated efforts taken by bhikkhus of the Maha Vihara was mentioned in the Anguttarakatawa.
Anubudhu Mihindu Maha Thero, who visited Sri Lanka 236 years after the Mahaparinirwana of Gautama Buddha, and other members of Mahasangha presented to the Sri Lankan people the Tripitaka Dharma with Atuwa, which was accepted by the first two Sangayanawa or Buddhist Councils and approved in the third Sangayanawa. For more than 218 years, the student generation of Aritta Thero preserved the Theravada Tipitaka Dharma, Atuwa and Sambudu Sasuna.
Preserving the Tipitaka
There was a fear that the erudite Theros, who knew the Tripitaka by memory, might disappear due to the period of devastating catastrophe or during droughts and various diseases. The fundamental issue faced by them was how to preserve the Tipitaka. Some monks in this calamitous situation with the aim of protecting their lives went to the sea to travel overseas. According to the Manorathapuraniya, 60 monks travelled to Malay Rata. Some monks travelled to South India for the same purpose.
Even though facing starvation during the famine, they preached the Tipitaka. Accordingly, the bhikkhus preserved the Tripitaka with Atuwa for nearly 12 years, facing untold miseries.
The first part of the Manoratapuraniya revealed that the bhikkhus who visited Dambadiva during the famine period of 12 years after returning to the country joined with the bhikkhus who lived in the country during the difficult period, at the Mandalaramaya in ‘Kallagama’ village. Prof. Anuradha Seneviratne in his book titled’ Lakdiva Budu Sasuna Ha Sinhala Sanskruthiya’ mentioned that these bhikkhus gathered at the Mandalarama Viharaya to compare the Dharma Vinaya. Over four decades, since the Buddhist era to 1st century AD, our Maha Sangha committed to continuously take forward the Sasanaya without any destruction, to scrutinize whether the Dhamma Vinaya in practical life was inconsistent with the Buddha’s sermons and teachings. According to the articles of Prof. M.M.J. Marasinghe, it was exposed that the trust placed on the vast Buddhist literature included in the Pali Pitaka book, which was not damaged because those bhikkhus took this forward from generation to generation.
The Tipitaka Dharma is a great inheritance of the people.
The Aloka lena (cave with light) spread Saddharmalokaya. The historic Aluviharaya cave temple close to Matake is the most sacred eternal religious place. This is the central place where the historic as well as imcomparable incident of transcribing of tripitaka Dharmaya took place. In the 13th century, it was said that ‘If from a certain place the light of the Saddharmaya spread to the world, that place is the Aloka lena.
The Tripitaka was written during the rule of king Walagamba or Wattagamini Abhaya.
Prof. Anuradha Seneviratne states that Deepavansa and Mahavansa state that the ‘Tipitaka’ was written in the first century AD. It is said that it took place in Matale Aluvihare temple in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Written in the thirteenth century, the Poojawaliya reveals that “In the days of the king Walagambha, the Dhamma was recited by 500 Arahats”. This revelation of the 14th Century Edition reveals this: “The Tipitaka volume was written at the Aluvihara Temple and compiled in book form in the city of Mathula by five hundred Buddhist Arahats.
There is no doubt that the sacred site of Aluvihara Temple is where the original Tipitakaya was written.
When the King Dewanapathis inquired from Mihindu Thera about whether the Buddha Sasana was in good shape, he has said, “The Buddha Sasana is not rooted”. The Buddha Sasana took the roots of this land to the ground, teaching the prelate that he was teaching his son at this same island and describing it in the same way and preaching it.
This reveals that great harbinger of Buddhism did not at least expect Buddhism to be a treasure that should be secured by the foreign erudite, says Prof. Paranavithana. Mihindu Thero was working with the purpose of making Buddhism a national institution.
An excellent timely decision
Thus after Buddhism was established likewise, building Buddhist temples, developing them, providing hospitality to the Bhikkus with “Sivupasa” and working as a guardian of the Buddhist order was often looked forward to by all the kings. In these circumstances, the Theravada Tipitakaya, which being secured and preserved for 2300 years by the Bhikkus, the Buddhists and the kings sacrificing their lives, was officially announced as a pure heritage of the Sri Lankan nation is indeed an historic occasion.
This is indeed a timely decision taken by President Maithripala Sirisena for the sake of securing the heritage of Buddhism.
United Nations has accepted Sri Lanka as the centre of Theravada Buddhism and President Maithripala Sirisena proclaiming the Tipitakaya as a national heritage is a proud moment for the entire nation.
The inscription of Tripitaka has guarded against the irrational connotations which influence the meaning of the Buddha’s words and whether things are added differently to the philosophy of the Pitaka books and code of discipline that preserved the Dhamma and the Buddhist order. Once the Tipitaka is proclaimed as the national heritage, the rights to publish Tripitaka will be vested in the Ministry of Buddha Sasana.
Philosophy of the religious life
The contribution made by President Sirisena during the past three and a half years to develop Buddhist education by providing assistance to develop Dhaham Pasal, providing new buildings for Dhamma Shala, Dhana Shala, Sanghawasa, construction of several single floor and two floor new buildings towards establishing an environment that provides comforts to the Mahasanga and other religious leaders was paramount.
President Sirisena, is a person who has displayed the virtues of giving, being generous and self disciplined as well as incurring the merits of eradicating hatred through kindness throughout his own career, before and after becoming the Head of State. Sirisena is a leader who has shown that he is a true practitioner of the preaching, “Dhammo Bhave Rakkathi Dhammachari” and that he has publicly stated that thus far he has been fortunate that no evil force has harmed him. If he had not adhered to those principles genuinely he could not have made such a bold statement and it would have been an empty, vain statement. Understanding the life of President Maithripala Sirisena filled with virtues is difficult for a society which has its beliefs divided in politics. Yet an independent observer would be able to understand his firm sympathetic nature. He has proved through his actions that he can show sympathy towards even a bitter enemy who comes to destroy him.
The ardent desire to officially pronounce Tripitaka as a national heritage is a spiritual awakening of President Sirisena himself and that came in to action with the blessings, advice, instructions and guidance of the Mahasangha.
Another instance of his ardent desire to give due placement for the national heritage was his declaration of the leaders of the 1818 Uva Wellassa rebellion as National Heroes. President named Veera Keppitipola Nilame and other rebellion leaders as National Heroes on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the rebellion.
Massive Contribution of Maha sangha
Today the whole world and the whole nation have the opportunity to instantly refer to any part of Dhamma that they want to hear through computers or mobile phones due to the major contributions made by the Maha sangha who has preserved the dhamma through the ages by memorising the teachings of the Buddha from the time of the Buddha until the sixth Century. The unique greatness of the endeavour could be genuinely felt by a person with a clear perception of the major efforts and sacrifices made by the Bikkus for five decades to finally convert the Tipitaka Dhamma into writings on ola leaves. President Sirisena, who holds a precise understanding of this hazardous task as a devoted Buddhist, will pronounce officially the Tipitaka as a national heritage treasure with great dignity and respect towards the Buddha Bhashitha.
May the light officially spread by the announcement of Tipitaka as a national heritage become the light of fortune for glorifying your life and your future!
“Sukho Buddhanam Uppado
Sukha Sanghassa Samaggi
Samaggahang Thapo Sukho”