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Upasampada

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The major link between Sri Lanka and Thailand

 

Samanaera been inducted

 

Poson Poya activities at the two Maha Vihares of Malwatta and Asgiri also indicate that the Upasmapada or Higher Ordination rites have been concluded. But, what was the reason for Padre Maria Percoto to translate “Upasampada Kammavaca” which describes Upasampada ceremonies to Italian under the title “ Kammava Ossia Trattato della orgdinazilo seconde online detti Penzi”.   
In the Malwatta circles it is said that Padre Percoto took these recorded versions to Rome - the Bastion of Roman Catholicism and handed it over to the then Pope with the comments that some of these actions during the Upasampada ceremonies could be incorporated into the ceremonies in investing Catholic Priests into the Order

  
To the laymen it is a tedious process.and so it is for the ‘Samaneras ‘. In the morning hours the Samenera is questioned by the Mahnayake or the Anunayake in order to ascertain that he knows his basics to serve the people. He is also questioned about any marks [on his body] that had been inflicted on him. The rites conducted at both Asgiri and Malwatta Maha Vihares do not differ from the original rites brought into the country by Upali Maha Thera in 1753, 264 years ago, coming up to 265 years now.

  
A British government agent, Dickson gives a first hand account of the Upasampada ceremony conducted at Malwatta Maha Vihare in 1872. He says: “From the Sri Dalada Maligawa, the novices mount on tuskers and are taken into the Temple Square. Thereafter they are taken to the respective Maha Vihares”.

 

The rites conducted at both Asgiri and Malwatta Maha Vihares do not differ from the original rites brought into the country by Upali Maha Thera in 1753, 264 years ago, coming up to 265 years now

 

 When the two hundred and sixtieth year was celebrated, the Princess of Thailand arrived to participate in the ceremonies that were conducted in Kandy. This then is the major link between Sri Lanka and Thailand in bringing Upasampada into the country from Thailand. But in fact Upasampada rites were taken to Thailand from Sri Lanka during the reign of King Parakarama Bahu II ( 1153 ).   
The next was the official and ceremonial launch by the then President Mahinda Rajapaska, where he gifted ‘ Atapirikara’ to the Mahanayake of Malwatta, Venerable Tibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera to be donated to all “ Wahalnaga “ (Royal Samenara ) Thera’s who would receive Upasampada rites from Vesak to Poson But, though this rite had been continued even by the British, where the Head of State had offered the ‘Wahal Naga ‘ Atapirikara, now it comes from the Sri Dalada Maligawa, supported by the Buddhist commissioner.

 

Receiving the blessings from the Karaka Sabha

 

What is this “ Wahalnaga”? The best Samanera, chosen during the period of the Upasampada, where they are questioned about the teachings of Buddha and the stanzas recited in order to serve the people, the most competent one is raised to the standard of the” Wahalnaga”. Or sometimes the Mahnayake has the discretion of choosing a “ Wahalnanga”  or Royal Samenera from Wesak to Poson poya. However there would be four of them from each Maha Vihare. This is considered a crowning moment for any Buddhist monk.

  
It has been the custom from the days of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe to offer a ‘ Atapirikara”  to the “Wahalnaga”  from the royal household and it continued . Even during British times, the governor offered one and the practice has continued since then. With the constitutional changes it went to the Diyawadana Nilame for some reason or other.But, with the Presidency it went back to the President, which is now offered through the Buddhist Commissioner General. There is an addition for several years, where even travelling expenses are paid to the Samaneras coming for the Upasampada ceremonies.

 

In the reign of Saenmuengma. Lana monks headed by the Elder Medhankara came to Sri Lanka with two other monks for re-ordination and then returned to Lana 
(Thailand )

 

The pinnacle of any monk who has entered the refuge of Buddha is to perform ‘ Vas’, which could be only undertaken by a monk who has been bestowed with Upasampada rites.

  
Though Upasampada rites was brought to Sri Lanka in 1753, most of us have forgotten the fact that it was during the reign of King Parakarama Bahu the Great ( about 1153 AD ) a great supporter of Theravada Buddhism, these rites were taken to Thailand . The Seventh Buddhist Council was held under the chairmanship of Kassapa Thera of Dimbulagala, during the same period.  

 
Neighboring lands, such as Burma, Thailand ( then known as Lanna ) Pegu ( Lower Burma) and Cambodia flocked to Sri Lanka in order to acquaint themselves of the Buddha Dhamma. Then Thailand also sent monks to learn and obtain Upasamapda rites . Later these rites became to be known as ‘Lankavamsa rites’, as the rites were taken from Sri Lanka or Lanka to Thailand.   


During the reign of Thailand’s King Khunrajiajhaeng, two Sri Lankan monks were resident in a temple at Nakhon Sri Thammarat. The king is said to have gone down to the monastic head of the Sangha, where the Sri Lankan monks were staying. It is recorded that it was during this time that a Buddha image ‘Sihing’ was brought to Nakhon Si Thanammarat and the Elder Dhammkitti and his followers came to study Buddhism in Sri Lanka.   


In ancient Thailand there were two groups of monks, the Mon group and Lana .In the reign of Saenmuengma. Lana monks headed by the Elder Medhankara came to Sri Lanka with two other monks for re-ordination and then returned to Lana ( Thailand ).The 260th Upasampada ceremonies at the two established Maha Vihares ends on Poson. These rites were brought into the country when there was not a single monk with the ‘Upasampada Karmaya’or Higher Ordination.   


The age old custom of Upasampada or Higher Ordination continues in Sri Lanka with all the rites and rituals since 1753. The fact is that this’ rite’ fulfills the life of a ‘Samenra’ to the status of a fully-fledged monk is the ultimate goal . But, the continuity of this tradition of Upasampada is in the same basic form both at Malwatta and Asgiri Vihares, which remain so. It is unique.  

 
But, there came a time when Sri Lanka had not a single monk who had been ordained with Upasampada rites and it was Weliwita Asarana Sarana Sarankara Thera who took the initiative to request the king to bring these ceremonies back to Sri Lanka from then Siam or Thailand.   


The temples fell into disuse and the Sangha was interested in mundane affairs rather than serving the people. A class of monks known as “Ganinnansea” sprung up and they did more damage than the teachings of The Buddha. In fact Buddhism fell into an abyss and Catholism spread quickly in the Kandyan Kingdom .   


It was at this time that Welivita Saranankara Thera entered Bikkhuhood under the then learned residing monk at Suriyagoda. Incidentally, the Suriyagoda monk had been bestowed with Upasampada rites by a Burmese group of monks, who had travelled to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Wimaladhramasuriya II. It is stated that these Burmese monks had ordained and delivered Higher Ordination to those qualified monks to receive the rites. The location where the rites were performed was on the banks of Mahaweli River at Getambe in Kandy. Books were rare but the Venerable Suriyagoda Rajaguru had certain important books which were protected as the life blood of the religion.   


It was in this period that this young person formed an organisation called “ Silvath Samagama” - a pious association. In numerous ways he fell foul with the feudal fraternity and was banished to Laggala without the knowledge of the king. He was brought back and in the in the period of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe and was sent as the first emissary to bring Upasampada to Sri Lanka. But the attempt failed. It was the third delegation of twenty-two monks who arrived in Sri Lanka headed by Upali Thera which was successful.   


On Esala full moon day, Upali Thera and the Siamese monks arrived in Godapola in the Matale district. From here the delgation of monks were brought in procession to Kandy. An area for the Upasampada ceremonies was marked as a ‘Sima Malaka’ ( confined area ). The area where the first ceremonies were enacted is now known as the ‘Poyage’ in the Malwatta Maha Vihare. Likewise in Asgiriya Maha Vihare. However there are markings at Adhana Maluwa to indicate that ‘Poyage’ existed in this area for Asgiriya Maha Vihare.

 
The first suggested record of an  Upasampada rite was for Weliwita Thera. But, Weliwita Thera had said that he must have a monk senior to him in order to pay obeisance and to venerate.Therefore Mahanayake Kobbekaduwa of Malwatta was first bestowed with Upasampada rites followed by theros Saranankara, Hulangamuwa Bambaradeniya, Tibbotuwawe and Navinne.        

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