By Gamini Jayasinghe
The time for the offering of Katina cheevara – thick robes for the rainy season to Buddhist priests who observed “Vas” or the rainy season sojourn ends on Il Full Moon Poya day. Hence a series of meritorious activities come to an end. Apart from this Il Full Moon Poya Day is of special significanice for Buddhists due to numerous religious events taken place on this day and during the month of Il.
Sending missionaries for the first time to propagate Buddhism, conversion of three Kassapa brothers, ”Devarohanaya” or descending from the celestial world and attainment of Arahant Sariputta’s parinibbana are the significant events that took place on this full moon poya day and during the month of Il. It was also on an Il full moon poya day that Gauthama Buddha gave the positive explanation or assurance to Maithree Bodhisattva of becoming a Buddha.
A period full of religious events comes to an end
The previous month had been a very busy one for Buddhist monks who had to participate in Katina Pinkama ceremonies. They had to attend to Pirith chanting ceremonies and Katina perahera celebrations in addition to organizing religious events in their own temples. Minds of laymen are also full of faith and piety having offered Katina Cheevara and having participated in religious activities in addition to listening to Dhamma.
Explanation or assurance to Maîtree Bodhisattva of becoming a Buddha
Maithree Bodhisattva who completes the performances of Buddhist Ordinances as a prerequisite of becoming a Buddha i.e. Paramitha during a period of “Solos Asankeyya Kalpa Laskshaya” was a celestial being. He had departed from heaven during the Gautama Buddha’s period and was born in Sankassa Pura, about 48 miles away from Sravasthi”Sewath Nuwara” as the son of a rich noble –man named Siriwardhana.
He completed his studies well under the great teacher,”Disapamok “and inherited quite a lot of wealth from his parents. He had a large number of followers. He had the occasion to see “Dewarohanaya Mahapuja” and to listen to the discourse between the Buddha and Arahant Sariputta. He was delighted and entered priesthood under the Buddha with his followers numbering about one thousand. He attained the Higher Ordination, learnt the Dhamma and taught the others. This thera observed “Vas and received a couple of valuable Katina Cheewara. He knew the efficacy or the effect of Katina Cheewara Dana and offered both of them to the Buddha. With one of them he made a canopy for the Buddha’s fragrant House – Gandha Kutiya. He tore the other robe into strips and hung them at the edges of the canopy. Buddha explained the merits of Cheewara Puja and gave ‘Niyatha Viwarana”- permission or assurance of becoming a Buddha.
Gauthama Buddha told the followers that Maithree Bodhisattva would be born as the son of “Sakwithi Raja” the Universal king Sanka in the Kethumathi Kingdom during this Maha Badra Kalpa. Brahamini Badrawathie will be his mother. Banyan or Nuga tree will be his Bodhiya.
Maithri Bodhisattva worshipped the Buddha and accepted “Niyatha Vivarana”. This happened on an Il Full Moon Poya day like today.
By the first Il full moon poya day after the Buddha’s Enlightenment there were sixty one Arahants including the Buddha Himself. There were the five Brahmin ascetics, Kondagnna, Baddhiya, Wappa, Mahanama and Assaji. Kondagnna was the youngest of the eight Brahmins who were invited for prince Siddhartha’s naming ceremony. He foretold that prince Siddhartha would certainly become the Buddha. Together with Baddhiya, Wappa, Mahanama and Assaji who were the sons of four other Brahmins, retired to the forest in anticipation of prince Siddhartha’s renunciation. They attended to ascetic Siddhartha when he was striving to attain Buddha hood. After the Enlightenment Buddha expounded “Dharma Cakka Pavattana sutta” and they attained Arahantship. Kondagnna was the first to realize the four Noble Truths and the eight fold path to Nirvana. He was followed by the other four.
Conversion of Yasa and his followers
Next to be converted was Yasa, son of a millionaire in Benaris who met Buddha while going away from home after realizing the vanities of worldly life. When Buddha expounded Dharma, Yasa attained Arahantship. Venerable Yasa’s father who came across the Buddha while going in search his missing son became the first lay disciple of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Venerable Yasa Thera’s mother and the former wife were the first two female lay disciples of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Venerable Yasa had fifty four friends. Having heard of venerable Yasa’s conversion they too entered the Order and attained Arahantship.
Sixty Arahants to propagate Buddhism- Charatha Bhikkhawe Carikan
Thus by the first Il full moon poya day after the Enlightenment of the Exalted one there were sixty one Arahants excluding the Buddha Himself. Buddha dispatched them in various directions to propagate the sublime Dharma.
“Charatha Bhikkhawe Carikan….” Buddha requested the first sixty Arahants to go forth for the good and happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit and happiness of gods and men and preach the Dharma which is excellent in the beginning, in the middle and at the end. He told them that no two should go in a single direction so that they could be of assistance to as many as possible.
He said that there were some who had lust in them, but many who could understand the Dharma. With this exhortation the Buddha dispatched His first sixty disciples in various directions and He Himself went to Uruwela in Senanigama.
It is better to seek oneself than to seek a missing woman
On His way to Uruwela Buddha met thirty young men. Twenty nine of them were with their wives. They had gone to a grove for amusement. The thirtieth prince who was a bachelor had taken a courtesan and that woman had fled with the valuables of the others. When the princes were going in search of that woman they met with the Buddha and He explained to them that it was better to seek oneself than to seek the missing woman. They realised the truth and all entered the Order and received the Higher Ordination.
Ordination of Jatila brothers
Buddha proceeded to Uruwela to be of service to the Jatila brothers who lived in Aramayas along the river Neranjana. The eldest Uruwela Kassapa who was very proud and arrogant lived in the upper part of the river with five hundred followers. Nadi Kassapa who had three hundred followers lived in the middle part of the river and the youngest Gaya Kassapa lived in the lowest part of the river basin with two hundred followers.
Buddha first went Uruwela Kassapa’s Aramaya and subjugated him by displaying three thousand and sixteen miracles. Uruwela Kassapa who realized the truth entered the priesthood with his followers. Their crowns of matted hair were thrown into the river. Nadi Kassapa who saw his elder brother’s matted hair floating down the river rushed to his Aramaya to ascertain what had happened to his brother and his followers. When he went there with his followers Buddha preached Dharma to him and all of them entered the priesthood. Gaya Kassapa and his followers too entered the priesthood in the same manner.
Aditta Pariyaya Sutta –All in flames
Kassapa brothers and their followers had developed their own spiritual attainments and they could understand Buddha’s doctrine without much difficulty. Buddha accomplished them to Gayasisa and preached the “Aditta Pariyaya Sutta” – All in flames – hearing which all of them attained Arahantship.
Buddha’s visit to King Bimbisara at Rajagaha Nuwara
In keeping with a promise made to King Bimbisara Buddha proceeded to Rajagaha accompanied by one thousand and three Arahants including Uruwela Kassapa, Nadi Kassapa and Gaya Kassapa. King Bimbisara went with a large following to receive the Buddha and pay respects to Him. It was a difficult task for the king to realise whether Buddha was a disciple of Arahant Kassapa or Arahant Kassapa was a disciple of the Buddha. It so happened because ascetic Kassapa was held with high esteem as an ascetic.
After reading the king’s thoughts Buddha questioned Arahant Kassapa as to why he abandoned fire worship. In order to clear the king’s doubts Arahant Kassapa said that Buddha was the Unique One and his great teacher and that he was His disciple.
Offering of Veluwanaramaya – the Bamboo Grove
The king and the people were happy about the clarification. In order to indicate that Buddha and Arahant Uruwela Kassapa were similarly converted in previous births Buddha preached the Maha Narada Kassapa Jathakaya. Having understood the Dhamma, king Bimbisara attained Sowan, the first of the four paths to Nirvana. He invited the Buddha and his followers to his palace for Dana and after offering Dana he also offered the Bamboo grove – Veluwanaramaya for the use of the Buddha and His disciples. All these events took place during the month of Il.
Attainment of Arahant Sariputta’s Parinibbana
It was on a subsequent Il full moon poya day that Dharma Senadhipathi and one of the Buddha’s chief disciples, Arahant Sariputta Thera who had attained the highest position in wisdom was a very intelligent youth named Upatissa in the village of Upatissa. He had three brothers named Upasena, Chunda and Revatha. He also had three sisters named Chala, Upachala and Sisupachala. Youth Upatissa renounced his ancestral religion, Brahamanism and followed the teachings of Gautama Buddha. All his brothers and sisters followed his example but his father, Vangantha adhered to Brahmanism.
Arahant Sariputta’s Assistance to his mother
His mother, Rupasari did not believe in the three-fold refuge and remained heretic even during her old age. Arahant Sariputra contemplated as to whether she possessed the virtues of attaining Nirvana by the cessation of all desires and of re-existence and realized that she could attain Sowan, the first stage or path to Nirvana. Hence after obtaining permission from the Buddha to attain Parinibbana, Arahant Sariputta made an opportune visit to his mother followed by hundreds of thousands of weeping people who had heard about Maha Thera’s Parinibbana.
Arahant Sariputta preached to his mother the virtuous properties of the Buddha such as the moral conduct, wisdom, intelligence, sense of liberation, knowledge of emancipation and meditation, vision and philosophy and loving kindness to convince her that Buddha was a peerless teacher and the Unique One.
After listening to her son patiently Brahamini Rupasari gave up her beliefs in heathenism and attained Sowan. Arahant Sariputta Maha Thera was happy that he could repay his mother for bringing him up.
After being of service to many including his own mother Arahant Sariputta Maha Thera attained Parinibbana on an Il full moon day.