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  Poson Supplement

 

The romantic coming of Buddhism

by Derrick Schokman

Poson Poya is the time when thousands of devotees wend their way to Mihintale to celebrate the coming of Thera Mahinda with the teachings of the Buddha.

From the foot of the hill up to the rocky pinnacle where he first encountered the apostles, King Devanpiyatissa constructed 1840 steps. For over 20 centuries numberless devotees have ascended this stone stairway filled with reverent awe.

It moved the English writer Mitton to describe it as a "stairway to Heaven". From a Buddhist point of view it is more appropriately seen symbolically as a spiritual ascent in one's own life to overcome the material cravings (tanha) which cause so much suffering (dukha).

To do this devotees must first have confidence in the Buddha, his teachings and the Bhikkhu Sanga (Triple Gem) and thereafter attempt to follow the Noble Eightfold Path which should help them to reach the highest state of spiritual enlightenment or nirvana. In the words of the Dhammapada, the learned man drives away vanity by earnestness when he climbs the terraced heights of wisdom, until at last free from sorrow he can look down on the sorrowing crowds in the plains.

King Devanampiyatissa made habitable the first caves at Mihintale for Mahinda and his party. Some of these may still be seen near the Kantaka Stupa, containing Brahmi inscriptions that go back to the third century BC.

Mahinda made Mihintale the centre of his missionary activities, finding the bustle of Anuradhapura unsuitable for a monastic life.

But that did not mean that he lived the life of a recluse. He made regular visits to the city to preach to the people.

For this purpose the king placed at his disposal a part of his royal park and built preaching halls and alms halls, which in time gave rise to the Maha Vihara, a monastery that became known far and wide as a centre of Theravada Buddhist learning.

Later when 500 nobles and others of the royal court donned the robes of Bhikkhu after ordination, the king provided them the Issararamaya monastery close to the city. The women were not second in their zeal for the new religion. The first converts were Anula, wife of the sub-king Mahanaga, and the ladies of the court. They expressed a desire to be ordained as Bhikkhunis to form the Bhikkhuni Order.

Since the rules (vinaya) did not permit Mahinda to carry out the ordination, his sister Theri Sangamitta came from India to do it, bringing with her a branch of the Pipul (Ficus) or Bodhi tree at Gaya under which the Buddha meditated and attained ultimately enlightenment.

This branch transplanted in the Mahamegha Garden in Anuradhapura as the Sri Maha Bodhi was something with which the common people could identify the new religion. Mahinda, who was just as good as psychologist as a missionary, took the opportunity to request King Devanampiyatissa to obtain from Emperor Asoka of India some bodily relics of the Buddha (Saririka dhatu) that could be worshipped in the same manner as the Sri Maha Bodhi in remembrance of his teachings. The right collarbone of the Buddha was duly enshrined in the Thuparama, the first stupa to be erected in this country. Devanampiyatissa reigned for 40 years. During the whole of that period Thera Mahinda and Theri Sangamitta lived in Anuradhapura propagating the faith and setting and inspiring example by their own lives to devotees of the faith.

The king died in 207 BC, Mahinda 8 years later and Sangamitta one year after her brother. Their names have since been held in veneration for establishing the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni orders, and introducing the cult worship of stupas and the Bodhi tree which are today an essential part of the religious establishments.

The Sri Maha Bodhi is considered to be an associative relic (Paribhogika dhatu) because the Buddha enjoyed the shade it provided.

One of the eight astapalibodhis that sprang up from the Sri Maha Bodhi soon after it was planted, was replanted at Mihintale.

In the words of historian Paul E. Pieris: "Like its pliant roots which find sustenance on the face of the rock and cleave their way through the stoutest fibre, the influence of what the Sri Maha Bodhi represents has penetrated into the innermost being of the people till the Tree itself has become almost human.

"The axe of ruthless invaders has been reverently withheld from its base. And even now on the stillest night its heart-shaped leaves on their slender stalks ceaselessly quiver and sigh as they have quivered and sighed for 23 centuries."

The foundation thus having been laid in the time of King Devanampiyatissa, Buddhism became the hereditary right of the kings who followed to be the protectors of Buddhist establishments and the teaching of the Buddha.

On account of this royal patronage and the donations of land and other properties by the royals and nobles many monasteries and stupas came into existence. The sanctuary of cave dwellings in Mihintale itself expanded into two large monasteries - the Pabbatarama Vihara in the 8th century and Hadayunha in the 10th century - the ruins of which may still be seen half-way up the Mihintale hill and around the Kaludiya Pokuna respectively.

The refectory or dansala in the Pabbatarama is one of the best preserved in these old monasteries. The rice boats (buth-oru and kenda-oru) in which rice and gruel were provided bear testimony to the fact that these monasteries supported a large number of bhikkhus - in this instance around 2000.

In the ruins of the Hadayunha Vihara near the Kaludiya Pokuna, is one of the best preserved Uposathagharas where purification rites were carried out. The Mihintale complex also boasts five Stupas, each one distinctive in its own way.

The Maha Thupa is said to be the repository of a hair relic of the Buddha - the uma roma that grew between his eyebrows signifying that he was a Maha purusha or great being.

The Ambastale falls into a special group of circular Stupas called vatadages, of which there are only ten in this country.

The Kantaka has some of the earliest sculptures. They may be seen on the alters (vahalkadas) and their stelae. Those on the stelae of the eastern vahalkada are said to be the oldest dating back to the first or second century AD. The Mihindu Seya on the restoration was found to contain the ashes and some bone fragments of thera Mahinda.

The Indikatuseya, so called because its needle or date-thorn shaped stupa, so unlike the regular rounded forms, contained another form of relic known as Dhamma Dhatu. These were sanskrit extracts from Mahayanist doctrines engraved on metal plaques that were embedded in the walls of the stupas. Thirty-one such engraved extracts on copper were discovered in the joints of the brickwork of the Indikatuseya.

Standing by this stupa at the bottom of the hill and looking up at the hilly guardian of Mahinda's memories, one is caught up in the spell of antiquity and the romantic coming of Buddhism to Lanka in King Tissa's bygone times.


Let's hold out the Olive Branch

Over the Missaka Rock
The Poson Full Moon shines above
Mingling with the glitter of oil-lamps below,
Devotees clad in snow-white garb

With bunches of jasmine flowers clasped in hand
Silently climbing the massive rock.
The resonant drums beating so loud
As if to surpass the ringing of temple bells

Reviving our memory
With an echo of Peace
Of the "Olive-Branch" held out
2310 years ago by Thero Mahinda.

The pious monk in saffron robe
With a retinue of five
Landing on the Ambastale
On the Missaka Rock this day.

Below at the foot of the hill
The mighty King Devanampiya Tissa
With bow and arrow in hand
Ready for slaugther - of innocent animals

Suddenly hears the message of Peace
Vibrating every ear
Listen! Oh! listen
The culahatthipadopama Sutta

So melodious.... so enchanting....
The bow and arrow cast aside
The King embraces the Dhamma without any pride,
Cries of "Sadhu! Sadhu!" fills the air.

Let us now revive, this message in full
At this crucial hour
For the "Olive-Branch" to flourish
To bring Peace and Harmony to our motherland.

- Amara Samaratunga


Remembering Arahant Mahinda on 
Poson Day

In the stillness of the night this Poya day,
Fullmoon shon brightly in the milky-way,
Casting its benign look on the human race,
Heralding an era for man to be humane.

Bathed in the moon light at Mihintale,
Stood Arahant Mahinda in all his grace,
Bringing a message from King Asoka the Great,
To King Devanampiyatissa of Lanka's fame.

He saw Devanampiyatissa giving chase,
With bow and arrow, taking aim.
At a deer, running, knowing its fate,
That was the picture on this eventful day.

Tissa! Tissa! called Mahinda, far away,
The King was aghast; who could call my name?
Seeing a helo on the rock at Mihintale,
He left his chase and obeisance he paid.

While preaching the Dhamma, in silence, Tissa stayed,
Gave up his chase, Dhamma he embraced,
Enthroned Buddhism as religion of the state,
To rule the country in the Buddhist way.

Let Arahant Mahinda be remembered on this holy day,
Seek solace in the sublime Dhamma way,
According to the preachings of Buddha, a treasure he gave,
And attain Nibbana, the souless state.

- G. A. D. Sirimal


Pillar edicts of King Asoka

by Lionel Wijesiri

King Asoka, father of Arahat Maha Mahinda Thera was the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty. He has come to be regarded as one of the most exemplary kings in world history. His given name was Asoka but he assumed the title Devanampiya Piyadassi which means "Beloved-of-the-Gods, He Who Looks On With Affection." The British historian H.G. Wells once said: "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history ... the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star."

Although Buddhist literature preserved the legend of this king, definitive historical records of his reign were lacking.

In the nineteenth century, a large number of edicts carved on rocks and stone pillars were discovered in India, proving the existence of King Asoka. These edicts, found scattered in more than 30 places throughout India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are mainly concerned with moral principles Asoka recommended, his conversion to Buddhism, his personality and his success as a king.

Most of them are written in Brahmi script from which all Indian scripts and many of those used in Southeast Asia later developed. The language used in the edicts found in the eastern part of the sub-continent is a type of Magadhi, probably the official language of Asoka's court. The language used in the edicts found in the western part of India is closer to Sanskrit and the edicts in Afghanistan is written in Aramaic and Greek. King Asoka's edicts, have survived throughout the centuries because they are written on rocks and stone pillars. These pillars in particular are testimony to the technological and artistic genius of ancient Indian civilization.

The inscriptions have been divided into few categories: Major Rock Edicts - Fourteen edicts and the two separate edicts found at sites in Kalinga. Minor Rock Inscriptions - The Minor Rock Edict, the Queen's Edict, the Barabar Cave Inscriptions, and the Kandahar bilingual Inscriptions - The Pillar Edicts.

The Fourteen Rock Edicts were the major edicts, and issued the principles of the government. Some of these edicts speak of the principles of dharma and religious toleration. The Minor Edicts is a summary of Asoka's instruction of dharma, talking about the purity of thoughts and other good morals of life. The Seven Pillar Edicts deals with some achievements of Samudragupta.

The Pillar Edicts

Following is a summary of the contents found in the seven pillar edicts as adapted from the book - "Buddha's World". The translation is not a literal one. The emphasis has been on providing a readable version of the original inscriptions.

1st Pillar Edict

Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi says: It is hard to obtain happiness in this world and the next without extreme love of Dhamma, much vigilance, much obedience, much fear of sin, and extreme energy. But, through my instructions, care for Dhamma and love of Dhamma have grown from day to day, and will continue to grow. My subordinates too, whether high or low or of middle station, endorse it and practise it sufficiently to win over the wavering, and likewise do the frontier official. For this is my principle: to protect through Dhamma, to administer affairs according to Dhamma, to please the people with Dhamma, to guard the empire with Dhamma.

2nd Pillar Edict

Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi says: Dhamma is good. And what is Dhamma? It is having few faults and many good deeds, mercy, charity, truthfulness, and purity. I have given the gift of insight in various forms. I have conferred many benefits on man, animals, birds, and fish, even to saving their lives, and I have done many other commendable deeds. I have had this inscription of Dhamma engraved that men may conform to it and that it may endure. He who conforms will do well.

3rd Pillar Edict

Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi says: One only notices one's good deeds, thinking, 'I have done good', but on the other hand one does not notice one's wicked deeds, thinking, 'I have done evil', or 'this is indeed a sin'. Now, to be aware of this is something really difficult. But nevertheless one should notice this and think, 'Cruelty, harshness, anger, pride, and envy, these are indeed productive of sin.' let them not be the cause of my fall. And this one should especially notice, thinking, 'This is important to my happiness in this world; that, on the other hand, for the next.'

4th Pillar Edict

Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi says: Just as one entrusts his child to an experienced nurse, and is confident that the experienced nurse is able to care for the child satisfactorily, so my rajukas (rural officers) have been appointed for the welfare and happiness of the country people. In order that they may fulfil their functions fearlessly, confidently, and cheerfully, I have given them independent authority in judgment and punishment. But it is desirable that there should be uniformity in judicial procedure and punishment.

5th Pillar Edict

Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi says: When I had been consecrated for twenty-six years I forbade the killing of a large number of species of animals, On the eighth, fourteenth, and fifteenth days of the fortnight, on the days of the star Tisya and Punarvasu, on the three first full moons of the four-monthly seasons, and on festival days, bulls, goats rams, boars, and other animals which it is customary to castrate are not to be castrated. On the days of the stars Tisya and Punarvasu, on the first full moon days of the four-monthly seasons, and on the fortnights following them, cattle and horses are not to be branded. In the period [from my consecration] to [the anniversary on which] I had been consecrated twenty-six years, twenty-five releases of prisoners have been made.

6th Pillar Edict

Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi says: When I had been consecrated for twelve years I had an inscription of Dhamma, engraved for the welfare and happiness of the world. Whoever follows it should obtain progress in Dhamma in various ways. Thus do I provide for the welfare and happiness of the world - in the same way as I bring happiness to my relatives, both close and distant and work for it, so do I provide for all sects. I honour all sects with various kinds of reverence, and I consider visiting them in person to be most important. When I had been consecrated for twenty-six years I had this inscription of Dhamma engraved.

7th Pillar Edict

Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi says: This idea occurred to me. In the past kings sought to make the people progress ... but they did not . . . How then could people be made to conform to Dhamma and increase their interest in it? . . . How could I elevate them through devotion to Dhamma? I shall make them hear proclamations of Dhamma, and instruct them with the knowledge of Dhamma. When they have heard this, the people will endorse it and will be elevated, and will progress greatly in Dhamma.. For this reason there have been proclamations of Dhamma and many instructions of Dhamma were ordered, and my administrators were appointed over many people; they will admonish them and explain Dhamma to them.

On the roads I have had banyan trees planted, which will give shade to beasts and men, I have had mango-groves planted and I have had wells dug and rest houses built at every eight kos. And I have had many watering places made every-where for the use of beasts and men. I have done these things in order that my people might conform to Dhamma.

My officers of Dhamma are busy in many matters of public benefit; they are busy among members of all sects, both ascetics and householders. I have appointed some to concern themselves with the Buddhist Order, with Brahmans and Ajivikas, with the Jainas .... and with various sects. There are many categories of officers with a variety of duties, but my officers of Dhamma are busy with the affairs of these and other sects.

Whatever good deeds I have done, the world has consented to them and followed them. Thus obedience to mother and father, obedience to teachers, deference to those advanced in age, and regard for Brahmans and Sramanas, the poor and wretched, slaves and servants, have increased and will increase.

The advancement of Dhamma amongst men has been achieved through two means, legislation and persuasion. But of these two, legislation has been less effective, and persuasion more so. I have proclaimed through legislation for instance that certain species of animals are not to be killed, and other such ideas. But men have increased their adherence to Dhamma by being persuaded not to insure living beings and not to take life. I have done all this so that among my sons and great grandsons and as long as the sun and moon endure, men may follow Dhamma.

We have no way of knowing how effective King Asoka's reforms were or how long they lasted but we do know that monarchs throughout the ancient Buddhist world were encouraged to look to his style of government as an ideal to be followed.

King Asoka has to be credited with the first attempt to develop a Buddhist polity. Today, with widespread disillusionment in prevailing ideologies and the search for a political philosophy that goes beyond greed, hatred and delusion, King Asoka's edicts may make a meaningful contribution to the development of a more spiritually based political system.


Restless society and restrained mind

By Ven. Dr. Beligalle Dhammajoti Dept. of Pali & Buddhist Studies, University of Ruhuna.

Today, our society is restless and nowhere we fine peace. There are many people who spend even restless nights and they are showing signs of impatience in their daily life. The restless waves can be found in their minds, and those mind-waves would generate restless behaviour. They do not find enough time to pay attention to their spirituality. In this restless society, we, clearly find that many are running after money and material happiness. There are many who are greedy-natured and angry-natured. Why? No mental peace or inner tranquillity. Millions of humans talk of world peace but they never focus their attention on their own inner tranquillity.

Every society is full of socio-economic and political problems. If we scrutinize all these problems very honestly, then we can come to a conclusion that they arise because of wrong thinking and unethical behaviour of human beings. Millions of educated people are there who discuss these problems and try to avoid and solve them. Before we try to solve the problems of our outer world, it is our utmost responsibility to fully understand our own mind, its nature, its cankers, taints, intoxicants, corruptions and restless waves. It is these intoxicated and corrupt mind-waves that would generate a restless man and restless society.

Many are ready to fight and defeat others but are not ready to admit their faults and, tolerate. Attachment to the ego-belief is one of the impurity of restless-mind and guiding force behind many wars. One of the major causes for war-like situation is dogmatic views of certain groups. They think that their religion, their ways is the truth and everything else is false. This inhuman thinking would create restless situation in society and it would pave the way for complete destruction of other humans and their priceless monuments. Harmlessness or non-violence (avihimsa) has no place in this restless society.

The first disciplinary rule enjoined by the Buddha for our human society is abstaining from taking life. Why that? It is the basic precept for the survival of all humans and all other beings. We are entitled to check it whether it is good for the many or bad for the many.

When the majority of members in any society are no-manners one (muttacarins), then that society is not in the position of expecting progress. Even materials development in no way can be continued without morality. Therefore, the major problem is the failure of ethics (acara-vipatti).

Deforestation, water-pollution, land-pollution, sound-pollution, over-urbanization, war-targeted games, poverty, poverty-related crimes and all other socio-economic and political problems arise for the failure of ethics. In another words they arise because of uncultivated minds. Therefore, mind-training is very necessary and it must be given the priority. Here, as an atheistic religion and ethical system, Buddhism would recommend meditation for ethical progress in our society today. Through meditation that we can visualize the real nature of our inner mind, its impurities and outer world. Then only we would be capable of having a proper understanding of, "What we are?", "What we do?"

"Why we were born?" and "What is the meaning of our shorter life."

Zen Buddhism

There is a special tradition of Buddhism which emphasizes meditation than any other religious sect, that is, Zen (Chaan or Dyana). Zen Buddhism advocates us to cultivate our mind and to live like a flower and lead a very happy life. It shows us the way to safeguard our mind from outer impurities (kilesas).

Zen is a philosophy, and not a system founded upon logic and analysis. Zen is the whole mind. Zen has nothing to teach us. It has no any set teaching. There are no sacred books in Zen. Zen merely points the way. It has no God to worship. Zen has no any concept of soul. Zen tradition believes in man's inner purity and goodness. Mind is the fundamental object of Zen.

Zen emphasizes the attainment of freedom, that is, the freedom from all unnatural encumbrances. When this zen is understood absolute peace of mind is attained. Zen is always explained in very interesting words:

"Zen is the ocean, Zen is the air, Zen is the mountain,
Zen is thunder and lightening, Zen is the spring flower,
Zen is the summer heat, Zen is the winter snow,
Zen is the man..."

This means that, 'Zen is reality' and 'Zen is nature' and Zen can be understood by perceiving nature.

Zen teacher, Bhikkhu Bodhidharma says:

"Zen has nothing to do with letters, words, or sutras. It is like unlocking the door to a treasury. When the entrance is once gained, every object coming into your view is yours".

Once, one disciple came unto the Bhikkhu Bodhidharma and asked a question and for that Bhikkhu Bodhidharma gave a clear answer thus:

Disciple: 'I came here to seek the truth of Buddhism'
Bodhidharma: 'Why do you seek such a thing here?
Why do you wander about, neglecting
Your own precious treasure at home?'
'I have nothing to give you, and what
truth of Buddhism do you desire to
find in my monastery?'
'There is nothing, absolutely nothing.'

Here, Bodhidharma emphasizes the significance of mind by referring the word, 'precious treasure at home.'

A dialogue between a Zen teacher and a pupil on mindfulness runs as follows:
Teacher: 'Do you ever make any effort to get disciplined in the truth?'
Pupil: 'Yes, I do'
Teacher: 'How do you exercise yourself?'
Pupil: 'When I am hungry I eat; when tired I sleep'
Teacher: 'That is what everybody does. Can they be said to be exercising in the same way as you do?'
Pupil: 'No'
Teacher: 'Why not?'

Pupil: 'Because when they eat they do not eat but are thinking of various things, thereby allowing themselves to be disturbed, when they sleep they do not sleep, but dream of a thousand and one things. That is why, they are not like myself'.

In accordance with the sayings of Zen, human heart has two aspects, viz.,

(i) The pure heart
(ii) The impure heart

Heart is one, but there are two ways in accordance with its working. Pure-heart is somewhat similar to Buddha-heart. But the impure heart gives us no peace from morning till night, that is the passion-ridden heart. It disturbs us everyday. It leads men astray. It tries to destroy our spirituality. It advices us to do unethical things. It is the easiest way to woeful states. And the impure-hearted ones have to suffer before their death bed.

The pure-heart gives us peace from morning till night. It is the compassionate heart. It helps us to live like a flower. It tries to destroy evil tendencies and cankers. It helps us to cultivate good qualities. It advices us to do ethical things. It is the proper way to everlasting happiness. The pure-hearted ones do not gloomy over anything and they can even be happy before their death.

Mind is so difficult to guard and control. It is always agitated. It is very wonderful. It tries to seize whatever it desires. Therefore, it is so difficult to subdue. It is extremely subtle. It has no form. It wanders far and alone. But when there is no mind, then our body would be a useless log. If we can tame the mind, then it would bring happiness. A guarded mind gives no troubles.

The ill-directed mind would make injuries to our consciousness, and the well-directed mind would give us the everlasting happiness.

Average humans do both good things and bad things. Whatever we do whether it is bad or good, it spontaneously writes in our consciousness. The nature of our actions will deposit in a certain way in that place.

The name of the place is vinnanagabbha' or store-consciousness. One can destroy a life of a man. But he cannot destroy his store-consciousness.

Therefore, no one can escape from his own deeds. No one can purify others. We are not in the position of praying for our misdeeds and unwholesome actions. Dhammata (or sakti) or universal energies would punish us or would give results. It is the nature of the world. Many are there in the world who cannot understand this truth.

There is an another name for this sakti or dhammata. That is kamma. No one can avoid this universal kamma sakti or universal energies. We are the innocent victims of this universal phenomena.

What we can do is to understand this truth with the help of the teachings of the Buddha and try to control our mind and do meritorious and wholesome actions.

Restrained mind is the only way to experience happiness and the only consolation to suffering around the world.


Restraint

(From the Culahatthipadopama Sutta)

Practising restraint, he craves not form,
Its signs and features do not draw his eye,
So to with sounds to his ear, scents to his nose,
Tastes to his tongue, touch to his body,
And what is sensed within his mind.

* * *

Thus all his senses are restrained,
And within himself,
He feels unsullied bliss,
He becomes fully aware, mindful of all his actions,
When walking, standing, sitting,
Falling asleep, waking up, talking, keeping silent.

* * *

With restraint and awareness,
He seeks seclusion,
The forest, the root of a tree,
A mountain, a ravine, a hillside cave,
And returning from his alms round,
After partaking of food, he sits cross-legged,|
Body erect, establishing mindfulness,
He abandons covetousness for the World,
Purifies his mind from sensual desire,
Ill-will and hatred.

* * *

With a mind free from ill-will,
He abides compassionate to all beings,
Stamps out sloth and torpor of body and mind,
Mind thus alight, purified of sloth,
Restlessness and remorse,
He attains inner peace,
Abandoning agitation and doubt.

* * *

Thus beyond doubt he dwells unperplexed,
About good and evil and free of the five hindrances,
Free of sensuality and the unwholesome states,
His mind is pure and open to Wisdom.

U. Karunatilake


Great day in history

It was Poson Full Moon Day
A day of festivity ever so gay
The King went hunting all the way
At the foot of Mihintale,

Suddenly a deer passing by
was caught by the King's eye
He started chasing the deer
With his bow and arrow queer,

Instantly he heard "Tissa, Tissa"
Looking above, most scared, he asked
"Who are you, all shaven headed
And dressed in saffron clothes?"

"Bhikkhus are we, O, great King
Disciples of the 'King of Dhamma'
Out of compassion for thee
Hither have we, come, from Jambudipa",

His bow and arrow fell down
The great King knelt down
With his hands clasped high
He worshipped great 'Arahat Mahinda',

After an interesting dialogue
The King accepted Buddhism
Creating proud history
As the first Buddhist of Lanka!

It was an immemorial ceremony
A distinct page in Lanka's history
Venerable 'Arahat Mahinda'
Introduced the 'Message of Buddha'!

Light of Lanka' will ever be immemorial
In the history of Lanka, for the gift invaluable
Grateful Lankans ever pay homage
To thee, O, Venerable 'Arahat Mahinda'!

Malini Hettige


Mihintalava

by Nemsiri Mutukumara

The historic event of the arrival of Arhat Thera Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka in Lanka, from Jambudvipa was the most far reaching in shaping the destiny of the people and the country, unparalleled in human history.

Arhat Thera Mahinda accompanied by Itthiya Thera, Uttiya Thera, Sambala Thera, Bhaddasala Thera, Samanera Sumana and Upasaka Bhanduka - a layman. The Prelate alighted on the Missaka Mountain on the Poson Pasalosvaka Poya Day. In this festival season, the reigning monarch, King Devanampiyatissa was on a hunting spree with his ministers and nobles.

Arhat Thera Mahinda, with his psychic power concealed the sight of the rest of the retinue and allowed the King to see the Prelate alone and called the King by his name Tissa, twice.

The King the most powerful person on the soil of Lanka was taken aback and looked up.

A saintly figure, shaven headed draped in saffron robe spoke in His sonorous voice, in one sentence giving out who, what, why from where.

"Samanamayam Maharaja
Dhammarajassa savaka
Tame'va anukampaya
Jambudipa Idhagata"

Samanas, are we,O! King,
Disciples of the
Dhamma Raja
With compassion
to you,
We have come
from Jambudipa.

The bow and arrow, the King was trying to use on an innocent deer, fell down to the ground and the King entered into a conversation with Arhat Thera Mahinda which is recognised and hailed as the first I.Q. Test recorded anywhere in the world.

The Missaka Mountain and the area on which Arhat and his retinue alighted came to be popularly called Mihintalava.

Devanampiyatissa converted all the cave like formations in the mountain as dwelling places of the Bhikkhu Sangha. And the whole area of Mihintalava became an abode of Bhikkhus.

From the bottom of the rock granite flight of steps were constructed for Bhikkhus pilgrims and visitors.

Ever since this memorable event Mihintale became the sacred centre of pilgrimage. Away from the sacred city of Anuradhapura by about 15 kilometres, the pilgrims paying homage to the Atamasthanaya - the eight sacred places of worship in Anuradhapura, trek to Mihintale at dusk.

After the fall of the Anuradhapura Kingdom and the plundering of the city by foreign invaders, many a time, the Bhikkhu Sangha took away with them books, sacred relics and other holy objects and went in search of cave dwellings for their protection until the advent of Sinhala Buddhist rulers.

The ordinary people, innocent and hapless drifted towards the Central and Southern Provinces.

Mihintale too became deserted, for several centuries Buddhists had to suffer in silence. During this long period, fauna and flora took the better part of the Sacred Mihintale the Centre of the dawn of the New Civilization.

In the twentieth century After the Common Era, Buddhists led by the Bhikkhu Sangha began focusing their dedicated attention to the Solosmasthana sixteen most sacred centres, Atamasthana - the eight most sacred centres of worship sanctified by the visit of Sakyamuni Buddha during His three visits to Lanka.

Mihintalava, a unique in itself, without being in those lists, maintain its predominance as a sacred centre.

Due to years of desolateness the trek of Mihintale was extremely difficult. The area covered by thick jungle. Absence of electricity rendered visit bare to the minimum. Gradually, clearing the jungle and making footpaths, cleaning the granite steps helped pilgrims to visit Mihintale but such visits were a few and far between some people who went their after dusk, carried with them torches made out of rags of cloth tied to wooden poles.

The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited - the Lake House group of papers in 1963 decided to illuminate the Mihintalava.

A generator provided electricity to the Mihintale Seya - the Dagaba which enshrined the sacred relics of Arhat Thera Mahinda.

That was the beginning of the Aloka Puja the Lake House offered to Mihintalava which has today created a new dawn not only in the people of Mihintalava but also everywhere across the country.

Every succeeding Poson Poya, witnessed a new venture organised by Lake House. For Lake House thought, the Aloka Puja is a punyakarma - a meritorious deed. It must accompany something more tangible to be realised felt and enjoyed by the people who should be provided with information, education, knowledge and above all must be made to enjoy a happy peaceful and harmonious life - which is Central to the teaching of Arhat Thera Mahinda.

In 1989, school children were selected from within the area - numbering 125 in all and provided them with clothes to dress themselves on Poya days to observe Ata-Sil-Eight precepts.

The 125 Upasaka and Upasikas were provided with the morning meal, a soft drink, the forenoon dana and refreshment - gilanpasa in the afternoon.

An oratorical contest was organised for school children in the North Central Province.

The girl who was adjudged the First Prize winner, two years later won the First Prize in the islandwide oratorical contest held by the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress in 1991. In order to improve, develop and encourage the art of writing, an islandwide Essay Competition was organised from the same year.

In 1990, the Kammalakkulam, a Vidyalaya in Mihintalava received a donation of a Mini laboratory. As a result of the Lab, the villagers of Kammalakkulam started enjoying electricity. Their only road - the footpath was broadened and levelled.

At the opening of the Lab, streaks of tears poured down the cheek of the Principal when she was proposing the vote of thanks.

In 1991, the Dinamina-Budusarana donated a library building and several thousand books in all three languages - Sinhala-Tamil and English to the Mihintale Maha Vidyalaya.

Many donors provided lavishly to make up the Three Lakhs of Rupees needed for the project.

Among the donors of books were readers of Lake House newspapers.

Students in Colombo Schools joined Lake House in providing books.

The Library had many novelties.

The library has a Reference Section, Lending Unit, Audio-Visual Section and a Special Section for Maps and Atlases.

A library of this nature will transform the Mihintale Maha Vidyalaya as a Centre of education in the area.

The Aloka Puja started with a generator later joined by the Electricity Board providing electricity from the National grid.

The Lake House without enjoying the fruits of this labour of love alone, rallied round other institutions in sharing the merit.

The National Savings Bank, the Buddhasasana Ministry too extended their support. In 1992, a complete Maternity Ward was donated to the Mihintale Hospital which was the crying need of the day.

A year later in 1993, a Dental Clinic was provided to the cluster school system in Mihintalava.

In 1994, a carpentry workshop was set up at the Kurundankulama Vidyalaya, Mihintalava for those who have the aptitude in woodwork.

The absence of a Nursery School in the village of Katupota was filled with a Nursery School which the villagers expressed their total satisfaction.

In 1996, a Poson lantern exhibition and competition was organised along with an oratorical contest and an essay competition.

In this manner, all aspects of children needs were catered for, so that they would become perfect citizens of the country without being a burden to the society.

A new feature was a special Dhammadesana, in addition to the Dhammadesana by the Broadcasting services and Television, was very much appreciated by the people. In 1997, a Computer Training Centre was gifted to the Mihintalava Maha Vidyalaya. For the first time, Mihintalava witnessed the statue of Arhat Thera Mahinda in Mihintalava.

A Thai Bhikkhu the Venerable Maha Som Siam who offered extreme respects to Sri Lanka, organised the sculpting of the statue of Arhat Thera Mahinda in Thailand in bronze.

Ven. Maha Som Siam was studying in Sri Lanka, he has visited many ancient and modern Viharas and Cetiyas.

As a gift from the Thai Buddhists he brought the statue as an offering. A Viharage was built by the Lake House and the Seylan Bank.

The Ven. Maha Som Siam is now living in Oslo, in Norway as a layman by the name Mr. Som Siam.

This Poson Poya Day, the Lake House Aloka Puja will be held for the 41st occasion.

The Puja has become increasingly relevant for the occasion and also enhanced by its quality and the facilities provided to the millions of people converging on Mihintalava from the Pre-Poya day onwards and to the people of Mihintalava.


Historic Tantirimale Viharaya

In ancient chronicles Tantirimale was known as Tivakka Bamunugama. Prof. J.B. Dissanayaka in his treatise "Tantirimale ascribes Tivakka Bamunugama" to a brahmin after whom it was named.

In ancient times villages were named after its creators. Upatinagama as named after Upatissagama, a Minister in the Royal Court.

Ven. Sanghamitta Therani and her retinue on their way to Anuradhapura with the Sacred Bo-Sapling, took abode temporarily at Tivakka Bamunugama.

Of the original eight saplings of the Sacred Bo-Tree at Anuradhapura, one was planted at Thivakka Bamunugama on Royal decree. This is an acknowledged of the high position commanded by Tivakka Bamunu at that time. It is this Bo-Sapling which has grown to its fulls status, survives upto date. According to another school of thought Tantirimale was also known as Tantrayanaya, a version of Buddhism observed by some people.

Epigraps written in Brahmical letters one found at the old Tantirimale Temple. Though the murals in a cave close to Tantirimale do not represent any Jataka story, it is supposed to be the work of the oldest inhabitants of Sri Lanka.

At the end of Anuradhapura period misfortune dawned upon Tantirimale with numerous enemy invasion taking place.

At his initiative people were re-settled around the temple and Tantirimale turned to be the cynosure of Buddhist revival.

Recent civil disturbance had its impact at this temple as well. However, the prevailing peaceful atmosphere in the country paved the path for the devotees to throng to Tantirimale again, Ven. Tantirimale Chandraratne Thera said.

On Poson Poya Day a religious program will be conducted under the patronage of 'Silumina' and 'Dinamina'.

The Ven. Thera thanked ANCL Chairman, Nalin Ladduwahetty, Attorny-at-Law, Editorial Director, Bandula Padmakumara and the Lake House staff for their active involvement.

Tantirimale is accessible through Maha Vilachchiya, a distance of 36 kilo metres and also along Medawachchiya-Mannar Road and Gajasinghapura.


Improving business and management through Buddhism

Putting Buddhism to Work : A New Approach to Management and Business

Author: Shinichi Inoue
Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd. (Tokyo)
Year of publication: 1997

Buddhist Economics: The Emerging Middle Path between Capitalism and Socialism http://www.buddhanet.net/ budwork.htm

Shinichi Inoue, a former President of the Japanese Miyazaki Bank and reputed economist, has proposed a novel approach to economic management that goes beyond socialism and capitalism. He calls his proposed economics for the 21st century 'Buddhist Economics', a phrase first used in print by Dr. E.F. Schumacher in 1973 in his best-selling book "Small is Beautiful".

Based on the insight of the Buddha that spiritual liberation is attained by avoiding extremes, whether by indulgence in worldly pleasures or severe asceticism, and treading namely 'the Middle Way', Inoue recommends 'Buddhist Economics' as the ideal middle path between the competing models of capitalism and socialism. Both these systems, Inoue argues, have failed to contain the relentless destruction of the natural environment and the human community, thereby forcing leading executives and planners to search for new solutions for planetary problems.

Inoue draws on the best aspects of both capitalist and socialist economic systems, in his ' Buddhist Economics ' model. It supports the conventional forces of a free market and competition without destroying either nature or human society. His alternate vision of sustainable economics is meant to be more just and more ecologically sound.

Inspired by the fundamental Buddhist insight of the inter-connectedness existing among all living things, Inoue says that Buddhism, Economics and Ecology are all inter-related. He places a heavy emphasis on the concept of freedom as understood in Buddhism in contrast to the Western concept of 'freedom'. In the West 'freedom' revolves around the rights of the individual i.e. freedom to do what one wishes. In Buddhism, 'freedom' means freedom from personal desires or attachments.

In Inoue's view, a Buddhist approach to economics requires an understanding that economics and a moral and spiritual life are neither separate nor mutually exclusive. The 20th Century has been ravaged by a materialistic, self-centered consumerism. The next century needs to focus on the quality and spirituality of life itself. Buddhism, which advocates the 'Middle Path', serves as an important resource to pursue an alternative to the extremes of capitalism and socialism, or pure self-interest and utter self-negation.

The Essence of Buddhist Economics

Inoue identifies three key phrases that underlie his model of Buddhist Economics.

They are:

1) an economics that benefits oneself and others
2) an economics of tolerance and peace
3) an economics that can save the earth.
An Economics that benefits oneself and others

Adam Smith developed his theory of free enterprise based on the concept of self-benefit'. This led to people being more concerned with enriching themselves and disregarding the interests of others. At the international level, during Adam Smith's day, major colonial powers such as England, Netherlands, France, Portugal and Spain developed their economies from the resources taken from other poorer regions, without an adequate resulting benefit accruing to the colonies. In contrast, the earlier Buddhist societies such as India during the time of the Buddha or Japan during the time of Prince Shotuku (574-622 AD) existed with a radically different social approach. In Japanese society where the density of population was high, human relations were tightly interwoven, and Japanese people were encouraged to pay great attention to how other people thought or reacted.

In the Japanese world of business, earning the trust of others and entering into mutually beneficial transactions have always been given priority. Such conduct was the result of deep-seated Buddhist influence.

The Western obsession with 'self-benefit ' and indifference to the rights of non-European people has been well analysed by former Indian diplomat K.M. Panikkar in his ground breaking book 'Asia and Western Domination - A Survey of the Vasco De Gama Epoch of Asian History 1498-1945, published in 1953. Panikkar says that western colonial powers were reluctant to recognise that doctrines of international law applied outside Europe or that European nations had any moral obligations when dealing with Asian people.

For example, when Britain insisted on the opium trade against the laws of China in the 19th Century, there was a prohibition by law on opium smoking in England. In countries under direct British occupation eg. India, Ceylon and Burma, though there were equal rights established by law, there was considerable reservation in enforcing the law against Europeans. Maurice Collis, a British magistrate in Burma, gives a rare candid account in his book 'Trials in Burma' (1938) about the pressures brought upon him by the members of the Colonial Government and the British expatriate community, to be partial towards Europeans in his judgments. Panikkar avers that this doctrine of different rights (which made a mockery of the concept of the Rule of Law) persisted to the very end of western colonial domination and was a prime cause of Europe's ultimate failure in Asia.

An Economics of Tolerance and Peace

The Indian Emperor Asoka established the world's first welfare state in the third century BC upon embracing Buddhism. He renounced the idea of conquest by the sword. In contrast to the western concept of 'Rule of Law', Asoka embarked upon a 'policy of piety or rule of righteousness'. The basic assumption of this policy of piety was that the ruler who serves as a moral model would be more effective than one who rules purely by strict law enforcement.

The right method of governing is not only by legislation and law enforcement, but also by promoting the moral education of the people. Asoka began by issuing edicts concerning the ideas and practice of dharma, dealing with universal law and social order. Realizing that poverty eroded the social fabric, one of his first acts was to fund social welfare and other public projects.

Asoka's ideals involved promoting policies for the benefit of everyone in society, treating all his subjects as if they were his children and protecting religion. He built hospitals, animal welfare shelters and enforced a ban on owning slaves and killing. He gave recognition to animal rights in a number of his rock edicts and accepted state responsibility for the protection of animals.

Animal sacrifice was forbidden by law. An important aspect of Asoka's economics of peace was tolerance. In one of his rock edicts, Asoka calls for religious freedom and tolerance, and declares that by respecting someone else's religion, one brings credit to one's own religion. Inoue says that the idea of religious tolerance only emerged in the West in 1689 with the publication of John Locke's book 'A Letter Concerning Toleration'.

Inoue says that from a Buddhist perspective, politics can be summed up by the Sanskrit word 4 cakravartin ' (the wheel turner ), which means a king or political ruler who protects his people and the Buddhist teachings. Asoka was the prototype of this ruler whose political ideas were to inspire a countless number of other Asian Emperors and rulers. One enthusiastic follower of Asoka in Japan was Prince Shotuku. (574-622 AD).

An ardent believer in Buddhism, Shotukti drafted a 17 Article Constitution (the first Buddhist Constitution of Japan), which was promulgated in 604 AD. Shotuku appeals neither to 'self-evident truths' (as in the American Constitution ) nor to some divine right of kings as the basis of law. Instead he begins pragmatically by stating that if society is to work efficiently for the good of all, then people must restrain factionalism and learn to work together. A key feature of this Constitution is the emphasis placed on resolving differences by appeals to harmony and common good, using the procedure of consensus.

This approach is in marked contrast to the western view that factions can be controlled only legally by a balance of powers. Decision making by consensus is a significant characteristic of Japanese society. Every effort is made to ensure that minority dissident factions are not allowed to lose face.

The influence of Buddhism in Japan was such that in 792 AD Emperor Kammu (781-806 AD) despite constant threats from Korea, abolished the 100 year old national army, except for one regiment to guard the region near Korea. National security was maintained by sons of local clan leaders somewhat similar to the present day police.

Japan was effectively without an army until the emergence of the new warrior class before the Kamakura, Shogunate (1192-1333 AD). Tibet is another example of demilitarisation (in the 17th century). What is significant to note here is that long before the ideal of demilitarisation was espoused in western countries, ancient Buddhist countries had already implemented it. In Japan, beginning from the 9th century, the death penalty was abolished for nearly three and a half centuries.

An Economics to save the earth

Inoue is vehemently critical of the practice of industrial societies indulging in a policy of take-and-take from nature, despite economics being fundamentally about exchange or give-and-take. He identifies a passage in the Bible (Genesis 1: 27 - 28) as a possible root cause of the western attitude towards nature. This passage declares: "So God created man in his own image, in the image created he him, male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth".

Some have interpreted this passage literally, as one giving divine sanction to domination of the earth for the benefit of only human beings and disregarding the interests of both plants and other living creatures of this world. In contrast, Buddhist sacred texts are much more humble and always emphasise the need to live in harmony with nature and peacefully co-exist with other living creatures, as the ideal and noble way. In the Buddhist worldview, humans rather being masters of this earth, simply make up one tiny element in a vast cosmos. In the Buddhist Economics that Inoue proposes, the earth rather than human beings will be placed at the center of our world view.

History of Economics

Inoue examines the major ideas in the theories of prominent economists such as Adam Smith (1723-1790), David Ricardo (1772-1823), Karl, Marx (1818-1883), John Keynes (1883-1946) Joan Robinson (1903-1983) and the German Economists Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992), Wilhelm Lopke (1899-1966) and Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977).

Inoue singles out Lopke's best-selling book' Civitas Humanas (Human Citizen) published in 1949 as laying the foundation for the new humanistic school of economics. Inoue uses the concept of 'social market economics' advocated by Ludwig Erhard in his 1957 book 'Woffistand fur Alles (Happiness for All) as the precedent for developing the new Buddhist Economics. Erhard called for the need to overcome the inherent tensions between the haves and have-nots in society, through such governmental policies as the banning of cartels, using government 'price valuation' to ensure fair pricing, rent control and supporting people with disabilities.

Senaka Weeraratna
Courtesy: BuddhaNet

 

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