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Buddhist Spectrum

Withdraw that arrow to attain peace of mind

(Salla Sutta):

"Un-indicated and unknown is the length of life of those subject to death. Life is difficult and brief and bound up with suffering. There is no means by which those who are born will not die. Having reached old age, there is death. This is the natural course for a living being.


Facade to Ajanta cave 19.
Courtesy: Frontline.

With ripe fruits there is the constant danger that they will fall. In the same way, for those born and subject to death, there is always the fear of dying. Just as the pots made by a potter all end by being broken, so death is the breaking up of life.

"The young and old, the foolish and the wise, all are stopped short by the power of death, all finally end in death. Of those overcome by death and passing to another world, a father cannot hold back his son, nor relatives a relation. See! While the relatives are looking on and weeping, one by one each mortal is led away like an ox to slaughter.

"In this manner the world is afflicted by death and decay. But the wise do not grieve, having realized the nature of the world. You do not know the path by which they came or departed.

Not seeing either end you lament in vain. If any benefit is gained by lamenting, the wise would do it. Only a fool would harm himself. Yet through weeping and sorrowing the mind does not become calm, but still more suffering is produced, the body is harmed and one becomes lean and pale, one merely hurts oneself. One cannot protect a departed one (peta) by that means. To grieve is in vain.

"By not abandoning sorrow a being simply undergoes more suffering. Bewailing the dead he comes under the sway of sorrow.

See other men faring according to their deeds! Hence beings tremble here with fear when they come into the power of death. Whatever they imagine, it (turns out) quite different from that. This is the sort of disappointment that exists. Look at the nature of the world! If a man lives for an hundred years, or even more, finally, he is separated from his circle of relatives and gives up his life in the end.

Therefore, having listened to the Arhant, (1) one should give up lamenting. Seeing a dead body, one should know, "He will not met by me again."

As the fire in a burning house is extinguished with water, so a wise, discriminating, learned and sensible man should quickly drive away the sorrow that arises, as the wind (blows off) a piece of cotton. He who seeks happiness should withdraw the arrow: his own lamentations, longings and grief.

"With the arrow withdrawn, unattached, he would attain to peace of mind; and when all sorrow has been transcended he is sorrow-free and has realized Nibbana.


The Ghositarama of Kaushambi

Important centre in Buddhist India:

It is indeed a pity that Sri Lanka pilgrimage operators confine their itinerary to Buddha Gaya, Shravasti, Sankassa, Varanasi and Sanchi.

It is rarely only a few take them such as to Kaushambi, near Allhabad, and also to Kesariya, near Patna, where he tallest stupa of the world was excavated and identified by the Archaeological Survey of India.

In order to meet this paucity, this writer, for the benefit of Buddhist Spectrum readers documenting the Buddhist heritage of Kaushambi an important place in the Buddhist India.

Kaushambi was the capital of the Vatsa kingdom of the time of the Buddha. It was among the most important centres of ancient India, where the Buddha, The Blessed one spent his 9th rains' retreat and where the first schism of the Maha Sangha took place and also where Buddha pronounced several rules for the disciples.

The Buddha visited Kaushambi and stayed at Ghositarama on many occasions. Among the most important monastic establishments, at Kaushambi, were the Ghositarama, Kukkutarama and Pavarikarama, built by the wealthy entrepreneurs and chiefs of the trade and commerce and crafts guilds under their command. These Vaishya-settis were the bourgeoisie of the time.

The three rich merchants of Kaushambi, Ghosita, Kukuta and Pavarika, invited the Buddha to their homeland of Kaushambi in Vatsa kingdom, to spend his rains' retreat.

Thus they built massive monastic establishments for the Buddha and the Sangha and named them under their own names, like Jetavanarama, (Jeta's grove) as Ghositarama, Kukkutarama and Pavarikarama and on the arrival of the Buddha gifted them to the Buddha and the fraternity of monks.

Ghosita's daughter, Samavati, was a lay devotee of the Buddha and she was one of the sub-queens of King Udayana of Vatsa. It was she who was instrumental in inspiring King Udayana of Vatsa. It was she was the instrumental in inspiring King Udayana to be a devotee of the Buddha, as the fame of the Buddha was well-known then all over northern India.

During the time of the Buddha most of the regions of north India were connected by approved trade routes, with caravans of merchandise being carried to and fro. Among these main overland trading routes the most important was one that was at Tamralipti (Tamluk) near Kolkata (Calcutta) the port of the Ganges river, that ran through, Pataliputra (modern Patna, capital of Bihar State) and Varansi (Benares), Varanasi to Kaushambi.

From Kaushambi a by-road ran through Vidisa (homeland of Vidisa Devi, first wife of Asoka when he was the Viceroy of Ujjaini (Ujjain), mother of Mahinda Thera and Sangamitta Theri (in modern Madhya Pradesh, near Sanchi, between the capital of Bhopal and Sanchi) and this road connected to the Baharukacca township.

The main highway from Kaushambi ran to Mathur and on southern river bank of Yamuna river. Roads branched off from there to Pathala city at the estuary of Indus river, through modern Delhi (then known as Kurukshetra, where the Buddha discoursed the Satipattana - sutta as the Kuru people of this area were the most intelligent).

This road then led Punjab (Panchanadi) and Shakaka (Sialkot) to the western region of Takshashila and from there to Kabul valley to Central Asia countries.

Thus the roads that ran beside the great rivers of Ganges, Yamuna and Indus were highly prosperous areas.

During the time of the Buddha there were small townships all over India. However Kasi (Beranres-Varanasi) and Kaushambi were several centuries old great cities.

As recorded in Digha Nikaya when the Buddha opted to attain Mahaparinirvana in the small city of Kusi His Chief Attendant Ananda felt sad and posed the question to the Buddha as to why he did not choose the most rich and important cities like the six cities of Sravashti, Champa, Rajagaha, Saketa (later known as Avodhya) Kaushambi and Kasi.

The Buddha explained to Ananda Thera that Kusinara was in earlier times called Kusavati, ruled by a king with high military strengths and twelve leagues wide from east to west and seven leagues broad from north to south and had all the riches and comforts then. Thus Kaushambi was one of the richest and important cities of north India with highways to all regions crise-crossing Kaushambi.

The Chinese pilgrim monk Hieun-Tsang, who visited in the 7th century AD, states in his travel records that he saw a unique sandalwood statue of the Buddha, made at the behest of King Udayana, placed under a stone dome in the ancient palace of the king in situ.

Under the patronage of King Udayana Buddhism flourished extensively in Kaushambi to such an extent and continued to be so even in the 2nd century BC, when King Duttha - Gamani Abhava (Dutugemunu 101 - 77 BC) laid the foundation for the building of Mahathupa (Ruwanveliseya) at Anuradhapura, on invitation, 30,000 monks from Kaushambi graced the ceremony.

It was earlier believed that Kaushambi was on the bank of River Ganges. Following a discovery of the name of 'Kosambi mandala' in an inscription entry to the fort of Kare. Cunningham too closely followed the travel records of Chinese monks and looked for Kaushambi at the banks of the Ganges, but totally in vain.

Englishman archaeologist Bayley (The Ancient Geography of India) in January 1861 informed Cunningham that there was an old village of Kaushambi, 30 miles from Allhabad (Uttar Pradesh).

In February the same year Cunningham, met Siva Prasad of the Education Department and learnt from him that the village of Kosambi still known as Kosambinagar, was a great resort of Jain monks and was a large and rich township even a century ago.

This reference was adequate and Cunningham began to search for Kaushambi on the banks of the river Yamuna, instead of Ganges. He arrived at Kosambi in 1861 and identified the site with the Kaushambi of the time of the Buddha.

The ruins of this ancient city were found on the left bank of the river Yamuna, 70 kms south-west from Allhabad. Thus commenced excavations of the site by the late Prof. G.R. Sharma of the Allhabad University in 1949 and again in 1951-1956. Following these excavations numerous remains of the ancient city came to light.

The excavations have yielded remains of the residences of the common people, near Asokan Pillar, the Ghositarama monastery, the defences of the city of Kosam, bastions, guard cells and many other artefacts. A number of inscriptions too were recovered which testified the monastery to be Ghositarama and the site as Kaushambi.

The lamp of the Buddha

During the excavations a lamp was found in the Ghositarama. The lamp, in the form of a seven - petalled lotus 'Satadal Lotus' offered to the Buddha by Bhikkhu Dharmapradipa to be used in the Gandhakuti (Fragrant Chamber) of the Buddha inside the Ghostarama had an inscription made by Venerable Dharmapradipa, the Sakyan Bhikkhu in honour of the Buddha for the Gandhakuti at Ghositarama. "Religious merit accruing from it should be for the enlightenment of all living beings".

The monastery was a combined chaitya cum vihara. A number of cells for monks, a small shrine room with verandas and pillars enclosing a huge courtyard with a massive stupa with a square plan was found.

The sprawling mounts of Kaushambi have brought to light a large variety of artifacts of high artistic value. This largesse consists of stone sculptures, agate carvings, semi-precious stone, jewellery and colourful bads.

The stone sculptures include images of Buddha and Bodhisatvas, probably there had been Mahayana influence in view of the latter images. At the Kosam Inam and Kosam Khiraj, villagers sell 'patthar' (stones) by the kilos.

The villagers believe that the square shaped beads find in the fields have curative properties and work as protective talisman, providing good fortune and boons. In this scenario it is very necessary that the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) set up a guard in this place and also set up a site museum.

The Kaushambi - Vatsa architectural and sculptural remains, are deposited in the museum at Allahabad in the Company gardens, reveal that they are datable to main historical periods of India, Maurya, Sunga, Kushan, Gupta and also from the 3rd century BC to 12th century AD.

During the latter century Buddhism lost ground in India due to Muslim invasions led Mohamad Ghore of Afghanistan, who destroyed the Buddhist historical monuments and carried away carts loads of gold and jewellery to their country and also due to Hinduism's regeneration in India.

No photographing at Kaushambi, as the excavations are not complete and site open to visitors and pilgrims yet. The deposits in museums all over India too are not permitted to be photographed. Hence one has to be satisfied with photocopies from research documents.

*****

Buddha Pradeepa -Daily News Vesak Journal - 2008

We invite Venerable erudite Bhikkhus and Buddhist scholars to contribute articles to the Daily News Vesak Journal - 2008 - Buddha Pradeepa.

Snail mail: Editor, Buddha Pradeepa, Daily News Editorial, Lake House, Colombo 10.

E-mail: Editor@dailynews.lk (Attention: Malini Govinnage)

***

The Dhammapada

There is no concentration in one who lacks wisdom, nor is there wisdom in him who lacks concentration. In whom are both concentration and wisdom, he indeed is in the presence of Nibbana. (Bhikkhu vagga - The Dhammapada)

 

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