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Tathagatha’s visit to Nagadeepa

The Buddha solving the conflict on Gem Seat

Northern Sri Lanka is said to have been blessed by Thathagatha the perfect one with the outcome of his intellectual struggle - the absolute truth of life during the month of Bak. Sakyamuni Gautama at the height of his struggle for eternal truth developed the super normal powers of divine vision - fascinating insight of an all knowing sage, on ability acquired on enlightenment.

Dhamma chronicles reveal that he diverts his divine eye, a countless number of times on the lives of countless beings and their journey in the sea of Sansara, to come to their aid and relieve them of their suffering.

This is said to be his daily routine. In the fifth year of his supreme enlightenment, while he was at Jetavanarama, Sri Lanka had caught his divine eye. He could see a great disaster in Northern Sri Lanka. The Buddha with his wealth of Metta arrived in Nagadeepa to settle a dispute, an event of great historical importance.

Divine Vision

His divine vision attracted his attention to avert the human destruction resulting from a war between Mahodara and Chulodara, uncle and nephew who were at loggerheads over the ownership of a gem studded throne. Mahodara a powerful King in Nagadeepa whose younger sister named Thirachchika married a Naga King had been offered the above throne which was later inherited by her son Chulodara.

The raging King was about to wage war when Thathagatha appeared immediately which happened to be the month of Bak. Here the inhabitants who belonged to various tribes such as Yakka and Naga, Naga being more advanced in trade and industry supporting the Naga Kings with their rough behaviour and poor intellect though opposed the Buddha at the beginning, they did have the good fortune to be blessed with the message of the Dhamma.

Rajayathana Kiripalu Rukha

A deity named Samiddhi Sumana who had made the above banyan tree his abode, in Jetavana accompanied Thathagatha holding the uprooted tree as an umbrella to him, who knew that it was a merit bestowing act to the deity.

A deity named Samiddhi Sumana who had made the above banyan tree his abode, in Jetavana accompanied Thathagatha holding the uprooted tree as an umbrella to him, who knew that it was a merit bestowing act to the deity.

On arrival seeing the Naga Kings involved in fighting, Sakyamuni with his psychic powers appeared above, in the sky performing miracles which made the Nagas astonished and happy. Finally having listened to the sermons displaying the masterly knowledge of unity and harmony, meththa and compassion they worshipped Thathagatha with overwhelming shraddah and within minutes the throne was offered to him in unison and became pious devotees thereafter.

The Naga King Maniakkitha, the ruler of Kelaniya who had become a follower of the Buddha during his first visit to Mahiyangana, while on his way to help Chulodara Mahodara in the battle ground, moved by the compassion of the Buddha thanked him profusely for settling the dispute.

He further pleaded for a souvenir to worship and consequently the Buddha offered him the Kiripalu tree and the throne. History says that where Kiripaluruka was planted a Chetiya was built enshrining the Minipalanga by Chulodara and Mahodara.

Nagadeepa Seya

The temple premises with its glittering dagaba bear testimony to Thathgatha blessings. This above mentioned Chaitya, Nagadeepa Seya is supposed to be one of the 16 most sacred places to be worshipped in Sri Lanka. This is a milestone in Sasanic history and is of considerable historic value and immense cultural significance.

History records that it was developed and reconstructed by pious Kings like Devanampiyatissa, Dutugemunu and converted into a fully accomplished sacred place. According to the golden Sannasa Wallipuram committed to writing during the reign of King Vasabha, it is the present Jaffna peninsula that was identified as Nagadeepa.

Invitation to Thathagatha

When King Maniakkitha met Thathagatha on his second visit to Lanka at Nagadeepa he was very anxious that the great master, visit his kingdom too. With universal love towards all beings he arrived at Kelaniya later in the eighth year of his enlightenment. This honoured invitation had been made on a Bak full moon day, paving way for the third visit of the Buddha to this Dharmadweepa.

There is other evidence which highlight the importance of Buddha’s visit to Nagadeepa during the month of Bak. Surrounding areas bear testimony to this.

To show profound religious devotion and respect to Thathagatha, devotional activities include, the offering of flowers, incense and oil lamps coming down from Buddha times to this day. These offerings are made as a mark of gratitude in return for Buddha’s blessings.

It is believed that villages in and around Nagadeepa known as ‘Mallakam’ and ‘Chunnakam’ indicate places where flowers and incense were supplied for the worship of the Buddha. Further, the Buddhist chronicles make mention of ‘Puwangu Divayina, Ka-ara Divayina, Manda Divayina’ as popular Buddhist villages in the area, entirely devoted to Buddhist activities.

One can well and truly say that Nagadeepa the most favoured spot visited and blessed by Buddha occupies a unique place in the history of the island as a blissful place showered with peace and harmony among the inhabitants. May the relics enshrined in the Chetiya usher the area with unity for the peaceful co-existence of all beings.


Abhidhamma in a Nutshell - XXIV:

What is Matter?

Who created the world and living beings?

This is a widely debated and discussed topic in the world. There are many researches and studies done by scientists on this topic.

There are many theories presented. Number of investigations have found various types of evidence with regard to those theories. As usual old theories are broken and disproved by new theories.

Apart from scientific approaches to find an answer to the above question, every religion has some scriptures to deal with this.

Most of the religions attribute this existence and the beginning to some supernatural power. For example Muslims believe that the Universe has been created by All Mighty Allah.

Christians believe that God created the world. Those religious leaders and followers have their own logical explanations to prove their belief.

Buddhism deviates from many other religions in world with regard to this subject. It rather examines existence and future than the past. The third Reality in Abhidhamma is one of the best areas of the Doctrine to understand the existence of world and living beings.

The Reality of Matter - Rupa Paramaththa

The major part of Abhidhamma is all about ‘Mind and Matter’. Mind and Matter in other words Nama and Rupa is one of the two composite factors of this so called ‘Being’. Mind has already been described in the first two Realities. The Reality of Matter or Rupa Paramaththa is all about Matter.

Rupa is what always changes. It transforms from one mode to another mode owing to the adverse physical conditions such as cold and heat.

While changing, Rupa is also subject to change. One Rupa would generally endure for 17 thought moments. ‘Form’, ‘Body’, ‘Corporeality’ are some of the English terms for Rupa but the closest equivalent is considered as ‘Matter’.

There are 28 Rupas described in Rupa Paramaththa. This is categorised into two. The first four items are the most essentials for existence of every matter we see. Those are known as Mahabhutha Rupa or ‘The Four Great Elements’.

Every material object consists in the world contains these four elements in different compositions. Namely those are Patavidhathu, Apodhathu, Thejodhathu and Vayodhathu.

Rest of the 24 matters are derivatives of the above Four Great Elements. They are called Upadhaya Rupa. These Rupas also consist the four great elements but are the more prominent Rupas derived which would be identified.

These 28 Rupas will be described in details in the next few chapters. After knowing what they are, it would be possible to have an idea about existence of the world and living beings.

Reference:

‘A Manual of Abhidhamma’ by Ven. Narada Maha Thera

shamikabsb@hotmail.com


Tracing Gotama Buddha’s predecessors

The lineage of the Buddhas
1. Deepankara
2. Kondagngna
3. Mangala
4. Sumana
5. Revatha
6. Sobhitha
7. Anomadassi
8. Paduma
9. Narada
10. Padumuttara
11. Sumedha
12. Sujatha
13. Piyadassi
14. Aththadassi
15. Dhammadassi
16. Sidhdhaththa
17. Tissa
18. Phussa
19. Vipassi
20. Sikhi
21. Vessabhu
22. Kakusanda
23. Konagamana
24. Kasyapa

The Buddha has an intricate connotation. On a surface layer it means ‘one who is awaken from the worldly defilements’. Of the three supreme states in Buddhism, Arhath, Pacceka Buddha and Buddha, it is the Buddha who is most sublime with unsurpassed spiritual power. This phenomenon led most of his contemporaries including Nigantha Nataputta claim to have attained the Buddhahood. Ironically none of them elucidate the path they followed to achieve the enlightenment.

Predecessor

Ven. Meevanapalane Rathanasara Thera

Traditionally a Buddha should be prophesied by a predecessor. Gothama Buddha is said to have been prophesied by 24 predecessors (see table). Only one Buddha can exist at a time, though there can be many Arhaths and Pacceka Buddhas. All the Buddhas who prophesied the Gothama Buddha existed during different periods. The concept of 24 Buddhas suggest that their history is much more ancient than we can ever fathom. This is an interesting fact to pursue.

Ven. Meevanapalane Rathanasara Thera has made this easy by authoring a work on all the 24 Buddhas. Many devotees worship the previous Buddhas, while some are interested on their history. Only a few think of tracing the Buddha in academic terms, and Ven. Rathanasara belongs to that camp. The task did not turn out that easy for the Ven. Thera as he had to do an intensive research referring to works from Thripitaka, Sadhdharma Ratnavaliya and Poojavaliya.

Every aspect and feature of a Buddha is unique. Every Buddha has similar features and aspects. They are all born in a royal family, gets married and leads an ascetic life before the enlightenment. I have adapted a chunk from the Sinhala work to give the readers an idea:

“That aeon was called ‘Sara Manda’. ‘Sara Manda’ aeon accommodates four Buddhas: Thanhankara, Medhanka ra, Saranankara and Dipankara.

Sumedha

Dipankara Buddha’s account is as follows. He was born in a city full of 10 kinds of noises such as elephant’s, horse’s, vehicles’ and flutes. That city was ruled by King Sudeva with his Queen Sumedha. The son born to this royal family was named Dipankara, who was married to Princess Piyum upon the coming of age. Prince Dipankara’s son Usabhakkhandha was born on the day he had made the Great renunciation. He led a hard ascetic life for 10 months.

The citizens of that city gave alms to the sage Dipankara on a Vesak full moon poya day. He attained enlightenment under the tree called ‘Pulilasiri’. His chief disciples were Arhaths Sumangala and Tissa. Sagatha was his chief attendant. Nanda and Sunanda were his chief nun Arhaths. He attained parinibbana completing a lifespan of hundred thousand years.

Ascetic

Gothama Buddha was ascetic Sumedha at this time in the city of Amaravathi. When he asked for a place to watch the Buddha’s arrival to the City, he was given a muddy area. Although he had the spiritual power to cleanse the muddy area, he did it with available tools.

Dipankara Buddha was to visit before the muddy area was cleansed, so Ascetic Sumedha laid down himself making a bridge for the Buddha and his disciples to cross over. Thus Dipankara Buddha made the first prophesy that the ascetic Sumedha would become a future Buddha. Dipankara Buddha’s establishment was over. That time is gone. Everything springs up, exists and fades away.”

Influence

Religious books have been Ven. Rathanasara Thera’s favourite since childhood, mainly influenced from his teacher, the late Ven. Meevanapalane Sri Sumanatissa Sanghanayaka Thera. Ven. Rathanasara has authored two more books: Nivanpura Ruvan Dora on Nibbana and Vinaya Suvanda on Buddhist discipline. He concludes every chapter bringing out the fact that there is no power that surpasses the Buddha’s power.

The cover design by Somachandra Peries is very creative. The picture in the middle denotes the many Bo trees under which the Buddhas had attained enlightenment.

He starts the book with a meaningful stanza from the Dhammapada: The sun shines in the day. Moon in the nighttime. The king in his royal jewellery. The ascetic in his meditative strength. The Buddha outshines them all in both day and night.

This book that runs for 56 pages is a very handy book.

- Sachitra


Buddhist panacea for economic ills

“Contentment is the greatest wealth” - The Buddha

Once a discerning person had observed thus, “I was complaining about my worn out shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.” I think this statement shows in ample measure, the possibility of satisfying our self with one’s present possessions, by dwelling on the prospect of that one impression. One could be deprived of even the basic organs of sense. Many are those who sigh without end, for the lack of sight.

Benefactress

Recently, it was revealed in a Newspaper, how a blind benefactress, had bewailed to the great musician and composer Beethoven, how she would give all her wealth for the sight of moonlight. This in turn had inspired him, to compose the magnificent moonlight sonata.

Thus, in those times, which could also be described as Dickensian parlance as the “Best of Times and the Worst of Times,” a Buddhist could focus his mind on the realities of existence, i.e. Anicca (impermanence), Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness or conflict) and Anatta (Soullessness and insubstantiality), so clearly and unambiguously explained by the Buddha in (e.g.

Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, Saccavibanga Sutta, Maha Dukkhanda Sutta, Anattalakkana Sutta and the like) and content oneself, that the very fact of human birth is a blessing and cause for contentment.

The Buddha went on to state that, a human birth is rare and many are those who end up in a state of woe, so, if one is blessed in addition to a good mind, that is the best of possessions.

Since all actions are directed by the mind, and the potential of the human mind is limitless and not easy of comprehension. Presently, if we look around to see what is happening, we see supposedly prosperous empires falling apart, multi-national companies and business tycoons, beset with financial woes and seeking Government bail outs and the like.

Retrenchment

And some resorts to employee retrenchment etc. Now, what is the Buddhist explanation for the vicissitudes of fortune? It is nothing but, the illustration of the realities of existence, Anicca (impermanence), Dukkha (Unsatisfactoriness) and Anatta (Soullessness and Insubstantiality). The onset of the material prosperity as well as adversity cannot abide permanently and is subject to the law of arising and ceasing in a cyclic form.

Reality

Thus, the recognition of reality and subsequent acceptance of it, as it cannot be otherwise. Should able a discerning person to develop equanimous state of mind, towards the fluctuations of fortune and keep his balance, amid the ups and downs of worldly existence, by consoling oneself that one is possessed at least of the five aggregates of existence and the basic necessities of life.

These five aggregates are the necessary possessions to be relinquished in the quest for Nibbana, the summum bonum of Buddhism, which is the pacification of Greed, Hatred and Ignorance (Lobha, Dosa and Moha).

Furthermore, to be born in a country like Sri Lanka where the Theravada teaching has survived, should itself be a matter of satisfaction to a true Buddhist, as the opportunity to come into contact with the Dhamma does not come by chance, but due to previous merit.

Blessed

In addition, we in this thrice blessed land, have also to be grateful to our Government for providing free healthcare and education (however imperfect they maybe), though in reality not possessed of the finances to do so.

Thus, the Buddhists, who compose the majority of the population, cultivate according to their ability the practice of Dana (Generosity), Sila (Virtue) and Bhavana (Mental Development) this country will be a truly developed land.


The Buddhist Column:

Nigantha Nathaputta: A postscript

My story on Nigantha Nathaputta last week seem to have whisked a wasp’s nest, showering me with both bouquets and brickbats. Frankly, however, most were the brickbats.

Some called me Nigantha Mahendra for being a shameless man. I am happy I am quite used to this type of rudeness. Religious matters, it is said, are sensitive sometimes. I have no hard feelings for those who criticized me badly, because I know my story has hurt their feelings. For that matter, I say sorry to them though I do not apologize because they have misunderstood what I have written.

The average Buddhist scripts portray Nigantha Nathaputta as an arch rival of the Buddha. Naturally a common Buddhist devotee would get hurt to see something written on somebody they dislike. And such an essay itself may seem an insult to the Buddha.

My intention was different. I have not and do not want to insult the Buddha. What I needed was to share my studies on Nigantha Nathaputta. My meagre knowledge on Buddhism tells me that we have to study non-Buddhist scriptures as well to get a clear idea how Buddhism deviates from them. The studies of other faiths make your admiration of Buddhism firm. This is my line of thinking.

Buddhism is for the wise and progressive. Spiritual personalities such as Nigantha Nathaputta and Devadatta, therefore, should not be negatively observed. Nigantha Nathaputta, despite his despise for Buddhism, pioneered women’s entrance into monk establishment. Devadatta was in a meditatively elevated status and the Buddha prophesied that he would be a Pacceka Buddha. A negative personality, if there is one, should be studied.

My facts on Nigantha Nathaputta are an attempt to call a spade a spade, but they do not glorify him over the Buddha, who cannot be compared with anybody other than another Buddha. For those who charge me for insulting the Buddha, I pass an invitation to read the story once again and have a thorough look at my facts.

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