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Today is duruthu poya

The significance of Duruthu Poya:

The Buddha tames the Yakkhas

Duruthu is considered as the first month of the Sinahala Calendar Notable feature, this year 2009, is Durutu Full Moon Poya falls on Thursday, December 31, 2009. Incidently, this years month of December marks two Full Moon Poya Days. Unduvap Full Moon poya fell on Tuesday, December 1, 2009.

The Buddha preaches after taming the Yakkhas

The most important significance of Durutu Full Moon Poya Day, marks Gautama Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka. Twenty five centuries back, nine months after his Enlightenment, the Blessed One visited Mahiyangana, in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka. His mission was to restore peace, to create a state of freedom from war or violence.

The old chronicle “Mahavamsa” records and states “To free the beautiful land from the evil doing Yakkas”. On his first visit to Sri Lanka, the Awakened one, arrived at a spot, where now stands the Mahiyangana Stupa.

When the Great Teacher the Buddha was to depart after the conversion of the Yakkas of Bintenna, Mahiyaganae area for which purpose he had arrived, Sumana - a titular deity who possess a certain title or position but no real authority of this Resion, requested the Buddha to give him Deity Sumana, a souvenir to which he could pay his offerings and homage.

Thereupon, the Gautama Buddha, the Great Master, offered Deity Sumana, some locks of hair. He placed it in an urn as a valuable Relic in the Mahiyangana Stupa.

The Battle gongs were sounded. The battle drums beaten. The yakkas poised for combat. Then they noticed a stranger in Yellow robes Buddha appearing in the midst, the Yakkahs fled to the nearby jungles. Later, a few of them returned. They listened to Buddha’s Discourse. They laid aside their battle axes paid reverenee to Gautama Buddha. Having preached his message of PEACE, restored calm among the Yakkhas, the Incomparable One, returned to Jambudipa, or India.

Anyway, the focus of Duruthu Festival is centred round Kelaniya, the hollowed gained where the annual Duruthu Perahera is conducted by Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. The historic Vihara stands on a small mound just by the Southern Bank of Keleni River.

After Buddha passed away at Kusinara, in India, the Arahat Sarabhu Maha Thera, brought the collar-bone Relic of Gautama Buddha, and deposited it in the Mahiyangana Thupa. The Prince Uddachulabhaya, brother of king Devanampiyatissa, further enlarged the stupa.

First visit

Buddha, the Exalted One’s visits to Sri Lanka was considered as one of the most unparalled events in the history of the island. The documentary sources Deepavamsa and Mahavamsa records the visits of the Blessed One.

The advent of Buddhism took place in 247 B.C, with the arrival of Emperor Asoka’s only son Arahat Mahinda. In the pre-Mahindian history, the blessing to this beautiful island was Buddha’s first visit for Mahiyagane in the 9th month of his Enlightenment, on Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day.

Second Visit

According to the ancient chronicles, the Buddha’s second visit was to Nagadipa, in the Jaffna District. The Awakened One, Buddha, visited Nagadipa, to settle a dispute between Mahodara and Chulodara, uncle and nephew respectively, who were about to wase war, to gain the ownership of a gem studded thrine. Buddha, saw this and arrived in Nagadipa, emphasizing the value of harmony and ill-effects of hatred and settled the dispute without blood-shed.

Third visit

The chronicles states that Northern area in Sri Lanka had been ruled by the Sinhala kings of Anuradhapura. Since the reign of King Devanampiyatissa, people in Nagadipa and around became devotees of Buddhism.

As a result and number of Buddhist Temples had come up in this area. In HIS third visit, HE, arrived in Kelaniya.

It is stated that king Maniakkikha of Kelaniya, met Gautama Buddha, on his second visit to Sri Lanka (Nagadipa) and he was anxious Buddha to visit his kingdom Keleniya. Through love and compassion to all Sri Lankan’s, The Great Master, Thathajatha arrived at Kelaniya on a Vesak Full Moon Poya Day. Subsequently, the Buddha arrived at Sri Pada, at the invitation of Deity Sumana Saman.

Royal Patronage to Mahiyangana Stupa

King Dutugemunu (BC 161-137) with his four fold Army consisting of Elephants, Cavalry, Chariots and Infantry passing through Gutthalaka, (Buttala) and Malayarata Forests country arrived at Mahiyangana, Modera Aluthnuwara, where Dutugemunu faced his first encounter with Chattha, whom he defeated.

When the king saw the great damage to Mahiyangana Stupa, he renovated it.

Voharatissa (204-226 AD), built a Parasol Mahiyangana stupa. Sena II (885-896), Kassapa IV (896-913), Vijayabahu I (1059-1114) Parakramabahu I (1410-1468) were some of the kings who gave their Royal Patronage to the improvement, renovations and developments of Mahiyangana Maha Seya.

Sixteen important Buddhist places of worship

The Sri Lankan Buddhists consider 16 important places of Buddhist worship. The devotees recite a stanza. In this stanza or verse Mahiyangana chetiya is ranked as the number one place of worship. It reads:

Mahiyanganan -

Nagapipan

Kalyanan Padalanchanan

Divaguhan Digavapi

Chetiya Muthiyanganan

Tissamaha Viharancha

Bodhi Marichvattiyam

Thuparama Bhayagirin

Jetavanam Selachaittyam

Thatha Kalara Gamakan

Ethe Solasa Tanani

Ahan Vandami Muddana.

On the blessed day of Duruthu Poya, the devotees who flock to Mahiyangana Chaitya, will pay their homage to the blessed one reciting the stanza a given below.

Lankayan Yattha

Pataman

Sugato Nisajja

Yakkhe Dhamesi Nija

Sasana Palanaya

Jane Thahi Nihithi

Kuntala Geevadhatu

Vandami Sadhu

Mahiyangana Thuparaja

Morality

Let all of us adjust our way of life according to the Five precepts, abstain from destroying living beings; abstain from taking things not given; abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from false speech, abstain from taking anything that causes intoxication or heedlessness, they can live happily and peacefully in this world, and on other hand, help others to live likewise.

A person without virtue not only endangers himself but also others around him. Every Buddhist should observe these five precepts in order to elevate himself morally and spiritually. Remember, morality is the first step in the path towards eternal bliss.

It is the basic spiritual foundation. Without this base, there can be no human progress and spiritual advancement.

Peace

The teachings of Buddha are deeply imbued with the spirit of Peace. The two cannot be separated. To live a life free of violence, fear and hatred is the wish of the vast majority of ordinary people; peaceful ways, intentions characterize the way of life of those aspiring to enlightenment, and enlightened person is described as a stase of Peace and Nibbana as the Peaceful state.

Buddha’s Teachings contain many other states closely related to peace. With the dawn of 2010, let us all aspire calmness (sama), Tranquillity, (Samatha), Contentment (Santhutthi), Harmlessness (Ahimsa), Non-violence (Avihimsa) and Peacefulness (Vipassana).

Buddhism - A religion of tolerance

Rev. Joseph Wain, once remarked that buddhism taught a life of beauty and as a consequence, it was a religion of Tolerance. It was the most charitable system under the Sun. Never and nowhere had blood been shed for its propagation. It has never persecuted or maltreated those whose beliefs were different. The Awakened one, Gautama Buddha, taught man to beautify the today and sanctity the now.

From Glimpses of world history

According to the glimpses of world history written by Indian Prime Minister Pandit Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Buddhism is the religion of the greatest number of people in the world and Prince Gautama Siddhartha, was the greatest son of India. Today, Buddhism, is one of the major religions of the world. I presume, there are about six hundred million of Buddhists in the world.


The Bhikkhu Sangha, and Buddhist Societies

The Bhikkhus play a very vital and significant role in Buddhism in India. However, there is a shortage of monks qualified in local languages and many newly built Viharas have no resident monks. The Sri Lankan monks in India on long duration Visas are only marketing pilgrim rests and nothing is being done to propagate Buddhism or to raise the living standards of the illiterate depressed classes in India.

This is very well seen in a newly built pilgrim rest by a Sri Lankan monk, when pilgrims come there hundreds of children in rags bunch around the buses begging for a paisa. This centre, while maintaining the pilgrim rest, could devote some of the earnings to build a school for children or an orphanage to the parentless children or the under-privileged children rolling in inhuman poverty.

The Buddha statue in Kande Viharaya. Picture by Lakshan Maduranga

The revival of buddhism movement in India suffered a severe setback with the passing away of many eminent Indian Buddhist monks, such as, Ven. D. Sasanasiri (1966), Ven. K. Sirinivasa (1968), Ven. U. Chandramani (1972), Ven. Jagdish Kashyap (1976), Ven. Dhammarakkhita (1977), Ven. N. Jinaratana (1983), Ven. Metiwala Sangharatana Maha Thera (1985), Sri Lankan monk who built the Lankaramaya, opposite Jetavanaramaya, in Sravasti (Uttar Pradesh) and who was involved in the Indian Freedom Movement with the Indian leaders like Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and whose trip to India for permanent settlement in the late 1930s was fully financed by the aunt late Mrs.

Theodora Dias Nagahawatte -Wijeyanayake of Metiwela, Hikkaduwa. Ven. Sangharatana, on his last visit to Sri Lanka, confided to me that in the 1930s, when he was resident at Ranpath Vihara, Metiwela, Hikkaduwa, on an evening he called on the residence of my aunt, whom he referred to as ‘Overseer Hamine’ as he was the wife of the rich P. W. D. Overseer my late uncle, Wehelle Mudalige Charles Wijenayake, and told her that he had the intention of visiting India to set up a Vihara at Sravasti and live there permanently.

Having partaken of the ‘gilanpasa’ offered by the lady, he took his leave of her. She then offered him a sheaf of betel and he put it inside his arm-bag. On reaching the Vihara he casually took the sheaf of betel and he out it inside his arm-bag. On reaching the Vihara he casually took the sheaf of betel out of the bag to find to his total surprise Rs. 25,000 in the betel leaves.

He had immediately gone back to the lady and had told her that he found this money accidentally put by her. The lady had said that it was not an accident but to meet all his expenses, on his intended visit to India and construction of the Vihara at Sravasthi.

Ven. Metiwela Sangharatana Mahathera, ordained the young Australian at Sri Lankaramaya at Sravasthi under the name Sravasthi Dhammika and now called Ven. Sravasthi Dhammika, who has founded the Buddha Dhamma Mission Society in Singapore and now resident there a versatile author. He wrote the first picture story book Mahakarunika Katha in English and this writer had it translated from English to Sinhala and published by him for free distribution.

The other monks who passed away are Ven. U. Dhammaratana (1985), Bhadant Anand Kausalyayana (1988), Ven. L. Ariyawansa (1994), Ven. Anandamitra Maha Thera (1999), Ven. Pandit Dharmadhar Mahasthavira (2000) and Ven. S. Medhankar (2001). The three most senior living Buddhist monks in India are Ven. Acharya Buddharakkhita, the founder of Bangalore Maha Bodhi Society and an author too (born 1922), Ven. Shasan Rashmi (born 1922), Saranath, Ven.

Dharmapala Maha Thera (born 1925), Kolkata. Of the bhiikhunis is Mahaupasika Dr. Sithipol of Thailand, who has set of Vipassana Meditation centres around the world and the largest in a beautiful grove adjoining Jetavanaramaya, Sravasthi, with a hall where around 5000 meditators could participate in meditation retreats.

With the aim of augment the availability of trained bhikkhus a Monastic Training Institute, has been set up by Ven. Acharya Buddharakkhita, the founder of the Bangalore Maha Bodhi Society. He also has set up a fully equipped hospital for burn victims and transferred it to the Karnataka State Government for providing free medical care.


Buddha’s visit to Mahiyangana

Deepawansa, Samanthapasadika and Mahavamsa the three great ancient chronicles written 900, 1000 and 1100 years respectively after the Maha parinibbana of the Buddha Sakyamuni Gautama, give a detailed account of his sacred visits to this Dhammadweepa and it is very interesting to note that it has developed a tradition unique in its origin and advancement of Buddhism throughout.

It is recorded when Thathagatha visited the island he foresaw that the doctrine He discovered and preached in Jambudweepa will be preserved in its pristine purity by the devotees in Sri Lanka.

It is true that Sri Lanka stands as a well renowned country as Dharmadweepa since it’s inception here when Buddhism had already declined in its place of birth. Sri Lanka had the good fortune of being blessed with the presence of the living Buddha - the most sacred event in human history.

Not once but thrice on various occasions. These sacred visits has preceded the introduction of Buddhism by Thera Mahinda in 247 BC. In the pre-Mahinda era the greatest blessing to the island was Buddha’s first visit to Mahiyangana in the 9th month after the enlightenment.

The above mentioned chronicles reveal that the Buddha arrived in the Mahanagavana, the splendid park in Mahiyangana, on the right bank of river Mahaweli. What was the area like when Buddha arrived could be concluded by the descriptions made by the Britishers the Imperial masters centuries later. Richard Brooke in 1832 the first Englishman to explore Mahaweli which is according to him was the biggest river in Ceylon.

Mahinyangana - Location

“It flows through most of the wildest and also some of the most beautiful areas in Ceylon. The country through which Mahaweli flows beyond doubt extensively cultivated and any casual observer visiting, must be surprised at the vast manual labour spent in the construction of canals and tanks now totally neglected. One of the main high ways in Kandyan times followed the course of Mahaweli eastward from the capital to Alutnuwara. It is said that Alutnuwara or Mahiyangana was an important river port. Pre-Christian Sinhala literature poetry and history gives it great importance. Then one can just imagine how Mahaweli-Mahiyangana must have been during Buddha time.

How Yakka tribe was subdued

Early chronicles provide definite evidence of the tribes living here. The island at the time of Buddha’s visit was inhabited by Yakkas and Nagas referred to as Amanussa. Here the reference may probably be to the primitive state of civilization in the island. Buddha himself is said to have rid the island of the Yakkas and made it suitable for human habitation. Because as mentioned earlier, Buddha was aware that in this island his teaching was to flourish.

However, the sudden appearance of the Perfect One in yellow attire radiating the glow (Budu res) the Yakkas who were overwhelmed with their rough behaviour, had thrown away their weapons and listened to Buddha and finally they have had the good luck to be blessed with the teachings of the Buddha.

They have now become good and useful citizens. Chronicles reveal how the Great Master arrived at Mahiyangana on Duruthu full moon day by air to restore peace among the war stricken Yakkas who were driven away to Giri Dripa. Again it is in the Vijaya episode that we hear much of the Yakkas much later.

The First Stupa

Subsequently, He preached Dhamma to a great gathering of gods. God Mahasumana of the Sumanakuta mountain (the guardian god) who on this occasion attained the state of Sotapanna, after listening to the sermons of the Buddha requested Him, to give something to worship, before his departure. He gave him a handful of hair from His head as an object of worship.

God Mahasumana placed it in a golden casket and later enshrined in a stupa embedded with blue stones built at the place where the Great Master was seated at Mahiyangana, considered the most sanctified spot, in the vicinity of Mahaweli.

This was built to the height of seven riyanas (a measure). This so-called Mahiyangana Chetiya is given much significance not only because it is the first stupa built in Sri Lanka, but also it is the first one built by a divine being on the spot where the Buddha made his first visit to the island.

This had been improved at various stages. After the Parinibbana of the Buddha and the distribution of the sacred relics the remaining neck relic (Greeva Dathu) was brought to Sri Lanka by Arahat Sasabu a pupil of Ven. Sariputta and enshrined in Mahiyangana stupa raising it to 12 riyanas. Later it was built to a height of 30 riyanas by king Uddaculabhaya, King Devanampiyatissa’s brothers’ son who covered it over afresh.

Still later king Dutugamunu built a mantle chetiya over it completing it to a height of 80 riyanas which exists to this day as an amazing marvel, and a landmark gift to Buddhist heritage. Today if has become the most sanctified and venerated place of worship by the devotees and also a national treasure.


Curbing the tribesmen

Even before the birth of Buddhism, people in Asian countries counted days from the Full Moon day (Poya day). The calendar was called the lunar calendar. Asian ascetics in the ancient times made it a practice to cease worldly pursuits and engage themselves in religious activities on full moon days. Not only the full moon day, even the moonless day (Amavaka) was considered a day to engage in religious rituals.

The Buddha preaches to the Yakkha tribe

The Buddha also adopted this practice and from this developed the preaching of the Dhamma, and chanting of Suttas in monasteries and temples on Full Moon Poya days. At a time when there was no electricity, people found it easy to visit temples in the nights of full moon poya. When the venerable Rahat Mahinda Thera introduced Buddhism to this country in 247 BC he also introduced the Poya tradition.

Even today Buddhists observe Sil and abstain from sins on these days. Owing to its significance in the religious life of the local Buddhists, all the full-moon days have been declared public holidays by the government. There are four Poyas in Buddhist Calendar - Full Moon Day, Moonless Day, and two Mid Poyas.

Another noteworthy fact about this day is that every full-moon poya has assumed some ritualistic significance in one way or the other. While the two most important poyas for Sri Lankans are Vesak and Poson Poyas, Duruthu Poya is also celebrated by them as an important day.

The first poya in the year, Duruthu Poya, falls in the month of January. But in 2010 it is advanced to December 31st 2009, Unduwap and Duruthu, both the poyas falling in December. When the New year dawns on January 1st Duruthu full moon will be shining in the mid heaven.

The most notable incident to Sri Lanka Buddhists associated with Duruthu Poya is that the Buddha arrived in Sri Lanka nine months after he attained Enlightenment. There are no exact pre historical evidence to prove Buddha’s arrival. Hence professor Paranawithana disputed this. But it is recorded in historical chronicals such as Chulawamsa, Deepawamsa and Mahawamsa.

There had been a tribe of people called Yakkhas living in Mahiyangana situated in Badulla district, in Uva Province. According to chronicles Buddha came to Sri Lanka to tame these Yakkhas and to free the country from them. One school of thought says they were not devils in the Normal meaning of Yakkhas.

They were strong people with a rough appearance and tough in qualities, worshipping demons. But some others think they were devils, not human beings. There were also Nagas who were more civilized and pleasant. They worshipped Nagas (serpents).

Buddha realizing that his “Sasana” will be strongly rooted and conserved in Sri Lanka came here to clear the island from these devils. They were concentrated in the present Mahiyangana area on the banks of Mahaweli river. When for the first time Buddha arrived in Mahiyangana, they were reluctant to welcome Buddha. They tried hard to chase him away.

Buddha with his super humane powers created wind, rain, and darkness and performed other “prathiharyas”. Yakkhas were feared and astonished. They were startled on seeing a rare behaviour of the visitor in yellow robes in front of their very eyes. Buddha was able to frighten and overpower them. Then the Buddha was offered a little space to lay his mat (Pathkadaya). Buddha sat on the mat and created a fire around him. Yakkhas were frightened and they moved away from the Buddha. Buddha manifested a land called Giri (small mountain), to put the Yakkhas on that island and expelled them from Mahiyangana.

There were another tribe of people called “Devas’, not Gods according to the popular meaning of Deva, Although the Sinhala meaning of Deva is God, the local Devas did not possess divine powers of Gods.

They were also human beings living in ancient Sri Lanka, but had more soft, intelligent and charismatic qualities in them and were more devoted than the ordinary people.

After Yakkhas have been chased away, Devas (gods) came in place of them. On realizing that they were more intelligent and civilized Buddha preached his Dhamma and most of them attained the state of “Sovan’, the first step in the path to Arhathood. One of the leaders of the Deva tribe was “Sumana Saman”. People deitified him and later many Sri Lankan Buddhists started worshipping him. God Sumana Saman is believed to be the God whose divine power is in the area of the Samanthakuta (Adam’s Peak). God Saman begged the Buddha for something to worship. The Buddha stroked his hair and gave a handful of hair to him.

He accepted it in a golden casket and kept it on the spot where the Buddha was seated. On the same day the Buddha went back to the village Uruwela in India.

Monk Sarabu, one of the disciples of Buddha took a small portion from Buddha’s neck - Greeva Dhatu - (or collar bone?) from the pyre after the Buddha’s cremation and preserved it at the same place where the hair relic was conserved and raised the pagoda to a height of 18 feet.

The Mahiyangana Sthupa which stands today was developed by Uddha Chulabhaya, cousin of king Dewanampiyatissa to a height of 45 feet and King Dutugemunu enlarged it to 120 feet. From time to time further developments were done by various kings. Although Mahiyangana is the important place in Duruthu Poya it is celebrated in Kelaniya, with Duruthu Perahera.

After returning to Uruwela, Buddha on the same day, Duruthu Poya day, visited Rajagaha in response to a special request from the King Bimbisara made about seven years ago, before attaining Buddhahood, to visit his palace after attaining the Enlightenment.

Hearing that Buddha has come to his kingdom and staying in a palm grove, the King went there with his men and invited Buddha to his palace. In the palace king Bimbisara offered him and his disciples meals, dana. After partaking the meals offered Buddha preached Dhamma and the King became Sovan. Following day he delivered “Thirokudda Sutta” in order to invoke blessings to king’s dead relatives.

King donated the Veluvanaramaya, monastery in the bamboo grove to the Buddha on the same day. It was the first monastery in Buddha sasana and was accepted by the Buddha on the blessed month of Duruthu.

For Buddhist in Sri Lanka Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka is as important as the Poson Poya and they up to date celebrate this.

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