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H1.01   The glittering history of Mihintale - The year 247 BC marks the introduction of Buddhism...

H1.02   Buddhism in ancient Israel and Arabia - A new light on ancient Middle East religio-politics...

H1.03   A journey through cave temples - This huge cave shrine has a recumbent Buddha image made of...

H1.04   Buddhism regained - The untiring efforts of Velivita Sri Saranankara Sangharaja Thera in restoring the lost...

H1.05   The seat of enlightenment - As the Ganges flows through Varanasi (Benares), one sees the spirit...

H1.06   The great Tamil Buddhists - Buddhism came to South India during Emperor Asoka’s…

H1.07   Unfinished business at Tantrimale - A sedentary Buddha, colossal in stature, carved in the rock...

H1.08   Bringing back the glory of Gandhara - The fact that the great Buddhist civilization...

H1.09   Tale of two cities from Buddhist Burma - There are thousands of stories in the countries of the world…

H1.10   Unrolling precious scrolls - Oldest Buddhist scriptures that emerged in a clay pot in Afghanistan...

H1.11   Flag of faith flies high - Created during the Buddhist revivalist movement in colonial Sri Lanka...

H1.12   The birth of the Buddhist flag - A blend of six colours believed to have been exhibited in the aura...

H1.13   Buddha Gaya – then and now - Half a century ago, in 1956, several important events took place.

H1.14   A visit to Buddhagaya - IT was our National New Year's Day, 2005...

H1.15   Symbolism in Buddhism - The practice of Buddhism today contains a wealth of symbols, images...

H1.16   Sri Dalada Puja for Vesak Poya - A blessing - People all over the world...

H1.17   Kesariya the tallest stupa - The tallest Buddhist stupa in the world…

H1.18   The four sacred places a devout Buddhist should visit - The Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha laying...

H1.19   Senanigama at Buddha Gaya where Sujatha lived - With the dedication of Buddha Gaya Maha Bodhi Temple...

H1.20   Senchi, forest retreat of king Vessantara - It is in the vicinity of the great Stupa...

 

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H1.01   The glittering history of Mihintale

Rupa Banduwardena

MIHINTALE: The year 247 BC marks the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Arhant Mahinda led the Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa.

It is said that Buddhism spread rapidly influencing the lives of the people creating a civilization unheard before leaving behind a number of legacies. Arhant Mahinda resided in the caves the mountain east of Anuradhapura, the capital of the first generation of kings and it came to be known as Mihintale, resting among the misty hills is undoubtedly the most important and remarkable historic place in the island.

It occupies a unique place in the religious history of the island. The glittering history of Mihintale begins there.

The King Devanampiyatissa the ruling king engaged in hunting was chasing a deer when Arhant Mahinda addressed him by the name and in the course of the conversation with the astonished king, he tested the king’s capacity to understand the truth of Buddhism and preached to him the ‘Chullahaththipadopama Sutta.’

The King accepted Buddhism followed by the people at large, for the benefit of the mankind. The king donated the Mahameghawanna gardens to Arhant Mahinda where Mahavihara, the centre of Buddhism (Theravada doctrine) was later constructed.

What we call Mihintale today was known as Missakapabbata or Chetiyapabhata. It was here that the king was converted to Buddhism. This well-renowned place was marked by Ambatale dagaba which is said to have been constructed by king Mahanaga.

A flight of 1840 steps lead to the summit of the hill. Mihintale had gradually developed into a vihara of great significance. There had been many caves occupied by the monks, the most sacred being the Mihindu Guhawa, named after Arhant Mahinda where he is said to have lived.

Mihintale was also identified as ‘chetiyagiri’ consisting of three peaks with dagabas in each peak, the most famous being the Kantaka Chetiya. The king Devanampiyatissa is said to have built a monastery for the monks to mark his conversion. There had been a hospital at the foot of the mountain with a stone canoe where patients had been treated with medicinal oil.

A number of ponds (pokuna) the most renowned being the Nagapokuna and Kaludiyapokuna provided water as well as scenic beauty to the place. There is documentary evidence of all these places in Mahavamsa well supported by archaeological ruins.

Besides the spiritual message the archaeological remains are a glowing tribute to the cultural development prevalent at the time. Various kings had renovated and maintained the sacred place at different times. The fact that the kings revered respected and gave all encouragement and support to the religion contributed in no small measure to the spread of Buddhism.

The greatest philosophy embodied in Buddhism conveyed through the message of Ven. Thera Mahinda thus guided the kings and the people. It was at Mihintale that the greatest single and the most glorious event in Sri Lanka’s history took place.

The karuna and maitriya that the Buddhism emphasises has much to do with life today than any other period. Let us protect this supreme doctrine to usher peace. Today Mihintale where this true doctrine organised in Sri Lanka has become the most visited sacred place during the month of Poson. Sri Lankans - Do visit this sacred place of bliss.

31 05 2007 - Daily News

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H1.02   Buddhism in ancient Israel and Arabia

A new light on ancient Middle East religio-politics through literary and archaeological evidence

A.D.T.E. Perera

(Formerly, Associate Editor, Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Government of Sri Lanka, publication, Research Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico, USA, Guest Research Fellow, Department of Disarmament and Development, UNO, New York)

The publication of a research paper recently, written by the great scholar Most Ven. (Dr.) Paravahera Pannananda Nayaka Thera, the Chancellor of the Ruhunu University of Sri Lanka, has caused waves of speculation on the ocean of historical research. The learned Thera has identified pre-Islamic Arabia as the possible location of the hometown of a Great Buddhist Monk named Punna Thera who was a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Nayaka Thera has taken steps further by identifying the Sacred City "Mecca" in Arabia, as the place where an original Buddhist Shrine was built at the behest of Ven. Punna Thera while the Buddha was alive. According to the thesis of Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Nayaka Thera there were four Buddhist monasteries caused to have been built by the Buddha's pupil Ven. Punna Thera and all those four temples were sanctified by the Buddha Himself who had arrived in aerial cars from India to far West Arabia. The aerial cars were provided by the King of Gods, Sakra.

Until the publication of this learned paper, based on original Buddhist texts and their commentaries, no one seems to have ever ventured to give thought to such a possibility, that Buddhism had been established in a West-Asian region which was the meeting point of East West cultures in the old world, the entrepot as it were, as far back as the 6th century B.C. while Gautama Buddha was still living.

Other than sporadic references and short essays on Buddhist missionaries that went to West Asian cities, several centuries after the passing away of the Buddha, there was no major research done on this subject of Buddha's teachings beyond the Indian sub-continent during the very lifetime of the Buddha.

Although mighty civilisations and empires arose in this region of Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Myceneans, Cretans, Athenians, Persians, Hittite, Mittanni, that have left indomitable marks of their grand cultures, historians were only satisfied with on the spot investigations and locating this entire network of pre-Christian kingdoms as an agglomeration with constant warfare with one another and not as one that had potential to communicate and build contact with the regions and kingdoms outside their own theatre.

References to merchants, caravan traders, kings and courtiers and men in search of learning trekking dangerous desert terrain from East to West and vice-versa are found in ample in early Buddhist texts and related narrative literature like the Jataka Stories. But these were not taken seriously by the historians or archaeologists to investigate possible historical sites and their survivals.

Such behaviour on the part of academies was not unusual because the early scholars who wrote and edited Buddhist books were mostly Europeans who would not have given thought to establish the cultural communication, the Eastern World had had with the people outside their kingdoms during such a hoary antiquity when the forefather of Europeans were living under sub-cultural conditions.

The great barriers of communication caused by terror-striking deserts like Taklamakan and Gobi and huge snow capped mountains like the Himalayas and the freezing weather patterns coupled with ferocious nomadic people wielding broad swords and riding on fast moving ponies who inhabited these regions were all witnessed by the pioneer Western scholars like Sir Auriel Stein, Paul Pelliot, Albert Grunweddel, Ludwig Bachhofer, E.J. Rapson, Helmuth Von Glasenapp, Le Gocq, Guesseppe Tucci and many others who travelled in Asia in search of literary and cultural survivals of great Eastern civilisations. Their first impression would have been very likely, "that other than conquering armies of ferocious nomadic tribes like Arabs, Scythians, Yeuh Chihs, Hepthalites or Hunas, Tocharians, Tartars and Mongals, no other sensible people would ever have dared to cross these terrible barriers in search of better pastures. Hence, "the meeting of cultural conscious people, learned men, monks and eremites in search of divine wisdom, Truth or Sat (hence Sathnyasi Sannyasi) who preferred seclusion more than vain glory adventures was a remote possibility," would have been the conclusion of the historian and the research scholar of decades gone by.

The Holy Bible relates how the ruthless armies of war-lords have devastated these regions and taken captive thousands of POWs, as slaves. The history of Egyptian Pharaoes, Sumarians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Greeks, Medians, Cretans, Achaemenids, was one that has recorded intermittent warfare and ruthless carnage spelled by those jingoistic bellicose rulers on their dependant, less powerful neighbours.

One might say such a background would never have encouraged visits or religious leaders and men of learning to cross the boundaries of their own native lands and enter alient territory, and those references to visits of men in quest of learning and religious wisdom from far away lands were mere fanciful stories concocted by pious monks to enhance the importance of their own sects, creeds and religious schools.

However, a major breakthrough has now been made by the scholar Thera mentioned above, who has marshalled his facts gleaned from authentic sources of early Buddhist literature.

Being a student of archaeology myself, I have had that discipline moulded under that polymath late Professor Senerath Paranavitana, when he was my Guru as the first professor of Archaeology at Peradeniya University. I had the good occasion to do some major research in religious archaeology while being an Associate Editor of the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism when the late Professor G.P. Malalasekera of international flame was its Editor-in-Chief in the late sixties and early seventies and later with yet another luminary, the late Professor A.L. Basham during my stay at the Australian National University, in Canberra.

While tracing possible survivals of Buddhism's expansion from its birthplace, the Middle India, I was fortunate enough to trace a few localities outside India, towards Far West and beyond the Northern barrier of Himalayan terrain where flourishing cultures of Buddhist Kingdoms had sprung up during pre-Christian centuries.

However, I was rather hesitant to locate any of those pre-Christian Buddhist Kingdoms that existed on the great Northern Highway, the cponymous "Uttrapatha", (the "Silk Route" as some writers name it) during the very life-time of the Buddha.

With bare facilities at my disposal and with guess work, possibilities, probabilities, and plausibilities, I launched upon my initial archaeological research. Later my views were placed before the readers and students through the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism and other research papers addressed before a couple of International Academic Conference Seminars.

However, with the publication of the essay on "Buddhism in Arabia before Islam", by the learned Thera, my interests were again kindled and I was compelled to make further research into those localities where I have done preliminary research some time ago and had given up half-way, because I felt that it would be a waste of time to construct and revive lost and forgotten cultures without substantial evidence, especially literary and archaeological.

The present research study is an assay to marshal whatever evidence at my disposal, collected over the past many years to reweave a broken fabric is it were, whereby I would be able to present a picture of that past golden age during which our Lord Gautama Buddha lived and tirelessly served the mankind for 44 years to save the sentient beings from "universal suffering" (Dukkha) by expounding The One and The Only Way "The Nobel Eightfold Path" (Ariya Attangika Magga).

Scientific discipline that one acquires through modern learning alone, does not help one to get a correct perspective of the deeds, contributions and behaviour of those great men who lived in the past. When people failed to understand the behaviour of such great men, they were scoffed off, rediculed and condemned as mystics, fanatics, magicians, and the like. Jesus Christ was crucified, as a rebellious traitor, Corpenicus and Gallileo were condemned to death by the Catholic Church of Rome, Socrates was poisoned, Zorastrar was murdered, Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead. Several attempts on the life of Gautama Buddha were recorded. Buddha's greatest disciple Ven. Maha Moggallana Thera was beaten to death (mistaken identity, the texts say, but who knows).

As far as Buddha's teachings are concerned, the philosophy and the doctrine, it is the consensus of a large number of scholars of the present and the past century, that what the Buddha taught was unique. Teachings of no other founder of a religion on this planet earth can be said similar or identical, let alone superior to the Buddha's "Dhamma" or teaching. This Dhamma which is better called Saddharma is now enshrined in the copious volumes known as the Tripitaka.

A former Oxford Don and Vice President of India, the late Professor Sarvapalli Radhakrishan while praising the Buddha's teachings, tried to identify Buddha's Dharma as an off shoot of the Vedic tradition or Vedanta, but subsequent scholars have found such theorising is not far from being partial. Both oriental and Western scholars more or less agree that Buddha's teachings are 'unique' and incomparable to any philosophy of East or West, and the "Path" (Maga) laid down by the Buddha for the liberation of mankind was unheard of before in any other religious system. Why should mankind need salvation from an inconsistent existence, embroiled in impermanance (Annicca), causing pain and unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha), and without any cogent reason to accept the presence of an enteral soul (Anatta)? That salvation or perfect liberation should not be shrouded in mystic terms, ascribed to an unknown unseen, divine being, the creator god.

It is because of this specific reason that men of great learning, philosophers, kings, courtiers and people of all walks of life, of all ranks of the society e.g. bankers, princes, princesses, courtesans, military men, highwaymen, uncouth demonic characters, robbers, beggars, scavengers and the like all had gone and surrendered before the Bhagavat Gautama Buddha, The Supreme Saviour and sought refuge in Him, His dhamma and His Noble Disciples, the eremite Ariya Sangha, by uttering the solemn stanza: "Buddham Saranam Gacchami". It was the Buddha who showed for the first time in the history of mankind that one should surrender before the incomparable Guru, His teachings and His Noble Disciples. Thus the phrase "Saranam Gacchami" (surrender) entered into the religious vocabulary of the Buddhists.

Buddhists in every Buddhist country, worship the Buddha not as a great divine, supernatural, esoteric. Being, but as a Great being far, far, above all the mighty unseen ontological divine beings.

The Buddha was thus considered During His lifetime, the Buddha had manifested all the psychic excellences and powers that are unmatched by any of the supernormal powers of those great beings including the misconceived divine being of Creation as was known at that time by the name Brahma or Maha Brahma.

The Buddha had scaled the length and breadth of the uninhabited regions as well as the inhabited regions of this planet earth. His three visits to Sri Lanka although some do consider such references as mythical and fabulous, are only a bare fraction of the lands the great Buddha had traversed using both His physical composure and enormous psychic powers.

The above short prolegomenon I am constrained to add to this present essay, on "Buddhism - 'a great civilising factor - "in Arabia and surrounding West Asian regions," because without which the reader would find it somewhat a thrust upon him unprepared and unexpectedly.

***

Coming back to the "latest theory' the Buddhism was introduced to Arabia during the very lifetime of the Buddha", we now embark upon to present before the scholarly world our own investigations made over a period of more than two decades. Our researches have yielded some fascinating data that we are fortunate enough to have struck upon.

These information we hope will enable us to further substantiate the thesis of the learned Thera Venerable (Dr.) Paravahera Pannananda, that "Buddhism was the Religion of Arabia before Islam" that brought a great civilising effect on those people who were worse than the lost sheep in a desert wilderness.

"Had Buddhism been introduced to Arabia several centuries (at least five or six centuries) prior to the Christian era, why don't we get any traces of its remains either in the form of religious literature or archaeological survivals?" would be the logical question one would raise.

Again one may ask, "had the Great Buddha been such a supra - human or a hyper - human Being, His visit and stay in this part of the world would have made an indelible impression on the minds of the people of these regions. Therefore what are the survivals of such an impressive effective impact?"

Through our investigations we are now in a position to bring out a substantial amount of information that throw light on the hidden history of the spread of Buddhism not only in Arabia but in many other kingdoms in West-Asia as well, during pre-Christian centuries.

The Buddhist texts refer to many instances of foreigners from distant lands coming to worship the Buddha, having heard of His presence 'that a Great Being who calls Himself, the Buddha has appeared in the world' and residing in Middle India (Magadha Kingdom). The story of Punna Thera is one such episode in which the main characters, Punna Thera and his brother were caravan traders from Sunaparanta.

According to textual reference, the very first lay disciples of Gautama Buddha, even before the Buddha established His Bhikkhu community namely the Sangha (also called the Buddhaputtras or sons of the Buddha) were also two caravan leaders who came from Uttrapatha (the Great Northern Highway) in their trading missions. They were known by their names Tapassu and Bhalluka. Buddhist texts refer to them as the first two lay followers of the Buddha, who surrendered before the Buddha and His Doctrine (who sought refuge in the Buddha and the Dhamma). The Pali phrase "Buddham Saranam Gacchami, Dhammam Saranam Gacchami" was first uttered by those two trader brothers who offered to the Buddha a regal repast full of "mead and pop-corn (fried grain). This type of food must have been a common food item, if not the staple diet, among the West Asians and those people who lived in the peripheral regions where corn and barley are grown as staple food.

Holy Bible says that John, the Baptist was in the habit of eating 'locusts dipped in honey'. The Bible translators of medieval times at King James behest must have mistaken an early Greek or The home country of the two caravan leaders Tapassu and Bhalluka who were the Buddha's first lay disciples has been located at "Balkh', a city in ancient Bactria and north of present day Afghanistan, through which ran the famous Great Northern Highway, "Uttarapatha".

The Buddhist Jataka tales have many references to such caravan leaders who had braved the hazards of highwaymen-ridden dangerous desert tracks and arrived in Jambhudveepa (India).

Amongst those nomadic desert dwelling plundering tribal people, notorious were the Beduin Arabs. They were known for their cruelty, harsh behaviour, plundering and killing their victims to earn a living.

The navigator who sailed across the Red Sea and kept his anonymous record of 'The Periplus of the Erythean Sea", narrates in no ambiguous terms the ferocious nature of those tribes who inhabited mainland and literal Arabia. He advises all sailors to avoid dealing with these nomadic uncouth Beduin Arab tribes of desert posts.

***

The story of Punna Thera as related in early Buddhist texts is exactly a reminder of those ferocious tribes in the Western regions (Aparanta). But Punna Thera, a well disciplined disciple of Gautama Buddha, knew that he could handle those uncouth people who were His kinsmen.

Ven. Punna Thera who settled with his own following of monks at Sunaparanta, having caused to be built - four temples at the following sites: Ambahatta Pabbata, Samudragiri Vihara (a temple near the sea) where there was a magnetic rock engirting a stone platform used as a promenade for monks meditation practice.

The first Shrine built for Punna Thera was named Ambahatta Pabbata by the Pali scribes of Buddhist texts. The name suggests that it was either a rock-cut shrine or a temple built on a natural eminence (Amba or Amra Pabbata eminence).

I dare to identify this shrine Ambahatta or Ambatta of the early Buddhist texts with the pre-Islamic shrine Amrah on the Northern end of the Dead Sea.

A modern historian describes this shrine as follows: "Qusayr Amrah" meaning the little castle of "Amrah" stands on the edge of a wadi in the desert of the Northern end of Dead Sea. Here too among the remains of ancient monuments is a structure with a hemispherical dome, resembling a Buddhist Stupa (tope).

The second temple built for Punna Thera was named Samudragiri Vihara which had a magnetic stone promenade within a stone enclosure. But the great noise of the sea prevented Ven. Punna Thera from engaging in his much desired meditation.

I identify this temple site with the famous 'Temple of Jerusalem' where a magnetic rock is located. In Hebrew or Aramanic language Sela (which takes the form Patra in Latin or Greek?) refers to a stone or rock. Sela is also traceable to Indo-European origin. In Pali or Sanskrit, Sela-Saila are synonyms for rock, stone, mountain.

I am constrained to identify the Temple site at Jerusalem, the Holy of the Holiest of Christendom, as the exact location of the ancient Buddhist monastery Samudragiri Vihara built for Punna Thera, within close proximity to the sea. This might have been an ancient Judaic religious site where a Jewish temple complex dedicated to Jehowah, the great sacrificial god, existed, and later appropriated by those who were converted by Punna Thera to the peaceful non-sacri-ficial religion of the Buddha. This was exactly the case in regard to many early Buddhist religious sites and shrines. This was the case in ancient pre-Christian era Sri Lanka and also in India.

According to the Buddhist texts, the noisy waves of the sea close to this shrine, Ven. Punna Thera had tamed using his psychic (Iddhi) powers.

Buddhist textual references mention that Punna Thera through his psychic powers caused the noisy sea to be calm (dead as it were). Hence the subsequent name 'Dead Sea' as mentioned above in this essay. Earlier it was known as the 'Sea of Arabah'.

A similar fete has later been attributed to Jesus also or Jesus Himself had performed a similar fete six hundred years later through his own psychic powers (Iddhi or Iddhi bala in Buddhism).

The third temple was Matulagiri where the noise of birds troubled Punna Thera's meditation and finally Ven. Punna Thera left for the fourth temple built for him by his rich caravan trader brother and that was named Makulakarama. This fourth temple is the one which the learned Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Thera identified as the present 'Mecca' shrine in mainland Arabia.

At Sunaparanta, Ven. Punna Thera got down red-sandal wood to build a hall for the Buddha (Candana sala) Red Cedar was used by Biblical Kings of Jerusalem David, Solomon etc., also, for the construction of temples. This was an ancient architectural practice in this part of modern Israel, the pre-islamic State of Arabah where flourished the Nabatean Kingdoms.

According to the story in the early Buddhist texts, the Samudragiri Temple was quite close to the sea, but today Jerusalem stands about fifteen (15) miles away from the Dead sea as the crow flies.

Those who may disagree with my proposed identification might pose the question "How can a temple lying 15 miles away from the Dead Sea cause obstruction to its indwellers on account of the great noise of the sea? Surely, the Buddhist texts refer to an incident that had taken place more than 2,500 years ago.

In places where inland seas or lakes, that are fed by rivers, the possibility of narrowing the shore region by accumulated silt or the contraction of the inland sea or lake owing to dry climate was possible. The great Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in Central Asia were once a large inland sea according to marine scientists and geologists. The sediment, brought up over the past centuries by the Great rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra in East bengal have pushed the sea-shore back several miles into the Indian Ocean.

Therefore what could have taken place during a long period of 2,500 years at Dead Sea littoral can be easily understood and need not be emphasized further.

It is quite possible that Jerusalem was at close proximity to the "Sea of Arabah' as the "Dead Sea" was then known at the time of Punna Thera (Cir. 6th century B.C.).

Even the name "Jerusalem" can be considered as an early Aramaic form of 'Samudra Giri', the name of the Buddhist Shrine complex. The term giri meaning 'rock' can be equalled with the term Sela (later Petra) referring to 'a rock" among Aramaic or Hebrew speaking people in ancient sinai-Arabah region. Sala, Saila, Sela (meaning rock or stone), although taken as an Indo-European phonetic term could have either got into Aramaic or Hebrew (both of the semitic family) or could have been borrowed from Semitic to Indo-European.

'Jeru-Salem' if it was an original formation meaning 'rock near sea' was expressed in Buddhist text as 'Samudra - Giri' when put into early Indian (Sanskrit or Pali). One has to further investigate whether 'Jeru' or 'Jericho' (another ancient site near Arabah sea) has any relation to 'Samudra' or sea in ancient Indic phonemes.

Although our explanation is hypothetical, yet the fact remains, that Jerusalem was an ancient Holy Place where stood at least some of the items that are referred to in Punna Thera story.

We quote "There was a Sacred Rock (As-Sakhra) at Jerusalem, the place of pilgrimage for Muslims also. This was the ancient rock which formed the highest point in the temple area and on which David's altar probably once stood."

"Muslims believe that this was the precise point from which Mohammed had made his miraculous ascent to heaven."

"The rock on which apostle of Allah set his foot when he ascended into heaven. This reference may be a survival of an historic event that took place in Ven. Punna Thera's time when our Lord Bhagavan Buddha visited and sanctified the Rock Shine and placed His 'Sacred Foot Print', on the stone altar or dais there, a practice or an act the Buddha had done in sanctifying and appropriating such stone "Altar Shrines" of pre-Buddhist religious cult worshippers even elsewhere.

The Tamkita Manca', the stone dais of Yakkha cult worshippers in Gaya district in India, is found even up to this date. But it is now appropriated by Hindus who have converted it to a Hindu shrine and is known as 'Visnupadam' (foot print of Visnu).

The Great Chronicle of the sinhalese, the Mahavamsa, refers to a similar incident when the Buddha gifted to the Naga cult worshippers of ancient Sri Lanka two such stone daises sacred to them (one in Kelaniya and the other in Nagadeepa in northern Sri Lanka) having first seated on them and thus having made them sanctified.

Coming back to West-Asia, "Abd-al-Malik (A.D. 685-705) was the builder of the dome of the rock at Jerusalem".

"Then Abd-al-Malik built above Sakhra a dome and hung it around with curtains of brocade and he instituted door-keepers for the same, and the people took the custom of circumambulating the rock, even as they had paced round the Kabah (in Mecca!) and the usage continued thus all the days of the dynasty of Ummayads.

The Caliph of Damascus (of Syria, former Aram) of a vast Muslim empire in the 6th century A.D. thus built a dome above the rock and installed a practice of circumambulating at Jerusalem. This practice of worshipping sacred sites or objects, is one that is common to Buddhism as has been instituted by Buddha Himself. It is known in Buddhist Texts as 'Pradaksina, that is going round a sacred object or person worthy of worship, in a clockwise manner for three times.

The third temple built for Punna Thera was known as "Matula Giri", again a rock-hewn temple as the name suggests. This site was found not quite proper for the secluded hermit life of a Buddhist eremite of Punna Thera's bearing, because of the noise made by large flocks of birds.

It is not possible for us to identify any ancient temple site in this part of Arabia close to "Dead Sea, with this third temple built for Punna Thera.

However, archaeologists have found several ancient temples of pre-Islamic Arabia within this locality. At Petra (or ancient Sela) a city few miles south of the ancient township Punon) referred to above and identified by us as the birth place of Ven. Punna Thera) are remains of large rock-cut shrines. Several cave shrines dating back to the period of the proto-Arabic Nabetean Kingdom of pre-Christian centuries have also been discovered in and around the Dead Sea.

At Petra (Sela), the chief attraction was a rectangular "black stone' worshipped as a monument for the god of those ancient people. Further more the Arab god Allah, Allat, Al-Uzza was worshipped in the kabah and possibly represented by the famous 'black stone' in that place.

Strangely enough sacred stone altars have been objects of worship in a far wider area in ancient Asia. Early Buddhist texts refer to these shrines as cult objects of those peoples of the Non-Aryan (or Non-Indo-European) stock who considered their chief God as 'Yakkha' (Yaksha). Those stone altars were named 'Tamkita manca' in ancient Buddhist texts.

In pre-historic, pre-Buddhist Sri Lanka also, such stone altars were referred to as objects of great religious significance and later appropriated by Buddhists who converted them as memorials or symbols of Buddha worship.

Our aim in this research study is not merely to identify possible sites in ancient Arabia with those referred to in the story of Ven. Punna Thera, but also to investigate further for more evidence to substantiate the thesis of the great scholar monk Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Maha Thera who alone had made this remarkable research into Buddhist texts to locate the birth place of Punna Thera in far-West Arabia.

The learned Ven. Pannananda Thera suggests that the fourth temple named Makulaka Arama built for elder Punna Thera could be possibly the Islamic Sanctum Santorum, the shrine at Mecca. The name mecca (Mekka) agrees well with the temple (Arama) by the name Makulaka phonetically. But the problem lies how to draw a comparison between proper names found in the Indo-European group with one found in a different linguistic family, for Arabic being a language of the Semitic group.

However, the fact that the religious dialect of those regions, West of Hindukush up to the Mediterranean lands during the centuries before the Christian era was 'Aramaic' and the difference of opinion of scholars whether Aramaic the 'Lingua-franca' of the region was of Semitic or Indo-European origin is a matter worth further investigation and careful scrutiny. Even Jesus Christ preached His sermons in Aramaic.

***

As we have suggested above, the few centuries in between the date of the Buddha's Presence in Magadha (Middle India) kingdom and the birth of Jesus Christ in Israel (ancient Arabah) have seen remarkable historical episodes in the Kingdoms along which passed the great trunk-route Uttarapatha, the Northern Highway linking East and West of the then known civilised world.

Now one may wonder what are the available archaeological evidence of this region, the north west part of Arabia, to locate possible Buddhist sites that could be traced back to pre-Islamic or even pre-Christian period.

Our investigations proved successful with substantial evidence and we are now able to locate not one but several sites that could reasonably be related to the period of Punna Thera's habitation in Sunaparanta and the four monastic establishments or temples built at the request of Thera Punna.

The very name 'Sunaparanta' has two words combined to give a meaning - 'a far away country', according to ancient Buddhist texts. That is 'Suna' and 'Aparanta' which also means, Suna of Aparanta. 'Suna' a locality in the major region or country of Aparanta. Aparanta according to Buddhist texts is the habitat of

Aparantakas (a community or race) from a major region called Aparagoyana which is one of the four great continents according to the geography of the time of Buddha. It is to the West of Sineru. Sineru is the hub or centre of the Earth according to the reckoning of ancient Indian geographers and astronomers.

According to the Buddha's Sermons (Suttas), when the sun rises in India it is the middle watch of the night in Aparagoyana. The sunset in Aparagoyana is the midnight in Jambudveepa (India), and sunrise in Aparagoyana is noon in Jambudveepa, sunset in Pubbavideha and midnight in Uttarakuru.

When we take into consideration this above explanation in early Buddhist Texts of the position of the sun in relation to the regions of Earth, it can be surmised that Pubbavideha is 'Far-East', Uttarakuru is the land of the 'Americas', and Aparagoyana is the whole of 'Europe'.

These geographical identifications of earth's localities by the Buddha, and commented upon by the Buddha's disciples of the past, would have made the Europeans of Mediaveval centuries, reeling with laughter and those who pronounced such geographical identifications, (that reveal parts of the Earth having daytime while some other parts in the darkness of night, thereby suggesting the global shape of the Earth), would have been condemned to death on stakes and spikes for distorting the minds of the faithful on the belief in God's great creation (what the Roman Catholic Church had done to poor Copernicus and Galileo).

The Buddhist texts show how the Great Buddha had rejected over and over the belief in an "Eternal Being", who is the creator of Earth and heavenly bodies with all the living beings.

Moreover, this geographical explanation is a clear verdict that the Buddha had a very scientific view of the planet Earth and considered it (the Earth) to be a globe around which the light (of the sun) falls in an anti-clockwise pattern. This factor alone shows the great knowledge that our Bhagavat Buddha and His Noble Arhan disciples (the Maha Sangha) had about the Earth and other galaxies including our own 'Milky way' which was named Mangala Cakkavata. "The Blessed Circular Cosmic Abyss", which is quite in tune with the modern scientific discoveries made after the discovery of the telescope in the middle ages. It is because that the Buddha had a clear view of the luminous stars and planets, the heavenly bodies in the sky that he scoffed at Charletan astrologers and prognosticators, and declared 'Kim Karissanti Taraka' (What can the stars do to humans).

Coming back to Sunaparanta debacle, let us continue to untwine the tangle by investigating further some survivals of pre-Christian archaeological data. Suna was a locality of the major region Aparanta (Hence Sunaparanta). Apranta means 'far-end' (Anta) of the Western border (Apara), when viewed from Magadha Kingdom in india of the continent Aparagoyana, the early name for Europe as we can now correctly conjecture, where only bullock-cart tracks (Goyana) were available and not great highways like the Uttarapatha and the Daksinapatha opened for thousands of caravan traffic.

Sunaparanta was apparently the Culdesac or the terminus of the 'Great Northern Highway' (Uttarapatha, that linked Mongolia, China, Central Asia, South Russia and the major centres of the then known civilised world the Kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, Aram (Syria), Arabia, Babylonia, Persia etc.

Part of the Aparanta region is also known as the Levant region, an area of strategic importance for European powers even during Napoleonic wars. It was in this Levant region, where so much brisk trade took place with East and West and wars fought to capture its entre port trade. Beyond this is the great ocean the mediterranean and lands with difficult narrow paths, cart tracks (Goyana) and not highways Pathas) until the Romans built such roadways - Via Roma after the Great military genius Julius Caesar's advance through Gaul to British Isles and declaring 'Vini-vidi-vici'.

Where was the locality 'Suna' that has become famous or got such an importance for the Great Buddha to pay a visit and stay there on the invitation of Arhant Punna Thera (Worthy One). Araha or Arahan is an epithet of both the Buddha and His Noble disciples.

We have no hesitation in identifying the ancient 'Suna' of Buddhist texts with the historic 'Sinai' region between Egypt and Israel. 'Sinai' tract has been the bone of contention between the Arabs and the Jews, from pre-Christian centuries onwards. In the recent times 'Sinai' area was captured by the Jews from Egypt during the seven days war Israel waged with the combined armies of several Moslem States headed by Muhammed Abdul Nasser of Egypt. It is not etymologically impossible to compare Suna of Buddhist texts with ancient Biblical Sinai. But to strengthen our identification we need further evidence.

It is in the Sinai tract the ancient township Punon is located quite surprisingly yet fortunately helping to strengthen our identification of Sunaparanta with this part of West Asia. We may surmise that Punon is a variant form of Punna Thera the name of the Buddha's great disciple who dared to go back to His motherland despite the warning by the Buddha that Sunaparanta is a country inhabited by ferocious wicked people, as is aptly described a few centuries later by the anonymous author of the "Periplus'.

Great persons are identified by their place of birth or else the names of great persons are attributed to the place of their birth. This practice is found even at present.

On this contention, it is not difficult to locate the 'Punnon of Sinai' as the home town of "Punna of Suna" of the major region Aparanta. Hence, Punna Thera of Sunaparanta of the ancient Buddhist texts.

A little towards South of Punon is the ancient city of Sela (or Petra in roman times) which has yielded rock - cut temples, houses, tombs, religious altars, etc. Sela is a city mentioned in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. It was the meeting place of caravan traders from East and West. To quote from a historian: "The historical city Petra was the same as Biblical Sela (or Selah) famous for its beautiful rock-hewn temples, houses, tombs, altars."

The author further states: "The rock-hewn temples remain to attest the splendour which this place enjoyed when caravans brought in and out of it, riches of all the East."

Hence the caravan leaders of the like of Punna Thera and his brother, hailing from Buddha's time would have easily given their family name to this town, know as Punon or else they got themselves identified with the town that was their place of birth, as Punna of Suna (or if modernised Punon of Sinai). Thus, Punna of Suna in the State of Aparanta should no more be a mystery shrouded with the passage of time.

Now the question can be raised, if Punna and Suna as proper names could be derived from existing or existed historical sites, why not the name Paranta or Aparanta?We have found that on the same analogy, even this is not an impossibility if we consider that the ancient Jewish Kingdom or locality Arabah of the lager Nabatean Kingdom was just located in the site where we traced Punon and Sinai.

Even the inland sea around which we have located the temples built for Punna Thera was first known as the "Sea of Arabah" and later called the 'Dead Sea'. It was the Nabatean Kingdom of Arabahs and Jews, which later formed into smaller Arab Kingdoms, during the pre-Christian centuries and afterwards, when the Nabateans were defeated.

The world 'Arabah' sometimes found as 'Araba' could be traced back to 'Aparanta of early Buddhist texts. It could be surmised that this region that was originally called 'Aparanta' in the Pali texts had got into Aramaic or proto-Aramaic, a form like Apara or Abara and had called this region Apara, a short form of Aparanta which term later formed into Araba-Arabah through syncope and metathesis. It should also be noted that according to Bible scholars Aramaic was 'Lingua-franca' of the whole of West Asia during pre-Christian centuries. Even the Great Buddhist Emperor Asoka had to issue his rock-edicts in Aramaic and Brahmi both, when he addressed his people in the north-western part of India.

That is how we surmise that this area had received the name 'Arabah' and the adjoining sea also got the name 'Arabah Sea'.

Later, when the Nabatean Kingdom of the Aramaic speaking people who were dominant in this part, fell to Hebrew speaking Jews (after the ruthless and devastating conquests by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans), the Arabahs were pushed southwards. These people begun new kingdoms for themselves of and took the name Araba as their clan name or ethnic identity in contradistinction to Hebrew speaking Jews of Israel. We suppose that our view is a very logical reasoning as to how the Arabs and their country Arabia appeared in the world (Arabi in Sinhalese).

Therefore we suggest that after the Nabatean rulers, the smaller kingdoms that were established were referred to as those of the Arabas and finally when the Jews opposed those Arab Kingdoms, (Where the major religious cult worship was not centred around Jehowah but round Alaha), those Arab Kingdoms had to demarcate their own boundaries as distinct from the Jewish States of Israel - Judea etc. Thus, the constant wars between Alaha's people and Jehowah's people field the pages of Middle East history from pre-Christian centuries up-to-date. It is a pity that Ven. Punna Thera's effort to establish the 'Rule of Righteousness' under the Kingdom of Arahan Buddha (Buddha Rajyaya or Buddah Ksetraya), turned to be a battle field of ruthless, bellicose jingoes.

When these Arab Kingdoms were pushed further towards mainland Apranta (Apara - Araba), it is quite likely that the whole region got the name Arabia from pre-Christian pre-Islamic times.

If any other acceptable theory to trace the origin of the name Arabah-Araba-Arabia of those pre-Christian people and their original homeland around Dead Sea and north Arabia could be brought forward by any research scholar or historian and if that could be proved scientifically and logically acceptable, we shall definitely withdraw our above proposition with due difference to such scholarship.

The possible identification and that also hypothetically of sporadic sites in West - Asiatic region, alone will not help us to determine that Buddhism was established in this part of the world during the very lifetime of the Buddha and prevailed as the religious faith of many people throughout the pre-Christian centuries.

Therefore we have extended our survey into the field of religious cults and practices as well as ancient religious literature, art and architecture also to trace possible clues of Buddhism's penetration in to this region so that our hypothesis should be confirmed absolutely.

One of the remarkable clues in our investigation to locate Punna Thera's Ministry in West Asia is the name 'God' for their creator God, the Divine Father. It is in the Christian Holy Bible only that this word appears and could be traced back to the time of Jesus Christ, although Bible translators (into English language) use the word 'God' even with reference to the pre-Jesus Christ, Supreme Divinity in the Old Testament.

Prior to the use of the term 'God' in the Holy Bible, as derived from Greek to English the old Aramaic texts of the Holy scriptures (the Bible!) known as Peshitta give the name Alaha for God. This is very intriguing. Even the Holy Quaran has 'Allah' for God which is identical with Aramaic Alaha, phonetically.

However, nowhere it is explained how this term Alaha-Allah had entered into pre-Christian and Christian - Muslim religious texts. Finding the origin of this Aramaic term 'Alaha' and the Arabic or Islamic term 'Allah' has enable us to solve a major riddle in regard to the term 'God' which overtook the word Alaha for the supreme Divine Being in the Christian Bible but had been retained in the Muslim Quaran.

Meanwhile it is also noteworthy that the Jewish term Jehowah (Heb: Yahaweh) for the "Creator", 'the Divine Being', 'Supreme God' had never been used by Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible or by Prophet Mohammed in the Holy Quaran.

Why did they prefer Alaha and allah to the Jewish 'Jehowah', needs explanation by both Bible and Quaranic scholars, and how these terms Alaha-Allah for the 'Supreme Creator' came into the 'Holy Scriptures' of these two major religions, viz. Christianity and Islam also has to be explained and answered.

The other problem that baffled us in our present quest is the word 'God' which is widely used in almost every theistic religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Shikh, Parse, Bahai and may be English translations of the Texts of Judaism when they refer to their Supreme Divine Being and explain their doctrine in English.

We had to explore to a great extent, to seek and find out a solution to the mysterious origin of these two words 'Alaha and God'. We inquired from many reputed scholars and various learned authorities of many theistic religions. But unfortunately, the answer was an emphatic 'we don't know', no one could seemingly present a reasonable or acceptable answer to my inquiry. The final reply of all these learned men was that the word God is as mysterious and elusive as God himself, and no one will ever be able to solve this mystery. That was God's wish they all declare with gusto, and with a sarcastic wink at poor me, as if asking, "who are you puny fellow to know about the origins of mighty God?

However, being a God loving person, I was not discouraged at all with such replies, and I continued my search in every available dictionary, lexicon and encyclopedia, but not trace was there in any of these publications for the etymological origin of the word 'God' to determine whether it is from an Indo-European origin of Semitic origin or from any other linguistic family.

Now, back to "Punna of Suna" (or Punon of Sinai).

Punna Thera, the great disciple of our Buddha had attained the highest path in Buddha's dispensation. Therefore he was one of the 'Maha Araha' a great worthy one (also, Arahan or Arahat). Our Bhagavat Buddha was called 'Bhagava Arahan' as the 'Blessed Worthy One," the sinless One, in the famous stanza the Buddha taught His disciples to repeat, instead of seeking divine help and going after unseen divine beings who are at the same time neither fully sinless or fearless according to Buddha's judgement.

The word 'Araha' means the 'worthy One' the 'sinless One', an epithet of the Buddha and also of His great nobble sinless disciples who too were called 'Araha'.

Incidentally in the Holy Bible (New Testament), Jesus Christ is also called a sinles person.

Had the Great Elder Punna Thera established Buddha's dispensation (the Church or Sasana) in this part of Arabia (the "Sinai-Arabah" region) and had there been several hundreds or thousands of Ven. Punna's converts to Buddhism, and among them a few hundred had entered the Buddha's order of monks and had attained the final stage of liberation called the stage of Araha, surely this word Araha would have been a household word among the first Buddhist converts in West Asia, the people of Sinai-Arabah area where we have located Buddhist monasteries that were established during the very lifetime of our Gautama Buddha.

Therefore we are very happy to declare for the great delectation of Buddhists all over the world, that the strange word 'Alaha' by which the old Greek bible or the proto-Greek Aramaic Bible also known as the Peshitta manuscripts, identified the Glorious One, the Blessed One, The Supreme One, the God was nothing other than the epithet 'Araha' of our Buddha which even today millions of Buddhists all over the world in Buddhist countries especially, chant as a devotional hymn in praise of the Buddha. It is thus:

"Itipisobhagava - Araham - Samma - Sambuddho,

Vijja Charana Sampanno - Sugato Lokavidu,

Anuttaro - Purisa - Damma - Sarathi Sattha,

Devamanussanam - Buddho - Bhagavathi."

He indeed is the Buddha, the Blessed One, the Sinless One (Araha), the Supreme Enlightened One (Samma Sambuddho) who is endowed with knowledge and virtue auspicious, knower of the whole cosmos, a guide incomparable for the training of individuals, teacher of divine beings and humans, Enlightened and Holy."

Thus we have solve a major part of the mystery in regard to the epithet for the Supreme Being, the glorious, sinless Lord, who is Araha - Alaha - Allah, in Buddhism, Christianity and Islam all.

One may question us how can Araha become Alaha and more so Allah? The answer is quite simple to linguists and philologists, who are aware of the linguistic law - Rhotacism - whereby 'R', and 'L' can interchange. (Refer also, Lambdacism)

Historians of Arabic and Jewish religions have found that Alaha, Allah and Allat had originated from the Sinai region, which is exactly the location we have identified with Suna - Aparanata of the Punna story of early Buddhist texts.

Among the higher gods who were worshipped by Bedouins of the deserts of North Arabia, the most important was Allah, Allat, Al-Uzza. They were pre-Islamic gods. Even prophet Mohammed's father bore the name 'Abd-Allah' or 'Abdullah', meaning a worshipper or servant of Allah. Allah was worshipped in the Kabah and possibly represented by the famous blackstone in that place. "Allat" is believed to have been introduced into Arabia from Syria (ancient Aram) according to inscriptional evidence."

Let us now turn to the other problem, the most baffling question of the etymological origin of the word 'God'. We have searched high and low, to solve the mystery of 'God'. We turned our investigations into almost every available lexicon, dictionary and encyclopoedia, without any avail.

No publication that we have surveyed could give us an explanation as to how the word 'God' originated in the World. Finally we had to give up all our hopes and prayed to God to help us., "Oh, God lead me from darkness to light' - "Tamaso majyotir gamaya", and lo, there appeared the light, "Aloko Udapadi", as the greatest of all Arahat, the Supreme Buddha declared.

We can now with assurance declare that the word 'God' is derived from nothing else but the word 'Buddha', "How could that be?" will be the question of all those God fearing good souls.

Our researches proved that this word "God" is nothing but a derivative of the word "Buddha" from the secondary formation "Boddo", an early form, how the ancient Indo-Greeks, (also known as Bactrian Greeks), Sakas, Parthians, and Kushanas (Yue-Chih) used in their documents to name the Great Lord, Bhagavat Buddha.

The name "Buddha" with "d" as a dental consonant is quite difficult, I have observed, for many westerners to pronounce. Even at present, this happens to be so. In USA and in Australia, during my University lectures (In these two countries) I have found many Westerners (Europeans) pronounce the word Buddha always with a cerebral 'd'. When I tried to correct them in my classroom, it was the most difficult task for them, to pronounce "Buddha" and sound the dentall 'd'.

They make a jaw breaking effort, yet without success and pronounce, 'Buddha' like 'Buddo' or 'Boddo' ('d' as in 'door' or "do"). sometimes I got amused but often disappointed, yet I could not help it but had to tolerate their great difficulty in pronouncing the name 'Buddha'.

However, now I feel happy that I had the good occasion to confront with such people because this very experience has been a pointer to solve the most intriguing thing, how the mystery word "GOD" appeared in the world.

In the coins issued by early Indo-Greeks (also known as Bactrian-Greeks), Scythians, Sakas and Kushanas of West Asia who were converted to Buddhism (a few centuries after the Alexandrian conquests of Persia and other kingdoms of Middle East) have for the first time in history of Buddhist iconography, the image of Buddha on the obverse side of their coins. This numismatic evidence is like "God sent" to me, the only clue to solve the present problem of the etymological origin of "God".

Through my recollections, how my American and Australian students pronounced the word "Buddha" during my university lectures, I managed to trace its roots in the Indo-Greek numismatics. It could be presumed that the same problem had been encountered by the western people whether they be Greeks of West-Asians. They too must have pronounced the name "Buddha" as "Boddo" and inscribed it on the reverse side of their coins. the best example is the coin issued by the great Kushana Emperor Kanishka, with a standing image of the Buddha (on the obverse) with the legend BODDO.

Araha and Allah

I am sure the Bactrian Greeks (or the Indo-Greeks) as they were called by several scholars, to distinguish them from Selcuicid Greeks) had not used the dental 'd' in BODDO legend of the coins that was inscribed on the obverse side. Thus Bhagavat Buddha had been introduced to West-Asia and Middle East, as a Great Superhuman being worthy of worship, under the epithet "Boddo" during the first century of the Christian era and would have possibly replaced the former 'Araha' -Alaha (Allah) ideal of the original Buddhism (the Theravada ideal as some scholars would prefer, to distinguish original Buddhism), that the great monk Ven. Punna established in Sunaparanata (the Sinai-Arabah region), his homeland, as we have demonstrated already (the West-Asian region).

Thus within a century at least of the Christian era, the Buddha - Boddo - Bod - God, ideal had been established and had penetrated into the region of Sinai-Arabah where the Araha - Alaha Allah concept of the supreme sinless compassionate Lord, was prevailing.

Based on our new discovery, we do not hesitate to declare that the mystic word 'GOD' has gone into the Holy Scriptures of at least some of those West Asiatic people (who held Araha - Alaha - Allah as the Supreme Being) through the linguistic or philological formation of BODDO', during the first century of the Christian era.

Jews who held "Torah" as their foremost Sacred Holy Scriptures would not have yielded to those extraneous religious texts or scriptures of the Buddhist Sects established by Punna Thera, wherein Araha, Alaha or Allah appeared variantly. This can be clearly seen in the firm stand of Jews in recognising Jehowah (Yehoweh) as their Divine father, the Supreme Creator, right throughout from pre-Christian centuries up to now, and not Alaha or even Allah as it has gone into Aramaic and Arabic Holy Scriptures, and more so the all loving compassionate Boddo, Bod, God who they thought would not conform to their ideal of an Eternal Creator God - Jehowah who does not hesitate to punish those who go against his commandments and covenents.

There must have been bitter resentment between the two factions, namely, the priests (or priest - kings) of Jehowah worshippers and the cave dwelling eremites who rejected the Jewish torah since the days of Ven. Punna who preached the peaceful doctrine of "Araha Sambuddo" and the "Kingdom of Righteousness and baptised their newly ordained novice monks (a custom that is still being continued in Theravada Buddhist countries), and eschewed circumcision and totally opposed animal sacrifice and killing in whatever form to appease an unseen divine being.

It could be surmised that these Araha or Alaha followers were primarily the Aparantakas or Arabah and later known as Arabs of the Nabatean kingdoms that prevailed in this region who called their supreme religious being, their saviour by the name of ARAHA or ALAHA and finally Allah.

A recent scholar while explaining 'Allah' as principal God of Mecca says, "He was also worshipped in other places throughout Arabia as is shown by the occurrence of the name in Sabean, Minean and particularly Lihyanite inscriptions".

"Allat according to recent study of the complicated inscriptional evidence is believed to have been introduced to Arabia from Syria". (ancient Aram) With the rise in power of Jehowah faction of the primary Jewish tribes who allied with the Alexandrian Greeks and then with the Imperial Rome, the followers of Alaha of the Arabah kingdom of Nabateans were persecuted and severely ill-treated, exiled and gradually pushed out of their original seat of power in Sinai-Arabah region (modern Palestine) and had to seek safety in mainland Arabia, where they established as strong opponents of Jehowah worshipping Jews, and also as their eternal rivals.

Meanwhile many of those innocent, peaceful, cave dwelling eremite monks would have been tolerated and allowed to stay in their rock-cut dwellings as long as they would mind their own business without interfering with the mainstream Jewish religio political strategy.

Thus the Araha - Alaha worshippers, the peace loving original Sinai people continued to stay in the region with their cave dwelling monks, later known as Essenes (may be a derivative from Suna-Sinai), performing their religious rites and obligations based on high ethical order, morality and righteousness, and safeguarding and promoting the study and practice of their original Holy Scriptures the "Peshitta", as opposed to the Jewish Torah.

However, they too would have had to face occasional persecution according to the whim and fancy of the Jewish priest kings.

Buddhist Greek Kings

Thus the shrines and temples of those original Araha - Alaha worshippers founded in the vicinity of the Dead-sea would have continued to function despite the opposition of the jewsih priests at Jerusalem etc., and their lay followers of Jehowah, until the appearance of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist who, it is clear through Bibilical references, had tried to review the declining Alaha (Buddhalogy) religion that was yet surviving under great pressure with their temples either destroyed or appropriated by Jehowah followers.

During the same period one can witness that a neo-Buddhalogy was just emerging in the former Bactrian-Greek satrapies with territorial expansion of the imperial Kushanas under the great Buddhist Emperor Kanishka (cir.1st.Century, A.C.)

Bactrian Greek Kings like Minander (of Milindapanha fame) had already become devout patrons of Buddhism. The rule of emperor Kanishka gave a great impetus to Buddhism by spreading it in far away territories beyond his imperial frontiers.

Emperor Kanishka's period was exactly the time Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were operating in Jerusalem, and propagating the "Good News" of the "Kingdom or Righteousness" which the Israeli Jews could not have correctly grasped, and most unfortunately misunderstood to the great misfortune of John and Jesus Christ.

Jews were hesitant to crush the new movement, a revivalist campaign, of Jesus Christ at first, may be because of his affiliations with imperial Kushanas. However they killed John and framed charges against Jesus, a rebel against Imperial Rome.

The large followers who accepted Jesus' teachings, too must have made the cunning Jewish priests, at first, hesitant to do any harm to Jesus. Therefore they tried various strategies to entrap him.

It could be surmised that the "Arahan Buddha" followers were still holding on to their scriptures the "Peshitta" and the temples in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

Their presence during the pre-Christian (pre-Jesus) days can be definitely proved by the re-discovery of the famous "Dead-Sea Scrolls" in the early fifties of the present century, the scriptures that belonged to the cave and forest dwelling monks known as Essenes and written in arachic Aramaic script.

According to the scanty information that was made available to the scholarly public by those Jewish-Hebrew scholars who jealously guard the "Dead-Sea Scrolls" for nearly fifty years without publishing them, under various pretexts, these documents belonged to the monks dwelling in forest or cave hermitages and were later called Essenes.

The name "Essenes" could very likely be a later Jewish term from an original name derived from "Suna-Sinai" the homeland, Sunaparanatha where Ven. Punna established his group of Suna (Sinai) monks as demonstrated by us above.

The 'Dead-Sea Scrolls" do not refer at all to a higher Divine Being by the name of Jehowah, unless the recent editors (who jealously guard these documents) tend to interpolate or smuggle in, the name Jehowah, in between the lines of these ancient religious scriptures written in Aramaic.

It is remarkable that without any such evidence at their disposal, as the newly discovered "Dead Sea Scrolls", some European scholars of the early decades of the present century have suggested that the "Essenes" could be an "original forgotten Buddhist Sect."

Although the Jews rejected "the religion of the Araha" (or Alaha), the Arabs, from the original Arabah stock, were fortunate enough to have adhered to the great doctrine found in the "Scriptures of Araha" and preserved by the monks of the Sinai-Arabah region, (the Dead-Sea region).

That is why the scholars of Islam have found it possible to declare that the concept of Allah is pre-Mohammed and had possibly derived from a religious concept got down from Sinai-Arabah area (or Israel-Palestine of the present day)." This observation confirms our derivation of Essenes from an original religious community from Sinai.

Most of the pre-Christian and later (appropriated) Islamic temple sites in Arabia as referred to above, including the famous shrine at Mecca (which was identified by the great scholar monk Ven. Dr. Pannananda Mahathera, as the Makulaka monastery of the Buddha's day) has as the central object of worship a "Sacred stone dais".

The megalithic "Asanaghara" shrines of ancient pre-historic Sri Lanka and India that were appropriated by the Buddhists later, are a noteworthy clue which provides the missing link between early (original) Buddhist temple sites in South Asia and West Asia (middle East).

On the other hand, most of the religious practices of early Christian religion show that the Christian Church had no approval of Judaism. Judaic religious practices were anathema to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Christian religion abhorred massacre of animals for sacrifice, circumcision, gullible adherence to Sabbath rituals and practices, no prayers or invocations for Jehowah the Creator, But of course, the greatest love and devotion to "the most compassionate righteous God, the Divine Loving Father in the Eternal Heaven" is emphasised.

We wish to present a few more evidence to substantiate our thesis that the Buddha's religion introduced to West Asia by Ven. Punna Mahathera, survived as a counter religious force to Judaic Monotheism, (in the same way original Buddhism played as a counter force to monotheistic, animal sacrificing Brahmanic Hindu religion in India) for many more centuries, preserving its originality intact until it was absorbed and assimilated into the two faiths namely. Christianity preached by Jesus Christ and Islam preached by Prophet Mohammed, yet preserving a good portion of Buddha's original Doctrine - "Saddharma" and early Buddhist religious cults and practices like, circumambulating sacred objects of worship. erecting domes above shrines to symbolize the vastness of Buddha nature like the 'vault of the sky' or heavenly spheres; worshipping the great Buddha symbolically in the sacred seat or dais, fiery flame; crescent moon to remind the Buddhist Sabbath or Poya retreat; rejecting anthropomorphic images of the Supreme Buddha who is ineffable, elevating the Doctrine (Dhamma) on same part with the Great Divine Lord.

In the teachings of Jesus Christ, there are clear evidence to prove that He had definitely preached the Buddha's religion.

***

Now that we have produced substantial evidence to prove that they very name 'God' is a derivative of the name 'Buddha' through the Bactrian Greek - Saka - Scythian - Kushana word Boddo - Bod, it is incumbent on us to provide further facts to strengthen our thesis.

Jesus Christ never referred to a Supreme Divine Being by the name of Jehowah, the ancient Aramaic Peshitta scriptures, through which the original Jesus teachings as found in the Holy Bible were formulated, always had Alaha for the Supreme Being.

The Christian Bible that was translated through Greek into English from original teaching of Jesus in the Aramaic language, had for the first time the word 'God', the Divine Father.

The metamorphosis of Alaha to God could be clearly observed during this period of transition from original Peshitta scriptures (or texts) to Jesus teachings. The reason for this transformation we have amply demonstrated above.

Jesus never preached on an everlasting, eternal heaven or Hades as is found in most other theistic religious systems. Jesus categorically denied such beliefs when He declared "heaven and earth will not last but my doctrine will last." Jesus emphasised that everything will pass over. This is in conformity with Buddhism which declared everything is impermanent (anicca) and the 'Doctrine' of Nibbana the Supreme Bliss is eternal, Sanatana Dhamma. Jesus said, "my doctrine is not mine."

Jesus, chief disciples were males. Jesus and John both spoke about the 'son of God', 'Children of God'. This was quite consonant with the epithet of a noble disciple of the Buddha who is truly a Buddhaputto, a son of the Buddha, a son of Boddo, (Bod - God).

It was Jesus who emphasised the supreme love, the great compassion, which is 'Mahakaruna' in the teachings of our Lord Bhagavat Buddha (e.g. mettanca sabhalokasmin - Manasambhavaye aparimanam).

No divine punishment or wrath or an unseen power, heavenly authority, is there in the teachings of Jesus Christ. His God (Bod -Boddo - Buddha) was omnipotent or all powerful, omniscient or all knowing (Sabbannu, epithet of the Buddha) all love Mahakaruniko Natho Hitaya Sabbapaninam for the Buddha), all righteous, all just, all merciful, the entire cosmos (or creation as the Bible translators put it) is under His command or rule (Lokavidu epithet of the Buddha). He is the universal monarch and His kingdom or righteousness is Supreme (Buddha Rajjyaya or Buddha Khetta).

"That kingdom of my father," Jesus emphasised, "is not within this world" (of sinful craving, hatred and ignorance loha, dosa and moha as Buddha explained). Jesus stopped the age-old Jewish religious rite of killing animals for sacrifice (like what the Buddha and his noble disciples did in India against the Brahmanic Hindu yagas by which thousands of innocent animals were killed to appease unseen, ferocious, vindictive imaginary divine beings).

Jesus ridiculed the Jews for their foolish practice of religious rites and rituals, like gullible adherence to Sabbath and circumcision. Jesus declared, "Sabbath is for man and man is not for Sabbath," thus elevating the position of man even above the divine commands which was in consonance with one of the early Buddhist concepts of understanding man as 'one who has' an elevated mind (man or mana = mind + ussa = elevated hence manussa - man).

"Those followers of the kingdom of God are to seek righteousness above all. This reminds us of the Buddha's admonition - "first establish in morality" (sile patithaya naro sapanno). "Man is like a God when he has learned the lessons of mercy," Jesus said, thus bringing God down to earth.

Sassanian kings of West Asia even issued coins identifying "Buddha as the Divine Ruler" or God in the present sense. King Peroz I in his coins engraved the seated image of the Buddha on a throne with the legend, 'Bulda-Yazde' on it the Buddha's figure is shown with a halo of flames. 'Bulda-Yazde' means 'Buddha the King' which is very much similar to Islamic expression 'Allah-hu-Akbar', Allah is the ruler. Sinhala Buddhists always address the Buddha as Budurajan, (Buddha the king).

Jesus abhorred accepting money and property, a rule for Buddhist monks from the very beginning of Buddhism, which practice had been strictly adhered to by the Essenes, the cave dwelling eremites of Jerusalem who lingered for several centuries even after the severe persecution of 'God's people (Buddho's people), the Buddhists, by the followers of, Jehowah and the cruel priests of Jerusalem, as the Dead Sea Scrolls do divulge. Incidentally it is stated in the Holy Bible that the Jews even hated God, which is a clear proof that God of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with Jehowah.

Even a bad thought, let alone fornication, is a sin, taught Jesus, thus reminding the Buddhists of the Buddha's saying, cetanaham bhikkhave Kammam vadami. Jesus said: "Love thy lord, thy God, through thy whole heart, whole soul and whole mind. This is exactly a revised version of the Buddha's admonition to His disciples - 'love me and have faith in me and my Dhamma, all of you who are directed towards the blissful state of Svarga - 'heaven' (mayadhamme mayi saddhamattam pemamattam, sabbte sagga parayanti)

In every sermon of Jesus Christ that has come down to us in the Holy Bible (may be after so many alterations, deletions and revisions over many centuries in the past), we can get a glimpse of Buddha's universal message of Karuna and Pragna, that is loving kindness and cultivation of insight. Jesus practised meditation and fasting as a good exercise for pacifying and purifying the mind (Samatha bhavana) before reaching wisdom and insight (Vidassana bhavana).

Allah-hu-Akbar

As foreseen by the Buddha, in his admonition to Ven. Punna, 'under violent, inhuman persecution and threats by the followers of Jehowah (the Jewish priests) of Sinaiparan (Sunaparanta) original Buddhism established by Punna Thera and his disciples and followers of the Nabatean kingdom of Arabah (around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth) up to Sinai area, had retreated to mainland Arabia and Syria where they continued to survive as Arabs (or Beduin Arabs - Buddhist Arabs!), who build shrines with crowning domes, just like the Buddhist architectural type found in stupas (dagabas) in honour of their supreme blessed One, Alaha or Allah (or Allat) who was eventually deified as a merciful being, the Supreme Lord who is the great divine ruler (Allah-hu Akbar).

If our surmise and explanations can be justified, then it could be argued that in those Arab states where the Aramaic language prevailed, the Buddhist scriptures and practices too continued to serve with occasional changes and growth of extraneous cults and practices. That is why in every pre-Islamic Arab shrine we get domical structures which surmount the main temple like in Buddhist stupas. There are also sacred stone altars, platforms and stone daises that are the main attraction in those shrines e.g. at Jerusalem, Amrah, Petra, Mecca, etc.

At the beginning these Alaha worshippers were aniconic like original Theravada Buddhists. But gradually Buddha images and icons of other divinities and royal patrons were also introduced to embellish the inside walls and grottos of these Arab religious shrines dedicated to Alaha (Allah). That is why and how, when prophet Mohammed reached Mecca and Jerusalem and other early pre-Islamic Arab shrines and sanctuaries (more than one thousand years after Punna established Buddhism in Sunaparanta), he found the presence of images which he condemned and destroyed in his iconoclastic ardour, mistakenly believing that those were shrines of Jews, the arch-enemies of Arabs.

Yet, we are fortunate to get a few survivals among which are early representations of the Buddha (in the exact manner how the Buddha images were carved in early sites of traditional Buddhist countries), crudely carved, e.g. the stone image of 'Amyado of Shukayamim'. According to a recent scholar this is 'a complete statuette in the round, carved in alabaster. The modelling is done with care but the lower part of the body is quite out of proportion, due no doubt to considering the head as the most important part. The inscription of the base gives the name of 'Ammyada' of 'Shukaymim'.

It could be presumed the name 'Shukaymim' of the figure represented in this statute as given in the archaic inscription carved out at the bottom, have preserved for posterity the revered name 'Shakyamuni' of Bhagavat Buddha, how the Lord Buddha is reverently addressed by the Buddhists in India, Tibet, China, Korea and Far-East as well as in Theravada countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Kampuchea, Laos, Vietnam and was also found in the earliest pillar inscription of emperor Asoka installed at Lumbini.

With no contact with centres of Buddhist learning and culture for predominant Buddhist kingdoms in Asia, these 'Alaha - Allah' shrines of mainland Arabia, Middle-East and West Asia continued to exist for centuries and provided religious ardour to the common folk and rulers as well. With the passage of time, these temples, their resident monks and their followers were subject to the influence of local popular cults and beliefs of various supernatural beings and divinities, thus giving rise to new syncretistic religions and religious sects.

Thus by the time of Prophet Mohammed (cir 6th century AC), the origin of the concept of Alaha and Allah, worship was totally forgotten and shrouded in obscurity, excepting a few surviving early religious cults and scriptures handed down from generation to generation which preserved the basic tenets of former Arahat (Arahan) ideal of original Theravada Buddhism introduced by Ven. Punna, such as a high moral code (Sila), belief in rebirth in heaven and a final eternal blissful state (devaloka, brahmaloka and Nibbana), perambulating as a mode of worship (pradaksina), wearing white clothes to signify religious sanctity (odata vasana), repeating many names of the Lord in praise of Him (nava arahadi Buduguna), no anthropomorphic images but aniconic, symbolic representations of the Lord (like a dais or altar, asana, flame of fire; foot print, dome or domical roof.)

God from Buddha

The Buddha Statue in Khurul Monastery in southern Russia.

The reader of the present essay may now seek an explanation from us as to why and how the word 'God', if it was derived from 'Buddha' giving 'Buddo-Bod', was used by Jesus Christ and His followers had the Buddha been worshipped and was known as Araha or Alaha (and later Allah) among the West Asian countries of Aramaic speaking people including the communities with whom Jesus had moved. This was exactly a problem that had baffled us also. The answer to this problem can be found in the religio-cultural developments in the region under review.

The learned thesis by Ven. Dr. Pannananda Mahathera, quoted above, has prompted us to survey a wider geographical region from middle India to West Asia via the then civilised lands like Persia, Syria, Babylonia.

Had we embarked on our investigation on the origin of the word 'God' without understanding and analysing the political and religious background of this region, we would not have been able to find any answer to the problems that we faced.

The period during which Buddha was preaching His 'Saddharma' and establishing the 'Kingdom of righteousness' or 'Buddha Rajjyaya' (Buddha Khetta) in the circa sixth century BC had witnessed the emergency of various kingdoms and their merging into powerful monarchies in and around India, e.g. China, Achaemenid Persia, Egypt, Syria, Assyria, Greece, Crete, Babylonia and the Magadha Kingdom of India.

Middle East and West Asia had witnessed the greatest impact of politico-cultural upheavals of this period, mainly because of the influx of so many people to these regions through the great international highway, the eponymous Uttarapatha (Silk Route, as some do call). We have already referred to this phenomenon. The availability of such an international trunk-route that served as quick passage for information also, caused the spread of the news of the birth of such a Great Being, a Supreme Buddha beyond the farthest corners of the east and the west.

Confucius in China and Greek philosophers were made to know or they themselves knew the Buddha's birth and appearance on earth. We may guess that such a person like 'Pilotika' who admired the Buddha so much and was instrumental in the preaching of the sermon 'Culla Hatthipadopama' (parable of the small elephant foot-print), was a Greek. Texts say he was golden hued in complexion. They very name sounds like 'Plato'. We may suggest that Pilotika was a Greek of the Platonic school or family in Greece.

It could be demonstrated that the Buddha's teachings had reached a far wider area than the scholars thought, during His very lifetime. Even the person Zoroastrar we wish to identify with possible evidence at our disposal, as an early convert to Buddhism. (See infra p)

However, all that had been done towards the spread and establishment of the Buddha's 'Saddharma' and His 'kingdom of Righteousness', during the very lifetime of the Buddha by

The Grand Khurul (Buddhist monastery) at Bolshoi Derbet in Kalmykia.

 His Arahat monks and by the Buddha Himself, had experienced a setback within the very few centuries that followed the passing away of the Buddha, His Parinibbana.

There were various dissentient schools that wished to establish their own canon despite the original Theravada canon or 'Tripitaka'. Thus such schools like Sarvastivadins, Sammityas, Purva and Appra Sailiyas, Mahasanghikas, Lokottara Vadin who were the precursors of the major dissentient school of Buddhism, the Mahayana, appeared in India. A few decades before and after the Christian era saw the Satrapies of Scythians, Sakasa and Kushanas, consolidating themselves in the former Indo-Greek (or Bactrian Greek) held territories in the north-western parts of India and beyond.

The rise of emperor Kanishka, the mighty ruler of the Kushana dynasty had a great impact on Buddhism, because he patronised the new Mahayana church of Buddhism whereby the Gautama Buddha was elevated to the position of an Eternal Cosmocrator or a hyper-human being, eternally residing in the Cosmic Buddhasksettra, the Sukhavati heaven. In other words, the Great Buddha had been made an eternal divine being with innumerable Bodhistattvas (angels) attending upon Him, with the two primary acolytes Mahasthama and Avalokita (cf. the archangels of Christianity Michael and Gabriel who are supposed to be on either side of the God's throne in the heaven).

After a 'Sangayana' a grand Buddhist synod of Mahayana monks held at Purushapura (modern Peshawar), emperor Kanishka also had acted like his great predecessor emperor Asoka the Maurya, in patronising Buddhism and sending missionary monks to disseminate the noble doctrine (Saddharma) of the Buddha, but unlike in the case of Asokan Buddhist missionary monks, Kanishka's missionaries had a Mahayana tinge of the concept of the Buddha. (Some scholars refer to a Buddhist Council held by Kanishka at Vepulla mountain near Rajagrha and systematising a Mahayana treatise called the Vepulla Sutra).

Our investigations reveal that Jesus Christ and even his contemporary, the innocent monk John the Baptist, were born to families of original Alaha (Araha) school of Buddhism that was prevailing or surviving in the Israel Arabah region where Ven. Punna Thera's monastic establishments were set up with Jerusalem as the headquarters.

The constant feuds between Jehowah worshipping Hebrew speaking Jewish tribes and the Alaha worshipping Aramaic speaking Jewish tribes who later became Arabs can be gleaned if one were to read carefully the Holy Bible and relevant scriptures. While the Hebrew speaking Jewish tribes and their scriptures in the Holy Torah the Aramaic speaking Jewish tribes had their scriptures compiled in the Holy Peshitta. This is a historical fact that cannot be disproved however much the Catholic church may dispute with us.

In the biography of Jesus Christ we can see how He challenged the Jewish priests who tried to dominate and monopolise the Holy Temple at Jerusalem and even gone to the extent of chasing the unscrupulous priests out of the premises of the Holy Sanctuary which must have been patronised by the Jehowah and Alaha worshippers both.

Aramaic world

By the time Jesus was born in Jerusalem, Buddhism in its stronghold kingdoms in north-west India had developed into Mahayana under the patronage of Saka-Kushana monarchs as has been explained above. The Aramaic speaking territories of pre-Christian centuries received all the inspiration from those Buddhist kingdoms and moreso when emperor Kanishka expanded his territories under the Kushana empire.

Hence the change of doctrinal policy of Buddhism in these kingdoms it was natural for the 'Aramaic world' of West Asia also to receive its influences and impact.

Therefore it could be easily explained that Jesus Christ also had become an ardent follower of the new school of Buddhism which had powerful and rich monastic centres in the Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian region that was the territory in the heart of the powerful Kushana empire. This has been proved with evidence through archaeological discoveries by research scholars, who have found tangible evidence to prove Jesus' presence in Kashmir which was the part of the great Buddhist empire of Sakas and Kushanas both, during the first century before and after the present era.

It could be surmised that Ven. Isa or Jesus the Jew. was sent to Israel, with the backing and blessings of the powerful Mahayana Buddhist monks of the Kushana empire who still would have had contacts with Alaha (Araha) Buddhists in Arabia and Palestine.

Kingdom of righteousness

Evidence at our disposal is strong enough to declare unequivocally that Jesus was selected as the ideal missionary to spread the neo-Buddhist doctrine codified after the great Buddhist synod held by Emperor Kanishka in the same way 'Punna the Jew' was granted permission to go to the same region five centuries earlier to establish the 'Kingdom of Righteousness' and the 'Good News' of the path to Supreme Bliss in Eternal Nirvana.

The date of Jesus ministry in Judae region (cir 25-32 AC) tallies well with the reign of emperor Kanishka according to the latest reckoning by scholars. Ven. Isa (or Jesus) had put a very bold front despite Jewish challenges and threats, even though he was aware that he was operating within the occupied territory of the Imperial Rome and under ever watchful hawkeyed cruel priests at Jerusalem (as reported in Dead Sea Scrolls), because Jesus was sure of the support that he could muster from the equally powerful Buddhist Empire of the Kushanas (See Bible. Math. 47:53).

While being under arrest, and his supporters led by Peter, tried to challenge the Roman gladiators, Jesus stopped his men to drive a doctrinal point, "Those who unsheathe their swords, will get killed by the very sword," and reminded them of the great compassion (Metta) that one need cultivate even against the cruel enemies.

Buddhist Empire

But Jesus did not hide the fact, "that if he wishes he can get thousands of angelic forces from the kingdom of his father to rescue him, "probably alluding at the powerful armies of the Kushana Emperor Kanishka who had established the most formidable Buddhist Empire after Asoka of India and before Kublai Khan of Mongal China.

Jesus, thus took the message of this neo-Buddhism with the Buddha elevated to the position of an 'Eternal Supreme Divine Ruler' to his home country the Judea region (former Arabah) where even during Jesus time, the monastic establishments and shrines would have definitely flourished under the eremites who lived in cave sanctuaries and followed saintly hermit lives around the Dead-sea littoral.

Dead-Sea Scrolls

It would be interesting to refer to the hermit monks known as 'Essenes' who lived in caves and grottoes around the Dead sea region and the discovery of religious scriptures written on parchments from sanctuaries near the Dead sea and referred to as 'Dead Sea Scrolls'. After nearly five centuries of the establishment of Sinai (or Esseni) Buddhist Church by Ven. Punna Mahathra, it could be presumed that there could have been a substantial number of followers of the great Alaha, the supreme compassionate father and his peaceful 'Doctrine of righteousness', even at the time of Jesus, both within Israel and in Arabia Proper.

The Peshitta

It would not have been impossible for Jesus Christ to gather a large number of followers to his teachings which are based on the old original doctrine 'Saddharma' of the Buddha the great Arahan (Alaha), emphasising compassion and wisdom (metta and Prajna) as found in the Old Aramaic scriptures, the Peshitta, yet with a new emphasis by Jesus Christ and his apostles on the concept of the Buddha elevated far above that of Jehowah, the creator God of Torah. This is clearly reflected in the New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ.

The new teachings of Jesus must have brought shock waves on traditional Jews who during the pre-Christian centuries have been successful in curbing the extraneous Peshitta Scriptures and driving out the 'Alaha' followers beyond their territories to mainland Arabia, although they might have tolerated or were compelled to connive at some of the Suna (Sinai) monks, later called Esenes, who followed Alaha's Dhamma to remain within their territory as long as they confine themselves to their cave dwellings and do not interfere with Jewish mainstream religio-politics with a vibrant monotheistic orientation.

The Jewish opposition to Jesus Christ was so formidable and unrelenting that the cunning Jewish priests (as was the case with many priests all over the world) must have obtained political backing of the Roman governors of the time to castigate Jesus as an apostate and also a potential usurper who speaks and assures of a 'millennal kingdom of peace and righteousness'.

Finally Jesus Christ had to pay the penalty on the cross, although the Roman rulers were hesitant to take responsibility for executing punishment on Jesus Christ.

Jesus Framed

The final scene of the crucifixion is so dramatically portrayed in the Holy Bible, that anyone can understand how the vicious and cruel Jewish priests who framed Jesus, were insisting on nothing less than death penalty on him, while those who present were looking aghast. One can easily surmise that not only Judas, but several others too must have been bribed by the Jewish priests to cause harm to Jesus while he was under arrest. Jesus's bold front before the Roman governor, shows that he was not expecting injustice from them. The Roman governor's wavering attitude to pass judgement on Jesus, also shows that the Roman authorities too had a certain amount of fear not to antagonise Jesus and his Alaha, now 'God' followers who can get support from the imperial Kushanas who had by that time expanded their empire right up to western border to Imperial Rome.

However unexpected, Jesus was crucified not by the Roman governor's demand but by the demand of cunning and cruel Jewish priests. The final words of Jesus Christ on the cross, Eli Eli Lama Sabachhami', is a mystery phrase to Bible translators who brought such a great person like Jesus to a very low pedestal and pointed out that Jesus was crying in agony and seeking divine intervention on his behalf.

Grace of Buddha

Had Jesus, studied Buddhism in India, in a monastery of the Gandhara empire somewhere in Kashmir, under emperor Kanishka's patronage, he would never have sought the help of an unseen divine power, but would have definitely sought the Sublime grace of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (the Tri Ratna) as has been admonished by the Buddha Himself in the famous Dhajjhagga Sutta.

We shall make the Bible translators enlightened, that what the great Buddhaputtra (son of God) Jesus uttered on the cross, was nothing but reminding himself of the great qualities of the Buddha as a means of consolation and salvation from Sansaric bonds. Therefore we declare that what Jesus had uttered was nothing but the famous hymn in praise of the great God, the Supreme God, God of all Gods, Devatideva, Brahmatibrahma. Buddha (Bodo-God) - 'Itipiso Bhagava Araham Samma Sambuddho etc.' However Jesus was very weak and emaciated after the severe and painful trial the Jews meted out to him.

Therefore the feeble words Jesus had uttered, would not have come out through his lips properly or else, even if at all those words were properly pronounced, due to the great commotion, the vast crowd in front of the crucifixion, who were horrified to witness the grisly scene of such a compassionate person being crucified, could not have understood him.

Aramaic Bible

Therefore what was left for the Aramaic Bible scribes and their later translators was a fraction of what Jesus had uttered. The line as it is now found in the Holy Bible as: 'Eli Eli Lama Sabachtami" can be compared with 'Araham Sammasambuddho' in original Pali, which would have gone into Aramaic slightly differently during Jesus' time, and could be surmised as, stood somewhat like 'Alaham Lamma Samoccham' and gone to Greek scribes as 'Eli Eli Lama Sabocchami' and had appeared in the English translations variantly.

If at all there were survivals of pockets of adherents of the original followers of Buddhism of the Alaha (Araha) school as taught by the great monk Ven. Punna to the people of Sinai - Arabah (Suna-Apranta) region, when Jesus appeared in the scene (roughly the same area but predominated by Jews, when the Arahabs were pushed into Arabia and Syria by the time Jesus was born) surely they would have got confused with the new concept of god (or Bod) as the supreme Omniscient Being, a divine father of great compassion residing in an eternal cosmic realm, (the Sukkhavati heaven of Mahayana Buddhism) and would have not supported Jesus fully or acceded to his teachings.

Moreover the Alaha devotees of original Buddhism in Arabah too would have by this time (nearly five centuries after Ven. Punna's mission to Sunaparanta of ferocious people) dispersed far and wide owing to the formidable opposition of Jewish-Jehowah followers and had themselves settled down firmly in mainland Arabia and Syria and maintained the (Bedouin) Arab religious identity as a formidable religious fraternity opposing the Jewish-Jehowah worshippers.

Although the 'Alaha' worshipping Arabs did not approve of the new theistic 'Boddo' or 'God' doctrine of Jesus, they seem to have tolerated Jesus because his teachings on 'righteousness and compassion' and final emancipation in the, 'kingdom of righteousness' tally well with the teachings of the religion of Great Compassionate Almighty Alaha (Allah), according to which one could reach a temporary heaven after death through one's meritorious acts and reach the final blissful eternal heaven by complete surrender to Alaha (Allah). Undoubtedly Arabs and Jews both would have accepted Jesus as a messenger of God and Alaha both. Even today Islam considers Jesus as a messenger of Allah.

Up till recently, the Arab-Jewish religious rivalry, although both communities trace their origin to the same ethnic stock, was a great mystery to Islamic and Christian religious historians. I am sure with our discovery of Alaha-Allah etymology in the original Theravada Buddhist term Araha which is an epithet of the Buddha and the Peshitta holy scriptures which preserved the name Alaha with reference to the great divine father, this problem is now solved considerably if not conclusively.

Jehowah of Jews

Our thesis is well substantiated by the fact that both Alaha (of the Peshitta-Aramaic Christian scriptures) and Allah (of the Quranic-Arabic scriptures) worshippers maintain that their compassionate God is one and the same, Jesus and Mohammed were messengers of the same compassionate God, who is the supreme ruler, the divine king of the 'Kingdom of Righteousness' which is diametrically opposed to the Jehowah (of the Torah-Hebrew scriptures) of the age-old traditional Jewish religion that was prevailing in Sinai-Arabah region, centuries before both Christianity and Islam originated in West Asia.

It could now be easily seen that in the first century AD this region of Sinai-Arabah (Suna-Apara of early Buddhist texts) of West Asia saw three different religious fraternities opposing one another and claiming allegiance to their own Holy Scriptures, namely (1) the Jewish Torah, (2) Christian Holy Bible (revised by Saul the former arch-enemy of Christ followers, who was later named Paul) and (3) Pre-Islamic Aramaic Peshitta Scriptures which later developed into Arabic Surah-Quran after Prophet Mohammed, the son of Abud-Allah, the servant of Alaha (or Araha).

Even the very word Bible is a mystery word we may say. The Jews do not have any Holy Scriptures by that name. Western scholars have tried to trace the name 'Bible' from the Greek word 'biblios' - which means papyrus bark used as a writing material or parchment paper. If Bible means a reference to a book only, surely most. If not all, of the books at that time must have been written on papyrus and the Jews too could have used the word for their Holy scriptures which too were written and preserved on papyrus parchments.

Peshitta-Bible-Torah

The original name of the Holy Scriptures of Aramaic speaking Jews (not Hebrew speaking Jews) and Arabs both, was Peshitta and not Bible or Torah. Why then the Christian Bible alone was named the Bible had to be investigated and solved.

This is a great mystery and we hope our recent discoveries will throw much light on the problem to solve this mystery. The translators of the original Greek Bible based on old Aramiac Scriptures, (Aramaic was the language used by Jesus himself, incidentally) state inter-alia. "Had the Peshitta been made by order of one of the rival churches, the others would have rejected it. But since all Christians, even the Muslims in the Middle East, accept and revere the Peshitta text, it proves beyond a doubt that it was in use many centuries before the division of the Church."

The above facts show that the Holy scriptures as referred to by the name Peshitta and accepted as sacred by Arabic speaking Moslems and Aramaic speaking Jews and others of Middle East had nothing to do with the Jewish Torah. It is something entirely different and distinct from the Hebrew Jewish Torah.

It is through our observations, that these Aramaic scriptures were nothing but "Survivals of the original Buddhist teachings" of the Church established by Ven. Punna Thera that we can solve the mystery of the origin of not only Peshitta but also the three different sacred books - Torah, Peshitta and the Holy Bible.

There is not much problem as to the genesis of the Jewish-Hebrew Torah. The Holy Bible is of Christian origin after the peaceful mission of the great personage Jesus Christ. The problem now remains as to the origin of Peshitta based of the worship of a Supreme Being by the name of Alaha. If Peshitta was a compilation of Buddhist orientation or Buddhist doctrinal matters, as we do suggest, it has to be proved. Peshitta is the Aramaic name for the original Holy Scriptures. We quote: "This name was given to this ancient and authoritative text to distinguish it from other Bible translations - around 431-451 A.D.

Further "all Christians, even the Moslems in the Middle East accept and revere the Peshitta. Peshitta is without dispute even earlier than the writings of Bar-Dasan who was living in the second century Aramaic was the mother tongue of Jesus Christ and He preached His gospel in Aramaic". Paul preached the Christian gospel written in Aramaic. His epistles were written...when Christianity had spread into Syria and parts of near East and India. "The word Peshitta means true and original Doctrine.

If we consider carefully and critically the above remarks about the Peshitta text (or the original versions of the existing Holy Bible, or to be more accurate the proto-Bible) much facts can be gleaned to solve the mystery of the Bible. First and foremost, now we know that it was respected and revered by the Christians and the Moslems both. It is quite unlikely that Jesus had preached a new or revised doctrine of the Jewish religion and wish to identify Torahic Jehowah with the Biblical God.

The great antipathy of Jews to Jesus Christ shows that His teachings were not in conformity with their religious ideals and scriptures. On the other hand if it was an entirely original doctrine of Jesus Christ, it would not have spread so quickly in such an alien land, in a vast area at the very first few decades after His death, namely, from Syria through Middle East to India, as Peshitta authorities record.

Our view, is (which is also the view of recent research scholars who have found substantial evidence of Jesus' connections with Buddhist kingdoms of North West India of the period) that Jesus Christ was preaching the doctrine of the Buddha to those very Semitic communities who had already become adherents of Alaha (of Peshitta Scriptures), the great Arahan Buddha, centuries ago with the mission of Ven. Punna to Sinai-Arabah (Suna-Aparanta) region of the Nabettean monarchs.

Jesus and Mahayana Buddhism

However the teachings of Jesus seems not to be based on the Araha ideal of original Buddhism. Jesus had seemingly emphasised the new Buddhist doctrine as found in Mahayana Buddhism revised by Emperor Kanishka and his immediate predecessors of the Kushana Empire that spread throughout North-Western India into parts of Central Asia, Far East and Middle East.

Thus when Jesus emphasised the Buddha as Cosmocrator, the Universal Compassionate Father, such views would have been anathema to Jews of Jehowah's religion. On the other hand Jesus' God (Bod-Boddo) of the Eternal Blissful Heaven (Sukhavati of Mahayana Buddhism) would not have been easily understood by the original converts to Buddhism (those who held Alaha-Araha as their great Omniscient Lord), who were by that time had established in Arabia proper and other neighbouring kingdoms sporadically.

Saul who changed his name to Paul (later St. Paul) must have been either an honest and understanding convert to Jesus' teachings of Boddo (God) as Cosmocrator, or else a cunning Jewish priest who wished to compromise with the Jews as well as with the Roman Caesars by presenting the new Christian Theology as an off-shoot of old Jewish religion of Jehowah worshippers which will not be a great threat to Roman religious institutions based on age-old thesistic concepts such as Jupiter (Zeus), Adonis, Venus, Hermes, Bachchus, Eros, et al.

Whatever the case may be, original teachings of Jesus Christ had to face great challenges and resulted in revisions and alterations, after several synods and colloquiums held by the Christian church fathers, before being acceptable to the rulers of Rome and their religious hierarchy to become one with the "Holy Roman Empire" which proved to be not so holy.

The very word 'Peshitta' for the Aramaic-Christian or proto-Christian canon can be traced back to an original Buddhist word for Lord Buddha's teachings, namely 'Bhashita' which means "What was spoken" or the 'original word', 'Truth' and is also known as 'Buddha Bhashita'.

The word "Peshitta" means "straight, sincere, true that is "the Original" and given to the ancient authoritative text to distinguish if from the other Bible revisions and translations.

Persian Empire

Our contention that Buddhism in its original doctrinal form had spread along the Great Northern Highway, the Uttharapatha to several other kingdoms and regions outside India, during the very life time of the Buddha can be further substantiated if we analyse the religion of Ahura Mazda preached by Zoroaster in the Persian Empire of Achaemenids (present day Iran).

The God of Zoroaster was "Ahura Mazda". Zoroaster was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha and was born around 570 B.C. according to ancient Iranian historiographical chronology.

The word "Ahura Mazda" has very close resemblance to "Arahan Buddha" which name had already spread beyond Arabia towards the Sinai-Jerusalem region through Ven. Punna's mission and to the very heart of Achaemenid-Iran through the very first lay disciples of the Buddha, namely the two caravan leaders Tapassu and Bhalluka. It had been found that the birth place of Bhalluka was the township Bhalk a border township on the great trunk route Uttharapatha, close to or within the then achaemenid Empire.

The great Achaemenid (Persian) emperor Xerxes says: "That Ahura Mazda made his father Darius the Great, king of kings, while his grandfather Vishtaspa and great grandfather Rshama were both alive.

Zoroaster can thus be considered as a learned convert, a noble disciple of the great Ahura Mazda (Arahan Buddha) when Buddha visited these kingdoms beyond the north-west frontier of India, and preached the Good Doctrine "Zad Sparam" as found in the Avesta which is nothing but the "Sad Dharma" the Noble Doctrine of the Buddha.

The Arab historian, Mazudi (A.C. 956), states that king Histaspas's (Vishtaspa, grandfather of Emperor Xerxes) residence was in the city of Balkh, the capital of Bactria.

In my article on Balkh (which appeared in the "Encyclopedia of Buddhism") and ancient site where very early Buddhist monuments have been discovered, I have referred to the fact that the first two lay disciples of Lord Buddha namely, Tapassu and Bhalluka the caravan traders, had hailed from Balkh and had come through the northern high way (Uttharapatha) to India and met the Buddha. The two brothers became the first two lay disciples of the Buddha, by surrendering themselves before the Lord (see supra).

King Vishtaspa could have definitely heard of the Buddha and His "Saddharma" through such caravan leaders and other travellers. Zoroaster the Iranian too must have become a noble disciple of the Buddha having listened to the Buddha and understood His teaching (Saddharma).

Zoroaster a Buddhist

If the very first lay disciples of the Great Buddha were also Bactrians from Balkh, it is not unlikely that Zoroaster also had met the Buddha himself like the West Asian Ven. Punna the Arab (or Jew), who was a caravan leader himself from far away Sinai-Arabah (Suna-Apara). According to the same historian, "Zoroaster converted Vishtaspa, the father of Darius the Great and brought the kingdom under Righteousness", also "the deliverer of the imperilled Empire with great wisdom and efficiency."

The date of Zoroaster is further confirmed by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (cir. 360 A.C.), who says, "about the Magi and holy rites.... to this science the Bactrian Zoroaster made many contributions and after him the wise king Hystaspes, the father of Darius," ...."Therefore it is possible when a date around 570-493 B.C. is assigned to Zoroaster lends some support."

Incidentally, we may suggest that it could be quite possible that the three Magi who visited baby Jesus and advised Joseph and Mary to flee from possible Jewish dangers were either Zoroastrian Buddhist monks of the original Alaha (Araha) Buddhist group of Zoroaster's founding or Buddhist monks of Punna's group from Arabia.

However, the above statements further confirm that Zoroaster was a Bactrian from Balkh, the place of origin of the very first, two lay disciples (Tapassu and Bhalluka) of our Lord Bhagavat Buddha. Furthermore it is stated that "Airan-vej' the place where Zoroaster was born, "was in the direction of Ataropatakan (Azervaijan)."

"Ataropatakan" can easily be identified as an early Iranian term for the eponymous "Uttarapatha", the Great Northern Highway which ran through ancient Iran via Balkh in Bactria, in north-western part of India, and connected Middle India up to Sri Lanka through Dakshinapatha (Dekkan) the Great Southern Highway.

According to Zoroaster's biography, 'he was taken to Ahura Mazda (Arahan Buddha) by an arch angel named 'Vohu Manah'. It is likely that Vohu Manah may have been a great disciple of the Bhagavat Buddha. We may identify 'Vohu Manah' tentatively with 'Moggalana' the Great Buddha's chief disciple along with Sariputta.

On the command of Ahura Mazda, Zoroaster went to meet king Vishtasp (father of the great monarch, emperor Darius) and converted him.

The above passages suggest that Ahura Mazda (Arahan Buddha) personally instructed Zoroaster at a very friendly level and that incident was not a mysterious divine intervention as some modern writers and pundits try to interpret without giving any thought to the historical background, and the political episodes that took place in the Achaemenid Imperial Court, and also the unforgettable geographical factor, the northern Highway' Uttarapatha ("Ataropatakan" in ancient Persian), that linked northern India and Persia.

Light of Asia

As modern historians' interpretations go Zoroaster's founding of fire temples does not necessarily mean that the Zoroastrian religionists were fire-worshippers. They must have definitely lighted oil-lamps, and burnt incense, joysticks etc., in honour of the Great Compassionate Lord, the Bhagavat Buddha, the Supreme Light ("The Light of Asia" as Sir Edwin Arnold said, the flame of fire, the symbol how the Buddha was aniconically represented in pre-Christian art and sculpture), because Zoroaster's teachings do not speak of fire-worship, or any invocation or incantation to a fire-god as the "Agni" cult of Indian Brahmins.

Zoroaster's teachings are nothing but an emphasis on "Great Righteousness" like in the case of emperor Asoka's conversion to Buddha's doctrine of "Great Righteousness".

Few religious terms of Zoroaster's teachings as recorded in the Holy Text "Avesta" can easily help, even a modern day Buddhist layman, to understand the similarity of these doctrinal terms of Avesta with original Buddhist Textual terms, as for example, the selections of the book "Arda Virad" are called 'Zad-Sparam" which can be easily compared with the Buddha's noble Doctrine "Sad Dharma".

The Holy Text 'Avesta' can be compared with the Buddhist term 'Vastu' or 'Vattu', e.g. Katha Vattu, and many Sanskrit Buddhist texts with name ending "Vastu" e.g. Maha Vastu.

The holy hymns or the stanzas of the sacred text Avesta are called 'Gathas' which is exactly the term used in original Buddhist texts and never found in contemporary religious texts of India or Vedic of Hindu origin.

The founder as well as expounder of 'Righteousness' (Zad Sparam) in the imperial court of the great Achaemendids, the revered Guru Zoroaster was however killed by his rivals, the enemies of the new religion, may be at the instigation of the cunning Jews as well as greeks, at the Imperial Court of the Persian monarch, who in subsequent centuries abetted with the Greek Alexander to spell doom to Persepolis and with the Roman Governor Herod to kill Jesus Christ.

When Zoroaster was killed, his temples and all his religious scriptures were put into flames. This shows that the killings of Zoroaster was an act of religious fanaticism. But the Doctrine of Ahura Mazda the Supreme Lord, the Great Compassionate Arahan Buddha, as we now dare to indentfy Him with Ahura Mazda, prevailed in Pesia for nearly 300 years until the last of the Acheamendid emperors Darius II was killed and his city Persepolis, the metropolis, the metropolis of a universal emperor who ruled a vast empire from Mediterranean sea up to the Himalayas in "Righteousness", the pride of whole Asia was totally destroyed and ruthlessly burnt with all her buildings, religious scriptures and monks and monasteries by the vicious, bellicose Alexander the Greek who set forth from Greece having murdered his own father and mustering only 20,000 (twenty thousand) foot soldiers to meet the mightly Persian army of 600,000 (six hundred thousand soldiers).

Alexander in hell

In the ancient Iranian (Persian) records, this pathetic story is mentioned thus: "Alexander had destroyed all priests and learned men and self destroyed and he fled to hell.

Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the British archaeologist in his 'Flames over Persepolis' explains well, how the Greeks, possibly with their West Asian allies among whom were Jews and others in Sinai-Jerusalem region (who opposed the new religion of Alaha worshippers that was again spreading fast with the backing of Imperial Achaemendis) had first destroyed the frontier Satrapies of the Persian Empire like Egypt, Syria etc., and then gradually penetrated into Persia proper.

In the initial stages of Alexander's campaign against Egypt and Syria, and Jews would have given him the fullest support to resolve old scores. The Greeks and Jews who lived within Persia as both prisoners of war and mercenaries and served in the Persian army and navy too, would have acted as spies to help the combined forces of Alexander and his Jewish allies to penetrate deeper into the heart of Persia, without much difficulty and made a sudden onslaught at Persepolis, like Prince Vijaya did to Lankapura (the prehistoric capital city of Sri Lanka around 550 B.C.). All these historical episodes prove beyond doubt, one salient fact, namely, although Buddhism the compassionate teachings of the Buddha for the establishment of righteousness (Saddharma) through moral order and mental culture, attracted to it vast crowds and was appealing to the intellectual community of the day, like the proto-Arabian Nabetean Kings, Syrian monarchs, emperors like Darius, Xerxes of Persia, Asoka of India, the Selucid and Bactrian Greek Kings like Minander (of Milindapanha fame), Kanishka the mighty Scythian-Kushana emperor, Devanampiyatissa of pre-Christian Sri Lanka, et al, and proved itself to be a great civilizing factor, yet it also proved to be a disastrous factor to great Kingdoms and empires to change from traditional jingoism to peace-making and peace-keeping with their powerful military machines put into cold-storage.

Buddhist Kingdoms

Miliary men and belicose war-lords, masquerading as peace-makers and peace-keepers, as in the present day, found easy access to those great peace loving, peaceful centres of civilization of Buddhist Kingdoms and also took the opportunity to pay off old scores.

Alexander's conquests were not mere expression of gaining territorial expansion for the constricted Greek city states. It was also an attempt to check the tide of a new philosophy or a new moral order for the world, the "Doctrine of Universal Peace", of the Lord of Peace "Santi Nayaka", the Buddha Sakyamuni, that was gaining ground and fast spreading, with the backing of the most powerful empire of the day, the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, throughout the vast Persian Empire's Satrapies and the Iands around and across the great northern highway-Uttarapatha- that linked the East and the West.

Old cults, rituals and practices which encouraged sacrifice of poor innocent dumb animals rared for killing in thousands on the altars of imaginary blood thirsty creator gods, priest-creaft thriving on witch-craft and state-craft both (as in the present day), war machinery, manufacturing of lethal weapons, war-chariots, arms deals, prisoners of war taken as quick money at public auctions on slave-trade, war booty which include children and women, worshipping heroes who unleashed armies of men trained to kill and destroy while they themselves remained behind barricades, bunkers and fortresses; false propaganda, nepotism mystieism and mystics, charlatans, quacks and mountebanks; magicians and astrologers all had to go "out of commission" with the Buddha's "Enlightened Doctrine" (Saddharma), based on universal compassion and supreme wisdom (Karuna and Pragna) well established.

The founding of Righteousness or "Saddharma" (Zadsparam as how Zoroaster pronounced it in his own Persian tongue), based on intellectual investigation aimed at correct insight, was anathema to the followers of Jewish religion and Graeco-Roman theistic religion based on gods and divinities, ogresses and above all a hierarchy of toady priests.

Although wise kings and emperors accepted the great compassionate Buddha and His 'Path of Salvation', and the innocent peace loving common folk and learned men also wished to follow the doctrine of Salvation from the misery of existence-Samsara-there were others who could not afford to lose their interests, their vested interests as it were. They could not tolerate it all. Had they tolerated, their world would have collapsed, as Bernard Shaw had said "world exists because of intolerance.

Cunning Priests

Those comprised especially the priests at whose command the wheel of politics turned (excepting the saintly, learned, eremite monks) as is the case in present day politics, and their selfish followers at higher echelons, who held power through the weapons (like the present day gun-culture and bomb-culture saviours of mankind), the men who wished to keep the monopoly of the economic gains, the traders with their multinational and international network of circulation of goods, with prices controlled at their whim and fancy, with the backing of a coterie of money lenders and smiling financiers (exactly like some of the present day financiers).

Jesus Christ was too honest, cultured, learned and innocent a monk, a Buddhist monk we shall say without any hesitation, of the Mahayana denomination as we can prove now, who opposed those rascals openly without having a correct appraisal of their great power both in the public and underground carousals as well.

With his psychic powers (dhyanic powers), Jesus cured the sick, and tamed the ocean and must have thought that he could tame those sinners and culprits as well. Jesus trusted too much on the power of the Cosmocrator God (Bod-Boddo-Buddha) the Amitabha Buddha and his millions of angels (Bodhisattvas) in the Sukhavati heaven. He thought and expected that they would come to his rescue, against the sinful, satanic rascals who arrayed against him.

But at the end Jesus had to seek refuge only in the Alaha (Arahan Buddha) and His Sublime Doctrine (Saddharma). This is well reflected in the new testament episodes of the Holy Bible. This is the reaction by the selfish self interested people like the cruel priests at Jerusalem referred to in the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the early spread of Buddhism in those great seats of powerful empires and monarchies.

Alaha and Peshitta

The Jehowah followers with the help of theistic Greeks have curbed and pushed this tide of 'Righteous Kingdom' first established in West Asia in the Nabetean city states by Ven. Punna Thera. Yet those monks of Sinai-Arabah who established themselves in Punon, Jerusalem and Dead Sea littoral, who preserved the Sacred original Scriptures had to retreat to mainland Arabia and establish their religious centres with Araha (later become popular as Alaha-Allah) as the Great being, the compassionate Father and "Peshitta" as their Sacred Scriptures.

The few 'Sinai' monks and their harmless followers who were allowed to stay behind, ended up as 'Essenes' of Dead Sea Scrolls fame, in the chapters of west Asian religious history.

However without any contact with the original mainstream Buddhist Kingdom's in the East, and Arabian religion of Allah-Allah worshippers had to survive till Jesus Christ appeared and spread the 'Good News' Gospel of God (Pustaka of Buddo', Pustaka, in Sanskrit meaning 'book' had probably given 'gospel' in Aramaic, we may suggest.)

In the new gospel of Jesus Christ, the epithet Araha Alaha was retained but the emphasis was on the great 'Bod' the 'God' (Boddo of Bactrian, Saka, Kushana emperors) the Eternal Father in his highest Heaven 'Sukkavati' with millions of angels (or Bodhisattvas) headed by Michael and Gabriel (Mahakala and Avalokita in Mahayana Buddhism).

The Jews and their followers did not like this novel feature of a compassionate god who was not ferocious, not jealous or vindictive or ever ready to punish like their own creator Jehowah.

To crush the revival of neo-Buddhism introduced by the "prince of peace" Jesus Christ, the Jews conspired with the Roman governors in Judea and Jerusalem. Jews were successful in crushing this revival of Alaha (Araha) worshippers. They tortured, humiliated, crucified and killed their leader Jesus Christ.

They were not hesitant to destroy and appropriate their shrines and monasteries in Jerusalem area, and chased them away back to hinterland hide-outs, and mountain caverns and as refugees in Arabia, Syria and further East where they continued to worship, and revere the great lord 'Araha' as Allah, the 'Supreme Ruler of Righteousness', Allah the king "Allah-hu-Akbar".

Meanwhile the cunning Jewish priests, the unscrupulous rabbies of the time, contrived in such a way for Rome to accept 'God' as the supreme divine lord, while they themselves continued to practise their original Hebrew scriptures in tact, as Torah of Jehowah, in contradistinction to the Aramaic Peshitta of Alaha worshippers who now emphasised Alaha in the new epithet God (or Boddo, or Bod).

It could also be possible, that Rome had tactfully compromised to accept God through fear of a possible attack or punitive expedition by the combined forces of the Scythian Tartar confederation of the Buddhist empire of powerful Kushanas under the mighty emperor Kanishka, or his subsequent heirs for persecuting their grand missionary Jesus Christ and his neo Buddhist followers. This had actually happened later when Allah worshippers rallied under one banner and punished the Holy Roman Empire and conquered the Eastern part of the empire, took over Constantinople and called it Istanbul and established the power of Allah as far as Spain and Portugal and Northern Africa. We may conjecture that the conquests of Huns under their mighty general Atila and devastating Europe upto Rome was also an act of retaliation. (Incidentally Huns or Hephthalities were Buddhist rulers).

Ven. Isa-Jesus

Even the later expeditions of the great Buddhist emperors Kublai Khan and Jenghis Khan from Mongol China to the West, also can be taken as revengeful attacks for the harm done to the original Buddhist Churches of Punna, Zoroaster and later the Mahayana Sect of Ven. Isa or Jesus Christ. Great Kublai would have received the news of the ruthless persecutions of Araha (Alah) as well as God-Bod- (Boddo) worshippers, from itinerant Chinese monks and Arab caravan traders and travellers like Ibn-Battuta.

Jesus new religion 'Christianity' with the compassionate God the father at the head, spread with new gusto with Peshitta or Buddha's spoken word Bhashita revised by the Jew Saul turned Paul, as the scriptural document of Divine inspiration and later amalgamated with elements from the Jewish Torah as the Old Testament to suit the Imperial Rome which declared Christianity its state religion under emperor Constantine.

Our investigations throw further light on yet another so far unknown aspect of the 'Alaha - Boddo' (or Arahan-Buddha) episode in West Asia. That is the introduction of another important attractive Buddhist text by Jesus Christ with much Mahayana overtones; a product of the Mahayana revival under emperor Kanishka who was a contemporary of Jesus Christ, to substantiate his thesis that Alaha of the old Peshitta scriptures was the same as supreme Buddha (the Amitabha Buddha the resplendent lord), the Boddo, the eternal ruler of the Cosmos, God.

This was the text known as 'Vepulla Sutta' (or Vaitulya Sutra) which even tried to play havoc among Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, during the early Christian centuries.

No one knows how the name Vepulla or Vaitulya was given to this extreme Mahayana text. According to some authorities Vepulla was the name given to the Mahayana treatise selected at the Buddhist synod held at Vepulla mountain near Rajgir in India under the patronage of emperor Kanisha.

If we analyses the Bible episodes we can glean some evidence to elarify the problem pertaining to Vepulla as well as the Holy Bible, the scriptures based of Jesus' teachings.

Vepulla and Bible

It could be argued that an original Mahayana text named Vepulla, compiled in the Kushana Empire by the monks of the Mahayana denomination had gone to West Asia through Jesus Christ, or else the teachings of Jesus Christ based on Mahayana soteriological doctrines and written on parchment paper had been named 'The Bible' by Jesus and his apostles and was later brought to Eastern Churches (of Mahayana) where it took the name of Vepulla from Bible or a similar Aramaic name. (Bible, Bebul, Bebulla, Vepulla). Whatever the process that took place, the holy text Bible or Vepulla has all the Mahayana Buddhist affiliations, with the Buddha elevated to the position of a 'Cosmocrator'.

The spread of Bible as Vepulla or a Mahayana text in ancient Sri Lanka even during the early Christian centuries can be proved by the survivals of such Biblical doctrines among early Sinhalese literature, e.g. pulling a speak out of another's eye before removing a beam in one's won eye; a wife is a gift of god (Bamba Ketu Hati). Archaeologists have even discovered a Nestorian Greek Cross from ancient Anuradhapura. Moreover the arrival of the monk Sanghamita in the 3rd century A.C. to propagate Vepulla doctrine and getting into the good books of the Sinhala Monarch at Anuradhapura is also noteworthy. The Mahayana monk Sangamitta's original hometown is supposed to be in North-West India.

Belief in Jesus second coming is also comparable with the Sinhala legend of 'Prine Diyasena' (Jayasena, of. Jesu, Jesus) who will descend from heaven to establish a millennial peaceful rule.

Although Jesus Christ was crucified and killed by the Jews, his Bible text was acceptable to some Jews (both Hebrew and Aramaic speaking communities), as new gospel in which God the Supreme Lord appears with great power and compassion and wisdom, unlike Jehowah of Jewish Torah who was a jealous god, ever ready to punish ruthlessly the defectors and the miscreants.

Although the rulers in Syria and Palestine and other West-Asian kingdoms had condescended to accept the Holy Bible (the original Vepulla Sutta!) introduced by Jesus Christ, the Alaha oriented Peshitta scriptures also continued to survive along with the Bible, among those followers in Arab kingdoms and among the cave dwelling Sinai-monks who survived in the Dead Sea region as the Essenes. That is why the translators of the Peshitta (Greek Bible) found that Peshitta scriptures were acceptable both to Jews and Arabs.

The Arabs of mainland Arabia and of the Sinai-Palestine tract seem to have maintained strictly the original Peshitta texts, (without any Bible or Mahayana Vepulla interpretations introduced by Jesus Christ), of the original Supreme Lord Arahan Buddha as Alaha, Allah.

However with the passage of time, nearly one thousand years after the first mission of Ven. Punna the Arab Buddhist monk, when Mohammed, the son of Abdullah (servant of Allah) appeared on the scene, there must have arisen lot of confusion and misinterpretations as to the 'teachings of Righteousness', and the "Great Being" who was the originator of Righteousness; the Supreme Ruler of Compassion (Santinayaka as the Buddha was called).

Such a development was quite natural for any religious organisation, to receive extraneous beliefs, cults and practices into one's own fold. However even up to the time of Mohammed the worship of the Higher Divinity Allah was prevailing among some Arab tribes. This Great Divine Being was variously worshipped as Allah, Allat and Al-Uzza.

Abud Allah

Allah was the principal God of Mecca before the birth of Mohammed and was worshipped even by pagans according to Quaran. Even Mohammed's father bore the name of Abud-Allah (Abdullah) meaning slave of Allah or one who has surrendered to Allah.

Abdullah means a person who has surrendered to Allah. We can compare this practice with the age old Buddhist practice of Surrendering before the Buddha by taking the solemn vow by uttering 'Buddham saranam gacchami'. The first two lay disciples of the Buddha from West Asia (i.e., Balkh in Bactria, modern Afghanistan) were the first to take this vow according to Buddhist records.

The name Abdullah also suggests that there were practising Alaha religionists before the founding of Islam by Mohammed. It is quite obvious that Mohammed's Islam is nothing but a revival of "Alaha's Doctrine of Righteousness" the Saddharma of the Great Alaha (Arahan Buddha).

The fact that this Holy and Sacred concept of the name "Allah, Allat" according to ancient inscriptional evidence seems to have been introduced into Arabia from Syria and Northern parts of Arabia, also substantiates our thesis that it had its roots in the original Araha doctrine of the Buddhist Church in 'Sinai-Arabah' region established by Thera Punna, during the very life-time of our Lord Bhagavat Buddha.

Moreover ancient Syria is part of the territory 'Sinai Arabah' we have identified before, as the location where Ven. Punna thera had carried out his missionary work and established four Buddhist monastic sanctuaries.

We believe we have marshalled sufficient evidence to prove that the Buddha was the Great Supra-human being worshipped as Alaha in pre-Christian West-Asia, which name later changed through linguistic formations into Allah from the original Buddhist concept Araha, a synonym of the Great Buddha which means the "Sinless One", the most worthy Lord, deserving worship and veneration both by the humans as well as divine beings (Araha Sambuddho Sattadevamanussanam).

Now let us analyses Islamic (Muslim) religious textual passages for possible survivals of Buddhist concepts and parallel terms.

Surrender to the Buddha

A reputed Islamic Scholar Professor Margoliouth has the following to say: "The original meaning of the name of Islam" as the title of this system is obscure, but its official interpretation is devoting the face (i.e. the person), in its entirety to Allah, the Arabic word for God, "Iddio". The above statement shows that the Islamic religion is based on "Surrender to Allah", was a basic tenet in Buddha's teachings and practised by millions of Buddhists even today when they utter the solemn hymn or prayer, 'Buddham saranam gachchami' first uttered by the West Asian caravan leaders Tapassu and Bhalluka from Bactria according to the history of the Buddhist Church.

The word "Iddio" for God in Islamic tradition is also important as it is a word found in early Buddhism for great religious men who have gained higher psychic powers like the Buddha and his noble "Araha" bhikkhu disciples.

Prophet Mohammed's successor was Ali meaning 'sublime' which can be compared with the original buddhist term Arya or Ari, by which term Buddhist monks were addressed, e.g. "Ariya and Ariya Samgha; Ariya savaka, Ari sangagana", meaning 'venerable', 'noble', 'respectful'.

The fact that Mohammed himself had to face assassination threats and how Ali and his successors fell victims to assassins, repeatedly, speak of the ferocious nature of those Jewish Arabic tribes, as has been aptly portrayed in the story of Thera Punna and also the anti-Alaha factions of Jehowah followers operating surreptitiously.

The white dress worn like a gown or toga by the Arabs is reminiscent of the "white dress' Buddha had introduced for His lay disciples. This was known as 'Odata Vasana' in early Buddhist texts. This traditional Buddhist laymen's garment would have gone into 'Sinai-Arabah' (Suna-Apara) region through Punna Thera's lay followers which was the dress of Buddhist laymen in India as witnessed by Punna Thera himself before The became a convert to Buddhism. This white garment was variously called 'Odataka; Odata Vasana; odata vatta' in early Buddhist texts.

The shrines and temples built by pre-Islamic Arab kings and later appropriated by Mohammed and his followers were exact replicas of the architectural types of Buddhist monuments with domical super-structures. The Buddhist stupa or dagaba in India, Sri Lanka, and other early Buddhist kingdoms proved this fact. Even today every mosque has this domical roof resembling a Buddhist stupa.

In those early pre-Islamic shrines, there were artistic representations in sculpture and painting on the inside walls depicting divine beings and other personages.

A noteworthy discovery is the statue of 'Ammyad Shukaymim' carved out of alabaster stone in the round. This statue resembles very much a Buddha image. We have already referred to the inscription on the pedestal of this statue and compared it with the name of the Buddha Shakya-Muni. Several other statues like this one in more or less worn out state have also been discovered from ancient Himyante Kingdom of South Arabia dating from pre-Christian centuries up to the 6th century A.C. (cir: 115 B.C.-525 A.C.)

Ahymn to Allah by prophet Mohammed found in the Holy Quaran is an echo of the famous stanza in praise of Bhagavat Buddha referred to above (supra.n.39) This verse which Mohammed himself is traditionally reported to have declared equal in value to two thirds of the Quran. It is translated as follows:

"He is Allah, one Allah, eternal. He brought not both, nor hath he been brought forth, co-equal with him there hath never been any one"

Furthermore, there are ninety nine appellations to Allah. This reminds a Buddhist of the Buddha's nine appellations called "Nava Arahadi Buduguna".

The chapters of Holy Quaran are called 'Surah' which is quite identical with the Buddhist term Sutra (Sutta) for chapters or separate sermons or for the entire Buddhist Sutta Pitaka.

The practice of worship with circumabulation of sacred objects of shrines in Islam has its origin in early Buddhism in the practice of "Pradaksina". This practice is said to have revived and re-instituted by Mohammed himself at such holy places like Sakhra in Jerusalem temple and Kabah Mecca temple.

The word 'Kabah' the name of the sacred shrine at Mecca reflects an original Buddhist term in it. That is 'kube' or 'tube' (from Stupa or thupa) used in every Buddhist country for the Buddhist relic mound (stupa, Thuap, tope, tepe) from Far-East to Central Asia and South Asia, e.g. Tope-i-Rustam, Adzina-tepe, Buddhist shrines discovered on the Silk-Route Uttarapatha.

In the present research study I have ventured to trace historical evidence based on literary and archaeological data to substantiate further our original hypothesis, that is, Buddhism was introduced to Middle-East and West-Asia (Arabia-Persia-Syria-Palestine-Israel, the Sinai Arabah in ancient documents, etc.) during the very lifetime of the Buddha.

In our attempt we have discussed only a bare fraction of the immense wealth of evidence that are at the disposal of the research scholar. Ours is however a humble attempt without much tools and facilities at our disposal and resources to further the accumulated knowledge gleaned from literary and archaeological and also art-historical sources.

We are sure with the opening of traffic for research scholars to these great seats of ancient cultural and religious wisdom, namely Arabia, Syrai, Israel, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Egypt etc. and with the possession of modern tools of academic research, more light can be thrown on the hidden aspects of the original seats of establishment of the "Peaceful Doctrine (Saddharma) of our lord Sakyamuni Buddha the Boddo, the God and also to further the great and untiring efforts made by those early apostles of the Buddha hailed from Arabia and West Asia, the forefathers of the present day Arabs, Jews and the Persians, to propagate and preserve the 'Good Norm'. the Good News Saddharma, Zad Sparam of the Buddha for the weal and welfare of the entire humanity.

Dead Sea Scrolls

We wish to add a further note regarding the original site that we have identified with the story of Punna Thera, that is the region around the 'Sea of Arabah' or 'Dead Sea' in Palestine where scholars have yielded some very valuable documentary evidence known as the "Dead Sea Scrolls" as far back as the early fifties of the present century.

It is very unfortunate that these scrolls, now given the name or acronym 'MMT' (Miqsat Ma'ase Ha-Torah) are kept in the dark for nearly half a century from the academic world, by those Jewish-Hebrew academics into whose hands these valuable religious documents of a sect of ancient cave dwelling eramites, have finally fallen. MMT critics say that "many of the mysteries of the MMT are far from solved".

We now suspect and our suspicion is not without justification, that these ancient documents from Dead-Sea cave temple sites have also something to do with original Buddhist missionary activities conducted by the pioneer Jewish, Arab, Buddhist monk, the noble Thera Ven. Punna.

A fascicule of these scrolls termed MMT, edited by Jewish Hebrew scholars, has caused much disharmony among research scholars. This shows that there is something 'fishy' about the manner how these documents are handled and the way how the results of their studies are divulged. Some even have gone into litigation to rectify the damage caused to scholarship by those who claim to be the custodians of these so called MMT or Dead Sea Scrolls.

These ancient documents speak of a leader or teacher of righteousness, who is the head of the eramites of the Qumron group of caves. This teacher of the Qumron group was addressing his adversary, the Wicked priest of Jerusalem.

The editors of these documents say: "we really don't know who is speaking and who is being addressed".

However we may add those that, who have followed our arguments placed in this research paper, would not find it difficult to identify who are the Sectarian MMT and their adversary the wicked priest or priests of Jerusalem.

Another statement of the modern editors is as follows: "The third section of the MMT states that, 'we have separated ourselves from the multitude of the people", but it is uncertain whether this recalls a separation of the Qumron Sectarians from the mainstream Judaism as represented by the temple authorities in Jerusalem or some internecine dispute with the sect itself. It is not even, entirely clear that the 'they' group and the 'You' group are the same."

According to our researches given in the present study the reader will not find it difficult to identify who these two groups are, the 'they' and the 'you' groups.

We may add emphatically that the 'they' group represents the wicked Jewish priests of Jerusalem who relentlessly opposed the Peshitta-Alaha 'we' group of the Sinai (Essene) Buddhist patriarchs.

However the modern editors have, got a remarkable guess in regard to the 'we' sect when they say: 'In some ways they look like Essenes", thus giving a final approval, as it were to our thesis.

Therefore we take this opportunity to request very kindly from the Jewish academics and those Israeli authorities who keep the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' under their safe custody, still as a secret from the world at large, to release these documents in publications for the benefit of scholars and students of the world over, who are keen to know the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Conclusion

Because of the remarkable research study of the Maha Thera Ven. Dr. Paravahara Pannananda, the Chancellor of the Ruhunu University of Sri Lanka, quoting from original Buddhist texts, 'On the establishment of the Buddha's peaceful religion in Arabia, "we were enticed to do further research. All that we have discovered subsequently and presented in this brief study, are a result of this new light thrown on a so far hidden aspect of 'West Asian religious history' by the Ven. Maha Thera I am indeed beholden to him, who is also my Guru and Spiritual Advisor.

23 05 2005 - Daily News

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H1.03   A journey through cave temples

D. C. Ranatunga

Take the Moneragala-Siyambalanduwa highway. Turn off at Kodayana and go up to Kotiyagala. Walk along a jungle track for six miles and you reach two large caves on the slope of a mountain called Myella kanda.

This huge cave shrine has a recumbent Buddha image made of brick and clay. Its head, chest and lower section have been damaged by treasure hunters, but the parts that are intact indicate that it is a pure white statue with flowing robes. It is typical of the Anuradhapura period statues. The ceiling of this cave is completely covered with a series of paintings centring on the recumbent Buddha statue. Among the paintings are exquisite designs, some very uncommon compared with early paintings like Sigiriya. Then there are the female figures similar to the Apsaras at Sigiriya and Vessagriya.

Looking for material for a publication on Sinhala Buddhist art, renowned photographer Gamini Jayasinghe and a keen student of archaeology Dharmasena Rassapana accompanied by well-known artist Kusana Manjusri did the trek to the Myella caves and found the place fascinating. They also found a cave with visuals of prehistoric or Veddah rock art. "One was a sketch of a figure riding an elephant. It looked like a primitive form of art done with the finger immersed in clay or ash in white," author Rassapana explained.

Elephants figure prominently in these cave paintings. "We noticed four distinct features in them. One elephant is engaged in water sports, another is carrying a lotus in its trunk. A third gives the impression it is ready to run. Lastly the frontal view of a moving elephant is shown. In the middle of an intricate ceiling design, there is also an elephant within a circle with its tail bent."

Myella is just one among many cave temples featured in the first of three planned books, released as a Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha publication titled 'The Grandeur of Sinhala Buddhist Art - Classical Period'. It covers the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods.

Formerly a senior administrative officer in the public service, Rassapana read archaeology for his degree at Peradeniya. Prof. Senerat Paranavitana was his lecturer. After retirement, he was keen to locate places his professor had spoken of and began his search with photographer Gamini Jayasinghe.

"We noticed a similarity in the places we visited, be it well known sites or lesser known ones. Habessa, Myella, Vessagiriya have all belonged to the same school of art and have common features," Rassapana says.

The Habessa cave temple in the Monaragala district also has a cave with a recumbent image with paintings on the ceiling.

At Situlpauwa (earlier known as Chittalapabbata) near the Yala sanctuary, hundreds of caves in the jungle have been found. One of them, Korawakgala contains a drawing of red lines on thick plaster of a line of swans carrying lotus flowers in their mouths. Most of the paintings in these caves are damaged.

Another cave temple with the Sigiriya touch is Gonagolla in the Gal Oya valley. A female figure has been identified by Paranavitana as a dancer performing the Parjanya pooja in front of God Parjanya calling for rain. Dressed in a jacket with sleeves, this has been described as one of the most graceful and sensual figures among the ancient paintings.

A group of divine beings paying homage to the Buddha carrying flowers and seated on lotuses is seen in the Pulligoda cave temple in Dimbulagala.

Better known places like Sigiriya, Gal Vihara and Tiwamka image house have also been extensively discussed in the book, with the photographs presenting a number of sights hitherto not seen. Among the Tiwamka paintings, the Buddha descending to the city of Sankissa from Tusita heaven after preaching to the gods, for example, has been captured in a close-up with details of the image. Another interesting picture is the one showing a different head dress (somewhat similar to a modern day helmet) worn by a divine figure. In fact, head dresses and ornaments in these paintings are varied.

The writer draws attention to remains of paintings seen in the Gal Vihara cave with the seated Buddha. In one strip is an old man with a drooping moustache and a flowing white beard holding a flower with a long stalk in his fingers and the thumb of his right hand, while in the open palm of his left hand is a conch shell. A single string necklace and a brahmanical cord are worn round his bare body. Divine figures paying homage to the Buddha are also seen.

The author concludes that painters belonging to the classical period (up to 13th century A.D) had worked with religious devotion and creativity. They were absorbed in the creations that presented many aspects of humanitarian ideals. He believes that up to now, other artists have not been able to achieve these heights of excellence.

Readers will naturally be tempted to visit the places described in the book. What a lot more there is to see in our own country, was my reaction.

09 05 2004 - Sunday Times

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H1.04   Buddhism regained

The events that led to the dark days of Buddhism had their beginnings in the times of the Portuguese and the Dutch. In a treatise written by the renowned Buddhist scholar, Sir Baron Jayatilaka on the Sangharaja Thera, he describes the situation in the country then.

It was a casual meeting one afternoon at Malwatta Vihara with a senior monk, Kulugammana Sri Dhammarakkita Thera, a researcher on the Kandyan kingdom. We talked about the ups and downs, which occurred during the Kandyan period of our history.

He told us about the dark days of Buddhism and the untiring efforts of Velivita Sri Saranankara Sangharaja Thera in restoring the lost glory. Distinguished for his piety, enthusiasm, learning and determination, among the Sangharaja Thera's major achievements was the revival of the practice of upasampada - the higher ordination for monks exactly 250 years ago.

A delegation of monks from Siam (as Thailand was then called) led by Upali Maha Thera arrived at the invitation of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe to restore upasampada. The event also marked the establishment of the Shyamopali Maha Nikaya and the Malwatta and Asgiriya Chapters.

The events that led to the dark days of Buddhism had their beginnings in the times of the Portuguese and the Dutch. In a treatise written by the renowned Buddhist scholar, Sir Baron Jayatilaka on the Sangharaja Thera, he describes the situation in the country then. "The 18th century (the Sangharaja Thera's life covered more than three-quarters of it) dawned upon an unhappy Ceylon. The advent of the Europeans, two hundred years earlier, marked the opening of an era of disaster, which culminated in the ultimate downfall of the Sinhalese kingdom. Two centuries of incessant fighting with this new and formidable invader had weakened native rule, which was now confined to the mountainous and inaccessible parts of the country. The rich and fertile plains of the low country had been for a century and a half in the hands of the Portuguese before they were expelled from their possessions. The results of that occupation were extremely unfortunate to the country. The ruthlessness of the Portuguese was only second to the bigoted zeal, which they displayed towards their faith. Their rule was one long tyranny, emphasized by the unscrupulous methods of conversion they adopted. Persecution and corruption were the powerful means they used for the propagation of Christianity. Their proselytising efforts were apparently crowned with success: the seeds of hypocrisy, which were sown with such assiduity, brought in a rich harvest of 'converts'. Influenced by fear or lust of gold, thousands deserted their ancestral faith and received baptism, and with it the much more tangible advantages of office and honour, at the hands of the Portuguese masters. The whole sea-board became Roman Catholic, in name at least. The national faith fell into disuse with the national names, customs and manners. The Viharas and Dagabas within striking distance of the Portuguese arms were mostly pillaged or demolished. The few that escaped that fate found no supporters or worshippers - for the practice of Buddhism was forbidden - and gradually fell into ruin. The Buddhist monks, forsaken of their congregations and threatened with persecution, withdrew from the Portuguese territories where Roman Catholicism held undisputed sway. But Portuguese dominion soon disappeared, leaving little more than an evil memory behind it.

"The Dutch succeeded the Portuguese in the possession of the maritime districts. They proved much more humane and considerate as rulers, but their bigotry was not second to that of their predecessors. The Roman Catholics became the object of their hatred even in a greater degree than the Buddhists. Upon the latter they tried the efficacy of wholesale bribery. Hypocrisy became the cornerstone of what they reared in Ceylon. Whole districts offered themselves for Baptism, 'proponents' travelled the country in triumph, manufacturing Christians by baptizing the young and the old and solemnizing marriages according to Christian rites, which was the legal form of marriage. In short, Protestant Christianity now began to prosper with as much success as Roman Catholicism had done before. But how hollow this farce of conversion had been was shown when the Dutch power fell after a rule of one hundred and fifty years and left behind it not a vestige of that church which they had reared on Sinhalese soil with such diligence. Though the efforts of the Portuguese and the Dutch to christianize Ceylon thus resulted in failure, their methods of conversion left upon the character of the people a deep evil impression, which cannot even now be said to have been completely effaced.

"Meanwhile, in the areas where the Sinhalese king held sway, people were using their entire strength to keep the enemy away. However, the enemy succeeded in sowing seeds of discord among the people and creating dissension between the king and his subjects.

"Under the stress of war and dissension, social order was disorganized, education was neglected and the practice of religion fell into disuse. Verily it was a period of distress and disaster. But even at the time when things appeared to be at their worst, when a thick veil of moral darkness seemed to have settled upon the face of the land, there arose the man destined to save the faith of the people from extinction, and the people themselves from moral ruin", Sir Baron writes.

The reference is to Velivita Sri Saranankara Thera who, as a 16-year-old lad - Kulatunga Banda by name - from Thumpane close to Kandy got ordained at the Suriyagoda temple near Kiribathkumbura. The temple had gained recognition during the reign of King Narendrasinghe (1703-1739) obtaining the status of a Raja Maha Vihara. At the time he became a Samanera (novice monk) under Suriyagoda Unnanse, one of the few surviving monks who had received higher ordination. He had read his first letters from Eramuduliyadde Upasaka Rala and Nuruddeniye Herathgedera Guruthuma, learned men who had a good knowledge of Sinhala.

A visit to Suriyagoda temple convinced us of the rich historical data it possesses. The valuable material preserved at the temple reveals how the novice monk spent his early days preparing himself to resurrect the fast deteriorating state of Buddhism. The large collection of ola books is ample proof of his erudition. Among them are two volumes of the Pansiya Panas Jataka Potha (collection of 550 Jataka tales) where, in his own handwriting, he relates how he noticed the books being used as the door plank of the paddy barn in the house of Vilbagedera Rala, one of the 'dayakas' and how he got a door made from a forest tree and brought the Jataka Potha to the temple. "The book may have been written much earlier, possibly in the 14th century during the Gampola period", says Bulumulle Gunaratana Thera, resident monk of the Suriyagoda temple.

In his continuing search for knowledge, Samanera Saranankara learnt of one Levuke Ralahamy, a learned layman who had been imprisoned by the king in a village called Makehellvala. The monk came to live in a cave at Alagalla and although it was an offence to associate a prisoner, he risked his life to learn Pali from Levuke Ralahamy. It was a hard life for the monk who just survived from the small quantity of alms the villagers brought him.

In his desire to gradually turn the average villager to be more religious, he started preaching the Dhamma and going on 'pindapatha', following the practice during Buddha's time when monks used to walk on alms rounds. The monk soon came to be known as Pindapathika Saranankara because of his regular trek for alms carrying the alms bowl with him. He also started to teach the children to read and write on the 'veli pillewa' (sand board).

Samanera Saranankara gained popularity among the devotees through his ability to preach the Dhamma and follow the daily routine strictly according to what the Buddha preached. He formed the 'Silvat Samagama' (the pious team) to go to the villages and teach the people how to take Pansil and Ata Sil and how to develop Dana, Sila, Bhavana. Other monks who were known as 'ganinnanses' were leading a lax life virtually similar to how the laymen lived. They resented Saranankara Thera's efforts and even reported him to the king, who ruled that the 'silvats' should wrap a cloth round the head and show due respect to the other monks. Undeterred, Samanera Saranankara continued his missionary work.

At this time, Buddhism had deteriorated to such a level that even a minimum of five higher-ordained monks could not be found to perform the Upasampada Vinaya act. Having impressed the king with his erudition, Samanera Saranankara convinced him on the need to revive the upasampada as a prerequisite to restore Buddhism to the pristine glory of the past. He got the king to request the king of Siam to send senior monks with higher ordination to perform the ceremony here. The king got the assistance of the Dutch to send a delegation to Siam but several died when the vessel sank on the way. The survivors returned. A second delegation could not conclude the negotiations due to the death of the king (Vijaya Rajasinghe) and the King of Siam being reluctant to send the monks not knowing what the attitude of the new king would be. However, the successor, King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1781) having committed himself to work towards the spiritual welfare of the people supported Samanera Saranankara's activities and sent another delegation to Siam. The mission was a success and a delegation of 22 monks led by Upali Maha Thera arrived in the Island.

Elaborate arrangements were made to hold the upasampada under royal patronage after a lapse of nearly a century. On Upali Maha Thera's advice, an existing building in the centre of the courtyard of Pusparamaya (present Malwatta Viharaya) was selected as the site for the ceremony which was held on July 19, 1753, the day before Esala Poya day. The novice monks from Siam received higher ordination first and it was on the second day, that Sri Lankan monks received upasampada. Since the upasampada was conducted by Upali Maha Thera, the new Order was named Shyamoplai Maha Nikaya and the two Chapters - Malwatu Parsavaya and Asgiri Parsavaya - came to be identified since that day. By royal decree, the two Viharas - Malwatta and Asgiriya - were elevated as apex to the monasteries, which were already in existence under their control. The king appointed a Maha Nayaka Thera (Chief Prelate) for each Chapter and an advisory committee comprising 21 monks was selected from the main monasteries belonging to each Chapter. Thus a central ecclesiastical authority was established over the bhikkhus in Sri Lanka. It was the crowning glory of the untiring efforts of Samanera Saranankara that all this was achieved.

In recognition of the services rendered by the monk, the king appointed him to the exalted office of Sangharaja (Supreme Patriarch) and he came to be known as Velvita Pindapathika Asarana Sarana Saranankara Sangharaja Thera. "Never was honour more worthily earned, and never did royal bestowal of honour accorded with the wishes of a nation than on this occasion when King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, surrounded by his ministers, proceeded to Malwatta Vihara and there in the grand assembly of the Bhikkhus presented Saranankara Thera with the insignia of the office of Sangharaja. But honours made no change in his mode of life. He lived the same simple life, continuing his labours and inspiring his pupils by precept and example, with an enthusiastic love for unselfish work for the good of the world", writes Sir Baron.

After assuming the exalted position, he took residence at the Malwatu Vihara and as a constant reminder to himself, wrote the words 'Udangu nova mahana' (Monks, don't feel elated) on al ola leaf thrice and kept it on the door lintel. The words can be seen to this day as one enters the Velivita Pansala, where he resided as the Sangharaja. One among the 33 residential quarters within the Malwatta Vihara complex, it houses the Sangharaja museum. The institutional framework established 250 years ago continues to this day. The Karaka Sangha Sabha of each Chapter consisting of the Nayaka Theras of temples meet once a month to discuss current matters including religious and national issues. Chief monks of temples belonging to the Chapter are appointed by the Sangha Sabha, which also fixes the dates for the annual upasampada ceremony. The tradition continues.

11 05 2003 - Sunday Times

 

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H1.05   The Seat of Enlightenment

Upali Salgado

As the Ganges flows through Varanasi (Benares), one sees the spirit of Hinduism present in the people who gather in the thousands to bathe and pray, offering incense and flowers in traditional pooja near the ghats. Likewise, about two hundred kilometres away at Buddhagaya, the home of twenty-eight Buddhas, there is the majestic looking, very ancient temple and the venerated Bodhi tree, with the diamond-studded seat of Vajirasana Buddha. There, thousands of Buddhist devotees gather daily to observe Atasil and meditate on the impermanence of life and attempt to rid themselves of the suffering that is manifested in various forms.

The beautiful vihare of striking Gupta architecture has been referred to in monastic records of monks, dating back to the 4th Century AC. Archaeologist Ale-xander Cunningham visited this site around 1880. Francis Buchanan-Hamilton, an explorer, has recorded visiting the place of worship in 1811. Later, our own Anagarika Dharmapala, who dedicated his life to the struggle to take control of the hallowed site from the Hindu Mahanta (Overlord), was in tears when he first saw the neglected vihare. Long after Dharmapala's demise, in 1949, after India gained Independence from the British, the

Buddha Act was passed by the Bihar State Assembly, to give control of the temple to a Management Committee comprising of Buddhists and Hindus.

The vihare
The historic Buddhist Vihare is 170 feet tall and 48 ft wide at plinth level. Straight sides form a square truncated pyramid. The Asokavadana (Chronicle) and related records recounted by Chinese pilgrims, describe Emperor Asoka's conversion to Buddhism in the eighth year of his reign. The Emperor followed the teachings of the Great Master and became known as Dharma Asoka (The righteous Asoka) and not as Chanda Asoka (The wicked Asoka). He visited the Buddhagaya temple to pay homage everyday, and spent hours there. His Queen, who sought to have the Bo tree partly destroyed, did not find this behaviour acceptable. But with Sardha, the Emperor poured cows' milk to moisten the roots. The tree revived to reach a height of thirty-seven metres. The Bo tree we see today though is not the very same tree. Our sacred Bo tree at Anuradhapura is historically older.

According to Cunningham, the Bodhi tree in 1890 looked very much decayed. It is known that in about 1015 AC, devout Burmese pilgrims had haphazardly renovated the dilapidated structure of the Temple. Archaeologists say that this Vihare was built with red sandstone and lime. Relics and coins of a Kushan King, Huvshaka have been found. The important ‘Diamond Throne’ according to Cunningham had been located inside the Temple (it is now outside, by the Bo tree), at the spot where the main altar stands. This position has now been occupied by a beautiful image of the Buddha, in the Bhumis-parsha mudra (posture). The Vajirasanaya or Diamond Throne is beneath this Buddha image.

Sir Edwin Arnold, author of The Light Of Asia visited Buddhagaya around 1870, at a time when the whole place was under the control of the Hindu Saivite Mahanta. Having seen the shabby and neglected state of the Vihare, Sir Edwin with his incomparable epic, focused the world's attention on the situation, which prompted Anagarika Dharmapala (later ordained Bhikkhu and named Devamitta Dharmapala) to visit the holy place. He then resolved that the Buddhists should take control of the Vihare and the images. Dharmapala founded the Maha Bodhi Society of India. He moved from country to country, addressing gatherings about his noble mission, and received strong support from Japan.

The Buddha's enlightenment
No story of Buddhagaya Vihare and of the historic Bo tree would be complete without a reference to Sakyamuni Gauthama Buddha, and his Enlightenment. Ancient records say that Prince Siddhartha as the mendicant Bodhisattva in search of the truth about suffering and the way to end it, had after consuming milk rice, offered with great piety by a villager named Sujatha, regained strength and headed towards Gaya. Then a grass cutter named Sottiya had offered him eight handfuls of 'Kusa Grass' (a long leafed heavy grass of a bushy type) which the Bodhisattva accepted. On reaching the time-hallowed spot where all previous Buddhas sat (they were: Tanahnakara, Nedhankara, Sarananakara, Deepankara, Konnadanga, Mangala, Sumana, Revatha, Sobitha, Anomadassi, Paduma, Naradha, Padumuttara, Sumedha, Sujatha, Piyadassi, Attadassi, Dhammadassi, Siddhartha, Tissa, Phussa, Vipassi, Sukhi and Kassyapa), the Great Being who by then was free of all worldly and sensuous desires said to Himself, "this is the immovable spot on which all previous Buddhas planted themselves. This is the place for destroying passion's net."

He then attempted to sit on the Kussa grass. The gods in heaven deemed it unsuitable for a future Buddha, so close to His goal, to sit on grass. For that reason, they offered Him the ‘Diamond throne’, which was indestructible and unshakable, on which the future Buddha sat motionless for weeks in order to meditate. The Bodisattva sat cross-legged in a dyana mudra (posture) and made a mighty resolution: "Let my skin and bones become dry and welcome...! And let all flesh and blood dry up..., but never from this seat will I stir, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom."

He sat there in deep meditation, reaching jhana after jhana. Mara (the evil one), sovereign of all passions and the personification of death, did everything possible to disturb the Bodhisattva from His mission, but failed. Mara caused showers of red coals, sand and mud to fall on the Bodhisattva, but failed to disturb Him. He finally caused his beautiful daughters Thirst (desire), Joy (tenderness) and Delight (raga) to sing and dance before the Bodhisattva hoping to seduce Him and break His jhana (concentration) but again failed.

Then Mara commanded; "Siddhartha arise from your seat. It does not belong to you, but to me." When the mendicant heard this, He said to Mara: "You have not fulfilled the ten perfections (of endurance, courage, patience, love, dhana, gift of wife, children, flesh, eyes and royal rule etc.), therefore this seat belongs to me". At that point Mara questioned, "Who bears witness to your having given these perfections?" The Bodhisattva then drew forth His right hand and touched the earth in the Bhumis-sparsha mudra, and said, "Are you a witness or not to my having given a great seven hundred fold donation in my Vessantara existence? Then the earth quaked and the sky thundered: "I bear witness to you."

Mara knew he was defeated and fled in the presence of the Devas. The devas cried joyously;

"The victory now hath this illustrious Buddha won
The wicked one, the slayer hath defeated been
Thus round the throne of wisdom, birds and Devas, shout joyously..."
When He thus attained omniscience many prodigies took place. The Compassionate One then breathed forth a solemn utterance, which never has been omitted by any of the previous Buddhas.
"Through birth and rebirth endless rounds,
Seeking in vain, I hastened one,
To find who framed this edifice.
What misery, birth incessantly,
O, builder I have discovered thee
This fabric (craving) thou shall never rebuild,
The rafters (passions) are all broken now,
Your ridgepole (ignorance) is demolished,
My mind has now attained unformed nibbana
And reached the end of craving (desire)"
-Sutta Nipatha
(Translated by Lord Chamers)

11 05 2003 - Sunday Times

 

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H1.06   The Great Tamil Buddhists

The History of Buddhism in the Tamil Kingdoms of South India

T. N. RAMACHANDRAN

(Former Joint Director-General, Department of Archaeology, Government of India.)

BUDDHISM came to South India during Emperor Asoka’s reign. A party of Bhikkhus went to Sri Lanka in 250 B.C. under the leadership of Arahat Mahinda (Mahendra), after the third great Buddhist Conference under Moggaliputta Tissa Thera held in Asoka’s presence at Pataliputra. Mahendra Thera appears to have travelled by sea and to have passed through Kavirapattiman where, during his temporary stay, he raised seven Buddhist viharas which the later Tamil Sangam works, such as Silappadikaram and Manimekalai (2nd century A.D.), attribute to Indra. Indra is only a contraction of Mahendra. Mahendra was greatly helped in spreading Buddhism in South India by Arittaha, of Sri Lanka, the uncle-in-law of King Devanampiya Tissa. There is a village called Arittapatti in Madura District near where Arittha appears to have lived in caves, thereby lending his name to the village. Arittapatti which was originally a Buddhist place, lost gradually its Buddhist nature.

We hear from the Manimekalai that the early Cola king, Killivalavan (2nd century A.D.) converted a prison-house into a charity house at the request of the Buddhist nun Manimekalai, and gifted it to Buddhists who utilised the building for a palli and a charity house. The Pali work, Rasavahini, refers to a Cola king who, while engaged in constructing a Siva, temple at Kaveripattinam, met some Buddhist bhikkus who proved to him the superiority of Buddha Dharma and in return got form him the Siva temple which they converted into a shrine of the Buddhist. In the 5th century A.D. a great Buddhist divine called Buddhadatta Thera, who flourished in the reign of the Kalabhra chief, Accutavikkanta, resided in a vihara in Kaveripattinam built by one Visnudasa or Krsnadasa. This Thera is said to have written most of his works in Kaveripattinam at the instance of the Buddhist acaryas Sumati, Buddhasika and Sanghapala. Buddhadatta’s patron was the Cola king, Kalaber Accutavikkanta, and this divine exhibits in his works an unusual eloquence and patriotism in describing the Cola kingdom under him, of which he was a proud inhabitant.

A golden age of Buddhism, when the Triratna caught South India in its enchanting and soothing grasp and when monks and nuns (bhikkhus and bhikkhunis) like Manimekalai and upasakas and upasikas who were lay followers of the enchanting Faith, travelled throughout the land in utter renunciation and humanitarian zeal to render help even as the Buddha did, is the picture of south India that we visualize from the Tamil classical works of Buddhism the Silappadikaram, Manimekalai, Kundalakesi, Virasoliya, Bimbisarakathai, Valaiyapati, Tiruppadikam, the Jaina Tamil work, Nilakesi and the Hindu Tamil works, Devaram, Nalayiraprabadham and Periyapuranam.

The Buddhist sites in the northern districts of the Madras Presidency, particularly in the Andhra country, are vast as against almost a fraction in the southern districts. From Salihundam in the Srikakulam district in the north, to Chinna Ganjam in the Guntur district in the south, and from Gooty in the Anantapur district in the west, to Bhattiprolu in the east, the Andhra country witnessed in the three centuries preceding and following the present era a phenomenal growth of Buddhist culture and art. Ramatirtham, Sankaram, Salihundam, Kodavalli, Arugolanu, Guntupalli, Jaggayyapeta, Ramireddhipalli, Alluru, Bezwada, Gudivada, Ghantasala, Garikapadu, Goli, Nagarjunikonda, Amaravati, Peddamaddur, Chinna Ganja, Peddaganjam, Kanuparti and Bhattiprolu are a few places among the many that have yielded relics of a glorious Buddhist civilization that flourished in the Andhra country in the early centuries.

Stupas, Caityas or prayer halls, and Viharas were found in large numbers, particularly in the Guntur and Krsna districts along the banks of the river Krsna which was known to the Greeeks as Maisolos.

Nagarjunakonda or "the Hill of Nagarjuna" is one of the sites excavated by the Archaeological Survey(from 1926 to 1931 and again in 1938).The discoveries made here are of singular interest in that they include not only monasteries, stupas and caityas, but also a palace, a wharf and a large number of inscriptions relating to the Iksvaku dynasty that ruled the country in the 3rd centtury A.D. Most of the stupas here were richly carved with scenes drawn from the life of the Buddha, his past births and everyday life, besides decorative and ornamental designs.

The reign of the Andhra King, Pulumavi, witnessed the raising of the great Mahacaitya of Amaravati which became the centre of the Caityakas while under the Iksvakus great stupas arose at Jaggayyapeta and Nagarjunakonda on either side of the river Krsna. The Caityakas probably derived their name from Amaravati Mahacaitya. We also learn that there were other monasteries at Nagarjunakonda one of which was built for the residence of the Sinhalese monks.

Kancipura, Avanti and Arimaddana are according to the Gandhavamsa three great centres of Pali Buddhism. Buddhaghosa in the Nigamana to the Manorathapurani refers to Kanci as a centre of Pali study. Buddhaghosa says elsewhere (Papancasudani) that his own writing was at the instance of Buddhamitta when the two lived together at Madhurasutta-pattana (Madura). Again in his Manorathapurani Buddhaghosa says that his work was at the instance of Jotipala while the two were living together in Kancipuram and other places.

To reconstruct the history of South Indian Buddhism we have to depend mainly on the works of the Tamil poets and scholars who were great acaryas from time to time. The most helpful Tamil works are the Manimekalai, Kundalakesi, Siddhatattogai, Tiruppadikam, Bimbisarakathai, Valaiyapati and Virasoliyam. Some of the very early Tamil Buddhist luminaries are Ilam or the Young Bodhiyar, Aravana Adigal, Sittalai Sattanar, Sanghamitra, Nada-Kutanar, Thera Buddhadatta, Bodhi Dharma and Dinnaga.

Sanghamitra, a Tamil Bhikkhu of the Cola country, who lived in the early half of the 4th century A.D., went to Sri Lanka converted the king to Mahayana (Vaitulya) and being patronised by his second son Mahasena, destroyed the Mahavihara which was a seat of Hinayana and renewed and enlarged the Abhayagiri Vihara, which became thereafter the stronghold of Mahayana.

Buddhadatta Thera (5th century A.D.), a Tamil of the Cola country, held charge successively of Buddhist monasteries at Mahavihara in Anuradhapura, Kaveripattinam, Uragapura, Bhutamangalam and Kancipura. He has written about these monasteries. While at Kaveripattinam, he wrote the Buddhavamsatthakatha at the request of his sisya Buddha-Sikha; and at the request of another disciple, Sumati, he wrote Abhidhammavatara. At Bhutamangalam he stayed in a Buddhist palli built by a Vaisnava, Kannadasa alias Venu (Vinhu) das, and completed another work called Vinaya- viniscaya. His disciple, Buddha Sikha, followed him everywhere. Invited to Sri Lanka, he compiled other works there at the request of a Sinhala Pontiff Mahathera Sankhapala. They are Uttaravinicchaya, Ruparupa-vibhaga, Jinalankara and a commentary on Buddhavamsa called Madhuratha-Vilasini. He met the famous Buddhaghosa in Sri Lanka and the two had friendly discourse. While the Gupta king Kumara Gupta was a patron of Buddhaghosa Thera, Buddhadatta’s patron was the Kalabhra Accyutavikkanta (Acyuta Narayana) of the Colanadu.

The Gandhavamsa mentions ten South Indian Buddhist teachers who wrote works and speaks also of twenty other Buddhist teachers of South India who wrote books in Pali at Kancipuram.

The ten teachers are

(1) Buddhadatta (5th century A.D.).

(2) Ananda, the author of Mulatika on the Abhidhammattakatha.

(3) Dhammapala (5th-6th century A.D.) a native of Tambarattha (Tirumnelveli district) who became successively the head of the Buddhist monastery called Bhataraditta - Vihara at Kancipuram and the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura, wrote good commentaries on Buddhist basic texts, such as "Attakatha," "Paramartha Manjusa," "Nettipakaranatthakatha." He resided in the city of Tanjai in Tirunelveli district.

(4-5) Two unnamed former teachers (Purvacaryas) who wrote the Niruttimanjusa and Mahaniruttisankhepa.

(6) Mahavajirabuddhi, author of Vinayaganthi, a glossary of the five the Vinaya books.

(7) Cullavajirabuddhi. The name of his work is not traceable.

(8) Dipankara Thera 91100 A.D., alias Buddhapriya Thera and "Coliya Dipankara," was disciple in Sri Lanka of Ananda Vanaradana, and later on became the head at Kancipura of Baladicca- Vihara. He was the author of the Pali works, Vajjamadu and Rupa-Siddhi, the former on Buddhist art, and the latter on arithmetic. He wrote also a commentary on the Rupa-Siddhi. He wrote a tika on Sampapancasatti also.

(9) Culladhammapala who wrote the Saccasankhepa and

(10) Kassapa, who wrote the Mohaviccedani and Vimativicccedana.

From the Talaing records of Kalyani we get a list of Buddhist acaryas of South India, some of whom are Kaccayana, author of the first Pali grammar;

Buddhavira, author of the Sutta-sangaha; Nana or Nanagambhira,. the author of Tathagatotpatt. Anuruddha (l2th century) of the Pandya land who became popular in Sri Lanka and Burma by his works, :Abhidhammathasangaha, Paramattha-vinicchaya, and Nama-rupapariccheda."

South India continued to be the centre of Pali Buddhism as late as the 12th century A.D.

Dharmakirti (13th century A.D.) of the Pandya country was another celebrated Buddhist acarya who was invited and patronised by Parakrama Bahu II (1236-68 A.D.). He organised in Sri Lanka an international conference of Buddhists. The Datha-vamsa and Culavamsa (latter part of Mahavamsa recording history of Sri Lanka from Mahasena to Parakrama Bahu II) are works which are ascribed to this Dharmakirti.

The Buddhist monks formed a galaxy of stars that illumined the Buddhist firmament in South India for nearly 1,300 years.

Courtesy World of Buddhism

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H1.07   Unfinished business at Tantrimale

  D.C. Ranatunga

A sedentary Buddha, colossal in stature, carved in the rock, the panels on either side of it prepared centuries ago but yet uncut centuries later: a reclining Buddha of giant proportions, the finishing touches yet to be made: a stock of wedged pillars and coping stones, beaded edges cut with great care, all lying in the forest where they were quarried; a stupa crumbling with age on the crest of the highest wave of stone, and leading to a flight of steps that begins but does not end; a stone cubicle atop another pinnacle, a sentinel watching over the panorama; ruins everywhere, caves and inscriptions here and there. This is Tantrimale.

This is Tantrimale, where carvings that rival those of the Galvihare await the sculptor's finishing touches; where eight of a flight of steps are cut while a ninth remains half cut; where pillars and stones, carved and uncarved, lie where they were quarried, awaiting buildings to be erected.

This is Tantrimale, as it was on that day when the word came that an army from the coast was on the march, the day when the people fled leaving their task unfinished.

So Subbiah Muthiah wrote 45 years ago in the Times Annual 1959. Few went to Tantrimale then. It's a different story today. The motorable road from Anuradhapura has made it a popular place of worship. Pilgrims do the 35-mile drive and enjoy yet another marvel of the days of the Sinhalese monarchs.

The magnificent gal talawa is a treat. The walk around the caves and places of worship is not tiring. The climb is easy. Many are the places to see. Walking to the right and reaching the top of the rock, one meets the Bodhi, one of the first eight offshoots (ashta palaruha bodhi) of the original Bo-sapling brought during the time of King Devanampiyatissa.

The Mahavamsa mentions that when the Bo-sapling was brought by Theri Sanghamitta, "the village of the Brahman Tivakka" was one of the places where the party rested on their way to Anuradhapura. As a token of remembrance, an offshoot was presented. Tantrimale was then known as Tiwakka Bamunu Gama.

Looking down one sees the rock cut image of the sedentary Buddha, almost eight feet high. Behind the image is a makara thorana. One sees a pond in the distance. According to a resident monk, it never runs dry. Closer to the pond are several caves including one used as the poth gula (library). Inscriptions with Brahmi letters have been found in the caves.

A museum houses the artifacts found on the premises. Coming round to the left, one approaches the rock cut reclining Buddha, 40 feet in length. Opposite the statue, on top of the rock is the dagoba. Walking to the left of the dagoba, one reaches the newly-built budu-ge where final touches are being given to the paintings. An evening stroll round the Tantrimale complex is a pleasant and satisfying experience.

02 05 2004 - Sunday Times

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H1.08   Bringing back the glory of Gandhara

Chandani Kirinde

Fasting Buddha found at Taxila now in the Lahore Museum

The fact that the great Buddhist civilization better known as the Gandhara civilization held sway in the north-western region of present-day Pakistan is known to many. But one can only begin to fathom the real glory and extent of this civilization by visiting the sites, many of which the world is yet to see.

This could change now with the Government of Pakistan keen to attract tourists worldwide to share with them that fascinating aspect of the country. An aspect that has been overshadowed by political upheavals and terrorism that have plagued the area, and which unfortunately have become more symbolic of this part of the world than its arts and culture.

The Gandhara civilization flourished in the north-western region of Pakistan from the 6th Century BC to the 5th Century AD and the main purpose of the arts of that time was to propagate Buddhism through images carved in stone, stucco, terracotta and bronze. These were mostly enshrined in monasteries and stupas throughout the Gandhara region.

The Gandhara School of Art is credited by many, as being the first creators of the Buddha in human form, rather than as a symbol – the method which was adopted before the Gandhara period. Some of these early interpretations of the Buddha included His footprint.

What would enthral any visitor to the region would be the sight of well preserved pieces of art which depict the life story of the Buddha -- conception, birth, enlightenment and death; His previous birth stories- (the Jathakas) as well as images of the future Buddhas. Gandhara art is a mix of many cultures and the dedicated artists of the era painstakingly carved out the life story of the Buddha mixing Greek, Persian, Indian and Roman schools of art. It was from here that Buddhism travelled to China, Korea and Japan.

Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha (2ndC AD) at the Peshawar Museum

Buddhism was introduced to Gandhara by the great Indian King Asoka around 256 BC. Later under the reign of Kanishka - the Kushana emperor who ruled Purushapura (now Peshawar in northern Pakistan) from around 127 AD for more than 20 years, Buddhism further flourished. Emperor Kanishka sent missions to distant lands.

The actual territory of Gandhara is a triangular piece of land about 100 kilometres, east to west and 70 kilometres north to south, on the west side of the Indus river, surrounded by mountains. But the expansion of Gandhara art crossed geographical limits and covered an area from Eastern Afghanistan, Taxila, the modern day Swat valley, Dir, Malakand, Mardan and Peshawar valley to Kashmir.

Many Sri Lankans are familiar with Taxila as a seat of learning in ancient times. Taxila, situated about 35 km north-west of Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad was the main centre of Gandhara, dating back to over 3,000 years ago. It had attracted Alexander the Great from Macedonia in 326 BC, who brought Greek culture to this part of the world.

It later came under the Mauryan dynasty and reached its highest level of development under Emperor Asoka who during the 2nd Century BC adopted Buddhism as the state religion, which flourished and prevailed for over 1,000 years, until the year 10 AD. It was during this time that Taxila along with other cities became important centres of culture, trade and learning.

A journey from Taxila to the Swat Valley up to Peshawar up to the Khyber Valley, along the ancient trail of Buddhist civilisation is bound to fascinate anyone irrespective of their religious beliefs. But for a Buddhist it is a pilgrimage to a holy land where the pace of life seems to go on in the same manner in which it probably did when the great Buddhist civilization thrived. Hundreds of stupas and monasteries were erected in Gandhara and many of the artefacts uncovered today are well preserved and protected in several museums including the museums in Dir, Peshawar and Lahore. The Peshawar museum takes pride of place among these with a collection of Gandhara art including about 1000 pieces of Buddhist sculpture.

Transportation of relics (2nd-3rdC AD) at Islamabad Museum

Other than the museum, some of the original sites where stupas and monasteries were built can be seen as well. Many of these are in remarkably good condition. The Dharmarajika stupa and monastery founded by Emperor Asoka is one such site. Hundreds of Buddhist monks are believed to have resided here and many Buddhist and non -Buddhist sculptures have been recovered dating back to between the 3rd Century BC and 5th Century AD.

The Juliana stupa and monastery in Taxila are also two well preserved Buddhist monuments. The monastery is believed to have been a double storey complex but only a part of it remains intact now. Yet the stone carvings of the life story of the Buddha can be seen in its remnants.

Swat in Saidu Sharif about 258 kilometres north of Islamabad is another place where Buddhism had flourished and had been a place of pilgrimage for many hundreds of years before the religion began to decline around the 10th Century AD. There are more than 400 Buddhist sites covering an area of 160 km in Swat valley.

Another fascinating place on the Buddhist trail is the well preserved Buddhist monastery at Takht-i-Bhai, about 156 km north of Islamabad dating back to between the 2nd and 5th Century BC. The existing buildings include the main stupa, two courtyards in different terraces, cells for meditation for Buddhist monks as well as several stone figures of the Buddha.

Dream of Queen Mahamaya (1st-2ndC AD)

Birth of Prince Siddhartha (2nd-3rdC AD) at Peshawar Museum

These are but a handful of what Gandhara art achieved during its days of glory. The archaeological authorities in Pakistan are unearthing more and more wonders from these sites each day.

Starting from this cradle of Buddhist civilization, the Gandhara Buddha moved onto central Asia taking a message of peace influencing millions of people in the ancient world. And even though Buddhism may not be practised throughout the region anymore, the universally accepted message of compassion preached by Lord Buddha comes to the mind of anyone fortunate enough to walk the trail of the greatest Buddhist civilization the world has known.

07 05 2006 - Sunday Times

 

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H1.09   Tale of two cities from Buddhist Burma

Padma Edirisinghe

The writer who recently visited major Buddhist shrines in Myanmar and Thailand recounts the tales for Poya cum general readers.

There are thousands of stories in the countries of the world handed down from one generation to the next. Some are fabricated, while some are made of authentic stuff while a third category oscillates between the two.

The writer came across two such stories that can be called authentic and historical. If one yearns for more labels they are a tale of two cities too. And they are both connected to the progress of Buddhism, the tale of Amarawathie in fact connected to the progress of Buddhism not only in Burma but in Sri Lanka too.

The cities are Amarapura also called Amarawathie and Mandalay both hugging the banks of the mighty 2000 km. Irrawady river that runs like a life giving artery from North to South of Myanmar. I wonder whether our tour guide was exaggerating or whether he was on the boundary of truth when he declared that Irrawady can be described as a water run that begins in China and India and embraces the ocean in the Andaman sea area. Rivers are insentient and do not know the fences that divide countries, hence maybe somewhere a small rivulet from these two countries get connected to the Irrawady at its Northern source. But my theme is a duo of cities and not the river Irrawady.

Amarapura means the Immortal city or the City that never dies. But the city provides a historical irony in that it was perhaps Myanmar's capital with the shortest life span. It was king Badowpaya who in 1782 shifted Burma's capital from Awa to another city naming the new capital Amarapura. (A popular travel book comments that the Burmese capitals played musical chairs and changed rapidly as if to substantiate a cardinal teaching of Buddhism i.e. impermanence of all worldly things.) But even Badowpaya would never have expected the tragedy that befell the city. Just 28 years later in 1810 a huge fire engulfed the city destroying most of it and in 1823 the capital shifted back to Awa. So Amarapura existed as Myanmar's capital only from 1802 to 1823. This was the dawn of our British period.

An ecclesiastical crisis was slowly brewing in the South of Lanka due to a royal decree made during king Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe's time that limited the Upasampada or Higher ordination only to the Govi caste. Many senior prelates ordained from the Govi kula seem to have been behind this decree that led to much dissatisfaction in the Southern littoral majorly peopled by castes other than Goigama. That the Buddha himself strongly condemned the caste system via the Vasala Sutta where he preached that a human becomes high or low purely due to his actions and not due to a caste he or she is incidentally born to, had been deliberately overlooked by this royal decree.

To maintain the sequence of this tale it must be mentioned that the political upheavals of the times had extinguished Upasampada bhikkhus in Lanka and hence fitting monks were brought over from Siam for the restoration of the higher ordination by a team of bhikkhus and laymen from Mahanuwara.

Now senior prelates in the South decided to follow this example and a team led by Ven. Welitara Ambagahapitiye Gnana Vimala Tissa thera set off to Siam. But on the way they heard that Theravada Buddhism was also flourishing in a more proximate country and they landed in a port by the Andaman sea and proceeded by boat along the Irrawady river and reached Amarapura that was then the Burmese capital.

At this time the king Bodawpaya being a fervent Buddhist, the city was almost a repository of Pali texts on Buddhism. A huge temple square had been built with temple towers at each corner. The king not only fulfilled the wish of the team from Sri Lanka that marked the genesis of the Amarapura nikaya in our island but also gifted a large number of Buddhist texts. The Amarapura Upasampada ordination brought over from Burma was performed on the banks of Balapitimodera. The connection between South Lanka and Myanmar did not stop with this. In the years 1810, 1811, 1812 and 1813 Ven. Kapugama Siri Dammakkanda, Ven. Bogahapitiya Dhammajothi, Ven. Attudawe Dhammarakkitha and Ven. Kataluwe Gunaratana theras visited Amarapura respectively, perpetuating the contacts.

Today, though Amarapura city's glory has waned and the temple square is in a sorry state, a huge monastery has come up with a scholastic institution for young monks who stroll even on the pavements carrying their books and papers.

Now we come to Mandalay. Like phoenix rising from the ashes, the city has come up from British destruction in 1857 and the havoc caused by the Japanese and British again during the Second World War when what was left of the city was blasted by bombs. People shrug and say, "Oh, Myanmar, it has a military government. but when overviewing the splendid metarmophosing of this last royal city to its original form by this military government," In a matter of few years then one begins to be pregnant with the question what is wrong with a military government if it focuses on culture and religion to this extent?

However, I better stop the subject at that for at the entry airport of Rangoon I had an unpleasant experience. Someone had alerted that I was a journalist and a uniformed officer came up to me and asked what sort of topics I write on. I got away by saying that I am just an old retired director of education who writes on very innocent matter that many find too boring to read.

He left me, smiling, he smiling, me smiling. (Earlier I had been shivering in my boots, sorry, in my humble sandals that I might be refused entry due to a remark made by only the Gods know whom).

But Mandalay has a unique history. Like our Mahanuwara it was the country's last citadel of independence and the great king who put up that magnificent capital was Mindon. The extreme care that has gone into its planning is indicative of his desire to make Myanmar an immortal country.

The Fifth Buddhist Council that purified the Tripitaka was held there under his patronage.

He had also added a spire to the remarkable Swedhegon chaitya that dazzles the vicinity of Rangoon. But his main feat was getting the whole voluminous Tripitaka inscribed on 729 marble slabs to last forever. and today they spread over a vast area like the Pindiya limestone caves of Shan state that exhibit about 8000 - 9000 gold plated Buddha statues in its natural cavities.

But luckily King Mindon did not live to see the tragic end to the city that just trailed into a mere outpost of the busybody Britishers who thought that they were destined to be masters of the whole world.

Thibaw, son of Mindon was the ruler then and his weak personality facilitated matters for the trespassers. Photography had filtered into Burma by this time and I saw a photograph of the last royal couple, the queen on the right and the king on the left. Normally it is the male who stands on the right but Thibaw had lived in fear of not only the British invaders but of his wife too and given her the place entitled to him!

History is not made only of wars, feuds and treaties but of queer human comedies like this and that ends my tale of the two cities of Buddhist Burma. To give some final information, actually Myanmar was the original name of this country but the British baptized it Burma, after the main tribe, the Burmans. Some of the other tribes denizening this country are the Mons, the Pyns and the Shans.

It is a very disciplined country, disciplined both by a military government and by Buddhism. Even on normal days temples are crowded with devotees.

Grandeur of Thai temples

Thailand's glittering Buddhist temples and the golden pointed silhouettes of stupas are a tribute to a gentle people's faith in a philosophy that has professed peaceful traditions for over two thousand years.

Architecturally unique Thai temples make landmarks of the country. Buddhist architecture and decorative arts of finest Thai craftsmanship is portrayed in every temple in Bangkok, known as "The city of Angels." It has no less than 400 temples and monasteries with a further 25,000 spread all over the country.

At the first glimpse, these magnificent temples certainly compel the visitor to take a closer look at their architectural splendour. Steeply gabled roofs painted and decorated in red and gold Buddha images, the scent of joss-sticks, tinkling temple bells, and saffron robed monks are some of the most colourful sights and elements in Bangkok.

Of all Bangkok's temples which are famous as 'Wat', Wat Benchamabopitr or the Marble Temple has a unique 'Uposatha hall' (ordination hall). These pictures featured here were captured during the visit to Thailand where peace and freedom blend with Buddhism.

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H1.10   Unrolling precious scrolls

Ven. S. Dhammika traces the amazing saga of survival of the oldest Buddhist scriptures that emerged in a clay pot in war- ravaged Afghanistan and finally found their way to the British Museum

One buyer asked for photos of the pots and their contents and finally decided to purchase them for an undisclosed amount. In 1994, this anonymous buyer gifted the pots and their contents to the British Museum in London and they arrived there later that year. Exactly where the pots were first found is unclear although it seems likely that they came from eastern Afghanistan, probably from one of the numerous Buddhist ruins around Jalalabad.

When the pots were examined by scientists at the British Museum they proved to contain 21 tightly rolled up birch bark scrolls looking for all the world like old cigarette butts. Buddhism reached Gandhara (Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) at about the time of King Asoka and in the following centuries the Buddhist scriptures and other documents were written down on the tissue thin bark of the birch tree.

The first job the museum technicians had was to try to unroll the scrolls so that they could be read. Even when new, birch bark manuscripts were fragile. Two-thousand-year- old ones could crumble to dust at the slightest touch and in fact several of the British Museum scrolls had already been damaged beyond reconstruction during transportation to London. The scrolls were placed in a bell jar and moisture gradually introduced so that they would return to their original state of flexibility. But this had to be done with great care as too much moisture could smudge the ink or cause the growth of mould. Next, silica gel was introduced into the jar so as to strengthen the bark. That having been done, each scroll was carefully teased open, unrolled and then placed between sheets of glass so that they could be easily examined without causing further damage. Along with the scrolls themselves were hundreds of loose fragments, some with letters or parts of letters on them.

It proved possible to piece some of these together as one would a jigsaw puzzle and place them in their original position thus allowing more of the scrolls to be read. In all, 21 scrolls were unrolled and when examined they proved to be Buddhist works. They include parts of the well known Dhammapada and suttas like the Dona Sutta from the Anguttara Nikaya, the Khaggavisana Sutta from the Sutta Nipata and the Sangthiti Sutta from the Digha Nikaya. There are also several avadanas, stories illustrating different Buddhist values and virtues.

Some of these avadanas are known from other sources, some are not. Smaller fragments are of an unknown devotional hymn and what appears to be a medical text. All the scrolls were in what is called Gandhari, this being one of the Prakrit, or Middle Indo-Aryan vernaculars, derived from Sanskrit and as such it is closely related to other Indo-Aryan languages like Pali. The script used is known as Kharosthi which is derived from the Aramaic script introduced into India after the Persian invasion in the 4th century B.C.

The British Museum scrolls have allowed scholars to learn much about the earliest form of Buddhist books. We know almost nothing about how birch bark was prepared for writing, but Muslim writer Al Biruni who travelled through India in the 11th century says this: "In central and northern India people use the bark of the tuz tree for writing on. They take a piece of bark one yard long and as broad as the outstretched fingers of the hand or somewhat less and prepare it in various ways. They oil and polish it so as to make it hard and smooth and then they write on it".

As a single piece of bark would be too small to write much on several pieces were glued together. The margins of some scrolls were sewn with a fine black thread to prevent the scroll from fraying at the edges or cracking. The longest scroll is 154.8 cm long. The ink that was used for writing the suttas was made from lamp black mixed with some kind of gum. The pen used for writing was of wood with a split nib as is clear from some letters on the scrolls which are likewise split. As the scrolls were already damaged when they were put in their pot it seems likely that they were deliberately interred having been worn out by use. Burying old scriptures was a common practice in ancient times. Only one scroll still has its colophon intact. It reads: "This manuscript of the Dhammapada belongs to the monk Buddhavarman, pupil of Buddhanandin and was written in the Dharmodyan Forest."

The scrolls were rolled up in such a way that the colophon was on the outside so that a reader knew what book he held in his hand without having to unroll the whole scroll.

The British Museum scrolls have been called the Dead Sea scrolls of Buddhism. This comparison is spurious. The Dead Sea scrolls were important because of the startling new light they threw on the origins of Christianity but the British Museum scrolls tell us nothing at all about the origins or development of Buddhism. Their importance lies in other domains. Firstly, dating as they do from about the 1st century C.E. they are the oldest examples of Buddhist scriptures ever found. Although not written in Pali their contents differ from the Pali suttas in only very minor ways thus confirming that the Pali suttas as we have them today go back to at least the beginning of the Common Era. Secondly, they will provide a new standard for evaluating, comparing in some cases correcting already known text like the Pali text. The Gandhari version of the Khaggavisana Sutta for example has recently been critically edited and published and already given new insights into problems in the Pali version.

Perhaps, the most remarkable thing about the British Museum scrolls is that they have survived at all. Afghanistan is in the news today but it is by no means the first time war has raged in that part of the world. And the Taliban government's destruction of Buddhist artifacts early last year is not the first time such a thing has happened either. For such small and fragile things to be preserved intact through centuries of chaos and wilful destruction is remarkable indeed. Even more remarkable is the fact that whoever found the scrolls, undoubtedly a simple peasant or a soldier, understood that they could be of value and rather than just destroying them or leaving them, he or she decided to try to sell them. Such unlikely circumstances have bequeathed to modern Buddhist scholarship its most precious gift.

The writer is an Australian Bhikku who is currently in Europe.

26 05 2002 - Sunday Times

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H1.11   Flag of faith flies high

Today as we celebrate Vesak, D.C. Ranatunga unfurls the birth of the Buddhist flag - a symbol of Buddhist unity and reverence, created during the Buddhist revivalist movement in colonial Sri Lanka
 

Today the six-coloured Buddhist flag will fly at every Buddhist temple, home and public building throughout the country as a symbol of respect and gratitude to Lord Buddha, the Great Teacher. Temples will be full of devotees participating in religious activities.

Traditionally, the village temple was the centre of activity - be it religious, social or educational. The monk was the leader in the village. His advice was sought on village affairs and he guided the people. Particularly on Poya days, people gathered in the temple to spend the day listening to Bana sermons, learning the Dhamma and in meditation. They also discussed matters concerning the village and planned activities for the welfare of the village.

Records indicate that religious observances on Poya days had been introduced from the time of King Devanampiyatissa. Special festivals were organised to mark Vesak, Poson and Esala. The golden era of Buddhism was during the Anuradhapura period and the tempo was maintained during the Polonnaruwa period. Thereafter, there was a decline and when the Portuguese came they moved the people away from Buddhist values, customs and traditions.

The trend continued during the Dutch period and steps were taken to remove education from the temple and entrust it to the missionaries.

Continuous acts by the British government to suppress Buddhism led to a Buddhist revivalist movement which gathered momentum with the arrival in Ceylon of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, the American Theosophist on May 17, 1880. A week later, Colonel Olcott and a Russian lady in his party, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky embraced Buddhism at Vijayanandaramaya, Galle. On the same day, May 25, he established the Galle Theosophical Society.

Col. Olcott then began to work closely with Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero who spearheaded the Buddhist revivalist movement at the time. A month later, on June 17, the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society (BTS) was formed. Colonel Olcott gave leadership to the Buddhists, uniting them and directing them on how their lost rights could be gained.

One of the key activities planned by the Buddhists was the establishment of Buddhist schools. Their reply to the Sunday schools started by the missionaries to spread religious education was the establishment of Buddhist Sunday schools. Colonel Olcott began by setting up nine schools in the Colombo region. Ananda College was started on August 17, 1895 in Pettah with C.W. Leadbeater as Principal Encouraged by Olcott's initiative, Buddhist leaders began setting up schools in the outstations as well. Thus Dharmaraja College was established in Kandy on June 30, 1887 and Mahinda College in Galle on February 2, 1892.

The formation of a Buddhist Defence Committee in January 1884 under the patronage of Colonel Olcott, mainly with the objective of getting the Vesak Poya holiday restored gave an impetus to the Buddhist revivalist movement. The British had not shown any interest in restoring the Vesak holiday which the Buddhists lost in 1770 during the Dutch rule.

Muhandiram A.P. Dharma Gunawardena was elected President of the Defence Committee with Don Carolis Hewavitarana as Vice President. Carolis Pujitha Gunawardena and H. A. Fernando functioned as Secretary and Treasurer respectively. Colonel Olcott was co-opted as an honorary member.

On a visit to London in February 1884, Col. Olcott handed over a memorandum to the Secretary of State for the Colonies requesting the British Government to restore the Vesak holiday. Lord Derby, the Secretary of State gave an assurance that the Governor would be consulted on the matter. On March 27, 1885, Governor Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon issued a proclamation declaring Vesak Poya a public holiday. The Buddhists thus regained a privilege they had lost for 115 years.

In a publication on the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka, Dr K. D. G. Wimalaratne, Director of National Archives states that with the announcement of the restoration of the Vesak holiday, the Buddhist Defence Committee decided to celebrate the Vesak Poya which fell on April 28, that year on a grand scale. A steering committee comprising ten leading Buddhists of the day was appointed. Serving on the committee were Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero, Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero, Don Carolis Hewavitarana, Muhandiram A.P. Dharma Gunawardena, William de Abrew, Carolis Pujitha Gunawardena, Charles A. de Silva, N. S. Fernando, Peter de Abrew and H.William Fernando.

The committee felt the need for a Buddhist flag to be hoisted as a unifying symbol of this memorable day. It would symbolise the unity of the Buddhists and provide the Buddhist public with a tool to display their reverence to the Buddha. The members of the committee submitted designs for the flag and the one submitted by Carolis Pujitha (C.P) Gunawardena was accepted. Many, however, thought it was designed by Colonel Olcott who himself admitted that the credit should go to "the members of the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society".

The design of the flag appeared in the Sinhala newspaper 'Sarasavi Sandaresa' on April 17, 1885. Colonel Olcott was away in India at the time.

Devoting a chapter to the Buddhist flag in 'Old Diary Leaves - Volume III', Colonel Olcott refers to the "Colombo colleagues who had the happy thought of devising a flag which could be adopted by all Buddhist nations as the universal symbol of their faith, thus serving the same purpose as that of the cross for all Christians". He says: "It was a splendid idea and I saw in a moment its far reaching potentialities as an agent in that scheme of Buddhistic unity which I have clung to from the beginning of my connection with Buddhism."

Pointing out that "our Colombo brothers had hit upon the quite original and unique idea of blending in the flag the six colours believed to have been exhibited in the aura of the Buddha" Colonel Olcott states that the flag would have no political meaning whatever but be strictly religious.

The colours as mentioned in the 'Diary Leaves' are sapphire-blue (Nila), golden-yellow (Pita), crimson (Lohita), white (Avadata), scarlet (Mangasta) and a hue composed of the others blended (Prabashvara).

Early records show that the flag was ceremoniously hoisted at the Deepadittarammaya, Kotahena on Vesak day 1885 (April 28) by Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero. Flags were also hoisted at the Maligakanda Pirivena, Hunupitiya and Kelaniya temples and BTS headquarters in Colombo.

Referring to the shape of the flag, Colonel Olcott says that, "It was of the inconvenient shape of a ship's long, streaming pennant, which would be quite unsuitable for carrying in processions or fixing in rooms". He suggested that it should be made of "the usual shape and size of national flags". A sample that was made was unanimously accepted.

Thus the Buddhist flag as it is known today was born. "Accepted by the chief priests as orthodox, it at once found favour, and, on the Buddha's Birthday of that year (Vesak - 1886) was hoisted on almost every temple and decent dwelling-house in the Island. From Ceylon it has since found its way throughout the Buddhist world. I was much interested to learn, some years later, from the Tibetan Ambassador to the Viceroy, whom I met in Darjeeling, that the colours were the same as those in the flag of the Dalai Lama," Colonel Olcottt writes in his 'Diary Leaves'.

To him, the Buddhist flag is one of the prettiest in the world, the stripes being placed vertically in the order mentioned earlier, and the sequence of the hues making true chromatic harmonies.

26 05 2002 - Sunday Times

 

 

Importance of Buddhist Flag 

"FLAG is a recurring item of Buddhist cult, dangling from the ceiling or temples' columns inside, or from a pole outside. Flags represent Buddha's virtues and mark out for him, in the same manner the military flags signalize the army's chief; flags also stand guard at Buddha's pictures. Buddhist scriptures list five types of flags: lion's, Makara monster's, dragon's, Garuda bird's, bull's. Flag is a traditional offering to Buddha by the devouts, together with flowers and incense. At the same time flag represents the virtues of Buddha and the virtues the devout wants to obtain, therefore flag has a very important ritual meaning: it can prolong devout's life in order to let him/her increases his/her merits. This is the case of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231 B.C.) who lived 12 years more after a serious illness so he could build new other reliquaries (stupa). A flag dangling into a temple at the moment of a devout's death, adds merits to him/her and even makes him/her be born again in on of Buddha's paradises. In fact flags are ornaments of famous Buddha Amithaba's paradise. In Tantric Buddhism adepts' head is touched by a flag, as it was an unction."

from "Enciclopedia delle Religioni", Garzanti, Milano 1989 (Italian translation of "Knaurs grosser Religion Führer", München 1986)

Many people, including Buddhists, believe that their flag dates back to the time of Dutugamunu (second-century BC). In fact, the flag was invented in 1880 by an American journalist, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott. Olcott was a fascinating character. A former soldier and lawyer, he set up the Theosophical Society of New York. He arrived in Sri Lanka with the renowned spiritualist Madame Blavatsky on 17 February 1880 - a day which was subsequently celebrated as Olcott Day in independent Sri Lanka. He founded the Buddhist Theosophical Society, devised a Buddhist catechism, encouraged Buddhist versions of Christmas carols and cards, and inspired the founding of Buddhist schools and the YMBA - the Young Men's Buddhist Association. There are six colours in the flag, but the human eye can see only five. They are described in the Scriptures as emanating from the aura around the Buddha's head. There are 5 vertical stripes of red, yellow, blue, white and orange. The sixth colour is a compound of the first 5, but for design purposes its five ingredients are all shown in small horizontal stripes on the fly.

Olcott felt that local Buddhists in Sri Lanka needed a symbol to rally around. His flag achieved that: it became the emblem of the international Buddhist movement and is flown today worldwide in Buddhist buildings and at Buddhist celebrations. When he died in 1907, Olcott's body was shrouded in both the Buddhist and American flags before his cremation.

Sources: 
An Introduction to Buddhism, Peter Harvey, CUP, 1990
 
Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka, Gombrich & Obeyesekere, Princetown UP, 1988
 
A Popular Dictionary of Buddhism, Christmas Humphreys, Curzon, 1984
 

The World of Buddhism, Bechert & Gombrich, Thames & Hudson, 1984

 

 

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H1.12   The birth of the Buddhist flag

A blend of six colours believed to have been exhibited in the aura of the Buddha

D.C. Ranatunga

 


Blue (Nīla)
  • Signifying the concept of loving kindness and peace in Buddhism
Yellow (Pīta)
  • Signifying the Middle Path, that is the complete absence of form and emptiness 
Red (Lohita)
  • Signifying achievement, wisdom, virtue, fortune and dignity
White (Odāta)
  • Signifying purity, emancipation, that the Dharma will always exist regardless of time or space
Orange (Manjesta)
  • The essence of Buddhism which is full of wisdom, strength and dignity
Combination of above colors (Pabbhassara 'essence of light')
  • The combination of these five colors symbolizes that it is the one and only Truth. 

 

The Buddhist flag, first hoisted in 1885 in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), is a symbol of faith and peace used throughout the world to represent the Buddhist faith. The six colours of the flag represent the colours of the aura that emanated from the body of the Buddha when He attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. The horizontal stripes represent the races of the world living in harmony and the vertical stripes represent eternal world peace. The colours symbolise the perfection of Buddhahood and the Dharma.

The Blue light that radiated from the Buddha's hair symbolises the spirit of Universal Compassion for all beings. 
The Yellow light that radiated from the Buddha's epidermis symbolises the Middle Way which avoids all extremes and brings balance and liberation. 
The Red light that radiated from the Buddha's flesh symbolises the blessings that the practice of the Buddha's Teaching brings. 
The White light that radiated from the Buddha's bones and teeth symbolises the purity of the Buddha's Teaching and the liberation it brings. 
The Orange light that radiated from the Buddha's palms, heels and lips symbolises the unshakable Wisdom of the Buddha's Teaching. 
The Combination Color (compound of the other five colours in the aura's spectrum) symbolises the universality of the Truth of the Buddha's Teaching.

Therefore, the overall flag represents that regardless of race, nationality, division or colour, all sentient beings possess the potential of Buddhahood.

 

In recent history, we have not heard of Vesak full moon Poya day falling in April. Vesak has always been celebrated in May. One hundred and twenty two years ago, however, in 1885 Vesak Poya fell on April 28.

A month earlier, on March 27, 1885, Governor Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon had issued a proclamation declaring Vesak Poya a public holiday. It was the culmination of a campaign by the Buddhists to get some of their lost rights back. The event called for celebrations and the six-colour Buddhist flag flew high for the first time on that historic Vesak day.

The Dutch had abolished the Vesak Poya holiday in 1770 and the British had ignored requests that it be restored. Following the arrival of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott in May 1880, the Buddhist revivalist movement gathered momentum. A Buddhist Defence Committee was formed on his initiative on January 28, 1884 following the inaction by the government to deal with the culprits who attacked a Buddhist procession at Kotahena, killing one person and seriously injuring at least 30 persons.

The committee under the presidency of Muhandiram A.P. Dharma Gunawardena met at the Vidyodaya Pirivena at Maligakanda. The other members of the committee were Don Carolis Hewavitarana (Vice President), Carolis Pujitha Gunawardena (Secretary) and H. A. Fernando (Treasurer). Colonel Olcott was appointed an honorary member.

The committee considered several issues relating to the injustices meted out to the Buddhists and at the inaugural meeting it was resolved to ask the British government to take action on identified issues. The resolution was proposed by Vice President Don Carolis Hewavitarana supported by J.P. Jayatilake and was seconded by H.A.Fernando.

At least six main issues were addressed in a memorandum prepared to be sent to Lord Derby, Secretary to the State for Colonies in London. These were:

1. The need for the culprits of the Kotahena riots to be committed for trial.

2. The British government should follow a policy of religious neutrality or guarantee the religious rights and privileges of the Sinhalese Buddhists.

3. Vesak full moon Poya day be declared a holiday for Buddhist public servants.

4. The removal of all restrictions on the use of national and religious music and the restoration of the right to hold processions which had been enjoyed by the Buddhists from time immemorial.

5. The appointment of Buddhist Registrars of Marriages in Buddhist villages.

6. The removal of anomalies and the formation of a proper management system for Buddhist temporalities.

Colonel Olcott undertook to go to London and personally meet Lord Derby and discuss the issues raised. The Buddhist Defence Committee decided to celebrate the historic announcement of the Vesak holiday and a sub-committee comprising Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera, Venerable Migettuwatte Gunanada Thera, Don Carolis Hewavitarana, Muhandiram A.P. Dharma Gunawardena, William de Abrew, Carolis Pujitha Gunawardena, Charles A. de Silva, N.S. Fernando, Peter de Abrew and H. William Fernando was appointed to make the arrangements.

A key item in the programme for celebrations was the ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist flag in the major temples in and around Colombo.

The idea of designing a Buddhist flag was mooted by the Colombo Committee organising the Vesak celebrations and was hailed by Colonel Olcott who made the following observation in his 'Old Diary Leaves': "It was at this time that our Colombo colleagues had the happy thought of devising a flag which would be adopted by all Buddhist nations as the universal symbol of their faith thus serving the same purpose as that of the cross does for all Christians. It was a splendid idea and I saw in a moment its far-reaching potentialities as an agent in that scheme of Buddhist unity. Our Colombo brothers had hit upon the quite original and unique idea of blending in the flag the six colours alleged to have been exhibited in the aura of the Buddha."

Carolis Pujitha Gunawardena has been credited as the designer of the flag which appeared for the first time in the Sinhalese newspaper 'Sarasavi Sandaresa' on April 17, 1885. The design consisted of the six colours 'nila' (sapphire blue), 'pita' (golden yellow), 'lohita' (crimson), 'odata' (white), 'manjesta' (scarlet) and 'prabhashvara' (mixture of the five).

The flag took the shape of a long streaming pennant which Colonel Olcott commented would be "quite unsuitable for carrying in processions or fixing in homes". He suggested that the flag should take the shape and size of usual national flags. The proposal was accepted. And thus was born the Buddhist flag which will be raised at Buddhist homes on Tuesday, May 1, this year's Vesak full moon Poya day.

29 05 2007 - Sunday Times

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H1.13   Buddha Gaya – then and now

Anil Amarasekera

Half a century ago, in 1956, several important events took place. Among these, Buddhists all over the world celebrated the Buddha Jayanti.

Having completed my academic career that year, I sat for the degree examination at the University of Ceylon (Colombo Campus). While awaiting our results, a few of us undergraduates went on a "goodwill mission" to India, funded by the Asia Foundation.

We travelled throughout India by train. One night we stopped at a place, which we were told, was close to Buddha Gaya. Although it was not on our itinerary, we decided to go there the next day. By a coincidence, we arrived in Buddha Gaya on Buddha Jayanti Day. The first thing that struck us on our arrival was the intense heat, felt even in the morning. We were advised not to walk on the tarred road in the afternoon, since there was a tendency for the tar to melt! In fact, on our way we noticed special rooms set up in railway stations to treat people suffering from heat stroke. This was the height of summer, and even now, the pilgrim season ends before Vesak.

We found accommodation in the premises of the Maha Bodhi Society. Shortly before leaving for the temple, I went to take a cold shower, but had to take quick evasive action from the water, as it was scorching hot. By late evening, we walked the short distance across the road to the temple. I have no doubt that all temples in Sri Lanka would have been full of worshippers that night. Yet this was not the case in Buddha Gaya. Admittedly, there was a large number of people including foreigners and those from surrounding areas, but not in the number this premier place of Buddhist worship should have attracted. UNESCO has in fact declared it a World Heritage Site in 2003.

Although there was no great ceremony, the Chaitya, restored by the great British archaeologist Cunningham, was floodlit. The place was not developed as it is now. I quickly sat down, and felt a deep sense of spirituality engulfing me, a feeling I have experienced on all seven occasions I have been there. There was a bright moon in the clear sky. If I remember right, there was an eclipse of the moon that night, which may not have been visible in Sri Lanka.

A short while after entering the temple, some officials requested us to join the others to form a procession to go round the temple. We were told that Prime Minister Nehru had instructed the Indian Film Unit to record the event. So people of several nationalities joined to pay homage to the Blessed One. A copy of this film, Nehru’s tribute to the Buddha, may be available in the archives of the Indian Film Unit.

For my part, I thought I too would try to take a photograph. I had a small Kodak ‘Baby Brownie’ camera, several years old, without any fancy fittings or a flash. I clicked it as we went along. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the film after it had been developed on my return home. There was a discernible picture of the floodlit Chaitya with the moon in the background. I presented an enlarged copy of this to the Chief Monk in Buddha Gaya some years later, and he has carefully stored it. He informed me that copies of this historic photograph are taken to be reproduced in articles and magazines.

Having experienced the intense heat prevailing there at that time of the year, I could not help marvelling at the Buddha’s resolve in enduring such hardships in His quest to end the sufferings of humanity. The Bodhi tree, which gave Him shelter, is unique, in that while its branches sway in the breeze, each leaf flutters independently giving a cooling effect. I then understood why the Buddha showed such gratitude to this tree.

From the banks of the Neranjana Ganga nearby, you can see the Dungeshwari Hills in the distance, where the Buddha underwent great physical torment in His search for the Truth. He left behind all the comforts available to Him as a Prince and underwent extreme hardship instead. In Buddha Gaya, I was able to see and experience the conditions that would have prevailed at the time He achieved Enlightenment.

My next visit to Buddha Gaya was thirty years later. On that occasion, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The whole place had been renovated and landscaped. No doubt, the Indian Government had realised the importance of Buddhist places of worship to attract tourists, and had decided to make them accessible and presentable. In Buddha Gaya there are boards placed at different places in close proximity to each other, indicating the places where the Buddha is supposed to have spent a week at a time for seven weeks after His Enlightenment. Sarnath, where He preached His first sermon eight weeks later on Esala Full Moon Day, is 160 miles away. This was the monsoon season and the terrain would have been rough. The five ascetics in Sarnath saw Him approaching them from afar, on foot. I found it difficult to believe that He could have walked that distance in one week. Poson, the first Full Moon Day after Enlightenment, would have been spent in quiet contemplation, and had no particular significance at that time, although it is important to us on account of Thera Mahinda’s visit.

Later, on my first visit to Jetavanaramaya, an erudite Sri Lankan monk conducted our group round the place. Pointing to a pathway made of stonework, he said that that was the bed on which the Buddha had slept. He stated further that when God Sakra came to meet Him and stood at His feet he could not see the head! This was even more difficult for me to believe. Just a few feet away was the Gandhakuti Vihara, where the Buddha had resided. It was a room of normal size, with a raised platform, where He may have reposed. He would have been a person of average height. The Mulagandhakuti Vihara in Sarnath is the same size. There are similar rooms among the ruins of Nalanda University where the student monks had resided. They are also the same size. On a visit to Stratford-on-Avon, I have seen the bed on which Shakespeare had slept. It was small. The doorways of our ancient ruins are comparatively short. This shows that human beings have got taller and bigger with the passage of time.

However, I did not have to wait long to clear my doubts. I read that recent research indicates that the Buddha had spent only four weeks in Buddha Gaya after His Enlightenment. The first week had been spent with His back to the Bodhi tree, not gazing as it, as some believe. He had spent the next three weeks successively under the Ajapala tree, the Mucalinga (Midella) tree, and the Kiripalu tree. He would have sought shelter under the trees from the sun and the rain. So He had four weeks to walk to Sarnath, 160 miles away, stopping no doubt for rest and shelter. This is most likely what would have happened. I can now erase from my mind the picture of the large hooded snake that sheltered a puny Buddha, as found in Buddha Gaya, to indicate where He is alleged to have spent the sixth week. By then, He would have been halfway to Sarnath.

On my next visit to Jetavanaramaya, I met the same monk who had conducted us round on my earlier visit. On inquiring about the Buddha’s bed, he sheepishly informed me that he had found out that it was a path used for walking meditation!

Before my first visit to India, I read books written by Pundit Nehru. I found his references to the Buddha and his doctrine refreshing and inspiring. Subsequently, I visited his official residence in New Delhi, now preserved as a national monument. I was struck by the number of Buddha statues placed in important places in the house. It is reported that in the hall where the ceremony to grant Independence to India was held, there was a large Buddha statue. Lord Mountbatten had asked Nehru why it was placed there, and Nehru is said to have replied, "The Buddha is the greatest Indian."

While working abroad in several countries I went to their libraries and read several books on Buddhism written by foreign authors. Their approach was rational and incisive. Inspired by my first visit to Buddha Gaya and what I had read, I felt a strong urge to go in search of the historical Buddha, and visited Dambadiva on several occasions. Thanks to painstaking excavations done in recent times, a large number of places associated with the Buddha have been identified and the events that took place in His lifetime can be visualised.

Of the more important ones is the pond in Lumbini from which water was obtained to bathe the newborn Siddhartha. In Buddha Gaya there is the Bodhi tree, and in Sarnath, places where He delivered His famous sermons have been demarcated. At Mata Kaur on Kusinara there is a statue depicting the pain on the Buddha’s face, at the spot where He rested with His stomach ailment. The Kakutha Nadiya, from where Ananda brought Him water to drink, still flows close by. Finally, there is the Ramabha Stupa where He was cremated after His Parinibbana.

One wonders what impact the Buddha and the great religious leaders of the past would have had on mankind, if they had access to the sophisticated and modern means of satellite communication available today. The Buddha walked from place to place in a part of northern India, over a period of four and a half decades to preach His doctrine. In Kusinara, the statue of the Buddha in the reclining pose after his Parinibbana, done by Haribala, shows the soles of His feet swollen indicating the extent and effect of His walking.

Having associated with the highest in the land as well as the common people, all of whom venerated and adored Him, He chose to conclude His efforts and seek the bliss of Nibbana, in isolation, with only His faithful Ananda in attendance, at the ripe old age of 80 years.

This is not the story of just the greatest Indian, as Nehru had claimed, but surely the greatest human being that ever lived. In Nehru’s own words: "We live in an age of conflict and war, of hatred and violence, all over the world. Never before has the need been greater for all of us to remember that immortal message, which Lord Buddha, the greatest and the noblest of the sons of India, gave to us, and to you, and to all the world. That message of two thousand five hundred years ago is a living message today, enshrined in our hearts, and we draw inspiration from it to face the troubles and difficulties that threaten to overwhelm us."

07 05 2006 - Sunday Times

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H1.14   A visit to Buddhagaya

  Dr. Narme Wickremesinghe

It was our National New Year's Day, 2005 and my wife Nirmali and I set out early in the morning from Varanasi (Baranes Nuwara), the holy city for the Hindus on an 8 hour 270 km road journey to Boddhgaya, the holiest city for Buddhists - the place of the Buddha's Enlightenment in 528 BCE. We got a feeling of oneness with all religionists on this New Year Day.

That evening we visited the Mahobodhi Maha Viharaya - the Most Sacred and I am told the most beautiful temple in the Buddhist World. As we entered the 8th century AD gateway, there to behold was the 52m high magnificent temple with sculpture and statues on the outer walls, and on a rectangular base - similar to Hindu temples in Sri Lanka.

As we descended to the base of the Maha Viharaya on the left were Hindu shrines and indeed even inside and under the main Enlightenment Shrine Room was also a Hindu shrine. Although this Buddhist Shrine has existed here after the pass away of the Buddha in 488 BCE and King Asoka is likely to have built a Stupa on his visit to Boddhgaya in 260 BCE, the structure similar to the present one has been in existence only since around 300 AD, but renovated and built on by devout kings and monks. It was in a neglected and dilapidated state when the British came to India, but with the support of the colonial government it was restored by archaeologists, chiefly Gen. Sir Alexander Cunningham and Dr. Rajendralal Mitra.

Soon after the entrance to the Maha Viharaya is enshrined a massive, serene and compassionate looking Statue of the Buddha in the touch - ground (Bumisparsha) position - calling upon the earth to witness His Enlightenment victory.

This gold plated Statue was installed in AD 380 over the very place that was traditionally held to be where the Buddha attained Enlightenment and called the Vajrasana (or 'Victory throne'), and the slab representing it is archaeologically dated to be even before Asoka in the third century BCE.

A part of this polished sandstone slab has been removed to a place outside the Maha Viharaya directly under the Mahabodhi Tree (Outer Vajrasana).

Peepal Tree

In the quiet of the evening we found the area under the Peepal Tree close to the Outer Vajrasana, a serene and spiritually uplifting place. Musical chanting of the Three Refuges by the Tibetan Monks, at different tone to the Sri Lanka Pansil and the scent of the incense offered, added to the solemnity of the environment. This Bo-Tree (Ficus religiosa) is an offshoot of the original which crashed in 1876 and replanted at the same site from its scions by Gen. Cunningham.

But the oldest continuously documented trees from the Sapling of the Original are the Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura (brought by King Asoka's daughter Sangamitta Theri) and the Ananda Bodhi in Sravasthi (brought by the Buddha's disciple Ananda at the Buddha's command). Anagarika Dharmapala brought saplings from the Sri Maha Bodhiya and planted them in Saranath and Bodhgaya. On two evenings we sat under the Mahabodhi tree in silence and contemplated the history of this Sacred Place and the comparative narratives in our own religion. More of that later.

Lines from Sir Edwin Arnold's poem 'Light of Asia' would make a Buddhist's hair stand on edge:

'Then he arose, made strong by the pure meal

And bent His footsteps where a great tree grew,

The Bodhi Tree (thenceforward in all years)

Never to fade and ever to be kept

In homage of the world, beneath whose leaves

It was ordained the Truth should come to Buddha,

Which now the Master knew, whereafter He went

With measured pace, steadfast, majestical,

Unto the Tree of Wisdom. Oh, ye world's

Rejoice! Our Buddha wended unto the Tree!'

The reference in the first line is to the meal of sweetened milk rice given by Sujatha to the Buddha whilst undergoing severe austerities in search of the Truth, but which made Him undertake the middle way without extremes - somewhat different to the 'Fast unto death', undertaken in Sri Lanka to achieve one's desires!

The cave where He fasted can still be seen across the Neranjana River (where the Buddha bathed in Bodhgaya) on the Dhungeswara (Pragbodhi) Hills - again a very serene, silent atmosphere pervades there. The site of Sujatha's abode in the valley is today an excavated mound of a Stupa.

Around the Mahabodhi Tree

The Buddha spent seven weeks in contemplation around the Mahabodhi Tree after His Enlightenment, thinking of the joy of liberation. These places are depicted by venerated structures today. The Vajrasana is the slab under the Tree which depicts the place where He sat motionless during the First Week of Enlightenment.

Former President R. Premadasa built a brass railing around it. Here we saw Tibetan Monks paying extreme veneration to the Vajrasana and the Bo-Tree in the form of physically exhausting dips.

In the second week, He chose a spot nearby to look at the Mahabodhi Tree unblinkingly where a smaller Stupa similar to the Main Temple has been constructed and called the Animesalocana (Unblinking) Chaitya.

In the third week, the Buddha spent His time walking up and down. His feet are sculptured on a black stone decorated in the walking strip beside the Main Temple and referred to as Buddhapada, and contains the marks of greatness found at His birth.

The fourth week of contemplation is marked by the Ratnacankama Ceitiya - the jewelled promenade shrine of knowledge, on the right side of the Main Temple, where some archaeologically valuable statues are found, and pillar in its is dated around 1000 BCE.

A tablet at the gateway of the Temple commemorates the Ajapala Tree where the fifth week was spent. It was here that the Buddha told a proud Brahamin that a Brahmin is a priceless, learned, composed and celebrate one - not by birth, caste, race or religion, a principle that led to the conversion of millions of Hindus to Buddhism in India in modern times.

Passing a broken King Asoka pillar there is a lake that has been symbolically created to represent the sixth week when the Buddha overcame the temptations of Mara (evil) and was protected by Nagaraja Mucalinda. A statue under the protection of a Cobrahood is found on this lake but the actual Mucalinda Lake is about 1 1/2 Km away.

The last and seventh week was spent under the Rajayatana Tree where He gave some of His hair to two merchants, Tapassu and Bhalluka, who accepted the Buddha and Dhamma and took the Relic to Burma. A tree from Burma now stands here to represent that week.

There are several modern temples from different countries in Bodhgaya, each with a characteristic indigenous national architecture, giving the town an intonational flavour - from Tibet, Thailand, Bhutan, Burma, Japan (several sects), China, Vietnam, Korea, Nepal, and India. the oldest is the Sri Lanka Mahabodhi Rest Hoses set up in 1901 by Anagarika Dharmapala, with a tablet on the wall built by the Malwatu Chapter. Sinhalese is freely spoken by guides, urchins, vendors and even in saree shops - making any Sri Lankan to feel at home in Buddhagaya. There is also a huge 80 ft. tall Buddha Statue that was unveiled by the Dalai Lama in 1989.

Christian thoughts

Contemplating under the Mahabodhi Tree many thoughts of comparative religion entered my mind - of course many will disagree calling me an apostate and missionary at the same time. The most significant was the fact that both the Buddha and Christ taught the Truth and attained Immortality. It was after hard austerities and temptations of Mara, the personification of evil, that Siddhartha attained Enlightenment - and showed the way of salvation to all living beings.

The Lord Jesus Christ too was tempted by Satan, suffered on the cross at the hands of evil people, and achieved immortality at the Resurrection but with a difference that He carried the burden of our sins and gave salvation to all humankind. The Buddha and Jesus Christ were in their thirties when they achieved their goals. The Buddha was meditating in a cave in the Dungeswari Hills when He realised the Path of the Middle Way and then achieved Buddhahood under a tree.

Christ prayed and was transfigured on a high mountain, went to a garden mount of olive trees prior to the Crucifixion and Resurrection from an empty tomb. Indeed the wood of the cross is called a tree in the Christian scriptures.

I was amazed at the birth story of the Buddha. His mother Mahamaya Devi had a dream of a star entering her womb and His father called on the interpreters to give its meaning. It was also a star that led the magi to the birthplace of the Lord Jesus, and King Herod called on the wise people to interpret it, and Christ's conception too was by the visit of an angel to His blessed mother, Mary. the names of both mothers begin with the letter 'M' or the phonetic sound 'Ma'.

At Bodhgaya, there is a shrine that commemorates Buddha's decision to preach the Dhamma for "the deathless to respond with faith," and soon after in Saranath, he told the newly formed Sangha to "Go forth, monks for the good of many..... Let no two go in the same direction. Teach the Dhamma". Jesus Christ too sent the seventy to preach the good news but two by two, and His final commission to Christians was "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole world". Buddhism and Christianity are missionary religions, where its founders came to fulfil what was old and not destroy requiring its adherents not merely to be born into a religion but to understand, to be inspired, and to teach others. The anti-conversion Bills seem to be contrary to the religions taught by both the Buddha and Christ.

Sri Lankan connection

Seeing President Premadasa's railing on this national New Year's Day I thought of the Sri Lankan connection to Buddhagaya. Of course, the primary connection is in the third century BCE one Bodhirakshita from Sri Lanka donated a cross bar for the railing round the Mahabodhi Tree - the first known pilgrim from overseas. In the fourth century AD King Sri Meghavarna constructed a three-minaret monastery from where the monks and all pilgrims could reside and maintain the holy site - a virtuous task continuously done by Sri Lankans till around the 13th century AD. A Sri Lankan Buddha Statue from the latter part of this period can still be seen, and ruins of the monastery was excavated by Cunningham. Ven. Mangalaswamin was the last of the Sri Lankans to administer the shrine.

In 588 AD, a monk named Mahanama built a shrine and donated a statue - the inscription in Sanskrit is now in the Calcutta museum. Two other Sri Lankan donors around this time are Dharmagupta and Dharmatrasena. A hundred to two hundred years later a lay person called Udayasri set up a statue and engravings. Around this time another pilgrim monk, Prakayatakirthi of Sri Lankan royal lineage repaired the Mahabodhi Temple had a perpetual lamp burning in the monastery and performed poojas for world peace.

It is to Anagarika Dharmapala (and the archaeologist Cunningham and writer Sir Edwin Arnold) that the world must be grateful for having found the holy sites in India, made it known, founded the Mahabodhi Society and for encouraging pilgrimages. He and his family (Hewavitharana) in fact built a Stupa at Saranath and grew a Bo-Sapling from the Sri Maha Bodhiya there. His tomb and statue is at Saranath.

Thanks to Bank of Ceylon Travels, a meaningful itinerary was arranged for us to go on the Holy Trail: Bodhgaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Patna, Vaisali, Kushinara, Lumbini, Kapilavasthu, Sravasthi, Varanasi and Saranth. The Buddha spoke of four Sacred Places for pilgrimage: Lumbini (birth), Bodhgaya (Enlightenment), Saranath (Preaching) and Kushinara (Mahaparinirvana).

Thanks to a gift by a former CMS Ladies College teacher, Ms. Sylvia Goonetileke, we were able to read the Buddhist Publication Society book 'Middle Land, Middle Way' by Ven. S. Dhammika of Australia and understand the significance of the places we visited. A tour on the holy trail in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal and particularly to Bodhgaya is an interesting and exhilarating experience.

23 05 2005 - Daily News

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H1.15   Symbolism in Buddhism

Lionel Wijesiri

The practice of Buddhism today contains a wealth of symbols, images, icons, rites and rituals which have become much studied and admired all over the world. The sheer diversity and richness of various cultural influences as it spread from India to East Asia brought forth its openness, magnanimity and tolerance of cultural assimilation, while maintaining its spiritual focus and values. Although one can sense an entirely different set of practice offered by a Tibetan Buddhist as compared to a Theravadian Buddhist, the underlying principles remain the same.

After the Buddha's Parinirvana, His Relics (or ashes) were distributed to seven kings who built Stupas over them for veneration. The Emperor Asoka was later said to have dug them out, and distributed the ashes over a wider area, and built 84,000 stupas. With the stupas in place, to dedicate veneration, disciples then initiated "Stupa Poojas".

With the proliferation of Buddhist stupas, Stupa Poojas evolved into a ritual act. At first, the object of veneration was the stupa itself (or what it stands for the Buddha). In time, this symbol was supplemented by a more sensitive Buddha image.

The Buddha lived around the sixth century BC, but no Buddhist artifacts are known before the third century BC. The first archaeological evidence, mainly of ornamental stone carvings, comes from the time of the Emperor Asoka (273 - 232 BC), who converted himself to Buddhism and made it a popular religion in India and beyond. Anthropomorphic symbolism appeared from around the 1st century CE with the arts of Mathura and the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara where the earliest image of Buddha in human form dates back to the Kushan Dynasty.

In the second century BCE, people started to excavate Buddhist monasteries in rock, creating a large amount of artwork to withstand the ages.The adoption of Buddhism as national religions in China, and subsequently in Korea and Japan, and in South East Asia such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma, cemented the diversity of Buddhism to reflect each of the country's unique national identity.

  • Dharmachakra

The Eight-Spoke Dharma Wheel or 'Dharmachakra' (Sanskrit) symbolizes the Buddha's turning the Wheel of Truth. It initially only meant royalty (concept of the "Monarch of the Wheel, or Chakravatin), but started to be used in a Buddhist context on the Pillars of Asoka during the 3rd century BC.

The symbolism of the dharma wheel is often given as: (a) its overall shape is that of a circle, representing the perfection of the dharma teaching (b) the hub stands for discipline, which is the essential core of meditation practice (c) the eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. They are said to have sharp edges to cut through ignorance. (d) the rim, which holds the spokes, refers to mindfulness or Samadhi which holds everything together.

  • Bodhi-Tree

The Buddha is said to have received his Enlightenment (bodhi) while sitting under a Bo-Tree at the site of the present-day town of Buddha Gaya, India, and the Bo-Tree is therefore sacred to the followers of Buddhism. Tree worship was already part of the existing culture in India, so the development of the Bodhi-Tree as a devotional symbol was a natural one. In the ruins of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, is a sacred Bo-Tree that, according to tradition, was planted in the 3rd century BC and grown from a branch of the Tree at Buddha Gaya.

Bo-Tree is the common name for Bodhi-Tree. It is also known as Pipal.

 

  • Footprint

The first hint of a human representation in Buddhist symbolism appears with the Buddha Footprint.

The Footprints of the Buddha are venerated in all Buddhist countries. These highly schematised footprints generally show all the toes to be of equal length, and are incised in stone.

They often bear distinguishing marks - either a Dharma wheel at the centre of the sole, or the 32, 108 or 132 distinctive signs of the Buddha, engraved or painted on the sole and inscribed in a sort of chequerboard pattern.

These imprints are especially venerated in countries such as Sri Lanka, where they are protected in a special structure, sometimes highly elaborate.

Finally, a few images are found chiefly in Tibet on the Thangkas: The prints of the hands and feet of holy personages, generally applied during the ceremony of consecration of the image.

  • 32 signs

Although the Buddha was not represented in human form until around the 1st century CE, the physical characteristics of the Buddha are described in one of the central texts of the traditional Pali canon, the Digha Nikaya, in the discourse titled "Sutra of the Marks" (Lakkhana Sutta).

These characteristics comprise 32 signs or " The 32 signs of a Great Man" (Lakkhana Mahapurisa 32), and were supplemented by another 80 Secondary Characteristics (Anubyanjana).

These traits are said to have defined the appearance of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama and have been used symbolically in many of his representations.

 

  • Stupa

Stupas generally represent the enlightened mind of the Buddha. They were constructed since the early days of Buddhism. There are four types of stupas : (1) Those built over the remains of the Buddha or a disciple (2) Those containing objects used by the Buddha (3) Those marking an important event in the Buddha's life (4) Votive (devotional) Stupas.

The Stupa is said to symbolize the five elements and their relationship to enlightened mind.

These are the essential attributes of a fully realised human being: the base of the stupa signifies earth and equanimity; the dome, water and indestructibility; the spire, fire and compassion; above the spire, wind and all-accomplishing action; and at the very top, the jewel represents space and all-pervading awareness. The stupa is a sacred arrangement, containing all of these enlightened qualities.

 

  • Flag

A much more recent symbol is the Buddhist flag. It was designed in 1880 by Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, an American journalist.

It was first hoisted in 1885 in Sri Lanka and is a symbol of faith and peace, and is now used throughout the world to represent Buddhism. The six colours of the flag represent the colours of the aura that emanated from the body of the Buddha when He attained Enlightenment.

23 05 2005 - Daily News

 

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H1.16   Sri Dalada Puja for Vesak Poya - A blessing

Nemsiri Mutukumara

People all over the world both Buddhists and non-Buddhists as well, here in Sri Lanka and in foreign lands are enjoying the most privileged occasion of paying homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Sakyamuni Buddha.

The Most Venerable Udugama Sri Buddharakkitha Mahanayaka Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siyam Mahanikaya and the Most Venerable Rambukvelle Sri Vipassi Mahanayake Thera of the Malvatta Chapter of the Siyam Mahanikaya and the Lay Custodian of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Diyavadana Nilame Neranjan Wijeyaratne made the first Buddha-dhatu puja and paid homage to initiate the Sacred Exposition. Within a few days over two million devout Buddhists have paid Sri Danta dhatu puja. The popular belief of the people of Sri Lanka is with the Exposition of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a myriad of multi-faceted benefits will be experienced by all people everywhere in the country.

This phenomenon has been the tradition of this country from the day Princess Hemamala accompanied by Prince Danta stepped out of their father's Kingdom of Dantapura conveying the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha to be presented to the monarch of Lanka, King Kirti Sri Meghavana - King Kit Siri Mevan. The present name of Dantapura is Orissa - a State in India, Orissa is dotted with Stupas, dagabas, Viharas, Buddha statues and Buddhist paintings and sculptures.

Chronicles of Sri Lanka record the bringing of the Sacred Tooth Relic vividly and truthfully - both along the highway and throughout the voyage. Particularly, the voyage across Indian ocean has been extremely miraculous which has even threatened the very lives of Princess Hemamala and Prince Danta.

Both these members of the Royal family undaunted, unsullied and with unshaken mind sailed across with firm determination to fulfil the sacred responsibility their Royal father entrusted them. They accomplished the noble task with tremendous success.

In the Jambudipa - Dambadiva in Sinhala - the Sacred Tooth Relic is the palladium of the King - the ruler.

With the arrival in Sri Lanka, the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha became the palladium of the King or the Queen. Until, the British by treacherous means, handed over the custody of the Sacred Tooth Relic to the Udarata Nilames.

Today, the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Sakyamuni Buddha is in the Sri Danta Dhatu Maligava.

The external construction is the Pattirippuva - the Octagon - built by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last King of Sinhaladipa. King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha was neither a Sinhala; nor was he a Buddhist. He was a Nayakkar from Southern India. He was a faithful Sainte-Hindu. However, he learnt the language of the people whom he was ruling. He learnt their manners and customs, traditions and culture so that the people found absolutely there was no difference between them and their King. He signed all documents in Sinhala language to enable his people to know that, that the Signature belonged to their own King.

In the Western Calendar the New Year begins on January 01. That is the beginning of the year. The Buddhist Calendar - the Sri Buddha Varsha commences in the middle of the year. That is in May. The Buddhist Year begins with the date of Maha Parinibbana - the great passing away of Sakyamuni Buddha. And the 2548th year after the Maha Parinibbana, thus dawn on May 04 Tuesday.

In all Mahayana countries, the sacred relics are enshrined in pagodas and are not visible before or after the puja.

The Vajrayana Lamas of Tibet, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed on many occasions, publicly and privately their noble and devout wish to visit the Buddhist Land of Lanka to pay homage to the Living Buddha at the Sri Dalada Maligava. He said, any other country on this earth including India and Nepal, in the Jambudipa, do not possess the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, in the form of the Bodhi's Southern branch, the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Sacred Collar-bone relic, the patra-dhatu from an alms-bowl and many other sacred relics.

All these most sacred monuments have found a precious home in Sri Lanka. Many Buddhist groups led by the Mahayana Bhikkhu Sangha and Mahayana Bhikkhuni Sangha have already intimated to the Diyavadana Nilame of their devoted wish to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic. The same organizations have contacted the state institutions their keenness to join together in the Sri Lanka National Vesak celebrations. Their own traditional Vesak pujas like the Lotus Lantern parade of Korea will also be included as an offering. The amazing array of events and activities that will be operational on during the National Vesak Period from May 01 to May 09 have provided.

In four different parts of Asia, particularly in our region, Four Sacred Tooth Relics of the Sakyamuni Buddha have found to be deposited.

According to this ancient gatha:

"Eka datha Tidasapure
Eka Nagapure ahu
Eka Gandhara visaye
Eka Si puna Sihale"

- Sihale is the reference to Sihaladipa. Gandhara is referred to Afghanistan where the Colossal Bamiyan Buddha statues were sculptured. Bamiyan is a cave Temple with numerous bhavana kuti of several hundred bhikkhus leading disciplined Buddhist Way of Life. I will be very gratefully welcome any crudite Buddha-putra, a historian or an archaeologist or a researcher to shed light on the location of Tidasapura and Nagapura, please.

From ancient times, the experience of the people of this country is that hitherto drought-stricken, parched up areas of the country found sudden winds and torrential outpour of rain restoring a salubrious climate producing fruitful fauna and flora. Similarly, areas in the highlands which cause havoc in the villages, hamlets, cities and towns uprooting houses and buildings suddenly find the havoc ends with the ceasing of the disaster-causing rain. All these annual or periodical experiences can be verified through the relevant state institutions and compilers.

Buddha Sasana has not dismissed miracles. But miracles are not performed at every whim and fancy. All these events connected with the Exposition of the Sacred Dalada Vahanse are miraculous indeed.

04 05 2004 - Daily News

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H1.17   Kesariya, the tallest stupa

Dr. K. K. Muhammad

The tallest Buddhist stupa in the world has been recently excavated at Kesariya, a sleepy little village in a remote corner of the Indian state of Bihar. It is located in East Champaran district, about 110 km north of Patna, the state capital. About three km south of Kesariya is located a lofty stupa mound locally famous as 'Deora' or 'Raja Bena ka Garh'.

Before excavation, it was a huge shapeless mound with almost two hundred trees growing over it. Hiuen Tsang, the great Chinese traveller of 7th century, provides a graphic description of the stupa in his travel accounts, saying that nearly 200 li (about 34 miles) north west of Vaishali there was a stupa in a deserted town where Buddha, in one of his former births had ruled over as a chakravarti Raja named Mahadeva. The location of Kesariya Stupa agrees well with this account of Hiuen Tsang. Alexander Cunningham was the first to investigate the place on this basis and confirm its Buddhist heritage.

A devastating earthquake dealt a severe blow to what was left. This was pillaged by people from the adjacent villages for its bricks to construct their houses, leaving many gaping holes. The site was ultimately lost in oblivion, its stillness broken only by the far and few visits of some learned scholars. Other authentic literary references about Kesariya include the Mahapari Nibbana Sutta, which deals with the last journey of Lord Buddha from Rajgar to Kushinagar in which there is a mention of Bhognagar, presently known as Kesariya. This is very likely as Kesariya falls on a well-known route from Vaishali to Kushinagar and marks with border of the Lichavis with the Mallas of Kosala. The place is believed to be associated with Alara Kalam, a great philosopher of Buddha's times, and has been tentatively identified as Kesaputtanigam of the ancient Buddhist text, Majjhim Nikaya.

The stupa is said to commemorate the place where Lord Buddha had halted and handed over his begging bowl to the people of Vaishali during his last journey to Kushinagar where he breathed his last. Buddha, who could foresee the future maze of history, had predicted his impending death. The people of Vaishali who were emotionally attached to Buddha could not bear this news.

Throwing dust on their head and wailing as if some calamity had overtaken them, the people of Vaishali followed Buddha when he left the city. Looking back at the city, which was the scene of many momentous events of his life, Buddha said, "This is for the last time I am beholding the city of Vaishali". In the surcharged atmosphere, without caring for the instructions of the Master whose every word they meticulously followed till then, the people of Vaishali followed him. It was at Kesariya that Buddha firmly but politely requested them to turn back and as an expression of his determination handed over his begging bowl to them. In order to mark this emotional moment in the life of Buddha, a small mud stupa was built here. In course of time during the Maurya, Sunga and Kushana periods it became a brick stupa with several additions and enlargements.

The excavation of the site was a very meticulous operation. The earth was removed by an army of workers, inch by inch, under the careful eyes of ever-vigilant archaeologists, constantly observing the colour, composition and compactness of the earth. The three-dimensional measurements of each pottery piece and moulded brick, which otherwise looked insignificant, were noted. An archaeologist alone knows the real historical value of such material, because only an archaeologist can lend a tongue to each and every brick and make it speak about the economic, social and cultural conditions in a dim and distant past.

When a part of the stupa was excavated, its height measured 104 ft. Ruined and much reduced than its original height, even in its crumbled stage this is one foot more than that of the famous Borobodur stupa in Java, a World Heritage Monument. Before the earthquake of 1934, its height was 123 ft. In its halcyon days when both Kesariya and Borobodur were majestically standing, the height of Kesariya was 150 feet while Borobodur measured only 138 ft. Sanchi stupa, another World Heritage Monument is only 77.5 ft, almost half of Kesariya stupa's original height. Interestingly, both Kesariya and Borobodur have six terraces and the diameter of Kesariya is equivalent to the width of Borobodur. However, the diameter of Kesariya could turn out to be larger as several of its parts are still buried under earth, waiting to be excavated. Even in this incomplete state it is awe inspiring in grandeur.

In the 6th century during the Gupta period, the Kesariya stupa was further enlarged an embellished with hundreds of sculptures looking upon the devotees, a number of stupas in Kashmir, Bhutan, Tibet and Burma such as Tisseru (Kashmir), Chorter, Kora (Bhutan), Cherten of Toling, (Tibet), Shwesandaw pagoda, (Bhutan), Mingala Cheti (Burma, 1060 AD) and Mingala Zedi Burma, 1284 AD) were inspired by this and followed the same pattern. However, the final culmination of the inspiration of Kesariya is Borobodur in Java constructed in 800 AD, two hundred years after Kesariya.

Kesariya is located close to the river Gandak which flows at a distance of only about six km, in a flood prone era. Being close to the Himalayan mountain range, it also registers a high rainfall and moderate humidity during monsoon months. These factors have to be kept in mind to appreciate the weathering undergone by the Kesariya stupa.

A local tradition holds that the mound is associated with Raja Bena or Vena, a chakravarti raja (a king who has conquered all directions) bestowed with supernatural powers and extremely generous towards his subjects. The legend says that in grief of the tragic death of his wife Kamalavati who was drowned while bathing in a tank, the king entombed himself in this mound along with the rest of his family members. This has been identified as the present day Gangayya tank about one kilometre east of the stupa. The site of the queen's palace is believed to be another mound called Ranivas, about half kilometre north east of the stupa.

The circular base of the stupa at present is about 123 metres in diameter. It rises up in six terraces. Each terrace, upto the third, contains rows of three cells at a regular intervals. In this respect, the stupa is comparable to that at Lauriya Nandangarh in West Champaran district of Bihar. On the fourth terrace, the cental cell is flanked by cells smaller than on the lower terraces. On the fifth terrace, the number of cells is reduced to one due to paucity of space on the reduced perimeter. Possibly all the cells once contained stucco images of Buddha, but the evidences are now extant only in few cells owing to the fragile nature of material used in their composition and their continuous exposure to the weathering agents. Over the sixth terrace is the stupa of solid brickwork with its extant height of about 10 metres and a diameter of about 22 metres.

The base of the stupa has a curvilinear upward rise of brick courses. But for most part, the wall of the drum is missing as the bricks have fallen out due to several reasons. The largest share of damage can be ascribed to the dislodging of bricks resulting from a curious custom still observed by orthodox visitors. They first collect five bricks and place them in a pile one above the other before moving atop the mound. This is done under the belief of totemic protection against any evil spirit causing the stupa to come tumbling down.

There is enough evidence to indicate expansion of an earlier stupa (Sunga-Kushana Period) during a subsequent historical date (late Gupta) period. At the first terrace level, cells containing images of Buddha have been exposed. The rear portions of the cells are placed over the circular structure of earlier period characterized by large bricks and better workmanship. The outer face of the cells contains the usual kumbha type moulding and decorative niches, a characteristic feature of the Gupta and late Gupta period.

Attached to the back wall of the cells is a pedestal over which is installed a life size damaged image of Buddha, seated cross-legged. The core of the image is made up of clay mixed with lime and brick jelly to which a smooth surface treatment has been imparted. The upper portion of all the images is missing and only the lower parts (waist and legs) now remain. This is not surprising, considering the clay content of the images and their continuous exposure to strong weathering agents over a long time.

These images bear a striking similarity to the images found in Bhagalpur district, suggesting that the technique or art tradition of making clay images in the period range of 5th-9th century A.D. was prevalent over a wide region extending from Nalanda to Kesariya to Antichak. All the images are in padmasana posture, seated over a thin cushion. The image in the middle cell shows the Buddha seated in bhumisparsha mudra. Signs of his lower garment are indicated by the end folds of the clothing.

The author, a noted historian, is currently the Superintending Archaeologist at Agra.

(Courtesy: India Perspectives)

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H1.18   The four sacred places a devout Buddhist should visit

Nemsiri Mutukumara

Lumbini

The Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha laying on the couch in the Upavattana Sala Grove of the Mallas in Kusinara addressed nearly five hundred Bhikkhus who were around him at the hour of the Mahaparinibbana spoke of four places made sacred by His association.

Buddha said faithful followers should visit with reverence and awe the place of the birth of the Buddha-to-be in Lumbini; the place where the Bodhisatta attained Supreme Enlightenment in Buddha Gaya; the place where the Buddha Delivered His First Sermon - the Dhammacakkappavattana sutta and proclaimed the Incomparable Wheel of Truth at the Deer Park in Isipatana in Sarnath and the place where the Buddha attained Parinibbana - the Sala grove in Kusinara.

And those visiting these places in devotion who shall die with a believing heart, in the course of their pilgrimage, will be reborn, on the dissolution of their body, after death in a heavenly state.

These sacred-most places of the Buddhist world are located in two countries. The place of birth in the Lumbini Park in Nepal. In ancient times, India was known as Jambudvipa. Kapilavastu the Kingdom of Sakyan King Suddhodana and Devdaha, the Kingdom of the Koliyans had Lumbini Park in between. Today Kapilavastu where the Buddha-to-be Prince Siddhartha grew up until his Great Renunciation at the age of 29 years is on the Indian borders of present Kingdom of Nepal. The Archaeological Department of the Royal Government has located the site of the Palaces King Suddhodana built for his son for the three seasons - Ramya, Suramya and Subha are excavated and protected as very important monuments. The other three places are - Buddha Gaya, Sarnath and Kusinara are in Bihar State of India.

Buddha Gaya

As customary when the time for the birth of the Prince of Queen Mahamaya drew near, she accompanied by her sister Prajapati Gotami and a retinae of one thousand left the Sakya Palace for her parents at Devdaha which was also known a Vyaghra pura. Queen Mahamaya was carried in a golden Palanquin.

When the Royal Party reached Lumbini Vana, the Queen started labour pains. She stopped under a sal tree and a branch miraculously bent down for her to catch hold of the Tree was adorned with fragrant flowers, flower buds and tender leaves. All the trees in the Lumbini Vana was in full bloom.

The season being the Vasanta with birds singing and bees humming while collecting honey from flowers, the entire area was pleasant and refreshing. With Queen Mahamaya touching the Sal branch it circled round formed a bower around her.

"The child came forth spotlessly clean and radiant from the Mother's womb. The Celestial Kings, the Guardians of the four directions who had given protection to the infant ever since the time of his conception received him on a soft leopard skin. Two jets of pure water, one cold and the other warm,

Sarnath

poured down from the sky to bathe the mother and the child. The Bodhisatta was passed onto the hands of royal maidens-in-waiting who decked him with a robe of the softest Kashmir silk. Amidst great rejoicings the new-born Prince and the mother were escorted back to Kapilavatthu where King Suddhodana received them with great splendour." (The Life of the Buddha Pg. 4. K. D. de Lanerolle).

This writer witnessed the utmost are taken by the Royal Government of Nepal which discovered the ancient Pond near the place of birth to protect and maintain the Pond from pollution by tourists and pilgrims visiting the Sacred place.

Referring to the Birth of the Buddha-to-be, Anguttara Nikaya states: "A unique Being, an Extraordinary Man arises in this world for the benefit of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit and happiness of gods and men. Who is this unique being? It is the Tathagata, the Exalted, Fully Enlightened One". (AN. Pt I, XIII P. 22).

In the year 250 BCE (Before the Common Era) Emperor Asoka went on a pilgrimage to Lumbini accompanied by Venerable Upagupta. The King was followed by four battalions of troops taking with them perfumes, flowers and garlands for worshipping.

Thera Upagupta stretched his right hand and told the Emperor:

"Here, O Great King, the Tathagata was born. At this site, excellent to behold, should be the first monument consecrated in

Kusinara

honour of the Buddha".

In no time a towering monolith was erected with the inscription:

Devana-Piyena Piyadasina lajina Visativasabhisitena

Latana-agacha Mahiyite hida Buddhe jati Sakyamuni-ti

Todate, the 2253 year old Asoka pillar still stands majestically as a glowing testimony to the pilgrimage of India's greatest ruler - Emperor Asoka to the sacred place of birth of Sakyamuni Buddha.

On a well organised Master Plan supported by the international community, the Buddhists led by the Bangkok based World Fellowship of Buddhists Lumbini is developed to bring Lumbini back to its ancient glory.

Many countries - mainly Buddhists - India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Myanmar, Tibet have built Viharas and Pilgrim Centres around the Sacred place. The Nepal Government has opened an International Airport at Siddharthanagar for the convenience of pilgrims and visitors.

Prince Siddhartha lived in luxury in the three palaces his father King Suddhodana built and provided all the comforts and facilities a Prince should enjoy his youthful life. But his mission was quite different. On a full moon day in Esala, he left his palace-home to become homeless. Crossing the river Anoma, Prince Siddhartha on his favourite horse Kanthaka landed on the bank of river Anoma with his Channa.

Prince Siddhartha became a wandering ascetic in search of the Truth. Wandering through the district of Magadha, he came to Uruvela.

For six long years, Prince Siddhartha gave excessive penalties to life. To such an extent, he practised self-mortification, the skin of his belly touched the skin of his back. He went without food. He practised eating one meal a day, then only once in two days. Finally he ate only once in fourteen days.

He lived eating nothing but grass, nothing but moss, wild fruits and roots, wild herbs and mushroom, wild rice and the dust scraped up from threshing floors.

He covered his body with garments made out of rags from graveyards and dust heaps of old skins of animals that had died in the fields, of woven grass, of birds wings and tails that found lying here and there.

One day, while meditating seated under a tree, Prince Siddhartha fainted, and his body lay against the tree with his mouth open and gasping for breath.

A goat herd saw the ascetic, ran to the flock and brought a milk goat and milked some milk from her teats into the mouth of Bodhisatta.

He seemed somewhat revived. He sought some more milk into his bowl - and found himself revived completely - and regained the ability to walk up and down.

In the village of Senani in Uruvela, he began going with the bowl for food. The day was the Full moon day of Vesak. Sujata - the daughter of the village chief was fulfilling a vow to offer milk-rice to a deity of the Ajapala baniyan tree - in close proximity to the Bodhi Tree.

Bodhisatta was seated under the baniyan tree that morning. Sujata brought the milk-rice in a golden bowl and covered with a golden plate. Her sister Nanda carried scented water in a golden jug and Punna brought a basket of flowers.

They offered the milk-rice and the golden bowl to the Ascetic wishing him that since she has her wish fulfilled, may the Bodhisatta may be successful in gaining his noble aspirations. Bodhisatta, took milk rice in the golden bowl to the banks of Neranjana. After bathing in the river he partook of the meal. He ate the meal in forty nine portions.

This 49 portions gave him sustenance for 49 days of fasting he performed after attaining Supreme Enlightenment under the Pipal Tree - Ficus Religiosa - which became the Bodhi Tree.

After eating, the meal Bodhisatta threw the golden bowl into the middle of the stream saying that it should float upstream as proof only if he would attain Supreme Enlightenment on that Full Moon Day.

Accordingly, the bowl had floated upstream for eighty cubits.

He spent the mid-day in the Sala grove on the banks of Neranjana. Towards evening, he walked along the sandy path to his abode where he spent most of his six years under the shade of the Pipal Tree.

On his way he met Sottiya, a grass cutter. Sottiya offered the Bodhisatta eight bundles of grass - kusa tana.

The Bodhisatta Prince took the grass and spread under the tree as a seat on which he sat with the firm determination that he would not get up from there until he attains Supreme Enlightenment.

In the last watch of the Vesak Full Moon night, Bodhisatta sitting under the Pipal Tree in Gaya he dispelled ignorance, there arose wisdom, darkness vanished and light arose.

"Aloko Udapadi" paeans of joy he uttered seated under the Pipal tree which from that moment became the Bodhi tree.

"Aneka jati Samsaram"
"Through many a birth in samsara
wandered I,
seeking but not finding
the builder of this house
sorrowful is repeated birth
O house builder you are seen
You shall build no house again.
All your rafters are broken
Your ridge pole is shattered
To dissolution (Nibbana) goes my mind
The End of Craving
Have I attained."

While the Pipal tree became Bodhi tree, Gaya became Buddha Gaya ever since the Bodhisatta Siddhartha attained Supreme Enlightenment 2592 years ago. For forty-nine days seven weeks after Supreme Enlightenment. Sakyamuni Buddha spent around the Bodhi tree.

The first seven days, the Buddha sat under the Bodhi in one posture experiencing and enjoying the Bliss of Emancipation.

The second week, he performed the Animisa locana puja to the Bodhi tree as a mark of profound gratitude for providing Him shelter from sun and rain and heat. The third week was spent pacing up and down along a jewelled ambulatory - Ratana Cankamana.

Thera Narada in his "Buddha and His Teachings" (Pg. 51) states "As the Buddha had not given up His temporary residence at the Bodhi tree, the Devas doubted His attainment to Buddhahood. The Buddha read their thoughts and in order to clear their doubts He created by His psychic powers a jewelled ambulatory (Ratana Cankamana) and paced up and down for another week."

Another seven days - the fourth week, the Buddha he retired into a jewelled room - Ratanaghara - contemplating on the Abhidhamma - the Higher Metaphysics of the Dhamma.

He spent the fifth week under the shade of the Ajapala Banyan tree where he received the milk-rice from Sujata. Here too the Buddha seated in one posture enjoyed the Bliss of Emancipation.

In the sixth week, the Buddha went from the Ajapala Banyan tree to the Mucalinda tree to spend another seven days enjoying the Bliss of Emancipation. A terrible shower came down accompanied by cold winds and gloomy weather continuously for several days.

The serpent king, Mucalinda protected the Buddha from rain and winds, coiling round the seated Buddha and keeping his large hood over the head of the Buddha.

The last week - the seventh - the Buddha met the first two lay disciples - two merchants Tapassu and Bhalluka who were going on their trade along the famous silk route having heard of the Buddha left their caravan and visited the Buddha at Buddha Gaya.

They offered "the Buddha the Buddha food. - Puffed rice and bees honey. Since He had no bowl to accept the food, the four Devas offered bowls and the Buddha made all the four bowls to become one single bowl and accepted the offering.

These two merchants took refuge in the Buddha and his Dhamma and became the first two lay disciples.

They requested the Buddha for a memento. The Buddha gave them in a few locks of hair from His head - which are now enshrined as Kesa dhatu Ceti in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand as well.

After seven weeks in Buddha Gaya in the vicinity of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, the Buddha Sakyamuni left Buddha Gaya in search of people who will understand and comprehend His Dhamma. He never returned to Buddha Gaya again.

He walked several hundred miles to Isipatana to the Deer Park in Sarnath where He meets his erstwhile companions - Kondanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji. Although at the first sight of the Buddha the five-fold ascetics had misgivings of His attainment, when the Buddha approached them they were voluntarily and devotedly got up from their seats and reverentially received the Great Teacher with due honour.

Thus, the Deer Park - the abode of many rishis in the past, once again became the most sacred sanctity of the Buddha Dhamma.

Here in Isipatana, the Buddha proclaimed the Satya-Dharma - the Truth with His first Dhammadesana - the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.

The Buddha prefaced. His first sermon with the two extremes - Kamasukhallikanuyoga and the Attakilamatanuyoga which should be avoided.

His discovery - the panacea for all ills is the Middle Path - the Majjhima Patipada where he expounded the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-fold Path (Majjhima Patipada).

The Sakyamuni Buddha from this historic day in the third month, the month of Esala, after His Enlightenment on Vesak, for forty-five long years walked through the length and breadth of Jambudipa for the weal and happiness of all living beings - devas - human beings and all living creatures.

Finally, he walked several miles to Kusinara where he passed into Parinibbana in the royal salavana of the Malla Royalty.

Kusinara where the Parinibbana Cetiya is built stands as an abode of peace and tranquillity as the piece de resistance of all the sacred places connected to and associated with the Buddha.

This writer visiting Kusinara a few years ago, having visited, Lumbini, Buddha Gaya, Sarnath, Savatthi, Rajagaha, Vaisali, Nalanda, Amaravati found Kusinara as the most tranquil of all the sacred sites of Buddha Sasana found anywhere in the world.

Kusinara is still lamenting that she had to witness the passing away of the Greatest son the Jambudipa has ever produced.

15 05 2003 - Daily News

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H1.19   Senanigama at Buddha Gaya where Sujatha lived

Upali Rupasinghe

Senanigama

With the dedication of Buddha Gaya Maha Bodhi Temple Complex comprising the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree and the Vajrasana or Diamonds Seat as a World Heritage Site, Senanigama, the village of Sujata who made the first offering of food to the Buddha has become a place of more importance.

India's Minister for Tourism and Culture, Jagmohan while addressing a gathering of over 4,000 distinguished guests and invitees from India and abroad on the day of the dedicating ceremony said that the Government will not only make Buddha Gaya the most beautiful city in the world but also develop Senanigama as a place of Buddhist importance.

Senanigama, situated in the Gaya district in Bihar is today known as Bakraur. It is about a kilometre north-east of the Maha Bodhi Temple. The place is venerated by the Buddhists all over the world as the prominent centre of pilgrimage. River Neranjana, on the eastern bank of which Bakraur is located, flows between the small town of Bodh-Gaya and the ancient site.

In order to unfold the location of the place where Sujata lived, excavations were done at the site of Bakraur which is in the neighbourhood of Uruvela on the eastern bank of the Neranjana. It evidently formed a part of the Uruvela tract, which covered a large area.

The Lalitavistara calls it Senapatinagar. Pali texts refer to this village with the name of Sujata which is immortal in he history of Buddhism. A sweetened milk rice preparation was offered by her to the ascetic Siddhartha who had given up physical mortification for six years in quest of Salvation. Siddharatha accepted the milk-rice preparation when he was convinced that austerities of extremity are not going to lead him to Enlightenment. He, therefore, decided to follow the Middle Path.

Sujatha had prayed to God for the blessing of a son and pledged to offer milk rice preparation to the god of the banyan tree nearby if her prayer was accepted. The boon was granted and son was born to her. When she went to offer the milk-rice preparation, the tree god has presented himself in person to accept the offering.

The circular mound at Bakraur, just to the north of the village rises to a height of eleven metres. This mound apparently representing ruins of a large Stupa was noticed by Alexander Cunningham in 1861. It is locally called Katani. Cunningham identified the mound with that of the Stupa known to Buddhist tradition as the Gandha-hasti-Stupa.

Hiuen-Tsang mentions the place as Ajaypura. Regarding this mound Cunningham writes "To the eastward of Bodh Gaya on the opposite bank of Phalgu or Lilanjan River and immediately to the north of the village of Bakraur, there are the ruins of a large brick tope, with a stump of a Sand-Stone pillar at a short distance to the north.

The ruined mound is 150 feet in diameter at base and 50 feet high." The Sand-stone pillar seen by Cunningham at the said site is no longer traceable therein. The mound was subjected to constant robbing primarily to collect bricks to be used in the construction of houses in the village of Bakraur and for hidden treasurers.

A tank known as Matanga-Vapi is reported by Cunningham and is situated about 500 yards to the south-east of the Stupa. It is lined with ancient embankments and a modern Saiva temple of Matangesvara. Since Matanga in Sanskrit means an elephant, the name of the tank may be said to preserve a reminiscence of the Buddhist legend of Gandha-hasti-Stupa.

There is another tank in the area known as Marttanda Pokhar or Suraj-Pokhar (Kund). It measures 800 Square feet and is lined with masonry walls. On the bank of the river and on the side of the above tank are temples built which contains sculptures taken from earlier ruins. These ruins excavated by Mr. K.M. Shrivastava of the Archaeological Survey of India during the year 1972-73.

The excavation, of the Bakraur (Sujata) Stupa, revealed three stages of construction in the Stupa.

In its earliest form the Pradakshinapatha was two metres, where as the diameter of the Stupa was 55 metres. There was an enclosure wall around them. Subsequently when the devotees enlarged the diameter of the Stupa and also raised its height, the original Pradakshinapatha was covered up.

An altogether new feature of this stage was the five metre wide Pradakshinapatha made of thick lime plaster. In the third stage of construction, an enclosure wall of burnt bricks covered by lime-plasters, a railing and a gateway were provided. The Stupa was also covered with lime plaster raising the maximum diameter in the later stage to 65.5 metres. The railings and pillars were made of stone.

Several plaques of Buddha in the Bhumisparsa-mudra made probably of plaster, but surprisingly light in weight were the most outstanding discovery of the excavation. The inscription on them can easily be interpreted to mean that the Stupa was erected during the reign of Pala ruler Devapala in A.D. 815 to 855 to commemorate the place where Sujata lived.

The Bhumisparsa mudra indicates that Buddha underwent physical austerities inviting earth goddess to stand as a witness and protect him from the attraction of demon Mara. The inscribed plaques now establish that this was the place where the pious lady Sujata used to reside.

A fragmentary ear ornament of gold, small plaques of plaster, beads of agate and terracotta, silver punched mark coins, head, torso and multiple Buddha in Stone along with a few ornamental pieces and fragmentary terracotta sealings were the most significant discoveries of the said excavation.

Apart from the Gandha-hasti-Stupa, it seems that the entire village is situated on the ruins of the ancient mound nearly 5 to 10 feet raised than the natural level of the soil.

In the course of exploration of the said site, archaeologists have come across various valuable antiquities unearthed from ditches, and by surface exploration, right from Gupta to Pala period.

Archaeological Survey of India has re-started excavations in the ruins in the shape of a Stupa. Archaeologists attached to the Patna circle of the Archaeological Survey of India now believe that it is the very spot where Sujata lived.

Today hundreds of pilgrims as well as tourists from India and abroad visit Senanigama to see the place where Sujata offered milk-rice to the Buddha as well as the place where she lived.

04 05 2004 - Daily News

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H1.20   Senchi, forest retreat of king Vessantara

Padma Edirisinghe

Vessantara Jathaka is a pre-birth tale of the Buddha. Though rich in the religious emotive aspect, it has no historical authenticity. That is why the writer dares to call the village of Senchi, a re-created village.

Senchi? Does it ring a bell? Yes. It is in the vicinity of the great Stupa of Sanchi built by king Asoka. But the world seems to have completely forgotten its existence even though Sung - Yun, a Chinese monk - traveller deals exhaustively with it. The writer herself on a visit to Sanchi heard a travel-guide explain or exclaim over the location of Sanchi Stupa.

Sung-Yen while on his travels in India saw not only the leafy hut in which lived Prince Vessantara and Madridevi but the very tree around which the two children ran to save themselves from the clutches of a brahmin. This tree, he writes still exists and on the ground that was covered with blood of the tortured children runs a sweet spring of water.

Re-created villages are usually a by-product of tourism and say, secondly a showcase of one’s past. Certain North European countries, rich enough to undertake massive projects of this nature are said to own large villages to display the medieval way of living on their terrain.

Along our own Kandy-Colombo road at a turn off from the Kaju village of Pasyala an adventurous businessman once experimented with such a pre-modern village, the Korale Mahaththaya travelling about in his bullock cart fondling his moustache and all that.

This village that once attracted foreign and local tourists in droves, according to hearsay too has joined the grave of history. But can one believe that such tourist gimmicks existed in the 6th C, just past the Snowy Mountain trail between China and India?

Vessantara Jathaka is a pre-birth tale of the Buddha. Though rich in the religious emotive aspect, it has no historical authenticity.

That is why the writer dares to call the village of Senchi, a re-created village. Senchi? Does it ring a bell? Yes. It is in the vicinity of the great Stupa of Sanchi built by king Asoka.

But the world seems to have completely forgotten its existence even though Sung - Yun, a Chinese monk - traveller deals exhaustively with it.

The writer herself on a visit to Sanchi heard a travel-guide explain or exclaim over the location of Sanchi Stupa.

The area has no connection at all to the Buddha’s life, it was told and king Asoka usually built his religious edifices in places sanctified by the Thathagatha’s presence or connected to His life in someway.

In fact in a booklet published under the aegis of Archaeological Survey of India by Debala Mitra one comes across these lines, "Sanchi was not hallowed by any incident in the Buddha’s life nor was it the focus of any event in Buddhist monarchism".

The author quotes Lankan sources to establish some connection in that king Asoka’s wife (some say a junior wife) and mother of Mahinda Thera lived at Vidisa and when he became a monk she built the monastery of Vedisagiri for him. (Note the connection between the sounds of Vedisagiri and Vessantara.)

Stupa of Sanchi

This particular booklet goes on to say that even Huen Tsang who detailed all Buddhist monuments in India does not give any details about Sanchi.

Sung-Yun who gives an exhaustive account of Senchi, the forest retreat of king Vessantara in this area seems to be forgotten or overlooked.

Who is Sung-Yun? He was a 6th C traveller sent by the queen of the Wei country (in China) to India in search of Buddhist books. He returns years later having achieved his mission and bringing back 170 volumes, "all standard works belonging to the Great Vehicle".

Fa-Hien had set the precedent and many were the Chinese monks who followed him, frenzied with piety to visit the land of the Buddha. They always took the Snowy Mountain trail.

This is Sung-Yun’s trail up to the village of Vessantara., our theme. Loyong>40 days travel> Chih Ling (barren Ridge)> Rat bird cave (where rats and birds cohabit!)> 23 days travel> Tonkuwon (eastern Turkish country?)> Shan - Shen> Tso-Moh) Han-Mo> Khoten.

Sung Yun writes that the king of Khoten was earlier no follower of the Buddha’s Law till a miracle occurred that transpires the fact that all other areas or kingdoms passed through were Buddhist kingdoms though by this time an obvious veering towards Mahayana Buddhism seems evident as gauged by the incredible miracles mentioned.

Then Shih-kupo>Kie Pan to> Puh Loi’s Mount> Great Snowy mountains> Lala. Ye-The> po-sse (Persia?)> She Mi (Cashmere)> Ouchang (Oudhyana)

Oudhyana is definitely a Buddhist state and many places are revered here due to the Buddha’s connection which include the place where the Buddha dried his robes where He converted a dragon king, etc.

Sung Yun writes that marks of the creases of His robes are sill visible on a rock! Then he writes that king Asoka raised a pagoda on the crest of a hill for the purpose of enclosing sacred relics, obtained during the Buddha’s life when he was performing many a generous feat (dana paramitha).

Now we come to the actual Vessantara village. Sung-yun, the Cinese bhikku writes, "To the SW of the royal city, 500 li is the Senchi Hill or the Hill of the prince Sudatta. Who definitely is our king Vessantara.

Among the warm grottoes of this mountain is the rock - cave of Prince Sudatta above which king Asoka had raised a great monumental tower.

He goes on, "One li NE of the tower is the place where the son and daughter of the prince persisted in circumambulating a tree in order to escape a Brahman who had begged them from their father as slaves.

On this the Brahman beat them with rods till the blood flowed down and moistened the earth. This tree still exists and the ground stained with blood now produces a sweet fountain of water."

A footnote to this section (the writer came across in the translation by Samuel Beal) reads, "This is Prince Sudatta or the Bountiful price.

The whole of the history alluded to the text may be found in Spence Hardy’s Manual of Buddhism under the Wessantara Jathaka. This king gave to the king of Kalinga a white elephant that had the power to compel rain> his father Sanda was forced to banish the prince with his wife Madri Devi and his two children where the events alluded in this text occurred".

The Jathaka tales are usually reckoned as fabricated literature by scholars.

So we are here left with the option (if we are to go by Sung Yen’s travel account) that a king called Vessantara or Sudatta actually lived in this area and all these strange events that adorn our pandals and temple murals and sung in funeral houses to ward off evil spirits and sooth crying relatives actually happened in the vicinity of the famous Sanchi Stupa.

The other option is that this was Indian Buddhist imagination at its optimum that created such a village that presented re-enactments of a very emotional and fascinating Indian tale... Another option is that Sung Yen confused it all but why?

Even the present writer but the topic is worth some research. Perhaps one valid exploration (that fervent Buddhist would like) could be that the Vessantara Jathaka was one that preceded Prince Siddhartha’s birth by less than a century or so, and the aligned terrain had gone on surviving.

31 05 2007 - Daily News

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