Arhat Mahinda's mission to establish Bhikkhu Sangha
The arrival of Arhat Mahinda from Janbudipa to Sinhaladipa or
Lankadipa is no stray incident. The "Mahindagamana" is not a bolt from
The entire event from its conception at Cetiyagiri to his arrival at
Misaka Pabbata, now known as Nigindu - talava or Mihintalava, was well
thought out, meticulously planned to take place at a pre-destined period
of Lanka's history to create a cultural awakening, a religious uplift
and a social reformation to last until the end of the Maha Bhadra Kalpa.
Arhat Mahinda's introduction to King Devanampiyatissa amply justifies
the whole episode as a well-planned tour of duty.
Samanamayam Maharaja Dhammarajassa Sevaka Tameva Anukampaya Jambudipa
We are the disciples, O! King Of the King of Righteousness With
compassion to Thee Have come hither from the Jambudhipa
Mahinda, the Great Saint and son of Emperor Asoka came with a defined
purpose. To make Lankadipa a Dhammadipa. That was his mission supreme.
He postponed his visit during old King Mutasiva' period and arrived in
the island after the young Prince Devanampiyatissa ascended the throne.
Conforming to Buddhist tradition, Arhat Mahinda progressed step by
step without mixing his priorities. He first, ascertained the knowledge
and the ability of the Sinhala monarch before preaching him the
teachings of the Buddha. With due Royal patronage in full measure, Arhat
Mahinda began his mission with earnest continuing preaching the dhamma
to vast congregations of people from the royal householder to the
commoners in and out of the citadel.
His demeanour and the simple way of live of a Buddhaputra kindled the
interest of the prince and princess alike to enter the Order of Bhikkhu
Sangha. So much so, when King Devanampiyatissa inquired whether the
Buddha Sasana has taken root in the country, Arhat Mahinda's
unhesitating answer was that, the Sasana will take root with the
establishment of the National Sangha, a son of the soil becoming a
Arhat Mahinda was ready for the historic occasion. When he set foot
from Cetiyagiri, he brought along with him the required number of
Bhikkhus to perform the Ordination and Higher Ordination, the Upasampada.
His retinue included Bhikkhus Uttiya, Ittiya, Sambala, Bhaddasala and
Samanera Sumana and upasaka Bandula. Arhat Mahinda came completely
equipped with the essential ingredients to accomplish his majestic
mission. That was his purpose. His visit was not aimed at introducing
Buddha's teachings to Lanka. He knew, dhamma was already introduced
By the time of his arrival, Buddha Dhamma, however, was not unknown
in Lankadipa. The Dhamma, according to the Chronicles of Lanka was
introduced and preached by Sakyamuni Buddha himself 281 years before the
arrival of Arhat Mahinda.
Our Chronicles, the Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Sasanavamsadipa and
Culavamsa to mention a few, not only record the history of the people
and their way of life but also the political and economic progress of
the country as well.
An appropriate description to the authenticity of our historical
works given in Bibliotheca Indo Buddhica No.40 "On the Chronicles of
Ceylon" by Bimala Churn law (Sri Satguru Publications - India) says: "It
is not unreasonably claimed that so far as the Buddhist world is
concerned, the theras of Ceylon stand unrivalled in the field of
Chronicles narrating not only the political history of their island but
also the ecclesiastical history of their faith. If the Dipavamsa is the
oldest known Pali Chronicle produced in Ceylon, the Sasanavamsadipa by
Thera Viamalasara is certainly the latest one (1929)."
The opening Pali verse of the Dhipavamsa proclaims in no unmistakable
terms the main purpose of the work: Dipagamanam Buddhassa dhatu ca
Bodhiyagamam Sanghacariyavadan ca dipamhi Sasanagamam narindagamana
vamsam kittayissam sunatha me.
"The chronicle of Buddha's coming to the island, the arrival of the
relic and the Bo (tree), the collection of the Teacher's words (made at
the Councils), the rise of the schools of teachers, the propagation of
the religion in the island and the coming of (Vijaya), the chief of men,
I am going to narrate, listen to me.'
The Dipavamsa the oldest known Pali chronicle (edited and translated
by Oldenburg) not only gives an account of the visit of Gautama Buddha
and Arhat Mahinda but also gives a vivd description of the visit to the
island of Kakusanda Buddha, Konagamana Buddha and Kashyapa Buddha.
According to Dipavamsa during the visit of Kakusanda Buddha the
island was called Ojadipa. When Buddha Konagamana arrived the name had
changed to Varadipa. In the dispensation of Kassyapa Buddha Mandadipa
was the name of this country.
Sakyamuni Gautama Buddha visited three times to Lankadipa which is
also called Tambapanni and Suvannadipa or Svarnadipa.
On the day of the Great Passing away of Sakyamuni Buddha, Prince
Vijaya landed in Lanka. Irrespective of whether or not subscribing to
the story of Vijaya creating a new race of people, the fact remains that
he was succeeded, after an interregnum, by King Panduvasdev, his
Panduvasdev married a Sakyan Princess Bhaddakaccana who arrived in
the island with thirty-two Sakya maidens. These events took place within
a matter of forty years after the Maha Parinibbana of the Buddha
Sakyamuni when Buddha Sasana was firmly established in Jambudipa with
the highest patronage of the kings like Bimbisara and Ajatasattu.
Almost all the Sakyan and Koliyan families had become followers of
the Buddha and most of the young men had entered the Order of the
Bhikkhu Sangha. By the time of the parinirvana of the Sakyamuni, his
entire family circle had lived lives of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis and had
predeceased the Buddha, leaving behind a large community of disciples to
propagate the dhamma.
Princess Bhaddakaccana herself sailed in a ship with a retinue of
thirty two maidens. They brought into the country seven grandsons of
Amitodana, a brother of King Suddhodana, the father of Sakyamuni Gautama
Besides the arrival of Sakyan princess, the cousins of Buddha Gautama,
many other historic events illustrated in the Mahavamsa go to prove that
the teaching of the Buddha Sakyamuni and the culture resulting therefrom
were well known to the people of Lankadipa.
The first disciples of the Buddha and His Dhamma, the two traders
from the Merchant Guild of Tapassu-Bhalluka after offering honey
obtained from the Buddha a few locks of Buddha's hair. They brought
along with them the sacred object and enshrined in a stupa in the
Eastern sea coast town of Trincomalee which is worshipped with great
reverence by the people todate for well-nigh 2600 years.
On each of His three visits the Sakyamuni Buddha travelled far and
wide across the country and those Sixteen abodes are venerated as the
Sixteen Most Sacred places (Solosmasthana) by the people during the last
two and a half millenia. Lanka's Kings and Queens erected gigantic
dagabas enshrining sacred relics of the Buddha and depositing highly
precious objects like, gold, silver, gems and jewels and pay homage in
the highest esteem.
Among those places the Buddha tread foot, the Samanala Kanda is
worshipped as the Mount of the Sacred Foot Print, the Sri Pada.
In those areas, the Buddha's presence would have been a refreshing
sight to the people and his soothing words a benign blessing.
With his knowledge of the country and her people and the confidence
he entertained of progress of the Sasana Buddha before his Parinibbana
Patitthissati Devinda lankayam mama Sasanam Tasma Sapirivarantam
Rakka a Lankan ca Sadukam
All these chronicles go to prove that Buddha Dhamma was well known by
the people of Lankadipa before the advent of Arhat Mahinda in the year
236 after the Buddha.
Arhat Mahinda came on the Poson Poya day 2301 years ago not to
introduce Buddha Dhamma to the reigning monarch King Devanampiyatissa
but to fulfil his well planned program of establishing a national Order
of Bhikkhus, a Sinhala Bhikkhu Sangha in Lankadipa.
He was followed six months later by his sister, Arhat Theri
Sanghamitta who arrived with the similar purpose of establishing a
Bhikkhuni Sangha, the Order of Bhikkhunis in Lankadipa. The royal gift
she brought with her, the Southern branch of the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi is
continuing to bless the people from the Sacred soil of the Mahamevuna