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Discuss with reference to Relevant Sources the Strategies

Adopted by Mahavihara for the Establishment of Theravada
Buddhism in Ceylon
ntroduction of Mahavihara
Mahavihara was the centre of Theravada Buddhism. It was responsible for the
development of Sri Lankan people according to their religion nationality and ethical
background. This was a monastery constructed by Devanampiyatissa. At the very
beginning it was called Tissarama. There were many Pirivenas in the !ahavihara
monastery such as Thuparama, Mirisaveti, Isurumuni, Vessagiri and Mihintale.
During the period of Devanampiya Tissa Mahavihara became a religious as well as a
cultural centre. It also was the centre of literary development. !ahinda Thera wrote the
Sinhalatthakatha at Mahavihara. Thereafter many other books were compiled. The
Bhikkhus who were responsible to protect the Tipitaka while reciting until they were put
into writing. In this manner the Mahaviharas monks protected the Dhamma.
Mahavihara took a prominent place to grant freedom to the country. The Mahavihara
monks even helped the kings to fight against the Tamils. "or e#ample they gave advice
to $ing Dutthagamini and walked with him in the war%front. Their aims were to
safeguard the country and religion when $ing &alagamba was forced to go to the forest
as a result of foreign attack. 'ith the help of Mahavihara monks the kings were able to
get back his kingdom due to the help of the Mahavihara monks. The (holas attacked Sri
Lanka and $ing &i)ayabahu I to face lots of trouble. At that time also Mahavihara
monks help the king. In this manner Mahavihara is the centre that is responsible to
safeguard the Sinhalese kingdom.
Mahavihara was responsible for the protection of the purity of Buddhist dispensation.
It never allows different opinions to enter Theravada Buddhism. The monks of
Mahavihara were very particular that Therevada Buddhism should not get corrupted
during the period of $ing *arakamabahu I. All three Nikayas get united. Mahavihara
should be honoured for writing the first chronicle +Dipavajsa., Mahavajsa was also
written by a Mahavihara monk. This became the foundation for the development of
Sinhala and Pali Literature- therefore we can appreciate the service of Mahavihara as a
centre of Theravada Buddhism.
The relationship between !ing Aso"a and !ing Devanampiya#tissa
The introduction of Buddhism to (eylon is attributed to Asoka,s son &en. !ahinda
who came to the Island about the middle of the /
century B.(. in the reign of $ing
'e have seen that before &en. !ahinda visited the island probably
$ing Asoka0s social activities embraced (eylon and that his Dutas 1envoys2. There
e#isted strong ties of friendly affection between Devanampiya Tissa and Dhammasoka.
3nce in return $ing Asoka sent to $ing Tissa the "ive ensigns of royalty and also the
gift of the Dhamma. 4is message ran5 6I have taken refuge in the Buddha the Dhamma
and the Savgha and I have declared myself a lay disciple in the religion of the Son of
the Sakiyas. Take delight even thou in these three in the Supreme 7eligion of the
(on8ueror and come to the refuge with faith.9 'hen Devanampiya%tissa received the
message and gifts from Asoka he performed a second consecration on the full%moon day
of Vesakha.

Arrival of $en% Mahinda
After spending one month at Vedisaggiri on the full%moon day of Jettha ;April%!ay
or !ay%<une= &en. !ahinda with the Theras5 Itthiya >ttiya Sambala Bhaddasala the
Samanera Sumana the son of his sister Savghamitta and the lay disciple Bhanduka
>pasaka the son of his mother0s sister0s daughter. Their inclusion in the party signified
perhaps a particular intimacy with and friendliness towards (eylon.
According to the *ali chronicles record that the first meeting of &en. !ahinda and
$ing Devanampiya%tissa who was on a hunting e#pedition took place on the Missaka
pa!!ata now known as Mihintale .about eight miles east of Anuradhapura on full
moon day of month of Jettha.
During their first conversation &en. !ahinda $nown the $ing Devanampiya%tissa
was intelligent enough to understand the teaching of the Buddha and proceeded to
preach the "ulahatthipad#pamasutta
to him. At the end of the sermon $ing
Devanampiya%tissa and his retinue e#pressed their willingness to embrace the new faith.
Then he invited all Theras to his capital but the invitation was of course not accepted.
Entry into the capital
Ae#t morning &en. !ahinda and his companions entered Anuradhapura. They were
received by the king and taken into the royal house. After the meal &en. !ahinda
addressed the royal household. 4e selected for the occasion a sub)ect which would
appeal to the audience mainly composed of the ladies of the king0s house. "irst he related
Dipavamsa &II .B%.C- DII /C%@?- Samantapasadika pp. :C?E- !ahava)sa & .C@.
Samantapasadika I p.FG
!ahavamsa DIII .B%:E
!ahava)sa DI& ::- !a))hima Aikaya I Ao.:F
!ahava)sa DI& :/- Dipava)sa DII @?
to them stories from the Petavatthu and the Vimanavatthu and Sa$$asajyutta
to the
people assembled including the $ing.
3ther sermons followed in 8uick succession to ever%increasing audiences. The Suttas
chosen for these sermons are significant particularly in view of the mental attainments
and beliefs of the listeners. The first was the Devadutasutta
which deals with the result
of good and bad action- the misery that a waits criminals and the descriptions of the
tortures of hell. Ae#t came the Balapanditasutta
that teaches how through folly men
commit evil suffer therefore both here and hereafter.
The acceptance of the Mahavihara and his sermons
3n the pressing invitation of the $ing &en. !ahina and his companions made their
residence in the royal pavilion of the MahameghaPark which was 00neither too far nor
too near the city00. $ing Devanampiya%tissa visited the Theras and in8uired how they
liked the place and when he learnt from &en. !ahinda that it was genial and
comfortable he offered the Mahameghapark to the Savgha pouring water from averse
over the hand of &en. !ahinda as a token of gift. Therefore &en. !ahinda made in
public the most important declaration that Buddhism would be established in (eylon.
The Mahameghavana was offered to the Savgha &en. !ahinda at once set about to
plan the head8uarters of Buddhism which in later times became the famous Mahavihara
the great center of Buddhist culture and learning in the Island the stronghold of the
Theravada. It became a great monastic establishment in the Buddhist world. 3ne can
understand the significance given to this gift as it marked the beginning of the
establishment of the Mahavihara which became the leading monastery in (eylon during
many centuries that followed.
After the acceptance of the Mahameghavana on the following days when the Thera
had eaten in the $ing,s house and then sitting in the Nandanagr#ve preached the Suttas
to the people as follows5
3n the second day he had preached the %ggikhandh#pamasutta.
3n the third day he had preached the %sivisupamasutta.
3n the fourth day he had preached the %namataggasutta.

3n the fifth day he had preached the &hajjniyasutta.

!ahava)sa DI& ::- The *etavatthu and &imanavatthu are books in the $huddaka Aikaya and the Saccas)yutta is a
section of the Sa)yutta Aikaya & pp.?.?%?FB
!a))hima Aikaya III Ao../E
!ahava)sa D& ?- Samantapasadika gives it as the Asivisupama%sutta- !a))ima Aikaya III Ao..:C
!ahava)sa D& .FG- Anguttara Aikaya I& pp..:B%./@
!ahava)sa D& .FC- Sa)yutta Aikaya II pp...E%...
!ahava)sa D& .BG- Sa)yutta Aikaya II pp..FB%.C/
!ahava)sa D& .C@- Sa)yutta Aikaya III pp.B.%.E?
3n the si#th day he had preached the "#mayapindisutta.
3n the seventh day he had preached the Dhamma$akkappavattanasutta.
3n the thirteenth day of the bright half of the month %salha he had preached the
to the $ing etc.
&en. !ahinda stayed in Anuradhapura for :G days. 3n the :F
day &en. !ahinda left
Anuradhapura and went to Missakapa!!ata to spend the Vassa ;rainy season= there. In
the same day the king,s nephew !aha%Arittha, the minister with @@ others )oined the
order of the Savgha in the month of Jettha. Thus there were G: monks in the Missaka
pa!!ata to spend the first Vassa season. !eanwhile the $ing,s sister%in%law Anula and
her companions desire to )oin the 3rder of Bhikkhuni and on &en. !ahinda0s
suggestion- $ing Tissa dispatched to the court of Hmperor Asoka an embassy to bring
the Theri Savghamitta along with the southern branch of Bodhi%Tree.
The coming of $en% Savghamitta and the establishment of Bi""huni Sasana
To watch over the Bodhi%tree $ing Asoka sent .B persons from royal families and B
from families of ministers and moreover B persons from Brahman families and B from
families of traders and persons from the cowherds likewise and from the hyena and
sparrowhawk%clans ;from each one man= and also from the weavers and potters and
from all the handicrafts from the Aagas and the Iakkhas- when then the most e#alted
prince had given them eight vessels of gold and eight of silver and had brought the great
Bodhi%tree to a ship on the Janges and likewise the Theri Savghamitta with ..

'hen Theri Savghamitta arrived with the branch of the Bodhi%tree Anula and her
companions received the Pa!!ajja from Theri entered the 3rder of Bhikkhuni. The
former 'pasikavihara was improved and enlarged with several additions and it was
called (atthalhakavihara or Bhikkhunupassaya. &en. Savghamitta also lived in the
same nunnery
The $inaya recital
Soon afterwards $ing Devanampiya%tiss asked the Thera whether Buddhism was now
established in the Island. &en. !ahinda replies that Buddhism would be established only
if Sima for the 'p#satha and other Acts of the Savgha were established according to the
teaching of the Buddha.
But the Samantapasadika said that 6Sasana is established but
it roots are not yet gone deep9. 6'hen will the roots go deepK9 !ahinda0s answers5
!ahava)sa D& .CF- Sa)yutta Aikaya III p..?/
!ahava)sa D& .CC- Sa)yutta Aikaya & @@...
!ahava)sa D&I /- Sa)yutta Aikaya I /..F
!ahava)sa DID .%@
Ibid DID G@%F.
Dipava)sa DI& :.%:@- !ahava)sa D& .BE%.B.
6'hen a son born in (eylon of (eylon parents became a monk in (eylon studies the
Vinaya in (eylon and recites it in (eylon then the roots of the Sasana are deep set.9 The
Bhikkhu !aha%Atittha possessed all these 8ualifications and arrangements were
promptly made for a recital of the Vinaya.
>nder the leadership of !aha%Arittha on behalf of Sinhalese Bhikkhus a recital was
held in the Parivena of the minister Meghavanna!hay in the precincts of the
Thuparama Anuradhapura. It was on the first day of the Pavarana ceremony in the
month of &attika. In this incident the part !aha%Arittha played has been likened to that
of &en. >pali in the "irst (ouncil which was held in )ajagaha. &en. !ahinda himself
was present as supervision on the occasion of this Vinaya recital which was associated
with miraculous happenings according to he author of the Samantapasadika.
The $ing
Devanampiya%tissa too with his retinue was present at the recital a feature which was
absent in the first Buddhist (ouncil. Thus the Sasana was firmly established and well%
rooted in the Island.
The Mahavihara as a university for local and foreign student
The most important and very likely the biggest monastery in Anuradhapura was the
Mahavihara. It was this monastery that preserved for us the teachings of Theravada
Buddhism. 'e have already seen under what trying circumstances the dwellers of the
Mahavihara preserved those teachings from the devastating influence of the
"rom the time Mahavihara started it was an educational centre. It
promoted not only religion but also various other arts and crafts. !ost of the Sinhala
$ings received their education under the Mahavihara monks.
The Mahavihara was one of the most flourishing monasteries in ancient (eylon. It
was in a prosperous condition when the (hinese traveller "a%4ien visited (eylon. At that
time there were /EEE Bhikkhus living in it.
The fame of the monastery spread far and wide and people even from abroad went
there in search of the pure teaching. The names of &isakha *itimalla and Buddhaghosa
may be motioned as e#amples.
It was about in the reign of $ing !ahanama ;?EC%?/. AD= that &en. Buddhaghoa
the great commentator on hearing of the fame and the scholastic activities of the monks
of the Mah*vihara came to Anuradhapura and stayed at the Mahavihara and translated
the Sihala commentaries on the Tipitaka into the Pali language.
The views held by the
Hncyclopaedia of Buddhism &ol. II The Department of Buddhist Affairs .CCB p.FB
Harly 4istory of Buddhism in (eylon by H.'. Adikaram Buddhist (ultural (entre Dehiwala .CC? p..E@
4istory of Theravada Buddhism in South%Hast Asia by $anai Lal 4aLra !unshiram !anoharlal *ubishers *vt Ltd
Aew Delhi :EE: p.@:
Mahavihara School were considered to be unmi#ed and un%entangled with the views of
other sects and all the (ommentaries including the Visuddhimagga, were written with
their contents based on the tradition of the Mahavihara.
ts branches in ndia and Burma
"rom the (hinese records and several Sanskrit inscriptions belonging to this period
we learn that there was fre8uent religious intercourse between (eylon and India and
many (eylonese monks visited the Buddhist shrines at B#dha+aya. The (hinese te#t
4ing%tchoan of 'ang 4iuen ts,e refers to the erection of a monastery at B#dh+aya by a
ruler of (eylon for the accommodation of monks from (eylon. Two Sanskrit
inscriptions belonging to the G
century AD found at B#dh+aya mention the erection
of a Buddhist monastery and the presentation of a statue of the Buddha to the B#dh
+aya monastery by !ahanama a (eylonese monk of the G
century AD. Another
inscription belonging to the G
or F
century AD found at B#dh+aya refers to
Prakhyatakirtti a Sinhalese monk who erected a dwelling place at B#dh+aya.

(hapaa received the ordination in (eylon and was admitted into the Sinhalese Savgha
and spent about .E years in the Island. 4e ac8uired a full knowledge of the Tipitaka and
their commentaries and earned the designation of !ahathera. According to the &alyani
inscriptions he returned to Burma in l.B. AD. (hapata had a firm faith in Sinhalese
orthodo#y and by establishing the Sihala Savgha in Burma he wanted to bring the
Burmese Savgha in close touch with the Sihala Savgha. That is why he reached *agan
with four other monks who had been ordained at the hands of the monks of the
Mahavihara. Sivali !ahathera a native of Tamalitthi Tamalinda !ahathera a son of
the king of (ambodia Ananda !ahathera of &i!$ipura or "#njeveram in South India
and 7ahula !ahathera of (eylon. These five monks who had received their ordination
at the hands of the monks of the Mahavihara refused to perform any ecclesiastical act
with the Burmese monks of *agan and declined to recognise the Burmese Savgha and
they performed their ecclesiastical acts separately. This is the establishment of the Sihala
Savgha at *agan.
According to the &alyani inscriptions the Sihala Savgha was established at *agan in
..B. AD. Thus under the guidance of the five !ahatheras the Sihala Savgha maintained
its influence and popularity at *agan. Later on the Sihala Savgha was divided into
several branches.

According to the &alyani inscriptions and the Sasanavajsa Buddhava)sa !ahathera
and !ahasami !ahathera more popularly known as !ahanaga from !artaban in Lower
Ibid pp.C/%C?
Burma visited (eylon and received re%ordination at the hands of the monks of the
Mahavihara and thus they entered the order of the Sihala Savgha. 'hen they returned to
!artaban they separated themselves from the monks of !artaban and performed
ecclesiastical acts separately. In this way they established two branches of the Sihala
Savgha at !artaban.

'e have already seen how within a short time after the advent of &en. !ahinda.
Buddhism spread through the length and breadth of (eylon. It was from this Island that
Buddhism particularly in the form of Theravada also spread to south%east Asian
countries such as5 Burma Thailand Loa and (ambodia. Since Mahavihara was
established at Anuradhapura Sri Lanka became the centre of learning for the Theravada
Buddhism. 'hat we have discussed so far was the evidence of the Pali commentaries
with regard to the spread of the religion and also the many vicissitudes through which it
passed considered as far as possible in their chronological order.
.. !ahava)sa tr. by 'ilhelm Jeiger Buddhist (ultural (entre Dehiwela :EE/.
:. Dipava)sa tr. by 4ermann 3ldenberg Asian Hducational services Aew Delhi .CC:.
/. Hncyclopaedia of Buddhism The Department of Buddhist Affairs .CCB.
?. Harly 4istory of Buddhism in (eylon by H.'. Adikaram Buddhist (ultural (entre Dehiwala
@. 4istory of Theravada Buddhism in South%Hast Asia by $anai Lal 4aLra !unshiram !anoharlal
*ubishers *vt Ltd Aew Delhi :EE:.
G. 4istory of Buddhism in (eylon by 'alpola 7ahula !ahathera Buddhist (ultural (entre
Dehiwela .CC/.
Ibid p.CC