မေထရ္ျမတ္တုိ႔ ႐ုပ္ပုံလႊာ (ေမွာ္ဘီၿမိဳ႕၊ သာသနာ့၀န္ေဆာင္ဆရာေတာ္)


on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(Source: Encyclopedia of Buddhism)
ME23  02-04-2011      (3:00 to 4:00)
Sri Lanka is home to the world’s oldest continuing Buddhist civilization. Brahmi inscriptions etched in stone on drip ledges above natural caves in the country’s North-Central province indicate that hermitages have been dedicated by Buddhist Laity for the meditation needs of monks since the third century B.C.E. Moreover, the fourth- and fifth-century C.E. monastic chronicles, the Dipavamsa (Chronicle of the Island) and the Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle), contain a series of myths in which the Lankan king Devanampiya Tissa (third century B.C.E.), a contemporary of the Indian emperor Asoka, is said to have been converted to the Buddha’s teachings by Asoka’s own missionary son, Mahinda. Thus, from inscriptions and monastic literary traditions, it is known that by the third century B.C.E. lineages of forest monks supported by Buddhist laity were established on the island in the region that became Lanka’s political center for thirteen subsequent centuries.

Since Asoka is also thought to have provided support for Devanampiya Tissa’s abhiseka (coronation), it would seem that Buddhism became formally associated with Lanka’s Kingship by this time as well. For more than two millennia, until the British dethroned the last Lankan king in 1815, a symbiotic relationship entailing mutual support and legitimation between the Lankan kings and the Buddhist Sangha (community) was sustained, either as an ideal or in actual practice. Over the course of this long history, other forms of Buddhism joined the predominant Theravada bhikkhu (monk) and bhikkhuni (nun) sanghas, which the Mahavamsa asserts were established by Asoka’s children, Mahinda and his sister Sanghamitta, respectively,
and whose lineages were preserved by the Theravada Mahavihara nikaya. These included the cults of Mahayana Bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara, and the teachings of several Mahayana schools and of tantric Buddhist masters associated with Mahavihara’s rival in Anuradhapura, the Abhayagiri nikaya, which were established and thrived, particularly during the seventh through the tenth centuries C.E.
The Anuradhapura period Faxian (ca. 337-ca. 418 C.E.), the itinerant Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, has provided a valuable description of fifth-century Anuradhapura, reporting that approximately eight thousand Buddhist monks then resided in the capital city. Faxian also reports that a public ritual procession of the Dalada (tooth-relic of the Buddha) was celebrated annually, that the cult of Sri Mahabodhi (a graft of the original bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in India) was regularly venerated and lavishly supported by the laity and the king, and that Lankan kings had built massive stupas to commemorate the Buddha and his relics.

Well before Faxian’s time and long thereafter, the city of Anuradhapura had become a politically powerful and cosmopolitan center whose successful economy had been made possible through the development of sophisticated hydraulic engineering and through the establishment of trade with partners as far flung as China in the east and Rome in the west. Furthermore, the city had become the administrative pivot of the three great monastic nikayas (chapters) of the Lankan Buddhist sangha: the Theravada Mahavihara; and the more doctrinally eclectic Abhayagiri and Jetavana chapters, each of which systematically established a vast array of
affiliated village monasteries and forest hermitages throughout the domesticated ricegrowing countryside. During the first millennium C.E., the three nikayas in Anuradhapura and their affiliated monasteries dominated every facet of social, economic, educational, and cultural life.

Some have argued that just as Lankan polity was expected to be the chief patron supporting the sangha, so the sangha functioned as a “Department of State” for the kingship. Perhaps somewhat exaggerated, that assertion does point to the extent to which Buddhist institutions became the basic social infrastructure in Lanka for many centuries.

2 Given the congenial relationship between polity and religion, the Anuradhapura period witnessed the fluorescence of an economically advanced and artistically sophisticated culture. Although the only surviving examples of painting are the frescos of heavenly maidens (perhaps apsaras) found at Sigiriya, thousands of freestanding stone sculptures of the Buddha, scores of stone-carved bas-reliefs, and hundreds of bronzes are still extant, including the famous colossal images at Avukana and the meditative Buddhas that remain within the  ruins of the Abhayagiri monastic complex at Anuradhapura. Early anthropomorphic images of the Buddha in Lanka bear a stylistic, and sometimes material, affinity with Buddha images created at Amaravati in south India, while images from the later Anuradhapura period, such as the eighth-century Avukana image, reflect the development of a distinctive Lankan style that emphasized the significance of the Buddha as a mahapurusa (cosmic person).

The Mahavamsa asserts that the Buddhist Canon (Tripitaka; Pali, Tipitaka) was first committed to writing during the reign of King Vattagamini Abhaya in the first century B.C.E. at Aluvihara just north of Matale, inaugurating, perhaps, the tradition of inscribing Buddhist texts on to ola leaves, a tradition of committing the dharma to handwriting that continued into the nineteenth century. In rare instances, texts were also inscribed on gold or copper plates, such as the gold leaves bearing an eighth-century fragment of a Sanskrit Prajnaparamita-sutra (Perfection of Wisdom Sutra), found within the massive Stupa at Jetavana in Anuradhapura in the early 1980s. In addition to the Pali Tipitaka and the Pali monastic chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, the fifth and sixth centuries were the backdrop for the commentaries produced by Buddhaghosa.

His Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification), an elaborate and precise exegesis of sila (sila; English, morality), samadhi (meditation), and panna or prajna (wisdom) the three elemental principles of practice that Buddhaghosa regarded as the bases of the Buddha’s “noble eightfold path”-eventually became an enduring centerpiece of normative orthodoxy for Theravada in Sri Lanka and later in Southeast Asia. The Visuddhimagga stressed the interrelated and dependent nature of sila, samadhi, and panna, and the fundamental reality of paticcasamupada or Pratityasamutpada (Dependent Orignination).

The Polonnaruva era Beginning with the Polonnaruva era (eleventh through thirteenth century C.E.), and especially during the reign of Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 C.E.), when the sangha was reunified after its demise by south Indian Cola invaders who had demolished Anuradhapura in the late tenth century, Theravada became the exclusive form of doctrinal orthodoxy patronized by the kingship in Sri Lanka. It was specifically this reconstituted Theravada that was exported to Burma (Myanmar) in the eleventh century and subsequently into northern Thailand, spreading from those regions to become the dominant religion of mainland Southeast Asia. What was not reconstituted at Polonnaruva, however, was the bhikkhunisangha, a sorority that had thrived during the Anuradhapura centuries and had spread its lineage as far as China.

Yet Polonnaruva became a marvelous city for a span of about 150 years before it was sacked by another south Indian invasion. Although its beautiful stupas could not rival the size of the Abhayagiri, Jetavana, and Ruvanvalisaya topes in Anuradhapura, and although its sculpture, lacked the plastic fluidity of times past, the architecture, literature, and educational institutions of Polonnaruva were unparalleled anywhere in South or Southeast Asia at that time. The massive Alahena,: monastic university, a bastion of Theravada orthodoxy, at one time housed as many as ten thousand: monks. It was also at Polonnaruva and in the courts of kings who soon followed, such as Parakramabahu II a: thirteenth-century Dambadeniya, that new literary innovations were cultivated, in part due to the stimulus, and presence of Hinduism and Sanskrit literature, and in part due to the maturation of the Sinhala language itself.

At Polonnaruva, the Hindu temples built by the Cola invaders had not been destroyed by the reconquering Sinhalas in the eleventh century because the queens of the Sinhala kings, who were brought from: south India, were nominally Hindu, as were 3 their relations and retinues. Thus, the royal court headed by a Sinhala Buddhist king was heavily influenced by a classical Sanskritic or Hindu presence seen not only in the substance and style reflected in contemporary sections of the Culavamsa (Minor Chronicles, the sequel to the Mahavamsa), but also in the cultic life and sculptural creations of Polonnaruva, which included the veneration and depiction of Hindu deities such as Visnu and Suva.

In this context, Gurulugomi, a Buddhist upasaka (layman), composed the first Sinhala works of prose, including the Amavatura (The Flood of Nectar), a reworking of the life of the Buddha aimed at demonstrating his powers to convert others to the truth of dharma. Since the Amavatura seems to have been written in a conscious effort to avoid using Sanskrit words, some have suggested that his writings reflect an antipathy for an ever-growing Hindu influence on Sinhala Buddhist culture in general. The late Polonnaruva era also marks the creation of many other important Sinhalese Theravada Buddhist classics, including the Butsarana (Refuge of the Buddha), the Pujavaliya (The Garland of Offerings), and the Saddharma Ratnavaliya (The Garland of Jewels of the Good Doctrine), all didactic and devotional works.

Hinduization of Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka While the destruction of institutional Buddhism at Anuradhapura and the reconstruction of the sangha at Polonnaruva may have led in general to the eclipse of Mahayana and tantric cults in Lanka, invasions from south India beginning in the tenth century and the increasing numbers of military mercenaries who followed during the politically volatile thirteenth and fourteenth centuries only increased the presence and influence of Hindu cults in the Sinhala Buddhist religious culture of the era. During the fourteenth century, when a retreating Buddhist kingship established its capital in the Kandyan highlands at Gampola, Hindu deities such as Visnu, Skanda, the goddess Pattini, and Ganesha, as well as a host of other local deities associated with specific regions and natural phenomena, were incorporated into an evolving pantheon of Sinhala deities.

They were recast as gods whose warrants for acting in the world on behalf of Buddhist devotees were subject to the sanctioning of the Buddha’s dharma. The highest of these deities, worshipped within the same halls where the Buddha was worshipped or in adjacent shrines (devalayas), came to be styled as Bodhisattvas, or “buddhas in-the-making,” and a vast literature of ballads, poems, and sagas in Sinhala, some inspired by the Sanskrit puranas (mythic stories), was created to edify devotees over the ensuing several centuries. By the fifteenth century, the island had been again reunified politically by Parakramabahu VI, whose capital at Kotte on the southwest coast became the hub of an eclectic renaissance of religious culture epitomized by the gamavasi (village-oriented monk) Sri Rahula, whose linguistic dexterity (he was known as “master of six languages”) and concomitant affinities for popular religious and magical practices, refracted the syncretic character of religion at the time. Sri Rahula is perhaps ) best remembered for writing two classical Sinhala sandesaya poems styled after the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa’s Meghadhuta (Cloud Messenger) that, while glorifying the Buddha as the “god beyond the gods,” appealed directly to the gods for divine assistance in sustaining the wellbeing of the Buddhist Kingship and its administration. Vidagama Maitreya, a Wilderness monk (aranavasi) and one of Parakramabahu’s childhood mentors, wrote the Budugunalamkaraya (In Praise of the Buddha’s Qualities) as a scathing critique of the increasing Hinduization of Buddhist culture.

These two great monks, both of whom were deeply involved in competing trajectories of court and monastic cultures, represent an ancient and continuing tension regarding the nature of the monastic vocation: as a matter of caring for the “welfare of the many” (the village monk) or engaging in the “rhinoceros-like solitary life” of a forest meditator.

Colonial and postcolonial eras By the sixteenth century, the Portuguese had begun to interfere with the court at Kotte and 4 eventually converted King Dharmapala to Christianity, exacerbating an increasingly fractious political context that led in the 1590s to the establishment of a new line of Sinhala Buddhist kings in highland Kandy, a new capital city replete with a supportive cast: a bhikkhusangha whose lineage was imported from Burma, a new Dalada Maligava (Palace of the Tooth-Relic), and devalayas for the gods who had emerged as the four protective guardian deities of the island.

The Kandyans colluded with the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century to oust the Portuguese. Despite one war in the 1760s during the reign of Kirti Sri Rajasimha, the Kandyans and the Dutch managed to coexist for a century and a half producing, in effect, distinctive highland and lowland Sinhala cultures. The former styled itself as more purely Sinhala Buddhist, despite the fact that by this time the Kandyan kings were ethnically Tamil, owing to the continuing practice of securing queens from Madurai. But it is remarkable how “Buddhacized” this last line of Lankan kings became.

Kirti Sri and his brother Rajadi who succeeded him, were responsible for the last great renaissance of Theravada: first, by reconstituting what had become a decadent sangha by introducing a fresh lineage from Thailand that became known as the dominant Siyam Nikaya; second, by appointing a monastic head (sangharaja) in the person of the learned monk Saranamkara, who reemphasized the importance of monastic literary education and moral virtue; third, by providing the means to hold a calendar of Buddhist public rites, including the still annually held asala perahara procession of the Dalada and the insignia of the guardian deities in Kandy; and fourth, by refurbishing virtually every Buddhist monastery in the kingdom, a commitment that resulted in the artistic birth of the Kandyan school of Buddhist monastery painting.

After the British established their colonial hegemony in the early nineteenth century, Buddhist culture atrophied for several decades. Its revival toward the end of the century was catalyzed in part by the establishment of two new low-country monastic nikayas, the Amarapura and the Ramanna. Both, in contrast to the Siyam Nikaya, established new lineages from Burma, claimed to be more doctrinally orthodox, emphasized the practice of meditation, and recruited novices without regard to caste. A series of public religious debates between Buddhist monks and Anglican clergy in the low country also fueled the revitalization. Moreover, the revival gained momentum with the arrival of Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), an American theosophist who organized and established many Buddhist schools modeled on the successful missionary schools administered by the Anglicans. Olcott wrote a widely disseminated “Buddhist Catechism,” designed and distributed a Buddhist flag, and helped to organize a liturgical year celebrating full moon days as Buddhist holidays. One of Olcott’s early and enthusiastic followers, the Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), transformed the religious revival into a religio-nationalist cause by founding in 1891 the Mahabodhi Society, which sought to regain Buddhist control of Buddhist holy sites in India.

In addition, Dharmapala published his influential Return to Righteousness (a detailed excursus on lay Buddhist conduct and spiritual realization aimed at purifying Buddhism of its colonial and popular “contaminations”), and he inspired the laity to emulate their colonial masters’ work ethic. Some have argued that Olcott and Dharmapala successively set into motion a new lay Buddhist religious ethic comparable to the lay-oriented religious culture of Protestant Christianity, a “Protestant Buddhism,” so called because of its emphasis on unmediated individual lay religious practice and the importance attached to integrating the significance of
spiritual teachings into everyday life.

Aside from “Protestant Buddhism,” at least three other features marked the character of Buddhism in twentieth-century Sri Lanka. The first is the reemphasis given to meditation for both monks and laypersons, especially methods of insight (Vipassana) practice made popular by Burmese masters. The second is the establishment of Buddhist-inspired welfare institutions, such as Sarvodaya, founded in the 1950s by A. T. Ariyaratne (1931-) to reawaken village culture and to stimulate rural economies and social services. The third is the increasing politicization of Buddhism in the postcolonial era, most notably the patterns that can be traced to the pivotal national elections of 1956 when S. W. R. D.

Bandaranaike (1899-1959) and his newly formed Sri Lanka Freedom Party won a landslide election on promises of “Sinhala only” as the national language and Buddhism as the state religion. This posture on language and religion (the basic constituents of 5 ethnic identity in South Asia), as well as other subsequent “Sinhala Buddhist” based education and economic policies, were enacted to redress perceived inequalities resulting from earlier British colonial policies that had favored Tamil interests and disenfranchised the Sinhalese. In turn, these changes became reasons for Tamil alienation, feeding an enduring ethnic conflict dividing Sinhalas and Tamils during the final decades of the twentieth century. In this context, some influential Buddhist monks have colluded with Sinhala politicians to resurrect the ancient rhetoric of the Mahavamsa and proclaim Lanka as the exclusive and predestined domain of the Buddhadharma. Others have marched for peace and coexistence.
Copier- Ashin Indaka (Kyone Pyaw)


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