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Sunday, 19 June 2016





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Government Gazette

Poson Poya:

Celebrating a momentous event

Devotees climbing the Mihintale rock

As the arrow went in search of its unseen quarry at lightning speed in the stillness of the jungles around a massive rock, the ruling monarch of an island in the Indian Ocean barely heard someone calling his name. No one dared to call his name - they called him Your Majesty, prostrating themselves before him. But not this time.

With his soldiers clearing a path ahead of him, the king came out of the jungle to see who had indeed dared to call him by his first name. The sight that befell his eyes amazed him. A sage was atop the rock, beckoning him to come closer. Little did he know at the time, but that “calling” would change the history of his little island forever.

Then the Arahat uttered those famous words; “Samana Mayan Maharajah Dhamma Rajassa Savaka Tav’eva Anukampaya Jambudipa Ida Gata”. “Samanas are we O Great King, the disciples of the King of Truth. Out of compassion for thee, have we come hither, from Jambudvipa.”

ANCL Mihintale Aloka Pooja

The sacred precincts of Mihintale, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, will be illuminated for the 54th consecutive year by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) in collaboration with the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and several other sponsors including Dialog, Abans and Bank of Ceylon from June 16 to 22. The Aloka Pooja program was started in 1963.

Along with the Aloka Pooja, Lake House will engage in several religious and welfare programs in and around the Mihintale area for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. The Aloka Pooja which illuminates the entire complex in light has been hailed as an immensely beneficial program for the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Mihintale during the Poson week.

He laid his bow and arrow aside, and approaching the sage, he exchanged greetings with the Thera and sat down near him. The great Thera caused the others who had come with him to become visible.

When the king beheld these too, he said: “When did these come hither? The Thera answered: “they came with me. And he asked: “Are there in Jambudvipa other ascetics like these?

“The other said, “Jambudvipa is gleaming with yellow robes, and great is the number there of Arahats learned in the Theravadas, gifted with miraculous powers, skilled in reading the thoughts of others, possessing the heavenly ear, the disciples of the Buddha.”

The King then asked, “By what way are you come? And since the answer was: “Neither by land nor by water are we come,” he understood that they had come through the air.

In the conversation that ensued Arahat Mahinda found that the king was an intelligent ruler. Therefore he delivered the Cula-Hatthipadopama Sutta, “The parable of the Elephant Foot Print”, which deals with the fundamental tenets of Buddhism. At the end of the discourse he, with his 40,000 of his retinue came unto the Three Refuges of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Emperor Dharmashoka had achieved his mission.

Today, thousands of years later, these islanders (who now call their island Sri Lanka) still celebrate this momentous event when those envoys from India brought India’s greatest gift to their Motherland: the words of the Buddha. The main envoy, Arahat Mahinda, son of Emperor Dharmasoka, is revered to this day as “Anubudu” which infers that he is second only to the Buddha himself. That is the extent of the importance attached to the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, whose civilization and culture wee essentially woven around and shaped by the religion. Incidentally, the nearby Ambastala Dagaba, enshrines the ashes of Mahinda and is still in a good state of preservation.

Aloka Pooja

(Pix: Sudam Gunasinghe)

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries where Buddhism exists in its purest form, not much different from the message conveyed by Arahat Mahinda. The place where this significant event took place is now known as Mihintale (literally Mahinda’s rock) and attracts of thousands of devotees especially on Poson Poya day, which marks the arrival of Buddha Dhamma in Sri Lanka in the third century B.C. Along with the venerated sites in nearby Anuradhapura, once the capital of Sri Lanka (and perhaps the longest surviving place name in the world), Mihintale is on every Buddhist’s pilgrimage wish list.

The most immediate impact of Buddhism’s arrival in Sri Lanka was the inception of an order of Bhikkus in the island, which helped propagate Buddhism to every nook and corner. It also brought peace to an island that had seen plenty of conflict fuelled by various tribes. The kings who succeeded King Devanampiyatissa continued to give the foremost place to Buddhism in all their activities. In paying homage to the Buddha, they created some of the most astonishing structures and statues that stand to this day around the country. It would not be incorrect to say that the entire civilisational fabric of the island is built around the principles of Buddhism.

In the words of the late Dr. G. P. Malalasekera, “If the criterion of the greatness of that movement be the beneficial influence it has exerted on the character on those who came under its sway, then certainly the mission of Asoka to Lanka has been among the greatest civilizing influences of the world for it bequeathed to the Sinhalese people a gentleness of disposition, a love of peace, a nobility and refinement of character of which neither the ravages of times, nor centuries of ruthless warfare, nor the insidious attacks of modern commercialism have succeeded in depriving them.”

Arahat Mahinda’s Lanka mission was a great success. He found in Lanka a fertile soil to disseminate the sublime teachings of the Buddha. With royal patronage Buddhism and its related cultural ethos were firmly established in Sri Lanka.

Over the years, Poson Poya itself has become the second most important day of the year for Buddhists in Sri Lanka, after Vesak, which celebrates the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away of the Buddha. It is marked on an almost similar scale, with religious programmes, dansals, pandals and illuminations. But the core message of Buddhism has never faded from the collective Lankan consciousness, which is the perhaps the greatest achievement of Arahat Mahinda.

– (PDS)


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