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Religious Relations Between Arakan And Sri Lanka ( Ceylon)

 Religious Relations Between Arakan And Sri Lanka ( Ceylon)
By Ashin Sri Okkantha

Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) by Thera Mahinda who to the Island in about the middle of the 3rd century 7 B.C in the reign of King Asoka. It is generally accepted that at the time of the introduction of Buddhism, there was no organised religion in Ceylon. Owing to the popular, enthusiasm, Buddhism became the state religion in Ceylon, under Royal patronage.

The Mahavihara was established at Anuradhapura in 3rd century B.C.8 In later times, Mahavihara became the great centre of' Buddhist culture. As Mahavihara was famous Buddhist study centre, Abhayagirivihara constructed by Vattagamani Abhaya (29-17 B.C.) 9 also became a great centre in Ceylon in the 1st century B.C.

The later part of the 1st century B.C saw some very important events in the Buddhist history of Ceylon. From 43 B.C. for 14 years, five Tamils rules in succession at Anuradhapura. King Vattagamani lay in hiding in a remote palace during this period. In 1st century B.C. Mahachulika Mahatissa was succeeded by Vattagamani’s son, Choranaga. He was hostile and destroyed eighteen Viharas where he had not been Siyen refuge during 150 (?) days, of his rebellion against his cousin Mahachulika Mahatissa (17-3 B.C. ) 10

In addition to these calamities the whole, country was ravaged by an unprecedented famine generally known as DrahmanaTissa famine or Baminitiya. The people had no food at all and were forced to cannibalism, even eating the flesh of Buddhist monks whom they venerated. Many thousands, both Buddhist monks and lay-people, perished, many viharas were deserted, the Mahavilhara at Anuradhapura entirely abandoned, trees grew in the countryard, and the Mahathupa itself lay incomplete neglect. Many monks left the Island left went to India, the country was in chaos. 11

The elder monks of the Sihalese saw that the future of Buddhism was in danger. The continuation of the tradition of the three Pi taka which had so far been handed down orally from teacher to pupils, appeared no longer possible. The main concern of the Sangha during tliis tragic period was to perserve the teaching of Lord Buddha, which they valued above all else. Therefore; far-seeing Mahathera , under  the patronage of a local chief, assembled at Aluvihara at Matale, and  for the first time in history committed to writing the whole of the  Tri Pitaka with the commentaries thereon "in order that the true doc endure". 12

In the first century A. D. there was the beginning of dissensions in the Sangha which had till then been united under the influence of the Mahavihara. At later times, the Dhammaruci sect (Abhayagiri Vihara group) became a separate group, from Mahavihara known as Jetavana sect. Mahavihara Buddhism was replaced in Ceylon as a new Religion in second century A.D.

According to the Arakanese chronicles, the relation between Ceylon and Arakan began from the second century A.D.13 During the reign of King Thuriyathiri (c.A .D .201-221) 14, twelve Arak anise monk led by Mahaasiridnipadhi Mahathera were  sent for missionary purpose to Ceylon. It was the first relationship between the two countries. Acoring to the Chulavamsa, Vijayabahu-I (1065-1120) sent envoys with the valuable gifts to Anuradha. The king of Ramanna (Lower Burma) sought his assistance in the struggle against the Chola invaders. But there is not much evidence that the King of Ramnna sent his troops to aid the King of Ceylon. K.L.Hazra says "During this time Theravada Buddhism was in a flourishing condition in lower Burma” 15.
The conquest of Thaton in 1057 was a great even in Burmese history. After the Conquest of Thaton, Pagan became a famous Buddhist centre in South-East Asia.

In the same period, we believe that Arakan was the centre of original teachings of Lord Buddha and Arakanese chronicles also mention the religious relationship between Arakan and Ceylon. But the Ceylon are silent on Aryan's relation with Ceylon in this period. According to Arakanese chronicles, during the reign of Datharaza (1123 -1139). 16 The king of Ceylon sent envoys for religious purpose the King of Arakan, Datharaza sent a Buddhist missionary led by Ven. Atulavijaya Mahathera. Twenty-six venerable ones accompanied him. 17

The Polannaruva slab inscription of the Velaikkaras (c.A.D. 1137- 11533) 18 a1so refers to the purification of the Sangha of the three sects of Ceylon with the help of the monks from Arumana during Vijayabahu-I’s time. Arumana may be suggested as Arakan. In 1166, 19 King Manjuthin was succeeded by his son, Ngaraman. During time, a religious mission including 36 Buddhist monks were sent the King of Ceylon, Parakramabahu-I (c. A. D. 1153-1186). This mission was led by Ven,Uttara Dhamma. But the period between the death of Vijayabahu-I and Parakramabahu-I can be described as a dark chapter in the history of Ceylon. According to K.L.Hazra “During this period neither the Burmese sources such as the Sasanavamsa, the Glass Palace Chronicle nor the Sihalese sources such as Chulavamsa mention any religious or political contact between Ceylon and Burma”. 20

In Arakanese history, Mrauk-U signifies the golden age. The 15th and 16th centuries A.D were important landmarks in the history of both Arakan and Ceylon. There is evidence to show that during these centuries close political, cultural and religious ties existed between the two countries. King Ba-saw-phru (1459-1482) received three Pitakas from Ceylon in c.A.D. 1476, 21 and the King of Arakan sent a religious delegation led by Ven. Siddhattha.

In the 16th century, Arakan was a sea-power of some importance; it built hundreds of galiots and developed great skill in both sea and reverine warfare. During the reign of Nanda Bayin (1581-1599) 22 of Pegu he wanted to raise and equip new mission to right against the Siamese like his father Bayin Naung and request the Mons to join the army. 23  Many Mons crossed over the border of Arakan and Siam and took refuge in both countries. Nanda Bayin attacked Siam about five times between 1586 and 1593. He put to death many of officers and destroyed the country of Mon. Many Mon monks and lay-people left the country and fled to Siam and Arakan. The Siamese attacked Pegu in 1595. 24 At the same time, Arakan defeated and conquered the Pegu and Syriam, one of the import port of Lower Burma. During the reign of Minrazakri (1593-1613), 25 Arakan received the vast loot brought back by its raiders from Pegu together with Nanda Bayin’s daughter and white elephant. At the end of the 16th century A.D. Bayin Naung has lost power in the country.

In the 16th century, the relation between Arakan Ceylon played an important role in Buddhism and culture.26 As Ola leaf manuscript of the Kakdadora great found in Ceylon, refer to religious intercourse between Rakkhangapura 27 and Ceylon. This information is corroborated by the Chulavamsa, the Sulupujavaliya and the Narendracharitavalokapradipikava. During the reign of Vimaladhammasuriya-I, when Ceylon was in need of some monks to restore the Buddhist Sangha, the King of Ceylon sent an envoy to Rakkangapura and invited a Buddhist mission for restoring the Sangha. At that time, King Khaung-raza (1521-1631) 28 ruled in Arakan. He appointed his son, Min-bar as a governor of Sandoway and Ven. Dhammavilasa from Mrauk-U to send on a religious mission. The King of Ceylon warmly received the two Arakanese monks who came to each the teachings of the Buddha in Ceylon

The Arakanese monks were given the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha which Ceylon proudly possessed on their return. They brought it and gave it to Min-bar as a gift from the King of Ceylon. In the reign of Min-raza-kri, an envoy with the gift arrived in Mrauk-U and King of Arakan sent 20 Buddhist monks led by Ven . Chandavilasa Mahathera to Ceyloh. They arrived there in 1563. They reformed the Buddhist Sangha and held the higher ordination ceremony in the Udakukkhepapsima.

The Chulavamsa and the Sasanavamsa contain important evidence relating to the religious intercourse between Arakan and Ceylon In the reign of Vimalaldhammasuriya-II. Both refer to the arrival of the Sinhalese envoys in Rakkhingapura 29 and to how the Arakanese monks restored the Buddhist Sangha and established the religion in Ceylon. During the reign of King of MSrupiya (1696-1697), King of Ceylon, Vimaladhammasuriya-II sent a mission to Rakkharigapura. After receiving the message from Sihalese mission. King Marupiya selected Ven. Indamanju, the monk-in-charge of Sattathana monastery and Ven. Nandichakka, the priest of Laung-krat monastery, and sent forty Arakanese monks led by two venerable ones to Ceylon in 1696. 30 When they arrived they were received with great honour and the Upasampada ordination was held under the leadership of Nandichakka in the Udakukkhepasima on the Mahava1uka ganga or Mahali ganga at Getambe near Peradeniya in 1696. 31 Several members the royal and noble families were ordained. Thus Shalese Buddhist Sangha was restored by Buddhist monks from Arakan and they help the higher ordination in Ceylon.

A manuscript 32 recording the religious intercourse between Arakan Ceylon, was discovered at the Kadadora Vihra in Gannave Korale of Udahevahata in the district of Nuvara EIiya in the central province of Ceylon. The Chulavamsa, however, does not make any Reference to Ven. Chandavilasa, but only to Ven. Nandichakka. 33 The Suluupajavaliya mentions the names of both Theras.

In the 16th centuries, when Buddhist Ceylon had suffered severally as a result of internal trouble and foreign occupation, Arakan helped Ceylon to re-establ sh and reslore religious ceremonies and higher ordination in Ceylon. At present, TheravSda Buddhism of Ceylon is being spread widely in the world and Sihalese Buddhists have set up famous Buddhist study centres in Ceylon. The Mahabodhi Society originating in Ceylon has become the famous Buddhist Research Centre in the Buddhist world.

7. Dipavamsa, Vol. vii. Pp.18, 19, xii, 39-45
Mahavamsa, vol. v.p.195
8. W.Rahula, History of Buddhism in Ceylon, 1966, p.52
9. Mahavamsa vol. xxxiii. p.18
10. W. Rahula, W.Rahula, History of Buddhism in Ceylon, 1966, p.85
11. Vibhanga Attahakatha, p.52
12. Mahavamsa, xxxiii. Pp. 100-101
Dipavamsa, xx. P.45
13. Rakhaing Magazine, vol. iv. 1977, p.132
14. Rakhaingprenephitsaing Thamainghma, vol. i. 1984. P. 112
15. K.L. Hazra, History of Theravada Buddhism in South-East Asia, 1982. P.84
16. Rakhaingprenephitsaing Thamainghma, vol. i. 1984. P. 120
17. Rakhaing Magazine, vol.iv. 1977. P. 132
18. E.I. evbiii. 1925. P. 333
19. Ahin Candamalalinkara, Rakhaing Razawenthit Kyam, vol. i. 1931. P.347
20. K.L. Hazra, History of Theravada Buddhism in South-East Asia, 1982. P.89
21. Ahin Candamalalinkara, Rakhaing Razawenthit Kyam, vol. ii. 1931. P.31
22. D.C.E. Hall, Burma, 1950. P.46
23. D.G.E.Hall, History of South-East Asia, 1924. P.251
24. ibid. p.146
25. Ahin Candamalalinkara, Rakhaing Razawenthit Kyam, vol. ii. 1931. P.146
26. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of Royal Asiatic Society, vol.ii. 1952
27. Rakhangapura means “Arakan” or “Rakahing”.
28. Rakhaingprephitsaing Thamainghma, vol.i. 1984. P. 124
29. Chulavamsa, xciv. P.15-16
Sasanavamsa, p.27
30.Rakhaing Magazine, vol.iv. 1977. P. 133
31. Chulavamsa, xciv. P.15
32. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of Royal Asiatic Society, vol.ii. 1952 . p.157
33. Chulavamsa, xciv. P.15

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