The arrival of Arhat Mahinda from Janbudipa to Sinhaladipa or Lankadipa is no stray incident. The “Mahindagamana” is not a bolt from the blues.
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 Idha gata
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 Bhikkhu.
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 earlier.
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 youngest brother.
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 Buddha.
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 exhorts:
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 Uyana.