Friday, August 8, 2008

The Great Chronicle (click banner)
The Mahavamsa
The Mahavamsa, otherwise known as the “Great Chronicle,” is the single most important work of Sri Lankan origin (written in the Pali language). It describes the life and times of the people who forged the island nation, from the coming of Vijaya in 543 BCE to the reign of King Mahasena (334–361) (6th cent. BC to 4th cent. AD). A companion volume, the Culavamsa (“Lesser Chronicle”), covers the period from the 4th cent. to the British takeover in 1815.

The Mahavamsa is comprised of three parts, all written at different times in Sri Lankan history. The combined work, sometimes collectively referred to as the “Mahavamsa” provides an unbroken historical record of over two millennia and is considered the world’s longest continuous history. Buddhist monks of the Mahavihara maintained this Sri Lankan historical record starting from 3rd cent. B.C., somewhat similar to a modern-day diary. These records were combined and compiled into a single document in the 5th cent. CE by the great Buddhst elder Mahanama.

Earlier documents known as the “Dipavamsa” were also handed down and are much simpler with less information than the Mahavamsa, probably compiled relying on a text also used by Mahanama.

Overall, the Great Chronicle has over 200,000 words and about 960 pages. The first part (Chapters 1-37) is the Mahavamsa, the second part (Chapters 38-79) the Culavamsa Part 1, and the third and final part (Chapters 80-101) the Culavamsa Part 2.
The Lankavatara and Mahavamsa
Text by

According to the same Sri Lanka (an ancient map of which is pictured at left, showing the island at the southern tip of India)record, in this land of Theravada practitioners, another Buddhist center named Abhayagiri Monastery (Vihara) was built by King Vattagamini Abhaya (B.C. 29-17), at the site of a Jain temple, in the town of Anuradhapura (XIX).
The Dipavamsa closes its record of the royal lineage of Sri Lanka with the description of how King Mahasena (A.D. 334-361) died under the influence of "the shameless, evil monks" of this Abhayagiri Monastery and had to receive consequences for a lifetime of evil conduct, and it warns readers to avoid such evil people as beings who are like snakes (XXII).

The Dipavamsa is considered to have been compiled between A.D. 361, the year King Mahasena died, and 429, the year Buddhaghosa [the most famous commentator who compiled perhaps the most famous meditation instruction manual, The Path of Purification], who had come from India to live near the Mahavihara [the "Great Monastery," pictured at left] in Anuradhapura, began writing a commentary on the disciplinary rules (Samanta-pasadika).

The other history book on Sri Lanka, the Mahavamsa, is said to have been compiled around the middle or end of the 5th cent. with the purpose of refining and supplementing the Dipavamsa.

According to this newer record, Mahayana studies and practice at Abhayagiri Monastery were conducted in a critical manner against the Theravada way of thinking represented by the practitioners at the Mahavihara. The latter hated the former so much that they tried removing the Mahayanists by means of political power. In the Mahavamsa "Mahayana" was called "Vetulyavada" (Vaipulya or Vitanda):

(1) King Voharikatissa (A.D. 269-291): "Suppressing the Vetulya-doctrine, and keeping heretics in check by his minister Kapila, he made the true doctrine to shine forth in glory" (XXXVI. 41).

(2) King Gothabhaya (Meghavannabhaya, A.D. 309-322): "He seized bhikkhus dwelling in Abhayagiri Monastery, 60 in number, who had turned to the Vetulya-doctrine [Mahayana Buddhism] and were like a thorn in the doctrine of the Buddha, and when he had excommunicated them, he banished them to the further coast" (XXXVI. 111,112).

In A.D. 410-411, Faxian, a Chinese monk, who had left China in 399 to seek Vinaya texts [books explaining the disciplinary rules and their origins], and who had made long travels by land, stayed in Sri Lanka for two years. He then returned by sea with Buddhist texts on board a ship, and back home wrote down a detailed record of the travels for himself (Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 51, No. 2085). According to this record, five thousand monks in Anuradhapura were abiding in the Abhayagiri Monastery, and for ninety days annually the Buddha's teeth were carried from the Temple of the Tooth to the Abhayagiri Monastery to receive people's offerings. In the Mahavihara Temple Complex three-thousand monks were abiding.

The English translator ( surmises that the Lankavatara Sutra was compiled at Abhayagiri Monastery some time between A.D. 411 (when Faxian left Lanka for home) and 435 (when Gunabhadra reached China, possibly bringing the Sanskrit text from Sri Lanka).... Read more
Sources: (Theravada), (photos),

1 comment:

zen said...

The record shows that Jain Dharm was already flourishing at Anuradhapuram,SRILANKA.Abhayagiri monestry is originally a jain temple.Poor Jains are unaware of this facts.