article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa’,
the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
The final blow to Mahavihara
1. King Mahasen was seated relaxing, when Rev. Sanghamitta came
there. By this time, he was moving about freely in the palace. As
soon as the king saw the monk, he stood up and ordered one of his
men to prepare a seat for Rev. Sanghamitta. Then the king asked
the priest whether it was on a special mission that he was there,
to see the king. Rev. Sanghamitta replied, “Yes O’ King.
It is an important mission”.
The king in surprise asked what it was. “O’ King, there
is no one residing in Mahavihara now. It is completely abandoned”.
Then the king said that he too got the same news. The priest then
added, “There are very valuable items in the Mahavihara. There
was no one to claim ownership. In a country, whatever is not claimed
by any of the subjects, becomes the king’s property”.
Then the king asked him what he expected the king to do about it.
Rev. Sanghamitta replied saying, “You need not worry over
it. You can give me permission to take all that to the Abhayagiri
Vihara”. The king then told him that he did not need permission
from him. Instead he could do whatever he deemed necessary with
the valuable items in the Mahavihara. Rev. Sanghamitta then went
on to say, “No, King. It is not as simple as you think. The
Mahavihara is closed and locked up. If we were to take anything,
we would have to break it open”.
“So, what am I to do?”, asked the king. “To get
it done, I need some reliable people”, said the monk. King
Mahasen replied thus. “You inform my minister Sona. He will
bring a crowd and do it for you”. “Very well, said the
monk and took his leave. He left the palace and went to meet the
minister Sona. He told the minister what he wanted”.
The minister Sona, promised to get the job done. He even fixed a
date to accomplish the task. Rev. Sanghamitta then went back to
Abhayagiri Vihara. Days passed and the day fixed for the job dawned.
Minister Sona came to the Mahavihara premises, with a crowd of men.
Rev. Sanghamitta too had arrived there, quite early in the day.
The monk advised the men how the doors should be broken open.
Accordingly, the men who were armed with iron-bars and other tools,
first broke open the main door. It took a long time. Once the door
was open the monk and the minister Sona, entered the Mahavihara,
which was a seven-storeyed building. Minister Sona got his men to
open the doors of all the seven storeys. On each floor one could
see a lot of valuable items. Gem-studded items of gold were in the
Rev. Sanghamitta wanted all these items to be taken to Abhayagiri
Vihara. Minister Sona and his men did accordingly. Meanwhile, Meghavarna,
the Chief Minister, who was a devout Buddhist, detested what was
going on. For quite some time he had been against King Mahasen’s
attitude towards Mahavihara. He had tolerated for so long, because
the king happened to be his good friend from childhood.
Meghavarna could not tolerate it any further. There were many other
ministers who were against the king, regarding his hostile attitude
to Mahavihara. Many village chieftains too added to this number.
One of the queens of King Mahasen too was in this crowd of protesters.
They had a secret discussion to save the king from the grip of Rev.
Sanghamitta and put a stop to the division of the Sangha.
By Halaliye Karunathilake
Edited and translated by