Thai Prime Minister and Royal family member grace the 260th Upasampada ceremony This year, the Upasampada (Higher Ordination) of the samanera (student monks) is being held from May 24 with the Vesak Poya until Poson Poya which falls on June 23. Of the five Upasampada ceremonies two were held on May 24 and 31, and [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

From Siam to Lanka: Continuing a hallowed Buddhist ritual


Thai Prime Minister and Royal family member grace the 260th Upasampada ceremony

This year, the Upasampada (Higher Ordination) of the samanera (student monks) is being held from May 24 with the Vesak Poya until Poson Poya which falls on June 23. Of the five Upasampada ceremonies two were held on May 24 and 31, and the others will be held on June 5, 16 and 23. This year it is the 260th Upasampada, which was revived by Ven. Upali Maha Thera from Siam (now Thailand), who came to the island in 1735. It is significant that a member of the Thai Royal family and the Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra visited the Sri Dalada Maligawa on May 31 for the Upasampada.

Scenes from the Upasampada ceremony on May 29 when the writer visited the Malwatu Maha Viharaya

Malwatu Viharadhivasi Karaka Sangha Sabhika Ven Dehideniye Sri Siddhartha Ratanasara Thera spoke to the Sunday Times of the efforts taken by Welivita Saranankara Sangharaja Thera to revive Higher Ordination in the island. As there were no Theras to conduct Higher Ordination in the island at that time, Welivita Saranankara Sangharaja Thera informed King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe of the need to revive Higher Ordination and to obtain assistance from abroad.

The King duly sent the first delegation to Burma with his request but the mission was unsuccessful due to a shipwreck. The second group sent to Siam also did not succeed in their mission. But on the third occasion, the King of Siam in Ayodya sent Ven.Upali Maha Thera with 22 Upasampada Theras and four Samaneras. The samaneras were brought to show how a Higher Ordination was conducted in Siam. They arrived at Trincomalee and were brought to the Godapola Viharaya in Matale Kanda Nuwara.

Ven Sri Siddhartha Ratanasara Thera stated that this was most probably because one member in the group would have been from Matale. For one whole month they lived there, teaching the bhikkhus to cut and sew sivuru (robes) and how to conduct an Upasampada. Thereafter, they were brought to Katugastota, Veheragantota, where the King himself had gone to receive them. They continued their journey to the Raja Sabha Salawa ( Audience Hall) in the King’s Malwatte (flower garden) on Esala Poya in 1753.

There were six samaneras who received Higher Ordination, the first being Poyamalu Vihara Gananayake Kobbekaduwa Samanera. The others were Asgiri Vihara Gananayake Navinne Samanera, Welivita Saranankara Samanera (who was 55 years), Hulangamuwe Samanera, Bambaradeniye Samanera and Thibbatuwawe Samanera. Later, as there were more samaneras to be ordained, Ven Upali Maha Thera decided to have the Upasampada every year from Vesak Poya to Poson Poya, which custom still continues.
During this period there are many Higher Ordination ceremonies but on Poya days, one particular novice was selected by the Sangha and the King sponsored his education, robes and other expenses.

On the day of the Higher Ordination, the samaneras have to wear the Thuppottiya (dress worn by the Kandyan Nilames) sans the jacket, with lots of jewellery. In addition to the Thuppottiya, they have a cone-shaped cloth tied on their head. The selected novice is conducted in a perahera seated on an elephant and when he reaches the Sri Dalada Maligawa, a crown which is similar to the crown of the King of Siam is placed on his head. Earlier, the King himself had placed the crown on the Head of the Wahala Naga. Ven Siddhartha Ratanasara Thera stated that at present the Diyawadana Nilame of the Sri Dalada Maligawa or in his absence, the Kariyakarawana Korale performs this duty. The perahera then returns to the Malwatu Maha Viharaya for the Upasampada ceremony. When he visited Thailand, and witnessed an Upasampada, the samanera was conducted in procession seated on a horse, he added.

When the Sunday Times visited the Malwatu Maha Viharaya on May 29, there were three samaneras preparing themselves for their Higher Ordination. They were with their family members for the last time as a lay person. At this stage the samanera does not have a lay name or a Sangha name and is called Naga.

The Upasampada ceremony is conducted in the Poyage by the Upadyaya (teacher) and two Karmacharyas. In the presence of the Upadyaya, as a layman the samanera repeats Pansil (the five precepts). He is then given the Paatraya (alms bowl), depota sivura, thanipota sivura and andana (all robes). He wears the robes and comes once again to the Seema Malaka, the consecrated area in the Poyage. Once again, he goes in front of the Upadyaya who ordains and makes him a dasasil bhikkhu after he recites the ten precepts. There are many senior Theras who are present at this ceremony. The two Karmacharyas (who recite the Karma Vakya) question the samanera on his knowledge of the Dhamma in the presence of the Sangha Sabha. If the Sangha Sabha accepts and approves, the Karmacharyas repeat the acceptance three times and the samanera receives Higher Ordination. The ceremony ends with the Anusasana by the Upadyaya and the Sangha Sabha chants pirith.

At the Secretariat adjoining the Poyage, the details of the Seemamalaka where the Higher Ordination took place, the names of the Upadyaya, Karmacharyas and the new name given to the Thera are entered in the Upasampada Kendraya (register) and the Ordained Thera signs it.

The significance of the Higher Ordination of the selected Samanera, the Wahala Naga is that the Mahanayake Thera himself attends the ceremony with the other Sangha.

The Asgiriya Maha Viharaya too conducts Upasampada in the same manner as the Malwatu Maha Viharaya. The Ven. Dehideniye Sri Siddhartha Ratnasara Thera stated that the name Siamopali Nikaya (sect) was a combination of the words Siam and Upali to honour the country and Ven. Upali Maha Thera who came from Siam to revive Upasampada. It was also stated that Upasampada was conducted during May and June because after that it is Vas, the rainy season, when the Theras have to be in their pansala.

Share This Post

comments powered by Disqus

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.