3rd June 2001

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Arahat Mahinda's gift to Sri Lanka

Pioneer educationist Marie Musaeus Higgins wrote this account of the significance of Poson poya

The very important event which occurred on the Full Moon Day of Poson Maase (June) is the coming of the Thera Mahinda to Lanka. The Thera Mahinda was the son of the great Buddhist King Asoka (Dhammasoka) of Maghada in Jambudwipa (India).

King Asoka who was an ally and friend of the King of Lanka, Devanam-piyatissa, wished that he should become a Buddhist as himself. So Asoka asked his son Mahinda, who was a great Buddhist Arahat, to go to Lanka and preach the Dhamma to King Tissa and his people. Asoka spoke to Mahinda and his Theras thus: "Ye shall found in the lovely Island of Lanka the wonderful Religion of the Conqueror (Lord Buddha)".

Mahinda was to take with him the Theras Itthiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Baddasale. Mahinda had been for twelve years a monk at the time when King Asoka commanded him to go to Lanka.

Mahinda decided to visit his relatives first, before leaving India for Lanka, as he was sure that once there he would remain in Lanka till the end of his incarnation. So Mahinda preached to his relatives in India for six months and he visited his Mother Asandimitra and his Sister Sanghamitta (who was a nun).

He took besides the four Theras (a Buddhist monk who possesses the Iddhis), Sanghamitta's son the Samanera (a Buddhist monk who has not been fully ordained - a Novice), Sumana (mighty in the six supernormal powers) and the lay disciple Bhalluka with him and on the Full Moon Day of Poson Maase they rose into the air and alighted on the Mihintale Mountain in Lanka (about seven miles distant from Anuradhapura, the capital of Lanka). Here they waited for King Tissa who was just then on a hunting expedition and quite near. King Tissa saw a deer grazing at the foot of the Mihintale Mountain.

He sounded his bow-string, in order not to attack the deer when it was feeding, and when the deer took flight, the King chased it up the Mountain, and it ran to the place where Mahinda and His Theras were standing. It is said that this deer was really not a deer, but the Devaputra (the Deva-guardian of the mountain) of the mountain who had taken the shape of a spotted deer in order to guide King Tissa to the mountain to the Thera Mahinda.

When the Deva had accomplished this task, he, in the shape of the deer, disappeared and King Tissa saw to his astonishment the yellow-robed Mahinda standing there in the place of the spotted deer (Mahinda's six companions were not visible at the time, so as not to frighten the King).

Thera Mahinda called out to the King, after the latter had searched in vain for the deer: "Come here Tissa". More astonished than before was the King that the yellow-robed monk, whom he had never seen before, should know his name, and he thought at first that the yellow-robed monk must be a Yakka (a half demon who could change his shape whenever he liked). At that time Yakkas and Nagas (also half demons) are said to have lived in Lanka) in disguise. But he approached Mahinda and then the latter commenced a conversation with him which convinced him that this yellow-robed monk was a very learned man.

And the King's wise answers showed the Thera Mahinda that the King was ready to understand the new teachings which he had brought to him. King Tissa put his bow and arrow down, never to take them again for hunting and Mahinda said: "Out of compassion for you and your people we have come here." King Tissa then inquired whether there were more yellow-robed monks in Jambudwipa.

Mahinda showing now his six companions, said that the sky of Jambudwipa was glittering with yellow robes.

Mahinda now preached to King Tissa and his followers, who had come up the mountain by this time, his first sermon on "Conformity in Religion" and the king was so much impressed with the words of the wise Mahinda, that he invited the great Thera and his companions to his capital Anura-dhapura, where Mahinda began at once to teach the Dhamma.

Soon the whole Island of Lanka became Buddhistic, so convincing was the teaching of the first Missionary in Lanka.

King Tissa had the Island consecrated to Buddhism by Thera Mahinda and Buddhism became the religion of all Sinhalese over the whole Island (King Tissa and his subjects were Hindus by religion).

During his whole lifetime the Venerable Mahinda remained in Lanka, preaching and ordaining Sinhalese monks, and when he had completed his mission he passed into Pari-Nirvana. At the place where Mahinda and Devanampiyatissa first met, the successor of King Tissa, King Uttiya built the Ambastale Dagoba which stands yet on Mihintale Mountain and tell us about the great Thera Mahinda.

Even at the present day after two thousand years on the Full Moon Day of Poson maase, the event of Mahinda's "Coming to Lanka" and introducing Buddhism, is always spoken of because he was the first Buddhist Missionary and if it had not been for him the Sinhalese would never have known Buddhism.

Therefore let us think with love and gratitude of the Thera Mahinda, the son of the great King Asoka of India.

(From Poya Day)

A great reformer

By M.L. Harees

Meelad-un Nabi, the birthday of the holy prophet (OWBP) which falls on June 5 is an occasion voluntarily observed all over the Muslim world.

The life of prophet Muhammed spanning 63 years, was packed with lessons, directions, guidance and inspiration in every aspect of human life.

His early life was full of surprises. His father had died before he was born. Abdul Muthalib, his grandfather, took charge of him and placed him in the care of Halima, a Bedouin woman of the tribe of Banu Saad. His mother died when he was a boy of six. Costly education was not for him. He had no worldly privileges or advantages. He was brought up soberly and frugally, indeed it may be said that divine grace nurtured him. The desert was his playground.

He grew up hardy in body and strong in mind. Truthfulness and industry were his assets. He was in the prime of his youth when he attracted the attention of the good widow Kadija who was engaged in business. She proposed marriage to him and he accepted. Thus he took a widow as wife-a widow 15 years senior to him.

His family life was happy. He led a simple life. He observed the state of society at that time and regarded the many immodesties and immoralities of his kinsmen with keen disapproval. The frequent tribal clashes and family feuds were galling to him. The courtyard of Kaaba, which was the focal point for prayer to the Almighty, was polluted with idol worship and unethical practices. Young Muhammed (OWBP), himself was untouched by the vices of his age, but deeply concerned to see how they were raging unchecked.

The latter years of his life were eventful. He addressed himself to the task of reforming humanity. He set an outstanding example in his own private life. The startled Arabs tried to thwart him in his noble mission but his grim determination and unshaken faith in divine guidance, was adequate for him to carry his mission forward.

Immense was his contribution to the world's progressive thought. He placed all mankind on an equal footing. His life was full of examples of treating everyone with dignity and fairness, irrespective of their power and positions. When the Meccans arrive as exiles at Medina, (Hijrath), the new converts acclaim them as brothers and share with them their homesteads and fortunes. Such is the spirit of the brotherhood of Islam. Islam has beautifully arranged that Muslims meet one another. The daily congregational prayer, weekly Jumma prayer, Haj pilgrimage, where Muslims from all over kneel down before their Creator, without any differences of race or colour, all speak of this spirit. In the world today, when geographical limits define nations, when racial animosities are reasserting themselves, the need to bring back the spirit of such brotherhood is being felt more than ever.

As the temporal head of the Muslim commonwealth, Prophet Muhammed created an economic system, within which the creation and distribution of wealth were properly regulated. Entrepreneurial spirit was encouraged, while creating suitable safeguards to prevent the accumulation of too much wealth in the hands of a few individuals. He asserted that all the wealth belongs to Allah, and that man is only a trustee. Through the poor tax Zakath, and charity Sadaqa, he instilled in Muslims the need for magnanimity of heart and social consciousness.

He also led the way for the creation of a political system, which would ensure a righteous and well ordered society. He set up an ideal democracy in practice.

He raised the status of women. At a time when a girl child was regarded as a curse, Islam declared "Woman is the sovereign of your house-the same is due to her as is due from her".

The impetus he gave to education was incomparable. "Learning is compulsory for every Muslim male or female", he preached. Knowledge and learning were no longer the monopolies of priests or of a favoured class. The foundation to compulsory education, we talk of these days, was laid down by Islam several centuries ago.

Towards the end of his life, Muhammed (OWBP) had the satisfaction of achieving a full measure of success. He had a band of followers, close upon 124,000 at the time of his last sermon, which was at Mount Arafat. They were totally faithful unto death. The last sermon was, by any literary standards, a masterpiece, in which he exhorted his followers both present and yet to come, to shun all differences and promote brotherhood amongst them. He laid down rules of democracy and freedom, equality of sexes, and fair play. He left behind Islam, the final revealed religion of Allah.

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