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Sunday, 5 April 2009

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Buddha's visit to Nagadeepa

Bak poya falls on April 9 :

As the historical records reveal the Buddha's second visit to Sri Lanka had taken place during the month of Bak more than two thousand five hundred and ninety years ago.


Nagadeepa Vihara

As mentioned in the Mahavamsa, in the fifth year (523 B.C) of Supreme Enlightenment, the Buddha had visited Nagadeepa in Lankadeepa (Sri Lanka) to settle a dispute between Mahodara and Chulodara -uncle and nephew who were at war with each other over a gem studded throne.

During the Buddha's stay Jethawana he saw in his Divine Eye the disaster about to take place in Nagadeepa and arrived there on Bak Amawaka Poya day (fifteen days prior to Bak Full Moon Poya Day).

History

Mahodara was then a mighty king in Nagadeepa (a Naga-kingdom in the ocean that covered five hundred `yojanas'. His younger sister, Thirachchika was married to a Naga King of the Vaddhamana mountain.

Chulodara was their son.

Thirachchika's father gave her one of his most valuable jewels- a gem-studded throne before his death.

Mahodara had been displeased with this from the beginning and his anger grew worse when the throne was owned by Thirachchika's son in the end. Mahodara decided to declare war against Chulodara, his nephew.

Nagadeepa Stupa

A Deva named Samiddhi Sumana who dwelt in Rajayatana tree (a Banyan tree) in Jethawana too had joined the Buddha during his visit to Nagadeepa, the Mahavamsa reveals.

The Deva in fact had uprooted the tree and had held it like a parasol over the Buddha! The Buddha had made no objections as he knew that the god had lived in Nagadeepa in one of his previous births. In an another birth he had seen Paccekabuddhas taking their meals under the same Kiripalu tree. The sight made him happy and he offered them leaves to cleanse their alms bowls.

The merit was strong enough for him to be born in the same tree in the Jetawana Garden as a god. The Buddha brought him to Lankadeepa together with the tree as he knew that the tour will benefit him immensely.

As the Buddha arrived in Nagadeepa the Nagas were about to declare war. The Buddha hovered there in mid-air above the venue and in order to alarm the Nagas called forth dread darkness over the battle-ground.

Next the Buddha had spread light abroad in order to comfort those who were in distress and anxiety.

The Nagas were overwhelmed by happiness to see the Buddha who was hovering in mid-air. They raised their hands and worshipped the Enlightened One. He then preached to the Nagas in order to make them understand the evils of hatred.

The Buddha narrated to them Jathaka stories like Karkoluka, Pandana, Latukika, Wattaka which showed the evils of hatred and the importance of living in harmony. Chulodara and Mahodara discarded their weapons , and offered the gem studded throne to the Buddha. The Enlightened one who was in mid-air then alighted on the earth and sat on the throne.

The Mahavamsa finely describes how the Nagas offered him dhana.

Thousands of Nagas established themselves in the three refuges (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha) and in the moral precepts.

Naga king Maniakkhika of Kelaniya who was the uncle of Mahodara (mother's brother) too was among the ones who came to participate in the battle.

In fact Maniakkhika had become established in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (three refuges) and in the moral precepts during the Buddha's first visit to Sri Lanka- to Mahiyangana. The Naga -king who was overwhelmed by the Buddha's power of compassion thanked him profusely for settling down the dispute which otherwise would cost millions of lives.

"The Compassion you showed is great". He told the Buddha. "Thatagatha, we would have all been consumed to ashes had not the Buddha intervened. May your compassion yet light also specially on me". Thus Maniakkika slowly revealed his intention of seeing the Buddha visiting his kingdom in Kelaniya if he intends to visit the country again. The Buddha remained silent and it indicated that he had accepted the invitation.

The Naga King then asked for an object of worship and as a result the Buddha gave over the Rajayathana tree and the gem studded throne to him to do homage. Historical records state that Maniakkikha planted the Rajayathana tree on that very spot as a sacred memorial.

"Since the Thathagatha has used these two, paying homage to them will bring about blessings and happiness" the Buddha had told the Nagas before returning to Jethawana on the same, Bak Amawaka poya day. Nagadeepa Stupa was constructed by Chulodara and Mahodara and it is still there in Nagadeepa in Jaffna district.

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