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    Arrivals and revivals of Buddhism

    June 15, 2019

    The next important event after Vesak that the Buddhists celebrate is Poson. It is generally accepted, and history records, that Arahant Mahinda brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC during King Devanampiyatissa’s regime. According to Buddhist scriptures, or chronicles, there had been 27 Buddhas prior to Gautama Buddha. The line begins with Thanhakara Buddha. All the Buddhas had visited Sri Lanka and the inhabitants had followed Buddhism.

    In fact, Gautama Buddha has visited Sri Lanka on three occasions and transformed four major clans: Yaksa, Naga, Deva and Raksha. It is said that during King Ravana’s rule, Buddhism flourished and the Buddha at that time was Konagama.

    In a Sinhala book written by Dr Mirando Obeysekera, titled ‘The heritage of Emperor Ravana Regime‘, supported by the famous western scholar Sir William Jones, we find a reference to Lankawathara Sutta. The sutta brings light upon King Ravana who lived at the time of Buddha Konagama and he had organised a ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the Buddha (Konagama) and embraced Buddhism along with the then inhabitants.

    It will, therefore, be seen, that Buddhism existed in Sri Lanka long before the arrival of Arahant Mahinda but had faded away from time to time. Yet with the emergence of new Buddhas, Buddhism revived. Hence the claim that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Arahant Mahinda appears to be historically inaccurate. Rather, Buddhism was revived in Sri Lanka on the arrival of Arahant Mahinda.

    The next question, though may appear not relevant to Poson, is if every Buddha preached the same Dhamma in line with the first Buddha, named Thanhakara, or improved on it from time to time by the Buddhas who emerged later.

    If that is the case, what is taught by Gautama Buddha will be improved by the future Buddha, named Maithri. Whatever the case, enlightenment is Enlightenment. It is the ultimate wisdom and there cannot be any change.

    The account of previous Buddhas and Buddhas to come is questionable. What is taught by Gautama Buddha will stand the test of time for scientists to merge and call Buddhism a science to unravel the mysteries of life and universe unquestionable and accepted. It will never fade away as some venerable Buddhist monks tend to believe.

    A piece of advice heard quite often nowadays is to enjoy the lay life and try to attain enlightenment under the supervision of Maithri Buddha.

    This is a defeatist’s attitude which should be stopped by sincere Buddhist monks and lay patrons. Who will spearhead this task? Perhaps another Anagarika Dharmapala is yet to be born or spring up one from among the present living.

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