[The Chronicle of the Island]

XII. [The Coming of Mahinda]

Devānampiyatissa’s Coronation, 2nd telling

1. The (monarch) called Asoka sent (to Devānampiya) a chowrie, a turban, a sword, a royal parasol, slippers, a diadem, a ... of Sāra wood, an (anointing) vase, a right hand chank, –

2. a palanquin, a conch trumpet, water from the Ganges, a koṭi of clothes which are (cleansed by being passed through the fire) without being washed, a golden vessel and spoon, costly towels, –

3. a man’s load of water from the Anotatta lake, most precious yellow sandal wood, a measure of rouge, eye collyrium brought by the Nāgas, –

4. yellow and emblic myrobalan, costly Amata drugs, one hundred and sixty cart loads of fragrant hill paddy which had been brought by parrots; (all these things being) the rewards for his meritorious actions.

5. (Besides he sent the following message:) “I have taken my refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha; I have avowed myself a lay pupil of the Doctrine of the Sakyaputta.

6. Imbue your mind also with the faith in this triad, in the highest religion of the Jina, take your refuge in the Teacher.”

7. Doing honour (to Devānampiyatissa by) this (commission), Asoka the illustrious despatched the messengers to Devānampiya. [168] As the messengers had departed, –

8. many Theras who possessed the great (magical) powers addressed Mahinda, in the most excellent Asokārāma, out of compassion for the country of Laṅkā, (as follows:)

9. “The time has come to establish the Faith in the island of Laṅkā; go, most virtuous one, convert the island of Laṅkā.”

10. The wise and learned Mahinda, the enlightener of the island, having heard the speech of the Fraternity, consented together with his companions.

11. Adjusting his robe so as to cover one shoulder, raising his clasped hands, and saluting them with an inclination of the head, (be said:) “I go to the island of Laṅkā.”

12. The (prince) called Mahinda became then the chief of that number; Iṭṭhiya and the Thera Uttiya, Bhaddasāla and Sambala, –

13. and the novice Sumana who was possessed of the six (supernatural) faculties and of the great (magical) powers, those five great Theras being possessed of the (same) six (supernatural) faculties and great (magical) powers, departing from the Asokārāma went forth together with their retinue.

14. Wandering from place to place they reached Vedissagiri. They sojourned as long as they liked in the monastery of Vedissagiri.

15. Thera (Mahinda), having instructed his mother (in the doctrine of) the refuges, the moral precepts, and the Uposatha ceremonies, made the inhabitants of the island firm in the true faith and in the religion.

16. (Once) in the evening, Thera Mahinda, the great teacher, retiring into solitude, reflected whether the time would be favourable or unfavourable (for the conversion of Laṅkā).

17. Perceiving the thought of the Thera, Sakka the chief of gods appeared to the Thera, and thus addressed him face to face:

18. “The time has come to thee, great hero, to convert Laṅkādīpa; go quickly to the best of islands out of compassion for created beings.

19. Go to the most excellent Laṅkādīpa, preach the Dhamma to created beings; proclaim the four Truths, release men from the fetters (of sin); –

20. make illustrious the doctrine of the supreme Buddha in Laṅkādīpa. Thy (advent) [169] has been foretold by the Chief (of the Faith); the fraternity of Bhikkhus has elected thee –

21. and I shall do service to thee at thy arrival in Laṅkādīpa and perform all that is necessary; it is time for thee to depart.”

22. Having heard the speech of Sakka, Mahinda, the enlightener of the island, reflected (thus): “Bhagavat has rightly prophesied about me, the fraternity of Bhikkhus has elected me, –

23. and Sakka has exhorted me; I shall establish the Faith; I will go to Tambapaṇṇi; subtle is the people of Tambapaṇṇi, –

24. (yet) they have not heard of the well proclaimed path which leads to the destruction of all suffering. I shall proclaim it to them; I shall go to the island of Laṅkā.”

25. Mahinda, the son of Asoka, who well knew the time and the season, having resolved to go to Laṅkā, told his companions (to come). Mahinda was the chief of that number; there were (then) his four fellow pupils, –

26. the novice Sumana, and the lay-disciple Bhaṇḍuka. To these six men who were endowed with the six (supernatural) faculties, (Mahinda) who possessed the great (magical) powers, thus made known (his intention):

27. “Let us go now to the extensive, most excellent island of Laṅkā, let us convert many people and establish the Faith.”

28. Expressing their assent (by exclaiming:) “Be it so”, they all were joyful. (They added:) “It is time, venerable sir, let us go to the mountain called Missaka; the king (Devānampiyatissa) is just leaving the town in order to hunt.”

29. Sakka, the chief of the gods, was delighted and addressed Thera Mahinda who had retired into solitude, with the following speech:

30. “Venerable sir, Bhagavat has given this prediction about thee: In future times the Bhikkhu Mahinda will convert the island, he will propagate the religion of the Jina, he will set on foot there the kingdom of Righteousness, he will deliver created beings from great pain, and will establish them on firm ground, he will act for the welfare of many people, for the joy of many people, out of compassion for the world, for the good, for the welfare, and for the joy of gods and men.” [170]

31. Thus Bhagavat has indicated thee, and now, at the present time, the Thera and the Bhikkhus have charged thee with the conversion of the island. It is time, great hero, to convert the island; the hour has come, great hero, to convert the island; upon thee this task has devolved; bear this burden, convert Tambapaṇṇi, propagate the religion of the Jina. I am thy obedient pupil who gets up before thee and walks behind thee.”

32. (Mahinda replied:) “I accept what Bhagavat, our Teacher, has said; I will save Tambapaṇṇi, I will show the light (to the island) and cause the splendour of the Jina to increase. (Tambapaṇṇi) is covered and enclosed by the overclouding darkness of ignorance and of (worldly) existence; it is ruined by envy and selfishness; it cannot rise from the delusions which are produced by the fault of idleness; it has entered on a wrong way and goes far astray from the true path; it is exhausted; high born people have become (as it were) people covered with sores, and have become (feeble like) Muñja or Babbaja grass. Tambapaṇṇi has entirely been subdued by obstacles and passions in consequence of the obscurity of error and of the darkness of ignorance and of (worldly) existence; it is covered, pervaded, veiled, overshadowed, and girt round with that great darkness, the obscurity of error.

33. I shall destroy the darkness of error and throw light on all Tambapaṇṇi, I shall cause to shine the religion of the Jina.” Being thus exhorted by Vāsavinda, the chief of gods, by such a speech, he rose up from his solitude, and having attained to the fullness of resolve, he thus asked for the assent of the fraternity of Bhikkhus:

34. “Let us go to Tambapaṇṇi; the people of Tambapaṇṇi are subtle; (yet) they have not heard of the well proclaimed path which leads to the destruction of all suffering. I shall proclaim it to them, I shall go to the island of Laṅkā.”

35. Having resided thirty days on the delightful hill of Vedissa, (they reflected thus:) “It is now time to start; let us go to the best of islands.”

36. They flew through the air from Jambudīpa, as the king of swans flies in the [171] air. Having thus risen, the Theras alighted on the best of mountains (Missaka).

37. To the east of the most excellent town (Anurādhapura), on the cloud-like mountain they stationed themselves, on the top of Missaka, as swans (alight) on the summit of a hill.

38. The (Thera) called Mahinda was then the chief of that fraternity; Iṭṭhiya, Thera Uttiya, Bhaddasāla, and Sambala, –

39. the novice Sumana, and the lay-pupil Bhaṇḍuka, all these possessing the great (magical) powers, were the converters of Tambapaṇṇi.

40. The Thera, rising into the air as the king of swans rises to the sky, stationed himself to the east of the most excellent town on the cloud-like mountain, –

41-42. on the top of Missaka, as swans (alight) on the summit of a hill. At that time Devānampiyatissa, the son of Muṭasīva, was king and ruler of Tambapaṇṇi. The eighteenth year had elapsed since the coronation of Asoka, –

43. and full seven months since the coronation of Tissa, when Mahinda, twelve years (after his Upasampadā ordination), arrived in this island from Jambudīpa.

44. In the last month of summer, on the full moon day of the month Jeṭṭha, under the asterisms Anurādha and Jeṭṭha, Mahinda at the head of his companions arrived on mount Missaka.

45. The king, going a-hunting, (also) came to mount Missaka. A god who had assumed the form of an elk appeared to the king.

46. The king, seeing the elk, quickly rushed on him and running behind him he came to a place enclosed by hills.

47. There the Yakkha disappeared near the Thera; seeing the Thera sitting there, the king was frightened.

48. (The Thera reflected:) “As the king is alone, he shall see also me alone lest he should be frightened; when his troops have come up, then he may see the Bhikkhus (also).”

49. Thera (Mahinda) saw the prince, the protector of the earth, who appeared like a wicked person, going to hunt; he called him by the name of that prince: “Come hither, Tissa”, thus he then addressed him.

50. (The king thought thus:) “Who is that solitary, bald-headed man without companion, wearing a yellow garment and wrapped in a mantle, who addresses [172] me in the language of non-human beings?”

51. (Mahinda replied:) “I whom you ask, o prince, o protector of the earth, am a Samaṇa belonging to the world of men. We are Samaṇas, great king, pupils of the king of Truth; out of compassion towards thee we have repaired hither from Jambudīpa.”

52. The king laid aside his weapons and seated himself by the side (of Mahinda); having seated himself, the king exchanged greetings with words full of deep meaning.

53. Having heard the speech of the Thera, be laid aside his weapons; then be approached the Thera, exchanged greetings with him, and sat down.

54. Gradually the ministers and the troops also arrived; fourty thousand men in number they surrounded (the king and the Theras).

55. When the troops had come up, the king perceived the (other) seated Theras (and asked:) “Are there many other Bhikkhus, pupils of the universal Buddha?”

56. “There are many disciples of Buddha, versed in the threefold science, possessed of the (magical) powers, well acquainted with the exposition of the qualities of mind, who have subdued their passions and reached Arahatship.”

57. After having ascertained by means of the Amba parable that this victorious king was a clever person, (Mahinda) preached to him the most excellent Hatthipada Sutta. Ed. note: Either MN 27: Cūḷahatthipadopama or MN 28: Mahāhatthipadopama.

58. When they had heard that most excellent (portion of the) Doctrine, these forty thousand men took their refuge (with Buddha), like a wise man in whose mind faith has arisen.

59. Then the king, glad, highly delighted and joyful, addressed the fraternity of Bhikkhus: “Let us proceed to the town, my capital.”

60. Quickly (Mahinda) converted the pious, learned and wise king called Devānam(piya) together with his army.

61. Hearing what the king said, Mahinda replied: “Go you, great king; we shall stay here.”

62. When he had sent away the king, Mahinda, the enlightener of the island, addressed the fraternity of Bhikkhus: “Let us confer the Pabbajjā ordination on Bhaṇḍuka.”

63. Having heard what the Thera said, they all quickly turning their thoughts (towards [173] that object) examined the village boundary and conferred the Pabbajjā ordination on Bhaṇḍuka. At the same time he received the Upasampadā ordination and attained Arahatship.

64. The Thera standing on the top of the mountain said to the charioteer: The king had sent his chariot the next morning for bringing the Theras to the town; see Mahāv., p.81. “Nay, a chariot is not suitable (to us); the Tathāgata has rejected (its use).”

65. Having sent away the charioteer, the Theras who had subdued their senses and possessed the great (magical) powers, started through the air, as the king of swans (rises) to the sky. Descending from the sky, they alighted on the ground.

66. When the charioteer saw them who put on their under garments and dressed themselves in their robes, he joyfully went to tell the king.

67. When the king had (first) despatched the charioteer, he had thus addressed his ministers: “Erect a pavilion in the town within the precincts of the palace.

68. The princes and princesses, the queens, and the women of the harem who desire to meet them, may see the Theras who have arrived.”

69. The high-born ministers, after having heard the speech of the king, constructed in the middle of the precincts of the palace a pavilion canopied with cloth.

70. A canopy was spread, a clean, white and spotless cloth; it was decorated with flags and shells, and adorned with white strips of cotton.

71. White sand was scattered, well mixed with white flowers; (such was) the white, decorated hall, similar to the snowy regions (of the skies).

72. Having decorated the hall with entirely white cloth and having made the floor level, they spoke to the king:

73. “The well constructed, beautiful hall, great king, is completed; choose now, Sire, seats which are suitable for ascetics.”

74. At that moment the charioteer arrived announcing to the king: “A chariot, Sire, is not suitable for the Bhikkhu fraternity to sit down (therein).

75. O wonderful. Sire! all the Theras who possess the great (magical) powers, first remained behind me after having sent me away, (but now) [174] they have arrived before me.

76. A high seat and a great seat are not suitable for the Bhikkhus; order a carpet (for them); the Theras approach.”

77. The king, delighted at hearing the speech of the charioteer, went forth to meet the Theras, and having saluted, he exchanged greetings (with them).

78. Taking the alms-bowls of the Theras and honouring them with perfumed garlands, the prince together with the Theras arrived at the gate of the royal palace.

79. The Thera, having entered the hall in the interior apartments of the king, saw the floor strewn (as above described) and the seat covered with cloth.

80. They sat down on the seats prepared for them which were covered with cloth. When they had seated themselves, the king gave them water, rice-gruel and food, –

81. and served to them with his own hands a most excellent meal. When the Thera had finished his meal and removed his hand from the bowl, –

82. (the king) addressed queen Anulā together with the women of the interior apartments: “You know the opportunity, queen; it is time to pay your respects to them (the Theras).”

83. Queen Anulā, surrounded by five hundred girls, bowed to the Theras and honoured them to her heart’s content.

84. Having approached the Theras and saluted them, she sat down. (Mahinda) preached to them the Dhamma; the great teacher exposed the fearful Peta stories, –

85-86. the Vimāna stories, the Saccasaṁyutta. Ed. note: SN 56. When they had heard that most excellent (portion of the) Doctrine, princess Anulā and her five hundred attendants, like a wise man (?) in whose mind faith has arisen, attained the reward of Sotāpatti; this was the first case of the attainment (of a stage of sanctification which occurred in Laṅkā).