Dipavamsa (study)

by Sibani Barman | 2017 | 55,946 words

This page relates ‘Ten Kings’ of the study on the Dipavamsa conducted by S. Barman in 2017. The Dipavamsa is the base material of the Vamsa literatures of Ceylon (Srilanka or Sri-Lanka) writtin the Pali language.

Chapter 4g - The Ten Kings

Saddhā-Tissa (137-119 B.C.), ascended the throne after Duṭṭhagāmaṇī. He was about one year younger than Duṭṭhagāmaṇī. When he was ten, he had to give words to his father that he would never fight against his brother. But after his father’s death, he seized the throne in absence of his elder brother. Then Saddha-Tissa was in charge of Dīghavāpī district. Duṭṭhagāmaṇī made war upon him but was defeated at Culanganiyapiṭṭhi.

Later, Dutthagamani returned with much stronger force and Saddha-Tissa had to take refuge in a monastery. Some young monks helped Saddha-Tissa to come out, carrying him on a bed covering up like a dead body. The elder brother understood the ruse but let them go. Godhāgatta-Tissa Thera, helped the two brothers to be reconciled, and there after they seem to have been devoted to one another.

After Gāmaṇī’s conquest of Anurādhapura, Tissa once again became the governor of Dīghavāpi. He achieved the epithet Saddhā or pious due to the meritorious works done by him for the propagation of Buddhism.

Number of stories are there centering him in the commentaries. When Gāmaṇī lay dying, Tissa was given the task of completing the work of the Mahāthūpa. He performed the task by means of temporary structures, cunningly deviced, to give comfort to his elder brother.He gladly repaired all the damages on the religious works inaugurated by his brother. He rebuilt the Lohapāsāda after it was burnt down, and erected many vihārasDakkhinagiri, Kalpakālena, Kalambaka, Pettangavalika, Velaṅgāviṭṭhika, Dubbalavāpitissaka, Duratissaka, Matuvihāraka and Dīghavāpi. He built a vihāra every yojana on the road from Anurādhapura to Dīghavāpi.

He had the sons named Lañjatissa, Thūllaṭhana, Khallāṭanāga and Vaṭṭagāmaṇi-Abhaya.

With the development of Buddhism in Sri-Lankā, the power of the Saṅgha went on increasing. People of Sri-Lanka started venerating the Bhikkhus as their living god. Bhikkhus also used their influence to help and support the kings who will abide by their wishes.There are examples of Bhikkhus to take an active part in bringing about settlements between political leaders and even selecting kings. Godhagatta-Tissa Thera settled the civil war between Duṭṭhagāmaṇī and his brother. Duṭṭhagāmaṇī blamed the Thera for not asking them to make peace earlier and further said that even a sāmaṇera of seven years could have stopped the war. The Saṅgha sometimes tried to influence political power selecting princes for the throne and supporting their favourites, sometimes going against the laws of succession. When Saddha-Tissa died, the ministers of state consecrated Thūllaṭṭhāna (fat-breast) (119 B.C.) in preference to Lajjā-tissa (the Lawful heir to the throne) with the direction of the Saṅgha who assembled at the Thūpārāma for the purpose. This interference was, however, exceptional and was greatly resented by the legitimate king. Thullaṭhana built the Kandara-vihāra and a Cetiya on the Sirisa-mālaka.

Lajjā-Tissa or Lañjā-Tissa or Lañjāka-Tissa (119-110 B.C.) killed Thullaṭṭhāna after one month, and ruled for nine years and fifteen days. At first he was very indifferent towards the monks, but later made amends.

He levelled the ground between the Thūpārāma and the Mahāthūpa (about four hundred yards away), made a stone mantling for the thūpa, and built a smaller thūpa to the east of it, near which he built the Lañjakāsanasālā. He built the Girikumbhila, Ariṭṭha and Kuñjarahinaka-vihāras, in addition to other good works.

Khallāṭanāga, the younger brother of Lañjaka-Tissa was the king of Ceylon (110-104 B.C.). He erected the Kuruṇḍavāsoka-Vihāra. He was killed by the gerenal Mahāraṭṭaka. Khallātanāga’s wife was Anulā and his son was Mahācuḷika.

Vaṭṭgāmaṇī Abhaya (104 B.C.), the son of Saddhā-Tissa, ascended the throne by killing the villainous commander Mahāraṭṭaka (Kammahāraṭṭaka). He married Anulā, wife of Khallāṭanāga and adopted Mahācūḷika as his own son. Since he had taken the place of a father, Vaṭṭagāmani came to be known as Pitirājā. Vattagamani had a second wife, Somadevī, and also a son of his own called Coranāga.

The period of Vaṭṭagāmaṇī-Abhaya, also known as Valagambahu is noteworthy in the early history of Buddhism in Sri-Lanka.Five months after his accession to the throne, a Brahmin named Tissa or Tiya of Rohaṇa declares war against him.

Meanwhile, seven Tamils from South India landed at Mahātittha (Mannar) with strong forces with the intention of conquring Anurādhapura. From the south to the north, the country was devastated on their way. The Damiḷas defeated the Brahmin Tissa at first then the king Vaṭṭagāmaṇī at Kolambalaka. Kolambalaka was near Titthārāma which was built by King Pāṇḍukābhaya, and was inhabitated under twenty-one kings’ constantly.

A remark made by the Nigaṇṭha Giri to Vaṭṭagāmaṇi, when he was fleeing from the battle, was the seed of the estsblishment of future Abhayagiri-vihāra. In his flight he left Somadevi behind to lighten the car with her own consent and gave her his dignified diadem-jewel (cūḷāmaṇi).

King Vaṭṭagāmaṇī lay in hiding in Vessagiri forest. Mahātissa Thera of Kupikkala vihāra saved the king’s life providing him food. As a bhikkhu it is not allowed to share his alms with a layman.He himself ate some of the food at first then offered the rest to the king (anāmaṭṭhaṃ piṇḍa dānam). The king out of gratitude alloted lands to his vihāra for the use of the Saṅgha, writing it on a ketaka-leaf as a record of royal gift. On his exile, the king went to Silasobbhakaṇḍaka and finally reached Mātuvelaṅga near Sāmagalla, where he met Mahātissa Thera once again, who gave him over to the care of Taṇasiva. For fourteen years Vaṭṭagāmaṇī and his queen Anulā lived under the protection of Taṇasiva in the Malaya region.

Somadevi was captured by one of the seven Damiḷas who took her oversea to India. Another took the alms bowl used by the Lord Buddha, which had come to Sri-Lanka as a relic in the time of king Devanampiya-Tissa from India. From 103 B.C. for fourteen years, Anurādhapura was under the sway of five Tamils in succession. They were Puḷahattha, Bāhiya, Panamayamāra, Piḷayamāra and Dāṭhika. Puḷahattha reigned for three years (103- 100 B.C.), making Bāhiya as the commander of his troops. Bāhiya reigned for two years (100-98 B.C.) with Panayamāra as his commandar-in-chief. Panayamāra reigned for seven years (98-91 B.C.) with Pilayamara his chief minister. Piḷayamāra ruled for seven months (91 B.C.), with his chief minister Dāṭhika. Then Dāthika ruled for two years (90-88). Each of them was killed by their respective chief ministers. Thus the total reigning span of these five Damiḷa kings was fourteen years and sven months.

In the mean time Anūlā qurrelled with Taṇasiva’s wife, and the king, out of rage killed Taṇasiva. Then Vaṭṭagāmaṇī exposed himself as a king and started gathering followers to declare war upon the Damḷlas. He obtained eight renowned warriors as his ministers. He paid homage to the Buddha in Accchagalla-vihāra, bringing the Thera Mahatissa of Kupikkala. Later, the king again slew his minister Kapisīsa being angry with him that he had not bow himself down before him, seeing him at the courtyard of the Ākāsha-cetiya. Then the other seven ministers revolted and left the king due to his impatient nature. On the way robbers attacked them and they took refuge in the Hambugallaka-vihara. The learned Thera Tissa of Hambugallaka-vihara provided them kindness and protection. Seeing the danger of the nation and religion, both Tissa and Mahātissa theras convinced the generals that their attitudes were wrong, for the country was going to be ruined by foreign rules. They took the generals to the king and brought about a durable reconciliation between them.

After defeating the Tamils, Vaṭṭagāmaṇī-Abhaya (88-76 B.C.) reoccupied Anurādhapura after fourteen years. Having victory, the Giri monastery of the Niganṭhas (Jains) been ruined by him and he erected the great Abhayagiri-vihāra prefixing his name to it, 217 years, 10 months and 10 days after the founding of the Mahāvihāra.

The king offered this vihara to the Thera Mahātissa of Kupukkala who had been of great help to him in his worst days. He recovered Somadevi and built in her honour the Somārāma, and also built the Silāsobhakaṇḍaka cetiya.

Seven ministers of Vaṭṭagāmaṇī also built several vihāras among them Uttiya, Mūla, Sāliya,

Pabbata and Tissa built the Dakkhina-vihāra, Mulovakāsa-vihara, Saliyārāma, and Uttara-tissārāma respectively, and all of them gave these vihāras to the Thera Tissa of Hambugallaka vihara in gratitude.

The foundation of the Abhayagiri vihāra brought a new era in the world of Buddhism in Ceylon and dissention in the monks began.

According to Walpola Rahula,

“had the far sighted theras (Mahātissa of Kupikkala and Tissa of Hambugallaka vihāra) not intervened at that moment no one could say what the fate of Buddhism and the Sinhalese race would have been. Only the king and the generals knew what they owed to the learned theras.....That is why Abhayagiri and the other vihāras built by the king and the generals were given to Mahātissa and Tissa theras. This is the first record of a vihāra being given to any monk as a personal gift..... This evidently disturbed the prestige and authority of the Mahāvihāra monks””.

The Abhayagiri-vihāra flourished rapidly in wealth and in power. But soon Mahāvihāra monks imposed a punishment of expulsion known as Pabbajjaniya kamma on Mahātissa Thera on the charge of improper contact with lay families. His disciple, Bahalamassutissa or Big-beared-Tissa protested and the Mahāvihāra monks also imposed upon him the act of Ukkhepaniya kamma according to the Vinaya.

He became very angry and left the Mahāvihāra and stayed at Abhaya-giri-vihara forming a seperate faction.

“This was the the begining of discensions in the Saṅgha which had till then be united under the influence of the Mahāvihāra.”

Besides these a great disaster had happened throughout the country at that time due to a famine. The Saddharmālankāra, written in Sinhalese in 14th century A.D. referred this famine as Brahamana-Tissa famine or Bāminitiyasāya. According to Buddhaghosa’s commentary, Sammohavinodinī, the famine was so serious that many monks died and others left the Island to seek refuge abroad.The famine continued for several years and towards the later stage it grew so acute that people were forced to live on human flesh. Both the Mahāvihāra and the Mahāthupa at Anurādhapura were abondoned.

Being affraid of the possibility that Buddhism might be abolished from the Island and no Sinhalese king was there at that time to manage the situation, the Mahātheras and Sinhalese leaders started thinking of preserving the canonical texts, the Tipiṭakas, which has so far been handed down orally from teacher to pupil. The main object of the Saṅgha during this tragic period was to preserve the teachings of the Buddha which they valued above all else. Under the patronage of a local chief the Mahātheras assembled at Āluvihāra (Āloka-vihara) at Mātale, and for the first time in history committed to writing the whole of the Tripiṭaka with the commentaries, so that the true doctrine might endure,ciratthitatthaṃ dhammassa.

Vaṭṭagāmaṇī was however regarded by later generation as the great protector of the faith. Various monasteries chiefly rock-temples, are traditionally ascribed to Vaṭṭagāmaṇi, and said to have been built by him during his exile; among these is the modern Dambulla-vihāra. The Cūlavaṃsa called him the founder of the Majjhavela-vihāra.

According to Walpola Rahula—

“From this time onwards the Abhayagiri monks seem to have kept up constant contact with various Buddhist sects and new movements in India, from which they derived inspiration and strength. They were liberal in their views and always welcoming new ideas from abroad they tried to be progressive.They studied both Theravāda and Mahāyāna and widely diffused the Tripiṭakas.The Mahāvihāra, on the otherhand, remained conservative, studied only the Theravāda, was opposed to the Mahāyāna and discouraged any kind of innovation. The Abhayagiri monks therefore appeared in the eyes of the Mahāvihāra to be unorthodox and heretic.

The Mahāvihāra was the original and first centre of Buddhism hallowed by Mahinda himself; its monks were proud of the great traditions, and jealously guarded the honour and authority of the Vihāra. They had enjoyed the undivided regard and respect, loyalty and support of the state and the public, and did not like new elements entering the field to share their priviledges and dividing the attention. But it was not possible to supress new developments which were the natural outcome of various changes, social, political and economic. The dissentions in the Saṅgha were by no means a symptom of decay and degeneration, but a sign of movement and progress”.

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