Yakkhas overwhelmed by fear

Duruthu’s prestige rests not on the calendar, but on the Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka. It ushered in the Buddhist diplomacy between two countries established by Arahant Mahinda at a later date. The Buddha’s journey to Sri Lanka is not scripted in the Pali Canons, probably for its historical esteem rather than philosophical element.

The modern calendar ranks Duruthu as the first poya of the year. Sinhalese year dawns with Bak followed by the leading Poya, Vesakha. Buddhism’s steady growth kept track on its followers observing Sil on any full moon day staying away from worldly commitments long before Gregorian standards stepped in.

Mahawamsa reworks the Buddha’s three visits to Sri Lanka between 563 BCE and 483 within the very first chapter.

The legend has the Buddha mellowing out at Anotatta lake, one of the seven great lakes of Himava, when he noticed a conflict in the neighbour country.

Mahawamsa’s hotly-debated narrative is reproduced to kindle interest:

“To this great gathering of that Yakkhas went the Blessed One, and there, in the midst of that assembly, hovering in the air over their heads, at the place of the (future) Mahiyangana-thupa, he struck terror to their hearts by rain, storm, darkness and so forth.

The Yakkhas, overwhelmed by fear, besought the fearless Vanquisher to release them from terrors, and the Vanquisher, destroyer of fear, spoke thus to the terrified Yakkhas: ‘I will banish this your fear and your distress, O Yakkhas, give ye here to me with one accord a place where I may sit down.’

The Yakkhas thus answered the Blessed One: ‘We all, O Lord, give you even the whole of our island. Give us release from our fear.” This key event has been traced in many ways. We can well gather that the Buddha must have looked like an invader to the islanders especially at a moment of crisis.

On the other hand many Sutta sources report instances people being traumatised by nature for not heeding the Buddha’s advice. Anybody who does not heed a holy man’s good-willed advice will be naturally burdened and this must have been the chronicle’s definition.

The description does not figure out the Buddha to have caused terrors on the islanders; it was naturally caused. Some sources let on that the Buddha used Yama Maha Perahara the miracle he performed earlier to convince his relatives of his enlightenment. Definitely it must have been amazing for the islanders to see a foreigner with fire and water at the same time. Which must have watered the fiery hearts.

God Sumana Saman’s episode stirs up a multi-positioned controversy. As some sources let on Saman is one of the deities who listened to the Buddha on his first visit. Whereas some sources observe Saman as a prince who became a god in the following birth. Both these accounts, however, have no disagreement with the fundamental Buddhism.

The Buddha acknowledged the existence of celestial beings such as gods and Brahmas, born upon developed virtues. The celestial realm is not the goal in Buddhism; it is in fact far behind the Nibbana.

Celestial realms, like human worlds, are impermanent and unstable, equipped with birth, existence and death. Prince Saman must have been sotapanna - stream-winner, the first stage of Buddhist sainthood - hence chances are more for him to be a god the following existence. Importantly Sumana Saman is not identified as a Hindu god.

Prince Saman requested the Buddha for reverence object. The Buddha gave him a lock of hair from his head and it was enshrined in the Mahiyangana stupa, the first Dagoba constructed in the island during the lifetime of Buddha.

Prince Saman had received the sacred lock of hair in a golden pot and he put the sacred object on a heap of multi-coloured gems, seven cubits round, stacked up at the Buddha’s seat and covered them over with a shrine of sapphire.

The existence of Arahants as well as their link with Sri Lanka was evident even following the Buddha’s demise. Arahant Sarabhu, the student of Arahant Sariputta, got hold of the Buddha’s collarbone and brought it down to Sri Lanka to lay it in the same shrine. Covering with gold-plated stones, the Arahant had made it 12 cubits high before leaving the isle. King Dutugemunu was to make the shrine 80 cubits high later on. 


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