She alights FROM THE SKY AT GIRIHANDUSEYA

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURES - BY MERVYN SA­MA­RAKOON

The only other doc­u­mented case of this na­ture in the coun­try con­cerns a bhikkhu named Maha Tissa of Pan­na­gal­laVe­hera who alighted upon the ter­race of the Great Shrine at Anu­rad­ha­pura in like man­ner, again with the En­light­ened One as ob­ject. It is to be ob­served that the above two in­stances are not ex­am­ples of a con­comi­tant su­per­nat­u­ral fac­ulty of the fourth ab­sorp­tion or a fruit of the path, but rap­tur­ous ela­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by in­tense fo­cus on the Fore­most Be­ing in the world, the Bud­dha

Ay­oung crown prince in his thirty fifth year hav­ing aban­doned the re­gal life six years be­fore, at­tains t he high­est state of men­tal and spir­i­tual de­vel­op­ment ever pos­si­ble by a liv­ing be­ing, whether hu­man or divine. The Uni­verse with all its world sys­tems (sa­hashrilōkad­hātu) inan­i­mate as it is, trem­bles and shakes as if un­able to bear this ex­tra­or­di­nary event. A Sammā Sam­bud­dha has made His ap­pear­ance on earth after almost an eter­nity. He is Gōthama by clan. All be­ings of high, low and mid­dle or­ders re­joice in ex­ul­ta­tion. The En­light­ened Be­ing hav­ing achieved his sam­saric am­bi­tion re­mains in med­i­ta­tion in the vicin­ity of the Bōdhi tree solely sur­viv­ing on the meal pro­vided by the no­ble­man’s wife Su­jatha forty nine days be­fore. He then on the fifti­eth day em­barks on a voy­age on foot car­ry­ing a mes­sage with Him that is to trans­form the lives of mil­lions of men and gods for the next five thou­sand years.

Two mer­chant brothers by the names of Tha­passu and Bal­luka the town­ship of Uthkalā in North­ern In­dia lead­ing a long line of car­a­vans car­ry­ing their mer­chan­dise be­come the first hu­mans to en­counter the Noble One upon His en­light­en­ment. By no means is it an ac­ci­den­tal meet­ing but the fruition of an earnest wish made in the pres­ence of Piya­math­urā Bud­dha a hun­dred thou­sand kal­pas be­fore, that they be blessed with the op­por­tu­nity of of­fer­ing the very first meal to a fu­ture Bud­dha.

The wish hav­ing come true the brothers joy­ously make an of­fer­ing of ce­re­als and honey to the newly En­light­ened One. They be­come the very first lay dis­ci­ples of the Bud­dha and Dhamma and wor­ship­fully re­quest a me­mento to pay homage to Him for the rest of their lives. The Noble One strokes His head with His right hand and of­fers a lock of blue black hair that ap­pears on it, which is ac­cepted by the

Sub­se­quent mon­archs of Lanka im­prove upon the stupa, there­after named Girihanduseya aka Nithu­path­pana, mak­ing it a mag­nif­i­cent white ed­i­fice glis­ten­ing in the glow of the full moon.The sur­round­ing view from the stupa ter­race is breathtaking.To the North East one sees Yan Oya down be­low me­an­der­ing its way to the sea sev­eral miles beyond and to the South of the oya is Pulmodai, con­tain­ing de­posi

brothers with rev­er­en­tial grat­i­tude. Tha­passu and Bal­luka be­ing also sea­far­ers trad­ing their wares on for­eign lands ar­rive in Tham­ba­panni as this coun­try was then known, bring­ing with them as they did when vis­it­ing each for­eign land, two strands of their price­less pos­ses­sion. Ar­riv­ing at “Gal­warāya” the es­tu­ary port at the mouth of the Yan Oya at Thiriyaya, they con­clude the cus­toms formalities, sail in­land through the Yan Oya and come ashore to place the hal­lowed cas­ket on an exquisitely pic­turesque hil­lock around two hun­dred feet high known as Girikanda. They then in­form the Yakka chief­tain who rules the area of the mat­ter. The first stupa in hon­our of the twenty eighth Per­fect Be­ing in the Great Pan­theon is thus born and ac­quires a pre-em­i­nent place in the realm of the im­pres­sive Bud­dhist nar­ra­tive. It gains enor­mous sig­nif­i­cance by be­ing also the first and per­haps the only mon­u­ment in the world to en­com­pass or­ganic mat­ter of the liv­ing Gau­tama Bud­dha. The his­toric event is etched for all pos­ter­ity in the famed stone in­scrip­tion of Thiriyaya. Tha­passu in later life be­comes a streamwin­ner. Bal­luka en­ters robes and suc­ceeds in bring­ing life’s long jour­ney to a close.

Sub­se­quent mon­archs of Lanka im­prove upon the stupa, there­after named Gir­i­han­dusēya aka Nithu­path­pāna, mak­ing it a mag­nif­i­cent white ed­i­fice glis­ten­ing in the glow of the full moon. The sur­round­ing view from the stupa ter­race is breathtaking. To the North East one sees Yan Oya down be­low me­an­der­ing its way to the sea sev­eral miles beyond and to the South of the oya is Pulmodai, con­tain­ing de­posits of the black min­eral il­menite. The an­cient Sin­hala name for Pulmodai­was Vaththakāla lit­er­ally mean­ing black sand, and the fol­low­ing fas­ci­nat­ing oc­cur­rence takes place in the vil­lage of Vaththakāla. The fa­ther and mother in this fam­ily of Vaththakāla get ready to visit the beau­ti­ful cētiyaand tell their daugh­ter who is with child that she should stay back be­cause the jour­ney is too ar­du­ous for her and that they would trans­mit merit they ac­quire to her as well. She ac­cedes to the par­ents’ re­quest and later when they are gone, steps out on to the gar­den and sees the ākāsacētiya re­splen­dent in moon­light, en­cir­cled by thou­sands of burn­ing lamps, cir­cum­am­bu­lated by the four com­mu­ni­ties after of­fer­ing their flow­ers and per­fumes and she also hears the sound of the massed recital by the com­mu­nity of bhikkhus. She thinks, “how lucky are they to be able to go to the cētiya and wan­der around such a shrine ter­race and lis­ten to such sweet preach­ing of the Dhamma!” The shrine ap­pears to her like a mound of pearls, and im­bued with an un­prece­dented feel­ing of hap­pi­ness she springs up into the air, alights on the shrine ter­race, pays homage to the in­spir­ing stupa and keeps lis­ten­ing to the sub­lime dhamma be­ing preached. Some­time later the par­ents ap­pear and blurt out “which road did you come by?” Says she “I came through the air, not by road.”

“My dear, those whose cankers are de­stroyed come through the air, how did you come?” and she states “As I stood star­ing at the shrine in moon­light a strong sense of hap­pi­ness over­came me with the En­light­ened One as ob­ject, I then knew not whether I was sit­ting or stand­ing but only that I sprang up in the air with the sign that I had grasped and I came to rest on the shrine ter­race”. This spell­bind­ing episode is fa­mously por­trayed in the mon­u­men­tal work Visud­dhi Magga of Bhadan­tācāriya Bud­dhagōsha on the topic of earth kasina con­cen­tra­tion, au­thored dur­ing the reign of King Ma­hanama. The only other

doc­u­mented case of this na­ture in the coun­try con­cerns a bhikkhu named Maha Tissa of Pan­na­gal­laVe­hera who alighted upon the ter­race of the Great Shrine at Anu­rad­ha­pura in like man­ner, again with the En­light­ened One as ob­ject. It is to be ob­served that the above two in­stances are not ex­am­ples of a con­comi­tant su­per­nat­u­ral fac­ulty of the fourth ab­sorp­tion or a fruit of the path, but rap­tur­ous ela­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by in­tense fo­cus on the Fore­most Be­ing in the world, the Bud­dha. The phe­nom­e­non of le­vi­ta­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by the two devo­tees is one of the five known states of spir­i­tual hap­pi­ness, they be­ing in or­der Kud­daka Peethi, Khanika Pethi, Okkan­thika Peethi, Ubbega Peethi and Erana Peethi.

It is clear how­ever, man­i­fested mir­a­cles log­i­cally do not rep­re­sent an im­por­tant as­pect of the Bud­dhist dis­pen­sa­tion. In fact, it is on record that con­se­quent to dis­ci­ple Pin­dola Bhārad­wāja Thero per­form­ing an as­tound­ing mir­a­cle in the pres­ence of a vast gath­er­ing, the Bud­dha pre­vailed upon His dis­ci­ples to re­frain from en­gag­ing in such acts in the fu­ture in no un­cer­tain terms, since mir­a­cles and cre­ations are not the genre of Bud­dha dhamma. Nir­vana is per­ceived within, mir­a­cles are per­formed with­out. Mir­a­cles are mun­dane, Nir­vana is su­per mun­dane.

Nonethe­less, the Gir­i­han­dusēya event evokes much ad­mi­ra­tion amongst the present-day fol­low­ers of a mar­vel­lous doc­trine that ap­peals ir­re­sistibly to the in­tel­lect, is de­void of mys­te­ri­ous and divine or­ders and rev­e­la­tions, is scrupu­lously ex­plicit by na­ture, is open to what­ever scru­tiny, and is to be ver­i­fied en­tirely by one­self on tread­ing the dis­closed path sed­u­lously and not polem­i­cally, whence all skep­ti­cism, doubt and delu­sion is ban­ished for­ever with noth­ing to be ac­com­plished fur­ther – a sin­gu­lar ex­pres­sion of “ehipas­siko”.

“Noble Lord, pray lib­er­ate me from my doubts”

“Dhōthaka, I am un­able to lib­er­ate any­one in this world from his doubts. You have to sur­mount the flood-like sense de­sires by your­self, com­pre­hend­ing the supreme law”

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