The message of Arahant Mahinda to Sri
Poson beams of June
Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari
with the expansion of scientific
knowledge and development of
technology, Buddhism is coming to be more and more
correctly understood by a vast majority of
non-Buddhists. This is partly because of their own keen
search for truth. Therefore, it is a matter of paramount
importance that Buddhists themselves make a keener
in-depth study of their own religion.
The message of Arahant Mahinda turns out to be the most
fortunate we Sri Lankans have ever received, and that a
little over two thousand three hundred years ago. At
that time, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa, we
apparently had reached a high level of culture. Our
pre-Buddhist king of Anuradhapura at that time had taken
to deer hunting as a royal sport. The arrival of Thera
Mahinda in Sri Lanka marked a turning point in our
Within a couple of centuries we were turned away from
hunting, both as a sport as well as an avenue for
Sri Lankan kings like Amandagamini, Silakala, Aggabodhi
IV and Mahinda III, who had by then taken to Buddhist
life in earnest, imposed a ban on the slaughter of
animals ‘ma ghatam karayi dipe sabbesam yeva paninam’.
Mhv. 41.v.30. Our indebtedness as a country or nation to
the source of this inspiration has to remain
incalculable for all times.
This is indeed the message the whole world today is
looking up to, conscious or unconscious in the process
of doing so. It is the message of Shakyamuni the Buddha,
given to mankind as a whole, with no thoughts of chosen
or selected people.
His dhamma was more than mere good news to the poor and
the oppressed. This is what earns for Buddhism its
honoured title of ‘Fastest Spreading Religion’ in many
parts of the world today.
At the time it was delivered, it was not meant to be
Indo-centric. Within a very short time, overriding
barriers of ethnicity and physical terrain, it reached
as far west as the Caspian Sea, over today’s Middle East
regions of Afghanistan, Iran etc.
In the north, it traversed over deserts along oases of
the ancient Silk Route, reaching China as early as 50
A.D. during the reign of Emperor Ming Ti. China, Korea
and Japan came under its benign influence, reflecting to
the world even today their cultural enrichment under the
guidance and inspiration of Buddhism.
In the message of Buddhism, the world shall find comfort
today in the face of threats of violence both at social
and domestic levels, of rape and brutal murders prompted
by sex excitement and evils of drug addiction, of
pathetic devastation of mankind, at all ages, resulting
from AIDS, HIV, STD or sexually transmitted diseases.
The much debated problems of abortion, fatherless homes
and unmarried mothers, witnessed all around us and
everywhere, could very well be kept at a low ebb, only
if sanity prevailed and the words of the Buddha were
The Buddha clearly stated that the world would be saved
through an understanding of and living up to the ideals
of the Dhamma. ‘He who sees the Dhamma sees me’. He said
(Yo dammam passati so mam passati). As a redeemer, he
does not need to be reborn.
Delivered to the world more than two and a half
millennia ago, and to Sri Lanka via Thera Mahinda a few
centuries later, the primary concern of Buddhism is the
regulation and revitalizing of interpersonal
relationships within the human community.
That is where Buddhist religious living well and truly
begins. This is why all Buddhist activities, not merely
the rituals and ceremonies within and without the
temples, begin with the voluntary acceptance and the
pledge to keep and fulfil the basic code of ‘pancasila’.
They embody some of the fundamental human rights of
respect for life and respect for property and a great
deal more. Read no more and no less than verses 246 and
247 of the Dhammapada to discover the dynamism of this
Buddhist approach to social problems. Answers to these
lie not in prayer and supplication to forces outside man
but in the total correction of human attitudes and
The above verses emphatically assert that maladjusted
relationships in society lead both to social disruption
as well as to personal deterioration and disaster,
literally digging out the very roots of one’s existence
— `mulam khanati attano’.
Why then not be morally good ? On this area of societal
considerations or moral goodness in Buddhism, one only
needs to be reminded of a very few basic sermons of the
Buddha which He appears to have delivered at a very
down-to-earth congregational level.
One is the Veludvareyya Sutta or the sermon at the
Bamboo Gate, preached to the lay community of the
Veludvara village [ S.V. 352-6 ]. The main theme here is
moral goodness and consequent moral harmony
[‘Sama-cariya and ‘dhammacariya’].
The main thrust of the Buddha’s argument here is ‘Why
not treat society in the same way you would like society
to treat you? This is called ‘attupanayika
dhammapariyaya’ or the self-testing method of the worth
of moral goodness.
The other is the Saleyyaka Sutta wherein the Buddha
provides us with an almost perfect legal document with
which any Buddhist who wishes to regulate and discipline
his life on Buddhist lines could do so without any
infringement of the Buddhist rules laid down [M. I.
285-90]. This sutta discusses in detail the rules
relating to the ten offences through thought, word and
deed - ‘dasa kamma patha’. We would call upon all those
interested in the study of moral considerations in
Buddhism as a religion to take a close and careful look
into these two suttas and see their total implications.
Morality or ‘sila’ implied therein does not imply a mere
negative or exclusively personal purity, unrelated to
the world one lives in.
In the message delivered in Sri Lanka as far back as
twenty-three centuries ago, Thera Mahinda did not lose
track of his thesis. With the assistance of the text of
the Cullahatthipadopama Sutta (M. I. 175-84), Thera
Mahinda placed the Buddha on the highest pedestal He
deserves to be on, delineated his greatness as the
teacher of gods and men and indicated that his path to
salvation led one from the world of mundane pleasure of
today’s over-exaggerated women, wine and song.
Within a few days or weeks, this was followed by yet
another course of Buddhist instruction. We are told that
the Petavatthu and Vimanavatthu provided much material
for his sermons to his new converts. We are particularly
interested in his choice of the Petavatthu.
It is no indication, as far as we feel, of the lack of
intellectual maturity of his Sri Lankan audiences. The
Petavatthu is more eloquent and more vehement as a
warning that the neglect and disregard of the moral
instructions issued in Buddhism which could lead one in
one’s next life, to a total loss of the prestigious
human position which one presently enjoys. This is the
very realistic sense in which the Buddhist concepts of
‘apaya’ and ‘niraya’ are to be viewed.
It is our firm conviction that today, with the expansion
of scientific knowledge and development of technology,
Buddhism is coming to be more and more correctly
understood by a vast majority of non-Buddhists. This is
partly because of their own keen search for truth.
Therefore, it is a matter of paramount importance that
Buddhists themselves make a keener in-depth study of
their own religion.
The message of Arahant Mahinda has been good enough to
outlive the lifetime of the world. The fountain from
which it has been derived needs no revisionist updating.
No authorized or unauthorized emissaries ever descend to
earth to revise the original teachings of Buddhism which
are declared as the teachings of all time: ‘esa dhammo
sanantano.’ No new bulletins ever need to be issued.
Therefore, on this day of the Poson full moon our very
kind admonition to our readers is ‘Sunatha dharetha
caratha dhamme.’ ‘Give attention to this teaching. Bear
it well in your mind. Live your life in accordance with
May all beings be well and happy. May there be peace on
earth and goodwill among men.