Sri Lanka - Early 1st Century BCE

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Sri Lanka - Early 1st Century BCE

Postby BlackBird » Sun Sep 20, 2009 7:59 am

From John T. Bullitt's 'A Field Guide to Post Canonical Literature'

John T. Bullitt wrote:For example, knowing that it was the actions of just a few individuals that averted the extinction of the Tipitaka reminds us that it is ultimately up to individuals like ourselves to safeguard the teachings today. Without the post-canonical texts important lessons like these — if not the Tipitaka itself — might have been lost forever to the mists of time.

- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... guide.html

John T. Bullitt wrote:In the early decades of the 1st c. BCE in Sri Lanka — then the hub of Theravada Buddhist scholarship and monastic training — several forces combined that would threaten the continuity of the ancient oral tradition by which the Pali Tipitaka had been passed down from one generation of monks to the next. A rebellion against the king and invasions from south India forced many monks to flee the island. At the same time a famine of unprecedented proportions descended on the island for a dozen years. The commentaries recount heroic stories of monks who, fearing that the treasure of the Tipitaka might forever be lost, retreated to the relative safety of the south coast, where they survived only on roots and leaves, reciting the texts amongst themselves day and night. The continuity of the Tipitaka hung by a thread: at one point only one monk was able to recite the Niddesa. {PLL p. 76}

- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... de.html#n2

To think we really came that close to the Pali Tipitaka being lost, it's fascinating.

Mr. Bullitt cites Pali Literature and Language, ("PLL") by Wilhelm Geiger (New Delhi: Oriental Books, 1978) as his source for this information, and that would be my next point of call. As mentioned in the quoted text above the commentaries recount stories of this time, I wonder if anyone here has access to such stories?

Do we know anything further on the plight of Theravadan Buddhism in early 1st century BCE Sri Lanka?

:anjali:
Jack
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Sri Lanka - Early 1st Century BCE

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:11 am

Greetings Blackbird,

See also...

Mahavamsa (The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka)
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=344

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Sri Lanka - Early 1st Century BCE

Postby BlackBird » Sun Sep 20, 2009 10:55 am

Thank you Retro :smile:

From the account of the Mahavamsa:
In the fifth month after he was thus anointed king [Vattagamani], a young brahman named Tissa, in Rohana, in the city (that was the seat) of his clan,[22] hearkened, fool that he was, to the prophesying of a brahman and became a rebel, and his following waxed great. Seven Damilas landed (at the same time) with their troops in Mahatittha.[23] Then Tissa the brahman and the seven Damilas also sent the king a written message concerning the (handing over of the) parasol.[24] The sagacious king sent a written message to Tissa the brahman: `The kingdom is now thine, conquer thou the Damilas.’ He answered: `So be it,’ and fought a battle with the Damilas, but they conquered him.

- http://mahavamsa.org/2008/05/33-ten-kings/

Wikipedia makes it easier to read:
Five months after his coronation as king, a Brahmin in Rohana named Tissa rebelled against him. At the same time, an invading army from South India led by seven Tamil leaders landed in Mahatittha. Tissa and the seven Tamil leaders all sent messages to Valagamba [Vattagamani], telling him to hand over power to them. Valagamba informed the Brahmin Tissa that the kingdom will be his and told him to defeat the invading army. Accepting this, Tissa tried to fight but was defeated by the Tamils.

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vattagaman ... _Sri_Lanka

So the essential two points from the Mahavamsa which seem to be consistent with the account given by Mr. Bullitt in the OP are:
- Invading armies from India
- Rebellion

But no mention of a great famine, which caused Bhikkhus to take to the south coast.

It is however of note that it was during the reign of Vattagamani that the Tipitaka was first written down:
The text of the three pitakas and the atthakatha thereon did the most wise bhikkhus hand down in former times orally, but since they saw that the people were falling away (from religion) the bhikkhus came together, and in order that the true doctrine might endure, they wrote them down in books.

- http://mahavamsa.org/2008/05/33-ten-kings/

So :shrug:

Metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Sri Lanka - Early 1st Century BCE

Postby Dhammabodhi » Sun Sep 20, 2009 12:18 pm

Hi Blackbird!

Thanks for this great post, its quite informative! I guess this might be what the Buddha hinted at when he said the teachings will be 'lost' in 500 years!

Thanks again
Metta,
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