Paris, France –
A special celebrating ceremony held the anniversary of the arrival of King Asoka’s daughter Sanghamitta Maha Theri, who founded an order of nuns in Sri Lanka and carried with her a branch of the original holy Bodhi Tree under which the historical Buddha found enlightenment. The ceremony held at La Bourget International Buddhist Centre premises in Paris, France under the patronage of Most Venerable Parawahera Chandarathana Nayaka Thero, theChief Sangha Nayake Thero of France – Europe, Chief Abbot of the La Bourget International Buddhist Centre in Paris, France and Head of SECSA Foundation. As usual, many devotees attached to the temple were gathered to succeed this valuable event. Most Venerable Parawahera Chandarathana Nayaka Thero, explained the values of Most Venerable Sanghamitta Maha Theri.
The woman is one who has gone through various pains and difficulties since the beginning of human civilization. The most important thing that happened by a woman is giving birth to the human beings. Throughout the human history she has been fulfilled her responsibilities as a woman, as a daughter, as a wife and as a social being. But unfortunately the society does not try to looks at her from a proper angle. Not only the society but also even the women does not try to see her with a kind glance. Though the today world has arrived to the top levels of the development, some assumes that the woman is a machine which produces the children or merely is a machine for their satisfaction. This type of characteristics have been spread throughout the past, present and will be in future too. In the past, some female public figures have tried to change the orientation of the society. As a result of that today the women have step forward to win their rights and in some countries in the world they have caught the governing power too. As a humanitarian figure, the Buddha has played an extra ordinary role for the sake of women’ rights.
When it was the time Buddha was born, there was not a salubrious background for women in India. She has been a prisoner inside the house and the Brahmins who governed the society, totally cancelled the rights of the women.
“Pitā rakshathi kaumāre – Bharthā rakshathi yauwanē
Putrāh sthawira bhāwe – na bhajēthi stri swanthantrathāth’’
(A Brahmin Stanza)
“When she is a girl, she must be under the father.
When she is a young, she must be under the brothers.
When she is old, she must be under the sons.
A woman can’t behave in order to her willingness’’
On the other hand she had to be a servant to the high caste families. Buddha vehemently protested this system and he tried to indicate the values of the woman to the Indian society. Once when the queen of King Kosala gave a birth to a daughter baby, the king was very unhappy to hear that the new comer was a girl and informed it repentantly to the Buddha. Then the Buddha admonished him revealing the values of womanhood. “If a woman who surrounded by virtuous parents, brothers and relations, gives a birth to a child, that child is very suitable to advice even to a king”
The main teaching that existed in former India was, the world is a creation of Mahābrahama. Then the Buddha said that parents create the world and they should be known as Mahabrahma and he spread the concept “Brahmāti mātā pitaro” . In Singalōwāda sutta Buddha has introduced the duties and the responsibilities of a woman. Later he established the Nuns community (Bhikkuni Sāsana) to give the chance to the women to be nuns. As a wife or a mother she becomes a noble character only inside her family. But as a nun she becomes a sacred character all over the world. The first nun of Buddha sāsana was Mahā Prajāpathi Gōtami who was the step-mother of the Buddha and later many of women entered into the nuns’ community and obtained honorary posts in order to their qualifications. At the funeral ceremony of Mahā Prajāpathi Gōtami, Buddha walked by the side of her dead body as symbol of gratitude. How often he did appear for the liberation of women, by starting the community of nuns, he proved that women also have the strength to accept any type of post. The arrival of sacred Bodhi tree and sacred tooth relics were happened with the patronage of two women. One was Princess Hemamālā and the other was nun sanghamittā.
Three factors can be highlighted with the arrival of nun Sanghamittā.
- The arrival of sacred Bodhi tree
- The arrival of Art and architecture
- Establishment of the community of nuns
In order to the historical texts, the southern branch of the sacred Bodhi tree that exist in India was carried to Sri Lanka via Dambakola Patuna harbor at the governing period of king Devānampiyathissa. At that moment he received the Bodhi plant by getting down to the sea. The first shoots arise from Bodhi plants were planted in various places in Sri Lanka. They are called as Ashtapala Bodhi and Dethispala Bodhi. Dambakolapatuna, Thiwanka brahimn village, Katharagama, Sandungama, Thupārāmaya, Isurumunuya, sigiriya are some of the places of them. The main plant was planted in Mahameuna Park in Anuradhapura. In 1907 and 1911 two branches ware fallen from a hurricane and on was cut off in 1929. Not only Buddhists even the non-Buddhists pay their homage and pay their offers since past. People use to dissolve their all lamenting, weeping and mental troubles in the presence of sacred Bodhi tree.
Later, there arise a valuable literature based on Bodhi tree. Bodhiwanshaya, Mahāwanshaya, are some of the texts of them. These texts have been the stages to display the skillfulness of the literary writers. In nights people used to keep watching and protect it from wild beasts, and such nights may have caused to create the literary sentiments in their minds. The role played by king Ashoka was highly reasoned to prevail the Buddhism in the world up to now. He sent messengers to the various countries including Sri Lanka to spread the message of the Buddha. Mahā mahinda thero, the son of king Ashoka also arrived to Sri Lanka as a result of king’s missionary activities. Later Theri Sanghamittā came to Sri Lanka with sacred Bodhi tree and it was a bold symbol to indicate the cultural, social and political bi-lateral relationship between Indian and Sri Lanka. 18 groups of artists also came to Srilanka along the arrival of Nun Sanghamittā.
The security team, the group of ritual activities for sacred Bodhi tree, the flag team, the team to perform incense poojā, the team to chase away the wild beasts, the group for raise umbrellas for the poojās, the flowers suppliers, the herbal suppliers, the door keepers, the clothes and yarn delivers, the bowls suppliers, the wreaths suppliers, the incense suppliers, the rice suppliers, the team in making the scissors and saws, the team in making golden and silver equipment, the team in making golden fence for sacred tree, the team for supply the golden canopies, the drummers and water suppliers are some of them. These groups were well known about the ritual activities for sacred Bodhi tree. Along the arrival of Sanghamittā, Nun Hemā, Nun Pasādapālā, Nun Aggimittā also joined and they were the pioneers of establishing the nuns’ community in Sri Lanka. The historical text Deepawanshaya says that the Queen Anulā and 1000 of other women agreed to enter the order of Nuns. Though there was not an unfortunate eras for Sri Lankan woman, it was a turning point of offering a special position to Sri Lankan woman. Thereafter thousands of women entered the order of nuns and some historical texts say that millions of nuns have joined some religious ceremony occasions in the time of king Uththiya. Both Maha Mahinda thero and his sister nun Sanghamitta have passed away in the same reigning period of king Uththiya. The funeral ceremony was held in Chithrasāla around Thupārāmaya and later some stupas also have built enshrining her relics. In the present, Sri Lankans memorize Theri Sanghamitta with a great respect and she has been highlighted as an extra ordinary figure in Sri Lankan Buddhist culture. In Decembers, people use to pay their homage to Theri Sanghamitta through various worshipping methods.