How I came to identify Arahant Mahinda as Redactor of the Buddhapåjàva and the Sila Trio
Posted on January 1st, 2013

US Fulbright Scholar Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri is Author of Arahant Mahinda

“”…” Redactor of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va in Sinhala Buddhism “”…” with Pali Text, Translation and Analysis, 2012 due to be published soon in Canada.)

December 29, 2012, 4:41 pm

October 1st, 2012, or perhaps August 18th, ushered in the 2260th Year of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va in Sinhala Buddhism! Launched by Arahant Mahinda, in the presence of King Devanampiya Tissa and sub-Queen Anula. The Pa¤ca-, AƒÆ’†’±ƒÆ’†’±hangika- and Dasa- SƒÆ’†’£la. (Pansil, Atasil and Dasasil) were also launched within the same context, as part of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va.

Wow! So, did I find the name of Arahant Mahinda etched in stone, linked to the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va in some historical, literary or archeological source, in Sri Lanka or India? By golly, no! How easy it would have been had it been so. No, I had to do some deep digging, and indeed pirouetting, looking here, there and everywhere. But, I believe I can now say with reasonable confidence that there is evidence that Ven. Mahinda is indeed the Redactor of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va.

Notice that I call him the Redactor, and not Author. You’ll see why.

But let me tell you how it all started. It was with a simple interest to do up a Handbook for the use of Sinhala temple goers overseas, particularly children. My interest was to show the English translation side by side with the Pali for easy reference.

So my first task was to write down the entire Homage as I knew it, cross-checking with others who had been there before me. Respected Venerables like Narada and Dhammananda of Malaysia. But soon I began to realize that in trying to get as accurate a translation as possible, I had to get an understanding of what was behind the lines. So now I was dipping into the Canon and scholarly sources.

But completing the translation, something else began to appear on the horizon. And that was that the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va of the Sinhala Buddhists was no mere listing of items but one complex spiritual tool (see next week on that). This is when I became curious as to who its author might be.

I began by asking knowledgeable lay scholars and Sangha, both in Sri Lanka and overseas. Who is the author of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va?

Authorship unknown

Hm! This is when my thirst grew in leaps and bounds. How could it be that it is unknown when everyone in the country, every Buddhist in the country, has known it, nay, done it all their lives? I well remember sitting with my family at home as a kid in front of a Buddha figure every evening.

Fools rush to where angels fear to tread, haven’t you heard? So here I was looking for an answer over the last two years. Anyone? Any source?

I began with a hunch – that the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va was of ancient origin. Simple-minded by definition as you so kindly just noted, I tried my luck merely looking for the word BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ .

First the Canon, given that the ritual is in Pali and not in Sinhala. But it was a noble silence I got. Except for the Apadana, a later work as scholars agree, and likely of Sri Lankan origin. The absence told me that the practice did not occur in the Buddha’s time. This, of course, is not to say that individual practices like offering dana, or flowers, did not exist. After all, the Buddha’s first meal following Enlightenment was Sujata’s offering of milkrice. Flower offering even pre-dated the Buddha in Indian culture.

The silence confirmed a second hunch – that the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va was of Sri Lankan origin. Now it was the Sri Lankan Paleographic record I was checking (Paranavitana, 1970; Wickremasinghe, 1912). I ended up finding the word pƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’  in the inscription of Nissanka Malla (1189-1198), puja in the slab inscription of Mahinda IV (956-972) and pujae in Kassapa V (929-939). Note the ae. Who said “ƒ”¹…”aegay manaalaya’ was Kumaratunga Munidasa. Looks like Kassapa beat him to it!

Given that the term pƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’  had occurred in a 11th / 12th c., now I began to work back in time. I had convinced myself that a sophisticated instrument like the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va could only have emerged in the context of a spiritual renaissance. Ven. Buddhaghosa translating the Sinhala Commentaries to Pali in the 5th c. seemed a likely first fit. Well, lucky me, so I thought. There it was – a BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’  being offered for the benefit of a dying person. Just like today, did you say? Exactly! This meant, then, that by the 5th c., the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’  was in practice.

Continuing to work backwards, my next stop was the time when the Tipitaka was committed to writing, i.e., the 1st c. BCE [Before the Common Era]. While it was undoubtedly a period of high spiritual adrenaline flow of historic importance, socially speaking there couldn’t have been a worst time. There was division as between the orthodox Mahavihara and the heretical Abhayagiriya, with the Sangha divided. So was the public, with the royalty favouring one over the other. It was hardly a time for a spiritual Renaissance or creative leadership.

Soon I was reading my copy of the Geiger translation of the Mahavamsa (Mv). Surely the introduction of the Buddhadhamma by Arahant Mahinda could count for a time of spiritual rejuvenation. Sure, but Author Mahanama makes no mention at all of a BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va in the chapters (xiii “”…” xix) that deal with the introduction of Buddhism.

So again I came out empty-handed. Who said finding a needle in a haystack was easy.

Gaining no evidence from external sources, frustration was building up. Then waking up one fine morning, perhaps it was after my meditation, I had an insight. Could the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va itself prove helpful?

As it turned out, it indeed did.

Up to now, I had gone through the wording of the ritual for its meaning, their roots and the concepts behind them. But now I read the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va text from a different perspective. To my excitement, by the end of the exercise, I was to come up with fifteen qualifications that the Redactor would have to have to come up with such a sophisticated spiritual tool. Knowledgeable s/he had to be. Authoritative s/he had to be. And creative, too, certainly, minimally.

But who on earth might fit such a profile? This is when I turned to the Mahavamsa again, and began re-reading the same chapters. But still in English.

No, the term BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’  still didn’t seem to occur anywhere. But as I read the description of the Mahinda-Devanampiya Tissa encounter, reading also the comments on the event by Ven. Walpola Rahula in his History of Buddhism, a streak of light began to appear in my eye. Cakkhum udapƒÆ’†’ di. An eye was born, as the Buddha declared might be a foolish claim. But before long, reading the sections again and again, it was beginning to be a beam of light. By the end of the exercise, it was Arahant Mahinda standing tall in front of me!

But how?

What made the discovery for me was that while King Devanampiya Tissa was “ƒ”¹…”established in the Refuges’ (saranesu patitthahi) (Mv, xiv, 23) at the first encounter, there is no mention of establishing him in the Pa¤ca-SƒÆ’†’£la – the Five Training Principles (TP’s) (aka Precepts). By contrast, three months later, sub-queen Anula is said to have taken to the Dasa-sila “”…” the Ten TP’s, as she waited for Arahant Sanghamitta to arrive to become ordained (Mv, xviii, 10).

You know the story. Listening to Arahant Mahinda presenting the Discourses Petavatthu and the Vimanavatthu the second day following his arrival (xiv, 58), Anula had asked for ordination, to be told by the Arahant that he was not allowed to ordain women, but that his sister Arahant Sanghamitta could. Messenger sent to King Asoka, the Theri would arrive three months later, bringing the southern branch of the Bodhi Tree at Buddhgaya. And waiting for her, Anula is said to have “ƒ”¹…”taken to the Dasa Sila’ (dasasilam samadƒÆ’†’ ya).

Minor problem! There is no such practice in the Canon. There is the dasa kusala, as in fact, listed in Arahant Mahinda’s first discourse, Culahatthipadopama Sutta “ƒ”¹…”The Lesser Discourse on the simile of the Elephant’s Footprint’. But they are not the same as the Dasa sila (as we have it today). Read it (Majjhima Nikaya, 27), and you can find out for yourself.

So how is it that Anula came to take to it? Aha! There’s the crunch. If it is not in the Canon, then somebody must have surely created it. Who then, Sir? Indeed”¦

Me, Sir?

Yes, Sir

Not, I Sir

Who, then, Sir

Ven. Arahant Mahinda, Sir. That’s who, then, Sir

But why?

Think of Dasasil, Atasil and /or Pansil today. Isn’t it within the framework of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va it comes to be administered? First Homage “”…” namo tassa”¦. Then Three Refuges “”…” buddham / dhammam / saranam gacchami. Then only the Pansil for the laity. Or Atasil for the one-day renunciants on a full moon day.

And is there any reason why it could, would, should have been any different at the initiating point in history? What this told me, then, is that the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va was created by Arhant Mahinda as a framework within which to introduce the TP’s. As a corollary, the Silas also came to be built into a hierarchy “”…” Five for everyday guidance, and the Eight and the Ten for higher level aspirants.

“This is all fine and dandy”, you’ll rightly say, “but they are all intuitively arrived at. It could well be your imagination. But are there any external factors that back you up?”

Glad you asked.

Like you, I asked myself the same question.

So here we go again. I am back in India looking for any Paleographic evidence. Zilch. How about the accounts by the Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien, I-Tsing and Xuanzang? Loads of information on Buddhist ritual, practices, culture and civilization. But not the word BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’  itself. The absence itself was happily, however, a first re-confirmation of a Sri Lankan origin.

Now I was with the Commentaries and sub-commentaries (Atuva and Tika) on the Canon, most of them likely with origins in Sri Lanka. Voila! There it was, the elusive BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ ! One of Visakha’s attendants e.g., says that she “wishes to do a BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ ” (Dhammapadatthakatha, III 101). This appears to be a clear reference to the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va of this study. And there are more than a few occurrences – even as an example by a grammarian.

But the occurrences established another sort of evidence. That they were all post-Mahindian. The Canon and the Commentaries came to be committed to writing in Sri Lanka in the 1st c. BCE.

But the crƒÆ’†’¨me de la crƒÆ’†’¨me of external evidence was yet to come. This was reading the Mahavamsa again, this time in its Pali original, a rare copy of which a kind friend had just brought from Sri Lanka. Here King Dutugaemunu was inviting the public to the site where the Great Cetiya was to be built “tomorrow”. And now come the treasured wording. They were being asked to come “ƒ”¹…”in preparation for a BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ ‘ (buddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ payogena) (Mv xxix 16).

In preparation for a BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ ! Wow! Just for what else could it be that they are being asked to bring flowers, and incense? “Let the people come having observed the Uposatha Precepts”. There is, then, that reference to the Atasil. And the Sangha are invited to conduct a ceremony “for the welfare of the people”. So what kind ceremony would that have been other than a BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va?

What the reference does is to confirm my first hunch that the ritual must be of ancient origin. So if the ritual was there in the time of Dutugaemunu, and doesn’t come from the Canon or India, what would be the time period during which it would have made its appearance? And who would be the likely contender to the throne?

Time period: the point of introduction of Buddhism.

The hand behind “”…” knowledgeable, authoritative and creative: none other than Arahant Mahinda!

Case closed.

Etched in stone may be not, but dredged out, one dig at a time the evidence.

But perhaps there are scholars who are in the know better. Of course I would love to hear from them. In education, there is a principle I remember teaching my Vidyodaya Teacher- trainee students. It is not enough to say “ƒ”¹…”nyet’ (no, in Russian). I must be given something I can say “ƒ”¹…”da’ (yes) to. So, if Arahant Mahinda is not the Redactor of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va and the Sila Trio, then I would like to be shown with evidence who it is. Until such time, your “ƒ”¹…”nyet’ will be my “ƒ”¹…”da(rling)’!

How wonderful that I have the Buddha’s Teaching of “ƒ”¹…”asoulity’ (anatta) to guide me in the realization that I was literally the fool who rushed to where the angels fear to tread. Now wouldn’t contrary evidence to that of mine be a good dose of reality pumping in some sanity to my ageing brain? Thank you.

(US Fulbright Scholar Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri is Author of Arahant Mahinda “”…” Redactor of the BuddhapƒÆ’†’¥jƒÆ’†’ va in Sinhala Buddhism “”…” with Pali Text, Translation and Analysis, 2012 due to be published soon in Canada.)

The publication is soon going to be available on Amazon and Kindle, and is available for free download on


One Response to “How I came to identify Arahant Mahinda as Redactor of the BuddhapÃ¥jàva and the Sila Trio”

  1. herman Says:

    I must extend my utmost respect for your extensive interest, research and deep contemplation of the Buddhapåjàva .

    Unfortunately, i cannot contribute much except to mention that the late Venerable K Sri Dhammananda of Malaysia had acknowledged, atleast verbally, that the Buddhapåjàva was more due to Mahayana influences. Therefore, was Arahant Mahinda influenced by the Mahayanist?

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