Tripin 2020 - page 34

kingship (upon it). Even so shall
the King my friend also worship
it by bestowing kingship upon it…
When the great King had spoken
thus he stood with folded arms on
the shore, and as he gazed after
the vanishing great Bodhi-tree he
shed tears (saying)… ‘Sending forth
a net like rays of sunshine the great
Bodhi-tree of the (Buddha) gifted
with the ten powers departs, alas!
From hence!’
Lesson 5: Think ahead
After the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi was
planted, King Devanampiya Tissa
shared the tree with the kingdom
of Lanka as King Asoka did. He
also commissioned 40 direct
descendant saplings from the
Sri Maha Bodhi to be planted in
different parts of the country. These
two events symbolized that in the
Anuradhapura period the Jaya Sri
Maha Bodhi became the symbol of
legitimization of the King’s royal
power. From this point Buddhism
was accepted as the religion of the
For over 1,300 years the Jaya Sri
Maha Bodhi Tree was the symbol
of royal power, governance, and
the religiosity of the people. With
the shifting of the kingdom to
Polonnaruwa, the symbol of royal
power was transferred to the
sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha.
However, the people of old raja
rata - the King’s country, continued
to venerate the Jaya Sri Maha
Bodhi with undiminished ‘saddha’
as if they were worshipping the
Lord Buddha in person. Despite
facing many difficulties such
as inadequate alms, disease,
combating the ever advancing
forest from invading Buddhist
places of worship, a sizeable
number of Buddhist monks opted
to live in Anuradhapura. Their main
aim was to protect the Jaya Sri
Maha Bodhi Tree from any kind of
harm, natural or manmade.
Lesson 6: Show gratitude
Today one can behold the Jaya Sri
Maha Bodhi in its entire splendor,
accompanied by many companion
(Parivara) Bo Trees. Millions of
pilgrims visit its precincts annually;
some visit the tree for the calmness
and serenity it provides to their
wandering agitated minds. The
peasants of raja rata offer their first
harvest to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.
It is a symbolic gesture of gratitude
for watching over their lives and
agriculture in raja rata.
Lesson 7: Share ownership and
remain flexible
The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree
and Buddhism were given to
Lanka by the mightiest King of
India, Asoka, his son Mahinda and
daughter Sanghamitta. Due to their
inestimable wisdom they did not
attempt to Indianise Lanka, or its
young institutions and society. They
planted the seed of Dhamma but
allowed it to germinate with Lankan
It is this attitude and the strategic
approach of Mahinda Thero and
Sanghamitta Theri, supported
by King Devanampiya Tissa that
catalyzed the nurturing and
maturing of the respected and
world –renowned Theravadi
Buddhism in Lanka. They allowed
the philosophy to sprout and
mature with the local people
and customs, providing the basic
teachings of Lord Buddha. This
basic philosophical, psychological,
and spatial concept of ‘so near but
yet so far’ helped the Dhamma
to take root and flower in Sri
Lanka. The concept of flexibility
and indigenization adopted from
the very beginning helped in
the development of a distinct
civilization and culture in Sri Lanka.
In the current context of sub-
continental issues, these lessons
from history are vital for Sri Lanka
to maintain its distinct identity in all
spheres, while continuing with the
strong mutually beneficial relations.
But these lessons can stretch past
our island nation and touch each
of us as we apply them to our own
lives. It is possible that King Asoka
had this in mind as he allowed his
treasured sapling to travel across
the ocean.
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