13: The Coming of Mahinda

THE great thera Mahinda, of lofty wisdom, who at that time had been twelve years (a monk), charged by his teacher and by the brotherhood to convert the island of Lanka, pondered on the fitting time (for this) and thought: ‘Old is the king Mutasiva; his son must become king.’

When he had resolved to visit in the meantime his kinsfolk, he bade farewell to his teacher and the brotherhood and having asked the leave of the king he took with him the four theras ((1-See 12. 7.)) and also Samghamitta’s son, the miraculously gifted samanera Sumana, ((2-See 5. 170.)) mighty in the six supernormal powers; and he went to Dakkhinagiri ((3-A vihara in Ujjeni, Skr. Ujjayini. See note to 5. 39.)) to confer on his kinsfolk (the) grace (of his preaching). While he was so doing six months passed away.

When he came in time to Vedisagiri ((4-Vedisa is the modern Bhilsa in Gwalior State, situated 26 miles north-east of Bhopal. See Imp. Gazetteer of India, s. v. ; E. MULLER, J.P.T.S. 1888, p. 87 ; RHYS DAVIDS, Buddhist India, p. 288.)) the city of his mother Devi, he visited his mother and when Devi saw her dear son she made him welcome, and his companions likewise, with foods prepared by herself, and she led the thera up to the lovely vihära Vedisagiri.

When the prince Asoka, while ruling over the realm of Avanti, that his father had bestowed on him, halted in the town of Vedisa, before he came to Ujjeni, and met there a lovely maiden named Devi, the daughter of a merchant, he made her his wife; and she was (afterwards) with child by him and bore in Ujjeni a beautiful boy, Mahinda, and when two years had passed (she bore) a daughter, Samghamitta. At that time ((5-Namely, at the time of Mahinda’s visit.)) she lived in the city of Vedisa. The thera who then sojourned there, perceiving (that) the time (was come), thought thus: ‘In that great festival of consecration commanded by my father shall the great king Devanampiyatissa take part, and he shall know the splendour of the three things ((6-Cf. note to 12. 28.)) when he has heard it from the envoys. He shall climb the Missaka-mountain ((7-Now the mountain Mihintale (= ‘plain of Mahinda’, according to A. GUNASEKARA), 8 miles to the east of Anuradhapura.)) on the uposatha-day of the month Jettha. ((8-See note to 1. 12.)) On that same day we will go to the beauteous isle of Lanka.’

The great Indra ((9-A play upon the name Mahinda.)) sought out the excellent thera Mahinda and said to him: ‘Set forth to convert Lanka; by the Sambuddha also hast thou been foretold (for this) and we will be those who aid thee there.’

The son of a daughter of Devi’s sister, (a youth) named Bhanduka, who had heard the doctrine preached by the thera to Devi, and who had obtained the reward of one who shall return no more unto life ((10-The stage of anagami is the third and last stage but one, on the path of salvation leading to nibbana. Such an one will not be re-born, either in the world of gods or of men, but only in a Brahmaworld, where he will attain nibbana. See CHILDERS, s. v.)) remained with the thera.

When he had stayed there a month the thera, on the uposatha-day of the month Jettha, with the four theras and Sumana, ((11-It seems almost as if v. 18 were an interpolated verse. If we omit it 19 follows perfectly well on 17 :’. . . remained with the thera ; with this lay-disciple … he rose up, &c.’ That, besides, the four theras and Sumana were Mahinda’s fellow-travellers is already known from 12. 7 and 13. 4.)) and the lay-disciple Bhanduka also, to the end that they might be known for human beings, ((12-With this cf. 14. 31, also Mah. ed., note to 13. 19 b and Album Kern 205-206.)) rose up in the air (and departed) from that vihara; and he, the (thera) of wondrous powers, coming hither with his following alighted on the pleasant Missaka-mountain, on the Sila-peak on the open and fair Ambatthala. ((13-Cf. TENNENT, Ceylon, ii, p. 605 foll. The Silakuta is the northern peak of the Mihintale-mountain. Immediately below it lies the little tableland on which the Ambatthala-dagaba stands.))

He who was foretold by the Sage, in the hour of death, as bringing salvation to Lañkä, ((14-Lit. ‘ For the blessing of L.’)) by his merit in converting Lañkä, he, who for Lañkä’s salvation had become like to the Master, ((15-The allusion probably is to the Buddha’s legendary visit to the island.)) alighted there, extolled by the gods of Lañkä.

Here ends the thirteenth chapter, called ‘The Coming of Mahinda’, in the Mahavamsa, compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious.

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