18: The Receiving of the Great Bodhi-Tree

THE monarch remembered the word spoken by the thera, that he should send for the great Bodhi-tree and the theri, and when, on a certain day during the rain-season, he was sitting in his own city with the thera and had taken counsel with his ministers he entrusted his own nephew, his minister named Arittha, with this business.

When he had pondered (on the matter) and had summoned him he spoke to him in these words: ‘Canst thou perchance, my dear, go to Dhammasoka to bring hither the great Bodhi-tree and the therï Sanghamittä ? ‘I can bring them hither, your majesty, if I be allowed, when I am come back, to receive the pabbajjä, O most exalted !’

‘So be it,’ answered the king and sent him thence. When he had received the command of the thera and the king and had taken his leave he set forth on the second day of the bright half of the month Assayuja, ((See note to 1. 12.)) and having embarked, filled with zeal (for his mission) at the haven Jambukola and having passed over the great ocean he came, by the power of the thera’s will, to the pleasant Pupphapura ((See note to 4. 31.)) even on the day of his departure.

The queen Anulä, who, with five hundred maidens and five hundred women of the royal harem had accepted the ten precepts, ((Dasasilam.(Dasasil) These are the precepts:
(1) not to kill any living being,
(2) to refrain from taking the property of others,
(3) not to commit adultery,
(4) to avoid lying,
(5) to drink no intoxicating drink,
(6) only to take food at certain prescribed hours,
(7) to avoid worldly amusements,
(8) to use neither unguents nor ornaments,
(9) not to sleep on a high or decorated bed,
(10) not to accept any gold or silver.
There are also frequent references to the five or eight pledges which one may take on oneself. These are the first five or eight respectively of the above series. For members of the order the third precept is more rigorous, since sexual intercourse must be avoided altogether. See note on 1. 62.)) did (meanwhile) pious as she was, (wearing) the yellow robe, waiting for the pabbajjä, in discipline, looking for the coming of the theri, take up her abode, leading a holy life, in the pleasant nunnery built by the king in a certain part of the city. Since the nunnery was inhabited by these laysisters it became known in Lanka (Lañkä) by the name Upäsikä-vihära. ((4-I. e.’Vihara of the lay-sisters.’))

When the nephew Maharittha had delivered the king’s message to the king Dhammasoka he gave him (also) the thera’s message: ‘The spouse of the brother of thy friend, of the king (Devanampiya), O thou elephant among kings, lives, longing for the pabbajja, constantly in stern discipline. To bestow on her the pabbajja do thou send the bhikkhuni Samghamitta and with her the south branch of the great Bodhi-tree.’

And the same matter, even as the thera had charged him, he told the theri; the theri went to her father (Asoka) and told him the thera’s purpose.

The king said: ‘How shall I, when I no longer behold thee, dear one, master the grief aroused by the parting with son and grandson ((That is, from Mahinda and Sumana, the son of Samghamitta and
Aggibrahma (5. 170 ; 13. 4, &c.).))?’

She answered: ‘Weighty is the word of my brother, O great king; many are they that must receive the pabajja, therefore must I depart thither.’ ‘The great Bodhi-trees must not be injured with a knife, how then can I have a branch!’ mused the king. Then when he, following the counsel of his minister Mahädeva, had invited the community of bhikkhus and had shown them hospitality the monarch asked: ‘Shall the great Bodhi-tree be sent to Lanka, sirs?’

The thera Moggaliputta answered: ‘It shall be sent thither,’ and he related to the king the five great resolutions that the (Buddha) gifted with the five eyes had formed. ((See 17. 46 foll.))

When the ruler of the earth heard this he was glad, and when he had caused the road, seven yojanas long, leading to the great Bodhi-tree to be carefully cleaned he adorned it in manifold ways, and gold he caused to be brought to make ready a vase. Vissakamma, ((7-The God of skill; Skt. Visvakarman.)) who appeared in the semblance of a goldsmith, asked: ‘How large shall I make the vase ?’ Then being answered: ‘Thyself deciding the size do thou make it,’ he took the gold, and having moulded it with his hand he made a vase in that very moment and departed thence.

When the king had received the beautiful vase measuring nine cubits ((8-See note to 15. 16.)) around and five cubits in depth and three cubits across, being eight finger-breadths thick, having the upper edge of the size of a young elephant’s trunk, being in radiancy equal to the young (morning) sun; when, with his army of four divisions ((9-Caturangini sena, consisting of foot-soldiers, cavalry, combatants in chariots, and elephants.)) stretching to a length of seven yojanas and a width of three yojanas, and with a great company of bhikkhus, he had gone to the great Bodhi-tree, decked with manifold ornaments, gleaming with various jewels and garlanded with many coloured flags; ((10-On the world-wide custom of decking out sacred trees with gay strips of stuff see ANDREE, Ethnogr. Parallelen und Vergleiche, p. 58 foll. Concerning such a ‘Lappenbaum’ on the Terrace of the Ruwanwaeli-dagaba in Anuradhapura, see GEIGER, Ceylon, p. 181.)) when he, moreover, had ranged his troops about (the tree), bestrewn with manifold flowers and resounding with many kinds of music and had covered it round with a tent; when in seemly wise he had surrounded himself and the great Bodhi-tree with a thousand great theras at the head of a great company (of bhikkhus) and with more than a thousand princes who had been anointed as king, he gazed up with folded hands at the great Bodhi-tree.

Then from its south bough the branches vanished, leaving a stump four cubits long.

When the ruler of the earth saw the miracle he cried out, rejoicing: ‘I worship the great Bodhi-tree by bestowing kingship (thereon),’ and the monarch consecrated the great Bodhi-tree as king of his great realm. When he had worshipped the great Bodhi-tree with gifts of flowers and so forth, and had passed round it three times turning to the left ((11-Tipadakkhinam katva, i.e. had walked round it in such a manner that the thing or person worshipped is kept on the right hand.)) and had done reverence to it at eight points ((12-I.e. at the four cardinal points, E., N., &c., as well as the intermediate points, NE., NW., &c.)) with folded hands, he had the golden vase placed upon a seat inlaid with gold, adorned with various gems and easy to mount, reaching to the height of the bough; and when, in order to receive the sacred branch, he had mounted upon it, grasping a pencil of red arsenic with a golden handle he drew (with this) a line about the bough and uttered the solemn declaration: ((13-The conception of the saccakiriya, lit. ‘effect of the truth,’ is hardly to be rendered in a translation. Beside the declaration it includes a wish. The saccakiriya is always given in this form : if or so truly as such and such is the case shall such and such a thing come to pass. See CHILDEKS, P. D., s.v.))

‘So truly as the great Bodhi-tree shall go hence to the isle of Lañkä, and so truly as I shall stand unalterably firm in the doctrine of the Buddha, shall this fair south branch of the great Bodhi-tree, severed of itself, take its place here in this golden vase.’

Then the great Bodhi-tree severed, of itself, at the place where the line was, floating above the vase filled with fragrant earth. Above the line first (drawn) the ruler of men drew, at (a distance of) three finger-breadths, round about ten (further) pencil-strokes. And ten strong roots springing from the first and ten slender from each of the other (lines) dropped down, forming a net.

When the king saw this miracle he uttered even there, greatly gladdened, a cry of joy, and with him his followers all around and the community of bhikkhus raised, with glad hearts, cries of salutation and round about was a thousandfold waving of stuffs.

Thus with a hundred roots the great Bodhi-tree set itself there in the fragrant earth, converting the people to the faith. Ten cubits long was the stem; five lovely branches (were thereon), each four cubits long and (each) adorned with five fruits, and on these branches were a thousand twigs. Such was the ravishing and auspicious great Bodhi-tree.

At the moment that the great Bodhi-tree set itself in the vase the earth quaked and wonders of many kinds came to pass. By the resounding of the instruments of music (which gave out sound) of themselves among gods and men, by the ringing-out of the shout of salutation from the hosts of devas and brahmas, ((14-I. e. gods of lower and higher rank.)) by the crash of the clouds, (the voices) of beasts and birds, of the yakkhas and so forth and by the crash of the quaking of the earth all was in one tumult. Beautiful ((15-Cf. on 53-54 the prophecy in 17. 48, 49.)) rays of six colours going forth from the fruits and leaves of the Bodhi-tree made the whole universe to shine. Then rising in the air with the vase the great Bodhi-tree stayed for seven days invisible in the region of the snow.

The king came down from his seat and sojourning there for seven days he continually brought offerings in many ways to the great Bodhi-tree. When the week was gone by all the snow-clouds and all the rays likewise entered into the great Bodhi-tree, and in the clear atmosphere the glorious great Bodhi-tree was displayed to the whole people, planted in the golden vase. Whilst wonders of many kinds came to pass the great Bodhi-tree, plunging mankind into amazement, descended on the earth.

Rejoiced by the many wonders the great king worshipped again the great Bodhi-tree by (bestowing on it) his great kingdom, and, when he had consecrated the great Bodhi-tree unto great kingship he abode, worshipping it with divers offerings, yet another week in that same place.

In the bright half of the month Assayuja on the fifteenth uposatha-day he received the great Bodhi-tree; two weeks after in the dark half of the month Assayuja on the fourteenth-uposatha day the lord of chariots brought the great Bodhi-tree, having placed it on a beautiful car on the same day, amid offerings, to his capital; and when he had built a beautiful hall (for it) adorned in manifold ways, and there on the first day of the bright half of the month Kattika had caused the great Bodhi-tree to be placed on the east side of the foot of a beautiful and great säla-tree, he allotted to it day by day many offerings. But on the seventeenth day after the receiving (of the tree) new shoots appeared on it all at once; therefore, rejoicing, the lord of men once more worshipped the great Bodhi-tree by bestowing kingship upon it. When the great ruler had consecrated the great Bodhitree unto kingship he appointed a festival of offerings in divers forms for the great Bodhi-tree.

So it came to pass that the festival of adoration of the great Bodhi-tree, vivid with gay and lovely flags, great, brilliant and splendid, in the city of flowers, opened the hearts of gods and men (to the faith) (even as) in the lake the sun (opens the lotuses). ((16-The festival of the Bodhi-tree is compared to the sun (saramsa), the city of flowers, i.e. Pataliputta, to the lake (saras), and the hearts of gods and men to the lotus-flowers, growing in the lake.)).

Here ends the eighteenth chapter, called ‘The Receiving of the Great Bodhi-tree’, in the Mahavamsa, compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious.

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