Arahant Mahinda-Redactor of the Buddhapujawa in Sinhala Buddhism



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by Prof.Suwanda H.J. Sugunasiri
Nalanda Publishing Canada. Available for free download at http//tspace.library.utoronto.ca
Reviewed by Dr.P.G. Punchihewa


Prof .S.H.J.Sugunasiri ,one time member of the academic staff of the then University of Vidyodaya, Sri Lanka since migrating to Canada, some years back, has been contributing much to the promotion of Buddhism in Canada as well as outside in many ways.


He was the founder of Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies, Canada, the first Canadian seat of learning approved by the Government of Canada as a non profit organization for the systematic study of Buddhism, the President of Buddhist Council Canada and also Founding Coordinator of Buddhist Foundation of Toronto.


Equally important is his scholarly contributions on varying aspects of Buddhism. Among his works which include books and contributions to journals are


 


‘A soulity’ as Translation of Anattà: Absence, not Negation", 2011.


‘Against Belief’: Mindfulness Meditation (satipatthana bhàvanà) as Empirical Method", 2008.


"Inherited Buddhists and Acquired Buddhists", 2006.


"Embryo as Person: Buddhism, Bioethics and Society", 2005.


‘You’re What You Sense: Buddha on Mindbody,’ 2001.


"Whole Body, not Heart, the Seat of Consciousness: the Buddha’s


View 1995.


Buddhist View of the Dead Body’, 1990.


‘Buddhism in Metropolitan Toronto: Ethnic Studies, 1989.


As one would notice he has dealt on subjects like, mind and body, mindfulness meditation and asoulity which are the core subjects of Buddhism and not generally touched on by the average writer on Buddhism.


Dr Sugunasiri continuing his research breaks new ground in his present work "Arahant Mahinda, the Redactor of the Buddhapujawa in Sinhala Buddhism" .Here he seeks to establish that Arahant Mahinda who introduced Buddhadhamma to Sri Lanka is the Redactor of the Buddhapujawa in Sinhala Buddhism.


The book is in two parts -


Part 1.Buddhapujawa in Sinhala Buddhism: Text and Critical Analysis


Part 11 Arahant Mahinda as Redactor of the Buddhapujava and the Panca , Atthanga and Dasa Sila.


To those who are not quite conversant with the Buddhapujawa the author at the outset gives a brief description of what it is.


"Buddhapujava is a ritual ceremony of Sinhalese Buddhism, although ironically, it is not in Sinhala but in Pali. While it is performed collectively, it can be equally performed at the individual level" "While the overall structure of the Buddhapujava is universal to all Sinhalese Buddhists , from the coastal to the hill country, there may be variations with a deletion here and an addition there."


Accordingly Part 1, of the book should be of more interest to those who are outside Sri Lanka whether it is from a religious, sociological or cultural or any other perspective. To them the detailed description of the ceremony which includes, the text and the critical analysis provided by the author is a veritable background to what follows in part 11.


But to the Sri Lankan scholar it would be Part 11, that will be of more interest where he postulates the theory that the origin of Buddhapujava must be in Sri Lanka and Arahant Mahinda was its redactor.


In looking for the origin of this ritual it is natural that he should first look to India, the home of Buddhism. He had delved into four sources - (1) the Canon (2 ) the post Canonical commentarial literature(3) Art-historical analysis on Indian Buddhist sites(4) the accounts of Chinese pilgrims.


But in spite of his laborious scrutiny of the above the author found little evidence to conclude that it existed in India in the pre Mahindian era.


As should be expected, then the author turns to Sri Lanka.


But finds that nowhere in all the details about Arahant Mahinda and the conversion of Tambapanni, is there any mention of a Buddhapuja.The earliest reference he finds is in connection with King Dutugamunu in Mahvamsa in the phrase buddhapujapayogena on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the Great Thupa and is of opinion that the buddhapujava was already in vogue by the time of Dutugamunu .


The author seems to be not quite contented with that but wants to go back still further. As mentioned earlier with no related historical record he looks for some internal evidence relating to the possible redactor. He makes a valiant effort to fit in the thirteen items of the buddhepujawa to the many of the concepts and the practices mentioned in the Pali Canon and says "It is in following the above steps that we came to ascribe, with some confidence, he authorship to none other than Arahant Mahinda who introduces the Buddhadhamma to the Island".


But, in fairness to the author it must be said that he also says "Of course, our conclusion as to authorship may still be conjectural ,since all we have is circumstantial evidence."


In spite of the inconclusive nature of his findings, it is surprising that the writer is of opinion that Buddhapujawa could be seen as the single most valuable inheritance left behind by Arahant Mahinda to the Buddhist world!


Similarly there are certain views which he has expressed that may be subject to much disagreement among the scholars. For example the author says , "Indeed even in Buddha’s time, there may not have been more than a thousand Arahants." After spending 45 years, day in day out, and walking from village to village and preaching to thousands, is it all that the Buddha achieved?


Also the author thinks that it may be reasonable to take the fifth precept regarding liquor NOT as a total ban but a moderation and common sense.


Finally as Dr. A.P.Guruge has mentioned in his Foreword, "one may not accept all of his conclusions. But he certainly provided much food for thought."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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