Monday, 28 March 2011

. International Buddhist Missionaries (Early Period)


One very significant outcome of the third Buddhist council was dispatching the massage of the Buddha outside boundary of India. Emperor Asoka was credited for this historic even which expanded the horizon of Buddhist culture. His contributions to propagate Buddhism can be seen in two levels.

1.   Spread of dhamma in local arenas
2.   Spread of Buddhist in land outside India.

After being a Buddhist, closely associated with responsible monks, Emperor Asoka was well acknowledged in the teaching of Buddha. Based on that, he built a political philosophy to be practice through out his empire. This political philosophy is known as the “Asoka Doctrine” (Asokadhamma).

      In his local missionary activities emperor Asoka spread Buddhism mainly in three ways.

1.   Encouraging and supporting local Buddhist missionaries
2.   Establishing edicts baring dhamma
i.       ßilalekhana (rock edicts)
ii.         Girilekhana (edicts in caves)
iii.        Thambhalekhana (edicts on posts)
3.   Appointing royal officers (dhammamahAmaccA)

Since Asoka became Dhammasoka after giving up his principles of conquering direction (∂igvijaya) and converting himself to thee principle of conquering by doctrine (∂hammavijaya) he worked to acknowledge his subject on Buddhist teachings to facilitate that process about three measures were practiced.

      In his dispatching Buddhist missionaries in other countries following countries and lands were covered.

µajjhantikattheraM KasmIragandhAraTThaM…, µahAdevattheraM µahisamaNDalaM…, RakkhitattheraM VanavAsiM, YonakadhammarakkhitattheraM åparantakaM, µahAdhammarakkhitattheraM µahAraTThaM, µahArakkhitattheraM YonakalokaM, µajjhimattheraM HimarantappadesabhAaM, YonakattheraJca UttarattheraJca ßuvaNNabhUmiM.., µahindattheraM, ItthiyattheraM, UtthiyattheraM, ßambalattherena, BhaddasAlattherena, ßumanasAmanera BhaNDukopAsakena ca saddhiM †ambapaNNi dIpaM pesesi.

1. Kasmira Gandhara this area covers two colonies in north-western India. They are generally identified with modern Peshawar and Ravalpindi districts. After this second council this area developed as contras of ßArvativAda sect. The missionary group sent to here was elder Hajjhantika.

2. Mahisa Mandala this present modern Mysore district and the missionary group headed by elder µahAdeva.

3. Vanavasadesa is identified with modern India and the missionary group was headed by elder Rakkhita

4. åparanta this is the west India specially it covers Ellora, BhArukacca and ßuppAraka. The missionary group sent here was headed by elder Yonakadhammarakkhita.

5. Maharattha this is modern µahArastra in central India and elder µahAdhammarakkhita was the leader of missionary

6. Yonakadesa it covers north-west boundary of India. And µahArakkhita thera headed the missionary in that land.

7. Suvannabhumi this is considered to be modern Myanmar. Buddhism was brought to this country by this missionary headed by elder Sona and elder Uttara.

8. Himavantappadesa this is considered to be north India over the HimAlayas tracts. Majjhimathera headed th e missionary and Kassapagotta, Ven. Culladeva, Sahadeva and Dunnunvissara accomplished the missionary.

9. Jambapanni this is Sri Lanka and Ven. µahAmahinda headed the missionary that was accomplished with Ven. Itthiuya, Utthiya, Sambala, BhaddasAla, novice Sumana and lay devotee BhaNDuka.

      In these nine destinations, two namely ßuvaNNabhUmi and †ambapaNNi are foreign lands. Sri Lanka out of them has been able to protect Buddhism in pure form throughout history. On the other hand Sri Lanka has a historical record of Buddhist history, throughout the ages. During the Buddhist history in Sri Lanka, it was the major religion in the Island always. In other lands to where the Buddhism was sent at the end third Buddhist council have no mentioned an unbroken Buddhist tradition or Buddhist record. Therefore among nine missionaries, the one that came to Sri Lanka is considered to be the most success.

      The sources other then pAli works such edicts, record the Chinese travelers, mentioned that Buddhism was also sent to countries like Syria, Egypt, Cola PAndya, etc. we do not  have detail records or continues historical document on the Buddhist in those lands. Therefore, it is not easy to recognize how and why did not continue to develop in those lands. Archaeological remorse in many and various historical sight, both in west and east stand as evident to say that with the Asokan region Buddhist became an international religion.

      Some the modern scholars do not accept the record in pAli chronicles and commentaries to be true. They interpreted those as mythological information. Ironically, their ideas were proved to be false with the archaeological discoveries. At ßaJchi stupa some caskets found by Dr. Kuningham. Out those there are sentences, which are not very clear. But show that the names of Buddhist missionaries very specifically. Their languages were Asokan Prakrit. One casket there bears as “KaZapagotaZa hemavatacariyaZa which try to say about Kassapagotta thera who went to Himavanta area. Another casket bears as “ŚapuriZamajjhimaZa” recording about Majjhantika thera who went to KasmIra and Gandharva. A Sri Lanka rock edict belonging to first century A.D has the following in ancient Sri Lanka Prakrit “µahida teraha ca bhadasala teraha ca” recording about Buddhist missionaries from India in Sri Lanka. Picture carving in ßAJchi has a picture bearing Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka. By these archeological evidences what is said in pAli records are proved to be true.

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