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U Awbatha-Sravasti PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 05 January 2008

Venerable U Awbatha

Chief Resident Monk

Myanmar Buddhist Temple,

Sravasti (Thawutti), UP, India

 

Venerable U Awbatha, Chief Resident Monk of Myanmar Buddhist Vihara in Sravasti  (Savatthi in Sanskrit or Thawutti in Myanmar) near Baralumpur, UP State, India, was born in Tha-nge-taw Village, TadaOo (Inn-wa) township, Kyaukse District, Mandalay Division, Myanmar, on full-moon day of Kasone, Myanmar era 1312 (30, April, 1950).  At the age of 11 years, he became a novice at main Monastery, Thangetaw village, and studied under the guidance of Venerable U Dhammasami. At the age of 14 years, he moved to First Mahagandayon Monastery of Sagaing, to study Buddhist literature.

On 1st March 1970, he was ordained as a full-fledged monk  and continued Buddhist study under the guidance of Sayadaw Baddanta Thupanneindawonsa (Abhidaza Mahaguru).  He had also studied Buddhist literature at Dakhinarama Monastery and Masoyein Monastery in Mandalay. He received Dhammasariya certificate in 1974. He then joined the 2-year training course for Chief Resident Monks, run by the State Sanga Nayaka at Kaba Aye in Yangon, from May 1983 to February 1985. He has also attained BA degree in 1990.  

Baddanta U Awbatha moved to India in 1985 as he was selected by Myanmar Sangha Nayaka to stay and manage the Myanmar Buddhist Vihara in Sravasti. He stayed as the Chief Resident Monk of Sravasti Myanmar Temple, and strived for maintaining various buildings and catering the pilgrims from Myanmar and other countries. Several new buildings and renovation of old structures have been carried out, after Myanmar Government's promotion of pilgrimage to Buddha places in 1990s till date.

Sravasti Myanmar Buddhist Temple was established in 1930 by Venerable Monywa Sayadaw U Mahinda. Since the Temple and its compound were situated within the vicinity of the Sravasti Jetavana Park of Archaeological site,  the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had taken the whole place under the archaeological act in 1956.  The ASI also opened their office at the Temple building.  With the continuous and zealous efforts of Sayadaw U Awbatha, and also with support by the successive Myanmar Ambassadors and Indian well-wishers, the ASI had handed back to Myanmar Sayadaw the custody of Myanmar Temple in 1991. However, the expansion and renovation of the old temple could not be done, since the temple lies within the archaeological site.

In 1997, with support of pilgrims from Myanmar and other countries and after establishing the Late Mahinda Bhikku Memorial Buddha Society, a new land was acquired to construct a new Myanmar Temple. The new Vihara was completed by 2003. Sayadaw U Awbatha is managing both the old and new Myanmar temples since then and helping the pilgrims.

Sayadaw has written and published a book on “Historical images on places in Majjhimadesa” in 2003.

{compiled by U Than Sein, 1 November 2007)

 
Vesali PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 22 December 2007

 

Vesali - A Place of Offering of Honey to Gotama Buddha by a Band of Monkeys

 

Vesali or Vaishali, known today as Basarh in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar State in India was situated about 50 km north of Patna across the Ganges River or 260 km east from Kushinagar. It was once the capital of the powerful Licchavi clan, and a stronghold of Dhamma in the early days. It was here that the Buddha accepted Bhikkhunis and also announced his approaching Mahaparinibbana.  A little over one hundred years after the Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana, the Second Buddhist Council was held here.

 

Religious Significance

Vesali or Vaishali was the capital of the Licchavi or Vajji, and the headquarters of the Vajjian confederacy of eight clans, of whom the Licchavi clan was the most important.  It was the first republic in the world modeled on the Aparihaniya  Dhamma, or the seven conditions leading to welfare, which the Buddha taught to the Vajjian, when he was dwelling at the Saranda shrine in Vesali. Thus, united, they became so powerful that King Ajatasattu of Magadha had to resort to treachery by sending the Brahmin Vassakara to sow discord among the Vajjian princes for three years in order to weaken them. By this way, Ajatasattu conquered them.

The Buddha visited Vesali several times, spending at least 2 rain retreats there, and many Licchavi nobles became his disciples. When Vesali was plagued with famine, disease, and evil spirits, the Buddha was invited by the Licchavi nobles to help them alleviate the plagues. The Buddha then preached the Ratana Sutta (Jewel Discourse) and instructed Ashin Ananda to go around the city walls reciting it as a protection. Thereafter, the Buddha recited it for seven days and all the plagues then abated.  

The main event that elevated the status of Vesali to an important sacred place for pilgrimage was the offering of a bowl of honey by a band of monkeys to the Blessed One, an incident mentioned among the Four Great Miracles in the Buddha’s life.

It was at Vesali, the Buddha allowed Maha Pajapati Gotami and several Sakyan ladies to be admitted to the Sangha, as Bhikkhunis, at the successive request of Ashin Ananda. The Buddha then decreed the Eight Chief Rules, in addition to the Disciplinary Code observed by male monks, to which Bhikkhunis should revere, reverence, honour and respect for life and which should not be transgressed.

Once, the Buddha was staying in a mango grove of Ambapali, the chief courtesan of Vesali, who invited him to a house dana, forestalling the Licchavi nobles who then offered her money in exchange for the invitation. But she politely declined their offer for she valued the dana more and after the meals even donated her mango grove to the Buddha and Sangha. The Buddha spent the last vassa in Vesali where he relinquished the will to live at the Capala shrine. After the Mahaparinibbana, the Licchavi clan obtained a share of the Buddha’s relics from Kushinagar and erected a grand stupa over the holy relics in Vesali.

After the Mahaparinibbana, the Vajjian confederacy was defeated by King Ajatasattu of Magadha. The son of King Ajatasattu, Udayibhadda, who slew his father, moved the capital from Rajgir to Pataliputta (present day Patna) in 4th century BCE.  According to a historical story, when Ashin Ananda reached the age of 120 years, he knew that his end was near and went from Rajgir, Magadha to Vesali following the Buddha’s example.  Hearing of his intention, the citizens of Rajgir and Vesali hurried from both directions to bid him farewell. To do justice to both sides, Ashin Ananda levitated in the air and entered into the Samadhi of the Fire Element, whereby the body was consumed by spontaneous combustion and reduced to ashes, which fell on both sides.  So the people of each city taking half the relics, returned and erected stupas over them.

According to the Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle of Ceylon), the dynasty of King Udayibhadda was succeeded by three generations of parricidal kings, namely, Anuruddha, Munda and Nagadasa, who each slew their own fathers to take over the throne. By then, the people could not tolerate this dynasty of parricides. King Nagadasa was deposed by the minister Sisunaga, son of a Licchavi prince.  King Sisunnaga was succeeded by his son, Kalasoka, and by then, a hundred years had passed since the Mahaparinibbana. At that time in Vesali, many shameless Bhikkhus of the Vajjian clan were practicing the monks’ rules which were not in conformity with the Vinaya or monastic rules. The Venerable Yasa of Kosambi while visiting Vesali noticed the deviations and strongly protested against them, resulting in his expulsion by the Vajjian monks. Venerable Ashin Yasa, together with other monks appealed to Venerable Revata of Soreyya, the chief of the Sangha to settle the dispute. Thereupon, the Second Buddhist Council was convened in 443 BCE (or 100 years after Mahaparinibbana), at Valukarama in Vesali, during the reign of King Kalasoka and attended by seven hundred Bhikkhus. Venerable Ashin Sabbakami, the most senior Arahant, was questioned by Venerable Ashin Revata, and adjudged the unlawful acts of Ten Points as illegitimate according to the Vinaya. Although the decision was accepted unanimously by the Council, the Vajjian monks did not accept the verdict. This resulted in a schism in the Sangha, and the secession of the Mahasanghika (Vajjian monks), who held a great assembly of their own called the Mahasangiti from which the sect derived its name, and decided matters according to their own light. From then on, further schisms led to the formation of different sub-sects, and in the course of time, eleven sub-sects arose out of the Theravada, while seven issued from the Mahasanghika, leading to the well-known Eighteen Schools of Buddhism.

 

Historical Background

Mauryan emperor King Ashoka raised a stupa in which he enshrined some of the Buddha’s relics and erected beside it an Ashoka column with a lion capital, when he visited Vesali during his pilgrimage to the holy places in 249 BCE.  Chinese pilgrim, Fa Hsien who visited Vesali around 400 CE mentioned many stupas built in the vicinity of Ashoka’s stupa in honour of the Buddha.  He also saw a stupa built at the site where the Second Council held as well as a stupa built over half the remains of Venerable Ashin Ananda.

vasali_2.jpgAnother Chinese Hsüan Tsang, who came in 630 CE, described Vesali covering an area of 26-31 sq. km, but in ruins. He saw the stupa built by the Licchavi princes over their portion of the Buddha’s relics from Kushinagar, the Ashoka stupa and stone pillar surmounted by a lion capital and nearby the pond dug by a band of monkeys (Markata-hrada) for the Buddha’s use. Not far to the south were two more stupas; one at the site where the monkeys, taking the Buddha’s alms-bowl, climbed up a tree to gather honey, and another at the site where the monkeys offered honey to the Blessed One.  Hsüan Tsang described about the existence of many sacred monuments all around the city of Vesali. After Hsüan Tsang’s visit, the history of Vesali remained blank for over twelve centuries. It was only in 1861, Cunningham identified the ruins at and around Basrah in Muzaffapur district of Bihar as ancient Vesali. Today, most of the principal ruins are located in the village of Kolhua.

Places to visit

(i) Raj Vishal ka Garh: Basrah area situated 35 km south-west of Muzaffarpur has been identified as the site of the ancient city of Vesali.  The site of the Raj Vishal ka Garh is believed to represent the citadel of Vesali, where the 7,707 rajas or representatives of the Vajjian confederacy used to meet and discuss the problems of the day. The ruins consist of a large brick-covered mound 2.5 m above the surrounding level and 1,500 m in circumference, with a 42.7 m moat surrounding it. Beside it is a pond believed to be the pond dug by a band of monkeys (Markata-hrada) for the Buddha’s use or it may have been used by the Licchavi princes or monks to take their bath. It is located about 3.2 km south-west of the Ashoka pillar at Kolhua.

(ii) Relic Stupa of the Licchavi: About a kilometer to the north-west of the citadel stands an open shelter with a dome-shaped roof. Inside it, the remains of a stupa had been excavated and preserved, which was originally a mud structure with thin layers of cloddy clay, 25 feet in diameter. It appeared to have undergone enlargement in which burnt bricks were used, increasing its diameter to 40 feet. The original mud stupa was a very old one believed to be pre-Mauryan. From its primitive features and from the fact that a trench had been driven into its core in olden times, it is believed that this stupa is none other than the one erected by the Licchavi Princes over their share of the relics of the Buddha. The trench was probably excavated during King Ashoka time to reach the relics, some of which, according to Hsüan Tsang, were left in their original position by King Ashoka.

vasali_3.jpg(iii) Ashoka Pillar: At Kolhua, 3.2 km north-east of the citadel of Vesali, the impressive Ashoka Pillar erected by King Ashoka, 2,250 years ago stands near an old Stupa. It is a complete monolithic pillar of highly polished sandstone surmounted at the capital by a sitting lion. The head of the lion is faced to Kushinagar. The height is 6.7 m above the ground with a considerable portion sunk underground over the years. Though devoid of inscription, it appears to be a part of the line of pillars that King Ashoka erected along his pilgrimage route from Pataliputta (Patna) to Lumbini during 250-249 BCE. Around the Ashoka Pillar at Kolhua are the ruins of many stupas, monastic structures and ponds.

(iv) Asoka Stupa: Just near the Asoka pillar is the ruin of the Asoka Stupa as seen by Hsüan Tsang. The dome-shaped mound is 4.6 m high and has a diameter of 20 m. During excavation by Archaeologist Cunningham, a stone casket containing some relics of the Buddha was found enshrined beneath it. This site is a conducive place to offer religious rites followed by walking or sitting meditation at the stupa.

(v) Monkey’s Tank (Markata-hrada): Near the stone pillar is a small tank (pond) called Rama-kunda, identified by Cunningham with the ancient monkey’s tank believed to have been dug by a colony of monkeys for the Buddha’s use.

 

Places of Interest in Patna

(i) Kumhrar or Ashokarama Park: This park in Patna is believed to be the site of the Third Buddhist Council held in Pataliputta in the 17th year of King Ashoka’s reign, about 235 years after the Mahaparinibbana or about 308 BCE. It was attended by 1,000 Arahants and presided over by the Venerable Ashin Maha Moggaliputta Tissa. At this Council, the Kathavatthu or Points of Controversy, one of the seven books of the Abhidhamma, was compiled wherein the heretical doctrines were thoroughly examined and refuted. The Third Council, which lasted for 9 months, marked a turning point for Buddhism which, prior to this, was confined mainly to Magadha and some neighbouring states.  King Asoka of the Mauryan Empire, reigning supreme over the whole Indian sub-continent as its chief patron, decided to send competent Arahants to propagate the Buddha’s Teachings, all over India as well as Sri Lanka in the south, Kashmir and Gandhara in the north, Bengal and Burma in the east, and Yonaka and other countries in the west. Thus the Teachings of the Buddha spread in the four directions after the Third Council.  It was recorded in Myanmar History that the venerable monks sent by King Ashoka, and led by Ashin Sonna and Ashin Uttara reached Suwuunabumi and spread Buddhism in Myanmar. At the present day Kumhrar in Patna, one can see a large pool, where 32 ancient pillars of polished sandstone were found, a specimen of which is exhibited at a nearby pavilion. Within the vicinity of the park is the site of a vihara of Ashoka’s time.

(ii) Patna Museum (Closed on Mondays): The museum at Patna, capital of Bihar, houses one of the largest collections of ancient Buddhist antiquities in the world. The sculptures of stone and bronze on display can be divided into a few distinct periods, namely:

Mauryan Sculptures (4th-3rd century BCE): On display here are Indian stone sculptures of highly polished sandstone in magnificent forms of animals such as the lion, bull and elephant capitals, fashioned to be placed atop Ashoka pillars. Besides this refined courtly art, an archaic religious art based on the widespread cult of tutelary deities is on display, featuring the gigantic Patna yaksa (yakkha) and yaksi (female yakkha).

Gandhara and Mathura Buddha Images (1st – 2nd CE): Prior to the beginning of the Christian era, the Buddha was never represented in human form, but only by symbols such as Dhammacakka or Bodhi tree. The demand for Buddha images started when the movement of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion gained strength among the Buddhist lay people due to Mahayana influence. Buddha images came into existence in the first century CE, when two ancient schools of sculpture emerged separately – Gandhara (Afghanistan/Pakistan) and Mathura (near New Delhi in India). In Gandhara, the Buddha-image is represented in Grecian style, almost Apollo-like in physical beauty and even the robe is sculpted with folds, characteristic of Greco-Roman sculpture. The contours are not rounded off and great pains are taken to model the human form to display the physical perfection through sharp, elegant features. In Mathura, the sculptures are indigenous in the Mahapurisa style, large and rounded. A typical example is Bhikkhu Bala’s image of the Bodhisatta in Sarnath. The treatment of the Buddha’s robe is schematic and clinging, so no folds are shown and the body is almost revealed. In Patna Museum, one is able to see some rare specimens of Buddha and Bodhisatta images from Gandhara that survived destruction by Muslim Kings when they conquered Northern India.

Gupta Period (300-550 CE): This period is the golden age of Indian art, and the great Buddha images of Mathura, Sarnath, Ajanta and Bihar are magnificent specimens from this period. The Buddha images from Mathura during this period underwent some modifications by the Indo-Grecian art mode. There is a large collection of Buddha-images from the Gupta period in this museum for one to admire.

Pala Period (9th -12th century CE): During the Pala period, metal images became increasing popular. The elegant bronze Buddha images were produced in Bihar. For stone sculptures, Nalanda in Bihar is famous for its distinctive black slate Buddha images. In Patna Museum, there is a section showing black slate and bronze images of the Buddha and some bronze images of Tantric deities as the cult of Tantrayana, a decadent and perverse form of worship of deities unrelated to the Buddha’s Teaching, emerged during the Pala Period.

 

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Myanmar Buddhist Viharas at Patna and Vesali

Since 1930s, Burmese Buddhist Vihara has been built in Rajindar Nagar, central part of Patna City, by Dewai Sayadaw.  When Myanmar pilgrims started visiting Buddha Places in large batches in 1990s, old buildings in the Vihara had been renovated, and new guest houses including dinning and kitchen and walls surrounding the Vihara and entry gate were built.  Sayadaw U Dhammazagra and Ashin U Thunanda continue to manage the Vihara to date.

          Recently, under the guidance of Sayadaw U Wannadhaza of Migadawon Myanmar Vihara, another Myanmar Buddhist Vihara was under construction near the archaeological site at Vesali.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 January 2008 )
 
Rajgiri-Nalanda PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Rajagaha (Rajgir)            Place of Taming the Drunken Elephant, Nalagiri

 

 

Prince Ajatasattu possessed a very ferocious elephant, called Nalagiri. Devadatta, Buddha’s brother-in-law, upon hearing that Gotama Buddha was coming to the Rajagaha, arranged to have the elephant escape. As the Buddha came toward the City, Devadatta went to the palace terrace to see the Buddha killed, but when the elephant came rushing at the Buddha, the Enlightened One tamed the elephant with a few words, and the ferocious beast knelt at his feet. Mulasarvastivadin Vinaya  

Modern Rajagaha (Rajgir or Rajgiri) is situated in the Nalanda district of Bihar State in India, 90 km north-east of Bodh Gaya and 105 km south of Patna, well connected by rail and motorable roads. It was once the capital of the powerful state of Magadha, and closely associated with the life of the Buddha. The Bamboo Grove donated by King Bimbisara was situated here, as well as Vultures Peak (Gijjhakuta) which was a place for retreat liked by the Buddha, near the city. This is the place where Devadatta made several attempts on his life. The First Dhamma Council was held here just after the Mahaparinibbana of the Buddha.

History

Rajgiri is the modern name of Rajagaha or “royal palace”, an appropriate designation for a place that had remained as the capital of the powerful kingdom of Magadha for centuries. In the Buddha’s time, the ruler was King Bimbisara, who was later usurped by his parricidal son, Ajatasattu (Ajatashatru). In his first meeting with the Gotama Bodhisatta, Bimbisara was so impressed by his royal bearing that he offered to share his kingdom with the Bodhisatta. The latter, who had just renounced his Sakyan kingdom in search of the Deathless, declined the offer, but promised to return to visit Rajgir after he had attained his goal. Soon after dispatching the Sangha to spread the Dhamma from Sarnath, the Buddha traveled to Uruvela, where he converted the Kassapa brothers and their matted-hair disciples, who all attained Arahantship. With this retinue of one thousand Arahants, the Buddha visited Rajgiri, where he was warmly received by King Bimbisara, who became a lay follower and offered the famous Bamboo Garden (Veluvana), to the Buddha and the Sangha. As the capital of a powerful state, Rajgiri was a hive of secular and religious activities. According to the Samannaphala Sutta, many heretical teachers operated in Rajgiri, namely: Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambali, Pakudha Kaccayana, Nigantha Nattaputta and Sanjaya Belatthaputta. Among the disciples of Sanjaya were two rich brahmins, Upatissa and Kolita, popularly known as Sariputta and Moggallana respectively.  Both joined the Sangha after their conversion by the Arahant Assaji, and became the Buddha’s first and second Chief Disciples.  Following their conversion, many paribbajakas or wandering ascetics also became followers of the Buddha. Among the laity, the most notable disciples were the royal physician Jivaka, adopted son of Prince Abhaya; and the millionaire Upali, a follower of Nigantha Nattaputta, who was sent to convert the Buddha but ended up as a lay disciple instead. Thus, Rajgiri became an important centre of Buddhism, as the fame of the Buddha spread throughout Magadha. Rajgiri was also the scene of many attempts by Devadatta to kill the Buddha over the leadership of the Sangha. First he hired archers to assassinate the Buddha, but they were all converted by the Buddha instead. Next, as the Buddha was walking up the slopes of Gijjhakuta (Vulture Peak) one day, Devadatta hurled a rock from the summit at the Buddha, but it missed and a splinter wounded the Buddha’s foot.  Finally, he caused the elephant Nalagiri of Ajatasattu to be intoxicated with liquor and sent the ferocious beast to charge at the Buddha. However, the Buddha subdued the animal with his lovingkindness. Because of this miracle, Rajgir became sanctified as an important pilgrimage site. While Devadatta was plotting against the Buddha, Ajatasattu, at his instigation, usurped the throne and imprisoned his father in order to starve him to death. He regretted his actions too late, as his father had died before he could release him. Ajatasattu, later at the suggestion of Jivaka, sought the Buddha’s advice and became a lay disciple.  After the Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana, he led an army to Kushinagar to claim a share of the Buddha’s relics. He was the patron of the First Sangiti or Buddhist Sangha Council held at Sattapanni Cave in Rajgir. Rajgir lost its political status after Ajatasattu’s son, Udayibhadda, slew his father and transferred the capital to Pataliputta (present day Patna, capital of Bihar State). But the fact that Mauryan King Asoka built a stupa and a stone pillar with an elephant capital during his pilgrimage to Rajgir, shows that the place remained as an important Buddhist centre for centuries.  

When Fa Hsien came during the 5th century, he found the old city desolate, but outside the hills at Veluvana he found a few monks living in the monastery. When Hsüan Tsang visited Rajgir in 637-638 CE, it was practically deserted. Of the ancient monasteries and stupas, he found only foundation walls and ruins. He saw the Asoka stupa which was 18.3 m high and by the side of it, the Asoka pillar, about 15.2 m high with an elephant capital, the Pippala stone house said to be the cave of Mahakassapa and the Sattapanni caves.  He also visited Gijjhakuta and saw a brick vihara at the western end of the hill and several stupas in the vicinity.  Although there is no record of Rajgir after Hsüan Tsang’s visit, the antiquities recovered from Rajgir during archeological excavations in 1905-06 showed that it continued to be a popular Buddhist shrine up to the 12th century. According to Fa Hsien, Ajatasattu built a new palace and city, outside the circle of five hills, namely: Vebhara, Pandava, Vepulla, Gijjhakuta and Isigili; that encircled the old Rajagaha city built by his father. The modern village of Rajgir encloses a part of this “New Rajagaha” which was protected by a massive wall of earth resembling an irregular pentagon in shape, with a circuit of 5 km.  On the south, towards the hills, one can still see the stone fortifications that once protected the old city. The wall is 4.6 m to 5.5 m thick and rises to a height of 3.4 m at some places.

Places of Interest Veluvana (Bamboo Grove) and Karanda Tank

way_lu_won_wa_forest.jpg

When King Bimbisara heard that the Buddha had come to Rajgir with a retinue of one thousand Arahants, he went to the Sapling Grove to meet the Buddha and was converted by the Buddha, attaining the First Stage of Sainthood. Thereafter, he invited the Buddha to his palace for the following day’s meal, after which he donated the famous Bamboo Grove or Veluvana, the first donation of a park (arama), to the Buddha and Sangha.  Buddha had spent at least five rain-retreats at this place and visited on many occasions, delivering many famous discourses. When the writer first visited Veluvana in 1991, the place was slightly overgrown with bushes and on the south side towards the hot springs a number of Muslim tombs could be seen on a large mound to the left of the main entrance. The cemetery is believed to be the site of the Veluvana Vihara built by Bimbisara for the Buddha’s residence. The whole area has been cleaned up Archeological Survey of India by the year 2000, and Veluvana now looks like a pleasant park, planted with shade trees, bamboo and flowers, reflecting its original status as the royal park of King Bimbisara.  In the vicinity of Veluvana is a large pond with a Buddha image at the centre. This pond is believed to be the site of the Karanda tank mentioned in Buddhist text as the Karanda kanivapa where the Buddha used to take his bath.

Pippala House (Pipphali Cave)

A short distance from Veluvana, at the foot of Vebhara hill, are the hot springs of Rajgir, a popular picnic spot for bathing, now known as the Lakshmi Narian Temple.  A little above the hot springs, on the right side of the path uphill, is a remarkable stone structure known locally as the “machan” (watch-tower). The structure is roughly cube-shaped with dimensions of 26 m long by 25 m wide by 7 m high and is built of rough blocks of stone set on the rock.  According to Sir John Marshall, who excavated the site in 1905-06, the structure was originally a watch-tower. This structure is believed to be the Pippala stone house (Pipphali Cave), the residence of Venerable Shin Maha Kassapa, Convenor of the First Buddhist Sangha Council.  According to Samyutta V, 78, the Buddha visited Maha Kassapa on one occasion when the latter was ill and expounded him the seven factors of Enlightenment, upon hearing Maha Kassapa recovered from the illness.

The Sattapanni Caves At the top of the Vebhara hill, after passing through ancient Jain and Hindu temples, the path will eventually leads to the side of the top - the Sattapanni caves, the actual site of the First Buddhist Sangha Council held three months after the Mahaparinibbana in 543 BC. There a narrow footpath descends some 30 m to a long artificial terrace in front of a line of six caves (there might have been seven originally). The caves have been sealed off to ensure the safety of visitors. The terrace in front of the caves is about 36.6 m long and 10.4 m at the widest point and part of the retaining wall of large rough stones on the outer edge can still be seen. This place agrees with the description of the Sattapanni caves found in the Pali texts, where five hundred Arahants convened to codify the Buddha’s Teaching. Over the last 2,500 years a lot of erosion would have taken place, so the terrace was probably bigger in those days, to accommodate so many Arahants. This place is significant not only because the Lord Buddha used to stayed from time to time but also because the First Buddhist Council was convened. Maha Kassapa suggested that the Council should be held in these caves named “Sattapanni” on the northern slope of Mount Vaibhara, on the rocky-surfaced spot of the ground shaded with diverse trees.  Rajagaha was selected for such event due to the fact that the city was large enough to provide logistic support to the large number of monks. The Mahavamsa described that King Ajatasattu, in preparation for the council, built a splendid hall, like the assembly hall of the devas, by the side of Vebhara Rock by the entrance of the Sattapanni Cave. The King also provided precious carpets spread according to the number of monks. At this First Council, Maha Kassapa questioned Ashin Upali on the roles of monastic disciplines and Ashin Ananda on the discourses, and when this was finished the whole assembly chanted the Dhamma and the disciplines together. Today the texts studied as the Pali Tipitaka is substantially the same as what was chanted by the five hundred monks at the Sattapanni Caves.

Bimbisara Jail About 2 and half km south of Veluvana, just a few meters off the main road to the left is an area of 60 m square enclosed by the remains of a stone wall 2 m thick.  This area has been identified as the prison in which King Bimbisara was imprisoned by his son Ajatasattu, who usurped the throne.  Bimbisara became a King of Magadha at the age of 15 years, and ruled for 42 years.  Ajatasattu was impatient for power and began plotting to kill his father.  He put his father in this place and deprived of food.  He also cut his father’s foot-soles to make him bleed to death.  According to the commentaries, from this prison King Bimbisara could see the Buddha who was on Gijjhakuta, the sight of whom provided great joy to the prisoner.

Storage of Buddha Relics (Maniyar Math)

rajgiri-dattawtaik.jpg

On the way back to Veluvana, on the left side of the road, one could find the Maniyar Math, which has been used as a cult shrine for many centuries.  It is a cylindrical brick-structure about 6 m high, decorated with stucco figures all around it. There is also ruins of monastic structure around it. The place is supposed to be a place where the Buddha’s relics are kept by King Ajatasattu and later excavated by King Asoka and distributed them through out India and neighbouring countries.

Sonbhandar Caves

rajgiri-sobandar.jpgFurther north-west toward the hill, one would find a big cave known as Sonbhandar, believed to be the Bank vault of King Bimbisara. The cave is curved out of the rock at the side of the hill.  Historians indicated that the caves are built by the Jain Saint Vairadeva, based on the inscription left outside of the doorway. 

 

Jivaka’s mango garden (Jivakambavana) On the way to Gijjhakuta, present day road to Japanese temple sky-way, the pilgrim will arrive at a clearing containing the ruins of the Jivaka’s mango garden.  According to Pali cannons, Jivaka’s mango garden is situated between the city’s East Gate and Gijjhakuta, and the site has been identified a short distance from the foot of Gijjhakuta. According to the Vinaya Texts, Jivaka Komarabhacca was the adopted son of Prince Abhaya, who found him alive (jivati) in a dust heap when he was an infant and raised him up. When he was old enough, he set out for Taxila to study medicine for seven years.  To test his knowledge, his teacher asked him to go all round Taxila to search for any plant which was not medicinal and bring it back.  Jivaka proved to be so proficient in medicinal plants that he returned after a long search and declared that he had not seen any plant that was not medicinal within a yojana (13 km) of Taxila. Returning to Rajgir, he cured many people suffering from serious ailments and even performed surgery, something unheard of in those days.  He became the leading physician and surgeon of Rajgir and earned great wealth through his medical practice.  At some point in his career, he became a lay disciple and used to go and see the Buddha three times a day. When the Buddha’s foot was injured by a splinter from a rock hurled by Devadatta, it was Jivaka who attended on him and healed the wound. rajgir_-thayettaw.jpgRealizing the distances between the Veluvana and the Gijjhakuta and having the advantage of building a monastery in his mango garden which was situated mid-way, Jivaka built dwellings for the Buddha and his disciples on his extensive mango grove and donated them to the Buddha. The site of this monastery was excavated recently, which exposed the buried foundations of elliptical buildings, possibly of monastic nature with several halls and chambers of an early date (4th or 3rd century BCE). The Jivakambavana was the site of one of the important places of the Buddha’s discourses, the Samannaphala Sutta.

Gijjhakuta (Vulture Peak)

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Gijjhakuta hill was the favourite resort of the Buddha and the scene of many important discourses while he was in Rajgir. To reach the top, one has to climb up a long stone stairway, 6.1 m to 7.3 m wide, called the Bimbisara road, built by the King to enable him to reach the summit to see the Buddha. The rocky path ends near the top of the small hill where one can see two natural caves believed to be used by Ashin Sariputta and Ashin Ananda. At the summit, one can see the huge granite rock formation resembling a vulture standing with folded wings, from which the hill derived its name. Recently, a cement staircase has been constructed to facilitate the pilgrim’s climb to the top, which is a flat terrace surrounded by a low retaining wall with a shrine near the precipice.  This spot offers a commanding view of the valley of the old city below. It is a favourite place for pilgrims to perform puja or circumambulate while reciting the virtues of the Buddha. Nearby is another smaller cave believed to be used by Ashin Moggallana.

Maddakucchi (Rub-belly) The Pali name maddakucchi, which means “rub-belly”, was derived from a story that at this place the Queen of Bimbisara, knowing that she was carrying a patricide, tried to abort the foetus by a forcible massage of her belly. Maddakucchi, which finds mention in the Pali scriptures, is situated at the base of Gijjhakuta. It is believed to be the place where the Buddha was brought by stretcher after being wounded on the leg by a splinter of a big rock hurled by Devadatta from the summit of Gijjhakuta hill. Formerly, this place contained a deer park and a monastery.

The Shanti Stupa

nalanda_10_june_05_061.jpgOn the way to the Gijjhakuta, at its base, there is chair-lift station by which one can reach to the top of the hill, where a Japanese stupa (Peace Pagoda- Shanti Stupa) was built since 1969. The stupa is 50 m high dome-shaped and it has four golden Buddha images, representing the birth, enlightment, teaching and death. A Japanese temple – Saddharma Buddha Vihara was built near the stupa. From this hill top, the whole landscape of Rajgiri on all sides could be viewed.

The Chariot Wheel Tract

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On the road to the Bodh Gaya, just at the foot of Pandava Hill, the pilgrim would find an area of a stone compound surrounding flat exposed rock.  It is an archeological site where many chariots and carts entering or leaving Rajagaha have passed this way and worn deep ruts in the rock. A few meters down to the south-bound road, new stupa had been excavated.  This place is supposed to be the place where Ashin Moggallana was killed by thiefs.  Proceeding further south, one would reach a narrow pass between Sona and Udaya Hills, which formed the southern gate of Rajagaha. There are massive walls of stone structure climb up both hills and run for over forty kilometers.  It was believed to be at this place where the Buddha, looking across the fields of Magadha, which was laid out in strips, in lines, in embankments and in squares, suggested Ashin Ananda that the robes of all monks would be cut and sown in a similar pattern.  Although the shape of Magadha land might have changed, the robes of Theravada Buddhist Monks have retain their ancient pattern to this day.

Myanmar Buddhist Vihara The Myanmar Buddhist Vihara standing on top of a hillock in the New Rajgir was the first modern monastery established in Rajgir since 1936.  Sayadaw U Zayanta, who had served as Chief Resident Monk of the Myanmar Vihara for many years extended many buildings. Recently a new shrine hall has been built to enshrine a sacred Buddha relic. This Vihara has been used by Myanmar Pilgrims as resident guest house during their pilgrimage to Buddha Places in Mijjhimadesa.          

On the way to Nalanda University archeological site, there is a Chinese Buddhist Monastery managed by Rakhine Sayadaw, where pilgrims from Myanmar also use it as a rest house. This monastery was established by Chinese monks in early 1950s and managed by successive Rakhine Monks as Chief Resident Monks. New 3-storied living structure, kitchen and dining facility rooms have been added since 1997.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 January 2008 )
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Sankisa Myanmar Vihara PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 15 December 2007

Buddha’s decent to Earth - Sankisa

“Four places (avizahira) are always determined in advance: where the Buddha shall attain Buddhahood (Bodh Gaya); where they shall begin to preach (Migadawon); where they shall expound the law and refute heretics (Sravasti); and where they shall descend from the Tushita Heaven after having preached to their mothers (Sankisa). Other places were chosen according to the circumstances.”  Fa-hsien  

Sankisa

stupa_of_sankisa-asoka-web.jpg

Sankisa (Sankasya) is identified as a village of Basantpur in Farrukhabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India.  It is situated on the banks of river Kali, and easily accessible from a town, Bewar situated on the national highway from New Delhi to Kanpur, and 175 km away from Agra on the Agra-Mainpuri-Kanpur road. The nearest railhead is Pakhna which is 11.5 km away from Sankisa. Sankisa is the place where Gotama Buddha, after spending the seventh retreat and preached the Dhamma (Abhidhamma) to his mother and other gods at Tusita (Tushita), and descended to earth with Lord Brahma and Devraj Indra. Mauryan Emperor Ashoka erected a pillar here with an elephant capital to mark this holy spot. Many Buddhist motifs reflect the event that took place here. Chinese travelers, Fa-hien and Hiuen Tsiang have given interesting descriptions of the life in Sankisa. The excellent scene of the great Ladder by which Gotama Buddha descended at Sankisa from Tushita is distinctly represented in the Bharhut bas-relief (100 BCE). The Ladder represented a triple flight of solid stone steps, similar to the steps on the Western gateway of the Stupa. The legend of the Ladder is narrated well by the Chinese pilgrims, Fa-hien and Hiuen Tsiang, as well as the Pali annalists of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). sankisa-decent_web.jpgThe Devraj Indra (Sakka) created three ladders; one of Gold, one of Jewels, and one of Silver, all decorated with seven precious jewels, the tops of which rested on the summit of Mt. Meru and the feet of which touched against the main gate of the City of Sankisa.  Gotama Buddha descended from the centered ruby-jeweled ladder. On the left side of Buddha, Brahma and his train descended on the sliver ladder, holding the umbrella, while Sakka and the devas descended on the right side of the Buddha on the golden ladder, with Sakka holding the Buddha’s alm. The Buddha set foot on earth at the gate of the City of Sankisa. Because of this miracle event, Sankisa became an important Buddhist pilgrimage place.  

 

Historical Background

The Mauryan King Ashoka visited Sankisa in 249 BCE and built a stupa over the spot where the Buddha descended from heaven to earth and set foot at the gate of the City of Sankisa.  Behind the shrine, he erected a stone pillar of 21 meter high with the elephant capital. Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien visited the place in early 5th century, he met 1,000 monks and nuns residing in various monasteries, and also saw the main Ashoka stupa and pillar as well as other stupas. When Hsuan Tsiang visited in 636 CE, he saw the great Sangha-rama of beautiful construction, where 100 monks and religious laymen lived.

sankisa-elephant-web.jpgHe also identified Ashoka pillar and the presence of numerous stupas.  After centuries passed, Sir Cunningham in 1895 identified Sankisa with the modern village of Sankisa-Basantapur. The Elephant Capital and part of the Ashoka pillar still existed and is kept in a fenced up pavilion. A small shrine, housing a stone sculpture depicting similar story of the Buddha’s descent from heaven to earth is built near the Ashoka elephant capital. About 20 metres to the south of the Ashokan pillar is the high mound composed of solid brickwork. It is the main stupa built on the place where the Lord Buddha set foot on earth.

 

Myanmar Buddhist Vihara

Venerable U Nanda, Chief Resident Monk, Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, Sankisa, Farukkabad District, UP State was born in Daletmay Village, Paletwa Township, Chin State, Myanmar (Burma) in Tawthalin, Myanmar era 1319 (September, 1957).  At the age of 11 years, he became a novice at the village monastery of Kyunchaung, Yathaytaung Township, Rakhine State, and studied under the guidance of Venerable U Thuzata.  Shin Nanda still in novice at the age of 17 years in 1974 was brought to India to have higher education and to support  the work of Sayadaw U Nyanissara of Kushinaga.  

On reaching 20th birthday, he was ordained as a full-fledged monk  at Anandakudi Vihara, Kathmandu in November 1977.  From 1982 to 1987, Ashin U Nanda stayed at Sigara Myanmar Buddhist Vihara at Varanasi to support the ailing Sayadaw U Kittima, while continuing his study. He passed Indian high-school education in 1978, and received Bachelor of Arts degree from Gorukhpur University, Master of Arts and M. Phil degrees from Varanasi University in 1985 and 1990 respectively, and Ph.D degree in 2005 from Magada University, Gaya.

From 1987 to 2000, Ashin U Nanda stayed at Migadawon Myanmar Monastery and support the work of the Sayadaws of Migadawon and Kushinagar. Earliest Buddhist Temple established was by a Sri Lanka Monk the late Venerable Vijaya Soma who reside and established a school in Sankisa. 

sankisa-entry_moat-web.jpgBefore 2000, Sankisa is a limited place for pilgrims from Myanmar to visit and stay.  After getting a plot of land in 1998, not far from the Asoka Stupa and a pillar with an elephant capital at Sankisa, with initial donations by Myanmar pilgrims under the guidance of Sitagu Sayadaw and Migadawon Sayadaw, Ashin U Nanda constructed a Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, with additional dining hall and kitchen facilities in a spacious compound, started in 2000 and completed in 2002. 

An ordination centre was also built around the same period. Another building (Saccanimetta Vihara) for Monks was completed in 2003. Sayadaw U Nanda organized Buddhist festivals around full-moon day of Thadingyut (end of Buddhist lent and also the day of the descent of Lord Buddha from heaven to earth), and also organized sermons in Hindi and English to the pilgrims from nearby villages.  

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Address:   Venerable U Nanda

Chief Abbot Myanmar Buddhist Vihara

Sankisa, UP, India Tel: (91) 5692 264131; Mb: 0971975827

Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 January 2008 )
 
Sravasti - Sacred Place PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 15 December 2007

 

Sravasti (Savatthi)

Longest Stay by Gotama Buddha

 

Sravasti (Savatthi)

Sravasti  (Savatthi in Sanskrit or Thawutti in Myanmar) in modern day is called Saheth-Maheth, near Balrampur in Sravasti District, Uttar Pradesh (UP), about 160 km north-east of Lucknow, the capital of UP, India.  Balrampur town has a railway station on the Gorakhpur-Gonda line of the North-Eastern Railway.  Sravasti is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists since Gotama Buddha and all earlier and future Buddhas stay there the longest years of rainy seasons’ retreats. Gotama Buddha stayed in Sravasti for 25 rain-retreats and also visited there on many occasions.

It keeps out cold and heat, Wild animals besides, and creeping things and flies, And chills and rain as well; And it affords protection, when Sun and Wind are fierce;  The aim is to be sheltered and at ease, in order to concentrate and practice insight; Gifts of dwellings to the Order are praised most highly by the Buddhas; So let a man possesses of wisdom, who sees wherein his own good lies, have a comfortable dwellings made and have a learned live in them; He can give food to them and drink and clothing and a resting place, letting his heart repose its trust in those who walk in righteousness; And they will teach the Dhamma to him for freedom from all suffering, knowing which Dhamma, he here attains Nibbāna and is free from taints.” {Vin. 6:5-9}

The above was what Gotama Buddha gave his sermon and blessing at the first day meal offering by Anathapindika, the wealthy merchant at the Jetavana Monastery of Jeta’s Grove, bought and built by Anathapindika. 

Sravasti (Savatthi) was a capital of Kingdom of Kosala ruled by King Pasenadi, and said to be derived from the fact that everything was available and also one of the vibrant and wealthy cities in Majjhimadesa.  Gotama Buddha visited Sravasti several times, before finally making it the headquarters of the Sanghas for 24 years from his 21st to 44th year of enlightment, of which eighteen years were spent at Jetavana Monastery, the rest at Pubbârâma.

A rich and pious trader Sudatta (popularly known as Anathapindika or Feeder of the Poor) from Sravasti got the idea of building the dwellings for Buddha and his followers, when he visited his brother at Rajagaha (Rajgir), where he met Gotama Buddha at the dwellings in Bamboo Grove during the 2nd Vassa.  Anathapindika offered Gotama Buddha to come and spend the next rain-retreat at Sravasti to which Gotama accepted.  The delighted Anathapindika went back to Sravasti and searched for appropriate place. He found out that the pleasure park owned by Prince Jeta, son of the King of Kosala, was the most suitable place.  Prince Jeta, who did not want to sell initially, told him an unrealistically high price that he would accept only if as many gold coins would fill the landscape.  Anathapindika already determined to build the dwellings for Lord Buddha asked his servants to bring as much gold pieces as they could take and began spreading them over the Jeta’s park.  Prince Jeta after realizing the intent of the buyer gave away the rest of the place, not covered by the gold coins, as his donation. Thus, the place was called “Jetavana Anathapindika-arama” (Anathapindika’s Garden of Jeta’s Grove).

According to the Vinaya, the Jetavana consisted a complex of buildings with monasteries, cells, halls, porches, attendance halls, fire rooms, kitchens, wells, covered pathways, toilets, bathrooms, lotus ponds and sheds.  After initial buildings, several large monasteries were built in the coming years around Sravasti, of which Pubbârâma (the Eastern Monastery built by Visâkhâ) and the Rajakârâma were mentioned in the Buddha’s sermons on several occasions. At these sacred places, Gotama Buddha gave famous sermons at least 6 out of 11 main paritas that the Buddhists today chant everyday for their health, wealth and luck. These famous paritas (Suttas/Jatakas) are: (a) Mangala Sutta for basic ways, means and principles for human beings used for blessings and prosperity; (b) Metta Sutta for suffusing all kinds of being, including devas in heaven and those beings in hell, with lovingkindness; (c) Khandha Sutta for giving lovingkindness to animals and other living things, especially for protection against snakes and other creatures;  (d) Mora Jataka for helping ill persons and for protection against snares, imprisonment and for safety; (e) Dhajagga Sutta for the benefits of worshiping triple gems for protection against fear, trembling and horror; and (f) Angulimala Sutta for easy and safe birth.  Gotama Buddha also preached several other suttas and jatakas while residing in Sravasti, and also expounded a major part of Tripitaka. Jetavana had the high honour of sheltering Gotama Buddha and his followers for retreats during 25 rainy seasons.

Events at and around Sravasti

One of the twin miracle and most celebrated events was the conversion of Angulimala, the most fearful robber and murderer who had killed many people.  He had hung one finger each from each victim on a string around his neck, and hence he was named Angulimala. Gotama Buddha went to the place where he was known to operate, and was seen by Angulimala who began to chase him. He was not able to catch up with the Buddha despite he ran the fastest. Angulimala asked the Buddha to stop, to which Gotama said that he had stopped. When asking for explanation, the Buddha replied that he had stopped killing and harming human beings, and that Angulimala should do the same. The murderer threw down his sword and asked to be ordained as a monk.

Sravasti is also best remembered as a place where the Buddha defeated the leaders of India’s six main philosophical schools, accomplished by debate and miracles.  Gotama Buddha during his 7th rain retreat, as the practice of previous Buddhas, performed one of the Greatest Miracles by taking part in a contest of miraculous feats with the Tirthikas before King Pasenadi of Kosala and the assembled audience. The Buddha took his seat on a thousand petalled lotus; causing fire and water coming out of the body; planting a seed in the ground and making it as a great tree - kandamba seta (kanda - park manager + amba – mango + seta - white) to spring up, fragrant and fully laden with flowers, and ripe fruits. Gotama also showed multiple representations of himself and some images even went up to the heaven.  The supreme position of the Master was thus vindicated and he preaches the Law of Dhamma before a huge assemblage of people that had come to witness this miracle. After this event, Gotama Buddha went up to Tâvatimsa (the Heaven of the Thirty-three). Here the Buddha preached the Abhidhamma or the Higher Doctrine, to the deities (devâs) headed by his mother Mahâmâyâ who passed away seven days after the birth of Prince Siddhartha, and was reborn as a deva in the Tâvatimsa.

Devadutta, brother-in-law of Gotama Buddha, made several attempts of Buddha’s life during his stay at Sravasti. But, he failed in all attempts and eventually sank into the Earth and died. There is a swampy area near Jetavana which is believed to be the place where Devadatta sank into the Earth.

Historical buildings

Saheth-Maheth today consists of two distinct sites. Saheth is the site of Jetavana Vihara covering about 40 acres lying a quarter mile to the south-west of the old City. The larger, Maheth, spreads over nearly 500 acres had been identified as the City proper of Sravasti.  Mauryan King Ashoka visited Sravasti as part of his pilgrimage to the holy sites, and built stupas to enshrine the Buddha’s relics, and erected two pillars, each 70 feet high, on both sides of the eastern gate of Jetavana. During the time of Kusana kings, Kaniska and Huviska, in the 1st-2nd century CE, new shrines were installed to enshrine Buddha images. When Fa Hien came to Sravasti in the early 5th century CE, it was no more than a small town with a few hundred families. He indicated that the two Ashoka’s pillars still existed, and the original Jetavana Monastery might be a seven storied that was burnt down by fire from the offering.  The stupas of Angulimala and Sudatta were in ruins.  He also met a few monks and found a temple, probably Gandhakuti, which housed a famous sandalwood statue of the Buddha. 

thawuhti_zedawon-web.jpgWhen Huien Tsiang visited Sravasti around 7th century, the town was almost deserted and ruined, except the Jetavana Vihara. The monasteries were destroyed with foundations only remained.  According to the archaeological survey findings, it was found that a few years after Huien Tsiang left, the monastic places had been rebuilt and flourished right up to the 12th century (based on the recovery of seals and images of Mahayanists pantheons such as Lokanatha, Avalokitesvara and other belongings. Records of the renovations of monasteries and stupas, and the gifts of six villages to the Sanghas of Jetavana monastery were also found in a copper charter, donated by King Govindachandra and his devout Buddhist wife Kumaradevi of Kanauj and Banares (Varanasi) in 11th century. Then, the monasteries were vanished again till 18th century. Based upon the information provided by Fa Hien and Huien Tsiang, Sir Cunningham in 1863 identified the Jetavana covering 13 hectares and Sravasti spreading over 162 hectares, and excavated the ruins and monuments. He was able to exposed the remains of several big and small stupas, temples and monasteries, including the famous Gandhakuti or Perfumed chamber, which had been dated to Kusana period (1st-2nd century CE).  Today, the pilgrims can find many remains of several temples, monasteries, stupas, bathrooms, water pools and wells, dormitories, and several remained unexplored. An Archaeological survey of India (ASI) had maintained the archaeological park of Jetavana, since 1956 and preserve it with trees and flowers around the ruins of temples and monasteries, till date. New excavations are also initiated.

 

Jetavana Park and Gandhakuti

Present day Saheth, the site of Jetavana Vihara, consists of plinths and foundations of monasteries and stupas, built by successive Kings from the Buddha period till 12th centuries. The place is spread around 40 acres with several monasteries, dormitories, water pools, and stupas among the forest.  Pilgrims from all over the world visiting this place, to mark it as the most sacred place where all Buddhas live longest years of rainy retreats, imagining how Buddhas live and stay with Sanghas, how they would talk each other, and how do they meditate.

The original Gandhakuti (Perfumed Chamber) was built by Anathapindika with a seven storied wooden structure. Mauryan King Ashoka rebuilt it with bricks in 232 BCE. Around 412 CE, when Fa Hien and Tao Ching saw this building, it was almost in ruin and renovation was made again. Around 7th century CE, when Huien Tsiang arrived Sravasti, this building was totally damaged. When Sir Cunningham excavated this place in 1863, he found bricks of 9th, 12th and 15th centuries for which periods successive renovations must have done. Present day Gandhakuti dated from the Gupta period construction, and it has only the foundation of rectangular terrace with stairs and entrance towards the east, a pavilion and a small shrine 2.85 meters square, with walls about 1.8 meters thick. This small shrine may be signified the site of the original Gandhakuti, while the pavilion might be later added. According to the commentaries, the site of the Buddha’s bed in it is the same for all Buddhas, irrespective of the size of the Gandhakuti. The name for Gandhakuti may have come from the sacred place where people would come making offerings of flowers, sandalwood and perfume. At the gate leading a well-constructed footpath towards the Gandhakuti, King Ashoka had put a pillar with a cow on top. Gandhakuti is the favorite site for pilgrims to perform religious rites and meditate.

Just in front of the Gandhakuti, there is a big well, supposed to be a place where Gotama Buddha cleaned the feet after coming back from begging alm. The Sumangalavilasini described the daily routine works of the Buddha, that he would go out for alms, eat in the Gandhakuti, go forth from there to teach the Dhamma to the lay people, teach the disciples, and teach the devas, walk up and down in front of it, and meditate.

There is a Bodhi-tree (fig-tree), located near the entrance of Jetavana, with the base of which enclosed with a platform. This tree is believed to mark the spot where Ashin Ananda planted a Bodhi-tree from the sapling of the Mahabodhi tree from Bodh Gaya. This tree was built by Ashin Ananda at the request of Anathapindika and others from Sravasti, who wanted to have an object to worship during the Buddha’s absence from Jetavana, Sravasti. The Bodhi tree was called as “Ananda Bodhi Tree”.  Gotama Buddha indicated that there were three types of objects of veneration, namely: the corporeal relic deposited in a stupa after the Buddha’s Parinibbana, an object used by the Buddha such as his alms-bowl, etc., and a visible symbol such as a Dhammachakka wheel. People now build Buddha images, relic-stupas and Dhammachakka wheel as symbol for worshiping the Buddha. There are many ruins of stupas, Buddha Statues and monasteries around the Gandhakuti, built in different centuries.

Sravasti – Main City

The main city of Sravasti (Maheth) is situated further north of the Jetavana Park and there are many ruins of buildings including old monasteries. One of the ruins - Pakki Kuti, identified by Huien Tsiang and later by Cunningham was supposed to be the remains of the stupa of Angulimala. In this old city, just north of Jetavana, a big stupa of Sudatta (Anathapindika) can be found. The stupa, according to Fa Hsien, was built on the foundations of the house of Sudatta. Near this stupa, a mass of bricks was identified as the Angulimala stupa, marking the site where Angulimala was cremated. These stupas have been earlier taken by one by the Muslim Mullahs and another by Hindu Mahants. In 1959, the Archaeological Survey of India took over these stupas from them and made further excavations and maintained them as sacred archaeological sites.

 

Stupa of Great Miracle

The place - kandamba seta - where Gotama Buddha during his 7th rain retreat performed the Greatest Miracle is a hillock before entering Sravasti. In the year 2000, excavations were carried out on this hillock and revealed the remains of a brick stupa believed to be erected by King Ashoka.

Myanmar Buddhist Vihara (Old and New)

There were three Buddhist temples being constructed for more than 70 years near the Jetavana Park. One of the earliest ones built in Sravasti was a Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, built in 1930 by Venerable Monywa Sayadaw U Mahinda, under the guidance of Venerable Ashin Chandramani of Kushinagar. Sayadaw U Mahindra stayed at this monastery till he died in 1959 and Sayadaw U Kalayana (nephew of Ashin Mahindra) managed it till 1970, when he relinquished the monkhood. Sravasti Vihara had no permanent resident monk till the present Resident Monk Sayadaw U Awbatha arrived in 1986.

Since the Vihara and its compound were situated just a few meters away from the entrance gate to the Jetavana Park and within the vicinity of the Archaeological site of the historical Jetavana Grove,  the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had taken over the Temple and its compound under the Indian Archaeological Act in 1956. ASI also opened its head-offices at the Temple building.

After arrival of Sayadaw U Awbatha, who had been assigned as the Chief Resident Monk of Sravasti Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, by the Myanmar State Sangha Nayaka, continuous and zealous efforts were made to take control of the Vihara. With support from successive Ambassadors of Myanmar to India, State Sangha Nayaka, and the Ministry of religious Affairs as well as well-wishers from local administration in India, the Vihara had been handed back to the management of Myanmar monk in 1991. However, the major renovation and expansion of the old temple could not be done, since the temple lies within the archaeological site. The ownership of old Myanmar Vihara is still under dispute at the Indian Court.

sravasti-mmr_vihara-entry_gate-web.jpgIn 1997, after establishing the Late Mahinda Bhikku Memorial Buddha Society and with the support of pilgrims from Myanmar and other countries, a new land was acquired along the main road and a new Myanmar Vihara has been constructed. Acquisition of the land was finalized and the Vihara building was also completed in 2003. Sayadaw U Awbatha is managing both old and new Sravasti Myanmar Buddhist Temples since then and helping the pilgrims.

There was a Burmese Buddhist Monastery called “Daw Dwe Dhammasala (Rest House)” built in early 1930 by a Myanmar Nun, Daw Dwe from Thaton, who got a land from Maharaja Durbi Jai Singh. The place was taken by Indians for some period and in late 1960s, a Sri Lankan monk had taken over it and used it also as a private primary school.

Another Myanmar Vihara existed since mid-1940, at Balrampur built by Sayadaw U Ersaya, who migrated to Nepal and later came to India and went to monkhood . When he died in late 1960s, the Vihara had been managed by Myanmar monks, like Sayadaw U Withuddi and U Rewata Dhamma. After Sayadaw U Rewata left for England in 1975, the Vihara had no resident monk for some period. Myanmar pilgrims who visited Sravasti around 1970s-1980s used to stay at this Vihara in Balrampur, rather than the main Myanmar Vihara in Sravasti. This temple is now no longer a monastery, and fully controlled by the family members of late U Ersaya.

There is a Sri Lankan temple with being replaced with a new structure in 1969 by the well-known Sri Lanka monk venerable Metivala Sangharatana of Sarnath. The temple shrine contained some of the best contemporary Buddhist paintings representing incidents in the Buddha’s life, especially that took place in Sravasti.   Another was built by a Chinese monk, a seven-storied pagoda with a number of surrounding buildings, but not occupied due to the dispute of ownership.

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Address of Myanmar Vihara

Venerable Ashin U Awbatha

Myanmar Buddhist Vihara

PO Box Katra – 271845

Sravasti, UP, India

Phone: 91- 5252- 265244

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Reference:

1)    Sayadaw U Awbatha, Efforts for maintaining Sravasti Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, June 2003

2)    Sayadaw U Awbatha, Images of historical sites of villages and towns in Majjhimadesa, June 2003

3)    Ven. S. Dhammika (1999), Middle Land Middle Way, A Pilgrim's Guide to the Buddha's India, Second Edition (Revised 1999), Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka

4)    Rana PB Singh (2003), Where the Buddha Walked, A companion to the Buddhist Places of India, Indica Books, Varanasi, India

5)    Revan Hart (New Edition, 2005), Where the Buddha Trod,  A Stamford lake Publication (1954), Sri Lanka

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 January 2008 )
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