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Translating the Tripitaka into Sinhala

Rupa Banduwardena, Daily News (Sri Lanka), Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It is an event of utmost importance to learn about the recent translation of the Tripitaka from the original Pali to Sinhala. This is most welcome news to Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

The Buddhist philosophy embracing the teaching of the Buddha enshrined in the Thripitaka gives a unique opportunity to its readers to familiarise with the sacred doctrine and the fact that the sacred doctrine has been given pride of place is something to be proud of.

This will lead the younger generation to be good and righteous citizens of the country one day. They will systematically be driven to lead meaningful lives. This will also lead the enthusiastic students to be true Buddhists, pushing them on the right track to live in harmony.

As the availability of the Tripitaka in Sinhala is very appropriate in today's context as an urgent social need of the day, the access to the sacred doctrine has been made easier.

The language barrier is no more. The door to the past glory of the teaching of the Buddha is well opened. They can grow up in a Buddhist background knowing the truth of the doctrine in their own langauge. Further it will make a tremendous impact on our cultural revival.

The year 247 BC marks the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. This supreme gift was brought here by the most Ven. Thera Mahinda during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. It spread rapidly due to the enthusiastic patronage of the kings.

The scripture consisted mainly of the Pali cannon the Jataka stories and its literature and Nidhana Katha.

The Buddhist literature was all in Pali. This sacred scripture was maintained as an oral tradition through generations, passed down from teacher to pupil (guru-gola) by word of mouth retained in their memory as the literature was considered too sacred to be written down. According to historical evidence this practice maintained in the monasteries was referred to as vanapoth kireema.

When and where and how was the sacred Tripitaka committed to writing? The answer is supported by the historical as well as archaeological evidence. The reign of King Vattagamani Abhaya (Valagamba) the youngest son of Saddha Tissa, the younger brother of King Dutugemunu, the national hero of ancient chronicles Deepavamsa and Mahavamsa will be of interest in this regard.

His reign is well-known for two important events in the history of the country. One was the rise of Mahayanism and the other, the most remarkable - the committing of the writing of the Tripitaka.

History reveals that there was a Pandyan invasion of Rajarata with which he fled to the central highlands. Later he won back the throne and ruled the country for 12 years.

The political conflict and the economic decline that followed in early years led to a severe famine known as 'Beminitiyasaya'. The Bhikkhus were the most affected. Many died. Some fled the country.

The few who survived fearing that the sacred doctrine would perish with them took the bold decision to preserve it by writing. Hence the Buddha's philosophy enshrined in the Thripitaka was committed to writing in Alu Vihara at Matale, said to belong to the reign of King Devanampiyatissa.

History records that the event was celebrated with a great festival under the patronage of King Valagamba and that it went on for 3 years, 3 months and 3 weeks. Both Mahawamsa and Deepawamsa mention that two Tripitaka texts written in gold leaves were enshrined, one in Abahayagiri Chetiya and the other in Alu Vihara.

It is said that still later these texts were despatched to the other viharas in the island and to foreign countries such as Burma and Siam where Theravada doctrine was honoured and upheld.

Alu Vihara the most blissful place where Thripitaka Dhamma originated in black and white in Sri Lanka lies to the north of the city of Matale, along the Kandy-Anuradhapura main road. The most favoured spot to undertake this magnanimous religious task had been completed with all the requisites by King Valagamba.

Rock inscriptions found here indicate the presence of meditation cells donated by the devotees to Maha Sangha.

The most Ven Weligama Gnanarathana Maha Nayaka Thera who translated the Tripitaka from original Pali into Sinhala as well as Ven. Kirama Wimalajothi Thera, the Director of the Buddhist Cultural Centre who took the initiative to reprint the 'Tripitaka Grantha Malawa' should be highly commended for the dedicated service for making it available to the anxious Buddhist public.

It has much to do with their lives in today's context and also for the co-existence of the Buddhists as well as the intellectually gifted non Buddhists, specially Hindus.

May the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem enshrined in the Tripitaka usher in peace and harmony for peaceful co-existence of all beings.

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2008/01/09/fea05.asp

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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.