Aluvihāra is of special
significance as a result of several events in the history of Buddhism in Sri
Lanka. “In the historic capacity it holds a unique place in literature as the
site at which recesses of these crags the doctrine of Gautama Buddha were first
reduced to writing.” (Forbes: 1840 P.346)
Since the Buddha’s demise (Parinibbāna), the teaching of the Buddha was passed down from generation to generation by the community of saņgha, the monastic order, by word of mouth. The Fifth Buddhist Council was held in Aluvihāra and at this venue, 500 monks sat down and committed the Tipiţaka to writing in the first century B.C, ministered to by a provincial ruler. According to legend, three master copies were written on durable palm-leaves at Aluvihāra. The first manuscript was enshrined in the rocks at Aluvihāra itself. Another was buried in the foundation of Mirisavetiya dāgaba in Anurādhapura. The third became the source book.
The ancient cave temple had provided shelter to hermits during
the very early age of Buddhism. ‘We may conclude that cave-complexes (Aluvihāra
is included) were used as residences of the clergy, during the early period, and
that these temples were favoured by royal patronage’ Professor Mangala
Illangasinghe makes firm the idea in his work Dambulla Rock Temple.
Other important events associated with Aluvihāra include the visit by a Buddhist scholar, Venerable Buddhaghośha. “Thera Revata (Venerable Buddhaghośha’s teacher)…….spake the following words to the Venerable Buddhaghośha: The text alone has been handed down here (India), there is no commentary here. Neither have we the deviating systems of the teachers. The commentary in the Sihala (Sri Lankan) tongue is faultless. The wise Mahinda who tested the tradition laid before the three Councils as it was preached by the perfectly Enlightened One and taught by the Sāriputta and the others wrote it in the Sīhala tongue and it spread among the Sīhalas (Sri Lankans). Go thither, learn it and render (translate) it into the tongue of the Māgadhas (Middle-Indo-Aryan-dialect). It will bring blessing to the whole world.’ The commentary Papaņca Sūdani, furnished by Venerable Buddhaghośha to the Majjhima Nikāya, also puts up with the exact meaning that he came to Mahāhvihāra in Anurādhapura to translate the text into the Māgadha language. He arrived in the island at the time of King Mahānāma (5th century A.C). In turn, he came to the Mahāvihāra (first temple in Sri Lanka located at Anurādhapura). Later on, knowing that Aluvihāra was the place where the Buddhist Text had been first written, he arrived at Aluvihāra to test it. One of the caves where he lived at Aluvihāra is dedicated to the scholar monk. Presently it replicates the Arahant monks who convened for the Fifth Buddhist Council held at Aluvihāra. The Burmese (Myanmar people) believed that it was at Aluvihāra that the Venerable Buddhaghośha wrote the commentaries (Aţţha Kathā). According to a popular legend, it was he (Venerable Buddhaghośha) who introduced Buddhism into Burma. For this reason, also, “Aluwi-hara (Aluvihāra) is a favourite resort of Burmese pilgrims whose names are written on the walls of this cave (now deleted). The Burmese, alas! Have an irresistible craving for scrawling on monuments.” Says C. M Enxiquez.
What is Theravāda Tipiţaka
The Theravāda Pāli canon consists of three major repositories of
text, for which reason it is commonly called Tipiţaka, (three Baskets of
Law). This tripartite division is by no means unique to the Theravāda. The
three-fold plan was apparently not the oldest way of classifying the Teaching.
By the time of the Third Buddhist Council the division into the three Baskets
has superseded the earlier modes of classification and has remained dominant
through the centuries. Memorizers-monks, who learnt portions of the discourses
by heart from their Teachers in turn, transmitted the memorized text to their
monk-pupils. This verbal transmission lasted for about four hundred years. Many
Brahamins trained in the art of committing text to memory became monks and
faithfully transmitted the canon in Pali language until the time of the Fifth
council at Aluvihāra.
The three Baskets that make up the Pāli Tipiţaka
1) Vinaya Piţaka, The book of the discipline (lit: Volume of discipline)
The Basket of discipline which consists of the rules, governing the conduct of the monks and nuns(bhikkhu, bhikkhuni) and the regulations pertaining to the internal affairs of the saņgha, the monastic order.
Vinaya Piţaka(Basket) is divided into five pāli parts or collections
The Pārājika Pāli
The Pācittiya Pāli
The Mahāvagga Pāli
The Cullavagga Pāli
The Parivāra Pāli
Bhikku-vibhaņga-the matrix of discipline for monks.
Bhikkuni-vibhaņgha-the matrix of discipline for nuns.
Mahāvagga-the great collection of miscellaneous disciplines.
Cullavagga-the lesser collection of miscellaneous disciplines.
Parivāra-a summary composed in Sri Lanka.
Bhikku-pātimokkha- the two hundred and twenty-seven Fundamental training rules for monk.
2) Sutta Piţaka (lit:The volume of discourse)
The Basket of discourses, the record of the Buddha’s sermons and discussions as well as other didactic and literary documents.
Sutta Piţaka (Basket) is divided into five Nikāyas or collections.
Digha-nikāya-Dialogues of the Buddha (lit:The Extended Collection)
Majjhima nikāya-Middle Length sayings (lit:The Middle Length Collection)
Samyutta-nikāya-kindred Sayings (lit: The Related collection)
Anguttara nikāya-Gradual Sayings (lit: The One-further Collection)
Khuddaka-nikāya –Minor anthologies (lit: Minor Collection)
Khuddakapātha-minor Readings (A brief handbook of essentials)
Udāna-Verses of Uplift-inspired utterances.
Itivuttaka-As it was said- a collection of short discourses.
Sutta-nipāta- Woven Cadences-mostly discourses in verse.
Vimanavatthu- Stories of the Mansions-accounts of the heavens.
Petavatthu-Stories of the Departed-accounts of the ghosts.
Theragāthā-Psalms of the Brethren-The Venerables’ verses. (Inspired verse spoke by enlightened monks)
Therigāthā-psalms of Sisters-the same for nuns.
Jātaka-Jātaka Stories-550 past lives of the Buddha (only verses are canonical, stories are commentary).
Niddesa-ancient commentary on (v) above.
Apadāna-no English translation of these past lives of disciples.
Buddhavamsa-The lineage of the Buddha, The Chronicle of the Buddhas.
Cariyāpitaka-The Collection of Ways of Conduct
3) Abhidhamma-Pitaka;(lit:The Volume of Further Teachings)
The Basket of systematic doctrine, a collection of seven treaties
which schematize the fundamental principals of the Suttās in accordance with a
minutely detailed programme of psychological analyses.
Abhidhamma Piţaka(Basket) is divided into seven Pakaraņas or collections.
Dhammasaņgini- Buddhist Psychological Ethics
Vibhaņga-The Book of Analysis.
Dhātukathā-The Discourse of Elements
Puggalapańńatti-A Designation of Human Types
Kathāwatthu-Points of Controversy (added to the Third Council)
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