MAHABODHI MAHA VIHARA TEMPLE
The Land of Enlightenment
HISTORY BEHIND THE MAHABODHI TEMPLE
THE EXACT PLACE OF THE NOBLE CORONATION AS BUDDHA
“At the appropriate periods, flowers will blossom in trees. Likewise, dear champion, may your flower which is called as ‘Buddha’s wisdom’ will be blossomed. Previous Buddhas have accomplished the ten perfections (paramita). Likewise, may you will accomplish the ten perfections. Previous Buddhas gained the enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. Likewise, dear champion, may you gain enlightenment under a Bodhi Tree.”
(Buddhavansa Pali – Khuddaka Nikaya)
This information which is stated in Buddhavansha Pali, reveals the addition of wishes of Gods and people at the time our great Bodhisatta (who was then an ascetic and was called as ‘Sumedha’) gained absolute confirmation of Buddhahood, from the Buddha who was called as Dipankara.
This reveals wonderful information about this sacred land of Bodhgaya. It is that all Buddhas will associate with this sacred land.
Bodhgaya is situated in the state which is called as ‘Uruvel’. Our Bodhisatta has comprehended that the white sandy plain of Uruvel is suitable for a person who attempts to repress defilements.
“I walked along the state of Magadha. On my journey, I found the village of Senani in Uruvel. I settled there. That land was attractive. That woodland was much charming. The river flows between the wonderful river banks of white sands. The village was much near to gain alms gathering. Dear monks, then, I got this thought, ‘actually, this land is much charming. This woodland is attractive. The river which has river banks with white sands flows in a charming manner. Village for alms gathering is situated near. This place is the most suitable place for someone who needs to meditate with courage.’ Therefore, dear monks, I stopped at that place.”
(Ariyapariyesana Sutta – Majjhima Nikaya)
That journey ended up by the emergence of a Lord Buddha who was called as ‘Gautama’. The Uruvel state, where Lord Buddha settled down while practicing acrimonious asceticism, situated in the right direction of Gaya. This ‘Gaya’ became ‘Bodhgaya’ because Bodhisatta gained the noble enlightenment and became Buddha in this land.
The ‘Vajrasana’, the place where Siddhartha Gautama Bodhisatta settled down with the decision of ‘vajra’ (strongest) and defeated the evil force, gained exemption from this existence and attained Nibbana, is situated in Bodhgaya. The ‘Sacred Maha Bodhi Tree’, which was emerged from the earth on the day our Bodhisatta was born, to provide shade to future Buddha, is situated in Bodhgaya.
The monks named as ‘Faxian’ and ‘XiunXian’ have sent messages from the 4th and 7th centuries to the 21st century, that they saw the places which were honored from the sacredness of Lord Buddha. These places were visited by Lord Buddha within the first seven weeks after the attainment of the Noble Enlightenment. These places were, ‘Chankamana’, ‘Rathanāgara’, ‘Ajapāla’ tree, the lake of ‘Muchalinda’, ‘Rajāyatana Tree’, the place where Tapassu and Bhalluka offered bee-honey, and the place where the three ascetics were suppressed. When exploring that grandeur of the past, we will meet with Bodhgaya, which is surrounded by splendid cairns of white finials.
But, at present times, that pride of Buddhism has been suppressed by the influence of other religions. The ‘Mahabodhi Temple’ which is visible to us today, was a wooden structure. There is evidence which tells us that this Vihara has been rebuilt using rocks. It is difficult to state the initial form or the belonged era of this structure because it has been reconstructed several times. According to monk XiunXian’s records, the compatibility of its appearance and size states that it belonged to the 7th century. But, there is no evidence that Faxian has seen this building. Therefore, it is possible to guess that this was built by King Ashoka in 500 AD.
Also, according to XiunXian, the lined holes which are present in the walls of the ‘ Mahabodhi Temple’ had golden statues, and sculptures which were created using gold, silver, gems and pearls. A stone carving of Pātaliputra states that the top of the finial contained a small dāgeba and a parasol.
The balustrade, which is associated with the Mahabodhi Temple incarnates two eras of architecture. The 1st part of it belongs to 2nd century BC. The remaining part belonged to the 1st part of Gupta Kings’ era (the royal generation which was started from King Chandragupta) around AD 230. The Bōdhi Tree, Dhamma Wheel, and Stupa have been carved within these beautiful engravings, which had a decent majesty.
The 3rd Bodhi Tree which was generated from the very first Bodhi Tree can be seen in Bodhgaya today. The Sacred Bodhi Tree was greatly worshiped and honored by King Ashoka. Tissārakkhā, who was one of his queens, generated jealousy by seeing King Ashoka worshiping ‘Bodhi’. Then, she destroyed the ‘Bodhi Tree’ initially by stabbing poisonous thorns into it. Then, the next generated Bodhi Tree was fallen down by a cyclone in 1876. The 3rd Bodhi which was generated from the Bodhi root of the previous Bodhi can be seen in Bodhgaya today.
The History states that King Ashoka built a ten feet height wall to protect the Bodhi after Tissārakkhā tried to destroy it. The King Poornawarma increased the height of this wall up to 24 feet. XiunXian, who went there around the 7th century, states that he saw a 20 feet height wall.
XiunXian has stated that the monastery which was situated near the wall of ‘Bodhi Tree’ has been built by a Sinhalese King. This state has been confirmed by an edict which was built there. According to the edict, a monk whose name was Mahānāma has visited ancient India as a pilgrim and he has faced many difficulties during his journey. Mahānāma Thero has apprised the difficulties that he faced to the Sinhalese King. Then, the Sinhalese King has gained the permission from the King of India and has built this monastery. XiunXian has stated that this monastery was built by a Sinhalese King during AD 330. Most probably, this Sinhalese king might be King Jhetthatissa, who was the Lankan ruler at that period.
According to XiunXian, the relics of Lord Buddha, which were kept in this three-storied monastery, has irradiated with white color when they were kept for exhibition. Around thousand of Théravāda monks have lived in this place at that period.
It is not a wonder that Gaya has been resplendent with the beam of Buddha when the Gods and Brahmas doubted about Lord Buddha’s noble enlightenment and at the time Lord Buddha destroyed their doubts by showing great miracles.
We worship the land of Bodhgaya, which is the greatest treasure of Buddhists; and we thankfully commemorate Hon. Anagārika Dharmapāla and Sir Edvin Arnold, who dedicated their lives to protect Bodhgaya from fictitious screens of other religious people and reconfirmed the pure Buddhist legacy in Bodhgaya.
Saadhu… Saadhu… Saadhu…
We must commemorate the Arahant and generations of Monks who passed the great sermons of Lord Buddha verbally and who wrote down the words of Lord Buddha while offering us the great fortune of seeing and worshiping these places. All kings, including King Dharmashoka who kept landmarks all over this sacred land, Kings of Gupta, Kings of Sunga, and King Kanishka has done immeasurable services for Buddhism. Monk Faxian, Monk XiunXian, Sir Alexander Cunningham, and many archaeologists who came in later periods and true Buddhists such as Hon. Anagarika Dharmapala and Sir Edwin Arnold have uplifted this sacred land from where it was hidden and made it alive before our eyes.
May all of them receive immeasurable merits!
The policies of these types of people with generosity; help of Gods and Brahmas will always be the backbone for the stability of the ‘Gautama Sambuddha Sasana’.
May we will gain the fortune to follow that Buddhist order and maintain the noble blood line with continuation!!!