The Going-Forth of Sanghamitta’s Uncle and Husband

from the Extended Mahāvaṁsa, Chapter V. The Third Recital
ExtMhv 462-479 = Mhv. 154-172

Hunting Scene (Mural at Wat Pho)

Hunting Scene (Mural at Wat Pho)

One day Prince Tissa went hunting and saw deer sporting in the wilderness, and having seen that he thought thus: “Even the deer who live on grass enjoy themselves in the wilderness, will not the monks who live on pleasant food also enjoy themselves?”

He went to his house and informed the King about his thought. To teach him, Asoka gave him sovereignty for seven days, saying: “You can experience sovereignty for seven days, young man, after that I will kill you.” 1

With the passing of seven days, he asked: “Why are you so wasted away?” “Through fear of death,” he said, and the King spoke again, saying: “Thinking that after seven days you will die you did not enjoy them, how will the strivers enjoy themselves, Dear, when they always contemplate death?”

Spoken to thus by his brother he gained faith in the Dispensation, and in time having gone hunting again, he saw the restrained Elder Mahādhammarakkhita, pollutant-free, being fanned with a Sāl branch by a Nāga, and the one with wisdom reflected: ‘When will I go forth in the Victor’s Dispensation and live in the wilderness like this Elder?’

translator’s note: the text here is translated from the Extended version of the Mahāvaṁsa, for more information see the preface to this series. Where the extended version and the original differ the text is italicised.

The Elder, in order to instill faith, rose into the sky, went to Asoka’s monastery and stood on the water of the pool. He hung the robes he wore in the sky and descended into the pond 2 and bathed his limbs.

The Prince seeing this psychic power gained great faith, and saying: “Today itself I will go forth!” the wise one made a wise decision. He approached and respectfully asked permission from the King for his going-forth, and being unable to prevent him, the Lord of the World, surrounded by a great retinue, took him to his own monastery, and he went forth in the presence of the Elder Mahādhammarakkhita. With him roughly four thousand other men also received the going-forth, but the exact number is not known. 3

The Lord of Men’s nephew called Aggibrahmā, 4 well-known as the husband of the King’s daughter Saṅghamittā, and their son who was known by the name of Sumana, after asking permission from the King, went forth with the Prince.

The Prince’s going-forth was in King Asoka’s fourth year and increased the benefit of the multitude. Right there he received the higher ordination, and having the supporting conditions, while striving, the Prince became a Worthy One with the six psychic powers.

End Notes

1 As he had already killed ninety-nine of his brothers, this must have sounded very threatening.
2 Monks are allowed three covers for their bodies: their robes, a fire-house and a body of water. See Vinaya Cullavagga, Ch.5,16,2.
3 A curious admission, as the numbers never seem to be realistic anyway. Geiger interprets this as meaning: the number of those who afterwards were ordained is not known; but quite how he derives this meaning is unclear to me.
4 Although I cannot find more information on Aggibrahmā, it appears he must have been Tissa’s son, as it is inconceivable that Asoka, who had killed all his rivals to the throne, except Tissa, would marry his daughter to one of his rival’s sons.

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