The 84,000 Monasteries

from the Extended Mahāvaṁsa, Chapter V. The Third Recital
ExtMhv 480-490 = Mhv. 173-183

Monastery (Mural at Wat Pho)

Monastery
(Mural at Wat Pho, Bangkok)

All those delightful monasteries he had undertaken to build in all the cities were completed within three years. And through the superintendent Elder Indagutta’s psychic power the one called Asokārāma 1 was also completed. In the various places that had been visited by the Victorious One the Lord of the Earth made delightful Shrines.

From the eighty-four thousand cities on all sides letters were brought on the same day, saying: “The monasteries 2 are finished.”

Having heard the letters 3 the Great King, of great power, success and heroism, desired to hold great festivals himself at all the monasteries. In the cities the drum was beaten and it was announced:

“A week from this day all the monasteries must hold a festival at the same time in all directions. On the whole earth, league by league 4 give a great donation, and make decorations along the pathways and in the village monasteries.

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.

In all the monasteries everyday prepare a great donation for the Community of monks, according to the right time, and according to ability, with ornamentation of garlands of flowers and strings of lights here and there, and all musical instruments, and manifold presents. Having taken upon themselves the Fast-Day observances 5 let everyone listen to Dhamma, and make innumerable offerings and merit on that day.”

And everyone, everywhere, in everyway, in accordance with that order, prepared offerings, delighting the heavens.

End Notes

1 I.e. Asoka’s monastery.
2 Vihāra literally means a living place, but by this time it had taken on the special meaning of a living place for monastics; i.e. a monastery.
3 We would say having read the letters, but in court the letters would have been read out.
4 Meaning: in every place.
5 This means the eightfold precepts, in brief, to restrain from killing, stealing, sexual contact, wrong speech, intoxicants, eating after noon, amusements and decorations.

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