The Going-Forth of Mahinda and Sanghamitta

from the Extended Mahāvaṁsa, Chapter V. The Third Recital
ExtMhv 491-519 cf. Mhv. 184-211

Going-Forth (Mural at Wat Pho)

(Mural at Wat Pho, Bangkok)

On that day the Great King, decked out with all adornments, together with his harem and ministers, and surrounded by his army, went to his own monastery, 1 as though splitting the whole earth, 2 and, after worshipping the supreme Community, stood in the midst of the Community.

In that assembly there were eight hundred million monks, and of them one hundred thousand were strivers who had destroyed the pollutants. 3 There were also ninety thousand nuns in that place, and at that time one thousand nuns had destroyed the pollutants.

Those who had destroyed the pollutants performed the miracle called ‘Opening the World’ 4 for the purpose of instilling confidence in King Dhammāsoka.

Previously, because of his wicked deeds, he was known as ‘Violent Asoka’ and later because of his meritorious deeds he was known as ‘Righteous Asoka’.

He looked at the Rose-Apple Island, which is surrounded on all sides by the ocean, and all the monasteries decorated with many offerings, and having seen that, he was very satisfied, and after sitting down, he asked the Community: “Was anyone, venerable Sirs, so generous in the Dispensation of the Greatly Fortunate One?”

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 Moggaliputta 5 answered the King’s question: “Even while the Fortunate One was living there has been no generosity like unto yours!” 6

Hearing that statement the King was very satisfied and asked him: “Is there anyone who inherits the Awakened One’s Dispensation who is like unto me?”

The Elder saw the supporting conditions of the King’s son Mahinda, and similarly of the King’s daughter Saṅghamittā, and being responsible for the Dispensation, and seeing the conditions for the its growth, he answered the King:

“Even such a one, who is greatly generous, is not known as an heir in the Dispensation. Whoever, Great King, having amassed a heap of wealth from the plains of the earth up to the tip of the Brahma worlds would give it all as a great donation to the Community of monks is still only known as a supporter of material requisites, O Ruler of Men.

But he who lets his son or daughter go forth in the Dispensation is a true supporter of the Dispensation, as well as our material supporter.

Then the Lord of the World, wishing to be a supporter of the Dispensation, asked Mahinda and Saṅghamittā as they were standing there: “Will you go forth, Dears? Going-forth is known as a great thing.”

Hearing their Father’s statement, they said this to their Father: “Today we will go forth if the God-King wishes, there will be gain for us and for you in our going-forth.”

Since the time of the Prince Tissa’s going-forth the young man Mahinda had naturally desired to go forth; and Saṅghamittā had made a resolve at her husband Aggibrahmā’s going-forth.

Although the Lord of the Earth desired to give the vice-sovereignity to Mahinda, even more that that he was pleased with his going-forth. His dear son Mahinda, who was wise, handsome and very strong, he let go forth with festivities, and also his daughter Saṅghamittā.

Then Mahinda, the King’s joy, was twenty years old, and the King’s daughter, Saṅghamittā, had reached eighteen. 7 On the same day he had the going-forth and higher ordination, and on that very day she had the going-forth and the placing in training. 8

The prince’s preceptor was called Moggali, 9 the Elder Mahādeva let him go forth, but Majjhantika 10 made the formal announcement, and in the place of the higher ordination, 11 Mahinda attained Worthiness, together with the analytic knowledges. 12

Saṅghamittā’s preceptor was the well-known nun Dhammapālā, her teacher the nun Āyupālā, and in time she also became pollutant-free. They both were Lights of the Dispensation, and helpers of the Island of Laṅkā, they went forth six years after King Dhammāsoka came to the throne.

The Great Mahinda, who brought faith to the Island, in his third year learned the three baskets 13 in the presence of his preceptor. The nun, a crescent moon, the monk Mahinda, the sun, younger sister and brother, these two were Lights of the Awakened One’s Dispensation.

End Notes

1 I.e. the Asokārāma.
2 The simile is not clear, maybe it is meant to indicate his power.
3 I.e. were Arahants.
4 Described in the Buddhavaṁsa commentary as making all the beings in the universe visible to each other, from the highest heaven to the lowest hell.
5 Ven. Moggaliputta Tissa was the Chief Elder in the Saṅgha at the time, and would soon head the Third Council.
6 Interestingly, this places Asoka above Anāthapiṇḍika as the most generous supporter.
7 I do not know how we can reconclie this with her having had a son who had taken novice ordination two years earlier. If it were so it would mean that she gave birth to her son around age 11.
8 This means she was given the further ordination as a sikkhamāna, which she must hold for two years, before acquiring her higher ordination as a bhikkhuṇī.
9 I.e. Moggaliputta Tissa.
10 These are two of the named missionaries in the later part of the text, who took the Dispensation to Mahisamaṇḍala and Kasmīra-Gandhāra respectively. They were sent on their missions by Mahinda’s preceptor, Moggaliputtatissa.
11 It means right there in the sīma, or boundary-hall.
12 They are four: analytic knowledge of meanings, conditions, language and of improvisation.
13 The three baskets of the teaching: Discipline (Vinaya), Doctrine (Dhamma), and the Abstract Teaching (Abhidhamma).


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