The Great Cloud Monastery and Queen Anula

from the Extended Mahāvaṁsa, Chapter XV. The Acceptance of the Great Monastery
ExtMhv 1-37b cf. Mhv. 1-26b

Queen Anula Listens to Dhamma (Mural at Wat Pho)

Queen Anula Listens to Dhamma
(Mural at Wat Pho, Bangkok))

[The story now moves on around thirteen years. In the meantime King Asoka had seen to the reunification of the Saṅgha and the holding of the Third Council in which the teachings had been reconfirmed. Following this the leading monk at the Council had arranged to send missionaries to the border areas. The Arahat Mahinda had been sent to the Island of Laṅkā, where he had converted King Devānampiyatissa and many others. The story picks up as he continues with his teaching mission:]

“The elephant stall is crowded,” said those who had assembled there, and outside the southern gate, in the delightful Joy Grove, in the King’s garden, which was well-covered, cool and grassy, the people reverentially prepared seats for the Elders.

Having left by the southern gate, the Elder Mahinda sat down there, and the one skilled in Dhamma related the Simile of the Poisonous Snake. 1 In that place one thousand breathing beings entered into the first Path and Fruit 2 on that day, and on the second day also two and a half thousand penetrated the Dhamma.

Many women from the great families came there, and after worshipping, sat down, filling the garden. The Elder taught the Discourse on the Fools and the Wise, 3 and one thousand of those women entered into the first Path and Fruit.

And so there in that garden the evening time set in, and therefore the Elders departed, saying: “We go to the mountain.”

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.

Seeing them going men said: “The Elders have left straight away,” and they went and informed the King. The King went quickly, and after going and worshipping the Elder, the Lord of the Planet said: “Venerable Sir, it is far from here to the mountain in the evening, live comfortably right here in the Joy Wood.”

“It is unsuitable, being too near to the city,” he said,

Hearing that he uttered this statement to the Elder: “The Great Cloud Grove 4 is neither too near nor too far, delightful, endowed with shade and water, be pleased to reside there. You should turn back, venerable Sir!” and the Elder turned back.

In that place where they turned back, on the banks of the Kadamba river, 5 the Shrine called the Turning Shrine was built.

The Best of Charioteers led the Elders to the south of the Joy Wood, and through the Eastern Gate in the Great Cloud Grove. There, near the delightful Palace, he spread good beds and chairs and said: “Dwell comfortably here.”

The King worshipped the Elders, and surrounded by his ministers, entered the city, but the Elders dwelt for the night right there.

Having gathered flowers in the morning, the Lord of the Planet, after approaching the Elders and worshipping them with the blossoms, asked: “How? Did you abide happily? Was the garden comfortable?”

“We did abide happily, Great King, the garden is comfortable for strivers.”

He asked: “Is a monastery suitable for the Community, venerable Sir?”

The Elder said: “It is suitable,” and the one skilled in what was suitable and unsuitable spoke about the receiving of the Bamboo Grove Monastery. 6 Hearing that the Lord of the World was happy and very joyful.

Queen Anulā together with five-hundred women came in order to worship the Elders, and after listening to the Dhamma teaching with faithful minds, they entered the second Path and Fruit. 7

Then Queen Anulā had a desire to go forth together with the five hundred women, and said this to the Lord of the World: “Today itself we will go forth, if it is your wish, Lord of the Earth.”

Hearing her statement the King said to the Elder: “Venerable Sir, Queen Anulā desires to go forth together with five hundred women, please give them the going-forth.”

“It is not suitable, Great King, for us to give the going-forth to women. 8 There is in Pāṭaliputta 9 a nun who is my younger sister, Saṅghamittā by name, who is famous and very learned, Lord of Men.

Bring the southern branch from the Great Bodhi Tree of the Lord of Ascetics, 10 and also the noble nuns, to the city in the Island of Laṅkā, King. Then as the Bodhi Trees of the three self-made Buddhas 11 were planted by the Kings so today the Bodhi Tree 12 of the famous Gotama, which has a resplendent halo, should be planted, Lord of the Earth.

Send a message to the King, our Father, saying: “Let her come,” and that Elder Nun will come and give the going-forth to these women.”

After saying: “Well said!” and taking the noble water-jug, the King said: “I give this Great Cloud Grove to the Community,” and sprinkled water over the right hand of the Elder Mahinda. 13

As the water fell on the Earth with that statement the Earths, in excess of four myriads, for two hundred leagues in extent, or a thousand thick, bearing waters to their edge, shook on all sides.

Having seen that wonder, fearful, frightened and apprehensive, the Guardian of the Earth asked: “Why does the earth tremble?”

“Do not be afraid, Great King, the Dispensation of the One of Ten Powers will be established here, and because of that this Earth trembles. The first monastic dwelling place will be in this place.” 14

Having heard that statement, the Lord of the World had great faith, and offered sweet-smelling jasmine flowers to the Elder.

End Notes

1 Probably SN 35. Sut. 238, although there are others that include a relevant simile. It was also taught by Majjhantika in Kasmīra-Gandhāra, see above XII v. 30.
2 I.e. they became Stream-Enterers (Sotāpanna).
3 MN 129; it relates the deeds done by fools and by wise men and their respective rewards.
4 Situated south of the Joy Wood, which itself was south of the city area.
5 Which lay to the east of the city.
6 By the Buddha from King Bimbisāra; see The Great Chapter, section 40.
7 They became Once-Returners (Sakadāgāmī).
8 Mahinda says this because he believes dual ordination is necessary, whereby a female aspirant needs to be ordained by nuns first, and then have the ceremony confirmed by monks. This is sometimes disputed, as the Buddha never revoked the original ordination by monks only, but clearly this was Mahinda’s understanding.
9 The capital of the Asokan Empire. It is mentioned in Mahāparinibbānasutta, DN 16 as Pāṭaligāma, and is called so because of the Trumpet Flowers (Pāṭali) that were growing there when it was founded; it is also known as Pupphapura and Kusumapura (both meaning Flower City).
10 It means: a sapling.
11 These are the three Buddhas preceding Gotama in this aeon: Kakusandha, Konāgamana and Kassapa; all the Buddhas have different Bodhi Trees, in their cases they were: Acacia Sirissa, Udumbara (Glamorous Fig Tree) and Nigrodha (Banyan Tree).
12 The Assattha or Fig Tree (Ficus Religiosa).
13 This is a way of making a formal donation by pouring water; it was also done this way by King Bimbisāra when he donated the Bamboo Wood.
14 I.e. the Mahāvihāra, or Great Monastery, which became the seat of Theravāda orthodoxy. The emphasis is changed somewhat from the Mahāvaṁsa version; there, as soon as he had given the Grove the Dispensation is said to be established; whereas here it will be established only when the monastery has been built.


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