Requesting Ven. Sanghamitta and the Bodhi Tree

from the Extended Mahāvaṁsa, Chapter XV. The Acceptance of the Great Monastery
ExtMhv 1-32 cf. Mhv. 1-18

Mahinda and Arittha (Mural at Wat Pho)

Mahinda and Arittha
(Mural at Wat Pho, Bangkok)

In order to bring the Great Bodhi Tree and the Elder Nun, the Lord of the World, remembering the statement spoken by the Elder, on a certain day in the Rainy Season, while sitting in his own city near the Elder, consulted his ministers and urged his nephew, the minister called Ariṭṭha, to undertake these deeds.

After considering it and inviting him, he uttered this statement: “Dear, after going into the presence of King Dhammāsoka will you be able 1 to bring the Elder Nun Saṅghamittā and the Great Bodhi Tree here?”

“I will be able, God-King, to bring these two from there if, after returning here, I am allowed to go forth, your Honour.”

“You may go, Dear, and after bringing the Elder Nun together with the Bodhi Tree and reaching Laṅkā, you can go-forth according to your wish.”

Having said that, the King sent his nephew, and he took the message of the Elder and the King and worshipped them.

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.

Leaving on the second day of the bright fortnight in Assayuja 2 he, being dedicated, boarded a ship in the port of Jambukola 3 and crossed the ocean, and through 4 the power of the Elder’s determination, on the very day of departure it arrived at Pāṭaliputta.

Then Queen Anulā, with five hundred young women, and together with another five hundred women of the harem, having undertaken the ten precepts, pure in the yellow robes, 5 looked forward to the going-forth and for the training rules that would come with the Elder Nun.

She made her dwelling in good conduct in the delightful Nunnery in a certain district of the town where the Lord of Men had had it made. 6 As these lay-women lived in the Nunnery it became well-known throughout Laṅkā as the Lay-Womens’ Monastery. 7

His nephew Mahāriṭṭha, having reached King Dhammāsoka, spoke the King’s message and the Elder’s message: “Your son Mahinda, God-King, sent me into your presence. The Queen named Anulā, your friend the King Piyatissa’s brother’s wife, O Chief of Kings, desiring the going-forth, has undertaken the ten precepts, together with a thousand women, and lives constantly restrained. Please send the Elder Nun Saṅghamittā to give the going-forth, and together with her a branch from the south side of the Great Bodhi Tree.”

Then the minister went into the presence of the Elder Nun and said this: “Noble Sister, your brother Mahinda sent me into your presence. Devānampiyatissa’s brother’s wife, the lay-woman called Queen Anulā, through having a desire for the going-forth, together with a thousand women, lives constantly restrained. Go together with me and please give them the going-forth.”

Hearing the minister’s word she very quickly went to her Father and the Elder Nun related the Elder’s thought: “My brother Mahinda has sent these into my presence, and after we have sent the people back, I will go. Very many people, daughters of good families, with Anulā at their head, desiring the going-forth, are looking forward to my journey.”

The King, who was flushed, 8 hearing the Elder Nun’s statement, with a shower of tears set rolling, said this to the Elder Nun: “My son Mahinda, Dear, and my grandson Sumana having left us here, I am as though with my hands cut off. They both have gone to the Copper Dust Island, I no longer see them, and great grief has arisen.

Seeing their faces today your grief will be allayed. But not seeing you also, Dear, how will I put aside my grief in being parted from my son and grandson? Enough, Dear, if you were to go today, you also will not return.”

Hearing the statement of her Father the Elder Nun said this: “My brother’s word has importance for me, King, together with the request of the great Queen and the thousand women. Further, I suppose, this is not just my brother’s word and many are waiting for the going-forth, which I also desire to give, Great King, and so now I must go.”

“If you desire to go take a branch of the Supreme Bodhi Tree and go, Noble Sister. You must see your brother in Laṅkā.”

End Notes

1 Sakkhissasi is unclear, it suggests a verb sakkhati, which is not found in Pāḷi. In Mhv. there are many vvll, most of which connect it with sakkoti; being able.
2 Normally falling in October.
3 Probably on the northern coast of the Jaffna peninsular.
4 ExtMhv: Therādiṭṭhabalena pi; through strength unseen by the Elder, which doesn’t make much sense.
5 It is interesting that she is portrayed as already wearing the yellow robe, even though she only has ten precepts, which are not even sāmaṇerī precepts. It is a strong echo of the first nun Mahāpajāpati, and her following, who also donned robes before they were ordained.
6 The exact location cannot now be determined, except that it was within the city limits.
7 The proper name for a residence for nuns (bhikkhuṇī) is an Upassaya; but before they were ordained they lived there as lay women under ten precepts, so it became famous as the Lay-Womens’ Monastery.
8 Lit: white-throated. I cannot find this word or phrase used elsewhere, and the reading must be in doubt.


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