from the Extended Mahāvaṁsa, Chapter XIX. The Journey of the Great Bodhi Tree
ExtMhv 118-120 & 166-189 cf. Mhv 68-85
Near the Lord’s Great Bodhi Tree, through the wonder of being near the flag of the true Dhamma preached in the lovely words of the land of Laṅkā, Queen Anulā, with five hundred women and together with another five hundred women of the harem received the going-forth in the presence of the Elder Saṅghamittā, and those one thousand nuns, after developing insight, in no long time attained the state of Worthiness.
The Great Elder Saṅghamittā lived in the Nunnery known as the Lay-Womens’ Monastery together with her Community. She made there three dwelling places which were considered the foremost. 1
Previously Queen Anulā had heard a Dhamma teaching in the Elder Mahinda’s presence, understood the Truths, donned the yellow robes, undertook the ten precepts and made her dwelling in the home of the minister named Dolaka. 2
Afterwards, with the coming of the Elder Nun to the Island of Laṅkā, these three foremost palaces: Small Chapter, Great Chapter and Increasing Splendour were made by the Lord of the World.
For the benefit of his retinue and many others in the palace, when the Great Bodhi Tree was brought in the ship, the Ruler of the World had the mast placed in the house named the Small Chapter, the sail was established in the Great Chapter house, and then the rudder was placed in the Increasing Splendour house. 3
The Lord of the World, was of such a kind that he was endowed with virtue and respect for the Three Treasures, paid lifelong respect to the Bodhi Tree and caused all the places in the Isle to be prepared, gaining a famous name, lasting even until today.
The King’s state elephant, which wandered wherever it liked, stayed on one side of the city in a cool spot in a mountain grotto, near to a Kadambapuppha bush, where it grazed.
Often people journeyed there, and after seeing the elephant, and saying: “This elephant delights in the Kadamba Grove,” fed it with rice and fattened up the elephant, and that place came to be known by the name of the Measure of Grain. 4
One day the elephant didn’t take even a morsel, and the King asked the Elder who brought faith to the Island the reason. “Near the Kadambapuppha bush site he desires that a Sanctuary be built,” the Great Elder said to the Great King.
The King, who was ever delighting in the welfare of the people, quickly built a Sanctuary there together with a relic, and a Sanctuary room.
The Great Elder Saṅghamittā, who longed for an empty abode, as the dwelling place she lived in was crowded, seeking the benefit of the Dispensation, and the welfare of the nuns, being wise and desiring another Nunnery went to that lovely Shrine House, which was comfortably secluded, and spent the day there, she who had faultless skill in dwellings.
The King, after going to the first Nunnery in order to worship the Elder Nun heard that she had left the place. He departed from the Nunnery, arrived near the Shrine House and worshipped the Great Elder.
After exchanging greetings with the Elder Saṅghamittā, understanding her intention, the Guardian of the World, who was a wise man, skilled in intentions, a hero of great power, had a delightful Nunnery built near the Sanctuary House.
The Nunnery was built near where the elephant took his measure of grain therefore it became well-known as the Elephant’s Measure monastery.
The good friend, 5 the Great Elder Saṅghamittā, who was greatly wise, then made her dwelling in that delightful Nunnery.
Thus benefitting the world of Laṅkā, and accomplishing the development of the Dispensation, the Great Bodhi Tree, endowed with various wonders, remained for a long time, 6 in the Great Cloud Grove, in the delightful Island of Laṅkā.
Written for the Faith and Invigoration of Good People
The Nineteenth Chapter in the Great Lineage called
The Journey of the Great Wisdom Tree
1 In Mhv it mentions that she built twelve dwelling places in all.
2 It appears from this that the Lay-Women’s Monastery had previously been Doloka’s residence. Exactly how we reconcile this with the statement in XVIII v.12 that the King had built the Nunnery I don’t know. It may be that the traditions were not properly harmonised at this point.
3 Dr. Hema Goonatilake, in her paper, The Unbroken Lineage of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhuni Sangha from 3rd Century B.C.E. to the Present, makes the interesting point that these nunneries are the first museums we hear of in history.
4 Contrary to Geiger, who interprets ālhaka as meaning post (a meaning not found in the Dictionaries), this story indicates that the reason for the name is that the elephant was given a full measure of food by the visitors to the place.
5 This is a play on her name, which means friend of the community.
6 Indeed it still remains there to this day, being the oldest historical tree in the world.