History of Buddhism
A short history of Buddhagaya
Daily News, Premasara Epasinghe
26/07/2013 11:02 (GMT+7)
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July 25 -- There are four places, Ananda, a pious person should visit, look upon with feelings and sentiments of reverence. What are the four (4)?
 
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Photo: Buddhagaya Temple

The four places, Lumbini, Buddhagaya, Saranga, Kusinara, the sites where Prince Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was born, attained Enlightenment, delivered the first sermon - Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta and where Buddha passed away respectively.

One of the most sacred of sacred places for the entire Buddhist population of 6 billion Buddhists were badly shaken, when a series of low intensity blasts suffered the most sacred Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya on July 7, 2013. The Sacred Jayashri Maha Bodhi was not damaged. There were slight damages to the temple. During the time of these blasts there was not much of pilgrims, devotees present.

Buddhagaya or Bodhgaya, is the great sacred place of Buddhists. It is situated about 10 km south of the famous city Gaya, which is about 105 km from Patna - in the State of Bihar, India.

Bodhi Tree

This sacred temple Buddha Gaya, has a 55m (180ft) tower. The present temple of Mahabodhi was restored in 1880's. The Prince Siddhartha Gautama, attained Sammasambudhatva - Supreme Buddhahood under Bodhi Tree on Vesak Full Moon Poya Day, the year 588 BCE He sat with a for, resolution under the Jayashrimaha Bodhi Tree to attain Enlightenment.

Bodhgaya is to Buddhists, what Bethlehem to Christmas, Macca and Medina are to Muslims. This shows the importance of this Great Buddhist shrine.

In the Ariyapariyesana Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya (Sutta 26) the Blessed One explained this beautiful spot and described the environment of Bodhgaya thus:-

A delightful grove with a clear-flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks and a nearby village for alms. This is a beautiful place, serene, calm, cool place for striving.

It was under the shade of this most sacred significant Bodhi Tree, Prince Siddhartha attained Imperturbability - Nibbana. He realized the Dhamma-37 factors of Enlightenment based on Four Noble Truths, the dependent origination and three characteristics of existence of all animate and inanimate things in the world.

Like the Enlightened One or the Blessed One - Jayashri Maha Bodhi is majestic. The greatest happiness calmness and coolness that I have gained in my life was when I worshipped the Bodhi sitting under the shade of Jayashri Maha Bodhi in Bihar, India, and at most venerated Sri Mahabodhi at Mahamevuna Uyana, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka and Bellanwila Bodhiya, Bellanwila.

The Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya is considered as oldest and the most venerated tree in the world. The original Bodhi Tree was supposed to be destroyed by a vicious Queen of India. The descendent of the original tree, a branch was taken to Sri Lanka by Arhant Bhikkuni - Nun Sangamitta. It is from a sapling of this Bodhi Tree, there exit Jayashrimaha (Peepal Tree) in Bodhgaya.

There are various theories relating to the Jayashri Maha Bodhi in India. It is said General A Lunnigham, the Indian Archaeological Commissioner took a seed from the original tree before it died in 1871 and planted it in its place in 1880.

The excavation of Bodhgaya was done by General Cunningham and Dr Rajendralal Mitra as instructed by the Indian Government.

The Great Emperor Asoka (273-232 BCE) the greatest Buddhist benefactor and Missionary visited most of the places related to the Life of the Buddha, erected Rock Edicts and Pillars. He visited Bodhgaya. The boundary wall and Vajrasana, are the oldest construction found at Bodhgaya. In an inscription discovered Bodhgaya, reveal that King Megavarna of Sri Lanka, constructed a Sangharama, during Gupta Period (388 AD).

The Chinese Buddhist Travelers Fahein and Hiuena Tsang, stated in their writings that at Bodhgaya there were three viharas and Sangharamayas respectively.

It should be mentioned here Sri Lanka maintained close relationship with Bodhgaya from the times of Asoka.

The excavations were done and the main Mahabodhi basement of the Vihara was unearthed. Presently, Mahavihara stands 180 feet high. On three corners of the court yard of Mahabodhi Vihara stands Ratnagirihe, Rajayatana and Ranaula temples.

One name that coined with Bodhgaya is the Sri Lankans Greatest. Buddhist Patriot Anagarika Dharmapala. He was born to a rich family - Hewavitharanas in the Southern Sri Lanka, during the time Buddhist revivalism was taking place in 1870's. He first visited Buddhagaya in 1891. He went to Saranath first. He was shocked. The place where Buddha made his first discourse - Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta was made as a place to dump garbage and it was a place where pigs were grazing.

Then, Dharmapala proceeded to Buddhagaya with a Japanese monk - Kojan. He founded the Mahabodhi Society in 1891 to restore Buddhagaya. This Great Patriot started publishing the Mahabodhi Journal.

He addressed Religious Conference in Chicago. He fought a court case with Mahanta and won the Buddhist Rights. In the history of Buddhist, missionary activities, after Emperor Asoka, it was Anagarika Dharmapala who dedicated his entire life to the Buddhist cause in India. 

If the Great Anagarika Dharmapala who opened the doors to Sri Lanka and other Buddhists in the world to visit the sacred places of India.

With the July 7th attack, the Sri Lanka's High Commissioner, former Richmondite and University cricketer and his staff took immediate action to protect Buddhagaya. His excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa contacted the relevant authorities of India promptly and took action to safeguard the Sri Lankan pilgrims. 

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