by Sugeeswara Senadhira
Tripitakabhivandana Week will conclude with submission of official application to UNESCO
The Tripikatabhivandana Week from March 16 to 23 will culminate with the grandiose event at Mahamaluwa of the sacred Daladamaligawa in Kandy on March 23, where the official announcement of submission of an application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) would be made. Sri Lanka, together with several other Theravada Buddhist countries would urge in a joint application to recognize Theravada Tripitaka as a World Heritage under the category of Memory of the World.
UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992, stating that impetus came originally from a growing awareness of the parlous state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world. To provide world recognition to such heritages, the Memory of the World was established by the world’s top cultural body.
UNESCO description of reasons for introducing ‘Memory of the World’ under World Heritages, states, “War and social upheaval, as well as severe lack of resources, have worsened problems which have existed for centuries. Significant collections worldwide have suffered a variety of fates. Looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much as vanished forever; much is endangered. Happily, missing documentary heritage is sometimes rediscovered.”
The neighbouring country that gifted Sri Lanka the Buddha Dhamma over 2,300 years ago has volunteered to second Sri Lanka’s proposal to UNESCO. The introduction of Buddhism, the most valuable gift Sri Lanka ever received from overseas, has introduced a unique religious philosophy together with a new culture and a way of life to the people of this country.
Pali Tripitaka volumes
The teachings of the Buddha or the Thervada Tripitaka was introduced by Arahat Mahinda in Pali language and it was brought forward by word of mouth for generations until it was transcribed into written text on Ola leaves in the 1st Century at Aluviharaya in Matale.
In a significant move to provide the long due proper status to the Tripitaka, President Maithripala Sirisena declared the Sambuddha Jayanthi Theravada Tripitaka as a National Heritage on January 5, 2019 at Aluviharaya.
The Pali Tripitaka volumes considered as the foundation source of the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition. Tripitaka Dharma constitutes of the Sutra Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka, and the Abhidharma Pitaka as well as the Atthakatha and Teeka.
This is one of the most prominent sacred religious heritages in the world history which was brought forward for generations by listening to verbal recitations and memorizing. From the first Dhamma Sangayana (First Buddhist Council) to the transcription of the Tripitaka at the Matale Alu Viharaya in 1st Century A.D, the Maha Theras and their student generation preserved this Dharma through oral form.
The Dhamma preached by the Buddha for over 45 years was preached by 500 bhikkhus jointly by memorizing those teachings, at this first Dhamma Sangayana. Since then the great responsibility of preserving this Vinaya Pitaka for the benefit of the Sasanaya was vested on Ven. Upali Maha Thera and his student generation.
Over the years, the responsibility of carrying forward the Tripitaka was given the Bhanaka Theras or the monks assigned to preach. The responsibility of a Bhanaka was to carry forward the Dhamma from generation to generation. The well experienced and intelligent monks with exceptional skills to memorize were selected as Bhanaka Theras. These monks made tremendous sacrifices to ensure preservation of the Tripitaka. The chief monks took every possible step to protect the erudite Theras who knew the Tripitaka by memory. During prolonged famines, there were fears that might disappear totally and some of them were sent to different places, even overseas to ensure all the Bhanaka Theras would not extinct.
Once the importance of transcribing the Tripitaka to ensure its eternal preservation was realized, the leading monks succeeded in obtaining the sponsorship of King Wattagamini Abhaya, popularly known as King Walagamba in the 1st Century AD.
The writing of Tripitaka served immensely for preservation and propagation of the Buddhist Sasana. The United Nation Organization has acknowledged Sri Lanka as the centre of Theravada Buddhism and subsequent to that recognition, President Maitripala Sirisena proclaiming the Tripitaka as a national heritage.
With the expectation of obtaining UNESCO recognition for Tripitaka, the volume containing the entire Buddhist discourse, as a World Heritage, the government has declared the week from March 16-23 as the “Tripitakabhiwandana Week” for making the entire country aware of this noble endeavour.
During the Tritakabhivandana Week, all Buddhist vihares, schools, daham pasals and state institutions will line up to conduct special programmes with the participation of all citizens. It has been planned to fly the Buddhist flag in the villages and in towns.
From March 16 to 23, it has been decided to conduct “Shabda Pooja” every evening from 6.00 to 6.15 pm. On 16, there will be Pindapata or begging for alms by monks in every city, town and village, on 17 to create awareness among the students of the Daham Pasalas, on March 18, creating awareness among schoolchildren and students of Pirivenas on Tripitaka, on March 19, to conduct programmes in private sector institutions, on March 20 Poya Day, several programmes will be conducted in Temples, on March 21 conduct several awareness programmes in Temples and on March 22, awareness programme for the state officials and administering of the oath.
The Week will culminate with the grand function at Mahamaluwa of Daladamaligawa in Kandy on March 23 with the participation of the President, Prime Minister and Ministers, foreign envoys.
Over 5,000 members of the Mahasangha will attend this mega religious event where the announcement will be made regarding the submission of the application to UNESCO for recognizing Theravada Tripitaka as a World Heritage under Memory of the World.