Events in Sri Lankan Buddhism
King Asoka sends his
son, Ven. Mahinda, on
a mission to bring Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
King Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka is converted.
Ven. Mahinda establishes the Mahavihara (Great Monastery)
of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Vibhajjavadin
community living there becomes known as the Theravadins.
Mahinda's sister, Ven. Sanghamitta, arrives
in Sri Lanka with a cutting from the original Bodhi
tree, and establishes the bhikkhuni-sangha (nuns)
in Sri Lanka.
Famine and schisms in Sri Lanka point out the need
for a written record of the Tipitaka to preserve
the Buddhist religion. King Vattagamani convenes
a Fourth Council, in which 500 reciters and scribes
from the Mahavihara write down the Pali Tipitaka
for the first time, on palm leaves. Theravada
Buddhism first appears in Burma and Central
collates the various Sinhalese commentaries on the
Canon - drawing primarily on the Maha Atthakatha
(Great Commentary) preserved at the Mahavihara,
and translates his work into Pali. This makes Sinhalese
Buddhist scholarship available to the entire Theravadin
world. As a cornerstone to his work, Buddhaghosa
composes the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification)
which eventually becomes the classic Sri Lankan
textbook on the Buddha's teachings.
Dhammapala composes commentaries on parts of the
Canon missed by Buddhaghosa (such as the Udana,
Itivuttaka, Theragatha, and Therigatha), along with
extensive sub-commentaries on Buddhaghosa's work.
The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni communities at Anuradhapura
die out following invasions from South India.
Bhikkhus from Pagan (Burma) arrive in Polonnaruwa,
Sri Lanka to reinstate the Theravada ordination
line in Sri Lanka.
Polonnaruwa destroyed by foreign invasion.
With the guidance of two monks from a forest branch
of the Mahavihara sect, Ven. Mahakassapa and Ven.
Sariputta, King Parakramabahu reunites all bhikkhus
in Sri Lanka into the Mahavihara sect.
Bhikkhus from Kañcipuram, India, arrive in Sri
Lanka to revive the Theravada ordination line.
Last inscriptional evidence of a Theravada Bhikkhuni
nunnery (in Burma).
A forest-based Sri Lankan ordination line arrives
in Burma and Thailand. Theravada spreads to Laos. Thai
Theravada monasteries first appear in Cambodia shortly
before the Thais win their independence from the Khmers.
King Kirti Sri Rajasinha obtains bhikkhus from the Thai
court to reinstate the bhikkhu ordination line, which
had died out in Sri Lanka. This is the origin of the
Siam Nikaya of Buddhist monks.
Sri Lankans ordained in the Burmese city of Amarapura
found the Amarapura Nikaya in Sri Lanka to supplement
the Siam Nikaya, which admitted only brahmins from the
Up Country highlands around Kandy.
Forest monks headed by Ven. Paññananda
go to Burma for reordination, returning to Sri Lanka
the following year to found the Ramañña
The revival of Buddhism got fully under way in
Sri Lanka when Ven. Sri Sumangala and Ven Dharmanada
established two Buddhist monastic colleges, the Vidyodaya
and the Vidyolanka Pirivenas (monastic colleges), in
1873 and 1875 respectively. At about the same time a
brilliant young monk, Ven. Mohottivatte Gunananda defeats
Christian missionaries in a public debate, sparking
a nationwide revival of Sri Lankan pride in its Buddhist
Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, founders of
the Theosophical Society, arrive in Sri Lanka from the
USA, embrace Buddhism, and begin a campaign to restore
Buddhism on the island by encouraging the establishment
of Buddhist schools.
Maha Bodhi Society founded in India by the Sri
Lankan lay follower Anagarika
Dharmapala, in an effort to reintroduce Buddhism
Ven. Nyanaponika Thera
establishes the Buddhist Publication Society in
Sri Lanka to publish English-language books on Theravada
Buddhism. Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is
founded in Sri Lanka to bring Buddhist ideals to
bear in solving pressing social problems.