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The Essence of Buddhism Portrayed in The Japanese Peace Pagoda in Rumassala, Sri Lanka

April 13, 2018

Rumassala, near the World Heritage site of Galle, Sri Lanka, is rich in Buddhist folklore and is featured in the Ramayana as the home of the beautiful Queen Sita. Legend also reflected in the Ramayana is that the Monkey King warrior, Hanuman, dropped a chunk of the Himalaya mountains in Rumassala to form the foundation of what is now the Sama Ceitya pagoda. 

The Sama Ceitya was built by the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji Nikaya in 2004. The guidance for the pagoda was received from the Buddhist monk, Nichidatsu Fuji (1885-1985), who devoted his life to promote non-violence by constructing Peace Pagodas as shrines of World Peace.

There are four images of Buddha as you walk around the stupa. The first image encountered is that of Buddha to represent Dharma in his teachings to his disciples to establish the three gems of Buddhism: Buddha (to take comfort in Buddha), Dharma (to take comfort in the teachings of Buddha) and Sangha (to take comfort in being with fellow Buddhists). It sounds far more meaningful when chanted in pali sanskrit which forms the basis of the most well-known Buddhist mantra. You will note white flowers in front of the Buddha image. A Sri Lankan gentleman walked up and handed me one to place beside his. He was the only person around other than our photographer, Khun Joey, in what was a spiritual moment.

The next image of Buddha encountered when walking around the stupa in a clockwise direction is one representing the birth of Buddha. Prince Siddahartha, whose name means "every wish fulfilled," was the son of King Suddodana and Queen Maya. He was born in Lumpini Park in the foot hills of the Himalayas in what is now Nepal some 2,500 years ago. Legend has it he pointed to the heavens with his right hand and to the earth with his left hand thus announcing the purpose of his birth to relieve suffering in the world. 

Another interesting legend is that Buddha was conceived by immaculate conception entering his mother on the back of an elephant which we would guess would be symbolic. The elephants shown below form the foundation of the stupa.

The next Buddha image is that of his attainment of enlightenment. Buddha sat beneath a Bodhi tree in Bodi Gaya where he severed himself from all illusions and delusions about the nature of existence. Compassion would be used to understand and overcome evil and its forces.

The last of the four Buddha images show him reclining in Parinirvana. After fifty years of teaching and walking from town to town on foot, he decided to depart from this life. He asked his disciples if there were any questions and, there being none, he passed. It is said the birds stopped singing, flowers fell from the trees and flames ceased to burn. His disciples were asked to continue his teachings.

So where does one go with all of these precepts and images of Buddhism. First of all, Buddha represented himself as a teacher and not a god. Although Buddhism has evolved over the past 2,500 years, his teachings form a very sound basis for one to conduct their lives independent of any religion to their own benefit and those with whom they interact. Further, it is evident on this basis that there is no conflict between the teachings of Buddha and any formal religion. Maybe, it is just a good approach to get one through the complexities of life that can be supplemented with whatever other concepts that support it.

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