Patthana Dharma Sabhawa: The Pioneer in Abhidhamma Education

Published : 9:09 am  June 5, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 


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Prince Siddhartha was born 2641 years ago at Lumbini. The parents of the royal prince were King Suddhodana of Kapilavasthu and Queen Mahamaya. 
The prince led a life full of luxuries unimaginable in ordinary sense. However, he soon realized that the world he experienced at the royal palace was far from the reality and the world outside was all full of suffering including old age, disease and death and he too would have to perish one day from this suffering. With this knowledge, he left the royal palace forever at the prime age of 29. His renunciation had no parallel in the history of mankind. 
This was the turning point in the spiritual development of humans as well as the Devas. After training under several teachers, he soon realized that the religious knowledge of that era was not leading him to the ultimate truth, ending the suffering that he was looking for. So finally, he decided to look for this ultimate truth by himself. For another six years, he tried the other extremity of subjecting the body to extreme pain thinking that this would result in liberation. Ultimately, he realized that this path too was not going to deliver the results he was looking for. Finally, he gave up both extremes of giving too much of pleasure and too much of pain to the body and decided to follow the middle path.  
On the Full Moon Day of Vesak, sitting under the Bodhi tree at Gaya, he finally realized the ultimate supreme truth and the end to Samsara by eradicating all the defilements by his own effort without any supernatural help and this was the appearance of Gothama the Buddha, the Enlightened One. Having realized the supreme enlightenment and perfect knowledge, he spent the next 45 years of his life, teaching the humans and devas the Dhamma he personally apprehended, thereby helping them too, to the final liberation. There are 84,000 recorded sermons delivered by Buddha, starting from Dhammachakkappavatthana Suttha which was delivered two full moons later to the five ascetics at Benares and the last was Maha Parinibbana Suttha delivered just before his final passing away.  
This vast collection of Buddha’s teaching was subsequently catalogued into three large volumes, at the first Convention of Bhikkhus, headed by Arahanth Maha Kashyapa and attended by 500 Arahanths including Arahanths Upali and Ananda, held three months after the Buddhas’ passing away. They are, the Vinaya Pitaka, dealing with the discipline of the Sangha,the Suthra Pitaka, the random sermons explaining various aspects of Dhamma depending on the situation and explaining the Dhamma to suit the audience and the occasion, and finally, the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the deep Dhamma explaining the Absolute Realities (Paramattha Dhamma).   



The Abhidhamma explains all the physical and mental phenomena (Nama / Rupa) at the minutest detail, how they are formed, exist and pass away. The four Absolute Realities namely; mind (citta), mental formations (chethasika), physical phenomena (rupa) and Nibbana are dealt here and this deep analysis of the finer details of phenomena is not found in any other religious teaching or scientific literature anywhere. The Law of Cause and Effect or Dependent Origination (Hethu Phala Dharmaya), explaining the inter relationship of all these phenomena and the law of Kamma too are dealt with here extensively.  
In early and mid-20th century, Abhidhamma was practically little known in Sri Lanka except for among a few scholars who had the knowledge of Pali language. It was during this time that Most Rev. Yagoda Dhammaprabha Thera went to Myanmar (then Burma) and learned Tripitakaya, practice of tranquility (Samatha) and vipassana (Insight) meditation and most importantly, detailed learning of Abhidhamma with special attention to Patthana Dharmaya which is the most difficult part of the Abhidharmaya to comprehend. For this, he had to undergo extensive training under the forest dwelling scholar monks of that country, under trying conditions that existed at that time. While in Myanmar he was trained in Tripitaka at the Tripitaka College, Abhidharma and Patthanaya at Patthana Ashram and extensive meditation training at Sasana Seytha Bhavana Ashram.   



"In early and mid-20th century, Abhidhamma was practically little known in Sri Lanka except for among few scholars who had the knowledge of Pali language"


On his return to Sri Lanka in 1961 he formed The PATTHANA DHARMA SABHAWA with the help of fellow erudite bhikkhus and lay devotees. Among those who were associated with him in establishing the Dhamma Sabhava were, the Most Rev Prof. Rerukane Chandawimala Maha Nayaka Thera and Agga Maha Panditha Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Maha Nayaka Thera. He shared the extensive knowledge he gained, both in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to teach the tranquillity and insight meditation and most importantly, the teaching of Patthana Dharmaya in simple language.   
He also coordinated annual Patthana recitation at the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises, Anuradhapura, during the Poson season. It is worthy to mention here that Buddha spent the first seven weeks after enlightenment in and around the Bodhi tree at Buddha Gaya spending time recapitulating the vast knowledge and wisdom he gained in the process of attaining Buddhahood. He spent the 4th week in a special enclosure (Rathanaghara) done by devas, going through the Abhidharmaya and towards the latter part of this period, while recapitulating Patthana Dharmaya, the six coloured halo (Shad Varna Buddha rashmi mala) appeared around Buddha due to the extensive joy he experienced as a result of the realization of the depth of the dhamma he comprehended. The Patthana Dharma Sabhava is continuing this recitation of Patthana Dharmaya at Anuradhapura, immediately preceding the Poson full moon day, uninterrupted for the past 56 years.  



The Maha Thera also went to all corners of the country, conducting dharma desana, meditation training of fellow bhikkhus and lay devotees and most importantly propagating Abhidhamma and Patthanaya. The most Rev Yagoda Dharmaprabha Thera spent the latter part of his life in writing Dhamma books in simple Sinhala language so that Dhamma reached the ordinary people who were not conversant in Pali. Some of the books that were authored by the Maha Thera include Vidarshana Guru Potha, Patthana Desana Saraya, Patthana Dharani Panna Vibhanga Varaya, Visuddhi Vipassana and Sitha Sirura saha Nivana hevath Dhamma Sangani.   Rev Dhammaprabha Thera was honoured by The Most Ven. Maha Nayaka of the Malwatta Chapter of the Siam Maha Nikaya, Amunugama Rajaguru Sri Vipassi Maha Nayaka Thera by conferring the saasanika title ‘ABHIDHAMMIKA VAGISHVARA’, in recognition of the relentless service he had done to promote and re-establish Abhidhamma in Sri Lanka. The title was presented by the Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake on 17th December, 1965.  



Most Ven Yagoda Dharmaprabha Nayaka Thera passed away on 18th April 1993 as if to prove that everyone that was born had to die one day (Uppajjithva Nirujjanthi). This inevitably created a void that was almost impossible to fill. However, his erudite pupil Rev. Korathota Wessabhu Thera stood up to the challenge and took over the mantle of the Dharma Sabhawa and performed the most difficult task of continuing the unfinished work started by late Maha Thera and further expanding the promotion of the religious and educational activities. It is noteworthy to mention that he was one of the 10 children ordained at the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises in Buddha Gaya on the 14th March 1982 by the late Thera.   


The activities conducted currently by the Dharma Sabhawa include:  


1. Conduction of Abhidhamma classes and training the students for Abhdharmacharya and Abhidharma Visharadha degrees  
2. Tripitaka Education  
3. Conduction of Pali classes  
4. Poya day meditation programmes and the Thesaththa Gnana Dhamma desana series conducted by Rev Korathota Wessabhu Thera  
5. Vipassana meditation programmes on every Wednesday conducted by Rev Kalubowila Amathagaveshi Thera (formerly, Mr Keerthie Adaasuriya).   
6. Annual Patthana Dharma Recitation at Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Premises, Anuradhapura.  
7. Conducting annual Abhidharma conventions with the participation of erudite Abhidhamma Teachers.  
8. Provision of scholarships annually to poor students in remote areas.  
9. Publication of Dhamma books and booklets regularly  
10. Provision of accommodation to resident monks and also visiting monks from remote monasteries, travelling to Colombo for their medical needs  
11. Provision of accommodation and other basic facilities for student monks from remote monasteries who enrol in Colombo based Pirivenas and other educational institutes.  
 Patthana Recital in progress at Anuradhapura.  
12. Regular meditation retreats conducted at the Bodhi Grama Bhavana Temple, Aluthgama Bogamuwa, Yakkala.  
In addition to improving these services, the Dharma Sabhawa is planning to establish a fully equipped library and a project to preserve the rare Dhamma texts and the Pali canon.   
The Dhamma Sabhawa will be conducting the annual Patthana recital this year too at Anuradhapura, in a special enclosure built to the north west of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, near the Rathanagaharaya on the 4th, 5th and 6th of June 2017 from 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm. Also, the Patthana Dharmaya will be explained in simple language during the procedure. There will be Seela Bhavana programmes on the 5th and 6th to be conducted concurrently. All are welcome to attend, dressed in simple white.  
May you realise the supreme bliss of Nibbana in this very existence itself. May all beings be well, happy and contented.