THIS IS THE FIRST CHAPTER OF A THESIS ON THE ROLE OF LAYWOMEN (UPASAKA AMMA) IN SRI LANKAN BUDDHISM. PERSONALLY SPEAKING, I WILL HAVE YOU WRITE THE REST OF THE THESIS AS WELL.
THE TITLE OF THE MAIN THESIS IS “UPASAKA-AMMAS” (BUDDHIST LAYWOMEN) AS THE LIFEBLOOD OF SRI LANKAN MONASTERIES.”
PLEASE EMPHASISE THAT UNLESS THERE ARE LAYWOMEN, THE MONASTERIES CANNOT SURVIVE FINANCIALLY AND MATERIALLY, AND BUDDHIST MONKS WOULD FIND IT DIFFICULT TO SURVIVE EMOTIONALLY.
IT IS IN SRI LANKA THAT BUDDHIST LAYWOMEN ARE CONSIDERS MOTHERS, HENCE “UPASAKA AMMAS.”
ALSO USE Attracting the Heart: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture by JEFFREY SAMUELS (ISBN: 978082483385)
The draft below is yet to be organized under sub-headings, and is written in the order the questions were asked. The next draft will contain the following:
Please include the following areas in the paper
Background and introduction to the Temple of the Tooth
Please use the following books to explain what relics in Buddhism are with special emphasis on the Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka:
I. John S. Strong: Relics of the Buddha (ISBN: 0691117640 or 978-0691117645)
II. Anuradha Seneviratna: Sri Dalada Maligawa: The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – Rituals, Customs and Ceremonies (Sri Dalada Maligawa: The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) (ISBN: 9556651233 or 978-9556651232)
Allati ritual – its Hindu origin and transformation as a Buddhist empowerment ritual of Buddha mothers
The living Buddha in Kandy and the Nanumura Mangalyaya (To Buddhists the Tooth Relic is like the living Buddha)
Female empowerment of the Buddha (It’s the usual way that a bodhisattva receives his maiden blessing for Buddhahood from his mother)
Living Buddha mothers in Kandy (though natilnally unknown, the Allati Ammas are seen as Buddha mothers at lease by those who know them personally. BE CRITICAL HERE THAT THEY ARE NOT GIVEN A PROMINENT PLACE AMONG THE STAFF OF THE TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH. HERE, PLEASE ELABORATE ON THE FACT THAT IT WAS A WOMAN, PRINCE HEMAMALA BY NAME,, THAT BROUGHT THE TOOTH RELIC TO SRI LANKA HIDDEN IN HER HAIR.)
The vision of Allati Ammas and their ritual behaviour
PLEASE ELABORATE ON THE VISION OF THE ALLATI AMMAS BASED ON THE SIMPLE FACTS THEY MENTIONED IN THE INTERVIEW. INCLUDE SOME INSIGHTS INTO HOW WOMEN ARE EMOTIONAL SAVIOURS TO THE PEOPLE.
Allati Amma’s role of Sangha mothers, which shall provide a prelude to the succeeding chapters of the Sangha mothers in different areas of Sri Lankan monasticism.
THIS FACTOR IS OF UTMOST SIGNIFICANCE, AS THE FOLLWING CHAPTER IN THE THESE ARE DEDICATED TO THE ROLE OF LAYWOMEN IN SRI LANKAN BUDDHISM AS SANGHA MOTHERS AND SANGHA SISTERS (MOTHERS AND SISTERS TO BUDDHIST MONKS.
Please include the following fieldwork interviews conducted in Sri Lanka. Compare and contrast what they say with the modern scholarship, especially the following work:
Kapila Pathirana Vimaladharma: Women in the Kandyan Kingdom (ISBN: 9555660018)
In his work Kapila does not adequately explain why the Temple of the Tooth only has two Allati Amma (or Alatti Amma). According to Gama Ralalage Lokumenike and Kanthi Ranaweera, the Temple of the Tooth currently has only 2 alatti ammas due to lack of qualified women from the designated families. In here, also include the interview with Pushpa Kumari, the only qualified candidate for the job in the future.
The chapter will include the fieldwork interviews done with the following:
Mrs. Gama Ralalage Lokumenike (Alaththi Amma)
Mrs. Kanthi Ranweera (Alaththi Amma)
Mrs. Pushpa Kumari (the only daughter of Lokumenike)
From the interview with Gama Ralalage Lokumenike and Kanthi Ranaweera on MARCH 25, 2015
Tell me how your role started in the history.
Wednesday is a special day for the Temple of the Tooth. Almost all temple functionaries are required to be present in the temple on this day for the Nanumura Mangalyaya (the Ritual of Sacred Cleaning). This ritual is performed for the symbolic cleaning of the Tooth Relic. It also involves cleaning of the temple and the ritual utensils. In medieval times, the Dalada Sirita (c.1325) records that those who brought offerings to the sanctum in which the Tooth Relic was kept, were required to wear a headdress and a veil over their mouth. The Mulutanrala (Temple Cook) also had to wear a veil. These customs have now disappeared. Hindu customs were introduced into the Temple of the Tooth in the 18th century at a time when Hindu kings ruled in Kandy.
In the Kandyan Palace, Hindu custom called “Alaththi bema” (or allati bema) was performed for the king by a group of women, who were at lease 40 years of age, or age of menopause, to invoke blessings. Allati, a Tamil term, literally means ‘blessing for a longer life.’ Both the original Tamil term, Allati, and its Sinhalese cognate, Alaththi are in use.
The Allati ritual was introduced into the Temple of the Tooth and so the Allati Ammas (women, or mothers, performing the ritual) came to perform a similar custom for the Tooth Relic. Those selected for these duties must have given birth, have reached the age of menopause, and wear a white saree in the rituals.
During the Nanumura ritual, the middle door leading to the sanctum room is closed, and a curtain is drawn near the Tooth Relic. The Allati Ammas stand in between the door and the drawn curtain. They take a silver tray and light a pahan-thiraya – a type of cloth dipped in coconut oil and then light it. The oil lamp used for the purpose is called mande, a Tamil term meaning lamp. Keeping this on the tray, the two women move the tray in a circular motion three times. They recite a text and then place the silver tray on a table, before finally kneeling down to give a salutation. This custom is not performed according to the teachings of the Buddha but because of an order given by a Kandyan king.
Nanumura Mangalyaya is based on a substance called nanu –a type of scented water produced by crushing the leaves of the hibiscus rosa-sinensis into a liquid. According to local Sri Lankan belief it is considered to be an herbal remedy for curing minor ailments. After the ritual, this sacred water is collected by those who come to the temple from Kandy or neighbouring towns and villages.
In the Kandyan period, nanu was applied on the king’s head before he bathed. In India there is a Hindu custom in which a mixture of lemon and special oil is applied to the head to remove dandruff or a rash. Buddhists did not follow this custom. It is a Hindu practice, which entered Buddhism because our last kings in Kandy were Hindu. King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe introduced this custom into the Temple of the Tooth. In the court of Kandy, the custom of the kings was to apply nanu on Wednesdays and to stay outside in the sun for a while, and have a bath in the River Yamuna.
It is tempting to overstress the Hindu origins of this custom, that is, a Hindu king introduced nanu into a Buddhist ritual and the aspect relating to the king’s bath were adapted into the Temple of the Tooth. But this in itself does not explain how this tradition came to be expressed, and what the ritual means to those who now practise it.
Preparation to the ritual starts in the morning soon after the Buddha pujava (early morning offerings to Buddha). The monks clean the upper chamber in the temple. The utensils for the ritual are brought out and placed through the smoke of burning sweet incense and placed on an altar. The monks take a bath and wear a new or a freshly washed robe.
The ritual performed in the sanctum by the leading Buddhist monk with the assistance of the Vatourala, the only layman permitted to be in this room while the ritual is taking place. Nanu is prepared in the kitchen. It is brought to the upper chamber to the accomplishment Hevisi – the drum beating. Golden bowls are placed in the upper chamber. The nanu oils, hot and cold water are poured into different bowls. Towels and new robes are taken. Kapuru, (kind of camphor), is also taken, which is used to burn incense.
There are 16 tasks in the Nanumura ritual. Each task is a symbolic gesture performed to a reflection in a mirror. No physical washing of the Tooth Relic takes place. Each task has its own gatha (verse), which is recited or sung by the leading monk. The 16 tasks performed to the Tooth Relic by the leading monk are as follows: a special invitation gatha is recited; a mirror is held up so that the karanduwa (casket containing the Tooth Relic) can be seen in the reflection of the mirror; the nanu is applied on to the mirror; the mirror is then washed with hot water; oil is then applied on to the mirror and washed again; the mirror is wiped; water is directly poured in the kalanchiya (bowl) 3 times, which is done with the assumption of bathing the Buddha; the Buddha is wiped with a towel; the civara (robes) and an asanaya (chair) are then offered to the Buddha; his feet are washed by pouring the water into the kalanchiya; The Buddha is asked to sit in the chair; and finally, kapuru is burned to give a pleasant fragrance. This completes the process of the Nanumura Mangalaya.
Q: How do you find yourself among the staff of the Temple of the Tooth?
It is the mother who first blesses her son to be the Buddha one day.
(The interviewees narrated the Matuposaka Jataka, a births story of Buddha.)
Please elaborate the Matuposaka Jataka here.
Though of Hindu origin, the ritual is expressed in Buddhist terms. It is performed as though the Buddha is alive. The Tooth Relic represents the live Buddha.
The secret mantra of the female empowerment of Buddha and the other two constituent gems of the Triple Gem:
The Allati Ammas then walk in to the chamber to bless the living Buddha by reciting a verse in Sinhala, which is written nowhere in the literature. The verse goes as follows:
“Buddha-rathanyata ayu bo veva! (May the Buddha live long),
Dhamma-rathnayata ayu bo veva! (May the Dhamma live long),
Sangha-rathnayata ayu bo veva! (May the Sangha live long).”
This ritual of empowering the living Buddha alone with his teachings and ordained disciples is Sri Lanka-specific. Even though it was started by order of the king, it has been organized as a closed-door Buddha empowerment ritual. The Allati Ammas have their own vision of Buddha-empowerment, which is orally passed down from generation to generation. Their vision is derived from these areas of the life of a bodhisattva, which are assumed from the literary and historical sources: a bodhisattva is not divine, and is born from a mother (based on the life of Maya); it is the biological mother who first directs and blesses her son to become the Buddha (based on a birth story of the Buddha, the Matuposaka Jataka); it is a woman who safeguarded the living Buddha, which, in Allati Ammas’ terms, is none other than the Tooth Relic) from political turmoil and evacuated to safety (based on the story of Hamamala, an Indian princess bringing the Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka, hidden in her hair); and the perpetual empowerment of the Buddha for many more generations to come.
Position of Buddha mothers
The Allati Ammas also enjoy a position of “Buddha mother” in their villages and surrounding areas. The sick visit them to receive blessings. They perform their duty at the Temple of the Tooth on Wednesdays only. Yet, their anticipated ritual behaviour is maintained throughout the week. Practice of meditation on anicca (impermanence) is part of the daily routine.
From the interview with Pushpa Kumari (daughter of Gama Ralalage Lokumenike) on March 25, 2015
Pushpa Kumari, 42, the only existing future candidate for the position of allati amma, has a 3-year-old daughter, and was one week pregnant by the interview date, March 25, 2015. An emotional Lokumenike, mother of Pushpa Kumari, asked me bless her pregnant daughter to have another daughter, so that there will be more Buddha mothers to bless and protect the Buddha. It is Pushpa Kumari’s aspiration that she becomes an Allati Amma one day. The Allati Ammas believe that they probably met the Buddha, and never wanted to get enlightened, so that could serve the Buddha in the future in the position they now hold.
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