Sunday, May 23, 2010

Himmapan Forest-2: A description from King Lithai's Traibhumikatha

King Lithai, fifth of the Kings of the Pra Ruang Dynasty, was ruler of Si Satchanalai, twin city Sukhotai, the first Thai kingdom.  He succeeded his father, King Lelithai, as the fifth monarch of Sukhothai Kingdom in 1347 and reigned until 1368.  His reign was peaceful, and he was a great patron of religion. He was the first Thai monarch who was ordained as a Buddhist monk, yet he supported studies of both Brahmanism and Buddhism alike.  In 1357, he sent royal envoys to Ceylon for the Buddha's relics which were later kept in a great stupa in Nakhon Chum, as town near the present Kam Phaeng Phet.  In 1361, he invited a great patriarch, Pra Maha Swami from Ceylon to preach Buddhism in his kingdom.

As a young prince, he had studied under two royal sages called Upasena and Atharaya.  When he was ordained as a monk, his named teachers were, Maha Thera Muneewong, Anomthassi, Thamma Pala, Maha Thera Sitthattha, Phuthaphong, Panyanantha, and Phutthakhosajaraya.

King Lithai was inspired by the teachings of Buddhism and wanted to encourage his people to  learn  more about Buddhism, and therefore composed one of the first Thai literary works, "The Traibhumikatha", in 1345.  Traibhumikatha expounds Buddhist philosophy, quoting references from over 30 Dharma scriptures, a demonstration of substantive research.  It was written in beautiful rhythmic prose rich in allusions and imagery, explaining  Buddhist cosmogony, ethics, biology, and the Buddhist faith as understood then.

The "Three Planes of Existences"  was made up of 10 books.  In the 9th "Book of Nature",  I have extracted the following description of Himmanpan Forest:
"The Himmapan mountain range is 500 yoth high, 3,000 yoth wide and has 84,000 peaks.  A gigantic jambloan tree grows at the foot of this mountain range.  This tree stands on the banks of a river named Sida Nadi, the River of Coolness.
Next to the river are six forest: Kurabha, Korabha, Mahavideha, Tapandala and Somolo.  In these forests dwell sages of the Dharma who eat only fish and animals that die naturally. Yaksa, or giants roam these forests in great numbers.  People who live in these forests have no need to till the land for a living because rice and beans grow without the need for toil and trouble.  All the fruits of this land are as sweet as honey.
There are 7 large mother lakes: Anotata, Kannamunda, Rathakara, Chaddanta, Kunala, Mandakini, and Sihapapata.  All seven lakes are of equal sizes.
Lake Anotata is encircled by five mountains: the golden mountain Sudassanakuta, the mountain of seven precious gems-Chitrakuta, the green Kalakuta, the fragant mountain-Gandhamadanakuta, and the silver mountain-Krailasa. All five mountains are of equal sizes and curve into the Lake Anontata whose clear waters are fed by the powers of nagas and devatas.   
Waters from the lake flows out at four cardinal points marked by the face of a lion, face of an elephant, face of a horse, and the face of a bull.  Each outward flow of water encircles the lake three times before they exit midways between each cardinal point.  However, the river of the south does not behave like a normal river, after flowing southwards, it is blocked by a mountain, so it shoots upwards into the air, and then falling on a three-sided stone, it forms a three sided Lake of Lotuses, out of which flows a massive river above ground as well as one below the ground until they meet an animal shaped mountain and breaks into five rivers: the Ganga, Yamana, Aciravati, Mahi, and Sarabhu.  These rivers flow through towns and cities of men and out into the ocean."
Source: From Anthology of ASEAN Literatures,"Traibhumikatha: the Story of the Three Planes of Existence" by King Lithai, published by ASEAN in 1987.
The stories of the beautiful mythical lands of Himmapan, were used in Buddhist teachings usually imparted orally at temple gatherings to encourage people to study the Dharma which were inserted in the telling of tales of Buddha's own lives or his previous lives, so that they can refine themselves to be able to see or enter this wonderful land, but also to go beyond to reach the celestial heavens.

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