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THE SCRIPTURES: TIPITAKA
       
An Ola Book Cover

An Ola Book Cover

 

When Bikkhu Mahinda brought Buddhist ideology to the island, it was still an oral tradition. In the reign of King Vattagamani Abhaya (89-77 BCE) this oral tradition was committed to writing at the Aluvihara near Matale. The resulting scriptures are in Pali and constitute the normative Theravada canon. Sri Lanka became the vital repository of these scriptures for much of the Buddhist world. Spiritual seekers from the four corners of the world come to study the written teachings guarded so carefully on this island.

The scriptures were written on strips of palm leaf called Ola. Hard covers protected the rather fragile leaves. These covers became objects of art made of intricately painted wood or, in special cases, carved ivory.

As part of this Pali literature, Sri Lanka possesses a remarkable national history (Mahavamsa). It chronicles the history of the island from the coming of Buddhism to modern times. Originally compiled in the fifth century CE, it has been updated by succeeding generations resulting in Sri Lanka becoming a world study centre for Theravada research.

 

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