How Ayutthaya kings play a role in the establishment of Buddhism in Thailand and Sri Lanka
15thC CE (Ayutthaya Period)
1. Ayutthaya Monks & Parakramabahu VI
i) Mahathera Exchanges
In about 1423 CE, 25 monks from Nabbisipura (today’s Chiang Mai) went to Sri Lanka to receive higher ordination. Upon arrival, the paid respect to the Mahasami who was the sangharaja in Sri Lanka at that time. It was said that the ordination ceremony was on the great lake in Colombo.The monks then studied the sacred texts thoroughly and learnt the correct manner of recital of the texts from the Sri Lanka monks.
For fear of an impending famine in Sri Lanka, the Thai monks returned home accompanied by 2 Sinhalese Mahatheras, Mahavikkambahu and Mahauttarapanna. The Mahatheras took with them a sacred relic of the Buddha. After their arrival at Ayutthaya they were received by the King.
Then they toured throughout Thailand. They ordained local Thai monks and established the Sihala sangha in Thailand. They performed, for the first time, the higher ordination on a ferry at Khelaganagara in 1432. After that, they continued this ceremony at other locations.
2. King Tilokaraja (1442-1487 CE)
i) Support of Sri Lanka Lineage The king entered the sangha in 1447 CE for some time then returned to the throne. He built a ordination hall at Rattavana Mahavihara in 1451 CE. Here the higher ordination ceremony was held annually for monks belonging to the Sinhala lineage.
18thC CE (Ayutthaya Period)
1. King Boromokot & Sri Vijaya Rajasinha
i) Thai Support to Sri Lanka He constructed many monasteries throughout his kingdom. During his rule Ayutthaya became a great centre of Buddhism.
King Rajasinha saw that the Buddhist sangha in Sri Lanka was declining and there were not many good monks in Sri Lanka. In order to purify it he decided to invite monks from foreign countries where Buddhism exited in a flourishing condition.
At the advice of his ministers and Buddhist monk Saranankara, he sent 2 religious missions to Thailand where the Buddhist sangha exited not only in its purity but also in the best condition.
The ship was wrecked on his first journey to Sri Lanka. Before the arrival of the 2nd ship, Sri Vijaya Rajasingha died. On hearing his death, the Thai king turned the ship around. This attempt to restore the sangha in SL failed.
2. King Boromokot & Kirti Sri Vijaya Rajasinha
i) Thai Support to Sri Lanka
The next king, Kirti Sri Rajasinha, again sent a religious mission to King Boromokot for Buddhist monks to purify the Buddhist sangha in SL.
When King Boromokot knew from the Sinhalese envoy that Buddhism was in a miserable state in SL he at once announced: “ I will be a helper in order to achieve in Sri lanka the furtherance of the Order of the Enlightened One.”
King Boromokot then invited his own sangharaja and many other learned Buddhist monks residing in Thailand to discuss with them this matter and took their advice. He selected monks who were virtues and well-disciplined for the mission. The Thai king also sent a golden image of the Buddha, a golden book, a magnificient royal letter in Pali and gifts of various kinds to the king of SL. The mission was warmly welcomed in SL in 1753 CE.
Shortly after, the Thai king again sent a group of more 10 monks to Sri Lanka to further strengthen the sangha. Rajasinha was greatly moved by the timely help of the Thai king who not only sent monks to Sri Lanka twice but also gave books of every kind which were not available in SL.
ii) Gift Exchanges
The Sri Lankan king in returned sent valuable gifts such as a model of the Tooth Relic cut out of costly jewels, a shell curved towards the right and also various to other things to the king of Siam.
The Thai king received the envoys with great honour. He also gave over to the SL ambassadors many valuable books, model of the sacred footprint, gift for the Tooth Relic, costly gifts for the SL king and a royal letter. A sect known as the Siyama sect was established in SL.
During the Sukhothai period, Thailand received Buddhism from Sri Lanka and its help to establish Buddhism in Thailand. And during the Ayutthaya period, Thailand returned the favour by helping to re-establish Buddhism and the sangha in SL.