Sunday, December 14, 2008
from The Theosophist, 1890
The Buddha Rays at Badulla—In our Supplement for August 1887, a letter from the High Priest Sumungula adverting, among other things, to the extraordinary fact that the luminous phenomenon known as the Buddha Rays (Buddharasni) had occurred at Badulla on the full-moon day of that year—Buddha's birth-day. The High-Priest states in his letter that pupils of his own monastery had, in common with some thousand other spectators, seen the rays. I have just been able to corroborate this statement by the personal testimony of one of these pupils, and one of the most respected and trustworthy of the younger men in the monastery. At my request he has prepared the condensed statement hereunder printed. What gives additional value to the certificate is the fact that the young monk was thoroughly sceptical as to the possibility of the alleged recurrence of the luminous phenomenon on the Buddhist Christmas, though backed by the testimony of countless pilgrims who averred that they had personally seen it in former years. This incredulity led him to carefully examine the light he describes from each of the four sides of his dagoba. His letter is as follows:—
"Having heard of the emanation of Buddha's Rays from this dagoba, I undertook a pilgrimage thereto, reaching Badulla on the 6th of May 1887, about 7:30 a.m., which hour the sun was shining brightly on the dagoba with nothing unusual to be seen. Soon after my arrival the assembled pilgrims, who numbered about two hundred, commenced the usual ceremony of marching thrice around the dagoba to the accompaniment of drums.
"Being incredulous of the truth of these phenomenon, and desiring to be in a position which could not possibly render me subject to any optical delusion, I moved around to the west side of the dagoba, standing in its shadow. At that moment I heard the cry of Sadhu from the pilgrims, and looking up saw what looked like two or three small, bright stars rising slowly from the north side of the dagoba. These gradually increased in number, the most of them coming from the south side. There simultaneously appeared what resembled a rainbow in color, which was distinctly visible during the whole time; not stretching across the top of the dagoba but shaping itself to its contour and hovering over the emanations which certainly came from the body of the dagoba.
"The phenomenon lasted about 1 1/2 hours, the rainbow disappearing with the emanation from the dagoba."
(Signed) Rambuppola Pannasara
It is very hard to reconcile this emanation of light with any hypothesis of science. Though it occurred in full daylight and under the glare of a tropical sun, yet the total absence of condensed vapor in the atmosphere forbids our supposing the colours to have been due, like those of the rainbow, to a refraction of light. There is this further dissimilarity between it and the rainbow, that the chromatic spectrum which the priest saw in space at a distance of some ten feet above the dagoba was not formed in an arc but followed the curves of the mound with its terminal square splinth and spike. Moreover the observer saw the colors clearest from the west side—facing towards the sun, and he also saw them from the south side. Clearly, then, this could not have been an effect of luminous refraction, even had there been a misty vapor hanging about the spot, which there was not.
Still another point is noticeable—the radiant tints were visible during the space of two hours; and any one who has seen the sunlight of the tropics will easily conceive of the vividness of chromatic effect which could display itself in spite of the blaze of sunlight. From the private explanations of the young monk I learn that the effect of the phenomenon upon the feelings of the pilgrim multitude was most marked and moving. With one accord they prostrated themselves uttered the Buddhistic cry of "Sadhu" and recited the verses of their religious worship with great fervency. I wish I could feel sure that their moral natures had been so upheaved as to guarantee a radical improvement in their lives.