Son of Mahādhanadeva, of Mahāgāma. When he was a child he was called Keliyatissa, because he liked to play. Later he joined the Order. Dissatisfied after five years, he gave up his robes and swam down a river. Two women bathing saw him and both claimed him. When they saw he was naked one went to fetch clothes; the other gave him half her garment and took him to her parents and married him. The wife was Sumanā. Because he was found in the river he was called Ganga-tissa; but because he was lazy they called him Nikkammatissa. Sumanā’s people complained of him and sent them away. Tissa sought work under a headman, Candasuriya, a friend of Mahādhanadeva, and reaped and threshed a field of 500 karīsas in one day. Candasuriya, marvelling at his strength, gave him all the grain.
Thereafter, Tissa and his wife gave alms daily to eight monks, but as his meals were not tasty, the monks called him Udakalonatissa. Discovering this, he gave them milk rice and was called Khīrabhatta-tissa. Later he gave rice mixed with ghee and his name became Kalyānabhatta-tissa. In due course he fed 500 monks daily. One day, while looking for yams in Kumbulapabbata, he discovered 60 treasure troves and took them home. Later he fed many thousands of monks in Cetiyamba-vihāra, Anurādhapura and Nāgadīpa and lived in Ariyagālatittha as a ferryman, taking people across, free of charge. Sakka, wishing to test him, came as an old brahmin and, having tried his patience, filled his house with valuables and gave him a field of rice.
Once a discussion arose in Piyangudīpa, as to where the most devout people were to be found. Satisambodhi Thera said they were in Ceylon, while Yonakarājaputta Mahābuddharakkhita said they were in Yonakarattha. To test this, Satisambodhi arrived in Tissa's house. His wife, having fed 12,000 monks, was resting, but having seen the Elder she prepared for him a bowl of catuma-dhura. He asked her to throw the bowl up into the air. It travelled to Piyangudīpa, and Sumanā saw the monks as they ate the contents.
As Tissa lay dying, devas brought him chariots from the six deva worlds; he chose to be born in Tusita. His wife, knowing his wishes, retired into her room and died before him. They were both born in Tusita. In a past birth Tissa had been in Chagāma and honoured the Bodhi-tree there. Ras.ii.34f.