Update: 2017-07-14 04:26 PM -0400

TIL

Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism

ch09-ari.htm

Maung Htin Aung. Printed and published by U Myint Maung, Deputy Director, Regd: No (02405/02527) at the Religious Affairs Dept. Press. Yegu, Kaba-Aye P.O., Rangoon, BURMA. 1981.

Set in HTML by the staff of TIL and edited by U Kyaw Tun, M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.). Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm | Top
flk-ele-indx.htm 

Contents of this page  
Ari Monks and the Introduction of Buddhism
Asoka's religious mission
Great Ari
Nyaung-u Sawrahan
Offering of alms-food
Heresies of the Aris
Various theories concerning the Aris
Worship of the Future Buddha
Shin Thiwali
Shin Upagote
Anuruddha
New Era
Decay of Buddhism
Smouldering ashes
Bibliography

Author's notes

UKT notes
Copper image of Sanni Droit de seigneur sin Toddy-wine

UKT: Burmese Rishi or Hermit, known in Bur-Myan as {ra.th.} are not monks. Though living holy lives they are considered to be a rank lower than the ordained monks. They can be distinguished by their hats and the by the darker colour of their robes. There is a possibility that they might have been the descendants of the ancient Aris.

Contents of this page
p125

09. Ari Monks and the Introduction of Buddhism

(p125)
Until the advent of Anawrahta there seem to have existed initiation ceremonies for young women also. But the nature and purpose of these initiation ceremonies will always be open to conjecture, because the Ari {a.r:kri:} monks who, before Anawrahta, held sway over every facet of religious life of the [northern] Burmese (Bur-Myan) people, ever remain the subject of controversy. Anawrahta and the Chronicles would make out that the Aris were heretics who had to be suppressed before Buddhism could shine again in all its glory. It cannot be denied that they did oppose Anawrahta and the purer form of Buddhism [Theravada imported from Sri Lanka by southern Mon-Myan monks who speak a different language not understood by Bur-Myan of the north] that he introduced, and that he had no other course left to him but to persecute them by putting to death the more rebellious leaders of their order and disrobing the others and forcing them to join his army.

Contents of this page

Asoka's religious mission

According to the Chronicles, legends of various pagodas, and oral traditions, Buddhism reached Burma even during the lifetime of the Buddha, but did not make a lasting impression. [UKT ]

UKT 151130: I would question the statement "did not make a lasting impression", because what the northern Myanmarpr had received through high mountain passes, was Buddhism of Buddha's life time, or before the time of the First Synod, the Second Synod, and the Third Synod before the major split into Hinayana 'smaller vehicle', and Mahayana 'larger vehicle' traditions.

The language in which the northern Burmese had received was the old Magadhi (probably written in Asokan script - the script on the Asoka pillars which was in use even before Buddha's lifetime) the L1 or mother-tongue of Gautama Buddha.

Because of its association with "smallness", the term Hinayana has been changed into Theravada 'the doctrine of the Elders'. What the southern Myanmarpr had received was from Sri Lanka across the Bay of Bengal. This southern form of Buddhism, the Theravada, was from the period of the Asoka's missions to the island kingdom(s). It was in Pali, an artificial language formed from old Magadhi (Tib-Bur) and Lankan (Austro-asiatic).

Then the great Asoka {a.thau:ka.} sent a religious mission to the kingdom of Thaton {a.hton-pr}, in the same way as he sent religious missions to Ceylon and other countries of south-east Asia. This tradition of Asoka's religious mission to Thaton was doubted at first by European scholars, G. E. Harvey, for example, but in the last one or two decades the tradition has come to be accepted as a historical fact, and nowadays only [{p126}] the most conservative among European scholars of Burmese history challenge this tradition. The Chronicles insist that the kingdom of Prome was a Buddhist kingdom, and archaeological evidence now makes it clear that Theravada Buddhism did flourish at Prome.

Contents of this page

The Great Ari

{a.r:kri:}

According to the Chronicles the Buddhism that was reintroduced by Asoka's mission flourished not only at Thaton and Prome, but also in the new kingdom of Pagan until the reign of King Thaittaing {theik-teing-ming:} (A.D. 516 - 523), when it started to decay. The reasons given by the Chronicles for this decay were, firstly, that there existed in the new kingdom no copy of the Buddhist scriptures and, secondly, that a sect of heretical Buddhist monks, known as the 'Great Ari', gradually won royal support. Taking advantage of the patronage given to them by the kings, they debased the religion, until the climax was reached in the reign of Nyanng-u Sawrahan {aung-U: sau:ra.han:} (A.D. 931 - 964).

The following extracts contain the main indictments of the Great Ari:

(a) Now the King was great in glory and power. At his cucumber plantation he made a large and pleasant garden, and he wrought and kept a great image of Naga. He thought it good thus to make and worship the image of Naga, because Naga was nobler than men and his power greater. Moreover he consulted the heretical Ari monks regarding the zigon {s:hkong} pagodas in the kingdoms of Yathepyi and Thaton, and he built five pagodas Pahtogyi, Pahtonge, Pahtothamya, Thinlinpahto, Seittipahto. In them he set up what were neither spirit-images nor images of the Lord, and worshipped them with offerings of rice, curry, and fermented drinks, night and morning. He was also known as Nattawkyaung taga-minchantha {nat-tau kyaung:da.ka ming:hkyam:tha}. fn126-01

(b) Now the kings in that country for many generations had been confirmed in false opinions following the doctrines of the [{p127}] thirty Ari lords and their sixty thousand disciples who practised piety in Thamahti {tha.ma.hti:}. It was the fashion of these Ari monks to reject the law preached by the Lord and to form each severally their own opinions. They wrote books after their own heart and beguiled others into the snare. UKT

UKT: the language itself was undoubtedly Burmese, but about the script? According to the present day historians such as Dr. Than Tun, Myanmar script has yet to be invented by borrowing from Mon. So my question of what script were Ari using is legitimate.

According to the law they preached, a man might take the life of another and evade the course of karma if he recited the formula of deprecation; nay, he might even kill his mother and his father and evade the course of karma if he recited the formula of deprecation. Such false and lawless doctrine they preached as the true doctrine. Moreover, kings and ministers, great and small, rich men and common people, whenever they celebrated the marriage of their children, were constrained to send them to these teachers at nightfall, sending, as it was called, the flower of their virginity {pan:U:}. Nor could they be married till they were set free early in the morning. If they were married without sending to the teacher the flower of their virginity, it is said that they were heavily punished by the king for breaking the custom. fn127-01 [See the original passage from a chronicle below.]

UKT: Insert on right from U Kalar, Maha Razawin Gyi vol.4, para 243

I am curious about the name of the place {a.ma.hti:} which obvious was derived from {ma.hti:} or "monk". It is probable the {a.} standing for "righteousness" was derived from Sanskrit "Sri" in which case the name would suggest that it was a religious centre of "righteous monks". Of course, since Anawrahta was trying to replace this "old" religion with the one he had imported from a non-Burmese-non-Pyu (i.e. Mon) source, there would have been a life and death struggle between the old religionists and the new.

It is said that Anawrahta's father, King Kunsaw Kyaungpyu (sp. to check) was forced by his step sons to become a monk, and they seized the throne for themselves. Now my question is: what sort of monk did King Kunsaw become. Since Theravada Buddhism from Thaton was yet to be imported by Anawrahta, Kunsaw must have become an Ari himself. So when Anawrahta killed his foster brother Sokkat the then king, the Aris would have condemned Anawrahta, and that would have left Anawrahta with no choice other than to replace the order of Ari with a new one.

 

Contents of this page

Nyaung-u Sawrahan

According to the Chronicles Nyaung-u Sawrahan {aung-U: sau:ra.han:} was a cucumber planter before he became king (UKT: He is also known as {taung-thu-kri: ming:}). His name means 'the Lord Monk of Nyaung-U', which is a village near Pagan. Like Popa Sawrahan {poap~pa: sau:ra.han:} before him, he must have been a monk before he became king, and must have been famous for his knowledge of magic and astrology. His other title {nat-tau kyaung:da.ka ming:hkyam:tha} (GPC-Bur vol.1 p.224) mentioned in the extract means 'the Happy Royal Builder of Nat Shrines', and so he must have been a Nat worshipper, in addition to being a worshipper of the Naga. However, he was a devout Buddhist also, because he built, in addition to the pagodas mentioned in the extract, a Buddhist Ordination Hall, which act of merit was recorded in an inscription. In fact, he was the only king before Anawrahta to be mentioned in the inscriptions. Surely, the Aris that he worshipped could not have been so depraved if they needed and used a Buddhist Ordination Hall.

Contents of this page
p128

Offering of alms-food

The offering of alms-food {hswam:} to the Buddha images was a practice that prevailed both before and after Anawrahta, and is still an accepted religious practice. But it involves an anthropomorphic conception of the Buddha, which is more logical in Mahayana Buddhism than in Theravada Buddhism, and is also akin to the primitive practice of offering alms-food to the Nats. Rice-wine and toddy-wine were and are offered to Nat spirits, and perhaps that was why they were also offered to the Buddha images by Nyaung-U Sawrahan. It is difficult to understand what the Chronicles meant by the phrase 'what were neither spirit images nor images of the Lord', because the Burmese term Nat would have covered the gods of any religion.

Contents of this page

Heresies of the Aris

According to the Chronicles the Aris were guilty of two great heresies: first, they insisted on interpreting the Buddhist scriptures in their own way, and, secondly, they held that any sin could be condoned by the recitation of a particular religious formula of prayer. Obviously the Chronicles were prejudiced against the Aris, and in Anawrahta's time, when enthusiasm for Theravada Buddhism was so great, these two heresies would seem terrible and grievous. However, they were not the beliefs of a depraved and special school of Buddhism, for they conformed to the two main unorthodox doctrines in support of which the Mahayana school originally broke away from the Theravada school, namely, that in the interpretation of the scriptures the spirit was more important than the actual letter fn128-01, and that one could reach Nibbana by faith in the Buddha alone and the mere invocation of his name. The very name Ari is merely a derivative of the Pali [{p129}] term Ariya meaning the 'Noble Ones'; and as this term Ariya is applicable only to the Buddhist clergy, it follows that Aris were Buddhist monks.

UKT: Figure on the right: A toddy palm climber collecting the sweet juice {htan:r-hkyo}.

The Aris were described by the Chronicles as heavy drinkers of toddy-wine. It is true, of course, that when toddy- or rice-wine is being offered to the Nats there is a ritual drinking of wine among the devotees, and as the Aris were also Nat worshippers it is possible that they also took part in the ritual wine-drinking. But there is also the possibility that the Chronicles were echoing an older prejudice against Mahayana monks. One of the points of controversy in Asoka's time between the orthodox and unorthodox schools was over the drinking of unfermented or sweet toddy-wine {htan:r-hkyo} , the unorthodox school holding that it was not an intoxicant and could, therefore, be consumed by monks. fn129-01

 

Contents of this page

Various theories concerning the Aris

I may mention some of the existing theories regarding the Aris which, in my opinion, are no longer tenable. According to one theory the name 'Ari' is derived from the Pali term Arannika or Arannavasi, meaning 'dwellers in the forest', but this theory is not acceptable as the Aris dwelt in great monasteries and not in the forest. Of course there have always been Buddhist monks who shunned the corporate life of a monastery and preferred to dwell in the forest; Kassapa himself, during the Buddha's lifetime, chose to live in this way. In thirteenth-century Pagan many Burmese monks forsook the teeming monasteries of the towns for small 'forest-monasteries' made of bamboo and thatch, which gave them bare shelter from the wind and rain; but in no way were they associated with the Aris of some two centuries earlier.

According to another theory the Aris were Brahmanical [{p130}] hermits or ascetics who were worshippers of Vishnu, but who also worshipped the Buddha as a reincarnation of Vishnu. The Burmese word for hermit is Ya-thay {ra.th.}, which is a derivative of the Sanskrit word Rishi; but the Burmese Ya-thay is merely an ascetic who has renounced the world for the forest; he is dressed in robes stained dark-brown by home-made dyes from tree-bark and he wears a conical hat over his closely-cut hair. It is true that the Ari monks also wore the same sort of robes and that their heads also were not clean-shaven. But the Burmese have always clearly distinguished the hermit from the monk {ra.han:} and in the Chronicles, also, this distinction is clearly drawn.

Burma was the one country in south-east Asia where Hinduism failed to penetrate deeply. Though images of Brahmanical gods have been found both at Prome and Pagan, their number is very small when compared to the thousands of images of the Buddha and Buddhist votive-offerings that have also been found. Moreover, Brahmin astrologers were in the service of the king both at Prome and Pagan and, in addition, there were settlements of Hindu merchants. Doubtless, both astrologers and merchants must have brought their images of Hindu gods. Thus the Hindu images that have been found do not prove that Hinduism was prevalent at Pagan, just as some images of Mahayanist gods and goddesses that have been found at both Prome and Pagan do not by themselves support the theory now advanced in these pages that the Aris were Mahayanist monks. As we have seen, not all the gods of Hinduism were known to the Burmese, and even the cult of Vishnu, the most popular of the Hindu gods, was a mere adjunct of the cult of astrology. Even before Anawrahta the Burmese Vishnu had developed a personality very different from the Indian original.

A theory has also been advanced by some scholars that the Aris were Tantric Buddhists. Of course, Tantric Buddhism itself developed out of Mahayana Buddhism, and as the Ari [{p131}] monks were known to have practised magic and sorcery, at first sight it might seem logical to classify them as Tantric Buddhists. However, the magic and sorcery that they patronized were native in origin, and the Mantra {man~tan}, which is so important in Tantric magic, has always held a very subordinate position in Burmese magic. It is true that some Tantric frescoes have been found near Pagan, but those frescoes were later than the eleventh century and, therefore, could not have been connected with the Aris, unless they were meant as political propaganda justifying Anawrahta's persecution of the Ari monks some years before.

Contents of this page

Worship of the Future Buddha

The worship of the Future Buddha, Metteyya, who is now living in the abode of the gods, has been prevalent in Burma for centuries. The details of his life when he becomes the Buddha, as given in the Commentaries, are so well known to the The Burmese that he is known to them as Arit-Metteyya {a.ri.mat~te-yya.} . fn131-01. His images have been found at Pagan. Many Burmese, especially the kings, prayed to be like the Buddha, and at the present day also many devout Burmese still pray to become a Buddha at some distant future. However, the worship of the Future Buddha does not seem to have become a cult in Burma. The worship of a Future Buddha, by itself, is not a Mahayanist 'heresy'. Even in Ceylon, where Theravada Buddhism has had a more or less continuous history, kings set up for worship statues of the Future Buddha 'fifteen cubits high' fn131-02; and in all Theravada countries, devout Buddhists piously hope to be able to worship the Buddha Metteyya in person and listen to his preaching when he appears.

However, there still exist traces of other Mahayana cults. As has been seen in Eight Arahats in Chapter 2 (ch02-nine-gods.htm), the chief disciples of the Buddha who possessed unusual magical and supernatural [{p132}] powers were chosen for worship along with the Nine Gods, and that might have been an echo of some Mahayanist cults. In addition, there still exist two cults which are distinctly Mahayanist in origin, namely, the worship of the Arahat Shin Thiwali (in Pali Sivali), and the worship of the Arahat Shin Upagote (in Pali Upagupta).

Contents of this page

Shin Thiwali

Shinthiwali {shin thi-wa.li.} was the son of a king's daughter, and he had to remain in his mother's womb for seven long years because of a <sin> fn132-01 in a past existence. Then for one whole week the mother could not give birth, and on the seventh day she said to her father, the king, 'Let me offer some gifts to the Buddha before I die.' The gifts were made and the Buddha blessed her. Her suffering ceased and she gave birth to Thiwali, who at once spoke and behaved like an adult. The Buddha's Chief Disciple, Shin Sariputtra, arrived on the scene and, receiving permission from the parents admitted Thiwali to the Order. He attained Arahat-ship the same day. Because of his meritorious deeds in the past he was always receiving gifts of food and robes, and was declared by the Buddha to be the foremost recipient of gifts among his disciples. The Burmese believe that he is still living, that he can be invoked to come by a prayer of special formula and that his mere invisible presence will bring them prosperity and good fortune. Therefore, a tiny image of him, carrying a staff in one hand and a fan in the other, as if ready for travel, is kept for worship in many Burmese households.

Contents of this page

Shin Upagote

Shin Upagote {rhin U.pa.goat} seems to have been an entire creation of Mahayana Buddhism, unless he was the same monk as Moggaliputta-Tissa, who presided over the Third Buddhist [{p133}] Council, as some scholars would maintain. Shin Upagote was believed to have tamed the arch enemy of Buddhism, the great God Mara himself. Asoka was preparing to hold a great festival in honour of the religion, and the monks, realizing that God Mara would do everything in his power to destroy the festival, sent for Upagote. Upagote, by his miraculous powers, not only defeated Mara in a great struggle, but also converted him to Buddhism. The Burmese believe that Shin Upagote still lives in a floating brazen [brass] palace in the southern ocean, and that he too can be invoked to come by a prayer of special formula, and that his mere invisible presence will prevent storms and floods. Some believe also that he can be invoked when danger in the form of some physical violence threatens.

Contents of this page

Anuruddha

There was probably also a cult round the personality of Arahat Anuruddha {rhin a.nu.road~Da.}, another important disciple of the Buddha. He, too, was famous for his magical and supernatural powers, and Anawrahta himself was named after him. 'Anawrahta' is the Burmese pronunciation of the Pali name 'Anuruddha'. The Burmese Chronicles always spell his Pali name as Anuruddha, but his inscriptions always spell it as Aniruddha, which has puzzled many scholars. In fact, there is no mystery here, for the Mahayana texts always refer to Arahat Anuruddha as Aniruddha.

Contents of this page

New Era

According to the Chronicles the Pyus at Prome used the Buddhist Era until A.D. 80, when they introduced a new era, later known as the Pyu Era. They counted this date as the year 2, because officially the New Era began with retrospective effect in AD. 78. The New Era was established, the Chronicles explained, because AD. 78 marked the end of an astrological period, and the time when the lunar and solar years nearly [{134}] coincided. Five hundred and sixty years later, in A.D. 640, the Burmese at Pagan, who had been using the Pyu Era, abandoned it and started a new Burmese Era of their own at the year 2. Again the reason given was that in A.D. 638 another astrological period had ended, and again the lunar and solar years nearly coincided.  

However, in A.D. 80 there was another reason besides the astrological one for a change of eras, because in A.D. 78 there was held a Great Buddhist Council under the patronage of the Kushan King, Kaniska. This Great Council, which met in North India, was later denied recognition by the Theravada School, but at the time when the Council was actually being held it was hoped by all Buddhists that the Council would end all existing controversies and various Buddhist sects would unite again. In actual fact, however, Mahayana sects emerged victorious at the Council, which came to be recognized only by the Mahayana School as the Fourth Great Council. An expansion of Mahayana Buddhism in south-east Asia immediately followed, and a new era, dating from this Fourth Great Council, came to be adopted not only in India, but also in south-east Asia. So it may well be that Mahayana Buddhism penetrated the kingdom of Prome, although for a short period only. The excavations at Prome have proved beyond doubt that Theravada Buddhism was the religion that prevailed in the Pyu kingdom. But during the short period of its sudden bloom at Prome the Mahayana sect must have been able to propagate its doctrines to Upper Burma. Of course, Mahayanist ideas could also have come from India overland.

Contents of this page

Decay of Buddhism

As mentioned above, the Chronicles maintain that Buddhism in Upper Burma started to decay in the sixth century; the so-called 'decay' must have been the victory of the Mahayana School, for even in A.D. 800 Buddhism in northern or Upper [{p135}] Burma was far from debased. Chinese historical texts, written about A.D. 800, describe a kingdom in Upper Burma where the standard of morality among the people was high, where astrology was studied and practised, and where Buddhist monasteries numbered over a hundred. fn135-01. It was a Pyu kingdom, the Chinese texts say, but we must remember that even in the thirteenth century, long after the Pyus had disappeared, the Chinese continued to call the Burmese 'Pyu'. However, even if it was not a Burmese kingdom and was, in fact, a Pyu kingdom, it will be difficult to believe that this tradition of morality and religious fervour was not passed on to the neighbouring Burmese kingdom of Pagan.

In the same Chinese texts the following observations are made: 'When they come to the age of seven, both boys and girls drop their hair and stop in a monastery, where they take refuge in the Sangha. On reaching the age of twenty, if they have not awoken to the principles of the Buddha, they let their hair grow again and become ordinary townsfolk.' The passage does not say whether the nuns and girl-novices had their own monasteries, but surely the texts would not have described the morality of the people as 'high' if there were no separate monasteries. Conversely, if there were no separate monasteries for nuns and their novices, it will be difficult to accept the statement that the girl-novices were allowed to remain in the monastery beyond the age of puberty. Although some of the details may not be correct, the observation as a whole must be accepted as substantially correct. If we then accept the statement as true, it is clear that the practice of sending young boys and girls to the monastery for a general education, followed by an initiation ceremony when they attained the age of puberty, was already in existence before the days of the kingdom of Pagan.

The people of Pagan doubtless continued this practice, and the phrases 'sending-the-first-flower-to-the-monastery' or [{p136}] 'sending-to-the-monastery' merely meant the sending of young children to the monastery, and not the sending of virgins for initiation. This practice was also continued when the Aris had been replaced by the monks of Theravada Buddhism, but perhaps because of the propaganda and resulting prejudice, or perhaps because the monks of Theravada Buddhism were more strict in the matter of accepting even young girls in the monastery, girls were no longer sent to the monastery for their education. This is my view regarding the 'flower-sending ceremonies' of the Chronicles, for I think that the Chronicles stoop to political propaganda in describing the beliefs and practices of the Aris. However, I admit the possibility that the droit de seigneur of the Ari monks really existed and, if it did, it must have arisen out of the primitive elements present in the initiation ceremonies.

It may well be that after its victory in northern or Upper Burma in the sixth century, Mahayanist Buddhism bloomed for some centuries and then swiftly decayed as the primitive cults which it had first controlled and patronized finally corrupted and overwhelmed it, so that by the eleventh century its Ari monks were Buddhists only in name, and Anawrahta and the new Theravada Buddhism had no place for them. The easy catholic doctrines of the old Mahayana School, the ascetic and strict doctrines of the new Theravada School, the lax and tolerant attitude of the Ari monks, and the uncompromising and impatient discipline of Anawrahta are well contrasted in the following folk-tale account of Anawrahta's visit to the Chinese kingdom of Gandalarit (Yunnan) fn136-01, although no specific mention is made of Mahayana or Ari monks.

So the Great King Anawrahta, attended by his four commanders and the Brothers Inferior Gold, arrived at the Golden City of Gandalarit. Anawrahta went to the monastery of the Royal Chaplain and the King was undecided whether to [{p137}] worship him or not. "Is he a hermit or a monk?" mused the Great King. "He wears dark brown robes and he has a rosary in his hand, but he is surrounded by thousands of retainers, and he is strong and fat." The King's Chaplain on his own part was puzzled because dressed alike in fine raiment and mounted on demon horses, the King and his six mighty men looked exactly alike, and he did not know who was the leader of the seven. So he placed seven golden chairs for his visitors to sit on. Anawrahta became angry and, shouting "I am the King," hit the seven chairs with the flat of his lance and at once the seven chairs became one and he sat down in it. "Ascetic," exclaimed the King, "I am the Great Anawrahta of Pagan, and go and tell your King that I have come to take away the Tooth Relic of our Lord, the Buddha." The Royal Chaplain went and informed the King of Gandalarit, but the latter remained in his palace, keeping Anawrahta waiting for seven whole days. Losing patience, Anawrahta went again to the Royal Chaplain and asked, "You and your King, are you Buddhists, or are you heathens? For your well being in this existence and in future existences, whom do you worship?" "Great King," replied the Royal Chaplain, "for our well-being in future existences, we worship the Buddha and his Tooth Relic, but for our well-being in the present life, we worship the Great God, Sanni, and his copper image, one hundred viss in weight." "Where is the Tooth Relic and where is the image?" asked the surprised Anawrahta. "The Tooth Relic is well hidden in a secret chamber," explained the Royal Chaplain, "but the image of God Sanni is kept in a golden shrine in front of the palace, for all to worship." Anawrahta quickly went to the golden shrine, and ordered Kyansittha and the Brothers Inferior Gold to tie a rope round the neck of the image and pull it down. After the copper image had been pulled down, Anawrahta mercilessly beat it with the flat of his lance and the image shouted out in fear and in pain, "Oh, King of Gandalarit, for your well-being [{p138}] in this life and for my well-being also, worship the Great Patron of Buddhism, the mighty King Anawrahta."'

Contents of this page

Smouldering ashes

Although Anawrahta's attitude towards the older faiths was harsh and intolerant, it will be wrong to assume that he forced the new Theravada Buddhism down the throats of his people. On the contrary, the majority of his people had no doubt that the new religion was far nobler and purer. But, like a housewife who had bought a new lamp yet found it difficult to throw away the old one, Anawrahta's people, basking in the light of the new faith, still had some attachment for the old. Again, in spite of Anawrahta's uncompromising discipline and his cruel persecution of the old faiths, their ashes continued to smoulder and burn faintly in the remoter regions of the country.

As stated above, King Kyansittha eased the burden of religious persecution. Although under his strong rule and the rule of his immediate successor the ashes of the old faiths could only smoulder, when weaker kings followed, from the same ashes there arose faint flames, and occasionally there were even strong indications that organized sects of monks, lax in their morals but strong in popularity because of their avowed mastery of magic, alchemy and spirit worship, could dare challenge the authority of the established school of Buddhism. But with the passing of time the ashes ceased to smoulder, and long before Kubla Khan's army came knocking at the gates the Theravada Buddhism in Burma found itself without any rival.

During the period of stress and uncertainty that intervened between the fall of Pagan and the establishment of a strong dynasty at Ava, the good name of the Buddhist clergy was stained by the insatiable thirst for toddy-wine on the part of many leading monks who surrounded the soldiers of fortune who had carved out the great Pagan empire into [{p139}] small kingdoms for themselves. However, it will not be correct to say that those monks were Aris and that the old Mahayana Buddhism had reappeared like a phoenix. Admittedly, they might have revived memories of the old Aris in the minds of the people, but in reality they were merely the weeds that naturally appeared in the neglected garden of the national religion, and they were easily plucked when the new gardener, in the person of a strong king, came to the golden throne of Ava.

Contents of this page
p140

Bibliography

Aung, Maung Htin. 'Alchemy and Alchemists in Burma'. Folk Lore, 1933.

Aung, Maung Htin. Burmese Drama. Oxford University Press, 1937.

Aung, Maung Htin. Burmese Folk-Tales. Oxford University Press, 1948.

Burlingame, E. W. Buddhist Legends, Part II. Harvard Oriental Series, 1921.

Conze, Edward. The Buddha. Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1953.

Grant Brown, W. F. 'The Taungbyon Festival'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1915.

Grant Brown, W. F. 'The Dragon of Tagaung'. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1917.

Grant Brown, W. F. 'The Pre-Buddhist Religion of the Burmese'. Folk-Lore, 1921.

Harvey, G. E. History of Burma. Longmans, London, 1925.

Hmannan Yazawin. The Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma (in Burmese), (Vols. I to V). Upper Burma Press, Mandalay, 1908. (Vol. I has been translated into English by Pe Maung Tin & G. H. Luce. Oxford, 1923.)

Kyar, U Po. The Thirty-Seven Nats (in Burmese) .Myanma Gonyee Press, Rangoon, 1937.

Luce, G. H. 'The Ancient Pyu'. Journal of the Burma Research Society, 1937.

Rockhill, W. Woodwille. The Life of Buddha. Kegan Paul, London, 1907.

Shin Arseinnabiwuntha. Buddhist Prayers. Light of Knowledge Press, Rangoon, 1954.

Temple, Sir R. C. The Thirty-Seven Nats. Griggs, London, 1906.

Thomas, Edward, J. The Life of Buddha. Kegan Paul, London, 1956.

Zinattapakathanikyan. Life of Buddha (in Burmese). Hanthawaddy Press, Rangoon, 1910.

The End of the book.

Contents of this page

Author's notes

fn126-01 Tin & Luce, op. cit., p. 59. fn126-01b

fn127-01 Tin & Luce, op. cit., p. 70. fn127-01b

fn128-01 In other words, in interpreting the scriptures they would look beyond the actual text. Therefore, they held that the commentaries were as important as the scriptures. The criticism that 'they wrote books after their own heart' refers surely to the Mahayana commentaries. fn128-01b

fn129-01 This was one of the Ten Indulgences claimed by the 'Monks of Vesali' at the Second Buddhist Council, held about one hundred years after the Buddha's passing away, but the actual emergence of Mahayana schools took place only after the Third Council of Asoka's time. fn129-01b

fn131-01 For the future Buddha will have the personal name of Ajita. fn131-01b

fn131-02 E.g., King Dappula I in the seventh century A.D. fn131-02b

fn132-01 Sin, in the Buddhist sense, of a deed which will have evil consequences in one's future existences. fn132-01b

fn135-01 G.H. Luce, 'The Ancient Pyu', J.B.R.S., vol. 27, 1937, p.251. fn135-01b

fn136-01 A more sober account is given in the Chronicles. See Tin & Luce, op. cit., p. 81. fn136-01bContents of this page

Contents of this page

UKT notes

Copper image of Sanni

According to the Glass Palace Chronicle (in Burmese) volume 1, p251, and U Kala, Maharazawin (in Burmese), volume 3, p25, the "brass" image of Sanni was {kr: san~di}. Transcription the word for the "brass image" as "Sanni" had led me astray into thinking that it probably stands for a Chinese god with braids, until I look into the orthography which shows that it is a brass image of "Sandi" the goddess that is worshipped in the Nine-God Puja. See "The Five Great Gods" in ch02-nine-gods.htm .

Note that I have translated the word {kr:} as "brass" instead of copper, because brass being an alloy of copper and zinc (and other secret ingredients) is more resistance to tarnishing than copper. Brass is the alloy of choice for casting images and bells.

Note that in the Nine-God Puja, the term used is "God" (male) instead of "Gods and Goddesses" which is in conformity with the Burmese language in which the gender (masculine and feminine) is not important, and "god" can mean both male and female gods.

Go back sanni-note-b

Contents of this page

Droit de seigneur

This custom was said to be prevalent in the times of the Aris and is known as {pan:U: hsak pw:} There was a wall painting supposed to portray this ceremony in the precinct of Payathoansu {Bu-ra:thon:hsu} pagoda in Pagan.

droit du seigneur, n. The supposed right of a feudal lord to have sexual relations with a vassal's bride on her wedding night. (French, droit, right, + du, of the, + seigneur, lord of a manor.) -- AHTD

Go back droit-note-b

Contents of this page

sin

The word <sin> has a connotation, i.e. the "Original Sin", that is entirely foreign to Buddhism. In stead of using the word <sin>, I would have used <misdeed>. The following is from AHTD:
   sin 1 n. 1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate. 2. Theology a. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God. b. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience. 3. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong. See note at offense . v. intr. sinned sinning sins 1. To violate a religious or moral law. 2. To commit an offense or a violation. [Middle English sinne from Old English synn; See es- in Indo-European Roots.]

Go back sin-note-b

Contents of this page

Toddy-wine

The so-called toddy-wine {htan:r} is not produced from the fruit of the toddy palm or Palmyra palm, Borassus flabellifer. The toddy frond on cutting the tip, discharges a juice {htan:r-hkyo} which is sweet. The juice contains sugars (fructose, glucose and sucrose). It is collected in an earthen pot. The earthen pots containing the sweet juice are collected early in the morning and the juice is boiled to a thick syrup in an open cauldron over a fire built from the dried old toddy-palm leaves. The hot syrup is poured over mats woven from toddy-palm leaves and allowed to cool and solidify. The soft-solid while still warm is made into little balls known as toddy-jaggery or simply jaggery.

The sweet juice {htan:r-hkyo} which already contains enzymes, on leaving alone, ferments in a few hours, and about evening time it comes to contain alcohol and the taste has changed to bitter-sweet. It is an intoxicant and is properly called {htan:r-hka:}. However, by common usage, the word {htan:r} has come to mean the intoxicant which should not be consumed by Buddhist monks.

Go back toddy-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file