2. Buddhism in the Mon and Pyu Kingdoms
While there is no conclusive archaeological proof that Buddhism
continued to be practiced in southern Myanmar after the missions of
the Third Council, the Sasanavamsa refers to an unbroken
lineage of teachers passing on the Dhamma to their disciples.
In a third century AD inscription by a South Indian king in
Nagarjunakonda, the land of the Cilatas is mentioned in a list of
countries visited by a group of bhikkhus. Historians believe the
Cilatas or Kiratas (also mentioned by Ptolemy and in Sanskrit
literature) to be identical to the Mon populations of Lower Myanmar.
The inscription states that the bhikkhus sent to the Cilata country
converted the population there to Buddhism. In the same inscription,
missions to other countries such as Sri Lanka are mentioned. It is
generally believed that most of these countries had received earlier
Buddhist missionaries sent by Buddhist kings, but as civilisation in
these lands was relatively undeveloped, teachings as profound as the
Buddha's had probably become distorted by local religions or possibly
been completely lost. It is possible that these missions did not so
much re-establish Buddhism, but rather purify the type of Buddhism
practiced there. Southern India was then the guardian of the Theravada
faith and obviously remained in contact with countries that had been
converted in earlier times but were unable to preserve the purity of
As has been already mentioned, the first datable archaeological
finds of the Mon civilisation stem from the Mon kingdom of Dvaravati
in the South of Thailand. They consist of a Roman oil lamp and a
bronze statue of the Buddha which are believed to be no later than the
first or second century AD. In discussing the Mon Theravada Buddhist
civilisation, we cannot remain in Myanmar only. For only by studying
the entire sphere of influence of the Mon in this period, can a
comprehensive picture be constructed. This sphere includes large parts
of present day Thailand. In fact, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Yuan
Chwang, who traveled to India in about 630 AD, describes a single Mon
country stretching from Prome to Chenla in the east and including the
Irrawaddy and Sittang deltas. He calls the country Dvaravati, but the
annals of the court of China of the same period mention Dvaravati as a
vassal of Thaton. We can, therefore, safely conclude that the Mon of
the region formed a fairly homogenous group in which the distribution
of power was obviously not always evident to the outsider.
Lower Myanmar was also inhabited by another ethnic group, the Pyu,
who were probably closely related to the modern Myanmar. They had
their capital at Sri Ksetra (near modern day Prome) and were also
followers of the Theravada Buddhist faith. Chinese travelers' reports
of the mid-third century AD refer to the kingdom of Lin-Yang where
Buddha was venerated by all and where several thousand monks or
bhikkhus lived. As Lin-Yang was to the west of Kamboja13
and could not be reached by sea, we can infer that the Chinese
travelers must have been referring to the ancient kingdom of Prome.
This is all the more likely as archaeological finds prove that only
about one century later Pali Buddhist texts, including Abhidhamma
texts, were studied by the Pyu.
The earliest highly developed urban settlement of the Pyu was
Beikthano, near Prome. However, its importance dwindled towards the
sixth century, when Sri Ksetra became the center of Pyu civilisation.
A major monastery built in the fourth century has been unearthed at
Beikthano. The building, constructed in brick, with a stupa and shrine
located nearby, is identical to the Buddhist monasteries of
Nagarjunakonda, the great Buddhist center of southern India. It is
situated near a stupa and a shrine, a design which is identical to the
one used in South India. Bricks had been used by the Pyus since the
second century AD for the construction of pillared halls, which formed
the temples of their original religion. Interestingly, the Pyu bricks
have always been of the exact dimensions as those used at the time of
Emperor Asoka in India. But the brick laying techniques used in the
monastery in Beikthano were far inferior to the ones used in their
southern Indian counterparts.
For such a major edifice as the monastery at Beikthano to have been
constructed, the religion must have been well established at least
among the ruling class. How long it took for Buddhism to become
influential in Pyu society is difficult to determine, but some
historians assume that the first contacts with Asokan religious
centers in India took place in the second century AD. This would allow
for a period of development of two hundred years until the first
important shrine was built. Despite the Indian architectural
influence, the inferior brick laying techniques found in Beikthano
indicate that indigenous architects and artisans, rather than imported
craftsmen or Indian colonisers, were employed in the construction of
monasteries and other important buildings.
It should, of course, not be forgotten that the Pyu possessed an
architecture of their own and a highly developed urban culture that
had evolved quite independently of Indian influences. Theravada
Buddhism found a fertile ground in this highly developed civilisation.
It is probable that the Pyu civilisation was more advanced than that
of the Mon. The Pyu sites found around Prome are the earliest urban
sites in Southeast Asia found to date. The urban developments and
datable monuments in Thailand and Cambodia are only from the seventh
century. Older artifacts may have been found in Thailand, but they
were not products of indigenous people and do not prove the existence
of a developed civilisation.
The information we have of the state of the religion in the Mon and
Pyu societies during the first four centuries AD is very limited.
However, by the fifth century, with the development of religious
activity in the region, information becomes more substantive. The
historical tradition of Myanmar gives the credit for this religious
resurgence to a well-known Buddhist scholar, Acariya Buddhaghosa.
Buddhaghosa and Myanmar
Acariya Buddhaghosa was the greatest commentator on the Pali
Buddhist texts, whose Visuddhimagga and commentaries to the
canon are regarded as authoritative by Theravada scholars. The
chronicles of Myanmar firmly maintain that Buddhaghosa was of Mon
origin and a native of Thaton. They state that his return from Sri
Lanka, with the Pali scriptures, the commentaries, and grammatical
works, gave a fresh impetus to the religion.
However, modern historians do not accept that Buddhaghosa was from
Myanmar while some even doubt his existence.14
Despite this contention, Eliot, in his Hinduism and Buddhism,
gives more weight to circumstantial evidence and writes:
The Burmese tradition that Buddhaghosa was a native of
Thaton and returned thither from Sri Lanka merits more attention
than it has received. It can easily be explained away as patriotic
fancy. On the other hand, if Buddhaghosa's object was to invigorate
Hinayanism in India the result of his really stupendous labors was
singularly small, for in India his name is connected with no
religious movement. But if we suppose that he went to Sri Lanka by
way of the holy places in Magadha [now Bihar] and returned from the
Coromandal coast [Madras] to Burma where Hinayanism afterwards
flourished, we have at least a coherent narrative.15
The Sinhalese chronicles, especially the Mahavamsa, place
Buddhaghosa in the first half of the fifth century. Although he spent
most of his active working life in Sri Lanka, he is also credited with
imbuing new life into Theravada Buddhism in South India, and
developing such important centers as Kancipura and Uragapuram that
were closely connected with Prome and Thaton. Proof of this connection
can be found in archeological finds in the environs of Prome which
include Pali literature inscribed in the Kadambe script on gold and
stone plates. This script was used in the fifth and sixth century in
All in all, Myanmar has a valid case for claiming some connection
with Buddhaghosa. It is, of course, impossible to prove that he was
born there or even visited there, but his influence undoubtedly led to
great religious activity in the kingdoms of Lower Myanmar.
Buddhism in Lower Myanmar: 5th to 11th Centuries
From the fifth century until the conquest of Lower Myanmar by
Pagan, there is a continuous record of Buddhism flourishing in the Mon
and Pyu kingdoms. The Mon kingdoms are mentioned in travel reports of
several Chinese Buddhist pilgrims and also in the annals of the
Chinese court. In the fifth century, Thaton and Pegu (Pago) are
mentioned in the Buddhist commentarial literature for the first time.16
They were now firmly established on the map as Buddhist centers of
learning. Despite this, Buddhism was not without rivals in the region.
This is shown, by the following event some chronicles of Myanmar
A king of Pago, Tissa by name, had abandoned the worship of the
Buddha and instead practiced Brahmanical worship. He persecuted the
Buddhists and destroyed Buddha images or cast them into ditches. A
pious Buddhist girl, the daughter of a merchant, restored the images,
then washed and worshipped them. The king could not tolerate such
defiance, of course, and had the girl dragged before him. He tried to
have her executed in several ways, but she seemed impossible to kill.
Elephants would not trample her,while the fire of her pyre would not
burn her. Eventually the king, intrigued by these events, asked the
girl to perform a miracle. He stated that, if she was able to make a
Buddha image produce seven new images and then make all eight statues
fly into heaven, she would be set free. The girl spoke an act of
truth, and the eight Buddha statues flew up into the sky. The king was
then converted to Buddhism and elevated the girl to the position of
Until now, archaeological finds of Mon ruins in Myanmar are meager,
but at P'ong Tuk, in southern Thailand,17
a Mon city, dating from the second half of the first millennium AD,
has been unearthed. Here, excavations have revealed the foundations of
several buildings. One contained the remains of a platform and
fragments of columns similar to the Buddhist vihara at Anuradhapura in
Sri Lanka; another, with a square foundation of round stones, seems to
have been a stupa. Statues of Indian origin from the Gupta period
(320-600 AD) were also found at the site. The Theravada Buddhist
culture of the Mon flourished in both Dvaravati and Thaton. However,
the Mon civilisation in Thailand did not survive the onslaught of the
Khmer in the eleventh century who were worshipping Hindu gods. In
Myanmar, the Mon kingdom was conquered by Pagan. The Myanmar were
eager to accept the Mon culture and especially their religion, while
the Khmer, as Hindus, at best tolerated it.
The Pyu culture of this period is well documented because of
archaeological finds at Muanggan, a small village close to the ancient
ruins of Hmawza. There two perfectly preserved inscribed gold plates
were found. These inscriptions reveal three texts: the verses spoken
by Assaji to Sariputta (ye dhamma hetuppabhava...), a list of
categories of the Abhidhamma (cattaro iddhipada, cattaro
samappadhana...), and the formula of worship of Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha (iti pi so bhagava...). At the same site, a book
with twenty leaves of gold protected with golden covers, was
discovered. It contained texts such as the paticca-samuppada
(dependent origination), the vipassana-nanas (stages of insight
knowledge), and various other excerpts from the Abhidhamma and the
other two baskets of the Buddhist scriptures. The scripts in all these
documents are identical to scripts used in parts of southern India,
and can be dated from the third to the sixth century AD.
In addition to these golden plates, a number of sculptures and
reliefs were found in Hmawza. They depict either the Buddha or scenes
from his life, for example, the birth of the Buddha and the taming of
the wild elephant Nalagiri. The sculpture is similar in style to that
of Amaravati, a center of Buddhist learning in South India. There were
also unearthed remains of Brahman temples and sites of Mahayana
worship of east Indian origin; hence it would appear that several
faiths, of which the Theravada was the strongest, co-existed in Sri
Ksetra, the then capital of the Pyu. The script used by the Pyu is
indicative of major links with Buddhist kingdoms in South India rather
than with Sri Lanka. And it can be surmised that the bhikkhus of the
Deccan and other regions of southern India were the teachers of both
the Mon and the Pyu in religious matters as well as in the arts and
The inscriptions show how highly developed scholarship of the Pali
Buddhist texts must have been in Lower Myanmar even in these early
days. Learning had gone well beyond the basics into the world of
Abhidhamma studies. Pali was obviously well known as a language of
learning, but unfortunately no original texts composed in Sri Ksetra
or Thaton have come down to us. Interestingly, some of the texts
inscribed on these gold plates are not identical to the same canonical
texts as they are known today. Therefore, the Tipitaka known to the
Pyu must have been replaced by a version preserved in a country that
had no close contact with the Pyu. This could well have been Sri
Lanka, as this country came to play an important role in the history
of Buddhism in Myanmar through the friendship between the conqueror of
Lower Myanmar, Anawratha, and the king who drove the Hindus from Sri
The finds on the site of the ancient Pyu capital confirm the
reports of the Chinese pilgrims and also the Tang imperial chronicles
of China which state: "They (the Pyu) dislike taking life. They
know how to make astronomical calculations. They are Buddhists and
have a hundred monasteries, with brick of glass embellished with gold
and silver vermilion, gay colours and red kino... At seven years of
age the people cut their hair and enter a monastery; if at the age of
twenty they have not grasped the doctrine they return to the lay
Both Buddhist cultures in the south of Myanmar, the Mon and the Pyu,
were swept away in the eleventh century by armies of the Myanmar who
had found a unifying force in their leader, the founder of Pagan and
champion of Buddhism, Anawratha.
3. Theravada Buddhism Comes to Pagan
The Beginnings of Pagan
Pagan is believed to have been founded in the years 849-850 AD, by
the Myanmar, who had already established themselves as rice growers in
the region around Kyauksai near Mandalay. Anawratha began to unite the
region by subjugating one chieftain after another and was successful
in giving the Myanmar a sense of belonging to a larger community, a
nation. The crucial event in the history of Myanmar is not so much the
founding of the city of Pagan and the building of its walls and moat,
but more Pagan's acceptance of Theravada Buddhism in the eleventh
century. The religion was brought to the Myanmar by a Mon bhikkhu
named Shin Arahan.
The religion prevailing among the Myanmar before and during the
early reign of Anawratha was some form of Mahayana Buddhism, which had
probably found its way into the region from the Pala kingdom in
Bengal. This is apparent from bronze statues depicting Bodhisattas and
especially the "Lokanatha," a Bodhisatta believed, in
Bengal, to reign in the period between the demise of the Buddha Gotama
and the advent of the Buddha Metteyya. Anawratha continued to cast
terracotta votive tablets with the image of Lokanatha even after he
embraced the Theravada doctrine.19
In India, Buddhism had split into numerous schools, some of which
differed fundamentally from the teachings of Pali Buddhism, which is
also called Theravada Buddhism (the doctrine of the Theras). The Ari,
the monks or priests of this Mahayana Buddhist form of worship, are
described, in later chronicles of Myanmar, as the most shameless bogus
ascetics imaginable. They are said to have sold absolution from sin
and to have oppressed the people in various ways with their tyranny.
Their tantric Buddhism included, as an important element, the worship
of Nagas (dragons), which was probably an ancient indigenous
At this time, the beginning of the eleventh century, the Buddhist
religion among the Mon in Suvannabhumi was on the decline as people
were disturbed by robbers and raiders, by plagues, and by adversaries
of the religion. These most probably came from the Hindu Khmer kingdom
in Cambodia and the north of Thailand. The Khmer were endeavoring to
add Thaton and the other Mon kingdoms of the south to their expanding
empire. Shin Arahan must have feared that bhikkhus would not be able
to continue to maintain their religious practice and the study of the
scriptures under these circumstances. He went, therefore, upcountry
where a new, strong people were developing, prosperous and secure from
It is interesting to note that in this same period, Buddhism was
under attack in other places as well. The Colas, a Hindu dynasty
strongly opposed to Buddhism, arose in southern India, one of the last
strongholds of Theravada Buddhism. They were able to expand their rule
to include most of Sri Lanka between 1017 and 1070. The great Mon
city, Dvaravati, a Theravada center in southern Thailand, fell to the
Khmer, the masters of the whole of Thailand, who were Shaivaite
Hindus. In the north of India, Muslim armies were trying to destroy
what little was left of Buddhism there. "In this perilous
period," writes Professor Luce, "Buddhism was saved only by
such valiant fighters as Vijayabahu in Sri Lanka and Anawratha."20
Shin Arahan Converts the King
Shin Arahan arrived in the vicinity of Pagan and was discovered in
his forest dwelling by a hunter. The hunter, who had never before seen
such a strange creature with a shaven head and a yellow robe, thought
he was some kind of spirit and took him to the king, Anawratha. Shin
Arahan naturally sat down on the throne, as it was the highest seat,
and the king thought: "This man is peaceful, in this man there is
the essential thing. He is sitting down on the best seat, surely he
must be the best being." The king asked the visitor to tell him
where he came from and was told that he came from the place where the
Order lived and that the Buddha was his teacher. Then Shin Arahan gave
the king the teaching on mindfulness (appamada), teaching him
the same doctrine Nigrodha had given Emperor Asoka when he was
converted. Shin Arahan then told the monarch that the Buddha had
passed into Parinibbana, but that his teaching, the Dhamma, enshrined
in the Tipitaka, and the twofold Sangha consisting of those who
possessed absolute knowledge and those who possessed conventional
The king must have felt that he had found what had been missing in
his life and a genuine alternative to the superficial teachings of the
Ari monks. He built a monastery for Shin Arahan, and according to some
sources, stopped all worship of the Ari monks. Tradition has it that
he had them dressed in white and even forced them to serve as soldiers
in his army. The Ari tradition continued for a long time, however, and
its condemnation is a feature of much later times, and not, as far as
contemporary evidence shows, of the Pagan era.
The Sasanavamsa gives an alternate version of Anawratha's
conversion according to which Shin Arahan had originally come from Sri
Lanka to study the Dhamma in Dvaravati and Thaton and was on his way
to Sri Ksetra in search of a text when he was taken to Anawratha by a
hunter. The king asked him, "Who are you?" — "O King,
I am a disciple of Gotama." — "Of what kind are the Three
Jewels?" — "O King, the Buddha should be regarded as
Mahosadha the wise, his doctrine as Ummagga, his order as the Videhan
This version is interesting in that Anawratha is portrayed as being
a Buddhist with knowledge of Jataka stories, such as the Mahosadha
Jataka referred to above, even before meeting Shin Arahan. This
assumption that he was no stranger to Buddhism is supported by the
fact that earlier kings had been followers of Buddhism in varying
degrees. Caw Rahan, who died about 94 years before Anawratha's
accession, is said to have built a Sima and five Pagodas, and Kyaung
Pyu Min built the white monastery outside Pagan. Kyaung Pyu Min is
believed to have been Anawratha's father.
Anawratha Acquires the Scriptures
Through Shin Arahan, Anawratha had now found the religion he had
been yearning for and he decided to set out and procure the scriptures
and holy relics of this religion. For he wished his kingdom to be
secured on the original teachings of the Buddha. He tried to find the
scriptures and relics of his new religion in different quarters. In
his enthusiasm he did not limit his quest to Thaton, but also searched
among the Khmer in Angkor, and in Tali, the capital of the Nanchao, a
kingdom in modern day Yunnan, in China, where a tooth of the Buddha
was enshrined. But everywhere he was refused. He then went to Thaton,
where his teacher Shin Arahan had come from, to request a copy of the
scriptures. According to the tradition of Myanmar, Anawratha's request
was refused, and unable to endure another refusal he set out with his
army in the year 1057 to conquer Thaton and acquire the Tipitaka by
force. Before conquering Thaton, however, he had to subjugate Sri
Ksetra, the Pyu capital. From there, he took the relics enshrined in
King Dwattabaung's Bawbaw-gyi Pagoda to Pagan.
Some think that the aim of his campaign was mainly to add the
prosperous Indian colonies of Lower Myanmar to his possessions, while
others think he may have actually been called to Thaton to defend it
against the marauding Khmer. Whatever the immediate cause of his
campaign in the lower country, we know for certain that he returned
with the king of Thaton and his court, with Mon artists and scholars
and, above all, with Thaton's bhikkhus and their holy books, the
Tipitaka. Suvannabhumi and its Mon population were now in the hands of
the Myanmar and the Mon culture and religion were accepted and
assimilated in the emergent Pagan with fervor.
Initially the fervor must have been restricted to the king and
possibly his immediate entourage, yet even they continued to
propitiate their traditional gods for worldly gain as the new religion
was considered a higher practice. Theravada Buddhism does not provide
much in the way of rites and rituals, but a royal court cannot do
without them. So the traditional propitiation of the Nagas continued
to be used for court ceremonials and remained part of the popular
religion, while the bhikkhus were accorded the greatest respect and
their master, the Buddha Gotama, was honored with the erection of
pagodas and shrines.
There were contacts between the new kings of Myanmar and Sri Lanka
that are recorded not only in the chronicles of the two countries but
also in stone inscriptions in South India.22
As the Hindu Colas had ruled Sri Lanka for more than half a century,
Buddhism had been weakened and King Vijayabahu, who had driven out the
Vaishnavite Colas, wanted to re-establish his religion. So in 1070, he
requested King Anawratha of Myanmar, who had assisted him financially
in his war against the Colas, to send bhikkhus to re-introduce the
pure ordination into his country.23
It is interesting to note that the Culavamsa refers to
Anawratha as the king of Ramanna, which was Lower Myanmar, also called
Suvannabhumi. He was approached as the conqueror and master of Thaton,
a respected Theravada center, rather than as the king of Pagan, a new
and unknown country. The bhikkhus who traveled to Sri Lanka brought
the Sinhalese Tipitaka back with them and established a link between
the two countries which was to last for centuries.
Anawratha is mentioned in the Myanmar, Mon, Khmer, Thai, and
Sinhalese chronicles as a great champion of Buddhism because he
developed Pagan into a major regional power and laid the foundation
for its glory. He did not, however, build many of the temples for
which Pagan is now so famous as the great age of temple building
started only after his reign. It is important to realize that his
interest was not restricted only to Pagan. He built pagodas wherever
his campaigns took him and adorned them with illustrations from the
Jatakas and the life of the Buddha. Some maintain that he used only
Jatakas as themes for the adornment of his religious buildings because
that was all he possessed of the Tipitaka. Such a conclusion is
negative and quite superficial. After all, during Asoka's time Jatakas
and scenes from the life of the Buddha were used for illustrations in
Bharut and Sanchi, the great stupas near Bombay. We cannot therefore
deduce that the builders of Bharut and Sanchi were acquainted only
with the Jatakas. These edifying stories which teach the fundamentals
of Buddhism so skillfully are singularly suited to educate an
illiterate people beset by superstitions through the vivid visual
means of the stone reliefs depicting these stories. It is almost
unthinkable that the Mon Sangha, who taught Anawratha, had no
knowledge of at least all of the Vinaya. Otherwise, they would not
have been able to re-establish a valid ordination of bhikkhus in Sri
Anawratha left behind innumerable clay tablets adorned with images
of the Buddha, the king's name, and some Pali and Sanskrit verses. A
typical aspiration on these tablets was: "By me, King Anawratha,
this mould of Sugata (Buddha) has been made. Through this may I obtain
the path to Nibbana when Metteyya is awakened." Anawratha aspired
to become a disciple of the Buddha Metteyya, unlike many later kings
of Myanmar who aspired to Buddhahood. Is this an indication that this
warrior had remained a modest man in spite of his empire building?
4. Pagan: Flowering and Decline
Anawratha was succeeded by a number of kings of varying
significance to Buddhism in Myanmar. His successors inherited a
relatively stable and prosperous kingdom and consequently were able to
embark on the huge temple building projects for which their reigns are
This is the time when kings such as Kyanzitta and others built
pagodas, libraries, monasteries, and ordination halls. These kings
must have possessed coffers full of riches collected from their
extensive kingdom which they lavished on the religion of the Buddha.
Their palaces were probably built of wood as was the last palace of
the Myanmar dynasty. Though the palaces must have reflected the wealth
and power of the rulers, the more durable brick was not deemed
necessary for such worldly buildings. This is similar to views still
found in rural areas of Myanmar today. The only structure adorned to
any extent in a village is the monastery and the buildings attached to
it, such as the rest house. The villagers are very modest with regard
to their private houses and even consider it improper to decorate
them. Their monastery, however, is given every decoration affordable.
Kyanzitta Strengthens Theravada Buddhism
Kyanzitta (1084-1113), who had been Anawratha's commander-in-chief
and had succeeded Anawratha's son to the throne, consolidated
Theravada Buddhism's predominance in Pagan. In his reign, such
important shrines as the Shwezigon Pagoda, the Nanda, Nagayon, and
Myinkaba Kubyauk-gyi temples were built.
With the three latter temples, Kyanzitta introduced a new style of
religious building. The traditional stupa or dagoba found in India and
Sri Lanka is a solid mound in which relics or other holy objects are
enshrined. The area of worship is situated around them and is usually
marked by ornate stone railings. In the new style of building,
however, the solid mound had been hollowed out and could be entered.
The central shrine was surrounded by halls which housed stone reliefs
depicting scenes from the Buddha's life and Jataka stories.
Kyanzitta's aim was the conversion of his people to the new faith.
Whereas Anawratha had been busy expanding his empire and bringing
relics and the holy scriptures to Pagan, Kyanzitta's mission was to
consolidate this enterprise. Enormous religious structures such as the
Nanda Temple attracted the populace and the interiors of the temples
allowed the bhikkhus to instruct the inquisitive in the king's faith.
Professor Luce writes:
The Nanda (temple)... he built with four broad halls. Each hall had
the same 16 scenes in stone relief all identically arranged. The
bhikkhus could cope with four audiences simultaneously. The scenes
cover the whole life of the Buddha. When well grounded in these, the
audience would pass to the outer wall of the corridor. Here, running
around the whole corridor are the 80 scenes of Gotama's life up to
the Enlightenment. The later life of the Buddha is shown in hundreds
of other stone reliefs on the inner walls and shrines.24
Kyanzitta's efforts for the advancement of Buddhism were not
limited to his own country. For in one of his many inscriptions, he
also mentions that he sent craftsmen to Bodhgaya to repair the
Mahabodhi temple, which had been destroyed by a foreign king. The
upkeep of the Mahabodhi temple became a tradition with the kings of
Myanmar, who continued to send missions to Bodhgaya to repair the
temple and also to donate temple slaves and land to the holiest shrine
Kyanzitta also initiated an extensive review and purification of
the Tipitaka by the bhikkhus. This was the first occasion in Myanmar's
history when the task of a Buddhist Sangayana or Synod, comparing the
Sinhalese and Suvannabhumi's Tipitaka, was undertaken. It is possible
and even probable that this huge editing work was carried out along
with visiting Sinhalese bhikkhus.
By nature of Myanmar's geographical position, external influences
swept in predominantly from northern India, and therefore tantric
Buddhism, dominant especially in Bengal, remained strong. However,
Kyanzitta succeeded in firmly establishing the Pali Tipitaka by asking
the bhikkhus to compare the ancient Mon Tipitaka with the texts
obtained from the Mahavihara in Sri Lanka. In this way, he also made
it clear that confirmation of orthodoxy was to be sought in Sri Lanka
and not in any other Buddhist country. Though Mahayana practices were
tolerated in his reign (his chief queen was a tantric Buddhist), they
were not officially regarded as the pure religion. It is
characteristic of Pagan that these two branches of Buddhism co-existed
— the religion of the Theras, which was accepted as the highest
religion — and the tantric practices, which included the worship of
spirits or nats and gave more immediate satisfaction. Pagodas
are often adorned with figures of all types of deities, but the
deities are normally shown in an attitude of reverence towards the
pagoda, a symbol of the Buddha. The ancient gods were not banished,
but had to submit to the peerless Buddha. Tradition attributes to King
Anawratha the observation: "Men will not come for the sake of the
new faith. Let them come for their old gods, and gradually they will
be won over."
An approach such as this, whether it was Anawratha's or Kyanzitta's,
would suggest that the practice of the old religion of the Ari monks
was allowed to continue and that the conversion of the country was
gentle and peaceful as befits the religion of the Buddha. Although
later Myanmar chronicles refer to the Ari monks as a debased group of
charlatans who were totally rooted out by Anawratha, this is far from
the truth. A powerful movement of "priests" who incorporated
magic practices in their teachings continued to exist throughout the
Pagan period, and though they may have respected the basic rules of
the Vinaya and donned the yellow robe, their support was rooted in the
old animistic beliefs of the Myanmar.26
It should not be forgotten that the Myanmar first started to settle in
the area of Kyauksai in the sixth century AD and that the "man in
the field" was in no way ready for such highly developed a
religion as Theravada Buddhism. The transition had to be gradual, and
the process that started remains still incomplete in the minds of many
people, especially in the more remote areas of the hill country.
The example of Kyanzitta's son Rajakumar, however, shows how even
in those early days the teachings of the Buddha were understood and
practiced not only by the bhikkhus, but also by lay people and members
of the royal court. Rajakumar's conduct is proof of his father's
ability to establish men in the Dhamma and survives as a monument just
as the Ananda temple does.
Rajakumar was Kyanzitta's only son and his rightful heir. Due to
political misadventures Kyanzitta was separated from his wife and
therefore not aware of the birth of his son for seven years. When his
daughter gave birth to his grandson he anointed him as future king
immediately after his birth. Rajakumar grew up in the shadow of his
nephew, the crown prince, but neither during his father's reign nor
after his death did he ever try to usurp the throne through intrigue
or by force. He was a minister zealous in the affairs of state,
prudent and wise. He was also a scholar of the Tipitaka and
instrumental in its review, vigorously supporting his father in his
objective to establish Buddhism. But he is best known for his devotion
to his father in his last years when his health was failing. In order
to restore the king's health he built five pagodas which to this day
are called Min-o-Chanda, "The Welfare of the Old King." When
the king was on his deathbed:
Rajakumar, remembering the many and great favors with which the king
had nourished him, made a beautiful golden image of the Buddha and
entering with ceremony presented it to the king, saying: "This
golden Buddha I have made to help my lord. The three villages of
slaves you gave me, I give to this Buddha." And the king
rejoiced and said "Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu." Then in the
presence of the compassionate Mahathera and other leading bhikkhus,
the king poured on the ground the water of dedication, calling the
earth to witness. Then Rajakumar enshrined the golden image, and
built around it a cave temple with a golden pinnacle.27
Rajakumar's nephew was King Alaungsithu (c.1113-67), who continued
the tradition of his dynasty of glorifying the Buddha's religion by
building a vast temple, the Sabbannu Temple, probably the largest
monument in Pagan. During his many travels and campaigns, he built
pagodas and temples throughout Myanmar. The faith that Shin Arahan had
inspired in Anawratha and his successors continued to inspire
Alaungsithu. Shin Arahan, who had seen kings come and go and the
flowering of the religion he brought to Pagan, is believed to have
died during the reign of King Alaungsithu, in about 1115.
After the death of Alaungsithu, Pagan was thrown into turmoil by
violent struggles for the throne. Several kings reigned for short
periods and spent most of their time and resources in power struggles.
One even succeeded in alienating the great king of Sri Lanka,
Parakramabahu, by mistreating his emissaries and breaking the
agreements between the two countries. Eventually Parakramabahu invaded
Myanmar, devastating towns and villages and killing the king. The new
king, Narapati (1174-1210), blessed the country with a period of peace
and prosperity. This conducive atmosphere was to allow outstanding
scholarship and learning to arise in Pagan.
Kyawswa (1234-50) was a king under whom scholarship was encouraged
even more, undoubtedly because the king himself spent most of his time
in scholarly pursuits including memorizing passages of the Tipitaka.
He had relinquished most of his worldly duties to his son in order to
dedicate more time to the study of the scriptures. Two grammatical
works, the Saddabindu and the Paramatthabindu, are
ascribed to him. It would appear that his palace was a place of great
culture and learning as his ministers and his daughter are credited
with scholarly works as well.
During the twelfth century, a sect of forest dwellers also thrived.
They were called arannaka in Pali and were identical with the
previously mentioned Ari of the later chroniclers of Myanmar.28
This was a monastic movement that only used the yellow robes and the
respect due to them in order to follow their own ideas. They indulged
in business transactions and owned vast stretches of land. They gave
feasts and indulged in the consumption of liquor, and, though they
pretended to be practicing the teachings of the Buddha, their
practices were probably of a tantric nature. It would appear that they
had a considerable amount of influence at the royal court and one of
the main exponents of the movement was even given the title of royal
teacher. Superstition and magic were gaining dominance once again and
Anawratha's and Kyanzitta's empire was slowly sliding into decadence.
The last king of Pagan, Narathihapate, whom the Myanmar know by the
(the king who fled the Chinese), repeatedly refused to pay symbolic
tribute to the Mongol emperors in Peking who in 1271 had conquered
neighbouring Yunnan. He even went so far as to execute ambassadors of
the Chinese emperor and their retinue for their lack of deference to
the king. He became so bold and blinded by ignorance that he attacked
a vassal state of the Mongols. The emperor in Peking was finally
forced to send a punitive expedition which defeated the Pagan army
north of Pagan. The news of this defeat caused the king and his court
to flee to Pathein (Bassein). As the imperial court in Peking was not
interested in adding Pagan to its possessions, the Yunnan expedition
did not remain in the environs. When the king was later murdered and
the whole empire fell into disarray, the Yunnani generals returned,
looting Pagan. The territories were divided amongst Shan chiefs who
paid tribute to the Mongols.
G.E. Harvey honors the kings of Pagan with the following words:
To them the world owes to a great measure the preservation of
Theravada Buddhism, one of the purest faiths mankind has ever known.
Brahmanism had strangled it in its land of birth; in Sri Lanka its
existence was threatened again and again; east of Burma it was not
yet free from priestly corruptions; but the kings of Burma never
wavered, and at Pagan the stricken faith found a city of refuge.30
Contacts with Sri Lanka and the First Controversies
The contact with Sri Lanka was very important for the growth of the
religion in Pagan. As was shown previously, it started with the
friendship of Anawratha and Vijayabahu, both of whom fought for
Buddhism: Anawratha to establish a new kingdom, Vijayabahu to wrench
an old one from the clutches of the Hindu invaders. They supported
each other in their struggles and then together re-established the
Theravada doctrine in their respective countries, Anawratha sending
bhikkhus to Sri Lanka to revive the Sangha, while Vijayabahu
reciprocated by sending the sacred texts. The continued contact
between the two countries was beneficial to both: many a reform
movement, purifying the religion in one country spread to the other as
well. Bhikkhus visiting from one country were led to look at their own
traditions critically and to reappraise their practice of the Dhamma
as preserved in the Pali texts. After the fall of the main Buddhist
centers in southern India, centers which had been the main allies of
the Mon Theravadins in the south, Sri Lanka was the only ally in the
struggle for the survival of the Theravada tradition.
Leading bhikkhus of Pagan undertook the long and difficult journey
to Sri Lanka in order to visit the holy temples and study the
scriptures as they had been preserved by the Sinhalese Sangha. Shin
Arahan's successor as the king's teacher left the royal court for Sri
Lanka, returning to Pagan only to die. He was succeeded by a Mon
bhikkhu, Uttarajiva, who led a pilgrimage to Sri Lanka in 1171. This
was to cause the first upheaval in the Sangha of Pagan.
Uttarajiva traveled to Sri Lanka accompanied by Chapada, a novice
who remained behind on the island in order to study the scriptures in
the Mahavihara, the orthodox monastery of Sri Lanka and the guardian
of the Theravada tradition. After ten years, he returned to Pagan
accompanied by four elders who had studied with him. The Kalyani
inscription, written about three hundred years later, relates that
Chapada considered the tradition of the Myanmar bhikkhus impure. He
had consequently taken four bhikkhus with him because he needed a
chapter of at least five theras in order to ordain new bhikkhus. It is
possible that the Myanmar bhikkhus, who seemed to have formed a group
separate from the Mon bhikkhus, had paid more attention to their
traditional worship than was beneficial for their practice of the
Dhamma. It is also possible that there was an element of nationalist
rivalry between the Mon bhikkhus and the Myanmar bhikkhus. As he
showed a penchant for the reform movement, the Myanmar king Narapati
seems to have accepted the superiority of the Mon bhikkhus, though he
did not neglect the other bhikkhus. Chapada and his companions refused
to accept the ordination of the Myanmar bhikkhus as legitimate in
accordance with Vinaya. They established their own ordination,
following which the Myanmar bhikkhus sent a delegation to Sri Lanka to
receive the Mahavihara ordination for themselves.
After Chapada's death, the reform movement soon split into two
factions, and eventually each of the four remaining bhikkhus went his
own way, one of them leaving the order altogether. "Thus in the
town of Arimaddana (Pagan) there were four schools... Because the
first of these to come was the school of the Elder Arahan from
Sudhamma (Thaton) it was called the first school; while the others,
because they came later, were called the later schools."31
Scholarship in Pagan
It is surprising how quickly a relatively simple people absorbed
the great civilisation that arrived in their midst so suddenly. Even
before the conquest of Thaton, Pagan possessed some ornate religious
buildings, which is indicative of the presence of artists and
craftsmen. It is quite likely, however, that these were Indians from
Bengal and the neighbouring states. The type of Buddhism that had come
to Pagan from India was an esoteric religion, as some old legends
indicate. It was the jealously guarded domain of a group of priests,
who made no attempt to instruct the people but were happy if their
superiority remained unquestioned by a superstitious populace.
The advent of Theravada Buddhism with its openness and its aim to
spread understanding must have been quite revolutionary in Pagan and
obviously the people were eager to acquire the knowledge offered to
them by the bhikkhus. Mabel Bode says in her Pali Literature of
Though the Burmese began their literary history by borrowing from
their conquered neighbours, the Talaings (Mon) — and not before
the eleventh century — the growth of Pali scholarship among them
was so rapid that the epoch following close on this tardy beginning
is considered one of the best that Burma has seen.32
The principal works of the Pagan period still extant are Pali
grammars. The most famous of these is the Saddaniti, which
Aggavamsa completed in 1154. Uttarajiva gave a copy of this work to
the bhikkhus of the Mahavihara in Sri Lanka and it "was received
with enthusiastic admiration, and declared superior to any work of the
kind written by Sinhalese scholars." The Saddaniti is
still used to teach grammar in the monasteries in Myanmar and has been
printed many times. B.C. Law regards it as one of the three principal
Pali grammars along with the grammars by Kaccayana and Moggallana. K.R.
Norman says: "The greatest of extant Pali grammars is the Saddaniti,
written by Aggavamsa from Arimaddana [Pagan] in Burma..."33
Aggavamsa was also known as the teacher of King Narapatisithu
(1167-1202) and was given the title Aggapandita. Unfortunately, no
other works by this author are known today.
The second famous author of Pagan was Saddhammajotipala who has
been previously mentioned under his clan name of Chapada. He was a
disciple of Uttarajiva and is credited with a great number of works,
but in the case of some it is doubtful whether he actually composed
them himself or merely introduced them from Sri Lanka.34
His works deal not only with grammar, but also with questions of
monastic discipline (Vinaya) and the Abhidhamma, which in later
centuries was to become a favorite subject of Myanmar scholars. His
work on Kaccayana's grammar, the Suttaniddesa, formed the
foundation of his fame. However, his specialty would appear to have
been the study of Abhidhamma, as no less than four noted works of his
on the subject attained fame: Samkhepavannana, Namacaradipani,
Matikatthadipani, and Patthanagananaya. According to the
Pitaka-thamain, a history of Buddhism in Myanmar, he also devoted a
commentary to the Visuddhimagga by Buddhaghosa called the Visuddhimagga-ganthi.35
There are no written records that refer to meditation being practiced
in Myanmar before this century. However, his interest in the Visuddhimagga
is indicative of an interest in meditation, if only in the theory
rather than in the practice.
Another scholar of Pagan, Vimalabuddhi, also wrote a commentary
concerning Abhidhamma, the Abhidhammatthasangahatika, in
addition to another important grammatical work, the Nyasa, a
commentary on Kaccayana's grammar.
Other grammatical works of some importance were written, but none
acquired the standing of Aggavamsa's Saddaniti. However, a
rather peculiar work worth mentioning is the Ekakkharakosa by
Saddhammakitti. It is a work on Pali lexicography enumerating words of
5. Shan Rule
After Narathihapate had fled Pagan in fear of the Mongol army, he
was never able to re-establish his authority, even though the Mongols
supported the Pagan dynasty. The Mongol court in Peking preferred a
united neighbouring country under a single ruler, but in spite of its
efforts Myanmar was divided into several principalities mainly under
Shan tribal leaders. These self-styled princelings paid tribute to the
Chinese Mongol court and were nominally its subjects. The Shan, at
this time still nomadic tribes in the north, broke into an already
destabilized Myanmar like a tidal wave. They penetrated the entire
region as far as the Mon country and established themselves as rulers
in many towns and cities. The intrigues, fratricidal wars, and murders
that make up the history of their courts are innumerable.
A division of the country into Upper and Lower Myanmar is somewhat
arbitrary, as, after the fall of Pagan, the two regions were composed
of many competing principalities. However, there were the two
principle kingdoms of Ava in Upper Myanmar and Pago (Pegu) in Lower
Myanmar. Hostilities between these two prevailed, as well as with the
neighbouring smaller states including the Shan fiefs of Chiang Mai and
Ayutthaya in Thailand. Intrigues within and between courts were rife.
Sometimes these claimed victims only within the circle of the powerful
and mighty, and sometimes whole towns were looted and destroyed, and
their population massacred or carried off into slavery. But, in spite
of politically unsettled conditions, the Sangha survived, because the
new rulers, initially somewhat barbaric, soon accepted the religion of
their subjects. Just as the Myanmar had adopted the religion and
culture of the more refined Mon, so the Shan submitted to the
sophisticated civilisation of the peoples they subjugated. The Shan
initially established their capital at Pinya in Upper Myanmar to the
north of Pagan and transferred it to Ava in 1312. Ava was to remain
the capital of Upper Myanmar until the eighteenth century.
The Sasanavamsa praises Thihathu, the youngest of three Shan
brothers who wrested power from the Pagan dynasty in Upper Myanmar, as
a Buddhist king who built monasteries and pagodas. He had a bhikkhu as
his teacher and supported thousands of bhikkhus in his capital Pinya
and later Ava. However, Pagan remained the cultural and religious
capital of the region for the whole of the fourteenth century.
Scholarly works were composed in its monasteries throughout this
period whereas no such works are known to have been written in the new
centers of power. The works of this period of scholarship were mostly
concerned with Pali grammar.
Two generations later, a descendant of Thihathu secured himself a
place in religious history as a great patron of scholarship. As in the
courts of some previous kings, his court was also devoted to scholarly
learning; and not only bhikkhus, but also the palace officials,
produced treatises on religious subjects and the Pali language.
Although the political situation remained unsettled in Upper
Myanmar throughout the fifteenth century, in the main, this affected
only those in power and their usurpers. Consequently the Sangha
appears to have flourished, while the traditional devotion to the
support of the Sangha through gifts of the four requisites remained
unchanged. The royal court, followed by the leading families, made
great donations of monasteries, land, and revenue to the bhikkhus.
In approximately 1440, two Mahatheras from Sri Lanka settled in
Here they joined a group of famous scholars, of whom Ariyavamsa was
the most outstanding. The Sasanavamsa tells us of his great
wisdom and humility in an anecdote.37
The elder Ariyavamsa had studied the books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka,
but felt he had not gained real understanding. Eventually he came to a
bhikkhu in Sagaing who kept his mouth always filled with water in
order not to have to engage in meaningless chatter. Ariyavamsa did not
talk to "the Elder Water-bearer," as this bhikkhu was known
in the Myanmar language, but simply performed the duties of a disciple
to his teacher for two days. On the third day, the Venerable
Water-bearer spat out the water and asked Ariyavamsa why he was
serving him. When Ariyavamsa told him that he wanted to learn from
him, the Venerable Water-bearer taught him the Abhidhammattha-vibhavani-tika,
a subcommentary on the Abhidhammattha-sangaha. After two days,
Ariyavamsa grasped the meaning and his teacher asked him to write a
commentary on this book in order to help others to gain understanding.
During the composition of his first work, Ariyavamsa submitted his
writings to the assembled bhikkhus on every Uposatha day, reading out
what he had composed and asking his brethren to correct any mistakes
they found. On one occasion, a visiting bhikkhu twice made a sound of
disapproval during the reading. Ariyavamsa carefully noted the
passages where the sound of disapproval had occurred. On reflecting on
them in the evening, he found one error of grammar where he had used
the wrong gender and also a repetition, an error of style. He
approached the bhikkhu who had made the sounds during the reading and
out of gratitude for the correction gave him his own outer robe.
Ariyavamsa composed several works in Pali: works on the Abhidhamma,
on grammatical subjects, and a study of the Jatakas. But his very
important contribution to Buddhism in Myanmar was the fact that all
his writing was in the Myanmar vernacular. He was probably the first
bhikkhu to write treatises on religious subjects in the local idiom,
thus making the religion accessible to a greater number of people. The
work by Ariyavamsa still known today is a commentary on the anutika
(sub-commentary) of the Abhidhamma.
Towards the end of the fifteenth century, a bhikkhu by the name of
Silavamsa composed several epic poems in Pali. They were, of course,
of a religious nature dealing with subjects such as the life of the
Buddha, or Jataka stories. This genre was later very popular in the
Myanmar language and there are many poems relating Jataka stories
which were sung by bards throughout the country until recently. In the
Sasanavamsa, however, Pannasami disapproves of bhikkhus writing
or reciting poetry as he considers it to be in breach of the Vinaya
rules. He says that because of this, Silavamsa's name was excluded
from the Theraparampara, a listing of eminent bhikkhus of Myanmar by
The Mon civilization in Lower Myanmar flourished after Pagan's
importance waned, once again reliving the era of glory that it had
experienced prior to Anawratha's conquest.
Wareru, the Shan ruler who had established himself in Martaban in
1287, was soon converted to Buddhism. He was a Shan peddler who had
astutely wrested power from a son of the last king of Pagan, a son who
had revolted against his father and founded an independent kingdom.
Under Wareru's rule, scholarship in the Mon monasteries flourished and
a code of law was compiled which still forms the foundation of the
legal literature of Myanmar. The Mon bhikkhus based this code on
ancient Hindu codes of law which had found their way into Mon
tradition through Indian colonisers and merchants.
At the beginning of the fourteenth century two respected Mon theras
named Buddhavamsa and Mahanaga revived the tradition of their
countryman Chapada in making a pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. There, they
accepted new ordination in the Mahavihara monastery, the guardian of
Sinhalese orthodoxy. The bhikkhus of the Mahavihara asked those
ordained in other countries to revert to the lay-state before being
re-ordained as novices and full bhikkhus, as it was considered of the
utmost importance that the ordination be handed down in an unbroken
tradition from the time of the Buddha. This was especially significant
in Myanmar where there were some reservations about the continuity of
the tradition. By disrobing, a bhikkhu forgoes the seniority he has
acquired through the years spent in robes and, in this case, he also
states that he considers his former ordination invalid. One can
imagine that such a step is not taken lightly but only after careful
The Great Reformation of the Sangha
King Dhammazedi (1472-92) takes a special place in the history of
the religion in Myanmar. He unified the Sangha in the Mon country and
purified the order of the bhikkhus. He recorded his great service to
the country in the Kalyani inscription, which will be quoted below.
Dhammazedi was a bhikkhu of Mon origin who taught one of the queens
at the royal palace in Ava. This lady, Shin Sawbu, was the daughter of
the king of Pago. She had been queen to several unfortunate kings of
Upper Mynamar and had beeen conveyed into the hands of the subsequent
kings along with the throne. She had become disenchanted with the life
of a queen and desired to return to her native land. Dhammazedi and a
fellow Mon bhikkhu helped her to escape and brought her back to Pago.
Eventually she became queen of Pago, but after reigning only a few
years she wished to retire and do works of merit. She found that the
only people worthy of the throne of Pago were her teachers, the two
bhikkhus. She let fate decide which would be the future king by
concealing miniature imitations of the regalia in one of the two bowls
in which she offered them their daily alms food.
She handed the throne over to Dhammazedi who had received the
fateful bowl and spent the rest of her life at Dagon (Yangon) building
the terrace around the Shwedagon Pagoda and gilding the sacred mound.
The Shwedagon became what it is today chiefly thanks to Shin Sawbu's
Dhammazedi assumed government in Pago after leaving the Order of
the bhikkhus. He moved the capital closer to the Swemawdaw Pagoda and
built several pagodas and shrines. His name is also connected with a
collection of wise judgments and the translation of Wareru's Code of
Law into the vernacular. In 1472, Dhammazedi sent a mission to
Bodhgaya to repair the temple and make plans and drawings of it.
Dhammazedi had received his education in monasteries of Ava which
adhered to the Sihala Sangha. The Sihala Sangha was the faction of the
Sangha of Myanmar that accepted only the Mahavihara of Sri Lanka as
the ultimate authority in religious questions. King Dhammazedi knew
from direct experience the state of the Sangha in Lower Myanmar and
was determined to improve it. Having lived as a bhikkhu for so many
years, he was also singularly qualified to change the Sangha for the
He chose twenty-two senior bhikkhus to lead the reform movement and
Reverend Sirs, the upasampada ordination of the bhikkhus of
the Mon country now appears to us to be invalid. Therefore, how can
the religion, which is based on such invalid ordination, last to the
end of 5000 years? Reverend Sirs, from the establishment of the
religion in the island of Sri Lanka up to this present day, there
has been existing in this island an exceedingly pure sect of
bhikkhus... Receive at their hands the upasampada
ordination... and if you make this form of the upasampada
ordination the seed of the religion, as it were, plant it, and cause
it to sprout forth by conferring such ordination on men of good
family in this Mon country... Reverend Sirs, by your going to the
island of Sri Lanka, much merit and great advantage will accrue to
At the beginning of 1476 the chosen bhikkhus with their twenty-two
disciples embarked on the journey to Sri Lanka. They sailed in two
ships, one taking about two months while the other needed six full
months to arrive on the shore of the Buddhist island. They received
the upasampada ordination at the Mahavihara from 17th to 20th
July 1476. The return journey of the forty-four Mon bhikkhus was not
so smooth, however. One group arrived home in August 1476, while the
other group took three years to return to Pago and ten of the bhikkhus
died en route. Following their return, Dhammazedi had a pure
ordination hall(sima) consecrated and made the following
May all those who possess faith and desire to receive the bhikkhu's
ordination at the hands of the bhikkhus ordained in Sri Lanka come
to the Kalyani sima and receive ordination. Let those who have not
faith and do not desire to receive the bhikkhus ordination of the
Sinhalese, remain as they are.39
In order to confer the bhikkhu ordination outside the middle
country (i.e. northern India), a chapter of five bhikkhus is needed,
one of whom must be qualified to serve as preceptor (upajjhaya)
and another as teacher (acariya). The latter two must have
spent at least ten years in robes as fully ordained bhikkhus. So if
Dhammazedi wanted to have local bhikkhus ordained in the new
ordination, it was necessary to find two senior bhikkhus. Since those
returning from Sri Lanka had been ordained for a period of only three
years, they could not act as preceptor or teacher. Local bhikkhus who
had not received the ordination of the Mahavihara in Sri Lanka were
unacceptable, as otherwise the ordination would again have been
invalidated by one who was not of pure descent. Fortunately, the two
theras who had undertaken a pilgrimage to Sri Lanka at the beginning
of the century and had received the Sinhalese ordination at that time,
were still alive. As a result, one was able to act as preceptor and
the other as teacher of the newly ordained bhikkhus. The stage was now
set for the reformation and unification of the Mon Order of bhikkhus
and soon the re-ordination of almost the entire Order of bhikkhus
began. The Kalyani inscription records the number of 15,666
ordinations in hundreds of ordination halls newly constructed for the
It is interesting to note how forcefully the king reformed the
Order through royal decrees that would hardly be tolerated today. He
declared that all bhikkhus who were, for example, practicing medicine
or other arts and crafts or who even slightly infringed on the Vinaya
rules would be expelled. The king as a layman, however, did not have
the power to defrock a bhikkhu who had not broken one of the four
Dhammazedi circumvented this by threatening to punish with royal
penalties the mother, father, relatives, and lay supporters of
bhikkhus whose behavior was not in accordance with the rules of the
It goes without saying that a king who could allow himself to take
such drastic measures in regard to the Sangha must have had the
support of a broad section of the Order and also the people. After
years spent in robes, he was keenly aware of the problems of monastic
life and because of this even senior bhikkhus respected and accepted
his council. We can assume that all his actions to reform the Order
were firstly discussed with his bhikkhu teachers and then implemented
with their blessings. There being no such thing as a Buddhist Church
with a central authority, the Sangha has little possibility to
regulate itself. Only the committed support of a worldly power can
protect the Order of bhikkhus from those who take advantage of the
respect that is given to the yellow robe.
Dhammazedi's support for the religion was so great that his fame
spread well beyond the borders of Myanmar and bhikkhus from
neighbouring countries such as Thailand came to his realm to receive
ordination there. Though the reform movement did not spread to Upper
Myanmar and cause the same mass ordinations there, it did not remain
without influence in the kingdom of Ava and other principalities, and
many bhikkhus came to the Mon bhikkhus to receive the Kalyani
6. The Myanmar Build an Empire
Shan versus Myanmar
The beginning of the sixteenth century was one of the most
difficult periods for Buddhism in Upper Myanmar. While the religious
fervor of Dhammazedi still lived
on in the kingdom of Pago in Ava,
Shan rulers were endeavoring to bring about the destruction of the
Sangha. A Shan king named Thohanbwa (?1527-1543) was particularly
well-known for his barbarity. He destroyed pagodas and monasteries and
robbed their treasures. Although he was a king, he was uneducated and
ignorant. Hence fearing the influence of the bhikkhus and suspicious
of their moves, he brought about the massacre of thousands. Under
these terror regimes of the Shan rulers the Myanmar did not feel safe.
Many, including learned bhikkhus, fled to Toungoo, the stronghold of
the Myanmar race in the south. Despite the anarchy prevailing, some
respected treatises on Pali grammar were written in Upper Myanmar in
Better times, however, lay ahead for Buddhism in the Golden Land.
Two successive kings of Myanmar origin from Toungoo would unite the
country and fulfill the duties of Buddhist kings. The wars fought by
these two kings, King Tabinshwehti (1531-50) and King Bayinnaung
(1551-81), were long in duration and exceedingly cruel. They succeeded
in gaining control of the Mon kingdom in Lower Myanmar and the kingdom
of Ava. They conquered all of what is today Myanmar including the Shan
states as far east as Chiang Mai, and made incursions into lower
Thailand and Yunnan where some kings paid tribute to the Myanmar
Bayinnaung deferred to the Mon as far as culture and religion were
concerned and dressed in Mon style. Under his royal patronage, the Mon
Sangha produced scholarly works on grammar and the Abhidhamma and also
helped with the collection and standardisation of a code of law based
on the old Mon code compiled during Wareru's reign.
Bayinnaung not only unified the country politically, but also made
Buddhist principles the standard for his entire dominion. He forbade
the sacrificial slaughter of animals, a custom still practiced by the
Shan chiefs, the worshippers of certain spirits, and the followers of
some other religions. He built pagodas and monasteries in all the
newly conquered lands and installed learned bhikkhus in order to
convert the often uncivilised inhabitants to gentler ways. The main
religious building of his reign is the Mahazedi Pagoda, a majestic
monument to the Buddha in the capital, Pago. He also crowned the main
pagodas in Myanmar with the jewels of his own crown, a custom
practiced by many rulers of the country. He continued in the tradition
of Dhammazedi, in supporting the Sihala Sangha and in sponsoring the
ordination of many bhikkhus in the Kalyani Ordination Hall near Pago.
It is said that he built as many monasteries as there were years in
It remains a mystery how a king who had such deep devotion to the
religion of the Buddha and who was so generous towards it could spend
his life fighting campaign after campaign to expand his realm. He
caused bloodshed and suffering in the conquered regions and at home
people starved because farmers were drafted into the army. However
this may be, Bayinnaung seems to have been able to reconcile fighting
expansionist wars with being a pious Buddhist.
After King Bayinnaung, Pago rapidly lost its significance.
Bayinnaung's son persecuted the Mon and consequently re-ignited racial
tensions that would plague Myanmar for centuries. Later, Pago was to
fall into the hands of a Portuguese adventurer who pillaged the
pagodas and monasteries. Eventually the whole of Lower Myanmar,
already depopulated by the incessant campaigns of Bayinnaung and his
successors, was pillaged by all the surrounding kings and princelings.
The country was devastated and people starved.
The Sasanavamsa records one major problem of the Vinaya
during the sixteenth century. At the beginning of the century, the
bhikkhus of Toungoo were divided over whether or not bhikkhus could
partake of the juice of the toddy palm which was generally used to
prepare fermented drink. The dispute was settled by a respected thera
who decided that toddy juice was permissible only if it was freshly
Political Influence of the Sangha in Early Myanmar
What motivated the royal court probably remained largely a mystery
to the ordinary citizens, except when they were pressed into service
in the king's army. There was little sense of collective
responsibility as it is cultivated in today's democracies. Everyone
looked after himself and his immediate circle and governments were
sometimes more of a scourge than a protection. Kings did not always
provide a visible administration beyond appointing governors at whose
mercy local people were. These governors often endeavored to establish
independence as soon as they perceived inherent weaknesses in their
masters. Many accumulated great wealth for themselves.
There was, however, one element in the policy of rulers which, with
a few exceptions, remained fairly stable throughout Myanmar history.
Most kings supported Buddhism and the Sangha provided a framework of
continuity as no other entity could. Ray writes:
They (the kings) were good Buddhists and never did they waver from
their kingly duty of acting as the patron-guardian of the faith of
the country. Moreover, whatever their numerical strength, the
bhikkhus were real spokesmen of the people and the monasteries were
the popular assemblies as it were; and each king that came to the
throne sought to win the bhikkhus over to his side.42
The best insurance of a peaceful life in Myanmar was to become a
bhikkhu, as they were not drafted into armies or enslaved by
conquerors and as long as the lay people had food to eat they were
also fed. The bhikkhus not only provided a link between the people and
those in power, they often played a role in the affairs of state. This
is illustrated by an event which occurred in the middle of the
seventeenth century and is related by the Sasanavamsa.
The king, Ukkamsika, popularly known as King Thalun, was a devoted
Buddhist and thanks to him, learning flourished in Myanmar. The king's
son, however, tried to dethrone his father, and Thalun, taken by
surprise, had to flee accompanied only by two companions. Coming upon
a river, the only vessel in sight was the boat of a samanera. The
samanera agreed to take them onboard as passengers, and they ended up
in the samanera's monastery where they revealed their true identities
and asked for protection from their persecutors. They were referred to
another monastery where lived a bhikkhu wise in worldly affairs.
Following his advice, the bhikkhus formed a living wall around the
monastery and, as no Buddhist will attack a man in robes, the rebels
who had come to kill the king had to withdraw. Another example of the
beneficial influence of the Sangha is their appeal for clemency to
King Bayinnaung. Bhikkhus often tried to stay executions in accordance
with the principles of metta (loving kindness) and karuna
(compassion) and sometimes their efforts achieved success.
During one of Bayinnaung's Thai campaigns, the peasantry around
Pago revolted and razed the royal city to the ground. Bayinnaung,
after hurrying back from Ayutthaya, captured several thousand rebels
and was ready to burn them alive. It was the custom then to burn
deserters from the army alive and obviously rebellion was considered
to be a crime of similar gravity. The bhikkhus of all races intervened
on behalf of the poor wretches and were able to save all from the
pyre, except for seventy ring leaders, the most serious offenders.
There are several instances in Myanmar history when bhikkhus also
mediated between contending kings or princes and helped to avoid
bloodshed. This was often the case when cities were besieged and both
parties realised that they could not win. The king who was besieged
would normally take the initiative and send his bhikkhus to the king
in attack. Often the bhikkhus were authorized to negotiate on behalf
of the monarch. An armistice agreed by or in the presence of bhikkhus
was more likely to be honored than a promise given without their
blessings. Therefore, if the two parties were sincere in their offers
to negotiate, they usually requested bhikkhus to be mediators and
The Spread of Abhidhamma
The seventeenth century was a period of dynamic growth in the
history of Buddhism in Myanmar. Many outstanding developments took
place, and principal among these were the numerous translations of
texts into the Myanmar language and the great increase in the study of
the Abhidhamma. It is quite possible that the two developments were
In the first half of the century, Manirathana Thera translated the
following texts into the Myanmar language: Atthasalini, Sammohavinodani,
Kankhavitarani, Abhidhammatthavibhavini, Sankhepavannana.
Of these five, only the Kankhavitarani, Buddhaghosa's
commentary on the Patimokkha, is not concerned with Abhidhamma. In the
second half of the century Aggadhammalankara translated Kaccayana's
Pali grammar, the Abhidhammatthasangaha, Matika, Dhatukatha,
Yamaka, and the Patthana into the Myanmar tongue. Later,
the Nettippakarana was also translated.
It cannot be a coincidence that nine out of twelve translated works
were texts of the Abhidhamma or its commentaries. The reason for these
translations must have been a developing interest in the psychology of
Buddhism among the Buddhist followers who could not themselves read
Pali. Whether these were only bhikkhus or whether lay people were also
interested in exploring the scriptures for themselves is difficult to
determine now. However, what is known is that almost every boy and
many of the girls attended monastic schools, whose curriculum was
probably established by this period, if not earlier. Included in the
curriculum were studies of the Mangala Sutta, Metta Sutta, Ratana
Sutta, and the other parittas, as well as basic literacy which
included some Pali. In addition a number of the Abhidhamma texts had
to be committed to memory.
The intention behind these translations and commentaries in the
Myanmar language was obviously to make the words of the Buddha
accessible to a wider audience who would, then, not be solely
dependent on the authority of the Pali scholars.
In the later half of the century, the bhikkhu Devacakkhobhasa
designed a system for the study and teaching of the Patthana,
the last book of the Abhidhamma, which in Myanmar is believed to be
the highest teaching of the Buddha. The king at the time of
Devacakkhobhasa was so impressed by the bhikkhu's proficiency in these
higher teachings and by his system of instruction, that he ordered the
Patthana to be studied in all the monasteries of Myanmar. It is
not unreasonable to assume that the king himself studied these
teachings. Otherwise he would hardly have been in a position to
appreciate them and make them compulsory reading for the Myanmar
This emphasis on Abhidhamma in general and the Patthana in
particular has survived in Myanmar to the present day. The movement,
therefore, that began in the seventeenth century is still of great
significance for Buddhism there. The Patthana, for instance, is
ubiquitous in Myanmar. The twenty-four conditions of the Patthana
can be found printed on the fans of the bhikkhus, on calendars, and on
posters. In some monasteries, the bhikkhus are woken every morning by
twenty-four strokes on a hollow tree trunk, while the bhikkhu striking
the tree trunk has to recite the twenty-four conditions as he does so.
Even little children learn to recite the twenty-four conditions along
with the suttas of protection. As the Patthana is the highest
and most difficult teaching of the Buddha, it is believed that it will
be the first to be lost. In order to slow the decline of the Sasana,
many people of Myanmar, bhikkhus and lay people alike, memorize the Patthana
and recite it daily.
In Pagan, the Jataka stories and the history of the Buddha's life
were the main subjects of religious study. In later centuries, Pali
grammar and the study of the Vinaya were foremost on the agenda.
Dhammazedi's reform movement drew the attention back to the
foundations of all monastic life, the code of conduct for the bhikkhus
as laid down by the Buddha himself.
Though stricter observation of the Vinaya would have to be re-emphasised
in the future, its foundation was firm enough to insure that
progressive reform movements would be instigated within the Sangha and
not be dependent on external impetus. How far a bhikkhu was allowed to
stray from the ideal had been defined in strictures that had become
integral to the Sangha. Based on this foundation of sila (right
conduct, morality), the Sangha was now free to give increased
attention to higher teachings.
The age of the Abhidhamma had dawned. The Abhidhamma remained no
longer the domain of a chosen few, but began to be studied by many.
The wealth of translations from the Abhidhamma would suggest that in
the seventeenth century it had become so popular that it may have been
taught even to lay people. The Myanmar language had developed and had
been enriched with Pali terms so that it could convey the difficult
concepts of Abhidhamma. Civilisation had matured to an extent never
seen before. Myanmar was ready to study the analysis of mind and
matter as taught by the Buddha. The stage was being set for the
widespread practice of insight meditation (vipassana bhavana)
in later times.
7. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
In the succession of rulers of the eighteenth century some were
strong and despotic, while others were ineffective and withdrawn. Some
tried to expand their power and fought wars, while others appeared
satisfied with existing conditions. There were several wars with
Thailand and the population of Myanmar had to bear the deprivations
that war invariably brings not only to the conquered, but also to the
country where the conquering armies are levied.
After a war between the Mon and the Myanmar in which the Mon
initially attacked and then conquered Ava itself, the Myanmar king
Alaungpaya (1752-60), who believed himself a Bodhisatta, crushed Mon
resistance once and for all. After Pago had fallen into his hands in
1756, Lower Myanmar was devastated and many of the Mon survivors fled
to Thailand or were deported as slaves.
Like Bayinnaung, Alaungpaya established a Myanmar empire, at the
same time decimating the population of the country by drafting the
peasantry into the army for campaigns against Ayutthaya (Thailand) and
other countries. The Sasanavamsa does not comment on the
atrocity of war. War is perceived as it is, cruel and pitiless — but
it is the affair of rulers, not of bhikkhus. The manner in which
rulers conduct their affairs is entirely their responsibility.
Pannasami probably took very seriously the Buddha's injunction that a
member of the Sangha should not talk about rulers and royal affairs.
The Sasanavamsa pays much attention to a controversy which
raged in monastic circles throughout the eighteenth century. At the
beginning of the century, some bhikkhus began to wear their robes
outside the monasteries as they were worn within them, that is,
covering only one shoulder. Even when going on their daily alms round,
they failed to drape the robe in the traditional way. When challenged
as to the orthodoxy of this practice, they produced various
interpretations and opinions, but could not validate their practice
through the authority of the scriptures. Different kings endorsed one
or other of the two opinions and bhikkhus of the orthodox school even
died for their conviction when a king had outlawed the covering of
The most interesting aspect of this historical period of the
religion is not so much the actual controversy as the power the king
had in religious affairs. The kings of Myanmar were not normally
expert in the Vinaya and yet they took the final decision in matters
of monastic discipline after due consultation with the leaders of the
Sangha. In the more than one hundred years that this controversy
prevailed, different kings supported the orthodoxy of either view.
This shows that this system is not entirely satisfactory. However, the
right view which was in accordance with the Vinaya did eventually
triumph due to the persistence of the majority of the Sangha. Only the
worldly power was in a position to regulate the Sangha into which
undesirable elements entered repeatedly. To keep the Order pure, it
had to be always under careful scrutiny and bogus ascetics had to be
removed. The kings of Myanmar in co-operation with the Sangharajas43
and the other senior bhikkhus had established a system of supervision
of the bhikkhus by royal officials. In every township, the king's
representatives were responsible for ensuring that the bhikkhus
adhered scrupulously to the rules of the Vinaya. Bhikkhus who
transgressed were taken before religious courts and punished according
to the code of discipline.
The controversy concerning the correct manner of wearing the robes
came up for arbitration for the last time under Bodawpaya (1782-1819),
the fifth son of Alaungpaya. He decided in favor of orthodoxy and
thenceforth all bhikkhus had to cover both shoulders on the daily alms
round. This ruling created one unified sect throughout Myanmar under
the leadership of a council of senior bhikkhus appointed by the king.
These were called the Thudhamma Sayadaws and the Thudhamma sect has
survived in Myanmar down to the present day.
Bodawpaya appointed a chapter of eight eminent bhikkhus as
Sangharajas, leaders of the Sangha, and charged them with the duty to
safeguard the purity of the Order of bhikkhus. As a direct result of
the discipline and stability created by the work of these senior
bhikkhus, the Sangha prospered, and consequently scholarship
flourished under Bodawpaya's reign.
The name of the Mahasangharaja Nanabhivamsa is especially
noteworthy in this respect. Nanabhivamsa was an eminently learned
bhikkhu who had proven his wisdom even as a young man. Only five years
after his ordination as a bhikkhu, he had completed a commentary (tika)
on the Nettippakarana. Eight years after full ordination, at
the age of twenty-eight, he became Sangharaja, and then Mahasangharaja,
the title conferred by the king on the highest bhikkhu in his realm.
Soon after this, he wrote his well respected "new
sub-commentary" on the Digha Nikaya, the Sadhujjanavilasini.
At the request of the king, he wrote a commentary on Buddhaghosa's Jatakatthakatha
and several other treatises.44
The king was so devoted to the head of the Sangha that he dedicated
a "very magnificent five storied monastery" to him and later
many other monasteries as well. According to the Sasanavamsa,
Nanabhivamsa was not only a scholar, but also practiced the ascetic
practices (dhutanga) sitting always alone. He divided his time
between the various monasteries under his tutelage and was an
indefatigable teacher of the scriptures.
Scholarship flourished in the reign of King Bodawpaya and Myanmar
was able, for the first time, to return thanks to Sri Lanka for
nurturing the religion in the Golden Land. The bhikkhu ordination (upasampada)
preserved in Myanmar was re-introduced to Sri Lanka where the Sasana
had been interferred with by an unwise king.
The Amarapura Nikaya in Sri Lanka
In the later half of the eighteenth century, the upasampada
ordination in Sri Lanka was barred to all except the members of the
landed aristocracy. This was a result of royal decree probably issued
with the support of at least a section of the Sangha. However, this
was a flagrant defilement of the letter and the spirit of the Buddha's
instructions. The conferring of the upasampada ordination is
dependent only upon such conditions as the candidate being a man, free
from government service, free of debt, free of contagious diseases,
and upon his having his parents' consent, etc. Members of the lower
castes had now only the possibility of becoming novices (samanera), a
condition that created dissatisfaction. A sizeable section of ordained
bhikkhus also disapproved of the royal order, but were in no position
to defy it within the country. The only recourse for those of the
lower castes desiring the higher ordination was therefore to travel to
other Buddhist countries to ordain. At first, missions were sent to
Thailand where Dhammazedi's reforms lived on through the ordination
conferred to Thai bhikkhus in Pago and through the scores of Mon
bhikkhus who had found refuge in Thailand from the Myanmar armies.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, Sinhalese
bhikkhus began traveling to Myanmar to find the pure ordination there.
The fame of the then Mahasangharaja of Myanmar, Nanabhivamsa,
influenced their choice. Scholarship had developed in all fields: Pali
grammar, the Vinaya, the Suttanta, and the Abhidhamma. Myanmar had,
after a long period of development, become the custodian of Buddhism.
The first delegation from Sri Lanka arrived in 1800 and was
welcomed with a magnificent reception by King Bodawpaya himself.
Nanabhivamsa, the wise Sangharaja, ordained the samaneras as bhikkhus
and instructed them for some time in the scriptures.45
On returning to Sri Lanka, they were accompanied by five Myanmar
bhikkhus and a letter from Nanabhivamsa to the Sinhalese Sangharaja.
Five bhikkhus form a full chapter and apparently the Myanmar bhikkhus
were permitted to ordain bhikkhus without class distinction. Even
today, Sri Lanka possesses three schools, the Amarapura Nikaya, the
Siyama Nikaya (Thai school), and the Ramanna Nikaya.
The Amarapura Nikaya was so called because King Bodawpaya had
established his capital in Amarapura (between Mandalay and Ava) and
the bhikkhus had received their ordination there. The Ramanna Nikaya46
was presumably founded by bhikkhus who had received ordination from
Mon bhikkhus in the tradition of the Dhammazedi reforms and who had
fled to southern Thailand from the wrath of the Myanmar kings. Both
these schools were allowed to ordain bhikkhus without discriminating
against the lower classes. Only the Siyama Sangha (the Thai
ordination) continued to follow the royal command, and ordained only
novices of the higher castes as bhikkhus. Missions from Sri Lanka
continued to travel to Amarapura to consult with its senior theras and
they were all given royal patronage and sent back with gifts of the
Pali scriptures and commentarial texts.
Bodawpaya's Relationship with the Sangha
Although King Bodawpaya would appear to have been a pious and
devout king, his relationship with the Sangha was somewhat
problematic. He supported it at times and even used it to extend his
own glory, but at times he seemed almost jealous of the respect the
bhikkhus received from the people. He realised that the bhikkhus were
not respected out of fear, but were held in genuine esteem and
affection by his subjects. His jealousy became apparent on different
At one time, he declared that from then on the bhikkhus were no
longer to be addressed by the traditional title "Hpoungyi"
meaning "The One of Great Merit." This form of address was
to be reserved for the king. Then again he tried to confiscate land
and other goods given to the Sangha and to pagodas by previous
generations. When the Sangharajas could not answer his questions to
his satisfaction, he invited the Muslim clergy for a meal to test
their faith. He had heard that they were so strict in the observance
of their discipline that they would rather die than eat pork.
Unfortunately for them, they did not display great heroism as they all
ate the pork offered to them by the king. Bodawpaya is also reputed to
have been beset by a form of megalomania. He wanted to force the
Sangha to confirm officially that he was the Bodhisatta of the next
Buddha to come in this world cycle, the Buddha Metteyya. On this
issue, however, the Sangha was not to be bent even in the face of
royal wrath. The bhikkhus refused, and the king was finally forced to
accept defeat. Another expression of his inflated self-esteem was the
Mingun Pagoda near Sagaing. It was to be by far the biggest temple
ever built. Scores of slaves and laborers worked on its construction
until funds were depleted. However, it was never completed and remains
today as a huge shapeless square of millions of bricks.
To his credit, King Bodawpaya imposed the morality of the Five
Precepts in his whole realm and had offenders executed immediately.
Capital punishment was prescribed for selling and drinking alcohol,
killing larger animals such as buffaloes, spreading heretical views,
and the smoking of opium. Bodawpaya ruled the country with an iron
fist and brought offending lay people as well as bhikkhus to heel. His
successors were benevolent, but possibly they could be so only because
of the fear his rule had instilled in the populace.
The Fate of Buddhism in Upper and Lower Myanmar
Bodawpaya's successor, Bagyidaw (1819-1837), was the first of the
Myanmar kings to lose territory to the white invaders coming from the
West. The Myanmar court was so out of touch with the modern world that
it still believed Myanmar to be the center of the world and her army
virtually invincible. Hence the king was not unduly disturbed when the
British raj, governing the Indian sub-continent, declared war on the
Kingdom of Ava in 1824 (Bagyidaw had moved the capital back to Ava).
It came to a battle near the coast in which the Myanmar general
Mahabandhula achieved little or nothing against modern British arms.
The Indian colonial government occupied all of the Myanmar coast as
far south as Tenasserim in 1826 and forced the treaty of Yandabo on
King Bagyidaw. In the treaty, he was forced to accept the new borders
established by the Indian government and pay compensation to the
invaders for the annexation of the coast of Lower Myanmar.
However, Bagyidaw made a very important contribution to the
development of the Sangha and to the literature of Myanmar in general.
His predecessor, Bodawpaya, had united the Sangha by resolving the
dispute relating to the draping of the robe over one or two shoulders.
Bagyidaw saw the necessity of creating stability for the Sangha. He
felt that this could be achieved to some extent by bestowing on it a
sense of its own history. He commissioned a work on the history of the
religion starting from the time of the Buddha, which was to show an
unbroken succession of the pure tradition from teacher to pupil. Its
purpose was to praise the diligent theras and expose the shameless
This work, the Thathana-lin-ga-ya-kyan, was composed at the
king's request by the ex-bhikkhu Mahadhamma-thin-gyan, a leading
member of the committee appointed by King Bagyidaw to compile the
famous Hman-nan-ya-za-win, The Glass-palace Chronicle, a
secular history of Myanmar. The Thathana-wun-tha (Sasanavamsa) -lin-ga-ya-kyan
was completed in 1831; and in 1897, it was printed in the form of a
modern book for the first time in Yangon. Pannasami based his Sasanavamsa
on this work. About forty percent of the Sasanavamsa is
straight translation from the original work, about forty percent
summaries and paraphrasing of the latter, and only some twenty percent
Pannasami's own work.47
Pannasami states in his introduction to the Sasanavamsa that
his treatise is based on the works of the ancients (porana).
The concept of mental property or copyright had not been born and
there was no moral need to refer the reader to sources except to give
authority to a statement. The only references that would lend
authority to a treatise would be the scriptures, their commentaries,
and sub-commentaries, but not a work as recent as the Thathana-wuntha-lin-ga-ya-kyan.
The preface to the original work in Myanmar explains the reason for
its compilation. The king's representative had many times pleaded with
the author to write a history of the succession of [righteous]
religious teachers so that the people would not become heretical.
Apparently the king felt that the lack of a work recording the history
of the pure religion in its entirety left scope for wrong views to
arise. But with an authoritative record of the lineage of teachers,
bhikkhus could not call on views of shameless bhikkhus of the past
anymore in order to support their heresies. This is exactly what had
happened again and again through the centuries and especially in the
robe-draping dispute. The ekamsikas, the one-shoulder-drapers,
had repeatedly dug out obscure teachers in order to support their
point of view. This was to be made impossible once and for all.
Whether this has been successful is difficult to ascertain without
a detailed study of the developments in the Sangha since the
publication of this work. However, the fact that the original Myanmar
chronicle was revised and translated into Pali for the Fifth Buddhist
Council indicates that it was by this time considered a useful tool to
put the king's authority behind a well-defined orthodox lineage, thus
making it easy to refute heresy by referring to the historical
King Bagyidaw never overcame his shock over the loss of part of his
realm. He was declared insane and was removed from the throne by
Tharawaddy-Min (1837-1846), King Mindon's father.
In the reign of Tharrawaddy-Min, another mission from Sri Lanka
visited Myanmar and was received by the Sangharaja Neyyadhammabhivamsa.
Neyyadhamma instructed the two bhikkhus and the accompanying novice in
the teachings and conferred the bhikkhu ordination on the novice. He
is known for his critical emendation of the text of the Saddhammapajjotika
and its translation into Myanmar. He was also the teacher of the later
Sangharaja Pannasami, the compiler of the Sasanavamsa and one
of the most influential theras at the time of King Mindon. Neyyadhamma
showed the need for a recension of at least some of the Pali texts by
editing the Saddhammapajjotika. His disciple, Pannasami, was to
preside over the recension of the entire Tipitaka as Sangharaja under
Tharrawaddy-Min was himself deposed because of insanity by his son
Pagan-Min (1846-52), the brother of Mindon-Min. Pagan-Min appointed
Pannajotabhidhaja as his Sangharaja. In his tenure, scholarship
received encouragement as the Sangharaja himself wrote a commentary
and its sub-commentary in Myanmar on the Anguttara Nikaya. Other works
of the time, all in the vernacular, are a translation of the Saddhammavilasini
and commentaries on the Samyutta Nikaya and the Digha Nikaya. This is
also the time when the author of the Sasanavamsa appears. He
started his scholarly career with the translation into Myanmar of a
commentary on the Saddatthabhedacinta. His next work was a
comparison of the existing versions of the Abhidhanappadipika
and the translation of his emended text.
In accord with the pre-eminence Myanmar had achieved in the
Theravada Buddhist world, the kings of the country became less fierce
and wars were fewer. The successors of Bodawpaya seem to have shown a
genuine interest in religion as well as in improving the
administration of the country. Upper Myanmar moved into a period of
peace, which meant improved conditions for the bhikkhus.
The first half of the nineteenth century saw the translation of
many Pali texts into the Myanmar language. Almost the whole of the
Suttanta was now available in the vernacular and many commentaries and
sub-commentaries on Suttanta, Abhidhamma, and the Vinaya were composed
in it. This not only made it easier for bhikkhus with limited
linguistic skills to study the texts, but also made them readily
accessible to the laity. That people in a peaceful country have more
time for the study of religion is obvious and soon Myanmar would see
the first Buddhist texts printed on modern printing presses. This made
it possible for a great number of people to acquire texts relatively
cheaply without having to pay a scribe to copy them laboriously onto
Politically Pagan-Min was no luckier than Bagyidaw, as he lost the
provinces of Pathein (Bassein) and Yangon (Rangoon) to the British,
who were ever ready to create some pretext for war. So, in 1852, the
Kingdom of Ava lost access to the sea and became increasingly
dependent on the colonial power. Like his father, Pagan-Min was
overthrown in a palace revolt. Although not a leader of the uprising,
his brother Mindon was placed on the throne. He did not execute the
deposed king as was usually the case after a revolt, but allowed him
to end his days in dignity.
The Colonial Administration and the Sangha
The occupation by the British forces was of utmost significance for
the Sangha as the British administration did not grant the traditional
protection afforded it by a Buddhist ruler. In accordance with the
colonial policy established in India, that the colonial government
should be strictly secular, the new lords refused to take on the role
of a Buddhist monarch and accept responsibility for the enforcing of
the bhikkhus' discipline. Without this, Buddhism in Lower Myanmar soon
suffered and offending bhikkhus went unpunished. The colonial
administration would recognise its mistake only much later, when it
was too late, and when they were not able to establish control in the
Sangha any longer.48
Even today King Mindon's reign (1852-1877) is surrounded by the
mystique of a golden era in the minds of the Myanmar people. No war
occurred during the twenty-five years of his tenure and the king
himself is said to have been of gentle disposition and adverse to
violence. He even declared a dislike for capital punishment which was
customarily inflicted by sovereigns for the slightest disobedience or
He was not only held in esteem by his subjects, but even praised by a
British envoy. The colonisers' comments on the Myanmar and their kings
were usually dictated by a parochial narrow-mindedness and a
simplistic view that was only widened by contact with the conquered.
Therefore General Fytche's words describing King Mindon are all the
more impressive: "Doubtless one of the most enlightened monarchs
that has ever sat on the Burmese throne.50
He is polished in his manner, has considerable knowledge of the
affairs of state and the history and the statistics of his own and
other countries. In personal character he is amiable and kind and,
according to his light, religious."51
King Mindon transferred the capital from Ava to Mandalay, the last
royal capital before the British annexation of the whole of Myanmar in
1886. In the early years of his reign, Mindon strove to improve
monastic discipline. Although a system of official investigation of
complaints relating to bhikkhus' misdemeanours existed, each king had
to take his own initiative in re-establishing order in the Sangha.
Mindon found that the attitude of many members of the Sangha to
their code of conduct was exceedingly lax. He therefore wanted all
bhikkhus of his dominions to take a vow of obedience to the Vinaya
rules in front of a Buddha image. He consulted the Sangharaja who
convened an assembly of mahatheras, the Thudhamma Council. As opinions
regarding the vow differed, the primate's disciple, Pannasami, had to
deliver a religious address in support of the king's views. He
reasoned that vows were also taken by the bhikkhus at the time of
ordination and that if the king sincerely desired to improve the
discipline in the Order, he should be supported. All agreed, and the
vow was prescribed.
The greatest challenge King Mindon had to face as a Buddhist
monarch was undoubtedly his duty to look after the spiritual welfare
of his subjects not only in his own dominions, but also in the parts
of Myanmar occupied by the British. Moreover, he and many of the
leading sayadaws of his court were increasingly aware that the British
were only waiting for an occasion to annex the whole of Myanmar.
Mindon's army clearly would not be able to stand up to the might of
the Indian colonial government. Therefore, it was not only important
to support religious activities in the occupied territories but it was
also essential to prepare the religion for the time when it would have
to survive without the support of a Buddhist monarch.
The British had made it clear at the outset that they would not
take over the traditional role of the Myanmar kings, that of protector
of the Sasana. The new masters' religion, Christianity, rapidly gained
influence through the missionary schools. The schools were popular
because their education provided much assistance in securing a job and
favor with the colonisers. Christian religious education was a
compulsory part of their curriculum.
After the conquest of Lower Myanmar, many bhikkhus had fled north
in order to remain within the jurisdiction of the Myanmar kings. Many
monasteries in British Myanmar were left without an incumbent and
whole villages were therefore bereft of the opportunity to receive
religious and general education. King Mindon, aware of this situation,
tried to convince bhikkhus to return to Lower Myanmar in order to
serve their people. The king's efforts proved successful and many
bhikkhus returned to their places of origin. But soon it became clear
that without the king's ecclesiastic officials to control the
discipline of the Sangha, many bhikkhus developed a careless attitude
towards their code of discipline.
The Okpo Sayadaw, from Okpo between Yangon and Pago, had stopped
many bhikkhus on their way to Upper Myanmar when the movements of
bhikkhus out of the conquered territories was at its peak around 1855.
He assembled the bhikkhus around himself teaching that the Sangha
needed no protection from the secular power if it observed the rules
of the Vinaya strictly. His monastery was the birth place of a
movement of strict monastic discipline. He also emphasised that mental
volition was what really mattered in the religion of the Buddha and
that acts of worship done with an impure intention were worthless. He
obviously felt that much of the Buddhist practice had become a ritual
and that the essence had been lost. In addition to this, however, his
movement also challenged the authority of the king's Council of
Sayadaws, the leaders of the unified Thudhamma sect, when he declared
their ordination was invalid due to a technicality. As a result, he
took the higher ordination anew together with his followers.
The Okpo Sayadaw was not the only critic of the Thudhamma sayadaws.
In Upper Myanmar, the Ngettwin Sayadaw criticized many religious
practices and maintained that a radical reassesment of religious
teachings was necessary. The Ngettwin Sayadaw was also a source of
inspiration for the Okpo Sayadaw and other reformers. He had been the
teacher of Mindon's chief queen and had also advised the king on many
occasions. Interestingly, he was a driving force in a movement in
Upper Myanmar that wanted to return to the fundamentals of the
religion, but more radically than the Okpo Sayadaw. The Ngettwin
Sayadaw, together with many other bhikkhus, left the royal city and
went to live in the forest near Sagaing. He started to preach that
meditation was essential for all bhikkhus and he required an aspirant
to novicehood to prove that he had practiced meditation before he
would ordain him. All the bhikkhus around him had to spend a period of
the day in meditation and he emphasised that meditation was of much
greater importance than learning. He advised lay people to stop making
offerings of flowers, fruits, and candles to Buddha images, but to
meditate regularly on the Uposatha days. Of course, his instructions
that offerings to Buddha images were fruitless and merely dirtied the
places of worship, caused considerable unhappiness with the
traditional Thudhamma Council and presumably with many ordinary
people. However, the Ngettwin Sayadaw never strove to form a different
sect by holding a separate ordination as did the Okpo Sayadaw. His
reforms were within the community and within a Buddhist society that
was presided over by a king. The Okpo Sayadaw had no place for royalty
in his view of the world and did not hesitate to confront the system
that was still alive, though obviously doomed.
Two other important sayadaws of King Mindon's reign deserve
mention: the Shwegyin Sayadaw and the Thingazar Sayadaw. The Shwegyin
Sayadawalso tried to reform the Sangha and his movement is still very
much alive and highly respected in Myanmar today. He had studied under
the Okpo Sayadaw, but when he returned to his native Shwegyin near
Shwebo in Upper Myanmar, he avoided controversy in never rebelling
against the Thudhamma Council. He introduced two new rules for his
bhikkhus, that they must not chew betel and consume tobacco after
noon. He also maintained that the Sangha must regulate itself without
help from the authority, but he never doubted the validity of the
traditional ordination ceremony.
The Thingazar Sayadaw was one of the most popular of the great
sayadaws of his time. He was also part of the movement to return to
the basics of the teachings and greatly emphasised the importance of
practice as opposed to mere scholarship. Though he was greatly honored
by the king and made a member of the Thudhamma Council, he preferred
spending long periods in solitude in the forest. In the numerous
monasteries built for him by the royal family and the nobility of the
country, he insisted on the practice of the purest of conduct in
accordance with the Vinaya. However, he did not involve himself in
disputes with the extreme reformers or the Thudhamma council. He
became very popular through the humorous tales he told in sermons
preached in his frequent travels up and down the country.52
King Mindon had no easy task. One section of the Sangha was
pressing for far reaching reforms, yet it was the king's duty to
maintain a certain continuity of the traditional ways for the benefit
of the people in general. What complicated the situation was the fact
that the Sangha of Lower Myanmar felt more and more independent of the
Buddhist monarch and his Thudhamma council of senior mahatheras. This
is illustrated graphically by the Okpo Sayadaw's declaration that the
Sangha needed no regulation by the worldly power. This view gained
popularity also in Upper Myanmar. Luckily, King Mindon's devotion to
Buddhism was genuine and he was not deterred by the difficulties
confronting him. He was determined not to allow the Sangha to split
into factions that were openly opposing each other. This he achieved
to some extent through careful diplomacy and through the calling of a
great Synod, a Sangayana, in the royal city of Mandalay.
The Sangayana, or Buddhist Council, is the most important function
of the Buddhist religion. The first Sangayana was held during the
first Rains Retreat after the Parinibbana of the Buddha; the texts to
be regarded as authentic were determined at this time. There had been
three more Sangayanas since, according to the Theravada tradition. The
council convened by the great Emperor Asoka, whose missionaries
brought Buddhism to Myanmar, probably provided the most inspiration
for Mindon. The Fourth Council, the one prior to Mindon's council, was
held in Sri Lanka in the first century BC, at the Aluvihara near
Matale, for the purpose of writing down the Tipitaka, which up to that
time had been passed on orally.
King Mindon himself presided over the Fifth Buddhist Council,
during which all the canonical texts were recited and the correct form
was established from among any variant readings. The task took more
than three years to accomplish, from 1868 to 1871. When the bhikkhus
had completed their great project, the king had all of the Buddhist
scriptures, the Tipitaka, engraved on 729 marble slabs. The slabs were
then housed each in a separate small pagoda about three meters high
with a roof to protect the inscriptions from the elements. The small
shrines were built around a central pagoda, the Kutho-daw Pagoda, the
Pagoda of the Noble Merit. To commemorate the great council, King
Mindon crowned the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon with a new Hti or spire.
The Fifth Buddhist Council and the crowning of the Shwedagon Pagoda
reminded all the people of Myanmar of the importance of their
religion, as well as of the fact that the king and the Thudhamma
Council of senior monks were still the guardians of the Sasana. The
authority of the Thudhamma Council was greatly enhanced also in Lower
Myanmar through the synod. Although the British had not allowed King
Mindon to attend the raising of the new spire onto the Shwedagon, the
crowning was a symbol of the religious unity of Myanmar which
persisted in spite of the British occupation. The religion was also
later to become the rallying point for the Myanmar nationalists who
fought for independence from the colonisers.
King Mindon's reign produced a number of scholarly works as well as
translations from the Pali. Neyyadhamma, the royal preceptor, himself
wrote a sub-commentary on the Majjhima Nikaya, which had been
translated by one of his disciples under his guidance. A commentary in
Myanmar on the Pali Jatakas was composed by Medhavivamsa and the
compiler of the Sasanavamsa, Pannasami, put his name to a great
number of works. One of the queens of King Mindon requested Pannasami
to write the Silakatha and the Upayakatha. His teacher
asked him to compose the Voharatthabheda, Vivadavinicchaya,
Nagarajuppattikatha. He also wrote a commentary on Aggavamsa's Saddaniti.
Whether all these works were composed by Pannasami or whether they
were composed under his supervision and control is difficult to
assess. It is interesting to note that a majority of his works were
composed in Pali, which was no doubt an attempt to encourage bhikkhus
not to forgo Pali scholarship now that Myanmar translations were
readily available. The calling of a great Buddhist council to purify
the scriptures was part of this movement towards the revival of the
study of the original texts.
During King Mindon's reign bhikkhus from Sri Lanka came to Mandalay
on several occasions to solve difficult questions of Vinaya and to
receive the bhikkhu ordination in Myanmar. After Mindon's death in
1877, his son Thibaw ascended the throne. He was weak and of feeble
intellect, and his reign was short. In 1886, he lost his kingdom to
the British empire and was exiled to India.
With the complete annexation of Myanmar by the British, a
historical era came to an end. Theravada Buddhism developed in Myanmar
over more than two millennia. The visits of the Buddha were the first
brief illuminations in a country that was shrouded in darkness. The
worship of the Buddha that is thought to have resulted from these
visits and from the arrival of the hair relics, may have been merely
part of a nature religion. The pure religion could not endure for long
in a country which was yet on the brink of civilisation. Later,
however, the teachings of the Buddha were brought repeatedly to those
lands by various people.
The visits of the Arahats sent out after Emperor Asoka's council
are historically more acceptable than the visits of the Buddha. Their
teachings were understood and perpetuated possibly in Indian
settlements along the coast and later in communities of people from
central Asia such as the Pyu. Through their contact with India, these
cultural centers of the Pyu and Mon could remain in contact with
Buddhism. At first the important centers of Theravada Buddhism were in
northern India and later in South India and then Sri Lanka. Through
repeated contact with orthodox bhikkhus abroad, the understanding of
Buddhism grew ever stronger in the minds of the people of Myanmar. The
religion was distorted dozens of times through ignorance and
carelessness, but someone always appeared to correct the teachings
with the help of the mainstays of the Sasana abroad. Gradually the
role was reversed: instead of traveling abroad for advice, the
bhikkhus of Myanmar became the guardians of Theravada Buddhist
teaching and their authority was respected by all. Eventually, when
Theravada Buddhism had long been lost to India and its future was
uncertain in Sri Lanka, it found a secure home in Southeast Asia,
especially in Myanmar.
Suggested Further Reading
1. The Mon are also
called Talaing, but this term is considered to be derogatory. It is
thought to come form Telugu, a language of South Indian origin whose
script the Mon adopted.
2. G.E. Harvey, History
of Burma (London 1925; reprint 1967) pp. 5, 6.
3. Translated by B.C.
Law, The History of the Buddha's Religion (London 1952), pp. 40
4. Bhikkhu is the
term applied to a fully ordained member of the Buddha's Order.
5. Identified as
Okkalapa near Yangon. Some believe it to be modern Orissa (Utkala) on
the east coast of India.
Burman (reprint: Scotland 1989), pp. 179f.
Majjhima Nikaya I,267ff.; Theragatha, v. 70, Theragatha Atthakatha
8. See entry
in G.P. Malalasekera, A Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (PTS
9. The Sasanavamsa
says the Buddha stayed for seven weeks and converted eighty-four
thousand beings to the Dhamma.
Dhammacara, Kyaungdawya zedidaw thamain (Yangon 1978), pp. 28,
11. Harvey, History
of Burma, p. 268.
Mahavamsa (reprint: London: PTS, 1980), p. 82.
country referred to by Emperor Asoka in his inscriptions, is generally
believed to be to the west of India. It could, however, also be
identical with the Cambodia of today, and it is conceivable that two
14. Smith, Asoka's
alleged mission to Pegu (Indian Antiquary, xxxiv, 1905), pp.
15. Eliot, Hinduism
and Buddhism, I, p. 32.
16. Mentioned in
several places in the Manorathapurani, the commentary to the
17. Cf. L.P.
Briggs, Dvaravati, the most ancient kingdom of Siam (JAOS, 65, 1945),
18. Parker, Burma
with special reference to the relations with China (Rangoon 1893),
19. For a detailed
treatment of Mahayana Buddhism in Pagan, see G.H. Luce, Old Burma
Early Pagan (New York, 1969), I, p. 184ff.
20. Ibid, I, p.
Maha-ummagga-jataka, No.546, The Jatakas (reprint: PTS, 1973),
Wickremasinghe, Epigraphica Zeylan., I, pp. 242-55.
ch.60, vv. 4-8.
24. Luce, Old
Burma Early Pagan, I, p. 79
Buddha Gaya Temple, Its History (Buddha Gaya, 1981), pp. 59,
62, 63, 163, 176, 195, 244-247.
26. Cf. Than
on the History and Buddhism of Burma (Arran, 1988), pp. 85ff.
27. Cf. Luce, Old
Burma Early Pagan, I, p. 74.
28. Cf. Than
29. The Myanmar
word for Chinese to this day is teyou or tarou which is
derived from "Turk," for the Mongols are ethnic Turks.
G.E. Harvey, History
of Burma, p. 70.
31. History of
the Buddha's Religion, p. 74.
Literature of Burma (reprint: London, 1966), p. 14
K.R. Norman, Pali
Literature (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1983), p. 164.
Ven. A.P. Buddhadatta, in his Corrections to Geiger's Mahavamsa and Other
Papers, offers an argument that there were in fact two Chapatas
and that the one called Saddhammajotipala, who wrote on the Abhidhamma,
probably dates from the late fifteenth century. The Sasanavamsa
mentions a contemporary second Chapata who was a shameless bhikkhu.
36. See History
of the Buddha's Religion, p. 95
37. Ibid, pp.
inscription, Epigraphica Birmanica, Vol. III#, Pt. 2, pp.
39. Ibid, p. 249.
40. A bhikkhu who
kills a human being, has sexual relations, falsely claims to have
attained superhuman achievements, or steals automatically ceases to be
a bhikkhu and therefore even a layman can take his robes away.
41. The forty-four
Myanmar bhikkhus were ordained in Sri Lanka in a water sima, a place
of ordination floating on the water, on the Kalyani river. The first
ordination hall built by Dhammazedi near Pegu was therefore called the
Kalyani Sima and the Sinhalese ordination the Kalyani ordination.
Ibid, p. 249.
Ray, Theravada Buddhism in Burma, p. 212.
is a position created by the king. The holder of the title is
appointed by the monarch. It is the highest position as far as
influence at the court is concerned as the king will consult the
Sangharaja in most religious matters. The Sangharaja was usually
assisted in his duty by a body (similar to a cabinet) of other senior
bhikkhus also chosen by the monarch.
44. For more
information on his work, see Bode, Pali Literature of Burma,
45. Bhikkhus of
differing linguistic background used to communicate in Pali. Even
today a visiting Thai bhikkhu will speak with his Burmese brethren in
the language of the scriptures.
Ramannadesa is Lower Myanmar, the Mon country.
47. For a full
discussion of the relation between the Tha-tha-na-wun-tha-lin-ga-ya-kyan
and Pannasami's Sasanavamsa, see Victor B. Lieberman, A New
Look at the Sasanavamsa (S.O.A.S Bulletin, Vol. 39, 1976), Pt.
1, p. 137.
48. In the
political struggle for independence the bhikkhus of Myanmar played a
significant role. Political activity is, of course, not normally
admissible for a bhikkhu. However, as the British administration had
failed to fulfill its duties towards Buddhism and the religion was in
decline, the bhikkhus felt they had to oppose the government in order
to save their culture. When the government suddenly wanted to
re-establish authority to keep the bhikkhus in their monasteries,
their effort lacked credibility and authority and was not heeded. The
colonial government had to resort to imprisoning bhikkhus in ordinary
civilian prisons, but it was too late to break the movement of civil
disobedience of the young activists, including the bhikkhus.
49. In times of
peace kings would use a eulogistic formula instead of giving the order
for execution, like "I do not want to see his face ever
again." In times of war the orders were clearer. Sometimes even
bhikkhus were executed. Mahadhammarajadhipati (1733-52), for instance,
executed the Sangharaja and a Brahman because an important Buddha
image was stolen. See The Glass Palace Chronicles (Hmannan I,
50. It was the
considered policy of the Indian colonial government to portray the
Myanmar kings as cruel villains. It annexed Upper Myanmar under the
pretext of liberating a people who were oppressed by an ineffective
government, much in the fashion of the Soviets liberating Eastern
Europe and Afghanistan. After the annexation of Upper Myanmar, British
publications describing the excesses of King Thibaw's court and the
relief of the liberated people amounted to a propaganda campaign.
Fytche, A. Burma,
Past and Present (London, 1878).
52. Cf. Maung Htin
Aung, Burmese Monk's Tales (New York & London, 1966).
Glass Palace Chronicle. Partly translated by U Pe Maung Tin
and G.H. Luce: Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma.
Oxford University Press 1923.
Cerre, P.H. and F. Thomas. Pagan, Chronique du Palais de
Christal. Editions Findakly. France 1987.
Sasanavamsa. Translated by B.C. Law: The History of the
Buddha's Religion. London 1952.
Recueil des Inscription du Siam. Part II. G. Coedes.
Mahavamsa. Translated by Wilhelm Geiger. London: PTS, 1912.
Culavamsa. Translated by Wilhelm Geiger. London: PTS, 1929.
Dipavamsa. Translated by Hermann Oldenberg. Reprint: New
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Bode, Mabel Haynes. The Pali Literature of Burma. Reprint:
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Halliday, R.S. The Talaings. Rangoon 1917.
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Copyright © 1995 Roger Bischoff. Source: The Wheel Publication
No. 399/401 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1995).
Transcribed from a file provided by the BPS. Access to Insight
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