Lecture No. 13: Buddhism in early Konbaung Period - Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature


Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature

The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering. The Basic Teachings of Buddha which are core to Buddhism are: The Three Universal Truths; The Four Noble Truths; and The Noble Eightfold Path.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Lecture No. 13: Buddhism in early Konbaung Period

Lecture No. XIII
Buddhism in early Konbaung Period

1.   He Konbaung dynasty [1752-1885] was the last Myantnar monarchic period in Myanmar history. King Alaungpaya[A.D.1752-1760] founded it. A dynasty of 11 kings lasted 133 years during which the third Myanmar Empire reached its peak in the reigns of kings Iisinbyushin [1763-1766] and Bodawpaya [A.D.1782-1819]. Then the Empire declined in the reigns of later kings until it was annexed by the British invades in 1885 who deported the last Myanmar king Thibaw and family to Ratanagiri in India.
2.   The Konbaungperiod is divided into early Konbaungperiod [1752-1819] which was the period of the rise of the fall of Konbaung kings to might main and glory and late Konbaung period 0 819-1885) which was the period of the fall of Konbaungkings
3.   Despite frequents political changes and economic downturns. Buddhism continued to enjoy royal patronage and public support thanks to the teachings of the monks and their missionary works
4.   Konbaung kings changed their capital and built new palaces at five different places namely Shewbo, Sagaing, Inwa, Amarapura, and Mandalay and built many religious monuments, pagodas, temples, monasteries, meditation centers, Images and statues. Therefore, these capitals remain till today not only as centers of Theravada Buddhism but also as Zone of Myanmar cultural heritage
5.   These arose some religious controversies among monastic circles regarding the Vinaya. One partial dispute that remained unsettled as the wearing of the yellow robes. Some monks ware the robes covering only one shoulder and leaving the other bare when they went out of the Viharas especially during their morning round the receive food. Orthodox monks criticized them for breaking the rules of vinaya. But the monks who covered only one shoulder produced their interpretations of the Vinaya. The last hundred years has witnessed this try of war between the orthodox school of covering both shoulders with robe and the new school of covering only one shoulder. In Myanmarthey were known as Ayon gaing and Alin gaing. Depending upon the ruling king’s opinion the two schools got apprehend alternately but nothing final was decided
6.   Myanmar kings mostly kept aloof from religious issues, which they thought should be settled by the monks, themselves. But when secular authority was needed to put an and to an issue, they first consulted the most learned and respected senior monks and decision was made in the name of the Sangha and gave it royal sanction and backing. [e.g. Dhammazedi]
7.   It was king Bodawpayathe 6th king in the Konbaungdynasty and the fifth son of Alaungpayawho arbitrated that long-drawn out issue. He himself had been a monk for many years before he ascended the throne and so he was as well versed in vinaya as any learned monk. He issued a royal order in favour of the orthodox schools, requiring all monks to cover both shoulders when going out of their residences. He appointed a council of senior learned monks who were called Thudhamma Sayadaws who were authorized to take action against breaker of the discipline of vinaya. Thus by the royal order one unified sect was established- Thudhamma Sect and long­standing matter was put to an end
8.   Another step taken by the king Bodawpaya in strengthening and purifying Theravada Buddhism was the appointment of a chapter of 8 eminent monks as Sangharajas or the leaders of the Sangha. They were given the charge of purifying the Order of Bhikkhus
9.   The happy result of these secular actions taken by king Bodawpaya in regard to religion was that the disciplines of vinaya were restored among sangha and there was stability in sangha order. With disciplines and stability, monastic life prospered and scholarship flourished
10. The emergence of a young Mahasangharaja was accredited to Bodawpaya's religious reforms. In Bodawpaya's reign there appeared a very learned and disciplined young bhikkhu named Nanabhivamsa. As a young man he showed his wisdom and high learning. Only 5 years after his ordination as a bhikkhu, he mastered a commentary (tika) on the Nettippakarana. At the age of 28 in his 8th vasa he was appointed sangharaja and then Mahasangharaja. Mahasangharaja was the highest title conferred by the king on the most learned and highest bhikkhu in the kingdom. Nanabhivamsa produced works of high literary and religious merit such as new sub-commentary on the Digha Nikaya called" the sadhujjanavilasini and a commentary on Buddhaghosa's Jatakatthakatha as requested by the king
11. A very magnificent 5-stories golden monastery was dedicated to him by the king. Many more viharas were built in his honour. Nanabhivamsawas not a scholar but a practicing ascetic observing all dhutanga alone. He took up many lecturing duties at various pariyatti monasteries because of fame and work scholarships and teaching, monastic life prospered and scholarship flourished
12. It was this time that Myamnar had to help Sri Lankato revive Theravada Buddhism there. Particularly the bhikkhu ordination of kalyanisima preserved in Myanmar since the reign of king Dhammazedi (Upadampada) was re-introduced to Sri Lanka where the Buddhasasana waned due to the Protuguese and Tamils
13. The establishment of the Amarapura Nikaya in Sri Lanka took place about this time. In Sri Lankaa royal order with the support of some monks was issued forbidding the ordination of those who belonged to landless classes. Only members of the landed aristocracy could be ordained monk. The rest could become novices (samanera) because they were of low caste. Perhaps this order was issued because there was the problem of food ration for the monks only those who belonged to the landed class could have food supply from their families. This order was a flagrant infringement of the Buddha's instruction. Discrimination of caste was not in the conditions for ordination. Conditions for upasampadaare 1) the candidate must be a man 2) free from debt 3) free from service 4) free of contagious diseases 5) Parent's consent etc. rnany monks disapproved of this order but they dared not defy it
14. Many landless Sri Lankans went to other Buddhist countries for ordination, such as Myanmar and Thailand where they could receive kalyani ordination. They came to Amarapurathe capital of king Bodawpaya where they were ordained and where they learnt religious literature under the guidance of senior Theras. The monasteries at and around Amarapura were learning centers where pali grammar, the vinaya, the suttanta, and the Abhidhamma were instructed by learned Bhikkhus
15. In A.D. 1800 the first delegation of monks from Sri Lanka came to Amarapura. King Bodawpaya received them warmly. Nanabhivamsaordained the Sri Lankan samaneras as bhikkhus and taught them Tipitaka. When they returned home 5 Myanmarmonks went with them, taking a letter from Nanabhivamsato the Sri Lankan Sangha. In Sri Lanka 5 Myanmar Bhikkhus forming a chapter ordained bhikkhus without caste or class distinction regardless of the standing royal order. The Amarapura Nikaya was established. Today there are 1) Ramanna Nikaya 2) Siyama Nikaya (Thai) 3) Amarapura Nikaya in Sri Lanka. The Siyama Nikaya still abides by the royal order by ordaining only the members of the landed class
16. King Bodawpaya was the great patron and supporter of Buddha sasana. Four large constructions were outstanding among his religious works such as 1) The large Pahtodawgyiat Mingun 2) the two gigantic lion statues at the cause way of that building 3) the largest bronze bell (90 tons) at the same place and 4) a water tank at Sagaingfor the supply of water for recluses residing in the Minwan hill ranges. He issued orders making his subject observe five moral precepts and forbade killing of big animals and consumption of intoxicants

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