Lecture No. 2: Buddhism in Inwa 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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Monday, June 17, 2019

Lecture No. 2: Buddhism in Inwa Period

Lecture No. II Buddhism in Inwa Period

1.   The third dynastic period in Myanmarhistory was Inwa Period which lasted from A.D. 1364 to 1555 – a span of 291 years. During this period 19 kings ruled the kingdom and they were all promoters and patrons of Buddhism. The capital was Inwa.
2.   Inwa” literally means the mouths of lakes. At the confluence of five rivers and streams namely the Ayeya­waddy, the Samon, the Duthtawaddy, the Zawgyi, and the Panlongwere four lakes that were drained off and land filled to build the capital. It was a strategic site for the administration, defence, trade and commerce.
3.   TheravadaBuddhism continued to flourish in this period because both the kings and the public embraced it and supported it.
4.   In A.D. 1440 two Mahatheras from Sri Lanka came and settled in Inwa. They studied Buddhism under the learned monks of Inwa. One monk by the name of Ariyavamsawas famed for his knowledge of AbhidhammaPitaka. He had learned Abhidhamma Pitaka from a monk at Sagaing. His mentor monk who lived in an isolated recluse was well-known as the venerable water bearer in his mouth. He did not want to be engaged in meaningless chatting. So he always kept water in his mouth.
5.   Ariyawamsawrote many works in Pali – on Abhidhamma, grammatical subject and Jatakas. He was the first monk who wrote Buddhism in Myan­marvernacular, making Buddhism accessible to the commoners.
6.   Inwa Period was the Golden Age of Myanmarliterature. It was in this period that Myanmar verse form especially “Pyo” grew to perfection. “Pyo” is a long poem of epic pro­portion describing Jataka story. It is a set of beautifully constructed verse with as many stanzas as its composer fancies. Its theme is always Buddhism. Therefore there is no wonder that “Pyo” composers of Inwa Period were mostly bhikkhus of high erudition. A new literary movement emerged in this period. It was led by learned monks.
7.   Among many monk writers of this period, four monk poets were very outstanding. They were Shin Uttama Kyaw, Shin Maha Thilawuntha, Shin Ohn Nyo and Shin Kheymar.
8.   These four monk poets were famous not only because of their literary output of high quality but also because of their association with “the divine message” which was prevalent in Inwa of that time.
9.   In A.D. 1438 at three villages near the town Taung Dwin Gyi in middle region of Myanmar, there sprouted[1]four shoots of Peitree. Pei is a species of palm [toddy palm] fruits and glossy leaves. On palm leaf Myanmar scribe[2]letters. Peileaf is the symbol of literature and learnedness. Hence Myanmar word for literature is “Sar Pei” meaning letters on Peileaf.
   10.    People thought that the four Pei shoots were good omens[3] bringing the Devine message that four learned monks would be born there.
   11.    All above mentioned four monk poets were the natives of those three villages where four Pei shoots came out. Was it a coincidence or a true divine ordination?
   12.    Shin Uttama Kyawearned his literary fame only by one and the only literary product. It was a long poem Tawla[a journey through the glades[4]]. Its theme was religion. It was the description of the long journey which the monk took during his pilgrimage to Shwesettaw pagodas at Minbu. Shwesettawpagodas, one at the foot and one on the summit of Minbuhill range enshrined each a Buddha’s foot print. They are Pada cetis. 

[1]  (of plants, vegetables, etc.) to produce new leaves or BUDS/ to appear; to develop sth, especially in large numbers/ to start to grow sth; to start to grow on sb/sth// (n)  = a new part growing on a plant
[2]           a person who made copies of written documents before printing was invented
[3]           ~ (for sth) a sign of what is going to happen in the future
[4]           a small open area of grass in a wood or a forest

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