LECTURE No. XVIII: BUDDHISM IN BAGAN UNDER LATER KINGS - 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


1.      Theravada Buddhism continued to flourish under later Kings of Bagan regardless of the fact that some successors were not noble kings but despotic or tyrant. But all aspired to be patron and promoter of Buddhism on the model of Emperor Asoka of Mauryan dynasty in India.
2.      Among them king Alaungsithu [A.D. 1113-1167] was very prominent. He lived long and reigned longest. Many religious works at Bagan were accredited to him. The highest monument at bagan named Sabbannu Temple was built by him. It is a five storey brick and stone structure soaring 201 fe et into the sky. Vihara or residing quarters for monks, meditation ro oms, Pitakattaik or library, shrine Hall, the stupa enshrining sacred relics are all combined in a single structure accessible by flights of steps built into the thickness of the walls.
Sabbannu is one of the three architectural greats of Bagan.
3.      The death of Shin Arahan in A.D.1115 in the reign of King Alaungsithu did not interrupt promotion of Theravada Buddhism. His missionary work was continued by his disciple monks.
4.      All successor kings patronized and promoted Buddhism regardless of their political inclination and moral conduct. All kings desired to become “Sasana Dayika” [Inheritor of Buddha Sasana, Promoper and defender of Buddhism]. Even King Narutha [A.D.1167-70] a tyrant who committed many policical crimes and misruled his kingdom, did perform religious works. The great massive Dhammayangi Temple was his merit which he completed durin his reign.
5.      Under such kings as Narapati [A.D.1234-50] when Bagan kingdom enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperitym religious learning and scholarship in Buddhism grew to a height.
6.      The court of King Kya Swa was not merely a palace but it also became a learning cemtre for the royal family and all courtierṣ Thay produced religious writings of some meriṭ
7.      Among religious literature of Bagan Period, the principal works were Pali grammar Of them, the Sadaniti was most famous. It was a scholarly work compiled by a learned bhikkhu named Aggavamsa in A.D.1154. When Uttarajiva, a visiting monk from Bagan prsented a copy of it to the Bhikkhus of Mahavihara in Sri Lanka, they studied and examined it thoroughly. Then they unanimously declared that it was “superior to any work of the kind written by singhalese scholars.” This work is still used in Myanmar monasteries and it has been reprinted many times.Two western scholars of Pali praise it as excellent work of its kind. B.C.Law regards it as excellent works of the three main Pali grammars. The other two are grammars by Kaccāyana and Moggallana. K.M. Norman praises Saddaniti as “the rarest of extant Pali grammars is Saddaniti written by Aggavamsa from Aimaddana in Burma.
8.      Bagan also produced excellent Pali verses. To give just one example is the Shwegu Gyi Pagode stone inscription which King Alaungsithu installed on the wall of the sard Pagoda. The inscription was the King’s prayer in Pali verses which Pali scholars have rated the first class Pali verse composition. The late Professor G.H. Luce translated it into English verses. There was one highly lewrned princess in Bagan Period
9.      There was one highly lewrned princess in Bagan Period. She was named Thanbyin Minthamee or Princess Thanbyin. She lectured on Tipitaka in the class of bhikkhus at Pariyatti school, but behind the seven curtains hiding her, as it was against viniya for bhikkhus to see young lady.
10. Judging by the quadrilingual Myazedi stone inscription or Rajakumar stone inscription in four languages – Pali, Mon, Pyu and Myanmar, there were four official languages flourishing at Bagan and of them Pali must have been the dominant sacred language.
11. Bagan was the seat of religious learning and the centre of Buddhist pilgrimage stone inscriptions mention foreign nationalities who came to Bagan to learn at viharas and to worship pagodas and temples while their four basic needs – food, clothing, shelter and medicine and medicare were provided free by the king and people.
12. Religious learning and scholarship at th court of later Bagan Kings. King Narapati [A.D. 1174-1210] and King Kya Swa [A.D. 1234-50] were pious Buddhist. The latter abdicated for scholarly pursuit of Pariyatti. His daughter and ministers were likewise learned scholars of religious literature. They produced some writings of religious meri
13. King Kya Swa was thought to be the author of two noted grammatical works of the time namely (1) the Saddabindu and (2) the Paramatthabindu.

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