by Mr. Aung Co Luck
We are all very fortunate and beneficially occasioned to be born during this era of the Omniscient Buddha's Sasana. The Sasana comprises the noble and truthful Teaching of the Buddha called the Tipitaka, which is a repository of holy Buddhist scripture.
The Sasana is divided into three parts: pariyatti, learning and memorizing the Tipitaka; patipatti, abiding by the disciplinary obligations enacted by the Supreme Buddha, as well as striving diligently to attain Nibbana; and lastly, pativedha, the full realization and attainment of Nibbana. Tremendous efforts have been made in the past, and continue to be made in the present, by great and venerable Sayadaws (some of whom have been acclaimed as arahants), by the authorities, and by the mass of devotees in Myanmar to sustain this noble three-fold Sasana.:
Because of these efforts, the cool and pleasing rays of the Buddha Dhamma now illumine every corner of the world where learned persons, such as philosophers, scientists, doctors in every field, as well as people in other walks of life are striving for their own welfare and for the welfare of others.
Through the media, we in Myanmar have learned that Buddhist temples and monasteries now shine forth as beacons in many countries for those who are in need of the Truth. Headed by learned abbots, some of national standing, most of these contain meditation centers for those striving to attain Nibbana. Many foreign men and women have taken up the Buddhist path and are practising in these centers. What a joyous blessing for them and for us as well.
Having been born a Buddhist, and being a pious adherent, I have tried to learn the Buddha's Teaching as far as my situation permits. I continue to study the Dhamma and read the biographies of Myanmar Arahants, such as the Venerable Sayadaws, Webu, Taung-pu-lu, Sunlun and many others. I attentively listen to the preaching of suttas by Sitagu Sayadaw, U Nyanissara, both as given by him personally, and on recorded tapes.
When I was young, I refrained from evil deeds and preserved the five precepts because I feared being reborn in hell after passing from this existence. Through not doing evil and following the guidance of my elders whom I esteemed greatly, I even hoped unconsciously to avoid death itself. Years have passed and I am now twenty, and I feel that the Buddha, Dhamma and Samgha have blossomed in my heart.
I am enrolled at the Mandalay Institute of Technology. Unavoidably, the institute has been closed for some time along with all other colleges and universities. Nevertheless, I feel extremely fortunate in that Sitagu International Buddhist Academy has been established in our town of Sagaing, for this was a golden opportunity for me to pursue Buddhist and English language studies. Thanks to the Academy, and to the many sayadaws who teach there, as well as to my parents and elders, I have been able to devote my self to Buddhist learning and to improving my English proficiency. The Academy is guided and sponsored by the world-renowned and learned Sayadaw, U Nyanissara, who has long endeavored to propagate the Buddha's Dhamma in many countries abroad including the United States, England, and Japan.
The Buddha's many lifetimes of selfless striving to gain omniscience (buddhattha cariya), which included his striving for the benefit of associates (natattha cariya) and for all beings (lokattha cariya), culminated in his enlightenment. Compared with his infinite knowledge, what we learned about the Buddha in our studies was necessarily little indeed. However limited our understanding, we much appreciate the lectures given to us as they greatly deepened our reverence for the Buddha.
A number of Western writers and thinkers have expressed their admiration for the Buddha and his Teaching. H.G. Wells (1866-1946), a well-known British novelist stated in his "The Three Greatest Men in History," for example, "He [the Buddha] was more lucid upon our individual importance, sacrifice and service than Christ, and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality." The British philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell (1872- 1970), an avowed atheist, declared that the Buddha was "the greatest atheist of all times." We can note here that Russell was referring to the fact that the Buddha did not believe in a Creator God.
While not a god, the Buddha was omniscient. And for this reason, his Teaching, which was born of wisdom and infinite knowledge, is absolutely truthful, scientific and practical, and totally without dogmatism or unreasoned blind faith. Rather, it rests upon the indubitable universal law of cause-and-effect.
Regarding this universal law, Christians are aware of Christ's teaching, "Thou shall reap as thou hast sown." This concept is echoed in Sir Isaac Newton's (1642-1727) third law of motion that states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Thus for Christians and scientists as well, the law of cause-and-effect is a clear and undeniable Truth; a Truth about which the Buddha himself preached in detail in his discourses on paticcasamuppada-dhamma and patthana-dhamma (conditional relations).
When the Buddha taught these Truths, he always took into consideration the instincts, desires, situation and locality of his listeners; his sole purpose being to liberate them from lobha (desire), dosa (anger) and moha (absence of right-view), and so deliver them to the eternal peace of Nibbana. In Myanmar this century, Webu Sayadaw, who was widely acclaimed as an arahant, emphasized the importance of this skillful method. After travelling to America to preach the Buddha's Dhamma, he predicted that foreigners would surely visit Myanmar in the future for the purpose of learning about Buddhism. He said that it was our duty to receive these foreign guests, and while tending to their physical needs, to share the Buddha's Dhamma with them.
Webu Sayadaw's prediction made over forty years ago has come true today. Nowadays, Americans, Swiss, Australians and foreigners from many other countries regularly come to our Golden Land and take refuge in the Buddhasasana. Some attend vipassana meditation courses, while others take robes as nuns, or even ordain as monks. Thus, in many ways they have been able to taste the benefits of the Buddha's Dhamma. I am sure we will continue to fulfill our duty of welcoming guests to our country irrespective of caste, creed, race, religion, class or economic status, so that they too might enjoy peace of mind in this life, and perhaps even the blessings of enlightenment.
At present learned abbots of Myanmar are delivering the message of eternal peace and Truth both here and abroad. Venerable abbots such as Chamye Sayadaw and Sitagu Sayadaw, who are well versed in Buddhist Scripture and experienced in the practice of the Truth it contains, are travelling the world to bring the Buddha's message to rescue all from the whirlpool of worldly miseries. Just as their illustrious predecessors had done in the past, these venerable abbots wish nothing but to guide and encourage their disciples along the path to Nibbana.
Oh virtuous reader, I encourage you. Please take heed. Don't waste time and don't hesitate. Lobha, dosa and moha--destroyers of the world including you--are knocking at your door. With out delay cultivate satipatthana, either as taught directly by the venerable sayadaws, or as ex pounded by them in texts. Send rays of loving kindness boundlessly to all beings. And finally, preserve the five precepts; abstain from killing, abstain from taking what is not given, abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from telling lies, and abstain from using intoxicants which cause heedlessness.
May the sublime Dhamma prevail in its pristine purity.
Mr. Aung Co Luck
By U Thitinyana
Before the 19th century, France, like the rest of the Western world, had only fragments of knowledge of the Buddha and his teachings. In 1845 the French scholar Eugene Burnouf set the wheel of Buddhist scholarship rolling in Western Europe with the publication of his Introduction a l'histoire du Bouddhisme indien. With this work, and his later translations of Mahayana texts, Burnouf became the pioneer of a generation of French orientalists who, during the second half of the 19th century, introduced the Western world to the Buddha's teachings. Among the most well- known we findSylvain Levi (1863-1935), Alfred Foucher (1865-1952), Stanislas Julien (1865- 1952), Edouard Chavannes (1865-1918), and Paul Demieville (1894-1979).
But the credit for having done a thorough study of Buddhism and Buddhist culture from field experience, and to have written about it, rests with a French Catholic priest who spend most of his life, including his last days, in Burma.
Bishop Bigandet was born in 1813 in Doubs, eastern France. After missionary training, he was sent first to Malaysia, and then to Burma where in 1852 he became Superior of the Mission of Burma, and later Vicar Apostolic of Ava and Pegu. Bishop Bigandet is known for his monumental two-volume study, The Life or Legend of Gaudama, in which he develops a wide range of topics, such as, The Ways to Neibban, and, Notice on the Phongyies or Burmese monks. His book, which introduced a large public to Buddhism, was first published in English in Yangon in 1854, and later published in French in Paris. Bigandet died in Yangon in 1894.
Two outstanding French personalties of the 20th century, who spent much of their lives studying Buddhism in Asian countries and contributed to the introduction and dissemination of Buddhism in France were both women.
Alexandra David-Neel was born in 1868. After studying Buddhism, Sanskrit and Tibetan at the College de France in Paris, she left for Ceylon and India at the early age of twenty-two. Her fascination with Tibetan culture took her to the Himalayas, where in 1924, after eleven long years of unsuccessful attempts and harrowing experiences, she finally reached the forbidden city of Lhasa, capital of Tibet, disguised as a Tibetan pilgrim. Upon her return to France she published her first book, Souvenirs d'uneparisienne au Tibet. In 1937 she set off again, travelling this time through Siberia, Manchuria, and a China at war which she crossed by foot, finally reaching Tibet in 1939. She stayed there until her return to France in 1946. Very active and intrepid, gifted with a strong character, a practitioner of Tibetan yogas, Alexandra David-Neel wrote books that were much appreciated by a large public and have undoubtedly contributed to the arousal of interest in Buddhism in France. She passed away in 1969 at the age of 101.
Suzanne Karpeles (died 1969) was another extraordinary woman whose efforts to develop Buddhism spread over continents. A gifted scholar with a triple degree from the University of Paris in Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan, she went to Southeast Asia to further her studies. In 1930 she persuaded the French colonial authorities to establish Buddhist Institutes in the capitals of their Asian colonies. One was founded in Vientiane, Laos, and a second in Pnom Penh, Cambodia. For twenty years she acted as General Secretary of both Institutes. She will always be remembered in Theravada countries for having initiated, supervised, and brought to completion the printing of the Theravada Tipitaka, both in Pali and in the Khmer language.
In her own country, Suzanne Karpeles was very active in the first French Buddhist association "Les amis du bouddhisme" G. C. Lounsbery[Friends of Buddhism], founded in 1929 by a well-known expatriate American woman,. This association had a strong leaning for Theravada Buddhism, and in the 1930's organised a series of lectures on Buddhism at the Sorbonne University in Paris, as well as the publication of French books on Buddhism, among them some pioneering works on meditation.
THE SPREAD OF BUDDHISM IN FRANCE
We have to wait, however, until the second half of the 1960's and first half of the 1970's to witness a real implantation of Buddhism in France and an interest in its practice. Several unrelated factors combined during that decade to allow for the growth of Buddhism and the birth of a widespread interest in the practice of meditation in France.
The first and most important factor was the malaise many of the youth and young intellectuals were experiencing at that time. Dissatisfied by the materialistic values of their society. and by what their religion had to offer, and unable to find any satisfactory answers to their many doubts, many young people turned their intellectual and spiritual quest towards Oriental philosophies. The rational, pragmatic, and often scientific character of Buddhism attracted many --- even if its appeal often remained intellectual.
Just as this "fertile ground" was manifesting in the hearts of the young in France, there arrived from the East the first Tibetan masters who had fled Tibet and settled in India. Their visits to France also coincided with the coming of a number of Japanese Zen masters. Meeting these Tibetan and Japanese teachers was the first direct contact the French people had with authentic Asian Buddhist masters. At about the same time tragic events in Indochina were bringing to France large numbers of refugees, most of them followers of the Theravada school.
These three traditions --- Tibetan, Japanese, Southeast Asian --- represent the present landscape of Buddhism in France.
1. TIBETAN BUDDHISM IN FRANCE
Tibetan Buddhism is today the most developed Buddhist school in France. In 1971, a great Tibetan master, Kalu Rimpoche, visited France for the first time. His spiritual influence was such that only three years later an ancient castle, le chateau de Paige in Bourgogne province, was purchased by his followers to became the first Tibetan centre in France. Many other centers were created in the following years by different Tibetan masters, such as the Kharmapa, and more recently Sogyal Rimpoche. Today all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Gelugpa, Kargyupa, Sakyapa, and Nyingmapa ) are represented in France, which, with 84 registered centers, is the country in Europe with the largest number of Tibetan centers. Some of these are modest urban centers: places for meetings, lectures, and visits from travelling lamas. Others, found usually in rural settings, are well established monastic communities offering a systematic training for European monks and nuns. Many Western followers of the Tibetan tradition have come to these French centers from different countries to undertake meditation retreats of various lengths, sometimes up to the traditional period of three years, three months, three weeks, and three days.
2. JAPANESE BUDDHISM
The introduction and popularization of Japanese Buddhism in France is mainly due to the influence of Zen master Taishen Deshimaru, who arrived in Paris in 1967. Penniless and unable to speak a word of French, his direct style of teaching and unconventional approach attracted many followers. Within a few years, "dojos" (Japanese meditation centers) multiplied in France and soon spread to different parts of Europe. After the master's death, in 1982, the Association Zen Internationale he had founded has remained a strong spiritual force in and outside France.
In 1991, there were already in Europe 90 centers linked to Deshimaru's Association. Deshimaru belonged to the Soto school of Zen, which stresses the practice of Zazen, (meditation). A gifted teacher, he knew how to conciliate tradition and the modern world. Deshimaru was followed by other Japanese teachers who continued to propagate the Zen tradition.
3. BUDDHISM FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA
The situation here is somewhat different: it is a Buddhism of exile, brought by and for refugees, devoid of a will to propagate. This presence --- essentially Vietnamese, Khmer (Cambodian), and Laotian --- is intimately linked with the conflicts that affected Indochina during the years 1960 - 1970, and whose outcome precipitated entire populations on the road to exile. This Buddhism is mostly Theravada, but within the Vietnamese community both Theravada and Mahayana schools are found. In a land of exile the temple or monastery is at the same time a place of worship, a centre for social activities and help, and a place for national festivities. Each center is usually established around one monk or a group of monks, themselves refugees.
Unlike their Tibetan and Japanese Zen counter parts, which are frequented almost entirely by French people, Southeast Asian Theravada Buddhist centers in France cater only for the Asian devotees who are supporting them. Most of the time they do not hold any teaching programs in the French language.
PRESENCE OF BUDDHISM IN FRANCE
Today, there are around sixty centers in France belonging to the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and more than forty dojos representing the Japanese Zen tradition. The Theravada is represented by more than fifty centers belonging to the Laotian, Khmer and Vietnamese communities, including some Thai and Sri Lankan centers. Altogether there are now in France more than two hundred established Buddhist centers representing all the different Buddhist traditions.
Although there are only 50,000 registered Buddhists in France, the Union Bouddhiste de France claims that there should be close to half a million Buddhists in France: 350,000 Asians and 150,000 French.
THE FUTURE OF BUDDHISM IN FRANCE
French people, like those throughout the Western world, live in a stressful environment. Unable to find peace of mind through sense pleasures or through the alternatives offered by their own religion, Catholicism, they seek methods or ways of practice to appease their mental and emotional malaise and to reach some peace of mind in their daily lives. Dissatisfied with their own organized religion, many shun any institutionalized spiritual belief, and only seek a tangible practice based on reason, which can bring peace to their hearts. Tibetan and Japanese Zen masters have successfully met their needs, and have inspired a large number of centers in their respective schools in France, centers which are --- and this is an important point---completely supported by French people. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with most Theravadin teachers as of yet, who tend to bring to their French audience their own traditional and scholastic approach, seemingly unaware of the spiritual and emotional needs of their foreign hosts.
The French government has officially recognized Buddhism as the sixth religion of France and does not hamper its development in any way. Buddhism, or more exactly, the practice of Buddhism, can only grow and develop in today's France. What is needed are skilled and learned Dhamma and meditation masters well attuned to the psychology and the spiritual needs of French people, and able to offer them a practice--- not found in their own spiritual tradition --- leading them out of their suffering and to the penetration of the Four Noble Truths.
By U Tun Aung
Buddhism, as commonly misconstrued, is not religion but a philosophy, both practical and practicable, propounded by Lord Buddha, who was born in Northern India more than 2500 years ago, for the latter presupposes belief in the existence of God, the supernatural power controlling the whole of the Universe with its living and non-living things.
Inspite of having enjoyed a sheltered and and privileged life as a prince, Siddhatta, the Buddha-to -be, became aware of the unsatisfactoriness of life with its inherent problems of ageing, disease and death. It was through practice of Mediative techniques for six years in forest wilderness that he finally discovered the real value , the meaning of life and freedom from all kinds of suffering.
The discovery of the Four Noble Truths, namely, the existence of suffering, the root cause of suffering, the absence of suffering and the path leading to the absence of suffering, made him the Enlightened One.
According to Buddhist teachings, life and suffering are inseparable, and the cause of the latter is explained by the theory of Dependent Origination which consists of twelve interactive links, namely, delusion, formations, consciousness, mentality - materiality, six kinds of sensations, contact, feeling, craving, clinging, becoming, birth and ageing - and - death. The interactive nature of these links constitutes the wheel of the round of rebirths, so to speak.
Only when the root cause of suffering is terminated will there be a state free from the cycle of rebirths , the Buddhist concept of Nirvana.
How to attain this state is explained by the Eightfold Path, namely, right views, right plan, right speech, right endeavour, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. This requires close examination of mental states and processes through deep meditation which contributes to insight into the true nature of the mind and the body. Only then can clinging, the root cause of suffering, can be ' cut off ' and thus the round of rebirth terminated, thereby attaining the ultimate stage free from suffering.
Written by Saya U Tun Aung , in July, 1998
By Ma Nimala ,B.A.(Eng.)
Kalaw, one of the most beautiful hill stations in Golden Myanmar, is located in the southern Shan State. It is over 4000 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by blue mountain ranges covered with beautiful pine trees and cherry trees covered with blossoms in winter. Hence, some people named this place the Pine-land or Cherry-land. It is also known as Maw -Hmay-Oo as it is an entryway to the southern Shan State. Some poets composed verses about this lovely town and inhabitants. There are many interesting places to visit in Kalaw township. Among the tourist attractions are an ancient Buddha image made of bamboo strips and an 800 foot long historic cave called Myinmathigu with wonderful stalactites.
As it is a hilly region, the weather is quite cold, like that of some Western countries. Some foreigners lived in Kalaw during the wars. Nowadays, many local and foreign tourists visit Kalaw every year. Most of them are interested in the traditional customs of the national races such as the Palaung, Lahu and Dhanu. Foreigners usually go hiking to their villages, crossing one mountain after another to observe the life and dress of the local people. Some foreign tourists, though they are non-Buddhists, are interested in practising meditation in a peaceful and quiet place like Kalaw. Such tourists often pay a visit to our meditation center. It is the only one in Kalaw. It is situated in the eastern part of the town. Grandma Daw Sumana Ceri is in charge of it. She said that the sole export of our town is the four foundations of mindfulness. There are fifteen nuns in our meditation center. One of them is a graduate from Mandalay Arts and Science University. She received her B.A. degree in 1984 and became a nun in 1996. In fact, she wanted to be a nun since the early I990s, but she had to delay implementing her noble wish due to her mother's disapproval of it. Only after Grandma Daw Sumana Ceri successfully convinced her mother of the nobility of nunhood, was she allowed to fulfill her long-time dream of becoming a nun for life.
Being the only meditation center in a quaint little peaceful town, our center attracts many foreigners who are interested in practising the four foundations of mindfulness; the only way for the purification of the mind. A group of Korean tourists led by a Korean nun visited us last year. They spent a night at our center. Fascinated by the serenity of our center, they would like to visit us again. Two months after their visit, a French monk, the VenerableVijaya, a meditation teacher in France, had a night stop-over at our center. He was so pleased with the quietness and peacefulness of our center, he repeatedly told us that he would bring twenty Yogis (meditators) from France and let them meditate there. Subsequently, other visits were made by Japanese and Italian tourists who wished to know the life-history of the Buddha and to practise meditation according to our Lord Buddha's teaching. Some of them are Christians and some are devout Buddhists. Among our guests, we were really impressed by an Italian couple. Both are devout Buddhists. They spoke even more gently and softly than we did. They initially planned to meditate in Kalaw for three months, renting a place near our center. Unfortunately, they had only a one-month visa. For the moment, they are still in the process of trying to get a three-month visa from the Myanmar government.
As has been stated, all these foreigners came to our center with several questions concerning Dhamma and meditation. Whenever such guests arrived at our place, the Mandalay University graduate nun who can speak a little English tried to explain to them as much as she could, but she was not satisfied with herself. She believes that she must learn more about the Buddha's teaching and English language so that she will be able to share the Dhamma with foreigners thoroughly. For this reason, she rushed to SIBA (Sitagu International Buddhist Academy) to learn the literature on Buddhism in both Pali and English. There, she has been fortunate enough to study with the Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw and the Venerable Nandamalabhivamsa. She is very pleased with the lectures and instructions of these Sayadaws. She seems to be more confident and enthusiastic about propagating the Dhamma. She has no doubt that in the near future, she will be able to share her knowledge of the Buddha's teaching with people from other parts of the world without going abroad.
May the Buddha's Sasana last forever!
Ma Nimala [B.A. (Eng.)],
By Daw Uppalavanna Theri, B.A.(Ed.), B.Ed.
Our Lord, Gotama Buddha, possessed infinite power, infinite honour, infinite loving kindness, and infinite wisdom. Because he attained the noble wisdom of Enlightenment, he is worthy of homage and admiration by all beings. Being omniscient, there was nothing our Lord Buddha did not know. He helped and guided all beings to attain the wisdom of the Eightfold Path and the four Noble Truths, which are the essence of Buddhism. A person can be only liberated from all defilement and reach the goal of Nibbana where there is no birth, old age, decay, death or suffering when he or she practices meditation according to the guidance of our Lord Buddha.
The Buddha became the noblest, the most outstanding and excellent teacher of beings through fulfilling the ten Perfections: namely, the Perfections of 1) giving, 2) morality, 3) renunciation, 4) wisdom, 5) energy or endeavour, 6) forbearance, 7) loving-kindness, 8) truthfulness, 9) resolution, and 10) equanimity. Throughout infinite previous lives, the Buddha fulfilled the ten Perfections in three separate stages, known as the ordinary stage, higher stage, and highest stage respectively.
At present, among many revered monks, one who is striving to fulfill the ten Perfections is the venerable abbot of Sitagu Monastery, Thegon Sayadaw, Ashin Nanissara. He has been awarded three honorary titles by our government; Mahadhammakathika Bahujanahitadhara, Mahasaddhammajotikadhaja, and Aggamaha pandita. Among his numerous meritorious works, mention must be made of the Sitagu Water Donation Project and the Sitagu Ayudana Hospital, for which he collected donations amounting to nearly twenty million kyats and over one hundred twelve million kyats respectively. Our venerable Sayadaw is currently engaged in his third great project, Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, for which over one hundred million kyats have already been expended on the ongoing construction of its campus. Because he is motivated by the Perfections of donation, wisdom, energy, loving-kindness, morality and forbearance, our venerable Sayadaw has attracted contributions from donors living in many cities throughout our country as well as from donors living abroad.
In this regard, I once read that our venerable Sayadaw hoped not for the goal of Nibbana, but by developing, promoting and propagating the Sasana of the Buddha, he wished to carry on the task of fulfilling the Perfections. How precious and admirable our Sayadaw is! Indeed, we should offer him the title, Father of the Sasana during the present age. In carrying out his noble projects our Sayadaw has met with success both here and abroad, and is rightly renowned for his selfless work to promote the Buddha Sasana through out the world.
Taking him as our model, let all of us strive earnestly and vigorously to fulfill the Perfections.
THE LAND OF PAGODADS
By Ashin Nyanissara ( Sitagu Sayadaw )
For many centuries Myanmar has been known as the Land of Pagodas, for travellers and adventures have recorded encountering these monuments almost every where they have gone. Indeed, they can be found touring above the hilltops, dominating the skyline of today's busy cities and towns, and strewn across the quiet paddy fields of the country side from horizon to horizon. Some pagodas are located deep inside jungles, their gilded pinnacles ('hti' or umbrella) glistening above the forest canopy.
Myanmar's pagodas exist in all sizes, shapes, and conditions; each of them reflecting the style of a the period in which they were constructed, and the individual tastes of their donors. Some survive only as ruins: silent testaments to pious deeds long since performed, and poignant reminders of the impermanence of all things. Others have been recently built, and still others have been continuously maintained and restored for well over a thousand years. These latter pagodas represent some of Myanmar's most renowned religious sites; rich in history and legend, and often encased in layers of solid gold acquired over the centuries.
It is customary for Buddhists to visit pagodas for individual devotion and meditation, especially on the full and new moon days of the Buddhist Sabbath (uposatha). Pagodas are also where Buddhists gather to participate in ceremonies and festivals set according to the Buddhist calendar. Such ceremonial acts typically involve alms-giving and serve an important social function of reinforcing the relations of the Sangha with the lay community, and of members of laity with one another. Almost every major pagodas will have its own annual festival where the particular history and cycle of stories associated with it will be recalled. These festivals can be quite colorful and fun, and are often attended by thousands of people from all over the counrty.
It should be noted that prayers and rituals addressed to the Buddha do not represent worship in the usual sense of the word, for the Buddha was not a god, but a human being. Nor was he a Creator of a judge, but a teacher who showed the way that leads to the cessation of suffering Therefore, it is primarily to recollect his many virtues and to express gratitude for his teachings that the faithful offer their devotions to the Buddha. Bringing to mind such things is itself very meritorious and of great spiritual benefit to the performer, both in this life and his future existences.
When the Buddha attained final liberation he entirely ceased to be and so can not intercede on behalf of his devotees or fulfil their requests in any way. Nevertheless, the Buddha was endowed with great yogic power when alive and some of this power is believed to be retained in his relics. Since pagodas are primarily reliquary mounds for the Buddha's remains,it has long been a popular belief that they possess certain protective or wish fulfilling properties. It is for this reason that one will also encounter Buddhists who offer prayers at pagodas in the hope of gaining some immediate benefit in this life, usally associated with health and prosperity. While such wishes are purely mundane, they do not necessarily fall outside the acceptable norms of Buddhism. for the Buddha addressed the concerns of ordinary persons living in this world as well as those of the enlightened.
Sagaing Hills: the abode of noble recluses
The city of Sagaing and the Sagaing Hills lie on the Ayeyawady River to the West of Mandalay in central Myanmar. The largest river in Myanmar, the Ayeyarwady flows from north to south as is passes Mandalay and then takes a sudden turn to the West. It is from this point on the river that Sagaing derives its name, which means the beginning of the bend".
Sagaing was founded by Athinkhaya Saw Yun in 1895 BE. (Buddhist Era), or C.E 1316, and was ruled by a dynasty of seven kings. Nestled in the surrounding hills and forests can be found hundreds of pagodas, monasteries, nunneries, and the retreats of holy ascetics. While kingdoms and dynasties have come and gone, Sagaing has retained its glory since the time of the Buddha who is believed to have visited these hills during his lifetime. Many of Myanmar's most celebrated scholars and contemplatives dwelled in Sagaing over the centuries, and it remains one of the country's main centers for Buddhist scholarship and meditation even today.
Sagaing became an important stronghold of Buddhism during the early Pagan dynasty. Throughout every historical era (the pinya, Sagaing, Inwa, Amarapura, Konbaung, Mandalay, British, and post independence periods) Sagaings significance continued to grow, so that it always maintained its reputation as one of the main centers of Buddhist learning (pariyatti) and practice (Patipatti) in Myanmar. It boasts an unbroken lineage of learned scholars and teachers, meditation masters and preachers dating back to earliest times. In addition to this are Sagaing's many pagodas and temples. So numerous are these, crowing every peak and ridge, that one wonders if there is not at least one shrine for each of the 550 Jatakas (birth stories of the Bodhi satta)found in the Scriptures.
There are more than 900 monasteries and nunneries in Sagaing with a total population of more than nine thousand monks, nuns and novices. The most prominent scolastic centers (kyaung taik) in Sagaing today include, Pathama Gandhayon, Hanthagiri, Zeyyathein, Mahathubodhayon, and Shwehintha. Kyaung taiks are large, housing many students and faculty, and are almost exclusively devoted to the study of Buddhist scripture. A number of innovations have been introduced in Sagaing's monastic colleges in terms of their organization and course of training, so that they differ in certain ways from comparable instituations in other parts of the country. Sagaing's kyaunk taiks would therefore be interesting for anyone wishing to explore Myanmar's monastic educational system.
There are more than three thousand nuns (thila-shins), dwelling in 425 or so nunneries of Sagaing. Having renounced family and the affairs of the world, these women have devoted their lives to the Buddhist religion, immersing themselves in meditation and the study of Scripture. A number of Sagaings nuns have become well known for their scholarship and skill as meditation teachers, having been trained at such convents as Thameiddhodaya, Zeyyatheingi, Khemethaka, Thathanapala, and Eimyo. A visit to anyone of these instituations will provide the visitor with a valuable glimpse into the daily lives of Myanmars Buddhist nuns.
May all beings be happy
The Senate of Academy
Sitagu International Buddhist Academy Sagaing Hills
By Theingi Hlaing
The non-aggressive practical, ethical, psychological and intellectual system taught by the Buddha is called The Dhamma. The Dhamma never demands blind faith from its followers and it never teaches a dogmatic system of belief. It never urges superstitious rites or ceremonies from its followers. Rather, the Dhamma is a means by which to attain real wisdom and total deliverance from all evil and misery through pure living and pure thinking.
Abhidhamma means the Higher Doctrine. If we analyze the term into its components (abhi + dhamma), we see that abhi- means subtle, ultimate, great, excellent and sublime. It receives that designation because the Abhidhamma enables one to achieve deliverance, and furthermore, because it exceeds the teaching found in the Suttapitaka and Vinayapitaka.
In the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas, the Buddha used conventional terms such as 'man, 'boy', and so on. In the Abhidhamma Pitaka in contrast, every thing is minutely analysed, and technical abstract terms are used. There are two realities: apparent reality and ultimate reality. Apparent reality is ordinary conventional truth (sammuti-sacca) as expressed in conventional language; such as 'a man, or 'a woman, etc. Ultimate reality is abstract truth (paramattha sacca). The categories used to express ultimate reality in the Abhidhamma are -
1. consciousness or mind (Citta)
2. mental factors (Cetasika)
3. matter (Rupa)
Out of these four ultimate realities, Mind, Citta is the power to think, to know. It is like nuclear energy which can be utilized for either human destruction or for the alleviation of human suffering.
Mind is like pure transparent water which can be mixed with anything. When water is mixed with mud, it becomes thick and defiled and one cannot see through it. A pure mind gets defiled by thoughts of greed, anger and ignorance.
Even though Mind does move forward or backward in any direction such as eastward, etc. even to the extent of the breadth of a spider's thread, it is called durangamam (far reaching) because it can receive thoughts which are far away.
Seven or eight thoughts bound together, are not capable of arising at the same time. One thought has to cease for the next one to arise. It is called ekacaram.
Mind possesses neither bodily frame nor colours like blue, red and so on, It is called asarira (immaterial).
Mind, arises dependent upon the heart, and the heart is constituted of the four primary elements Pathavi, Apo, Vayo and Tejo(earth, fluid, air and fire) and hence it is termed 'guha'. (heart cave, chamber)
Whosoever, whether man or woman, house-holder or monk, will restrain the mind without giving opportunity for the rise of mental impurity which has not yet arisen, and doing away with the mental impurity which has arisen through attentiveness will be steady. It is known as Ye Cittam.
Restraining the mind from diffusing (spreading) is samyamissanti. Those who do this will gain release from the three categories of existence. These three categories are designated as the bond age of Mara due to the baseness of the bond of mental impurities, i.e., Mokkhanti Marabandhana. (Those who control their mind, which travels far, conceives one thought at a time, is immaterial, and arises from the heart, will escape the bondage of Mara).
The verse is:
ye cittam samyamessanti
(Dhammapada V. 37)
The mind wanders and moves alone; it is immaterial and lies in the cave (chamber of the heart). Those who control their mind will be free from the bond of Mara.
These words were delivered to the nephew of a senior bhikkhu named Samgharakkhita by the Buddha while residing at Savatthi.
The story gave like this the nephew of the Elder Samgharakkhita was admitted into the Order decided. When he received two robes, 7 cubits and 8 cubit long for use during the lent, he decided to offer one to his Uncle, who was his spiritual preceptor.
He arrived at the the Uncle's monastery and offered him a robe saying. 'May you Reverence use this robe. Then he stood fanning him.
Inspite of his three repeated requests, the Elder would not accept the gift. As he stood there fanning the Elder this thought occurred to him:
'While the Elder was a layman I was his nephew and when he entered the Order I became his co-resident pupil. Even so my spiritual teacher is reluctant to accept from would be better requisites with me. As he is unwilling to share requisites with me what is the use of my being a monk. I shall revert back to lay life.
Then, this thought occurred to him: 'Hard is the life of a layman. What shall I do to earn my living as a householder. 'He further thought: I shall sell the robe measuring eight cubits and buy a she-goat; she-goats breed rapidly. I shall marry. My wife will give birth to a son. Naming him after my uncle I shall place him in a meaning unclear word amission to pay respect to my uncle, On the way, I shall say to my wife. Now give me the son. I shall carry him. She will say, what is the need for you to carry our son? Come and drive the cart. She will be talking our son saying ' I shall carry him ' , and being unable to hold him she will drop the child on the wheel-tract. The wheel would run over him body. Then I shall say to her,' You neither handed over our son to me, nor were you able to hold him, I have been ruined by you. 'Saying this, I shall beat her back with the goading stick.
As he was thinking so while fanning, he absent-mindedly struck the Elder's head with the palmyra fan. The Elder reflecting as to why he had been struck on the head by his nephew came to know all that had passed through his mind Sarhgharakkhita, you were unable to be at your wife, for what fault have You beaten an old Elder like me? Young Samgharakkhita thought himself Indeed I have been ruined. It seems that my spiritual teacher knows all my thoughts. It is no use for me to continue as a monk and throwing away the fan he fled. Young monks and novices chased him and took him to the Buddha. The Master saw those monks and asked,' O monk why have you come here and what makes you bring a monk with you? Lord, we have come here to bring you this young monk, who being discontented is running away (from the Order).' Monk, is what say true? Yes lord it is mhy monk have you committed this grave of fence? Are you not a son of the Buddha, steadfast in energy? Having renounced the world under an Enlightened One like me are you not able to discipline yourself so that you would be able to say that you were a Sotapanna , or a Sakadagami, or an Anagami or an Arahatta (as the case may be). Why have You committed such a grave act?
I am discontented, Lord. Why are you so? He related all that had happened beginning from the day he had received the robes for the lent up to his striking the Elder with the palmyra fan. Then the Master said, Come, monk, do not be worried. This mind has the nature of receiving an object of thought, even though it might be far away, and it is proper that one should strive to escape from the bondage of passions, ill-will and delusion.
This article is decided as an act of gratitude to my compassionate teacher, Sitagu Sayadaw.
1. Narada Thera Vajirarama (Colombo), A Manual of Abhidhamma Abhidhammattha-Sangaha, Vol. I &III, Buddha Sasana Council, Kaba Aye, Rangoon, Burma (1970).
2. Ashin Settila (Aggamahapandita), Essential Themes of Buddhist Lectures, Department of Religious Affairs, (1987).
3. Bhaddanta Nanissara, Dhamma lectures, Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Sagaing Hills, Sagaing, Myanmar.
4. The Dhammapada Commentary, Vol. 1, Union of Buddha Sasana Council, Kaba Aye, Rangoon, Burma.
By Ashin Nyanissara
The city of Sagaing and Sagaing. Hills lie on theIrrawaddy to the west of Mandalay in central Burma. The Longest in Burma, The Irrawaddy flows from north to south and as it passes Mandalay makes a sudden bend to the west. The city derives its name "Sagaing' which means "The Beginning of the Bend' from its position on the river.
The city was founded by Athinkhaya Saw-yun in 677 B E., and ruled by a dynasty of seven kings.
Nestled among the wooded hills are pagodas, monasteries and retreats of the holy ascetics which had their glory since the time of theSammasambuddha. In the subsequent Eras, the hills abounded with Pacceka-Buddhas, hermits and meditators chronicles say that Gotama Buddha, in his life-time, made a visit to the hills.
Ninety-nine belus or ogers attended hand and foot on the Buddha, received the benefit of the Buddha's sermons and attainedSotapanna, the first stage of Enlightenment. After the return of Gotama Buddha to India, the belus built a ceti in which they enshrined the bath-robe of the Buddha which had been bestowed on them as a gift. The ceti is known as Zetawun Ceti after the name of the leader Zeta (Jeta) of the ninety-nine belus. The village inhabited by the belus who attained sotapanna still goes by the name of Sotapan village.
According to history Shin Arahan of Thaton (Thaudhammapura) who founded Buddhism in Pagan (Arimaddhanapura) came to Sagaing Hills and settled here to propagate the teachings of the Buddha. The monastery built by Anawrahta (Aniruddha) and dedicated to Shin Arahan is still, known as Anuruddha Gyaung (Retreat).
Residing in such retreats known as Gyaungs numbering 556 are l639 sanghas, l957 samaneras and 2576 nuns.
For the benefit of over 7000 residents of the sacred hills who are engaged in the two-fold task of pariyatti and patipatti, Venerable Thegon Sayadaw Ashin Nyanissara has formulated and implemented: (1) Thitagu water supply scheme and (2) Ayudhana hospital scheme. The hills are now supplied with 200000 gallons of water daily.
The water supply equipment consists of two pumping stations, 10 pumps, 7 reservoirs and 240000 feet of pipe-line; construction costs amounted to K-5000000 and a sum of K-2000000 has been set aside for maintenance and depreciation.
The name of the hospital "Ayu-Dhana" means the "Donating of life", which covers the donating of such things as medicines, almsfood, water, lights, trees gardens and premises. It is our aim to help promoteSasana by providing every facility to the holy ascetis who are dedicated to the two-fold service of learning and practising the teachings of the Buddha.
The hospital is designed on modern lines to house 5 wards for in-patients, and a ward for out-patients, a special ward, surgery and X-ray wards, and accommodation for the shrine, classroom, mess and office-staff.
The Ayu-Dhana hospital was formally opened on l0th March, 1990 with 5 doctors and a staff of 30. It is a charitable institution.
The construction of the building cost K- 15000000. The cost of maintenance and depreciation is estimated at K-15000000.
Each in-patient ward has 16 beds, making 80 beds altogether.
Under the guidance of the Ovadacariyas, the water project and the hospital project are directed and managed by the Venerable Thegon Sayadaw with the help of technicians, donors and other lay-desciples who contributed technical advice, materials and labour.
We extend, with Metta, our greetings to our friends and donors all over the world in grateful appreciation of their help.
MAY ALL HEALTH AND HAPPINESS BE YOURS.
MAY YOUR DEEDS OF MERIT LIGHT THE WAY TO NIBBANA.
MAY THE BUDDHA'S DHAMMA PREVAIL!
Saddhamma Sitagu Kyaung-taik