Myanmar Moral Cuture Based on Buddhism

( Chapter 8 : Titled 'Moral Culture', The Teachings of the Buddha, Basic Level, 1997, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Yangon. )

         Every country or every race has its own moral culture which is the characteristic of that country or that race. As for Myanmar, it has its own culture which is based on Buddhism. This chapter is concerned with Buddhist moral manners, namely: courtesy (Polite manners), gentleness in speech (Verbal politeness) and good thought (Mental politeness).

Polite Manners

         (1) When one visits a certain pagoda or a certain monastery,one should wear proper dress. One must take off one's hat, umbrella and any foot wear before one enters the precinct of a pagoda or a monastery.

         (2) One should not behave improperly in the precinct of a pagoda or a monastery or in the presence of an image of the Buddha or a monk.

         (3) When one takes a seat near Buddhist monks or the virtuous or the aged, one must take a suitable place free from six faults of location: being too far, being too near, being at the front, being at the back, being at a high place and being against the wind.

         (4) When one passes by Buddhist monks, the virtuous or the aged or passes through an audience, one should go slowly leaning ones body and bowing one's head.

         (5) When one gives something to someone or takes something from someone, one should give or take with one's two hands even though it may be a small thing.

         (6) When one pays homage to Buddhist monks, parents or teachers, one should touch the floor or the ground with one's two knees, two hands and forehead.

         (7) When one comes across Buddhist monks on the way, one should stand aside and pay obeisance to them taking off one's hat, umbrella, footwear and putting two palms together on the forehead.

         (8) When one goes away from the presence of Buddhist monks, teachers, parents and the aged, one should make four or five backward steps with joined-palms and turn to ones desired direction.

          (9) When one comes across Buddhist monks, teachers, parents and the aged on a narrow path, one should stop one's stepping and give way for them to pass. One should not jostle against them nor overtake them.

         (10) One should generously offer one's seat to Buddhist monks, the aged, the infirm, and nuns while travelling by train or in a bus or in a boat.

         (11) While Buddhist monks, teachers and parents are taking rest or sleeping, one should not disturb them in any way.

         (12) If necessary, one should help Buddhist monks, nuns, the aged and the infirm by carrying their packages on the way.

         (13) When one listens to the Dhamma, one should take off one's hat in honour of the virtues of Dhamma. If one wears Myanmar turban, one should expose one's hair. Even if one listens to the discourse from a tape recorder, one should put it on a high place. One should sit kneeling, joining one's two palms together in the meditation posture.

         (14) One should place the Buddha's image, the Buddha's picture and the Buddhist scriptures on a high and noble place. If one wants to hold them, one should pay homage to them with joined-palms first. One should not put them down on the floor nor take them under one's arms.

         (15) One should not greet Buddhist monks and nuns by shaking their hands nor gesture to them. One should greet them respectfully with joined-palms.

         (16) A woman should not rearrange her garment nor beautify herself before Buddhist monks or the virtuous or the aged.

         (17) A woman should not go to Buddhist monks and the aged in unsuitable dress which does not conform with tradition.

         (18) A woman should not go to a Buddhist monk while he is in his private room. If it is necessary to go to a monk, she should take a man along with her.

         (19) A woman should not pay homage to a Buddhist monk by spreading her hair on the ground nor by touching the monk's feet with herhand.

          (20) When one meets others on the way, one should greet themm either with joined palms or with a bow or with a smile respectfully.

         (21) When one wants to approach the bhikkhus, teachers, parents and the aged, one should make one's body clean in advance.

         (22) One should not spit nor blow the nose carelesly at public places such as the pagoda platform, the precinct of the monastery, the hospital, the school and so on.

         (23) One should not cough nor sneeze turning to someone. If one wants to do so, one should go out of the audience or clear it by blowing into a handkerchief. If one wants to fart, one should go away from the audience.

         (24) While someone is having a meal, one should not hawk nor blow his nose in a place where the former can hear or see.

Verbal Politeness

         (1) The Buddha should be addressed respectfully by the term: "The supreme Buddha" or "The Enlightened One"; not by the term "Gotama" (or) 'Buddha."

         (2) One should not say that a shrine, an image of the Buddha, a Buddhist monk or a nun is "beautiful" or "pretty." One should use the words 'Sublime', 'glorious' or "Venerable" instead.

         (3) If one is to say words of approval or denial while speaking with Buddhist monks and novices, one should reply respectfully and humbly: 'Certainly, Venerable Sir', 'No, Venerable Sir', and with parents and teachers: "Yes, Sir" (or) "No, Sir."

          (4) If one wants to address an elderly Buddhist monk or a learned one, one should address "Sayadaw" or "Venerable." For a young Buddhist monk and a novice, one uses 'Reverend Sir."

         (5) Moreover, an elderly Buddhist monk or a learned one should not be addressed by his name. He should be addressed by his birth-place or residential place such as "Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw", "Venerable Bago Sayadaw" and so on.

(6)          A Buddhist monk or a novice used to call an old man or a youth "Dagagyi or Dagalay" , and an old woman or a young woman "Dagamagyi" or "Dagamalay

Mental Politeness

         (1) One should not wish to get others' properties in an improper way.

         (2) One should not breed a malicious mind to destroy others' properties and virtues.

         (3) When one comes across someone, old or young, one should cultivate one's (metta) loving-kindness towards them thus: "May he be well and happy."

         (4) Believing the law of Kamma and its results, one should cultivate a sympthetic mind towards all.

         (5) One should not be jealous of superior ones, nor should one humiliate inferior ones, nor should one compete with companions of the same status.

'The Civilized Terms Concerning Alms-food

         (1) When Buddhist monks and novices go around for alms-food, it should be called "collecting alms-food." If one cannot offer alms-food, one should apologize "Would you mind going ahead?"

         (2) If one wants to offer some food and drinks to a Buddhist monk or a novice, one should give them to him with two hands respectfully.

          When one behaves according to the above rules, one will obtain merit and auspiciousness. One will be well-known as a civilized one in this existence. Moreover one will enjoy bliss,happiness and pleasure in future existences:

         The people of Myanmar, abiding by the Buddhist Teachings, are polite in behaviour, speech and thought. They can live peacefully through many generations.