U Tin Htoon, USA

(First published in 'Singapore Burmese Buddhist Temple Newsletter, 1990')

Buddha Image in the main shrine
of the Buddha Gaya Temple
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Burmese Buddhist Temple
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       Like the Dhammacakka Vihara Burmese Buddhist Temple at Sarnath, Varanasi, this Burmese Buddhist Temple is situated in Buddha Gaya where the Buddha attained Enlightenment. As such we will commence with the brief account on Buddha Gaya Temple and its environs before featuring the Burmese Buddhist Temple.

      Buddha Gaya Temple which is also known as Mababodhi Vihara, commemorates the place where Prince Siddartha attained Perfect Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. It is the ancient site of Uruvela on the Nirenjara River six miles south of Gaya in Bihar State of India. This is one of the four famous places, made sacred by Buddha's association, which His faithful followers should visit with reverence and awe. The temple as well as its historic environs has great religious significance for Buddhists everywhere as well as historic and cultural interest for many other. The Buddha Gaya Temple has often been the concern of Asian Kings and governments as well as the object of pilgrimage by devout Buddhists. In the past, royal patronage for its maintenance, repair, or restoration was given by Kings of India, Bengal, Arakan and Burma (Including Pagan, Pago, Ava and Mandalay and even by pious monks from Bengal and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). For instance, after a period of relative neglect by Buddhists, which followed the Muslim invasions in India, Arakanes and Burmese Kings undertook or attempted to restore the Temple at times during the 11th to 15th centuries and again in the 19th century as the Indian Government in 1887 and since.

       Thus the Buddha Gaya Temple, in one way or another has inspired and received international assistance since its early beginnings, culminating in the present Buddha Gays Temple Advisory Board, which is composed of government representatives from Burma. India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Sikkim, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Ladakh. West Bengal and locally Buddha Gaya and Gaya.

       These intermittent periods of neglect, repair and restoration ot the Buddha Gays Temple have naturally resulted in certain changes in its original contour and size, although the basic style may have remained much the same.

       Apart from the Mahabodhi Temple, the other objects of interest are the seven sites where Buddha passed seven successive weeks in meditation after enlightenment, namely

      (i) the famous Bodhi (pipal) tree and the Vijrasana or the Diamond throne,       (ii) Animesa Locana stupa erected at the silo where Lord Buddha stood gazing unwinking at the Bodhi tree out of gratitude
(Diamond Throne under the Bodhi Tree)
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(The Place of Unwinking Gazing)

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      (iii) the Cankamana or the Promenade marked by a raised platform to the north of the Temple,       (iv) the Ratanaghara- the place of basic contemplation where Lord Buddha spent the fourth week here in meditation reflecting on the Pathana or the Casual Law

CANKAMANA (Cloister Walk)
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(The Place of Basic Contemplation)

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      (v) the Ajapala Nigrodha tree (banyan tree), of which the actual site has not been identified yet       (vi) the Mucalinda Lake- the abode of Snake King
(The Banyan Tree)
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(The abode of snake king)

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      (vii) the Ralsyatana, a kind of forest tree, of which the actual site also has not been identified yet.
( A kind of forest tree)
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      Besides the Mahabodhi Temple and the seven holy places there are some places of historical places like (a) the Neranjara River which was crossed by Prince Siddartha on his way to the shade of the Bodhi Tree

Neranjara River where Bodhisattava discarded the bowl
after having the rice-milk offered by Sujata

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Pragbodhi Mountain is in the rear where Bodhisattava practised ascetism for six years
(with part of Neranjara River in the foreground)

      (b) the Sujutakuti or Sujala's house marked by a brick mound on the opposite side at the Neranjara River (c) the place where Sujata offered the rice milk and the spot where Prince Siddartha discard the rice bowl into the Neranjara River (d) the Pragbodhi mountain in the Uruvela forest where Prince Siddartha practised asceticism for six years

Asoka Lion Capital
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      (e) the Asokan Pillar.

      Apart from these places of historical interest there are numerous Buddhist Temples and Monasteries undertaken by the Mahabodhi Society and several Buddhist countries in commemoration of the 2500 years after the great demise of the Lord Buddha. The Mahabodhi Temple and the seven holy places have become the main objects of veneration for the entire Buddhist world and Buddha Gaya itself has turned to be a great Buddhist pilgrimage centre owing to its association with the life of the Perfectly Enlightened One, the Gotama Buddha.

      However it will be worthy to point out at this juncture how fortunate it is for today Buddhist community that places like Buddha Gaya, Sarnath - the Migadawun deer park, Kusinagara and the like are once again thriving as Buddhist pilgrimage centres In India. One should read the book, "Buddha Gaya Temple - Its History" by Dipak K. Barua and published by Buddha Gaya Temple Management Committee in order to appreciate and have a better understanding of how the Temple was shamefully neglected under the management of the Brahmanical Mahanta and the efforts made by Arigagarika Dharmapala of Ceylon (who established the Maha BodhiSociety in May 1891)to get back to the hands of the Buddhists. It elaborated on the magnitude of the problems encountered and die steps thathave to be taken for passing a 811 by the Bihar Legislative Assembly which became an Act known as the Buddha Gays Temple Act (Bihar XVII of 1949). This is of utmost significance because by it the Buddhists are once again allowed to have control over the management of the Buddha Gaya Temple. The first formal meeting of the Buddha Gaya Temple Management Committee took place on May 28 1953 at 5.30 pm. With the transfer of the Buddha Gaya Temple from the hands of the Mahanta to the Management Committee immediate steps were taken to restore and improve the amentities available to the worshippers at this place.

       From the history of Burma and the lithic inscriptions it dearly showed that since the eleventh century A.D, successive Burmese Kings had taken a personal Interest in Buddha Gaya and It's Holy Temple. The Buddhist devotees of Burma also joined in to revitalise Buddha Gaya. In 1936, Ven. U Nandamarlar purchased the present Burmese Buddhist Temple site with the funds provided by Bagyi Ba Pe and Daw Phwa Hmyin. The Sayadaw started constructing the monastery and passed away on January 4th 1948, the day Burma gained Independence. Sayadaw U Ottama took over and completed the monastery. He passed away in 1966- From 1966 to 1976 Sayadaw U Tiloka was the residing monk. He went back to Burma in May 1976 and passed away in the same year. Since then the present Sayadaw U Nyaneinda became the Chief monk.

Venerable U Nyaneinda
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       Sayadaw U Nyaneinda completed the new Sima hall cum Dhamama hall in 1978. Meditation cells totalling 35 single rooms and 18 double rooms were added in the preceding years. With the funds made available from dispoing one old Burmese monastery at Varanasi, a new 2 and a half storey guest house with 24 rooms was constructed.

      Sayadaw U Nyaneinda is now embarking on a very ambitious plan, i.e, to re-organize the temple premise and construct a new Temple along the traditional Burmese Buddhist architecture so that it will be at least at par with the neighbouring temples and monasteries built during the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Year celebration. Buddhist devotees from near and afar may get in touch with

Saysdaw U Nyaneinda
Chief Monk
Burmese Buddhist Temple
Buddha Gaya, Gays Bist., Bihar, India

Dhammacakka Vihara, Burmese Buddhist Temple

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First posted on 22nd January 2000

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