"Buddhism for Younger Generations"
"For Myanmar Children"
(Ven. Myaung Mya Sayadaw U Nyanika: Agga Maha Pandita)
"Myanmar as a Country and as a Nation"
Myanmar is a member in the family of nations. Myanmars are those who live in that particular country. The name Myanmar is given to a union of different tribal groups who came from ethnically different sources, but who are now living together in this multi-racial and multicultural unity. All the Myanmars are descendants from Myanmar parents and live under one flag, which is the flag of Union of Myanmar. All the Myanmar people have a common culture and tradition even though there are some differences in language, dress local custom, folklore, etc. among the different tribes. But all of them live together on the same soil and drink the same water as the Burmese saying goes (Tamye de nay, tayey de thauk).
"To Children and Youths"
You are, according to the above definition, Myanmars born to Myanmar parents. In addition, your forefather, relatives, friends and other fellow countrymen are all Myanmars. You are neither English nor German nor French, although you may be born in those countries. You have learned foreign languages, acquired modern education and have lived for some time outside the country of Myanmar. But you must know who and what Myanmar are, what tradition and culture they have and what religion they profess. You are now in the bloom of youth and quickly approaching the threshold of adult life, so you will have to choose the right path leading you to the right destination. Before you, there are many roads and paths and they are quite confusing. At such a point, you must not forget your original race, culture, and tradition, which are worthy of keeping. Your own civilisation is by no means later or newer than those of the Western Countries are. In fact, it is many centuries prior. For this reason, you should know your own history, religion, culture and philosophy side by side with world history, culture, literature, another religions and philosophies.
It is a well-known fact all over the world that Myanmars are predominantly Buddhists, as the majority professes Buddhism as their religions. Their life is based on and shaped by Buddhist principles. When a Myanmar acquires wealth and riches his main thought is to make a contribution to his religion. Giving charity is an every day performance, along with paying respect to the Triple Gem. The Myanmar's temperament and disposition are therefore formed and enriched by an intrinsic love for doing charity and social work.
Your culture is strongly based on Buddhism. The religious spirit inspires your arts and literature and your language has become highly enriched with Buddhist thoughts and words. Classical Myanmar literature is well known to have been flavoured and broadened by Buddha's teaching, so it can be said that it is an embodiment of the Buddhist canon translated into Myanmar
"Symbols of Myanmars' Life"
Throughout the length and breadth of Myanmar, one can see pagodaseverywhere, whether on a little knoll or on a hillock. One can see graceful pinnacles of pagodas standing clearly against a brilliant blue sky among the nearby villages. Trees and palms usually surround a hill with a pagoda on top and occasionally there are Pyatthats (wooden buildings with beautifully tapered tops) that overlook the flat-like appearance of the houses, huts or meandering streams nearby. Under the roof of the Pyatthat, there is invariably a platform built by levelling the ground on the hillside on which is constructed a congregation hall (Dhamaryon, Zayat) for the people from the nearby villages to come to pay respect and observe precepts on holy days. The central pagoda among the Pyatthat gleams in the light of the morning sun, like a jewel among the iron works. The upper part of the pagoda or zedi is a parasol or crown (hti), the gilded iron works beautifully crafted which will inspire your fervour and devotion. These are the true symbols of the Myanmars' life and belief and an expression of national character
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is the Buddha's way of viewing things and states and His teaching in that way. The Buddha was a historical person, not an imaginary being. He lived and died as a human being. He is not God. His teaching is quite practicable, he himself being a practical person. His teaching is not beyond or out of reach but within every person's reach. Even an ordinary commoner can follow His teaching according to his capacity. He never teaches what he himself did not see and know. He saw the beginning and the end of every being or becoming. He obtained perfect knowledge and wisdom because He had walked along a right Path, which led Him to the destination to which He had been aspiring for such a long time. He realised and showed a straightforward Path for every one of us as. He had already walked along that Path. He proclaimed that He had trodden that Path which every body could look for and try to walk along until he reached his final stage. So the Buddha is a Teacher and the Dhamma His teaching and the Sangha His close followers usually called the Community of Brotherhood' or the 'Holy Order'.
Who is the Buddha? We do not see Him with our own eyes but we know Him from His own words or teachings or, in another words, the Path which He has shown to us, which is called 'Dhamma' to use a single term. The Dhamma or the teaching is still in existence in the minds and hearts of His followers. His disciples, both lay persons and ordained ones, have been following His teaching from His life time until the present time in an unbroken line, handing it over from one person to another, in an uninterrupted succession. You are, no doubt, aware of the natural state of affairs. Just as in the world of matter events consist of innumerable parts, situated in different places, taking place in different time and having different functions, so also there are many beings of different temperaments, living in different abodes or planes and marching on to different goals. For the different types of mentality and disposition, the Buddha shows the different stages of the Path, e.g., for inferior type of beings the basic virtues to be cultivated; for middling types of beings the higher stages such as concentration to be developed and firmly established; and for superior types of beings the highest stages such as Vipassana Insight and penetrating wisdom enabling super energy to be exerted.
What is the Dhamma?
Dhamma means truth, righteousness or universal law. That which is true in the ultimate sense, universally accepted to be true and righteous from the ethical point of view, is called Dhamma. We Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. To take refuge in the Dhamma means to search for truth, to follow the right path and to embrace ethical principles. So as long as you are true and unblamable as regards ethical values you are virtually taking refuge in the Dhamma. But the Dhamma or truth can be sought properly and acquired adequately only by the right way and by the assistance of the competent and perfect teacher. In this case the Buddha is the foremost perfected teacher. Even though the Buddha is no longer present physically, His teaching is, as I mentioned before, still alive showing the light to His followers. In this sense, the Buddha is actually present as the representative of the Dhamma. We there-fore say 'Buddham saranam gacchami', Dhammam saranam gacchami', meaning 'I take refuge in the Buddha', 'I take refuge in the Dhamma'
What is the Sangha?
Sangha, the Buddhist Order, is a community of the closest disciples of the Buddha We take refuge in the Sangha also and say -Sangham saranam gacchami'. Why should we go to the Sangha as our refuge? Because they tried or are trying to tread the right path shown by the Buddha and set an example in purification of the inner state of beings, that is, the minds and hearts of sentient beings including ourselves and because of that they also are instructors of the Dhamma on behalf of the Buddha and thus very helpful to truth-seekers and consequently, they are truly entitled to be the bearers' of the 'Dhamma-banner'
"The Triple Gem" (or Three Refuges)
Out of the various stages of the Dhamma the most fundamental one is the taking of the triple gem' as one's refuges' The three refuges, namely, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sanghaare respectfully called jewels or gems, because they are conducive to as much joy and rapture as precious stones in the hearts of devotees and named refuges as well because they give shelter and safe resort by protecting those who take refuge in them from unwanted impediments and hindrances, such as unhappy states of mind in this present life and being born in woeful states in subsequent lives.
As to 'taking refuge', may I clarify somewhat. Since time immemorial primitive people, being tormented by fear and dread, have regarded huge trees, hills and thick forest and so on as their refuge because they thought that these things had been occupied by spirits, ascribing uncommon happenings such as devastating floods, tremendous thunderstorms, earth quakes and so on to those spirits. As such they deified them and propitiated them, offering sacrifices to them for security from such dangers.
Such wrong views and habits are still prevalent in some parts of Africa and even in Buddhist countries, for example, among the uncultured tribes of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and so forth. When Buddhism appeared in the world people were enlightened about the futility of such habits by approaching the Buddha and querying as to the highest refuge and the Buddha pointed out to wisdom to be the best refuge.
Of course, in order to get wisdom one should go to the Buddha as one's guide and instructor, the Dhamma as ways and means of practical conduct and the Sangha as the bearer of the Dhamma torch. In this manner, these three refuges become the most valuable treasures for the Buddha's disciples. Nearly all children in Buddhist countries usually start learning at a very young age to become good Buddhists under the guidance of their parents and teachers. Children, please be good enough to embrace such priceless customs and traditions by accepting your forefathers' heritage.
Five Anantas (Infinitudes)"
In this respect you should know the fivefold 'Infinitudes' i e, five benefactors with boundless attributes and infinite excellencies. What are they? The first three are triple gem, about which you already know and so there is no need for further explanation as they have already been dealt with in a fairly extensive way. The fourth and fifth ones are respectively parents and teachers. How and why are the parents boundless benefactors? Even before you came to be born your parents have been wholeheartedly kind and affectionate to you and longing for your well-being. They have already been prepared for rendering necessary service to you. When you appeared in the world their happiness went beyond all limitations. They have been tending and nursing you with affectionate care like a small plant. They have been waiting upon you day and night, looking after and taking every possible care of you as a precious treasure. You have passed several stages such as boyhood, the age of puberty and adolescence without knowing any care, worry and difficulty under your parents' protection and guardianship. You have received a good education, you have prepossessing bearing in society under your parents' benevolence and unlimited love.
Please take a glance at prosperous and successful persons in economic, educational and higher professional field in today's modem world. They have been well looked after by their parents. Please again compare and contrast them with some destitute persons in the street. They do not have a pleasant expression in their faces due to their struggle for existence. They do not seem to have ways and means for making money to make both ends meet. Poverty and unhappiness appear to have overcome their lives. Probably they may not have been fortunate enough to have had parental affection and they might not have had good education by means of which they might have improved themselves and earned their living. All these unhappy states could have come from lack of parental protection and guardianship. Likewise, the parents' kind tending is very essential for the growth and prosperity of children. Consequently, their kindness is too great to repay, but you are obliged to discharge the indebtedness you owe. So the following words must be your key words and be said every day before going to bed and after getting up in the morning.
Buddhaguno ananto (Buddha's attributes are boundless)
Dhammaguno ananto (Dhamma's attributes are boundless)
Sanghaguno ananto (Sangha's attributes are boundless)
Matapituguno ananto (Parents' kindness is not repayable)
Acariyaguno ananto (Teacher's kindness is not repayable).
"The Infinitude of Kindness of The Teachers"
Let me explain about the fifth Infinitude, the benefactor with boundless love which is the ·Teacher" Our holiest teacher is no doubt the Buddha. He teaches all beings including human and gods or devas and Brahmas and sometimes, even animals such as naga dragons That is why He is rightly called 'Sattha devamanussanam ' (teacher of devas and men). As such the Buddha is to be regarded as the Full Enlightened One and the Noblest Teacher, the Infinitude one and five.
Now let me clarify the word Acariya' or Sara. We Myanmars call a teacher as 'Sara' by adopting the Pali word Acariya, dropping both the initial and final letters and Burmanizing it into sra or sara or saya, meaning one who causes his disciples well-trained, courteous, well- mannered and all-round clever.
From the Buddha's life time until now the members of the Sangha are named Acariya in the sense that they teach Buddha's injunctions to others whether they may be novices or monks or laymen. As we are told the Elder Sariputta taught the Abhidhamma to his 500 pupil bhikkhus and the Elders Upali and Ananda who were leading figures in the First Synod were famous teachers in the field of Buddhist disciplines and general doctrine respectively. This tradition is still going on in Buddhist countries. Accordingly, general public in those countries are famous world-wide as well-trained and most generous persons. Thus they also are teachers. Particularly Myanmar bhikkhus in our country are rightly said to be the keepers of the treasure-house of Buddha's teaching. Even in Pagan period so-called monks known as Aris were royal teachers because they taught royal personalities, sons of ministers and soldiers the art of horse-riding, shooting or archery and wrestling and so on. Good bhikkhus also at that time had mastery on Pali Tipitakas along with the commentaries and sub-commentaries, especially with regard to grammatical aspects in order to familiarise themselves with the Pali Canons and as such they became the authors of about ten Minor Pali Grammar. In such manner Myanmar bhikkhus have been teachers of the whole populace of Myanmar country.
It this category, parents are also included as teachers because they first teach their children to grow into good householders, good citizens and benefactors of all humanity. Some Buddhist parents entertain so great an expectation that they wish their children to become supporters for the perpetuity, and growth of the Buddha Sasana and if possible, to become great religious leaders, or nationwide famous Elders and with this intention they (the parents) teach and encourage others to teach their children to realise this purpose. Thus they belong to the two categories i.e., 4 and 5.
In this connection, lay teachers should not be underrated because they have tender hearts full of love and compassion towards their pupils. So they voluntarily pay great attention to them in the teaching and correction as if they (pupils) were their own children and owing to this benevolent character they have no expectation of any financial gains in their career. So their kindness is very hard to repay. Taking this sense into consideration we say "Acariyaguno ananto (the kindness of teachers is boundless").
"Five precepts (Ethical Principles of good persons)"
After taking refuge in the Triple Gem, the five precepts are urgently needed to be observed. Precept or Sila means morality or virtuousness. The observance of precepts is undertaken on the basis of a pure mind resulting from altruistic love which we call 'Metta' in Pali. Metta literally means friendliness towards all living beings; sometimes it is called loving kindness or Universal love because it embraces all sentient beings without any distinction between human and animal, intelligent and foolish, big and small. From the Buddhist point of view, each and every being has the faculty of knowledge and they are equal to each other in having mentality and corporeality, no matter however tiny they may be, because they seek after food for the sustenance of their vitality and struggle for their existence and are instinctively wary of dangers and try to avoid impediments of any kind. Thus metta or loving kindness embraces all living beings, so it is called Universal love; the Pali word 'Sila' literally means good habits of good persons. As a matter of fact, good habit has to be cultivated by avoiding bad habits such as
1) Killing or harming or torturing others,
2) Stealing or taking away things that are not willingly given,
3) Committing adultery,
4) Telling lies with the intention of deceiving others to their disadvantage and falsifying things and
5) partaking of intoxicating drinks and drugs which induce persons to lose common sense, breed unhealthy minds and commit immoral actions. So precepts are usually taught in a negative sense, i.e., by a method of refraining from such and such mischievous deeds and speech.
Now learn the Pali words as fixed formulas together with meanings:
1) Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
(I undertake to train myself to refrain from depriving and living being of its life)
2) Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
(I undertake to train myself to refrain from taking possession of any article without the permission of its owner)
3) Kamesumicchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
(I undertake to train myself to refrain from sexual misconduct)
4) Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
(I undertake to rain myself to refrain from speaking and action untruthfully)
5) Suramerayamajjapamadatthana verarmani sikkhapadam samadiyami
(I undertake to train myself to refrain from taking liquors or drugs or other intoxicants which engender heedlessness or forgetfulness)