Teravada Buddhism

Just like Roman Catholic and Protestants. there are 2 major churches in Buddhism: Teravada and Mahayana. Teravada Buddhism is the orthodox church. and it dominates in Myanmar. Thailand. and Southeast Asia. Buddhist meditation. the practice of mental concentration leading ultimately through a succession of stages to the final goal of spiritual freedom. nirvana.

Meditation occupies a central place in Buddhism and combines. in its highest stages. the discipline of progressively increased introversion with the insight brought about by wisdom. Meditation. though important in all schools of Buddhism. has developed characteristic variations within different traditions.

Buddhist Flag

Not many know that there is a flag dedicated for Buddhism. Here it is. Each color and stripes has its own meanings.

buddhist-flagDefinition of the colors

  • Blue : Universal Compassion
  • Yellow : The Middle Path
  • Red : Blessings
  • White : Purity and Liberation
  • Orange : Wisdom

Heaven & Hell

Heaven and hell. in the oriental way. might be different from what you might already know. There are 31 forms of beings. 6 floors of heaven. and 7 floors of hell.

31 Planes

According to Theravada Buddhism. there are 31 planes. divided as
  • 20 planes of Brahmas. or higher spiritual beings
  • 6 planes of Nats or Devas. or lower spiritual beings
  • Human existence
  • Animals
  • Peta. Apaya beings-in-woe
  • Asuraka. Apaya beings in-semi-woe
  • Hell. beings-in-torment. composed of 8 floors.

The Last 10 lives of Buddha

As you may already know that Buddhists believe life after death. The last 10 lives of Buddha is most prominant. and many wrote about these in the past. They are:
  • Prince Taymi
  • Zanekka
  • Thuwunna Tharma
  • Nay-mi
  • Prophet Mahaw-tha-htar
  • Bu-ri-dut
  • San
  • Nar
  • Widura Minister
  • King Weithantayar

5 Buddhas on this Planet

Scientists are arguing that aliens or E.T. (extraterrestrial) exist. Will you be surprised to know that Buddhists believe in aliens? UFO? Just kidding.
Buddha taught the followers that there are other planets. other different types of beings. Yes. not much westerners knows this! And also about how Buddhists believe that there are 5 Buddhas on this planet earth. Out of the 5. four Buddha has came. and one more is to come.
  • Kotekathan Buddha
  • Kawnargon Buddha
  • Kuthapha Buddha
  • Gawtama Buddha
  • Areinmadeya Buddha (the up-coming Buddha)

Three Gems

Three Ratana Myanmar Buddhists believe that the followings are the 3 invaluable gems in life. For those 3 gems. wars were fought in our history.
  • Buddha: the enlighten one
  • Dhamma: the teachings
  • Sangha: the follower monks

Buddhist Bible

Buddhist Bible is now available in digital format. The Buddhist bible published in book form is in about 30 volumes. Now it is in one single CD! There were a few monks in history who could memorize the whole bible by heart!

Buddhist Crusade

A war broke out between King Anawrahtar of Bagan and the Mon King Manuhar. when King Manuhar refused to hand over the Buddhist Bible to Bagan. After the war. King Manuhar was captured and was kept under restrictions for a long time in Bagan until his death. He built Manuhar Temple while he was there.

Buddhist Calendar

Buddhist calendar started to count when Buddha passed away at the age of 80. which is that of the Thai's. If you would like to know the year in the Buddhist Era. calculate Current year in Buddhist Era = 544 + current year in AD.

7 Sacred days

  • Monday. Full Moon Day of Warso: Buddha left the kingdom
  • Tuesday. Full Moon Day of Kason: Buddha died
  • Wednesday. Full Moon Day of Kason: Buddha obtained Buddhaship
  • Thursday. Full Moon Day of Warso: pregnancy of Buddha began
  • Friday. Full Moon Day of Kason: Buddha was given birth
  • Saturday. Full Moon Day of Warso: Buddha preached for first time
  • Sunday. Moonless Day of Kason: Buddha's body was cremated

4 Misleadings / Biasness

  • mislead by desire
  • mislead by anger
  • mislead by fear
  • mislead by mismanagement

Places to Avoid

Buddhists used to wish to avoid certain places in their everyday prayer. They are:

4 lower beings

  • hell
  • animal
  • ghost
  • demon

3 disasters

  • starvation
  • war
  • plague

8 places one can't reach Nivirna

  • hell
  • animal
  • ghost
  • paganism
  • retarded
  • living where no god exist

5 Enemies. which can turn bad

  • water
  • fire
  • king
  • thief
  • who hates

4 defects

  • being in nether worlds
  • birth defects
  • being in bad society
  • doing only the bad

5 great losts

  • lost of relatives
  • lost of wealth
  • lost by disease
  • lost by misbelief
  • lost by misbehavior

Buddhist Monk hood

Because entering the monk hood is major merit-generating act. most men spend part of their lives as monks. A young man will be initiated at about 5 years of age as a novice monk and remain in the monk hood temporarily. for several days to several months. His initiation. a ritual reenactment of the Buddha's own renunciation of material wealth and assumption of monastic discipline. is a major festive occasion; the initiate's head is shaved. and he receives a new name. recites the monastic vows. and dons the monk's brown robe.
During his monk hood the novice obeys the same rules governing diet. celibacy. and material possessions that discipline the senior monks. He lives in the temple monastery. collect his morning food in the community. and recites the sacred texts. Temporary monks may return later in life either for another short period or to enter the monk hood permanently.
buddhist-monk buddhist-nun

Buddhist Nun hood

Nuns are also similar to the monks. heads shaved clean. but wears pink and orange robes.

Shinpyu

Pre-novitiation instructions The monastery was surrounded by shady trees and its spacious grounds were well kept; the building were old and solid yet unpretentious. It was eight in the morning and we saw the monks coming back from their daily alms-round.

Daw Daw told us that the monks staying there had to go on alms-receiving rounds every morning in the same old-fashioned way I had known in my childhood. The alms-round. I understood. was done more in the spirit of humility and compassion for the people the necessity. The people were being giving thereby a chance to do deeds of merit by giving a morsel out of their daily food to the monks. The presiding monk received us kindly and we told him we wanted our son to be given pre-novitiation instructions.

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Khin Maung Win was put under the care of a monk who gave him some Pali and Myanmar passages to learn. Since my youngest brother and Daw Daw's son were going to be novices. all three were to go to the monastery every morning. My younger brother and Daw Daw's son both of whom were about fifteen has already been novitiated. It was not unusual for a male child to become a novice more than once but there is yet another great occasion for a son... the upa-sampada... ordination at the age of twenty. It is considered a great privilege to have a son.
First novitiation 2.500 years ago.

In the weeks that followed we talked of nothing else. We had to make our son. now nine years old. realise the importance of being a novice. I told him the story of the young princeling Rahula. Buddha's own son. I never realised its beauty until I presented the story to my nine-year-old-son. We showed him young novices who followed older monks as they went on their morning rounds. We pointed out the young boys in the yellow robes with black bowls cradled in their arms after the fashion of the older monks. Their eyes were downcast. their faces begin.

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Some two thousand five hundred years ago Rahula. the seven-year-old novice had followed in the footsteps of the Buddha. his father. For seven years the young prince had waited for the Father who had left him when he was a baby in his mother's amis. He had listened to his mother Yasodhaya's story of how one sad night his father prince Siddhartha had left the palace on horse-back attended only by his faithful groom.

Where had his father gone? Why had he gone? These. the little boy wanted to know. Yasodhaya told him how the faithful groom had come back with the news that the Prince had gone into the forest after changing his princely attire for a yellow robe. Why had he done this? He had gone into retirement to seek the way out of pain. suffering and death: when he had found it he would come back and teach men the Truth he had found. After seven years. he came back with his head shorn. robed in coarse yellow cloth. with the black bowl cradled in his arms. He walked. with downcast eyes. the street he once rode in grandeur attended by foot-soldiers. mounted guards. elephants and chariots. His father King Suddhodana was filled with shame and anger. He chided Him for disgracing the Sakkya warrior race to which he belonged. The Buddha answered that he no longer belonged to the Sakkya race but to the race of the Buddhas before Him and the Buddhas after. A strange meeting it was; a great King. proud and mighty in warrior-mail meeting his son in hermit-raiment. The son had become greater than the mightiest of kings. for he had become the greatest Teacher. One who would teach the way out of sorrow. suffering. pain and death. Happy yet tearful was the meeting of Rahula's mother and the Buddha. The whole palace was agog with the news of the Buddha's acceptance of His father's invitation to come and partake of alms-food at the palace. When the meal was over everybody was there to make obeisance to the Buddha except the ever-adored one Yasodhaya. She was standing fast by her conviction that the once beloved would be moved to come to her not forgetting mutual obligations.

shinpyu4 shinpyu6
Then she would make her obeisance to her heart's content. The Buddha had prescience that if He did not go to Yasodhaya she would die of grief. Handing his begging bowl to the King father and accompanied by two disciples. He repaired to Yasodhaya's chamber. There He sat Himself down on the seat of honour set ready for Him. Yasodhaya was at His feet in all haste and clasping His two ankles in her two hands she pressed her face on His feet and smothered them in her tears. Thus she made obeisance to the Buddha. her beloved Lord. For some time the Buddha stayed at His father's city teaching His law to the people.

One day Rahula's mother told him to go to his Father and claim his heritage. The young prince went to his Father. the Buddha and said. "Father. give me my heritage." The Buddha put Rahula in the care of His disciple. Sariputra. Rahula was given the Yellow Robe. This was his glorious heritage.

The Buddha's heritage

Now our nine-year-old son was going to receive the heritage the Buddha had given to his own son two thousand five hundred years ago. Our son was to be the Buddha's own kin; we were giving him up into the holy order of the Yellow Robe. It is then that a Buddhist marriage. which in itself has no place in religion. finds its highest fulfilment as the means of rendering onto the Order the flesh of one's flesh. the bone of one's bone. We were up in the clouds during the days of planning and shopping. Yellow robes and all the paraphernalia of novices were got ready. On the appointed day. we left home for the monastery. Ko Latt carrying the yellow robes. Daw Daw and the girls carrying gifts for the monks. Khin Maung Win was dressed in silk longyi and long sleeved shirt. Since we were cutting down on the show. we had no princely dresses; no horseback ride and gilded umbrella for him.

Almsgiving; novitiation ceremony.

We gave the hundred and fifteen monks in the monastery their morning meal. It was an unforgetable sight; the yellow-robed monks partaking of the morning meal. After the morning duties were done. the boy and his two companions had their heads shaved. Ko Latt and I held a snow-white sheet to receive his hair which we buried near a pagoda. Then the boys were led to the monk who was to be their teacher. Each with a roll of yellow robe cupped in both hands. they begged permission in Pali to be novitiated.
The monk invested them with the robes. We picked up our son's wordly attire and there he stood looking pure and serene in yellow robes. yet so young and so tender. My eyes were filled with tears of joy. How could our love. Ko Latt's and mine. bring forth something so sublime? We prostrated ourselves at his feet and paid obeisance to him. who was no longer our son but the Son of the Buddha.

The boy's stay at the monastery

The boy stayed in the monastery for nine days during which he had to keep the ten precepts. one of which was to abstain from solid food after the hour of noon. Naturally we were worried about whether the boy could do without his evening meal. He was given lime juice in the evening and he took to his new way of life quite easily. In a place where no one ate in the afternoon it was easy to adapt himself. Going without the evening meal eliminates all the work and fuss and leaves more time for study and meditation. Young people keep fit and strong enough as a result of this act of self-denial.
shinpyu7 shinpyu8

A young novice's alms round

Every morning our son came with the older novices. each carrying his black bowl. We put rice and curry and delicacies into the bowl. Since the novitiation. our son had become another person altogether. Apart from respecting his shorn head. the yellow robe and a new pali name. we had to speak to him in honorific terms. We no longer called him by his layman's name and he addressed us "Lay-sister" or "Lay-brother". We were no longer his parents. just lay-people. for he had become a Son of the Buddha. All this brought us a strange feeling of ecstasy. Our son's novitiation brought back the sense of wonder I had known in my younger days. The monastery where he stay was a somewhat like the ones I had seen when I was a child. The monks were staid and quiet andspent their days in meditation and the study of the Buddhist scriptures.

What is a Pagoda?

A pagoda. in Southeast Asia. is cone-shaped monumental structure built in memory of Buddha. But in the Far East. a pagoda is a tower like. multistoried structure of stone. brick. or wood. usually associated with a Buddhist temple complex. The pagoda derives from the stupa of ancient India. which was a dome-shaped commemorative monument. usually erected over the remains or relics of a holy man or king. The hemispherical domed stupa of ancient India evolved into several distinct forms in various parts of Southeast and East Asia.
pagoda01 pagoda02
The finial. or decorative crowning ornament of the stupa. became more elongated and cylindrical until the stupa's upper portion took on an attenuated. tower like appearance. This stupa form was adopted by Buddhism as an appropriate form for a monument enshrining sacred relics and became known to Westerners as a pagoda. The Buddhist pagoda was elaborated in Tibet into a bottle-shaped form; it took pyramidal or conical designs in Burma. Thailand. Cambodia. and Laos; and in China. Korea. and Japan. it evolved into the best-known pagoda form.

The latter was a tall tower consisting of the vertical repetition of a basic story unit in regularly diminishing proportions. The stories can be circular. square. or polygonal. Each story in an East Asian pagoda has its own prominent projecting roof line. and the whole structure is capped by a mast and disks. The pagoda form is intended primarily as a monument and has very little usable interior space.

Phongyi - Pyan (Cremation of a Monk)

Then the incumbent of a Kyaung (monastery) dies the body is embalmed. so as to allow the devotion of several months to the preparations for the funeral. The corpse is swathed like a mummy and laid in a solid dug-out coffin of hard wood. (much less pomp is displayed at the funeral of a sojourner).

Then the coffin is covered with the decorative stately bier called Thanlyin. It is made of velvet and richly embroidered with silver and gold threads. Sequins and coloured semiprecious stones are also used to portray attractive designs and princely figures. Thanlyin inter woven entirely with gold threads was also once been in vogue. Mercury is poured in at the mouth and honey is applied externally. A support for the coffin is made in the form of a naga. with its head raised and portruding fiery tongue to guard its trust.

 

Upon the coffin rests an effigy of the deceased. Beneath the naga is a throne. decorated with gilded and colourful decorations. Sometimes the whole structure is of glass mosaic (thayo). and subsequently forms part of the catafalque. Such elaborate tala are not burned. but brought back to the kyaung. where they are kept. but not used again. Over all this. is a royal canopy of corresponding magnificence. with the tibyu or royal ensign at the four corners. Thus the coffin lies in state in the kyaung. or in a special building. may be during the whole season of the rains. while the kyaungtaga ( the lay patron) is occupied with the preparations for the grand funeral ceremony. which is called phongyi-pyan.

The expenses are frequently shared and public contributions flow in. The catafalque is of the same design as the ordinary tala. but of greater dimensions .. fifty to sixty feet high to the ti of the pyatthat. It is solidly constructed and braced and strengthened in every direction. Nowadays. the catafalque is mostly erected on a stout platform on wheels. Long cables proceed from each end of the carriage for drawing it and to enable it to be controlled where the road descends. It is difficult to manoeuvre at the corners of streets and under telegraph wires. even though these wires are raised on special posts where they cross the approaches to cemeteries.

The pyatthat often fails to reach its destination in its original perfection; nevertheless it stands out brilliantly in the grand display in which it is frequently preceded and followed by subsidiary pyatthat erected over carriages which bear the largest offerings to the kyaungs. The Myimmo Daung with its denizens is built up on another carriage. others are bright with nats and thagya. immense paper models of boats. ships. and steamers. and similar freaks of the Thadindyut carnival. Life-size models of white elephants. caparisoned with red and tinsel. move in the procession.

Uniform costumes are specially made and scores of young men are drilled for their parts in the cortege. The day is fixed long beforehand. and people throng in from all the neighbouring villages in their finest clothes. The streets are lined with gay booths. pwe (entertainments. such as dance. drama etc.) are staged and bands are play. At noon the great catafalque begins its progress to the cemetery. drawn by the people. preceded and followed by regiments of masqueraders. endless lines of women carrying offerings. and sight-seers.

If the idea be to conjure up the greatest possible contrast to the life of the man who is being honoured. the object could not be more completely attained. When the bier has reached the cemetery. the coffin is not set on a pyre like that of the layman. but is burned in the catafalque. for which purpose the latter has been filled with combustibles. The fire is not lighted in the common way; it is kindled from a distance by means of rockets. These are contributed by different villages or wards of the town. Each of them root for the honour of starting the fire with their rocket.

In the lowland areas of Myanmar the great rockets are sent through the air. guided by rattans to the catafalque. But it is one thing to reach and another to kindle. The paoe rockets. with the trunks of hard trees. hooped with iron. for barrels. and mounted on stout carriages. are merely aimed at the catafalque. It frequently happens that none of them hits the mark; then the fire is kindled by hand. But the rocket that manages to get the nearest wins the day; great sums of money change hands. and as they return home. some people’s spirits are higher than ever. while everybody else puts the best face upon it. De phongyi-byan kaung-de—it was a glorious phongyi-pyan. and the kyaungtaga will be congratulated upon it as long as he lives.

 

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