Sunday, May 29, 2011

Notes on U Budh

This is my note from a book I read. (I tried to translate it into English now.) It is my carelessness to take no record of the printing history of the book. Now I even cannot remember its title and the author. Fortunately, the note is kept on my computer. It is about Sayadaw U Budh (a well-known Burmese Buddhist monk). How can this information from the time of palm-leaf inscription be valued in this IT age? It depends on the reader. Let us have a look.

Sayadaw U Budh was a well-known Myanmar Buddhist monk in the later time of Ava Dynasty and in the early time of Konbaung Dynasty. He was one of the king’s teacher monks. Myanmar Buddhists often say that there were three Budhs: “the Beginning Budh, the Middle Budh, and the Last Budh” respectively referring to the Lord Buddha, Commentator Buddhaghosa and Sayadaw U Budh. By this, the Sayadaw’s morality, concentration and wisdom are highly honoured; especially his dhamma knowledge is honoured.

He was born in 1149 ME. His native was NyaungKan Village (Maung Htaung), Budalin Township, Upper Myanmar. His parents were U Oe and Daw Hmway. His childhood name was Maung Pope. Later his name became Maung Budh (Mr Wisdom) because he was very bright. His monkhood name was Shin Cakkinda. But he was well known as U Budh when he became, in 1192 ME, a royal tutor monk of King Sagaing and his chief queen named Mel Nu.

Mel Nu Brick Monastery, Ava

The First Admonishment to the King

Today there is a well-known antique monastery in Ava near Sagaing, Upper Myanmar. It is Maha Aung Myay Bon San, Mel Nu OkeKyaung (Brick Monastery Donated by Mel Nu), a donation of the royal family. It was donated to Sayadaw U Budh in 1192 ME. On the day of monastery donation ceremony, the king and his queen requested Sayadaw U Budh to give a dhamma talk. Briefly he preached:
We do not need to admonish you if you fulfill the duties of a good king. Unless you’re a righteous king, it is not our business. That would be the business of Avisi Niraya, the severest hell.”

The Last Admonishment to the Queen

The king was paying more attention to religious and meritorious affairs and less attention to his kingly tasks. Moreover, he became unhealthy since 1196 ME and thus, administration of the country was taken over by the queen, her brother U Oh and the viceroy, the king’s younger brother. Gradually, the queen and the viceroy fought in secret for power which resulted in two groups being formed.

Moreover, during that time, there were dissatisfactions in the palace. The reason was because the queen was not from a royal family. She was but a village lady. Her native was Phalankhon Village, Shwebo District, Upper Myanmar. Thanks to her father and aunt who were serving the king, the father of Sagaing King, she became an attendant to the king and queen. At that time, King Sagaing was a viceroy and he was attracted by the splendid beauty of Mel Nu and decided to take possession of her. When the viceroy became a king, his chief queen was Hsin Phyu Mel who died after giving birth to a son (Sakyar Min) in 1174 ME. Thereafter, Mel Nu became the chief queen of the king. Everybody at the palace was displeased because the chief queen was just a village lady and not from a royal family. The father of the late queen (Hsin Phyu Mel) and her uncle were leaders of Mel Nu’s opposition group. But the dissatisfactions were suppressed when the opposition leaders were killed by the new queen (Mel Nu) and her followers.

In 1198 ME, the queen and her team tried to seize and imprison Prince Tharyarwady, the viceroy and younger brother of the king. However, the prince together with his followers escaped and they ran away to Shwebo where he settled down and formed an army. He rebelled and finally defeated his brother king in 1199 ME. Though he took the throne, he did not kill his brother and the queen, Mel Nu. Instead, he just demoted them.

In 1201 ME, Mel Nu and her old ministers attempted to dethrone King Tharyarwady. They rebelled but the attempt was unsuccessful and they were defeated by the king. Many people who were involved in the rebellion were killed and the king ordered his mayor to execute Mel Nu by drowning. Prior to the execution, Mel Nu requested the executioner to let her pay her last respect to Sayadaw U Budh. Her request was granted and she was brought to the Sayadaw. She miserably said to the Sayadaw:
Venerable Sir, I am going to be executed by King Tharyarwady who is more powerful than me now.”

The Sayadaw just replied: “Mel Nu, you must pay for your debt.”

Benefit of the Queen’s Charity

Queen Mel Nu was fond of contributing to charity. One day, in front of Sayadaw U Budh, she counted her meritorious deeds and asked him what will be the benefits of her charity works. The Sayadaw asked her to bring a cup of water. She brought a cup of water to the Sayadaw who told her to throw away the water again. Then he said:
The amount of water you threw away should be compared to the wealth you gave in charity. The amount of water remaining in the cup should be compared to the benefit of your charity works.

The Saydaw wanted to say that the queen’s charity works were not very much appreciated because she made them for her own gain and fame.

Pathamakyaw Decision

Pathamakyaw was a Buddhist oral examination of ancient Myanmar. Student monks had to learn the Buddhist texts by heart so that they can sit for the exam. In the yearly examination, the best student chosen among the student monks from all over the country was offered the title of Pathamakyaw (Pathama, first; kyaw, famous). One of the years, it was greatly wished that the winner of the title would be a bright student monk learning at the monastery supported by Prince Tharyarwady, the viceroy and the younger brother of the king. Thus U Oh, the queen’s brother, approached the chief monk of the monastery and requested the venerable to allow him to bring the student monk to the monastery he supported. He was allowed and so he was happy thinking that the monastery supported by him would be famous for producing a Pathamakyaw student monk. However, this matter was exposed prior to the examination and was reported to the king who did not give any judgment but handed over the matter to the monks for arbitration. None of the monks dare to make any decision because the dispute was between the two influential men, the viceroy and the queen’s brother. At last Sayadaw U Budh decided:
This is not the king’s business. And this is neither the queen’s business nor her brother’s business nor the viceroy’s business. This is but the monks’ affair. The chief monk of the monastery supported by U Oh persuaded the student monk, others pupil. Thus, this is an offence of wrongdoing for him according to the Vinaya rule: ‘Na bhikkhaveannassaparisaapalaletabba, yoapalaleyaapattidukkatassa.’ He must disclose his offence. Any monk near him must accept his confession. The student monk went onto the wrong course of passion by following the persuasion. Thus, he must not sit in the examination this year. Let him go back to his native village.

A Little Thing

Being quiet is one of Sayadaw U Budh’s distinguished characteristics. He was usually concise and precise in his speech. One day the king and the queen made a cause to let him speak out. They went to his monastery together with their young daughter named Tilokamyatswar who later became the chief queen (Hsing Phyu Ma Shin) of King Mindon. At the monastery, they paid homage to the quiet monk who was then reading and writing. Intentionally, they let the child go off around the monk as she wished. As a child, she was playful and fearless. She was taking things and throwing them away and putting everything in disorder. Finally, she was playing with the monk’s palm-leaf inscriptions. Seeing this, the venerable asked: “Who is the little thing?” The king answered: “Our daughter princess, venerable Sir.” He continued his reading after making the remark: “If so, she’s mischievously playful.” The king and queen took their child and quickly went back. The king laughingly said to his queen: “The venerable doesn’t speak to us but he loves to talk with our daughter.
Sayadaw U Budh paid attention to his works only. He did not entertain his devotees even if they are king and queen.

I am Living in the Buddha’s Dispensation

In 1194 ME, the king and the queen made Kathina donation to Sayadaw U Budh’s monastery. During the Kathina ceremony, in the presence of the invited monks, Sayadaw U Budh gave the Kathina robe to a monk in poor robes. Seeing this, one of the invited monks said to Sayadaw U Budh:
“The queen offered this expensive robe to you. She will be unhappy that you gave the robe to a student monk.

Sayadaw U Budh replied the monk by questioning him:
Are you, venerable Sir, living in the Buddha’s dispensation or the queen’s dispensation?

Son of Buddha or Son of the King?

In 1145 ME when Sayadaw U Budh was a royal tutor of King Tharyarwady, the son of the king invited Sayadaw U Medha of Nyaungkan Village, U Budh’s native, to the kingdom. Thus U Medha became the royal tutor of the prince. U Medha went to Sayadaw U Budh to show his respect to the later as soon as he arrived at the kingdom. Upon seeing Sayadaw U Medha, Sayadaw U Budh admonished him by calling his childhood name and said:
Maung Gyi, now you’ve become a royal tutor. If you behave according to the Buddha’s will, you’ll be a son of the Buddha. But you’ll be a prince, the son of the king, if you behave according to the king’s will.

Shin Acara

Ref: Forgetfully unrecorded pages of a forgotten book by a certain author

Picture from (30 May 2011):

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