Dr. Nyan Tun
Buddhism and Myanmar people cannot be separated from each other, for Buddhism is the life blood of Myanmar people in literature, cult, arts, ways of life and culture. Since Myanmar has been embracing Buddhism, Myanmar has been adopting all Buddhist ways of life into its society. By adopting Buddhist ways of life and thinking, Myanmar has been possessing highly and lovely culture and has been exercising into life even today though multi-culture has been mushrooming in modern times in our Myanmar society.
Among those lovely cultures, paying respect to highly virtuous persons (gunavuddhi) such as teachers, officers, hierarchy and spiritual leaders to whom we keep in mind that we owed a debt of gratitude. Seniority in a family member or responsible respected persons (vayavuddhi) in a community and in any institutions is common scene in every corner of the country in the month of Thadingyut, especially on the Full Moon, in Myanmar calendar. This paying respect to the senior, the elderly family members and relations or highly persons can be traced from Buddhist literature and it has been exercising since the time of the Buddha formulated by the Buddha himself. Following that tradition, our ancestors Myanmar people created the culture of paying respect to elderly persons and teachers’ respect-paying ceremony in our society.
Actually, this tradition and custom have been derived from the community of the Sangha, Buddhist monks. Buddhist monks, especially in Theravada Buddhism, have to stay in their respective monastery compounds within rainy seasons lasting for three months and they have to perform their duties: learning (ganthadhura) and practicing the teachings of the Buddha (vipassanadhura). When rain retreat was over, the monks who are occupying the same monastery either junior or senior have to inform and request one another to point out the faults: physically, verbally or mentally if they have seen while staying together. This custom is well known as “Pavarana day” in Myanmar and it is performed by the community of the Buddhist monks in Myanmar. After requesting and paying respect to one another they can go freely wherever they wanted to because they don’t have any sin to one another. Myanmar has been adopting this highly and valuable culture into its society. I believe those who introduced this unique culture are none other than Myanmar Buddhist monks who have been influencing the life of Myanmar people and who played the most important role in the education sector in the country in the past. We, Myanmar people, have been enjoying ancient, valuable and highly culture due to our respected spiritual leaders, Myanmar Buddhist monks.
This ‘junior, senior paying respected culture’ can be seen commonly in education field from primary schools up to tertiary level in the country because everyone, especially Buddhists in Myanmar community, keeps in mind that there are five persons in the world that cannot be repaid their gratitude fully. They are the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the Parents and the Teachers. Among the five, the culture that is prevailing in our community is ‘the paying respect ceremony to the Teachers’. This event is being conducted in open season and every school or college or university alumni organizes to conduct this valuable tradition and culture in their respective institutions dedicating to the gratitude of their former, retired or serving teaching staff. This pleasant emotional feeling in gathering can create the atmosphere into re-united family at the moment. I think this ‘junior, senior paying respected culture’ can be seen only in our Myanmar society.
2015-2016 academic year of Nationalities Youth Resource Development Degree College (NRDC) comes to an end and the convocation and graduation ceremony will be held in 26th and 27th of October so the responsible persons are preparing and decorating in our college campus for the grand function. At this juncture, final year students, nationality human resources, who have been trained for civil servant hood, paid respect their teachers before leaving their Alma Mata at the convocation hall. All teaching staff attended the function. Although this function is in common, it attracts everyone’s emotional feeling beyond word. This culture proves how teacher-pupil relationship plays the most important role in our Myanmar society. We are bound to love, compassion, duty and responsibility in our community so we are following and exercising our ancestor’s steps in our daily life which shed light on Buddhist literature.
Dr.Min Thant, the principal of the college, gave admonishing to the students that he was proud of the function and thanked to those who arranged this valuable tradition which has been exercising since the ancient time and he exhorted the students ‘You have been boarding in this campus for four years. Your teachers have trained you with earnest volition and guided you the pros and corns that you can encounter in your life by sharing their knowledge. Soon, you have to serve the welfare of the people in
respective departments in regions and little by little you have to carry out the heavy duties in the future so wherever you are assigned try to convey the good message of your college and prepare and train yourselves to be reliable human resources for the nation.
On the following day, the junior and little senior teaching and administration paying respect ceremony was held at the community hall of the college. In our institution, we have great five dedicating the most important persons in the college: the Principal, Vice-Principal, Head of Academic Affairs, Head of Engineering Department and head of Administration Department. We, all junior and little senior teaching and administration staff, paid respect to those great five and I think this junior to senior paying respect function can be seen only in this place even though paying respect to teachers are in common scene.
Dr.Min Thant, the principal, thanked the participants by saying that he was really happy and proud of to all who managed this function in unity with family spirit. He kept on saying that paying respect to the teachers or seniors is not the simple manner but it includes one of the ten highly respected companions known as “cifyGef;MuD;q,fyg;” in Myanmar mentioned in Buddhist literature. As I mentioned earlier, our society is bound to love, compassion, duty and responsibility so does in junior and senior relationship. As ordinary people, from Buddhist social and religious aspects, what we keep in our mind is that we have committed actions especially verbal or mental actions to our teachers or seniority either by accident or intentionally. If we have done it, we must confess to our fault
publicly or privately to them. By confession our faults, the two sides feel satisfied and forgive one anther so the actions that
we have done cannot affect on us. This is the truth accepting Buddhist ways of life. This is the way of lovely, highly and unique culture exercising in Buddhist philosophy especially in Myanmar.
The principal kept on saying that we should consider that the life and work we are performing is noble and fortunate one because even though being born as human beings compared to others fellow in our area we have to earn our professional in teaching and administration carrier without any difficulty or hard work. Though we are conducting our works in different sections in our college: training, administration and teaching, we are all educated persons serving the country as well as ourselves and being educated persons we have mature ways of thinking. From Buddhist dimensional point of view, this is due to the four causes in the past we had created. He pointed out the teachings known as the Blessing discourse ‘Mangala sutta’ taught by the Buddha that reflect our actions and those causes are to have done meritorious deeds in the past (pubbeca katapunnata); to reside in a suitable locality (patirupadesavasa); to associate with the wise (sappurisupanissaya) and to set oneself in the right course (attasamapanidhi). Whatever performing we are doing we should set oneself in the right way in life. The principal wished to all the staff to be good citizens by carrying out their works dutifully.
Then, U Thein Htay, Vice-principal expressed his emotional speech that alarms us and what he said was that by occupying the respected seat among my colleagues he felt nervous and had much more thought in life. He says, “I had a thought what I had done in my life for myself as well as for the welfare of others I did nothing solid proof.” Recently I read the article published in Myanmar Alin written by Prof: Aung Tun That and I learned what he said was that living for the welfare of others is more valuable and giving is more precious than taking. Actually, we should sacrifice our life for others but I had accepted your presents with my two hands but one hand should be the welfare of others. The Vice-Principal’s way of thinking reminds us that one should not be selfish but serve the welfare of nation.
In conclusion, we have been adopting and exercisin g highly Buddhist arts and culture in our Myanma society as our own. This is one of the ways of Myanmar’s junior-senior mutual respect culture. I believe this valuable tradition and custom that inscribed in every Myanmar’s heart will last long forever on the earth.