Saw Mra Aung
Out of innumerable Buddha images in Rakhine State, the Maha Myatmuni Buddha Image situated in Kyauk Taw Township is the most ancient and enjoys the greatest reputation. The mound where the pavilion housing this image is believed to have been the centre of Dhammavati City and the cradle of Theravada Buddhism in Rakhine State. The history of this image is closely associated with the visit of the Buddha to Dhannavati City of Rakhine region. Regarding it, Rakhine traditional chronicles run thus:
When the Buddha appeared in Majjhimadesa in the year 103 Maha Era, King Cadasuriya was reigning over Dhannavati, Rakhine Kingdom. One day, he knew from the merchants coming from Rajagaha that the Buddha was enlightened in Majjhimadesa. At the word ‘Buddha’, out of rapture, he fainted. Soon, he regained consciousness. Restless with the pricky thought of venerating the Buddha, he assembled all the wise ministers in the palace and sought advice from them. Finally, as suggested by a wise minister by the name of Deva Kyaw Vimala, he had a make-shift Vihara (Monastery) for the Buddha’s stay and other pavilions for alms and preaching the Dhamma built on a sacred mound near the palace. Then, after vowing that he would not rise to his feet until the Buddha came, he invited the Buddha respectfully through his mind to his kingdom with incense-sticks lit and fragrant flowers offered, facing to the west where he knew the Buddha to be.
At that time, the Buddha in his twentieth Vassa (rains-retreat) was sojourning at the Veluvana Vihara donated by King Bimbisara in Rajagaha. When the Buddha, through his Dibbacakkhunana (Divine Eye), looked at the ten thousand universes, he saw that King Cadasuriya, who had been one of his close friends in a previous existence, was inviting him to his kingdom for alms. However, seeing that Dhannavati was nine hundred yojanas away from Rajagaha, he knew he had to go there through the sky. So the Buddha asked the Venerable Ananda, his personal attendant, to list the names of the disciples who wanted to accompany him there. When the Thera was doing as asked by the Buddha, Pandukambalasana (Yellow marble throne) of Sakka became hot and tense. When Sakka looked down at the Human Abode, he saw that the Buddha and his disciples were busy with the arrangement for so distant a journey. Therefore, Sakka in the company of Matali and Vissakamma descended to Rajagaha. At the bidding of Sakka, the two Devas created five hundred carriages decorated with tiered roofs. Then Sakka returned to Tavatimsa, leaving Matali and Vissakamma behind to be able to attend to all requirements. The two Devas kept vigilant watch throughout the night. It is said that the celestial carriage for the Buddha was embellished with four doors in a floral design, the carriages for Maha Savakas (Great disciples) with the two doors and carriages for other Arahats with one door each.
On the morning of Wednesday, the 8th waxing day of Kason in the year 123 Maha Era (580 B.C), the Buddha, accompanied by five hundred disciples in celestial carriages, went to Dannavati through the sky. This spectacular sight of the Buddha and his disciples travelling through the air in the rising sun cast a great spell on the people of Majjhimadesa and Dhannavati. Therefore, whosoever saw the sight could not help but pay reverence to them. On his arrival at the top of the Selagiripabbata hill on the right bank of the Gacchapanadi (Kalandan River) near Kyauk Taw , the Buddha , looking at the four cardinal directions, smiled to himself.
When the Venerable Ananda asked the Buddha about the reason of smiling, the Buddha answered, ‘O Ananda, I have lived as a tuner in this mountain in a previous life. After my demise, successors to King Candasuriya will have a pagoda built here and my spine relic enshrined in it. That pagoda will later became known as Kyauk Taw Pagoda. In my innumerable past existences, I have lived at 246 localities within the boundary of this kingdom. So, after my demise, the succeeding Rakhine kings will have pagodas built at these localities and 48 kinds of my relics enshrined in them. The soil of this kingdom is always so fertile that it yields a rich supply of paddy. So the preceding Buddhas named it Dhannavati. Now, following the example of my predecessors, I will give the same name to it.’
At the end of the Buddha’s words, the waves in the Gacchapanadi rose extremely high and earth trembled vehemently for three times in praise of them. The six rays of the Buddha shone forth brilliantly, prevailing over the whole world. Everyone was filled with unprecedented peace and serenity. They were so much surprised at the Buddha’s unparallel glory that they paid homage to the Buddha from where they were. Due to these miracles, King Candasuriya, thinking that the Buddha had arrived, jumped from the seat where he had vowed and scurried up to the top of the Selagiripabbata hill. When he saw the Buddha in the flesh, he fell faint at the Buddha feet. Only when the Buddha showered his great compassion on him, he came round. Then the king paid obeisance to the Buddha with five kinds of touch and invited the Buddha and five hundred Arahats to the newly-built pavilion for alms. They were served milk porridge. Thereafter, the Buddha expounded a sutta (discourse)in appreciation of alms-offering. At the conclusion of the sutta, the king and ministers became Sotapannas (stream-winners). Queen Upparadevi and princess Surupa who were mature in perfections became Arahats. Thenceforth, the people of Rakhine became adherents to Buddhism.
Just before the Buddha’s departure, the king entreated him to leave an image on his behalf for public devotion. After receiving the Buddha’s assent, the king offered the Buddha some amount of pancaloha (alloy of gold, silver, copper, iron and lead) in baskets studded with jewels. Then the Buddha gave seven handfuls of the alloy to Sakka and Vissakamma and assigned them the task of casting an image bearing the exact resemblance to him. Much delighted, Sakka created a jeweled pavilion on the Sirikut mound at the southeastern corner of the city and celebrated a celestial occasion. It was jam-packed with Devas and Brahmas. Devas and human beings danced together in joy, playing various celestial musical instruments. Meanwhile, a shower of celestial flowers fell down from the sky. Out of amazement and gladness, the king and the people called out, “Well done, well done, well done.”
Under the auspices of the Buddha, the image started to be cast on the night of Wednesday, the fullmoon day of Kalson, in the year 123 Maha Era and was completed at dawn the next day. After the image had been cast, the Buddha put into it seven handfuls of his breast-warmth. Once he did so, it became the very living image of the Buddha. It seemed as if the two Buddhas had appeared at the same time in Jambudipa. At that very instant, Devas from the six celestial planes sprinkled confetti down onto the earth. The people could see Devas and Brahmas with their own eyes. The earth shook echoingly in praise. When the Buddha was about to go to the palace for alms, the newly-cast Maha Myatmuni Image bore the air to stand and follow the Buddha. The Buddha then turned back and said, ‘O my dear younger brother, be quiet. Don’t stand up. Leave here to receive the veneration of the people for the full length of 5,000 years.’ After partaking of the alms at the palace, the Buddha preached a sutta in appreciation of casting the Buddha image. Then the Buddha and his disciples proceeded to the southern part of Rakhine through the air on an itinerary.
In the past, domestic pilgrims and foreign tourists hardly visited Rakhine due to it difficult access and lack of security. However, nowadays, peace and security have prevailed in Rakhine State. The Sittway-Yangon High Way has appeared very recently. As Kyauk Taw is on the way from Sittwe -Yangon High Way, one can reach it easily by car. So, let me invite pilgrims, historians, scholars and foreign tourists to come and pay homage to this great MahaMyatmuni Image when an opportune occasion offers to you.