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July 17, 2019

The month of Nayone holds religious examinations

  • By Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt (Maha Saddhamma Jotika Dhaja, Sithu )
Buddha novices learning in a monastery in Sagaing. PHOTO: phoe khwar

The 3rd month of the Myanmar Lunar calendar “Nayone ushers in the wet season monsoon. As the rain wind beating cloud blows from the north- west direction showers spray the scorched earth of Myanmar. In no time Myanmar’s drylands become green carpets of grass. The environment is fragrant with the scents of jasmine flowers designated as the flora of this month.
May Hton is the astrological name of this month, derived from Pali word “Mihto-na” meaning a couple of man and woman. So astrological symbol of this month is a couple of man and women holding a rod and a harp. Three important events take place in this month.
Firstly plowing ceremony of Myanmar kings to gather with farmers. It is called Le htun mingalar ]v,fxGefr*Fvm}. The King himself ploughs in royal field so that there would be good rain good yield and good harvest.
Secondly on the full moon of this month Lord Gotama Buddha delivered Maha Thamaya Sutta “to Bramas and devas of all Universes”. So Nayone Full Moon is yearly celebrated as Maha Thamaya Sutta Day.
Thirdly it is in the months of Nayone that religious examinations are held for Buddhist monks and lay students. In this article, the writer wishes to touch upon only the religious examination as the other two events need separate articles. In Myanmar Language, the word “Kyaung ausmif;” has three meanings. Firstly training domestic animals, training children. Kyaung means a school as well as a monastery. There is no separate word for school and monastery. Residences of monks are called Phongyi Kyaung teaching schools are called Sarthin Kyaung. Myanmar literary education originated in monasteries where monk teachers give Three Rs education to children free of charge regardless of race, religion, creed, and social status. Reading, Writing and Arithmetics are taught by monks teachers and train in Buddhist morals, esthetics and civic duties.
There 3 Sasans in Buddhism knows as Tipitaka Literally Three Baskets [Bodies] namely (1). Pariyatti Sasana [ Aequisition of a sound knowledge of the Dhamma, the Law, and religious literature and scriptures through intensive and extensive learning.
(2).Patipatti Sasana which means “being accomplished in knowledge”.
(3).Previda Sasana which means the acting according to knowledge communicated and acquired.
The first Sasana Pariyatti is primarily unimportant because Buddhism is literate religion. We may trace the history of the beginning of religious examinations and festivals through Myanmar archaeology and history and literature. But in this article, the writer wishes to touch upon the significance of religious examinations and its festivals till today. Monks are confined in their resident monasteries during rain retreat devoting to learning and practicing Buddhism. At the end of the learning period, they are tested by rigid examinations, oral, mental and written by their monk teachers thoroughly and rigidly in the month of Nayone the end of their academic terms.
The style and proceedings of these examinations can be watched and studied by anyone citizen or stranger separate examinations centers and halls are built at Nay Pyi Taw capital city. In Mandalay you can till see the Thudhamma Zayats [Examinations halls outside the palace city at the foot of Mandalay hill]. In addition to prescribed curriculums and syllabuses and textbooks, rigid examination rules and conduct, supervision and evaluation of results are very systematic and rigid.
Basically there are four gradings in Examinations.
(1). Pahtama Nge [yxri,f]Lower Grade
(2). Pahtama Lat [yxrvwf] Middle Grade
(3). Pahtama Gyi [yxrBuD;] Higher Grade and
(4). Pahtama Kyaw [yxrausmf] Highest Grade.
All must go through three types of examinations
(1). Recitation by heart
(2). Oral examination and
(3). Written examination.
Successful candidates are showered with lavish rewards. A big puja ceremony was held by the King, his court and the people. In the courtyard pandals were put up. Their Majesties and the court made public appearances to honour successful candidates who were carried on palaguines [Sediar chair] carried by men. Gold ornamental umbrellas were shading the awardee monks. Their Majesties after listening to the speeches of Head monks of Buddhism did libation ceremony of dropping scented water from gold ewers, calling upon god of Earth to witness the great deed. Next successful candidates lined up to receive cash and title from His Majesty. King Mindon awarded silver kyat[Rupee] 1000 each for Lower Grade 1500 each for Higher Grade 2500 each for the Highest Grade. In addition, the privilege of tax immunities was granted to their parents and the nearest relatives.
Successful candidates are free to choose monkhood for life or being reverted to layman and to accept a job offered by the King. Just as those who choose lifelong monkhood could become Royal monk Teacher and Sangha Yaza Sasanabaing Sayadaw. So also those reverted to laymen can rise from lower grade clerk to minister[Wun Gyi] Myanmar royalty Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Aristocracy clerk to Minister including Armed forces land and water were recruited from the products of monastic education. This tradition of monastic education, religious examination and recruiting for royal or public administration and series has been carried out without fail despite changes in Myanmar history. Even during the Second World War, under the Japanese Fascist Occupation, this tradition was faithfully carried out. Till today religious examinations are held in the style of tradition.
Recently media reports of Religious Examinations for Tipitaka titles are spread home and abroad. Monks who can recite every word and any line and every page of Tipitaka or monks who can do so either one or two Pitaka. Some are young or middle age monk. Among five Theravada Buddhist Countries today Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar,Myanmar deserves pride and honour for producing such Buddha Sana Azani.

TIPITAKA TITLES

1. Tipitakadhara=Bearer of the Tipitaka (‘recitation or oral’),
2. Tipitakadhara Tipitakakawida =Bearer of the Tipitaka (‘oral’ and ‘written’),
3. Maha Tipitakakawida=Passing the ‘oral’ and ‘written’ with distinction,
4. Dhammabhandagarika=Keeper of the Dhamma Treasure.

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