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July 14, 2020

Text and context of water pouring on Sacred Maha Bodhi Tree on Fullmoon Kasone

  • Maha Saddhamma Jotika Dhaja, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt
  • File photo: Buddihst devotees participate in a ceremony to pour water on sacred Maha Bodhi Tree on Fullmoon Kasone at the Shwedagon Pagoda.Photo: Thwe Thwe Tun

Pali word Bodhi means omniscience or enlightenment of Buddha. The sacred Bo tree under which Gotama Buddha attained enlightenment was Bo or papal tree [Ficus religiosa] Nyaung Bodhi, Nyaung is Myanmar word for Bannyan tree. Bodhi is Pali word for wisdom or enlightenment. Bodhisattva means Buddha-to-be.
In Myanmar many species of Nyaung [Bodhi tree] grow wild or are planted such as NyaungMokeSeik Bannyan tree with long thick beards shooting out from its branches, NyaungCheyHtaut Bannyan tree with long shoots coming out from its thick branches like legs to support its long thick branches, Nyaung ‘Peinhne’ a Bannyan tree with twin features of a bannyan and jack fruit trees, and Nyaung Chin a species of Bannyan with sour tasting buds and leaves for Myanmar traditional salad.
Many proverbs, old sayings and poems mention positively the benevolence of Nyaung tree. Thit tabinkaung, ngnet ta thaungna. {သစ္တပင္ေကာင္း၊
ငွက္တစ္ေသာင္းနား]. On a single bannyan tree ten thousand birds rest. အပင္ၾကီး၊ အသီးေသးေသာေညာင္၊ အၿမင္နီး၊ ခရီးေ၀းေသာေတာင္ [Tree is big but the fruit is small, seemingly near but for distanced is the mountain]. But bannyan tree is also viewed negatively because of its destructive power. ေစတီမွန္းထား၊ ၿမတ္ဘုရား၊ တည္ထားေကာင္းလွ်က္၊ ေညာင္ပင္ဖ်က္ [Sacred Buddhist stupas are destroyed by bannyan trees that grow quickly out of the seeds brought by birds. For maintenance archaeologists Nyaung trees are pests to be eliminated as quickly as possible otherwise they swallow up the monuments and other trees.
Because the second latest Buddha of BadhaKaba [Five Buddha world] Gotama happened to gain enlightenment under the Bo tree [Nyaung tree] that tree became sacred Bodhi Tree of our time. Twenty seven Buddha that revealed prior to Gotama became enlightenment under 27 different trees, which are also Bodhi Trees. The following are the four Buddhas and four Bodhi Trees under which their enlightenments were attained prior to Gotama Buddha.
Maha Bodhi Tree is regarded as a kind of Paribawgaceti in which priestly utensils used by the Buddhas in their life time were enshrined.
Botanically pipal [Nyaung] trees are hardy big trees that can stand any amount of heat and grow big in semi-desert lands. But the month Kasone [May] is the hottest month. Water underground and in environment is exhausted. Hence Myanmar saying goes “တန္ခူးေရကုန္၊ ကဆုန္ေရခန္း’’ [In Tagu April water diminishes, in Kasone May water is dried up]. So Buddhists pour water on sacred Bannyan tree [Bodhi Tree] to gain merit. Nyaung Yey Thun Pwe or the festival of pouring water an Sacred Nyaung tree.
Since Buddhism arrived in the Maha Sakarit year [Buddhist era] 103, either seeds or saplings of Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya in India or Dekhinasakha Tree in Sri Lanka had been brought or are still being brought to Myanmar either envoys, Buddhist monks or private personnel as religious gifts, souvenni or presents to be planted at sacred places.
Dekhina Sakha is the sacred Bodhi Tree planted by Bikkhu Saint Mahenidra and Bikkhni Saint Samgha Mitre who were son and daughter of Emperor Asoka. When they were about to begin their Buddhist mission abroad, they made vows at the sacred Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya in India. That branch of the Sacred Bodhi Tree which inclined towards the south direction where Sri Lanka is, was cut and taken to “Lanka dipa’’ [the then name of Sri Lanka] which is to the southern most of India, in India Ocean. So that Bannyan Tree is known to Myanmar as Dhekhina [south] Thakah. When Buddhism declined in the land of its origin and the original Maha Bodhi Tree died due to very old age, Dekhina Sakha planted in Sri Lanka became the only surviving species of Maha Bodhi Tree of Bodhgaya. Sri Lanka became the centre of Theravada Buddhism after the Fourth Buddhist Synod was held by Buddhist King of Sri Lanka and for the first time that all Buddha Teachings, commentaries and Sub-Commentaries were recorded in writing on palm leaves, with Magahta and Pali translations.
Like other Theravada Buddhist countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Bali island and Java of Indonesia, some parts of Malaysia, Myanmar owed much to Sri Lanka for Theravada Buddhism and Dekhina Sakha Bodhi tree. Theravada Buddhism is simply Buddhism according to the canonical texts of Tipitakas [Three Baskets or Three Bodies of Buddha’s Teachings namely Suttas, Vinayas, and Abhidhamma]. Discoure, Discipline and Philosophy.
Today Maha Bodhi Trees are found in the precincts of great religious monuments and compounds of great monasteries. Their histories are recorded in stone inscriptions on stone pillars posted nearby or on palm leaves or on folding rice papers or in mural paintings on the ceilings and walls of monuments and Tazaungs [covered corridors].
To mention but a few are big Maha Bodhi trees at old capitals-Bagan, Pinya, Inwa, Taungoo and Konbaung Periods. The earliest evidence of planting Maha Bodhi Tree in Myanmar is found in the reign of King Narapatisithu (1173-1210 A.D) of Bagan Period. One Myanmar monk Maha Thera Ashin Kassapa on return from Sri Lanka brought home seeds of Maha Bodhi Tree and drawings of Maha Zedi Loha Pathada Pyatthat and Sacred relics presented to the King Uzana Pinya Period, A.D 1340, King Narapati and King Maha Thiha Thura of Inwa Period, in 1442 A.D and 1468 respectively, King Dhammazedi in 1471 A.D, King Bodawpaya in A.D 1800. King Bagyidaw in 1834 A.D were also planters of Maha Bodhi Nyaung bin Tree. Particularly in Mandalay in the south east direction there is Maha Bodhi Kone Pagoda where King Mindon planted Sacred Maha Bodhi saplings at that South-east direction of his palace which is the direction of Tuesday as he was Tuesday born. These Maha Bodhi Trees have grown into full length making the precincts a perfect arborea.

Buddhist nums pour water on Bodhi Tree at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Photo: Phoe Khwar

Other Maha Bodhi Trees are found in the compounds of Maha Loka Marazein Pagoda, Sanda Mani Pagoda, Eindaw Ya Pagoda, Set Kya Siha Pagoda, Sutaung Pyi Pagoda, Sutaungya Pagoda, Chan Tha Gyi Pagoda, Chan Tha Ya Pagoda, in Mandalay and Shwe Kyet Yet Pagoda and Shwe Kyet Kya Pagoda on the eastern bank of the Ayeyawady River near the great Ava rail way Bridge Sagaing.
In Yangon, at Shwe Dagon Pagoda hillock there are two Maha Bodhi Trees, one planted in 1905, by Meidat Sayadaw at Southeast corner and the other planted in 1948 at North West corner to commemorate the regarding of Myanmar independence on 4 January 1948. In down town area on the compound of Sule Pagoda, on the north entrance is the only tree still surviving, which is Maha Bodhi Tree. There is the original spring well which still produces clear cool spring water which is used for watering the sacred Bodhi Tree on full moon of Kasone.
Nyaung Yey meaning water for Nyaung tree Sacred Bodhi Tree is commonly used by Myanmar Buddhists. At home on the after are placed. Three water pots with flowers or Thabye [Eugenia] sprigs for three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
Nyaung Yey Thun Pwe festival of pouring water on Sacred Bodhi Tree is sung in verse, recorded in prose and reenacted in drama and plays of Myanmar literature, Visual and Performing Arts. The following is the excerpt of Three stanza Ratu [Pikesone Ratu] composed by Amutkyi [Knight minister] Letwei Thonedra of King Sin Byu Shin [1763-76] of late Konbaung Period of Myanmar History. He was sent into exile to Meza Forest due to royal anger. In his solitude in composed two Ratus one of which was Meza Taung Chey which described the local festival of water pouring at the Bodi Tree and sent them to his royal master upon reading them, the king felt pitiful and so he was recalled and reinstated at the court. The following is the English translation of stanza 3 of Meza Taung Chey Ratu by English Professor G.H. Luce.

ပြဲခါေညာင္ေရသြန္းၿမဲေပတည့္၊ ႐ုိေသသဒၶါ၊ ထုံးစဥ္လာၿဖင့္၊ မဲဇာရပ္သူ၊ ေတာင္းဆုယူသည္၊ ေရႊဂူေတာ္ႏွင့္၊ ႐ႈတုိင္းတင့္သာ၊ မုိးၿမင့္သီေခါင္၊ မဲဇာေခ်ာင္က၊ တစ္ေတာင္လုံးမႈိင္း၊ စေရႊ႕ဆုိင္းေသာ္၊ ေတာင္တုိင္းယွက္ေရ၊ ၀န္းကာေ၀ွ႕သည္၊ ေတာင္ေငြ႕ေ၀ေ၀၊ အေတြေတြႏွင့္၊ ေလလည္ေရာရာ၊ မုိးမပါဘဲ၊ သန္၀ါေၿဖာက္ေၿဖာက္၊ ဆီးႏွင္းေပါက္လည္း၊ မုိဃ္းေဘာက္ၿပင္းထန္၊ သြန္းခ်ၿပန္ေသာ္၊ ယုဂန္ထင္ယွ်ားေတာင္ေတာ္ဖ်ားက၊ ရထားယဥ္သာ၊ ေနစၾကာၤ လည္း၊ ေရာင္၀ါမထြန္း၊ ခ်မ္းရွာလြန္း၍၊ တည့္မြန္းခ်ိန္ေန၊ ေရာက္ လြယ္ေစဟု၊ တလ်က္ၿမည္သည္၊ ေနၿခည္ျဖာမွေႏြးေသာေၾကာင့္။
“At the Nyaung-ye Festival,
Meza people all devout.
Duly fall in prayer and pour
Water to the Bannyan tree.
Free the valley, see, the Shrine
Rises even to the sky.
Meza! Thy Pagoda old
Of the golden cave is there!
Fair to look on ever more
Dimly glimmering O’er the mount.
Dusky floor, To shadowy head
Steady hang night’s vaporous yet.
Soon, as a billowing net, are stirred.
Surging fretful as a flood,
Huddle up-ward tower, and crowd.
Then in cloudy streamers free
Stretched across the sea of dawn
Darkling wreathes the heights around,
Lost and drowned.
The travelled mist
Shredded now by twisting winds
Patters- listen!- to the ground
Drip-drop-the sound is loud.
Like rounded clear refrain.
Of the rain, though none there be
See the chariot of the Sun
Peeps o’er, Mt. Yugandhara.
Stooping under vapours wan
Nunbed, the noon I fondly wait,
counting on my fingers chill.
Hours and minutes, till the rays
Spreacling fill the world with warmth’’.

Nyaung is very commonly used for Myanmar town, village, jetty, barbour, monastery, Pagodas, monuments quarters and vehicles due to its auspiciousness. Thus we have Nyaung Lay bin town [Town with four Bannyan trees], Nyaung don, Shwe Nyaung, Nyaung Shwe towns, Nyaung pin win, Nyaung hnit pin village, Shwe Nyaung bin Sakhan [Golden Nyaung Tree Stations], Nyaung bin Seik [Nyaung ferry or barbour], Nyaung bin Tha Ywa [pleasant Nyaung tree village. Nyaung Kan Sayadaw [anmifuefq&mawmf], GrealSayadaw monk of Nyaung Lake. Nyaung U Phe one of the five knights eve ant of King Anawrahta of Bagan. He could swin a cross the Ayeyawady River many times in a day.
ေရႊၿခဴေညာင္ရြက္ သုိးသုိးသြက္ႏွင့္ ေလနက္တုိင္းမည္၊ တည့္သူ႔ထူပါ၊ ဆံစူ႒ာသုိ႔
The triangle shape of Nyaung leave is made of copper, alloy, silver or gold as tongue to small balls called စည္းလဲ၊ ဆြဲလဲ .
In the breeze the metallic tongue shakes striking the little bells to produce pleasant sounds to send out the menage of the Dhamma.
In modern time planting of Bodhi Tree took place on a grand scale on barren hill range near Monywa town, Upper Myanmar. Known at home and abroad as Bodhi Tahtaung hill [One thousand Bodhi Nyaung Trees were planted on that barren hill range led by monk Sayadaw now known as Bodhi Tahtaung Sayadaw. The entire place is now spotted with gigantic religious monuments Buddha Statues, Pagodas, Shrines monasteries manneries and meditation center as well as manmade arborea.
In modern parlance, water pouring on Bodhi Tree on full moon Kasone is Myanmar traditional observance of the world Environment Day.


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