2. Arrival of Buddha Sasana in Myanmar

Buddhism arrived in Myanmar five times at five different periods, by land and by sea. The legend of Shwe Dagon pagoda in Yangon tells the story of the first arrival. In Maha Sakarit years (Buddhist era 103), on the full moon day of Kason (May), Gotama Buddha (prince Siddhartha), became enlightened under the shade of the Bodhi tree in Uruvela forest near the Neranjara river. Two merchant brothers Taphusa and Balika from Ramanna desa (Thaton), in lower Myanmar were in India selling paddy and other crops they brought by ship. They visited Gotama Buddha and offered him honey cakes.

The Buddha preached them the Dhamma. When they requested the Buddha his representation to take home, the Buddha offered them eight strands of hair from his head.

According to Shwedagon Pagoda inscription, the Lord Buddha stroked his head with his right hand and got 8 hairs and gave them to the merchants.

He told them to enshrine the sacred hair relics in the old stupa in which three relics of the previous Buddha’s were interned the bathing robe, the staff and water strainer of Kaukusanda Buddha, Gonagamana Buddha and Kassapa Buddha respectively. On reaching their homeland, the brothers gave the sacred relics to king Ukkalapa who enshrined them in the stupa discovered on the summit of Singuttara hill. A new stupa was built encasing the old one.

The meaning of encased stupa is the inner stupa was enclosed by an outer one. According to Shwedagon Pagoda legend, a golden pagoda enclosed in a silver one which in turn was enclosed by a series of tin, copper, lead, marble and iron pagodas, finally a brick pagoda was built to encase the whole series of smaller pagodas.

Encased stupas can be seen either due to earthquake or human destruction. This encased stupa also called Pawdawmu Pagoda. There are 52 encased stupas in Bagan ancient city. The unique Shwezigon pagoda is one of them.

Click here to see about Shwezogon Pagoda

Source: Pichard, Pierre, Inventory of Monuments at Pagan, Volume I – VIII, (Vol. I, 1992, Vol. 2, 1993, Vol. 3, 1994, Vol. 4, 1994, Vol. 5, 1995, Vol. 6, 1996, Vol. 7, 1999, Vol. 8 2002), KISCADALE EFEO UNESCO

Today this edifice is well known, as Shwe Dagon Pagoda. Thus Myanmar received two gems the Buddha and the Dhamma in Buddhist era 103. Sangha the holy order was not formed yet till Gotama Buddha preached his sermons to five ascetics.

These 5 ascetics were also called 5 Pyinsawaggi. According to this legend that 5 Pyinsawaggi did not appeared at that time.

Thus these 2 brothers Taphusa & Balika were the first to perform Five Foremost Actions. (ဦး ၅ ဦး)

1. The foremost to pay homage to the Buddha, (ဘုရားဖူးဦး),

2. The foremost to offer the first meal to the Buddha, (ဆွမ်းလှူဦး),

3. The foremost to take refuge in the two sacred Gems (Dvevāsika Saranagamana) (‌ဒွေဝါစိက သရဏဂုံတည်ကြသူ။ သရဏဂုံဦး),

4. The foremost to be given the sacred hairs, and (ဆံတော်ဓာတ်တော်ဦး),

5. The foremost to build the shrines and pagoda (cetiya) (စေတီဦး၊ ဘုရားဦး)

-  Mahā Era 68 (624 BC) The Bodhisatta was born on Friday, the full moon day of Kason (about May).

-  Mahā Era 103 (589 BC) - Attained Buddhahood at the age of 35.

- Mahā Era 148 (544 BC) – Demise of Buddha at the age of 80. (Mahā-parinibbāna)( on Tuesday, the full moon day of Kason

After the First Great Buddhist Council (The First Synod), 

-  Mahā Era 148 was written off (သက္ကရာဇ်ဖြို). So Sāsanā Sakarit (or) Year of  Religion  (or) Anno Buddahe (AB) was established counting that year as 1.

The second arrival of Buddha Sasana

In the Maha Sakarit year 111, in the 8th Vasa ordained year of Gotama Buddha, Maha Thera Gavampati entreated the Buddha to visit his native land Suvannabhumi for Dhamma teaching.

The Buddha came with his 500 disciples and preached for days. The king and his people after hearing the Dhamma embraced Buddhism.

Six sacred hair relics were offered, one each to six hermits who were among the Dhamma audience.

They enshrined them six stupas built on the summits of the hills in Mon state.

37 years after this visit, unburnt teeth of Gotama Buddha’s remains were brought to Suvanabhumi. The king enshrined each in one stupa.

Above the 37 years after of this visit means at the time of  Mahā-parinibbāna of Buddha. (111+37= 148 Maha Sakarit).

So these unburnt teeth called relics of Buddha or Buddha's Swedaw.

In Kalyāṇi stone inscription, it was inscribed that Suvanna Bhumi was situated in the south west of Mt. Kelāsa pagoda in Yamana Province. It is Bilin, Thaton district, Mon State. 

The third arrival of Buddha Sasana

In the Maha Sakarit year 123, in the 20th Vasa of Gotama Buddha, while he was residing at Jetavana Vihara, Maha thera Punua invited the Buddha for his Dhamma duta mission to his native land Vaniccagama in Sunaparanta country.

သုနပရန္တတိုင်း Today Minbu Township, Magwe Region

The Buddha with his 500 disciples came by land and resided in a sandal wood monastery.(စန္ဒကူးကျောင်းတော်)

After preaching Dhamma for a week, the people became Buddhist. To commemorate his visit there, the Buddha left two foot prints one at the foot and the other on the summit of the Minbu hill range.

These two foot prints were housed in two Pada zedis (well known as foot print pagodas) and on the site of the Sandal wood monastery a zedi was built. Today it is known as Kyaung Taw Ya pagoda at Leikaing. Maha thera Punna spread Buddhism.

Maha Muni image

Rakhine chronicle claims that Gotama Buddha visited Rakhine for Dhamma duta mission at the request of King Sanda Suriya of Vesali kingdom.

After hearing the Dhamma, the king and his people became Buddhist. An alloy image of the Buddha was cast and it was consecrated by the Buddha.

Later the crown prince the son of king Bodawpaya (1782-1819 AD), brought this image to Amarapura.

Consecration of the Buddha image: Recited in the ritual consecration of images of the Buddha. Burmese called (အနေကဇာတင်), aneka jāti saṁsāraṁ (အနေကဇာတိသံသာရံ)

King Sanda Suriya requested that an image was cast of him. After casting the Great Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness of the Mahamuni.

Five types of Zedi in Myanmar

1.Datu Zedi  :   zedi enshrining  relics of the Buddha or Arhats

2.Dhamma Zedi :  zedi enshrining sacred texts and manuscripts, along with jewels and   precious metals

3.Paribawga Zedi:    zedi enshrining garments and other items (alms bowls,   robes, etc.) that belonged to the Buddha or sacred personages

4.Odisa Zedi:  zedi built from motives of piety, containing statues of the Buddha,   models of sacred images

5.  Pada Zedi:  zedi Enshrining the Foot Print of Lord

The Foot Prints of Lord Buddha can be found at the pagodas and temples of Myanmar since Bagan period (11th – 13th Century).

Buddha's Foot Print is depicted at  the vault of the entrance of temples. 

Click here to see about Wetgyi-In Gubyaukgyi Temple

Click here to see about Lawkahteikpan Temple

Click here to see about Lokananda Pagoda

Click here to see about Shwezogon Pagoda

We can see Foot Print of Lord Buddha at the two feet of Chauk-htat-gyi Reclining Buddha Image in Bahan township, Yangon, Myanmar. (108 auspicious signs of Buddha footprint)

The Footprint of the Buddha (Buddhapada) is an important symbol of the Buddha and is commonly found in Buddhist temples.

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2 thoughts on “2. Arrival of Buddha Sasana in Myanmar

  1. Above, it mentioned that the Buddha attained enlightenment at Maha 103 and first Sasana arrived to Myanmar at Maha 103.
    please explain for this. Thank you!

    1. Please see detail this lecture note including blue boxes. As you know Maha Era or Maha Sakarit 103, Buddha attained omniscience. At that time he met with two merchant brothers and gave them 8 hair relics. They gave the sacred hair relics to king Ukkalapa who enshrined them in the stupa discovered on the summit of Singuttara.

      Please see detail about this story in the book name “The Shwedagon Pagoda” written by U Pa Maung Tin,
      Vol. xxiv, Part. 1 and 2, Journal of Burma Research Society (JBRS), 1934.

      Suggested Books:
      1. Pe Maung Tin, U, The Shwe Dagon Pagoda Part1, 2, 3, Journal of Burma Research Society (JBRS), Vol 24, Part 1, 1934. (The stone inscriptions were engraved by order of the Mon King Dhammaceti in the year of Burmese era (BE) 847 (AD 1485).

      2. Khin Maung Nyunt (Dr.), Pilgrim’s Guide to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Bago,1991.

      3.The glass palace chronicle

      If you read many books you will be known so many historical facts.

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