6. Development of Buddha Sasana in Bagan

The arrival and establishment of Theravada Buddhism in Bagan brought about the following beneficial results for the king and his people. Many learned monks from Suvanna Bhumi (Thaton), joined Shin Arahan in the propagation of pure Buddism preaching of the Dhamma with written Tipitaka as authentic references. Theravada Buddhism began to pre-dominate Mahayana Buddhism and other beliefs waned. Debased Buddhism was stamped out. Aries were disrobed and employed in royal services. Some were exiled by royal orders. In religious education Pali language superseded Sanskrit. Mon alphabet was adopted. For the first time Myanmar language was put to writing. The earliest inscription in Myanmar language is dated 1058 A.D, a years after the conquest of Thaton. Bagan grew to become the seat of religious education and the centre of public education.

Theravada Buddhism flourished and reached out to the four corners of the kingdom thanks to the missionary monks. The people of the building of religious monuments began with the monasteries. Pariyatti Sasana and monastic education which trained novices (Samaneras), for monkhood and lay pupils in 3r’s education (reading, writing and Arithmetic), as well as moral instruction in the tenets of Buddhist culture by the clergy. Pwe Kyaungs a king of lay school for imparting knowledge in secular subjects and training in arts, crafts as well as martial arts for the youths emerged side by side with Pariyatti monasteries.

Pwe Kyaungs were run by clergy who entered monkhood in later life. Previously they were laymen with families who earned their living by their specialized trade and profession such as carpentry, black smith, sculpture, wood carving, painting, all kinds of crafts and arts some were veteran soldiers, wrestlers etc. When they entered monkhood in their late age, they could not or were not interested in higher learning of religious literature. They would teach their arts and crafts to young pupils. Secular subjects were astrology, alchemy, medicine, occult sciences, art, crafts and martial arts for lay pupils. Myanmar words Kyaung means both monastery and school (training centers for recruiting novices for Sangha order and training lay pupils for good citizenship and means of livelihood). Bagan became the seat of learning. Pali became the sacred language (like Latin in Christianity), the best Pali poems were composed by learned monks. Buddhist monks at home and abroad came to Bagan for higher learning at its monasteries which were not perhaps in favour to the old Universities of Taxila and Nalanda in India.

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