Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma's history (video)

Ashley Wells (editor), Wisdom Quarterly
The First Buddhist Shrine: Shwedagon, Burma, was first built to enshrine strands of the Buddha's hair given to ancient merchant travelers who saw the Buddha on the road on his way to set in motion the Wheel of the Dharma in the Deer Park at Sarnath, Varanasi, India (L'altra faccia della politica estera/Convegno alla Farnesina/Coop. allo Sviluppo).

The Legend of Shwedagon Pagoda
Roger Bischoff (Buddhism in [Burma]: A Short History, BPS Wheel 399), edited by Dhr. Seven
The massive shrine complex that is Shwedagon in central Rangoon, the former capital of Burma before military dictators renamed everything and built a secretive bunker compound in Naypidaw and called that the capital (
The Ancient Arrival of the Hair Relics
Buddhist nuns at Shwedagon (AFP)
Two traveling merchant brothers, Tapassu and Bhallika from Ukkala* [identified as Okkalapa near Rangoon, but which some like the Indian government in Orissa believe to be in modern Orissa (Utkala) on India's east coast], were going through Uruvela. They were directed to the Buddha by their familial deva (nat, sprite, nature spirit, angel).
The newly enlightened Buddha had just come out of seven weeks of meditation after his great awakening and was sitting under a tree feeling the need for food.
The First Two "Buddhists"
Tapussa and Bhallika (the world's first Buddhist lay disciples) saw him and, having been prompted by the deva, made an offering of rice cakes and flower nectar, seeking guidance from two of what would eventually be the Three Guides (ti-sarana), guidance from the Buddha and the Dharma. (The third, the noble Sangha, or "community of enlightened individuals," did not yet exist). As they were about to depart, they asked the Buddha for an object to remember and honor him in his place. He gave them eight hairs from his head.

(U Myintl Win)  Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma's sacred relic shrine
After the two returned from their journey, they enshrined the three hairs in a reliquary (stupa), which is now the great Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. It is believed in Burma that the hill upon which the Shwedagon Pagoda stands was not haphazardly chosen by Tapussa and Bhallika. It was, in fact, the site where the three buddhas preceding the Buddha Gotama (Siddhartha Gautama, Shakyamuni) in this world-cycle (maha kalpa) themselves left relics:
Iconography...Orissa (Thomas E. Donaldson)
The Buddha Kakusandha is said to have left his staff on Theinguttara Hill, the Buddha Konagamana his water filter, and the Buddha Kassapa a part of his robe. Because of this, the Buddha requested Tapussa and Bhallika to enshrine his hair relics at that particular location.
Tapussa and Bhallika traveled far and wide in order to find the hill on which they could balance a tree without its touching the ground either with the roots or with its crown. Eventually, they found the exact spot not far from their home in Lower Burma, where they enshrined the holy relics in a traditional Buddhist burial mound or stupa [Shway Yoe, The Burman (Scotland 1989), pp. 179f.]. The original mound is said to have been 27 feet high. Today the Shwedagon Pagoda has grown to over 370 feet. 

The Buddha's Visits to the Region
Burmese oral tradition speaks of four visits of the Buddha to the region. While these visits were of utmost significance in their own right, they are also important in having established places of pilgrimage up to the present day. More
*NOTE: The Theragatha ["Psalms of the Elders"] Commentary (Vol i.48) informs us that the birthplace or residence of the travelers Bhalluka (or Bhaliya) and Tapassu (or Trapassu) was Pokkharavati in Ukkala. The sons of the caravan leader (Satthavaha) started their journey from Pokkharavati. Their destination was Rajagriha (modern Rajgir, India), and according to the Jataka (Jat I. 80) they were on their way to Majjhimadesa ("Middle India"), where they met and offered food to the Buddha and became his first lay devotees.
(DokusDeutsch) German documentary, in depth look at Shwedagon Pagoda

Dalai Lama supports The Lady
Legend says that Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma, is about 2,[6]00 years old. According to the ancient Theravada Buddhist tradition, it was built even before the Buddha's passing, which is thought to have occurred in 486 BCE. It is the most sacred Buddhist reliquary and shrine for the Burmese as it preserves the relics of four buddhas, including the hair of the historical Buddha. The life of Burmese culture, embodied in its ancient traditions, now has a new face emerging in Southeast Asia and beyond. The country has continuous and positive development and is in the process of a democratic transition [thanks to the military dictatorship, led by puppet-master Gen. Than Shwe, finally releasing pro-democracy Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a freedom fighter known throughout the land simply as The Lady] and renewed economic dynamism.

(VB) 4-Minute History of Burma (not "Myanmar"!) John Green tells Hank about the situation in formerly rich Buddhist Burma before and after the arrest of The Lady by military dictators.
Ellen Page reveals Asia's "Hitler," Than Shwe
Una leggenda afferma che la pagoda Shwedagon a Rangoon in Birmania abbia circa 2[6]00 anni. Secondo la tradizione Theravada, fu costruita addirittura prima della morte del Buddha, avvenuta nel 486 a.C. È la pagoda buddista più sacra per i birmani poichè conserva le reliquie di quattro Buddha. Il Myanmar vive di cultura e tradizioni millenarie ma ora il suo nuovo volto si sta affacciando sul sud-est asiatico e oltre i suoi confini. Il Paese è in continua e positiva evoluzione e sta attraversando una fase di transizione democratica e di rinnovato dinamismo economico.

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