The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Burmese Tantric Buddhism
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Many in Burma might wonder whether there is any Tantric Buddhism exists in Burmese Buddhism? There was a Tantric Buddhism practiced by Tibetan Lama that came to Burma through the Northern border, in Pre-Theravada era or pre-Bagan era. Ari Gyi monks that belong to Mahayana practiced Tantric Buddhism. When King Anawratha launched the religious cleansing, the Tantric Buddhist sect had to integrate with the Theravada sect and it thus remained and prospers to this day within Theravada Buddhist sect as Weizza Lan Zin. Thus, our Burmese Theravada has become a mix of Mahayana and Theravada in practices; but in name, we still called our belief as orthodox Theravada Buddhist School.
Among the well known Guru’s in the past were – five Guru Masters beginning with Ven. Shin Ma Hti, Ven Shin Itzagawna, Mahazedi Mingaung & U Aung Ya Te & U Pyinnyawontha. All were Native Burmese Buddhist monks. The later well-known Guru masters were – Bo Bo Aung, Bo Min Gaung and Yar Kyaw Sayadaw. Burmese Theravada has inherited this Guru Worship from Ari Monks or Mahayana School. The Arahats worship like Shin Thiwali and Shin Upagote and Loka Nat Tha worship came from Mahayana practices.
Many Burmese tried their best to separate themselves from Mahayana Buddhism by creating legends and folks tales to degrade Mahayana Buddhist sects; they claimed that Burma is a Theravada country embraced pristine Theravada Buddhism originated in Sri Lanka. The truth of the matter is that Burmese Theravada is a mix of Mahayana and Theravada schools: it’s neither pure nor pristine. The sad thing about Burmese Theravada is that we want to hide behind the folk tales and artificially created folks tales and legends.
Buddhism has two major primary schools: the orthodox school is called – Theravada sect; and the other larger school is Mahayana sect. As a spin-off from Mahayana sect is Tantric Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism. Many Burmese Buddhists practice Tantric Buddhism or otherwise known as “Weizza Lan Zin”. In order not to reveal this school that we inherited from Mahayana Buddhist sect we merged this practice into Theravada Buddhism by totally erasing any traces of Ari Monks that once influenced the great Bagan Dynasty.
We now have in Burma a mix of three Buddhist sects:
• Theravada Buddhist sect aligned to Sri Lanka sect;
• Mahayana Buddhist sect - reveres – Loka Nat Tha & arahats
• The Tantric sect – Weizza Lan Zin – Guru worship (Sub-sect of Mahayana).
Buddhism is a religion founded by our fore-father – Sakyan lineage – Gotama Buddha of Nepal, Jambudipa. The first king of Burma was a Nepalese of Sakyan lineage “Prince – Abhi raja – Min Abhi Yaza.” The migration from the North brought us – Nepalese Prince who reigned the Dagaung Dynasty as the first Burmese Dynasty; then another migration from the south – by sea route in 550 BC, the southern Indian lineage – such as Ukkalapa King and Brahmin brothers Saputta and Bhallika brothers and then in 220 BC by the Buddhist missionary from King Asoka, the Theravada Buddhism. Sona and Uttara Thera headed this missionary arrived in Thaton, earlier is called Suvannabhumi. The Suttanta discourse given then was “Brahmajala suttanta”. This discourse tells us who were the natives of Suvannabhumi, they were the Indian migrant merchants settlers. The discourse differentiates between early Brahmanism and the new religion Theravada Buddhism.
Meanwhile in Upper Burma, people were happy with Mahayana Buddhism and the Ari Monks who practice Mystic cult then called Tantric Buddhism or Weizza lan Zin. Until after a lapse of over 1,000 years in the reign of King Anawratha, who was converted to Theravada Buddhism by Mon Monk – Shin Arahan. King Anawratha then tried to purge all other beliefs and cults – Mahayana, Vishnuism & Animism.
The first religious cleansing in Burma.
Some of the beliefs and worships that were so called purged still remained integrated into Theravada Buddhist worship and belief:
Loka Nat Tha – Avalokiesvara – Lokesvara worship - arahats worship were too good to get rid of, so it remains in Theravada belief as the prince of peace – as Loka Nat Tha a legend was then created to hide any traces of Mahayana linkage from future generation. Avalokitesvara is the main Bodhisatta of Mahayana School.
The Ari Monks – Tantric Buddhism – Weizza Lan Zin was created and integrated into Theravada Buddhism by creating “Ari Monk folk tales” to disparage the Mahayana Sect by creating story like offering of bride to sleep with the Ari Monk as religious blessing. But this integration of Tantric Buddhism prospered within Theravada Buddhist school until today as “Weizza Lan Zin” because many from the Sangha community practice Weizza Lan Zin. The elder Guru’s of this Tantric sect were – Shin Ma Hti, Shin Ee Za gawna, Yatkan Zin Taung Sayadaw, and Dhammazedi Min gaung..
Theravada Buddhism - Buddhas on this planet earth – All Buddhas by Theravada tradition must appear only in Jambudipa. The goal of Theravada is for Monks to dedicate their time to meditation – “Sila, Samadhi, Panna” for final attainment of arahatship and the lay disciples to practice – Dana, Sila, Bhavana.
Mahayana Buddhism – (Pure land Buddhism) the goal is to attain Bodhisatta ship. Bodhisatta Loka Nat Tha – vow is to delay his entry into Nibbana until all sentient beings have been saved from hell. The Buddhaland of Mahayana is Sukhavati – the Westernland called Amitabha Buddhaland and his two chief disciples are – Bodhisatta Avalokitesvara and Samanbhadra Bodhisatta. They are not from this planet earth.
Tantric Buddhism – Guru worship cult - it is a spin-off from Mahayana Buddhism that was brought to Burma by some Tibetan Lamas, and Mahayana monks some time in the later part of Dagaung Dynasty. This cult was integrated into Theravada Buddhism during the time of King Anawratha of Bagan. It is now known as Guru worship cult or Weizza Lan Zin but still under the Theravada Buddhist School
People who worship Guru’s are simply by the call of inner feeling. If one has had association with a certain Guru or God, there will come a time when he or she is being call to participate in its call. The Guru, spirit will come to you through spiritual call or possession. Those who has inherited this belief in the past existence would have premonition senses and the sense of halo around the head area or most often the sense of hairs stand on ends. (Burmese called this Pathan Set).
The Tantric Buddhism being a branch of Mahayana, in Chinese Buddhism, there is an immortal saints they named it as Eight Immortals of Chinese Mythology [Pa Hsien] [Ba Xian)“Pa Shien” of the “Eight Immortal”.
The Burmese “Immortals” :
Are five Guru Masters
Beginning with Ven. Shin Ma Hti
Ven Shin Itzagawna
U Aung Ya Te & U Pyinnyawontha
The lineage then written in Gold tablet
Ven. Thudhammasari Shin Ma Hti
Handed to the next generation
Yetkanzinthaung Sayadaw U Aw Batha
Wonna Lingara Ya Te San Shae Ko Daw
Eight million other Guru Masters
This new generation of Master Guru’s
Master in Medicinal Herbs
Master in Philosopher stones
Master in Mercury
Master in Iron
Master in Auditory
Master in formulating Ein (Talisman)
Master in Symbolic Sign (Sama)
Master in Physical formation
Master in Samatha Practice
Master in Vipassana Practice
Master in Kamatthanna (Meditation)
Many in Burma who had belonged to this Guru lineage are worshiping Guru, some secretly and some openly. It has been built in one’s inner self spiritually; you cannot reject the spiritual power of the Guru’s. These people belong to virtuous or chase lineage and their kamma‘s are under the watch of Gods and Guru’s. It is like an exclusive Club, members are very selective through kamma lineage. Just like all the disciples of Buddha were at one time or another in their past births had been associated in one way or another with Gotama Bodhisatta.