By U San Thar Aung
As has been mentioned in Chapter XIV, we know that Prince Siddhatta discarded the royal robes and adornments after the great renunciation. Also, Buddhist monks are forbidden to wear any other robes except monk’s robes. These two facts will naturally suggest that the presentation of a crowned Buddha garbed in royal robes and ornaments like a Cakravartin king, is uneconomical and unorthodox. But we have found many crowed Buddha images in Arakan throughout different ages. See Picture. Go
Are they Maitreya images mentioned by many authorities? We should have found other Bodhisattva images also together with these images. But we have not. The hand gestures of these crowned Buddhas are all in line with ordinary Buddha images. They do not hold any attributes assigned to a Maitreya as mentioned in ancient Indian literature. The sitting postures of our crowned Buddhas are also in line with ordinary Buddhas. The attendant figures are also the same as those found together with ordinary Buddha images. For example, the presence, of Vasumdhari. There are too many crowned Buddhas in existence in Arakan. It is hard to believe and is illogical to assume that Buddha images are discarded and instead Maitreya images are worshipped. We must conclude that the Arakanese worshipped Buddha images. The only difference is that the images are garbed in royal robes instead of monk’s robes.
We have to note that the Buddha image came into being only after the Buddha had been regarded as a Devatideva, god of gods. Again, in, the iconographic development, the Cakravartin concept played a great part. The Buddha was provided with all the lakkhanas of a Cakravartin. They belonged to the Mahayana theology and must have been present in some form from very early times. These conceptions are sufficient to account for the presentation of the crowed Buddha with all the royal attributes at different ages.
In some cases, although the Buddha wears a crown, ear-pendents, necklace and torque, we can notice the robe of a monk on his body with shoulder flap on the left and a bare right shoulder. See Picture. Go In some cases, we can find Buddha dressed up with all the attributes of a Cakravartin King; crown, ear-rings, necklets, armlets, bracelets, anklets and a waist band. See Picture. Go
Again, some of the eight scene steles of the school of Bengal and Bihar and Pagan in Burma have a central crowned Buddha in Bhumisparsa mudra surrounded by representations of the Eight Great events of Buddha’s life. See Picture. Go For such cases, the reader will agree that it would be far simpler to suppose that we have to do with a glorification of the earthly Buddha, by addition of the kingly attributes, which reminds us that the Buddha is more than man. The earthly Buddha, originally a man, has been transformed into a deity.
The crowned Buddha image most probably came about because of the desire of kings and commoners alike to worship the Buddha as the “King of Kings” as has been explained in the Maha ParinibbanaSutta.
Anyway, the Buddha is equally a Great Being, a deity, whether he appears in monastic robes or in royal robes.
Since separate images of Buddha represent incidents of the Blessed One’s life, we must be able to explain the crowned Buddha with all royal attributes, holding the ambrosia jar and sitting in Dhyana mudra, vajra sana. An article by U Mya about the crowned Buddha image written in the Report of the Director, Archaeological Survey, Burma for the year ending 30th September 1955, and published in 1961 is presented here. This is the Burmese version of the explanation of the existence of Crowned Buddha.
The majority of Buddha images depict the Buddha attired in simple robes like those one sees on present-day Buddhist monks. But crowned Buddha images were to be found throughout Burma and especially in the Shan States and in neighboring Laos and Thailand, since olden days.
The Wetmasut Wundank, a Minister of King Mindon, was intrigued by the crowned Buddha images and was moved to ask the Taung Khwin Thathanabaing Sayadaw, the Buddhist Patriarch of his days, to let the people know whether the casting and worship of such regally attired Buddha images was based on some incident in Buddhist Literature. (Vide Gulattha Vinicchaya Vol. I pp, 20-23)
Even before that time, in the year 1172 of the Buddhist Era, (about 1810 A.D) during the reign of King Padon, the founder of the Royal City of Amarapura, the same question was put by Sayadaw Thirimalar of Monywa to the learned Monywa Jetavan Sayadaw. The two answer of the Monywa Jetavan Sayadaw which appears in the Samanta cakku dipani Vol. I pp. 429-532.
“It is clearly stated in the Maha Parinibbana Sutta that the Lord Buddha did not adorn himself with the royal regalia, such as the crown, necklaces, rings, bracelets etc. However, because the Buddha delivered many of his sermons from the thrones of kings, certain inhabitants of the far-flung universes were under the impression that it was their king who was speaking to them. According to our elders, it is this impression in the minds of those extra-terrestrial beings, of the Buddha in royal regalia, which gave rise to the production and worship of the crowned Buddha images.”
The Casting of the Mahakyain Pharas
The first step in the process of casting the Mahakyain Phara is taken by the Chancellor or Prime Minister, who, in consultation with other learned ministers and court Brahmins (Royal astrologers), chooses the most auspicious day and hour for the casting.
After this, the site for the casting is chosen with the same care. The ground is leveled and to cleanse the site (i.e. to ward off evil spirits), monks are invited to the site, offered food, and requested to recite the Kammava, the Prittas, the Mangala Sutta and the Brahmajala Mantra.
A large temporary hall is then erected over the site. This hall is enclosed by three lattice-work fences, one inside another. The wood of certain trees which have an affinity for the planets - such as the Gangaw (Mesua Ferrea), the Saga (Michellia Champaca), the Chaya (Mimusops Clerigi) and the jackfruit are selected in order to obtain wooden posts free from blemish. The selected pieces or wood are then shaped into eight posts, lacquered and gilded, and then planted inside the Hall at the eight points of the compass to represent the eight planets. Staves with streamers, magical banners and yak-tail whisks are also put up. At each corner of the boundary lines marked off by the three light fences, a banana plant bearing fruit is planted, making a total of twelve banana plants. The innermost fence is draped with white cloth, while the two outer ones are draped with red cloth. Nine silver pots containing pure water together with nine white umbrellas (the insignia of royalty) are placed at each of the eight posts representing the planets and at the actual site where the casting is to take place. To melt the precious metals for the image, new melting pots and a new fireplace are needed. For fuel only scented woods are used.
When the appointed day and hour arrives, eight Brahmins invested with certain sacerdotal functions, stand at the planetary pillars and blow their right-volute conches, thereby ceremonially inviting the guardian Nats (gods) of the planets, the Lokapala Nat, the Guardian Nats respectively of the Religion, the Country, the Sky, the Earth, and the Trees. They follow this up with a recitation of mantrams or spells such as the Grahajaya Verse, the Saranasirishindha Bhumijala Verse and others. It is at this moment that the sculptors, who are to cast the image, wearing pure white clothing, begin to kindle their fire, using sandalwood. Then the precious metals which are to be used for casting the image are placed in the new pot to be melted. This melting down of the metals is done only during the day. The pot must not be removed from the fireplace at this juncture. Neither must the fire be extinguished. It has to be allowed to die down by itself. The melting process continues for nine whole days till the auspicious moment arrives for the sculptors to cast the Mahakyain Phara. During the casting, the image is made to face the east. While the casting is in progress, the Brahmins strew closured artificial flowers made from rice grains parched till they burst open, and they recite the verse beginning “Anekajatisamsara…”
Buddha Abhiseka Mangala Ceremony
When the sculptors have added the final touches to the Mahakyain Phara image, the Brahmins ceremonially wash the image in pure water and then spray scent over it. A golden salver, ornamented with the nine varieties of gems, on which is laid a piece of most expensive cloth, which in turn covered by a piece of white cloth, is brought forward, and the image is transferred onto the salver. At this moment the Brahmins recite a mantram, a sort of prayer to ward off evil.
For the ceremony of the Buddha Abhiseka Mangala, the Chancellor has to invite, in advance, five, seven or nine Buddhist monks, venerable of age and renowned for their holiness. These invited monks sit in a circle around the image, their fingers holding the white cloth on which the image reposes. Then they recite in unison the Buddha Abhiseka verse. When the recitation ends, the Brahmins blow on their right-voluted conches, while the lay musical bands stationed outside the Hall produce an outburst of music on their instruments, and this outburst of sound marks the conclusion of the Buddha Abhiseka Mangala Ceremony.
Then with the Chancellor leading the way, the image is transferred to the Royal Palace, the King, Queen, Princes and Princesses as well as the court officials await in readiness to greet the arrival of the Mahakyain Phara, and to pay obeisance to it with scents, before taking it to be placed in the altar room.
The posture of the Mahakyain Phara images is the usual crosslegged posture, but the Mahakyain Pharas are distinguished from ordinary images in that each wears a crown just like that of a king who takes part in a Coronation Ceremony. The ears are adorned with royal ear-rings. The body is covered, not with the monk’s robe but with royal garb. This garb is an exact representation of the royal grab worn by the king at whose command the image was cast. For this reason, the royal garb of one Mahakyain Phara is quite distinct from that of another, and it can clearly be seen that with progress the royal garb became increasingly more elaborate.
Among the images two types of cross-legs posture can be seen. One type has the left foot placed under under the right leg, and the right foot placed on the left thigh. See Picture. Go The other type has the two legs crossed so that both feet are brought to rest, soles upwards, on the thighs. See Picture. Go
The images can also be divided into three types according to the position of the hands. The first type is known as the “bhumisparsa mudra”, a type wherein the left hand is placed palm upwards on the lap, and on the open palm is placed a golden bowl. The right hand rests, palm down, on the right knee, the fingers all pointing downwards and the fingertips touching the ground or the throne on which the image is seated. See Picture. Go The second type is known as the “dhyana mudra”. It portrays the Buddha in meditation, with both hands resting in a relaxed manner on the lap, both palms upward, the right hand resting on the left. Certain images of this type show the two thumbs, with their tips touching each other, while the fingers are slightly spread in the normal manner. One the outspread palm, a begging bowl, a nectar bowl or a golden bowl is usually placed, See Picture. Go
The third type depicts the Buddha with his right arm bent at the elbow. The hand raised towards the shoulders is closed as if grasping something. The left hand is placed on the “lap, palm turned upwards, but the fingers again clasped as if holding something. See Picture. Go
The sizes of the images also vary, from a hands breadth to a cubit, in accordance with the wishes of the kings who commissioned the casting. The weight too varies a great deal because of the difference in size. These Mahakyain Phara images are still to be found all over Arakan.
The use of Crowned Buddha In Coronation Ceremony
For his Coronation Ceremony, an Arakanese king first selects the most renowned pagoda within his kingdom as the site, and then proceeds towards it in Royal Procession, passing out of the Palace grounds through the Mangala Gate. Arriving at the platform of the selected pagoda, each personage takes up his assigned position. The king then raises the Mahakyain Phara to the top of his head, and holding it there, he makes three circuits of the pagoda. He completes the third circuit at the temporary Hall where the coronation is to the place. The Coronation Ceremony itself follows traditional rites. At the conclusion, the Thathanabaing Sayadaw (the Patriarch or Principal Monk of the kingdom) and a number of monks who can recite from memory the whole of the Tipitakas (the three main can onical divisions of the Buddha’s teachings are divided into Vinaya, Code of Discipline, Sutta, Discourses, and Abhidhamma, Higher Doctrine), then hold the Mahakyain Phara over the King’s head and exhort him to uphold justice in the tradition of his forefathers, to venerate the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha), to encourage the Buddhist religion within his kingdom, and to suppress the enemies of Buddhism. The king has to take an oath and declare that he will faithfully discharge his duties as enumerated above. This oath-taking is the high point of the ceremony.
In this manner, every king of Arakan (according to tradition), has had a Mahakyain Phara cast for his coronation. The images are shown crowned and in the royal garb of the kings who had cast them, so the mode of dress of the Arakanese kings can be conjectured very accurately from a study of these images.
The Arakanese Tradition
The Arakanese peasantry in olden days very often used a Buddha image to take an oath in trying to settle conflicting claims or even criminal cases. This practice was no doubt, in some measure, due to their belief and faith in Buddhism but could just as easily have derived from the King’s Royal Oath-taking.
The Buddist Art of Ancient Arakan စာအုပ္မွထုတ္ႏႈတ္ေဖာ္ၿပလိုက္ပါသည္။
Friday, July 10, 2009
By U San Thar Aung