Update: 2008-10-01 03:41 PM +0800


Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism


Maung Htin Aung. Printed and published by U Myint Maung, Deputy Director, Regd: No (02405/02527) at the Religious Affairs Dept. Press. Yegu, Kaba-Aye P.O., Rangoon, BURMA. 1981.

Set in HTML by the staff of TIL and edited by U Kyaw Tun, M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.). Not for sale. Prepared for students of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR.

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Contents of this page
Cult of Magus
Why there are so many pagodas at Pagan
Cult of Runes
Bo Bo Aung --Master Victory


UKT notes
Bodaw-payaMaster Goat-Bullobstruents and sonorantsphonotacticsRazadarit (including the story of Anawrahta's death) • sounding of gong


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05. Cult of Magus

UKT: It is curious why Dr. Htin Aung had chosen the word <magus>. He could have easily chosen the more common word <magic>, but since the modern implications attached to the word <magic> would not do justice to the cult, he had obviously chosen <magus>, to imply that it is not sorcery nor is it in any way connected with fraud, but in its own way an honest and noble pursuit of knowledge. The following is from AHTD:
  magus n. magi  1. A member of the Zoroastrian priestly caste of the Medes and Persians. 2. Magus One of the three wise men from the East who traveled to Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus. 3. A sorcerer; a magician. [From Middle English magi magi from Latin magī, pl. of magus sorcerer, magus from Greek magos from Old Persian maguš ; See magh- in Indo-European Roots.] magian adj.

It is not known whether there was a cult of the Magus in Burma before A.D. 1056. However, the hero of Burmese alchemy, the monk Master Goat-Bull {rhin-a.za.gau:Na.}, seems to have been worshipped as their patron by those interested in alchemy. The following folk-tale gives the details of his life.

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Why there are so many pagodas at Pagan

Long ago, when the people of Pagan were poor, there lived a monk, who was an alchemist trying to discover the Philosopher's Stone. His alchemistic experiments were costly and he had to rely on his patron, the king, for financial support. The monk followed step by step the instructions given in an old parchment book. The instructions were many and various, and weeks and months passed. The royal treasury became empty, and the people refused to pay any more taxes, saying that the king was merely wasting his gold on an impostor. The monk at last reached the final instruction: 'Then put the lump of metal in acid, and it will at last be the Philosopher's Stone'. He appeased the people with the promise that after one more experiment the Stone would be ready, and the people paid their taxes to the king. The monk put the lump of metal, which was the result of all the earlier experiments, in acid. Seven days elapsed, but the lump of metal remained as before. The monk went to the king to acquaint him with the fact that the experiment had failed. The people heard that the experiment had failed and thought that the monk had come to the king to ask for more gold, so they surrounded [{p052}] the palace demanding that the monk be punished as an impostor and a cheat. The king was in a quandary for he knew that the monk was no impostor, but he did not know how to pacify the people. The monk himself solved the problem by putting his own eyes out. He then stood before the people and said 'My sockets are now gaping, and do you not consider that I am punished enough?' The people were satisfied that justice had been done and ceased their clamour.

For days the monk sat in his laboratory in the anguish of disappointment. At last he felt so bitter against the science of alchemy that he got up and broke all the jars and instruments. Then he told the little novice, who had been his assistant in all his experiments, to throw the useless lump of metal into the latrine. The little novice did as he was ordered. At night fall the novice noticed that the latrine seemed as if on fire and he went running to the monk, shouting, 'Master, master, look, the latrine must be full of fairies or ghosts!'

'Remember that I am blind,' replied the monk. ' Describe to me the phenomenon.' When he had listened to the novice's description the monk realized that the lump to metal had at last become the Philosopher's Stone. He realized also that the scribe who wrote the parchment book had written in mistake 'acid' for  'night-soil' (in Burmese 'Chin' {hkyiñ} for 'Chee' {hkyé:) pronounced as /{hkyi:}/.

The novice picked up the Philosopher's Stone and gave it to his master. Then he was told by the monk to go to a meat-stall and get the two eyes of a bull ( {gau-Na.} in Pali) or a goat ( {a.za.} in Pali). But as it was now late in the evening the meat had been sold out, and only one goat's eye and one bull's eye remained. These were bought and taken to the monastery by the little novice. The monk put the two eyes above his empty sockets and touched them with the Philosopher's Stone, and at once the eyes entered the sockets. He recovered his full vision, although one eye was big and one was small. 'I shall be known from today as "Monk Goat-Bull" {rhing-a.za.gau:Na.},' said the monk jokingly to the novice. Then he went to the king's palace and told the king of [{p053}] his good fortune. He announced his intention of leaving the world of human beings the next morning and requested the king to melt all his lead and brass in huge pots in front of the palace at sunrise. 'You can tell your subjects to do likewise,' said the monk as he left the palace to return to his monastery. Although it was past midnight by this time the king sent his men to wake up the city by the sounding of gongs, and to tell the people that they should melt all their lead and brass in huge pots in front of their houses at sunrise. When the sun appeared Monk Goat-Bull came forth from his monastery, attended by the novice. He went first to the palace and then to all the houses, and threw his Philosopher's Stone into every pot. The Stone jumped back into his hand every time, its mere touch having turned the lead in the pots into silver and the brass to gold. The people of Pagan became very rich, and with so much gold and silver at their disposal they built the countless pagodas that still stand at Pagan today.

When he had passed every house, Monk Goat-Bull, still attended by his novice, went to Mount Popa. As the two stood at the foot of the hill the creepers from the mountain-side lowered themselves and gently lifted the master and pupil to the mountain-top. The monk dug up some magic roots and ground them with the Philosopher's Stone. The ground roots formed themselves into six medicine balls and the monk swallowed three. The other three he gave to the novice, who, however, could not put them in his mouth, for to him the roots looked like human flesh, and the juice from them looked like human blood. 'What ails you, pupil?' asked the monk. 'It is human flesh and human blood, replied the novice with a sob. 'It is not,' said Monk Goat-Bull. 'Have I ever told an untruth?' But the novice was seized with nausea when he tried to swallow the medicine balls. 'It is clear that you are not fated to share my success in alchemy,' said the monk sadly, ' and we must say farewell here.' The novice bade a tearful farewell to his master, who gave him a piece of gold as [{p054}] a parting gift. The creepers then gently twined themselves around the novice and lowered him to the foot of the hill.

The novice felt lost in the world without his master and, instead of going back to the monastery, he went to his widowed mother. 'Mother, cook me my breakfast,' he asked. 'Son, you know that I am poor and I have no money to buy the rice,' replied the mother. The novice remembered the little gold piece his master had given him as a parting gift and , taking it out of his pocket, he gave it to his mother. When his mother was leaving the house he felt a gold piece in his pocket. 'Mother, mother,' he cried, 'did I give you the gold piece?' 'Here it is, my son,' replied the mother, showing the gold piece in her hand. The novice took out the other gold piece from his pocket and gave it to his mother. But when he again felt his pocket, there was another gold piece inside it. He took it out and gave it to his mother. But again there was a gold piece in his pocket. This went on until the mother had ten gold pieces in her hand, and still there was a gold piece in the novice's pocket. Then only did the novice realize that his beloved master Monk Goat-Bull had given him a perpetual gift of gold. fn054-01

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Cult of Runes

UKT: The Burmese term is {ing:}, and is usually drawn in a matrix of equal rows and columns. However, other shapes, in the likeness of a sitting-Buddha or some other beings are also used. Runes from the West, on the other hand, have a slightly different meaning. The square figure on the left is my creation, the {sa.ma.lé:loän: ing:} or {sa.Da.ba.wa.-in:}, that is supposed have an all-round beneficial effect.

The following is from AHTD:
   "rune 1 n. 1. a. Any of the characters in several alphabets used by ancient Germanic peoples from the 3rd to the 13th century. b. A similar character in another alphabet, sometimes believed to have magic powers. 2. A poem or an incantation of mysterious significance, especially a magic charm. [Possibly Old Norse or Old English r¿n] runic adj.
rune 2 n. 1. A Finnish poem or section of a poem. [Finnish runo of Germanic origin] "
The figure of a person on the further right is a "figure inn" {roap-poän ing:}, in the likeness of {thi.kra:ming:}.

You will notice that the first akshara of {sa.ma.lé:loän: ing:} is {sa.} which can be written without lifting the pencil from the paper; or the stylus from the palm-leaf, silver- or gold-foil, or even a piece of potsherd of an alms-bowl. If you are to write carefully, the "circle" can be closed without having to cross over the portion of line that had already been drawn. Since "the writing instrument be touching the stratum continually" is one of the basic requirements of writing an akshara of the the {ing:}, I presume that the Burmese-Myanmar akshara is the only script suitable for writing an {ing:}, and that it is an original and not derived from any other akshara such as Telugu. Compare {sa.} to its Telugu equivalent చ . (I still have to consult specialist-astrologers for factual accuracy.). The rune-master or the writer of the {ing:} has to abstain from eating meat and having sex for a period of prescribed time, and must be reciting a mantra while casting the rune to be effective.
   Silver foil is used for making amulets. After writing the {ing:}, it would be rolled tightly and with a piece of string tied to the arm or neck of the person for the person to have the power of the {ing:}. Or, the silver-foil may also be rolled into a the shape of a needle and pushed under the skin.

The cult of magic and witchcraft originally included also the cult of the runes. The runes consisted of magical squares containing either letters of the Burmese alphabet (or properly an akshara) or arithmetical figures, and it is believed that every potent rune is guarded by a guardian god. For reasons which are not known, the cult of the runes suddenly regained its popularity in the fifteenth century, when it took over many ideas form the cult of alchemy. Instead of experimenting in either iron or mercury, the follower of the cult of the runes experiments in casting square after square until he discovers the right squares. When he has discovered them he has to go through a final [{p055}] process; either, like the alchemist, he is buried underground for seven days, or he is burnt in a fire for three nights. Then he emerges as a Zawgyi or 'a successful alchemist'. fn055-01 When the cult regained its popularity in the fifteenth century it had disassociated itself entirely from the cult of magic and witch craft and, in addition, it had hidden its origin under the cloak of devotion to Buddhism. This explains why a follower of this cult has now to keep the Eight or Ten Precepts and abstain form eating any meat while he is casting the runes. Usually he goes into retreat for a period of forty-nine days before casting a rune or a series of runes.

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The most famous 'Master of Runes' in the fifteenth century was Dhamma-zedi {Dam~ma.sé-ti} . He and his companion, Dhamma-pala {Dam~ma.pa-la.}, were young Mons who entered the Buddhist order and settled at Ava, the new Burmese capital, after the fall of Pagan. It was in the third decade of the fifteenth century, when the kingdoms of Ava (of the Burmese) and Pegu (of the Mons) had fought each other to a standstill. The two Mons were very learned in the scriptures and were also interested in the cult of the runes.

The king of Ava at that time had a Mon queen, the Lady Shin-Sawbu {rhin-sau:pu.} [r.1453 – 1460 A.D. as reigning monarch of Pegu. - dates to be checked.] She was the daughter of a very famous king of Pegu, Razadarit {ra-za-Di.rìz} (r. 1385-1423 A.D.), and had been married twice before, first to a previous king of Ava, and then, after his death, to a lord of Pagan, now deceased also. She was thirty-six and already a mother, but she still looked young and beautiful. However, she, tired of life, informed the king of her desire to study the scriptures. The king appointed the two young Mon monks as her tutors, but after some months of study the queen and her tutors became conspirators, and one night in 1430 they fled down the river back to Pegu. She did not marry again and settled down to a life of [{p056}] peace and tranquility. But twenty-three years later, in 1453, she was elected queen of Pegu. She proved to be a great ruler until 1460, when she decided to become a religious recluse. She looked for a successor and decided that one of the two monks should take her place on the throne. However, as both were equally learned and able, and as both had been her benefactors, she could not make her choice between the two and decided to leave it to chance. So,

One morning when they came to receive the royal rice, she secreted in one of their bowls a pahso {pu.hso:} (layman's dress) together with little models of the five regalia; then, having prayed that the lot might fall on the worthier, she returned the bowls. Dhamma-zedi, to whom the fateful bowl fell, left the sacred order, received the queen's daughter in marriage, and assumed the government. The other monk in his disappointment aroused suspicion and was executed at Paunglin, north of Rangoon. fn056-01

Dhamma-zedi proved himself to be not only one of the wisest of kings but also one of the greatest patrons of Buddhism. But his interest in the runes remained undiminished, and on the great bell that still hangs on the platform of the Shwemawdaw Pagoda at Pegu can still be seen the runes that he cast and engraved thereon.

The above account of Dhamma-zedi is the dull and barren account given in the Chronicles. However, the lore of believers in the Cult of Magus is more colourful, and is as follow:

The beautiful queen and her two tutors were able to make the long journey by boat from Ava to Pegu without molestation because the two monks had cast a rune which changed the colour of the boat every day, so that the horsemen who chased the escaping queen along the river bank were never able to identify and recognize the boat correctly. After Dhamma-zedi had been chosen king, his companion, in great [{p057}] anger and disappointment, cast rune after rune, which resulted in hundreds of demons entering the royal city. When people knelt in fear before them the demons shouted, 'We come because Shin-Sawbu cannot get a husband.' Dhamma-zedi cast some runes in return, and lo, the demons fell down lifeless and were found to be only wicker-baskets strung together. This went on every night until suddenly the wicker-demons ceased to appear. Dhamma-pala had discovered, by a supreme effort, the final runes and was now buried underground, watched by his faithful pupil some distance away. Dhamma-zedi guessed what was happening and caused a desperate search to be made. When the faithful pupil was found at last, he was tortured until he revealed the place where his master lay buried. The place was hastily dug up by Dhamma-zedi himself, and it was just in time, because in a few moments the seven-day period would have been over. Even then, Dhamma-pala's lifeless body made a feeble attempt to lift the sword which was gripped in his hand. Dhamma-zedi, not being a magician, declined to eat the body of his former friend and companion and gave it an honourable burial. Many years later, Dhamma-zedi himself discovered the final runes and became a Zawgyi also. He is now regarded as the first patron of the cult of the runes.


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Bo Bo Aung -- Master Victory

UKT: Master Victory, as Dr. Htin Aung had named him, was (or is?) Bo Bo Aung, {Bo:Bo:aung}. He is well-known in Burma. Since it is supposed that he is still living after some hundreds of years, I am sometimes inclined to use the present tense. Before Bo Bo Aung became a wizard {waiz~za}, he was known as {maung aung} or Master Victory. The word {Bo:Bo:} can also mean a prefix in front of a great-grand father's name. We use it as a sign of reverence.
   On the right is a painting of Bo Bo Aung. Take note of the two circles in the background. Usually, one represents the Sun and the other the Moon. In front is the offering of coconut and bananas known as {kän-tau.pwè:} with {tha.pré} leaves. On the basin containing the offertories is written in Burmese-Myanmar: {paT~Hta.män Bo:Bo:aung}. {paT~Hta.män} is the "art" of "Magus".

The cult of the runes gained a second patron early in the nineteenth century, on the eve of the first war with the British. The new patron was Maung Aung {maung aung} or 'Master Victory', who may have been a contemporary historical personage, although the chronicles are silent about him. According to the lore of the cult, Master Victory was a young pupil in the monastery of his village, in the district of Prome, when an unusual incident took place. The presiding monk of the monastery came back from a period of retreat in the forest, looking haggard and carrying a book of brazen plates. He [{p058}] had an interesting story to tell. As he sat under a tree in the forest meditating, a person appeared in the gathering twilight, dressed in white and with a rosary hanging from his neck. Kneeling down, the man in white said, 'My Lord Monk, please help me to become a Master of Runes. All that you have to do is to hold these three runes for me as I make a great fire out of the twigs and branches. When the fire is ready I shall jump into it, and as I start to burn you must throw into the fire the first rune. Tomorrow, as darkness falls, you must throw the second rune into the fire and the next night you must throw the third rune into the fire. All sorts of strange and fearful and even pleasant incidents will take place during the three nights, but you are a monk, my Lord, and so threats and temptations cannot disturb you.'

The monk reluctantly agreed to hold the three runes and the man in white started to make the fire. When the fire was ready the man jumped into it, and the monk threw the first rune into the fire. At once the flame became as black as charcoal, thunder and lightning appeared in the sky, and hundreds of frightful-looking demons surrounded the monk shouting, 'Give us the runes, give us the runes.' The monk, however, stood firm until the thunder and lightning and the demons disappeared with the break of dawn, although the fire still burned black and fearful. Throughout the day there was peace in the forest, and with the approach of darkness the monk threw the second rune into the fire. At once the flame of the fire changed to a soft, silvery colour, sounds of sweet music were heard, and hundreds of goddesses surrounded the monk smiling, singing and dancing, and whispering at the same time, 'My Lord, we beg of you, please give us the rune.' The monk, however, stood firm, and the strange music and the goddesses vanished at dawn. Again there was peace and quiet in the forest, and at nightfall he threw into the fire the last rune. The flame of the fire now assumed the colour of pure gold, and the whole forest gleamed with a strange brightness. [{p059}]

Nothing untoward happened that night, and at dawn the next day, the man in white walked out of the fire, dressed in the costume of a Zawgyi. He said to the monk, 'Sir, you have helped me indeed and now, if you will enter the fire, I shall see that you emerge a Zawgyi also.' The monk, however, refused to accept the offer and the Zawgyi said to him, 'Sir Monk, as you do not care for riches or for power, all that I can give you as token of my gratitude is this book of brazen plates on which I have written down the formulas of my runes.' After giving the book to the monk the Master of the Runes flew away and the monk returned to his monastery.

After narrating this strange story to his pupils the monk took to his bed and died soon after. As nobody dared to touch the brazen book, young Master Victory took it to his house and kept it there. Years later, Master Victory went to a university in India where he met two other Burmese students, one of them being the King's son himself. They became very fond of each other and after three years of study they returned to Burma. Master Victory now took out the book of brazen plates and carefully studied it. His companion at the university, the King's son, now succeeded to the throne as Bodaw-paya (A.D. 1782-1819). The third student became a monk, retired to a forest monastery and was never heard of again. Master Victory soon became famous as an expert in runes, until rumours reached the ears of King Bodaw-paya. It seemed that Master Victory was conspiring to seize the throne. The King sent his soldiers to arrest Master Victory. Soon they found him and, having tied him in chains, they put him at the bottom of their war boat and started to sail up-stream. To their surprise they saw Master Victory standing on the shore. The soldiers fell down on their knees and pleaded, 'Master, it you do not come with us we shall all be executed.' 'Send a report by a horseman to your King that you have captured me, and you may rest assured that I shall be lying in chains at the bottom of the boat the moment it arrives at the King's [{p060}] capital.' The soldiers sent the report as instructed, and when their boat reached the golden city some two weeks later they found Master Victory lying at the bottom of the boat tied in chains. he King summoned his subjects to the place of execution, and when all had come the executioners threw Master Victory into a deep ditch and buried him alive. That evening, as the King sat in full audience with his ministers, Master Victory appeared from nowhere. 'False friend,' said Master Victory to the King, 'did we not swear eternal friendship when we parted after our return from the university? You are indeed stupid to think that the Master of Runes would ever want your paltry little kingdom. Let alone killing me, try to rub out this "O" which I now write with chalk on your palace floor.' The King, in shame and in anger, rubbed out the 'O' but found to his chagrin two 'O's' instead of one. He went on rubbing out the 'O's' until the whole palace floor was covered with hundreds of 'O's'. Master Victory laughed loudly and said, 'Friend of my youth, with my runes I could have made you king of the whole world. But you have been faithless to me and now I shall say farewell to you for ever.' 'Master of Runes,' pleaded the King, realizing that he had been foolish, 'if you will not protect me, protect my grandson, the young Prince of Prome.' 'I shall do that,' replied the Master of Runes and vanished from view.

At the present day the majority of the devotees of the cult of runes no longer attempt to discover the secret of the potent squares, because they believe that there is no need to cast the runes themselves; provided they keep the Eight Precepts, go into retreat whenever possible, refrain from eating meat, and keep their faith in Dhamma-zedi and Grandfather Victory (Bobo Aung), one of the Masters will surely come and give them the runes, so that they will become Zawgyis and await the coming of the next Buddha. In other words, for them the cult of runes has become the cult of the Magus.

UKT: Another {waiz~za} equally famous is Bo Min Gaung {Bo:ming:hkaung}. The following is from: http://www.myaing.com/weizzar/BoMinGaung.htm (080923
   "A weizzar is a superhuman being because he has super natural powers. Weizzar is a Burmese word which is derived from Pali. The word weizzar means wisdom. For example, when we recite the Nine Virtues of the Buddha, we say" vija carana sampano". This means that the Buddha has Eight Wisdom powers. These wisdom powers are:
1. Pubbe Niwartha - the ability to see previous lives.
2. Deibba Setku - the Divine eye. The ability to see objects which are far away and objects which are very, very small.
3. Arthe wetkhaya nyana - the wisdom that arises when a person attains Arahat magga and Arahata palla. There are four stages of magga nyana and four stages of palla nyana. Palla is a Pali word which means fruition. A person who attains Arahat nayna or Arahat wisdom escapes from Samsara or the endless rounds of rebirths and enters Nivarna. (this means that the Buddha is pure and does not have any of the defilements of greed, anger and ignorance.)
4. Vipassa nyana - the ability to see mind and matter as they really are. The ability to see the three characteristics of mind and matter, namely impernance, suffering and no-soul. The word no-soul is also translated as anatta. This concept really means that the processes of mind and matter that we see all around us are occurring according to their own process.
5. Saytaw Pariya nyana - the ability to know the minds of others.
6. Mano Mayeiddi nayna - the ability to create in your own body another similar body by the power of the mind.
7. Deibba Thawta nyana - the Divine Ear. The ability to hear sounds that are far away.
8. Eiddi wida nayna - the ability to fly in the air, the ability to dive into the earth, the ability to walk on water, the ability to create multiple bodies, the ability to be at many places at the same time, etc. In the Hindu tradition the Burmese word "eiddi" is pronounced as "iddi". In Burmese, "eidi" is translated as super normal powers. All weizzars like Bo Min Gaung have one or more of these super normal powers. That is why we say that the weizzars are more than man and equal to or almost equal to devas (celestial beings). The Burmese word "theiddi" is a derivation of the sanskrit word "iddi"."


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fn054-01 Maung Htin Aung, Burmese Folk-Tales. fn054-01b

fn055-01 So there came to be three kinds of Zawgyi's, namely the Iron, the Mercury, and the Runes Zawgyis. fn055-01b
   UKT: Actually there are four kinds of wizards (only three ?),
   the iron-wizard {thän-waiz~za},
   the mercury-wizard {pra.da:waiz~za},
   the rune-wizard {ing:waiz~za}, and
   the medicine-wizard {hsé:waiz~za}.

fn056-01 G. E. Harvey, History of Burma, p. 118 fn056b

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UKT notes


{Bo:tau Bu.ra:} (A.D. 1782-1819). King Bodaw-paya was the fifth son of Alaung-paya, the founder of Koan-baung dynasty. I am doubtful if Bodaw-paya as a boy ever went to India. -- historical facts to be checked.

From The Making of Modern Burma by Thant-Myint-U, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001, p012.
   The Prince of Badon was 37 years old when he ascended the throne of Ava in 1752. His reign, which lasted until his death in 1817, was to be the longest in Burmese history since the days of Pagan, the longest in over five centuries. He is better remembered today as Bodawpaya or 'the royal grandfather king', the name by which he was often referred to in court writings of the mid-nineteenth century. With 53 wives and 120 children, Bodawpaya, the fifth son of Alaungpaya, the dynasty's upstart founder, was perhaps the greatest of all the Konbaung kings. He presided over the Burmese empire at its very height, marching his armies steadily westward to the very borders of an equally expansionist British India.

Go back bodaw-note-b

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Master Goat-Bull

The honourific title for a monk is {rhing}, and I have given the Burmese-Myanmar name of the monk as {rhing-a.za.gau:Na.}.

The word {rhing} is the diminutive of the word {a.rhing} which in combination with {tha.hking} in the compound word {a.rhing-tha.hking} means <master> or <Lord>. On the other hand, the word {a.rhing} in combination with another word {Bu.ra:} in compound {a.rhing-Bu.ra:} is how we call the attention of a monk. {a.rhing-Bu.ra:} and the English word <Reverend> are equivalents.

Though {rhing} can mean either {a.rhing-tha.hking} or {a.rhing-Bu.ra:}, here the word is closer to <reverend> than to <master>. However, it is probable that the author, Dr. Htin Aung had chosen <Master> in place of <Reverend> because of the success of {rhing-a.za.gau:Na.} in mastering the art of "killing" the metal mercury. He was a Mercury Weikza.

There is still one problem with the word {rhing}. It has to do orthography and you are required to look into the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabets). The pronunciation of the word can be represented by the IPA [shɪŋ] from which we could easily write the English <shin>. However, it is not to be in writing with Burmese-Myanmar akshara.

The pronunciation of the word starts with a hissing sound, and so it should be represented by the IPA consonant [s] -- a fricative. We say that the onset of the syllable is [s]. However, in this case, the articulation of [s] is not simple: it is accompanied by a glottal [h] or pharyngeal [ħ] sound. The onset is thus a medial involving the Burmese-Myanmar {ha.hto:} sound derived from {ha.}. If only the onset had been the simple [s], we could represent it by the Burmese-Myanmar {sa.} the alveolar fricative, and the medial could be represented as * {sha.} or IPA [sh]. However, it is not allowed by Burmese-Myanmar phonotactic. Therefore, we have to look for an alternative. Since the sound is a fricative, we are left to use only {tha.} (which I will sometimes represent with the Old English "thorn" as {þa.}. From this, by using two medial formers, {ya.ping.} and {ha.hto:}, we can write IPA [sh] as {þhya.}/{thhya.}. From it we arrive at {þhying}/{thhying}. It has to be pointed out that MLA has "arbitrarily" adopted {rha.} to represent IPA [sh] which can only have the IPA pronunciation [rh] as in the English <rhinoceros> .

The second part of the name {a.za.} means <goat> in Pali. And the third {gau:Na.} means <bull>.

Go back goat-bull-note-b

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obstruents and sonorants

UKT: The classification of sounds into obstruents and sonorants is very confusing for a person who is used to the akshara classification. See also Sonority hierarchy in my notes.

 The following definitions are from AHTD.

obstruent n. 2. Linguistics A sound, such as a stop, a fricative, or an affricate, that is produced with complete blockage or at least partial constriction of the airflow through the nose or mouth. [Latin obstruēns obstruent-, present participle of obstruere to obstruct; See obstruct ] -- AHTD

sonorant n. Linguistics 1. A voiced consonant regarded as a syllabic sound, as the last sound in the word sudden. [sonor(ous) -ant ] -- AHTD



UKT: The aksharas of the r1, r3, r4 and r5 rows of the akshara matrix, the {wag}-consonants (except the nasals of column 5), are obstruents.
   However, the r2 consonants {sa. hsa. za. Za.} are problematical. The case of {sa.} is illuminating. It has two pronunciations: in the coda it is a stop [c], whereas in the onset it is a fricative [s]. e.g. {thic~sa}. English <cc> is also of this type: <success> /sək'ses/ (transcription from DJPD16-515). It should be noted that since the POAs of [k] and [c] are close, I have suggested that the transcription could have been /səc'ses/ which calls for a palatal <c> in English. When I posted this possibility on a forum, almost all responses were that English does not have a palatal <c>, which is true if <c> has been an onset. I insisted that coda <c> could very well be [c], the case being similar to the case of {sa.}.

The following is based on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obstruent download 070910

Consonants may be divided into two large classes, obstruents and sonorants.

An obstruent is a consonant sound formed by obstructing the outward airflow, causing an increase in the air pressure in the vocal tract temporarily, after which the air is released suddenly resulting in an explosive sound. Because of this, this type of obstruent is described as <stop> or <plosive>.

During the articulation of the obstruent, the vocal cords may or may not be vibrating producing voiced and voiceless types respectively. E.g., {ga.} is the voiced obstruent, whereas {ka.} is its voiceless counter part. Burmese-Myanmar speakers can articulate another voiceless obstruent, {hka.}. During the articulation of {hka.}, another sound is produced deep in the interior. This sound is similar to the sound of {ha.} and is either a glottal IPA [h] or a pharyngeal IPA [ħ]. Though Burmese-Myanmar speakers can differentiate {ka.} and {hka.} clearly, English speakers cannot. To them {ka.} and {hka.} sound the same and is represented by the English-Latin <k>. In IPA it is represented as broad /k/. They say /k/ has two allophones [k] and [kʰ]: the first is the "non-aspirate" and the second the "aspirate". To summarize: {ka.} = [k] = <k>; {hka.} = [kʰ] = <kh>; and {ga.} = [g] = <g>. (We will leave aside r1c4 {Ga.} for the moment).

There is another class(s) of obstruents, the fricatives (and affricates).

Obstruents are prototypically voiceless, though voiced obstruents are common. This contrasts with sonorants, which are rarely voiceless.



From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonorant download 070910
UKT: Vowels are sonorants, whereas the nasals are between sonorants and obstruents (my understanding of 080313)

In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant is a speech sound that is produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract. Essentially this means that a sound is sonorant if it can be produced continuously at the same pitch. For example, vowels are sonorants, as are consonants like /m/ and /l/. Other consonants, like /d/ or /k/, cannot be produced continuously and so are non-sonorant. In addition to vowels, phonetic categorizations of sounds that are considered sonorant include approximants, nasal consonants, taps, and trills. In the sonority hierarchy, all sounds higher than fricatives are sonorants.

UKT: The above Wiki paragraph implies that nasal consonants (e.g. /m/) and lateral consonants (e.g. /l/) are sonorants. This means that {nga. ña. Na. na. ma.} are sonorants. But, since "a sound is sonorant if it can be produced continuously at the same pitch", I cannot fully agree with my inference "{nga. Ña. Na. na. ma.} are sonorants", because I cannot "produce them continuously at the same pitch". But first, I will have to check with my peers.
   However, we must note that when the inherent vowel in {nga. Ña. Na. na. ma.} has been killed and they occur in the coda, the "rimes" have three pitch-registers (tones) such as {a. a a:}, exemplified by {kan. kan kan:}.

Sonorants are those articulations in which there is only a partial closure or an unimpeded oral or nasal escape of air; such articulations, typically voiced, and frequently frictionless, without noise component, may share many phonetic characteristics with vowels.

The word resonant is sometimes used for these non-turbulent sounds. In this case, the word sonorant may be restricted to non-vocoid resonants; that is, all of the above except vowels and semivowels. However, this usage is becoming outdated.

Sonorants contrast with obstruents, which do cause turbulence in the vocal tract. Among consonants pronounced far back in the throat (uvulars (UKT: [q, ɢ, ɴ, ʀ, χ, ʁ]), pharyngeals) the distinction between an approximant and a voiced fricative is so blurred that such sounds as voiced uvular fricative ([ʁ] and voiced pharyngeal fricative ([ʕ]) often behave like sonorants. The pharyngeal consonant (UKT: [ħ]? Can I say it is {ha.}?) is also a semivowel corresponding to the vowel /a/.

UKT: The farthest into the throat are velars {ka. ga.}. I am wondering, because of the way the Burmese-Myanmar monks recite the {ka.ma.wa}, whether {Ga.} is pronounced farther into the interior. In which case it would be a uvular. -- 070915

Whereas most obstruents are voiceless, the great majority of sonorants are voiced. It is certainly possible to make voiceless sonorants, but sonorants that are unvoiced occur in only about 5 percent of the world's languages. These are almost exclusively found in the area around the Pacific Ocean from New Caledonia clockwise to South America and belong to a number of language families, among them Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan (UKT: Burmese of Tibeto-Burman group), Na-Dene language and Eskimo-Aleut. It is notable that, in every case where a voiceless sonorant does occur, there is a contrasting voiced sonorant.

Voiceless sonorants (e.g. IPA [θ] Burmese-Myanmar {tha.} which I sometimes represent with Old English "thorn" as {þa.}) tend to be extremely quiet and very difficult to recognise even for those people whose language does contain them. They have a strong tendency to either revoice or undergo fortition to form for example a fricative like ç or ɬ.

English has the following sonorant consonants: l, m, n, ŋ, r, w, j . (UKT: the corresponding {ya.}, {ra.}, {la.}, {wa.} are {a.wag}-consonants, and {nga.} {na.} {ma.} are nasals.)

UKT: Cross linguistic comparison, between Burmese and English, has brought out some interesting properties of consonants and vowels. Working with the rimes in the syllables of the type CVÇ, has brought out that the pronunciation of C and Ç can be quite different in both Burmese and in English. A specific example is in the <cc> digraphs of the disyllabic words such as <success> /sək'ses/ (transcription from Daniel Jones Pronouncing Dictionary, 16ed. p515). In the <cc> the first <c> belongs the syllable /sək/ whereas the second <c> belongs to the syllable /ses/. This has prompted me to suggest that "there is palatal <c> in English" but only in the coda. The rational being: POA's of velar stop /k/ and the palatal stop /c/ are so close that we have made a mistake in giving the transcription as /sək'ses/. It could very well be /səc'ses/. If we could accept this position, then we can say that the English <c> and the Burmese {sa.} are exactly the same.

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From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonotactics 071230
UKT: See also  obstruents and sonorants in my notes.

Phonotactics (in Greek phone = voice and tactic = course) is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language on the permissible combinations of phonemes. Phonotactics defines permissible syllable structure, consonant clusters, and vowel sequences by means of phonotactical constraints.

Phonotactic constraints are language specific. For example, in Japanese, consonant clusters like /st/ are not allowed, although they are in English. Similarly, the sounds /kn/ and /ɡn/ [obviously the {nga.} [ŋ] sound] are not permitted at the beginning of a word in Modern English but are in German and Dutch.

UKT: In English both /sw/ and /st/ are allowed, whereas in Burmese, though /sw/ is allowed /st/ is not.
This shows that English /t/ is more sonorous than Burmese /t/. Whatever the case may be, in transliterating English to Burmese, we have to accept the "killed" {sa.}, {s}  in the onset, e.g. <stat> {s~tat} or {stat}.
I am waiting for comments from my peers.

Syllables have the following internal segmental structure:

• Onset (optional)
• Rime (obligatory, comprises Nucleus and Coda):
- Nucleus (obligatory)
- Coda (optional)

Both onset and coda may be empty, forming a vowel-only syllable, or alternatively, the nucleus can be occupied by a syllabic consonant.

English Phonotactics: The English syllable (and word) twelfths /twɛlfθs/ is divided into the onset /tw/, the nucleus /ɛ/, and the coda /lfθs/, and it can thus be described as CCVCCCC (C = consonant, V = vowel). On this basis it is possible to form rules for which representations of phoneme classes may fill the cluster. For instance, English allows at most three consonants in an onset, but among native words under standard accents, phonemes in a three-consonantal onset are limited to the following scheme:

/s/ + pulmonic + approximant:
• /s/ + /m/ + /j/
• /s/ + /t/ + /j ɹ/
• /s/ + /p/ + /j ɹ l/
• /s/ + /k/ + /j ɹ l w/

This constraint can be observed in the pronunciation of the word blue: originally, the vowel of blue was identical to the vowel of cue, approximately [iw]. In most dialects of English, [iw] shifted to [juː]. Theoretically, this would produce ** [bljuː]. The cluster [blj], however, infringes the constraint for three-consonantal onsets in English. Therefore, the pronunciation has been reduced to [bluː] by elision of the [j].

Other languages don't share the same constraint: compare Spanish pliegue [ˈpljeɣe] or French pluie [plɥi].

Sonority hierarchy: In general, the rules of phonotactics operate around the sonority hierarchy, stipulating that the nucleus has maximal sonority and that sonority decreases as you move away from the nucleus. The voiceless alveolar fricative [s] is lower on the sonority hierarchy than the alveolar lateral approximant [l], so the combination /sl/ is permitted in onsets and /ls/ is permitted in codas, but /ls/ is not allowed in onsets and /sl/ is not allowed in codas. Hence slips /slɪps/ and pulse /pʌls/ are possible English words while *lsips and *pusl are not. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but in general it holds for the phonotactics of most languages.

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{ra-za-Di.rìz} (r. 1385-1423 A.D.)

From: Rajadhirat's Mask of Command: Military leadership in Burma (c. 1348-1421) by Jon Fernquest, Bangkok Post. SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006. http://web.soas.ac.uk/burma/4.1files/4.1fernquest.pdf 080918. The downloaded paper is in TIL library.

1. Introduction
The reign of the Mon king Rajadhirat (r. 1383-1421) was an exceptional period in Burma’s history. Rarely has one person exerted so much influence over the events of an era. Lower and Upper Burma were locked in endemic warfare for almost forty years during his reign. Unlike his father and predecessor, Rajadhirat was forced to wage war to obtain power. Once in power, he had to continue fighting to maintain power. During the critical first seven years of his rule, Rajadhirat consolidated power in a series of conflicts with other members of the ruling elite. The war that Rajadhirat waged had its origins in a succession crisis, a common problem plaguing the transition from one political regime to another in many societies (Ferguson, 1999, 402). Upon the death of
a king, members of the ruling elite typically competed for the vacant throne and in general:

Unless the rules of succession are carefully spelled out … that period between the death of the old king and the crowning of the new is extremely precarious for the group as a whole. A state recently formed out of a number of chiefdoms might revert to smaller units. Moreover, when two competitors can garner relatively equal support, there will almost certainly be civil war. Thus, too much rigidity in political succession threatens the polity because of weakness at the top; too much flexibility may rend it in pieces. This is the fundamental problem of political succession
(Lewellen, 1992, 84).

In Rajadhirat’s succession, the flexibility nearly rent his father’s fragile kingdom to pieces. Koenig’s (1990) detailed analysis of succession crises during the better documented early Konbaung period (c. 1752-1819) clearly shows that succession crises at the death of kings were a constant and unchanging feature of Burmese politics for hundreds of years and that the succession struggles and inter-elite strategic behavior of the Rajadhirat era was not merely an imaginary overlay.

In the contest of political succession, Rajadhirat’s adversaries and allies were the ruling elite of Lower and Upper Burma. Commanders and strategists like Byat Za and Deinmaniyut exerted a formative influence on Rajadhirat’s strategy. The headstrong princes of Ava, Theiddat, Hsinbyushin and Minyekyawswa acted independently of their monarchs providing an impetus that sustained conflict. Lower status ruling elites, installed as local rulers in conquered domains were quickly deposed or defected to the other side and worked to fragment Rajadhirat’s power in Lower Burma.

Strategy was important in this quickly changing environment. Rajadhirat’s history is a part of the ayeidawbon kyan genre of Burmese historical literature, which stresses the strategy and heroic role of king as military commander:

“(1) How individuals of prowess consolidated their power and fought to obtain the throne. (2) How these kings retained their power by military means and other endeavours like diplomacy, alliances and stratagem, (3) How rebellions were crushed, (4) How wars were waged for the expansion of their territory, (5) Important achievements of a particular king like building new towns and cities, pagodas and palaces, etc” (Thaw Kaung, 2004b).

Goldsworthy’s (2000) description of the premodern warfare of Punic Spain applies equally well to the Rajadhirat era. The power of ruling elite:

… does not appear to have been fixed, depending instead on personal charisma and particularly on reputation as warriors and leaders of warriors. Strong leaders who had proved themselves in war, might control many settlements in both their own and many other tribes’ territories, the area loyal to them changing in size as their prestige, and that of rival leaders fluctuated (Goldsworthy, 2000, 246-247).

This influence of military prowess is also at the core of the “heroic style of military leadership” military historian John Keegan describes in his treatise on military leadership “The Mask of Command” (Keegan, 1987, 10-11). The heroic leadership attributes, “aggressive, invasive, exemplary, risk-taking,” were common during the Rajadhirat era. ...

UKT: You will notice that Jon Fernquest and other modern writers failed to take into account the mindset of the population, the Burmese and the Mons of old. The people in their heart of hearts believe in {Boän:} (a supernatural attribute of the ruler) and so the power seeker has to prove somehow or other that he has the {Boän:} to rule not only over the people but over the local nats as well. One way to do it is to show that he is a "magus" himself as in the case of King Dhamazedi, or that he has the help of powerful beings such as the Lord of the Great Mountain as in the case of Anawrahta and Kyansittha.
   Anawrahta was said to have exercised his authority over the nats by caning them with his magic cane. At least on two occasions, he did this to the nats. In one case, he caned the guardian spirit of the Chinese king {U:tæÑ-Bwa:} who cried out in pain. On another occasion, the king caned the {laim-ping saung. nat}, who did not come down from his tree to pay homage to the king.
The following is my interpretation of the account taken from the Glass Palace Chronicle, vol.1, part 4, p272:
   "An enemy in one of the previous lives of Anawrahta who had become the guardian nat of a certain {laim}-tree would not get down from his tree when the king came up on his campaign against China. The nat was showing his disdain by being made himself visible, at which the king had Kyansittha beat the nat with the magic cane (the gift of Thigyamin) and the nat had to run away. From that day onwards, the nat haboured a grudge against the king, and waited until the {Boän:} of the king had waned. [UKT: my addition from another source: The nat then assumed the shape of wild buffalo and wreak havoc among the king's human subjects. Anawrahta, now 56 (?), ever the champion of his people went alone after what he thought to be the wild buffalo. The king never came back presumably being gored to death by the buffalo.] The body of the king was then claimed by the nat and the naga [another enemy of the king] at which the Thagyamin took the body himself and bury it in {gan~Da.ma}-mountain. [in other words, the people never saw the king nor got the body back.]"

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Sounding of gong

Public proclamations are made in Myanmar by a crier sounding of a brass gong. The practice is now being slowly replaced by the use of megaphones and loud-speakers. Sounding of gong is equivalent to the ringing of bell in Europe for making public proclamations.

UKT: Insert from: Burmese Design And Architecture: Design & Architecture, By John Falconer, Luca Invernizzi, Elizabeth Moore, Daniel Kahrs, Luca Invernizzi Tettoni. Published by Tuttle Publishing, 2001. ISBN 9625938826, 9789625938820. 224 pages
http://books.google.ca/books?id=yQeGTsOoD0IC&dq=brahmani+duck&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0 081001

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