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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 Alchemy
Growth of alchemy
Alchemist's goal
Alchemist's philosophy
Four elements
The Nine metals
The twelve metal compounds
Burmese alchemic code
Development of Burmese alchemy

UKT notes
Flying Indian Prince and Pagan Princess
Four Basic Elements Green water Heritage of the Alchemists Nine "metals" Origin of Alchemy Twelve metal compounds Two alchemical lines Zawgyi and Weikzar

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04. Cult of Alchemy

Growth of alchemy

India seems to have been the first centre of alchemic experiments. From India, alchemy spread westwards to the Arabs, the Egyptians and the Greeks, later to the medieval Europeans, eastwards to Burma and farther east to China. By the fifth century A.D. alchemy was being practised in China and in Burma. The great period of alchemy in the world as a whole was roughly between the fifth century A.D. and the sixteenth century, when its popularity waned with the dawn of modern science. In Burma the great period of alchemy was roughly between the fifth century A.D. and the eleventh century, and it became almost a religious cult by itself. But in the eleventh century its popularity waned with the introduction of Buddhism into the country, for Buddhism frowned upon alchemy. Thus, after the eleventh century alchemy started to decay, and although the cult has never completely died out (even at the present day some indulge in alchemic experiments), it has long ceased to be in any way a rival to Buddhism.

UKT: Do I think the "order for metal parts" inscription (from: http://www.geocities.com/sfetel/en/metals.htm 080913) on the right to be genuine and not a hoax? I reserve my judgment until I come across other supporting evidence. It seems strange that such a simple order had to be on a marble slab. However, it could just be an ad set up in front of a metal works in ancient Greece.


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Alchemist's goal

Alchemy in Burma is known as Aggiya {ag~gi.rat}, meaning 'the work with fire'. 'Work with fire' is indeed the essence of alchemy, for the alchemist endeavours to transmute metals by means of fire. This endeavour to transmute base metals into precious metals is not peculiar to the Burmese alchemist and was the common heritage of alchemists all over the world. But [{p042}] Burmese alchemy has as its background a deeper philosophy -- a philosophy so deep and developed at one time that it was almost a religion. The endeavour 'to turn lead into silver and brass into gold' is to the Burmese alchemist merely a first step towards a great goal, namely to discover by further experiment 'the stone of live metal', or 'the stone of live mercury' {pra.da:rhing-lon:}, which is the Burmese equivalent of the Philosopher's Stone in European alchemy. Again, 'the stone of live metal' itself is not the final goal. The final goal is to attain, after more experiment, a superhuman body and an eternal youth.

After considerable effort the first stage is reached by the Burmese alchemist, when he is able to transmute base metals into precious metals. Using the results of the first stage of his experiments he continues with metals and metal compounds until he has evolved the 'stone of live metal'. The possessor of this stone can fly in the air, or dive not only under water, but underground. He cannot be wounded as long as he has this stone on his body, that is, in his mouth, under his hair-knot, in his hands, or under his armpits. He will be free from fatigue and disease. However, the body of the possessor of the stone is still just a human body, and the superhuman powers described above do not really belong to him but only to the stone, which by mere touch can turn 'lead into silver and brass into gold'. To obtain these powers, the possessor of the stone does not have to be the actual discoverer of the stone. Thus, when an alchemist has discovered the 'stone of live metal', he exposes himself to the danger of being robbed of it by evil spirits or jealous magicians. Burmese folklore is full of stories about this stone. The Chronicles mention the case of an Indian prince who came flying every day to the kingdom of Pagan from his kingdom in Bengal to pay court to a Burmese princess; he was not an alchemist, but he had somehow obtained possession of a 'stone of live metal', and with this stone in his mouth he was able to fly in the air. [{p043}]

The alchemist, however, does not rest on his laurels after obtaining the stone. He continues his experiments, using the stone. The aim of these experiments is to discover certain metal compounds which will make his body superhuman. The third stage is reached when the required metal compounds are evolved. In order to make his body superhuman the alchemist cannot just swallow these metal compounds as one swallows medicine. They must be absorbed in his body. For this, he must first swallow the compounds, when his body will become as if dead. Then he must remain buried in the earth for a full seven days. This 'temporary death' of his body will become permanent if he is exposed to the air during the seven-day period. Moreover, during this period he will be entirely helpless and at the mercy of his enemies, namely evil spirits and magicians. Evil spirits will be on the look-out for him out of sheer jealousy and malice, but the magicians wish to eat his body, not only because it is very tasty and smells like the choicest perfume, but also because by eating it, they will come to possess superhuman strength. The Chronicles mention two heroes of the kingdom of Thaton who acquired prodigious strength after they ate the body of an alchemist, which they were cooking for their master, a monk-magician. fn043-01

Therefore, when the alchemist has discovered the right metal compounds, the first task before him is to search for a faithful pupil who will bury him in the forest, away from human beings, who will scare away evil spirits and magicians, and who will watch over the spot under which the alchemist lies buried. When the faithful pupil has been found the alchemist makes him dig a hole in the ground and, on entering it, the alchemist will swallow the metal compounds. Then the hole is filled up, and seven days later the alchemist of his own accord and in great joy jumps out of it, for he has become a Zawgyi {zau-gyi}, a fully-developed alchemist. All the supernatural qualities of the 'stone of live metal' are now possessed by [{p044}] him in his supernatural body. As he no longer needs the stone he gives it to his pupil as a reward for services rendered, and as a farewell gift. He will then enter the forest and come back to the abode of human beings very seldom, if at all. As the alchemist's body has become superhuman he can wander at will, flying in the air or travelling underground; physical fatigue is no longer known to him and his body needs no further nourishment. His body will remain youthful until he dies, and death will come to him only after thousands of years. In fact, before Buddhism, with its doctrine of the impermanence of all compounded things, influenced the Burmese mind, it was believed that the 'fully-developed alchemist' would live forever with his eternally youthful body. But even though Buddhism has influenced Burmese alchemic beliefs and the followers of the alchemic cult admit that death will come to all, including the 'successful' alchemist, they still maintain that when death comes to him, it will come without the decay and disease of his body.

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Alchemist's philosophy

The above is a summary of the Burmese beliefs connected with alchemy. But what is the basic philosophy behind all these beliefs in the cult of alchemy? Burmese alchemy tries to solve the tragic problem of human life, why youth has to pass and man has to die. All men feel at one time or another the dark mood of despair when they say with Omar Khayyam,

Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose,
That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!

Burmese alchemy aims at achieving an eternally youthful body, and thus to create a beauty that never fades, and a youth that never dies.

But is the 'successful' alchemist happy after achieving his heart's desire? On the whole he is happy, but he also has his own troubles. His is an intensely lonely life. He does not need [{p045}] to eat, but occasionally he eats fruit, as he cannot eat meat because of its smell. Therefore, it follows that he cannot stay with human beings for more than a few minutes, as they are eaters of meat and smell too much for him. However, he is not a hermit or an ascetic, and in his youthful strength and vigour he does not have to mortify his flesh. Instead, he gives full play to his senses. He has endeavoured to obtain an eternally youthful body, so as to enjoy forever the pleasures of the flesh. He wants love, but as a human woman, being a meat eater, smells too much, he cannot approach her and has to console himself with substitutes. On the slopes of the Himalayas there are trees whose fruits have exactly the size and shape of the average human maiden, and by his alchemic power the alchemist puts some sort of 'life' into them, so that the fruits become animated. He makes love to them with enthusiasm and zest, but unfortunately, as they are but fruit, they soon get crushed and become of no use to him. Moreover, this kind of fruit tree is not very common even on the slopes of the Himalayas, and so the alchemists are often fighting and quarrelling with each other as there are not enough fruit-maidens {thu-yaung-m} to go round.

But perhaps this belief regarding the fruit-maidens originated in the anti-alchemist propaganda which prevailed after the coming of Buddhism. The majority of the Burmese Buddhists frown upon alchemic experiments as a wanton waste of time, and look upon the alchemist as a seeker after gold and after sensual pleasures. In reply, those who still believe in alchemy will maintain that the alchemist wants to live for thousands of years, not because he wants the pleasures of youth, but because he wants to be alive when the next Buddha appears on this earth, so that he may worship him and attain the eternal bliss of Nibbana. To meet this defence, anti-alchemists will say that when the next Buddha appears after many thousands of years, the alchemist will have lost all sense of time and will be so busy quarrelling over his fruit- [{p046}] maidens that he will not remember to go and worship the Buddha. But all these arguments and counter-arguments seem to be afterthoughts, and the solitary but tranquil life of a Zawgyi must have appealed to many an ascetic and scholar. Thus, we find the great Burmese dramatist, U Kyin U fn046-01 describing with sympathy and understanding this ideal of a Zawgyi:

"At last I have achieved what I desired. I have obtained the 'stone of live metal', and I have also become a Zawgyi. My stone can turn lead into silver, brass into gold. I have eaten that compound of alchemy, which makes me above nature, above this earthliness. I cannot be hit by bullets and bombs, and swords and spears wound me not at all ... I can be king. But what care I for worldly power? Make way, make way, I wish to leave the abode of human beings and retire to the forest.

"I have reached a lovely part of the forest. Look at the flower stems, look at the waterfall. Here is a streamlet, there is a little pond. Here pebbles, and silvery sand. Green moss covers that rock, green water flows silently down that stone. The heat of the noonday sun has no effect on the peaceful place. Short trees and tall trees, big trees and small trees, they stand side by side. This tree clings to its lover, that tree is defiant. This bush looks inviting, this bamboo looks charming. The place under that tree is smooth-lawned. Did some fairy play there before I came and disturbed and frightened it away? What a peaceful place! A poet can live here forever writing verses on this beauty!" fn046-02

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Four elements

I shall now endeavour to explain the scientific theory behind Burmese alchemic experiments. The whole universe is believed to be made up of four basic elements, earth, fire, water, and air. Therefore, all things on earth, whether organic or mineral, also have these four elements. The human body, [{p047}] too, is made up of these elements. But behind these four elements there is an essential matter which is not subjected to decay or change. Things decay only because of the four elements, and if the essential matter can be purified of the four elements, it will be preserved from change and decay. The aim of alchemic experiments is to obtain that essence which is in all metals, and then introduce that essence into the human body, which will thus become free from the four elements, an immortal and eternally youthful body.

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The Nine metals

UKT: Alchemically this group is known as {Dat-ma. ko:pa:} which literally means the <the nine principal chemical elements>. The name can be shortened to {Daat ko:pa:} group -- from: {tha-tha.na.a.ling: sa-p} {lau:ki-pyi~a} (in Burmese) 1993, p180-193

The Burmese alchemist knows nine "metals" and twelve metals compounds. The nine metals are classified as 'females' and the twelve metal compounds are classified as 'males'. The alchemist feels that just as in the universe 'perfection' can be obtained only through as the union of female and male, so the essential matter in all metals can be obtained only through the union of female metals with male metal compounds. The following metals are used:
1. lead, {na} ; 2. tin, {Bing} ; 3. antimony, {krwap} ? ; 4. zinc, {thwat} ; 5. copper, {dan} - [(base)]
6. silver, {Bau} ; 7. gold {kait}  - [(noble)]
8. iron {thn} ; 9. mercury {thu.ta.} - [(neither)]

The first five metals are considered to be base metals, and the next two, silver and gold, are noble metals. The base metals can be transmuted into silver and gold. Iron and mercury are considered to be neither base nor noble. Therefore, to the alchemist, either iron or mercury must be the basic metal on which experiments with other metals will be made, and either in iron or in mercury 'the stone of live metal' will be obtained. Therefore, alchemists have been classified into two categories, 'those who work on iron' and 'those who work on mercury'. In the alchemy of all other countries mercury alone is considered to be the most important metal, but the Burmese consider iron to be as important as mercury in their alchemic experiments. The Burmese alchemists consider that there are one hundred and sixty-seven varieties of iron, and they are familiar with steel.

UKT: It should be noted that since the melting point of iron is 1,535 C., those who work with iron need extremely hot furnaces. A special kind of bellows known as {hpo-kying} has to be used. Ordinary wood charcoal is not good enough to produce such high temperatures, and a special kind of charcoal produced from a very dense hard wood has to be used. Of course, such charcoal is very expensive. It is believed that Panb Maung Tint D, the black smith, was executed by burning alive in such a furnace. After death, he became the Lord of the Great Mountain or {ming:ma.ha-gi.ri.}. He was joined in death by his sister {rhw-myak-nha}, the queen, who threw herself into the furnace. They are known as the Panb Sibling Nats  {pan:p:maung-nha.ma.}.


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The twelve metal compounds

The Nine metals
The twelve metal compounds

UKT: The term used by Dr. Htin Aung may not be very appropriate. These substances are not metals, and one (sulphur) is a chemical element and not a compound: the rest are chemical compounds.
   Alchemically this group is known as {a-ka-tha. Daat} group -- from: {tha-tha.na.a.lin: sa-p} {lau:ki-pyi~a} (in Burmese) 1993, p193. According to Pali-that-Dict419, the name is derived from {a-ka-tha. Da-tu}.

The following metal compounds are used:
01. sulphur, {kan.}
02. alum, {kyauk-hkyi}
03. salt, {hsa:}
04. nitrate, {yam:}
05. borax, {lak-hkya:}
06. sal ammoniac, {za.wak-tha}
07. camphor, {pa.roak}
08. lime, {hton:}
09. soda ash, {hsp-pra}
10. arsenic, {sain}
11. arsenic sulphide, {hs:dan:}
12. mercuric sulphide, {hing: rein:}.
Sulphur is neither a metal nor a compound according to modern scientific terminology, and some of the above compounds are not metals at all. But the Burmese word Dat {Daat} is a rather comprehensive term, and although the nearest English equivalent will be <'metal>' it covers <chemicals> also.

The two lists given above do not contain any vegetable products, but Burmese alchemy also uses herbs and roots in the experiments with metals.

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Burmese alchemic code

The Burmese physician and craftsman are often accused of being very selfish persons who consider their knowledge and their experience to be 'trade secrets' and who therefore will not communicate their discoveries to others. The Burmese alchemist is also accused of the same fault. But the accusation is unfair. As in the case of the medieval European Trade Guilds, the Burmese physician, the Burmese alchemist and the Burmese craftsman will keep their 'art' secret from outsiders, but they will freely circulate their 'secrets' within their own professions.

With regard to the Burmese alchemist, there is a considerable body of literature on the subject of alchemy, but these writings are in code. Alchemists were never persecuted, as were the Ari monks {a.r:kri:}, but the practice of alchemy was frowned upon by the new Buddhism of Anawrahta, and the alchemist became a social outcast. Therefore, after the eleventh century, the Burmese alchemists conducted their experiments in secret, but they communicated with each other regarding their experiments and discoveries. Many secret formulae were passed from hand to hand. Unfortunately, the alchemists could not organize themselves into a nation-wide group, and [{p049}] instead grouped themselves into different schools. Each school wrote down its discoveries in its own code. The code was a simple one, and the metals and metal compounds were given nicknames or secret names such as 'the lion', 'the tiger', 'the wife with many children', 'the wife with no children', 'the wife with many husbands', 'the mouse', 'the white cat'. The nicknames were used by all schools but applied to different metals. Thus, whereas one school would refer to gold as 'the big eagle', another would refer to it as 'the lion'. Therefore, by the fifteenth or sixteenth century, much of the energy of the Burmese alchemist was wasted in attempting to decipher the secret alchemic formulae.

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Development of Burmese alchemy

One reason why alchemy flourished so much in Burma in the early centuries was the richness of the country in minerals, and all the metals' and 'metal compounds' were easily procurable in the country. All the same, alchemy has always been an expensive pursuit. Before Anawrahta, the kings themselves were patrons of alchemy, and Burmese folk tales tell of instances when royal treasuries became empty through kings financing alchemic experiments made by monks. Therefore, another reason for the decay of alchemy after the eleventh century was the withdrawal of royal patronage. Before the eleventh century the practising alchemists were generally Ari monks, but thereafter the practising alchemists were usually astrologers, physicians, gold and silversmiths, and scholars. These professional men were not very rich, and they endeavoured to make alchemy pay by using it in their professional work. Astrologers and physicians sold lumps of metal from their alchemic laboratories as charms and amulets {lak-hpw.}, or positive cures for certain diseases. Scholars wrote plays, poems, and treatises on alchemy. Gold and silversmiths benefited directly from their knowledge of metals.

Some have regretted that whereas in Europe, alchemy [{p050}] developed into modern chemistry, in Burma alchemy has always been a superstitious practice. This view is not quite correct. Burmese alchemy did result in some important chemical discoveries, but Burmese chemistry was completely overwhelmed when Western chemistry suddenly came into the country after the British conquest. So the early Burmese alchemist was not a mere charlatan or an impostor. Of all the religious cults that existed in Burma before the advent of Buddhism, alchemy was the noblest, for Burmese alchemy aimed at a conquest of nature, and to discover for humanity a way to preserve the human body in its vigour and beauty.

UKT: Important chemical discoveries -- Sad to say, I cannot name any. I certainly would like to know of them!


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fn043-01 Details regarding these two heroes are given in Chapter 6. fn043-01b

fn046-01 His literary career lasted from about 1819 to about 1850. fn046-01b

fn046-02 Maung Htin Aung, Burmese Drama. fn046-02b

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UKT notes

Flying Indian Prince and Pagan Princess.

The story of {pa.Taik~ka.ra:} and {rhw-aim-th}. See Glass Palace Chronicles, vol.1, p279-280

UKT's interpretation:

"144 - Story of Htihlaing Shin Kyansittha Min

"In 426 BE, Kyansittha, the Lord of Htihlaing (Htihlaing-shin), became king. He built his palace west of the palace-site of Anawrahta, south of the place of burial of the head of the Great Bird killed by Pyu king Min Hti, and east of Moathtaw. He was worshipped by the nats on ascending the throne. The king has four queens: Aprattana; Khin U, the daughter of King of Pegu; Khin Tan, the daughter of Htihlaing Headman. Thanbula, the niece of Mahti (monk) joined the king much later because she was unaware that her husband had become king. She was crowned Queen U Hsauk Pan. [The title probably suggested that, as a fugitive while on the run from Anawrahta, Kyansittha had married her -- given to him by her own uncle the Mahti (monk). While hiding, they had a son.] Of the four queens, the Chief Queen Aprattana gave birth to the Princess Shw Ainthi. Because the king loved his daughter Shw Ainthi very much he gave her a palace of her own.

"When Prince Pataikkara heard the news, he came flying through the air by placing in his mouth the "Live Eye" {myak-rhing} (the magic globe-let, or the Live-Metal mentioned by Dr. Htin Aung) [to the palace of Shw Ainthi]. He bribed the guardians of the Princess with 10 [{ting}] baskets of silver and won the heart of the Princess. When the King Htihlaing-shin heard the news, he consulted his ministers whether he should let the Princess marry Prince Pataikkara, or, marry her to Saw Ywan, the grandson of his former king. There was only one problem: Saw Ywan was a cripple. His ministers pointed out that by marrying his daughter to an Indian prince, the country would come under the influence of India [because Prince Pataikkara was from Bengal.]. [The Burmese referred to India as {ku.la: pr} or the country of the Coloureds -- the Blacks.]. So the king went along with the wishes of his ministers and married off his daughter to a cripple and made him the Crown Prince. 

"While the marriage was taking place, Shin Arahan was on his way to Mahabhodi [the present day Budh Gaya], and when the monk saw Prince Pataikkara came flying, he passed on the news of the marriage to the prince and advised him not to visit his love. The prince let his jaw drop in surprise with an "Ah", and the Live Eye fell out, which of course made the prince fell from the sky and died.

"In some historical accounts, it was [not Live Eye in mouth] the magic ruby-ring which the prince had on his finger which had given him the power to fly. On hearing the news of the marriage, he starved himself to death.

"Because Shin Arahan and the Indian Prince had been friends in a previous life, the monk collected the bones of the Prince and deposited them in a place called "Bamboo". The [spirit of the] Indian Prince was reborn as a son to Shw Ainthi at which the chamber door burst open by itself, and the big drum of the house sounded on its own. The young child cried without ceasing from birth which alarmed the grandfather the King who on consulting the astrologers came to know the reason - that the young child would like to made known his previous country [and life]. Accordingly, the king let the episode be recorded on golden leaf."

UKT message: even though you may treat the story as a fairy tale, you should note the attitude of the authors of the Glass Palace Chronicles which probably reflects the attitude of the general public in Myanmar to this day.

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Four Basic Elements

Known to the Burmese as {Daat-kri: l:pa:}. Known in Pali as mahā-bhūta {ma.ha-Bu-ta.}, it does not signify the chemical elements nor matter, but the general properties shown by each.

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Green water

The Burmese usually describes a clear mountain or forest-stream as "green-water". He does not mean water full of green algae. However, "green moss" certainly is green.

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Heritage of alchemists

Whatever the higher aims of alchemists may be, the down-to-earth aims were the discovery of pharmaceuticals, and metals and their alloys. As far as the metals are concerned, the ancients certainly know metallurgy as the following shows:

"We know that iron and steel are easy to rust especially in wet environment. But this didn't happen to the Asoka column. This is an iron column, 9 meters height, which locates to New Delhi of India. It is almost 1600 years old and the way that it became stainless remains unknown. -- http://www.geocities.com/sfetel/en/metals.htm

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Nine "metals"

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Origin of Alchemy

If by <alchemy>, we mean {ag~gi.rat} , or the use of <fire> to melt metals and make implements, then, I will have to disagree with my old teacher. It seems that peoples all over the world knew some kind of metal working long time ago.

"The use of metals was a very important factor for the development of the technology. When and how begins this development is another historical problem. The ancient things that we found and the indications according them don't always match the history, as we know it." -- "Mining and Metallurgy" http://www.geocities.com/sfetel/en/metals.htm 080913. (See the accompanying article: metal.htm ) In the article, you will read pieces of information on lathe for metals, elaboration of iron, artistic metallurgy, metal alloys, metal mines, kilns, gold, plating, and weird metals. On the right is a marble plate of about 400 B.C. found at Elefsis (near Athens). It was an order for some metal parts of specific quality and specific shape and cylindrical poles. Also there was a specification in the text for lathe to be used for metals and not for wood or hardened clay. So the invention of the Lathe may be 100 or 150 years older!

"It seems that metallurgy was well known in Central America. Incas were also using some alloys of silver and platinum. But platinum melts at 1775C...! The ancients, both from India and Central America certainly knew technologies which we still do not know. The column of Asoka was made from iron (not steel) that did not rust. A kind of gold of the Incas has "the half of the gravity weight of the ordinary gold. These maybe are products of an unknown process..."

The material within quotation marks is from the Internet article, and the reader should remember that I do not pay much credence to Internet articles unless I can check further: "gold" to the chemist must have the specific gravity of 19.32, otherwise, it is not "gold". But even a gold-alloy with half the gravity of gold is still a wonder.

However, if by <alchemy>, my old teacher had meant a futile attempt to transmute "base" metals into "noble" metals, I reserve my judgment.

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Twelve metal compounds

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Two alchemical lines

Alchemy of metals is divided into two disciplines: the mercury line {pra.da:lam:} and the iron line {thn-lam:}. The two lines are entirely different. When two persons are holding totally different views which cannot be reconciled, then we say they are on {pra.da: tic-lam:/ thn-tic-lam:}.

Because of these two alchemical disciplines, we can have two kinds of wizards: mercury-wizards {pra.da:waiz~za} and iron-wizards {thn-waiz~za}.

The aim of both disciplines is to "kill" the metal meaning to destroy all the original defiling impurities producing what is known as {pra.da:th} and {thn-th}. Both are solid alloys which do not rust. Back in late 1960's, while I was teaching Chemistry in the Rangoon Institute of Technology, a small bell from the umbrella of Shwedagon pagoda fell off. On it was the inscription "aung" which resulted in the rumour that it was the "killed iron" bell of waiz~za Bo Bo Aung which of course would have magical properties. Accordingly, it was placed in a large tank of water with the aim of incubating the magical properties of the "killed iron" in the water. People were reported to have lined up to have a drink of the "magical water". While that was happening on the platform of the Great Shwedagon, the US astronauts were about to walk on the moon! (I need to check on the details of my story.)

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Zawgyi and Weikzar

Though a zawgyi {zau-gyi} has supernatural powers, he still lacks moral discipline. He is a superman and is still sexually active, but for his sexual gratification he cannot mate with a human female, because he can no longer stand the smells of a human body. Unless he can find a fruit-maiden {thu-yaung-m}, he would be a sex-starved lonely superman. Unless he can come to understand that it is the "Desire", particularly the sexual desire, that is the cause of his "Suffering", we can imagine the miserable life he would be having and a very long life at that -- approaching eternity. Therefore there is no other way than to become a weikzar {waiz~za} or the Wizard, who is free of all carnal desires.

A zawgyi always has a staff in his hand, which he would use during his walks especially in negotiating along very rugged footpaths. Of course, once he is flying through the air, he would simply hold his staff in both hands. The zawgyi usually wears a red cloak, a brightly coloured pair of trousers and a red turban which reminds one of the dress of a magician of the Middle East. Once a zawgyi becomes a weikzar, he would change his dress to white and would change his trousers for a white Burmese longyi. (click on BoBoAung's image to enlarge.)

The following is an excerpt from p403:
Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire, by Steven Collins, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998, ISBN 0521570549, 9780521570541, pp.684.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=0udJEjYdRi0C&dq=Bo+Bo+Aung&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0 080914
   "Weikzas are connected with Alaungpaya and Bodawpaya. After his rise to fame as a Wheel-turning King and future Buddha, Alaungpaya chose a monk called Atula as leader of the monkhood. At that time one Bo Bo Aung {Bo:Bo:aung} (known before becoming waik~za as {maung-aung}) was a schoolmate of Alaungpaya's son, Bodawpaya; when the latter became king he disrobed Atula and tried to kill Bo Bo Aung, who had become a powerful Weikza. When Bagyidaw, Bodawpaya's son, became king in 1819, he attempted to unite the monkhood, by now badly split. The British conquered Lower Burma, and Burmese hopes were pinned on Bagyidaw's son, thought to be a future cakkavatti , who would conquer and reannex Lower Burma as Alaungpaya had done. But these hopes were not fulfilled because Tharawaddy, Bagyidaw's brother, overthrew the king and drowned the young prince. Stories began to circulate that Bo Bo Aung had used his Weikza powers to rescue the prince and take him to a heaven, to await the time of his descent to play the role of cakkavatti . According to Mendelson (1961a) and (1961b), the heavenly prince was now seen as both future emperor and future Buddha, and Bo Bo Aung has either remained alive and is manifested in certain" [{p403end}]

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