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The Ceremonial of the Ordination of a Burmese Priest of
BUDD'HA, with Notes, communicated by GEORGE Knox, Esq., of the Hon. East-India Company's Medical Establishment, Madras. (Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society.)
Read 18th of June 1831. To Sir George Thomas STAUNTON, Bart., V. P. R. A. S. &c.
London, 26th April 1831. Sir: In the course of a conversation held not long ago at Canton with Professor NEUMANN, respecting the affinity between the Chinese and Burman languages, I happened to shew him a translation that I had, which he considered somewhat curious, and recommended me to present to the Royal Asiatic Society; and Doctor MorriSON offered me an introduction to the President, which, with the translation, I have now the honor to forward to you.
It is fair that I should, at the same time, submit a short criticism of the Doctor's, which I found with the manuscript on its return from him; and to mention that I transcribed it anew, leaving out some redundancies of expression, and the too frequent mention of the sacred name, which, if nothing more, appeared irreverent. Respecting what the Doctor remarks, I would say, that the work is the translation of a translation (for I know nothing of the Pali), and that as such it was delivered to me orally by a respectable native, whom I employed in the business : I profess, therefore, to be answerable only so far for its fidelity; but I have little or no doubt that the spirit at least of the original is preserved.
The Doctor also takes, I suppose, his notions of Buddhism from the Chinese people alone; but having seen both, I can affirm, that the Burmans appear to be a much more religious people thạn the Chinese, at least externally, if one may judge from their regular visits to their temples, and the deep veneration with which they regard the priests and every thing belonging to their objects of worship. It is, however, possible that my assistant had caught something of the turn of expression in use amongst us on matters of religion, as he had associated, a good deal with the American missionaries who visited the Burman country.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
The writing which treats of the ordination of a Priest (1) The offering(2) of the just king (titles](3), in whose hand are the lives (of his subjects), and at whose expense was constructed the pagoda of “Pacified Anger.”(*)
(This, like many other of the Burman writings, begins with the following prayer :)
“Oh Lord, filled with glory and power unspeakable, who art
infinitely more excellent than all creatures, whose words are by “ far more valuable than the words of all other beings; who art “ wise far beyond the wisdom of man, and whom men nor angels(5) “ cannot equal; who art not subject to misery or trouble of mind, " and to whom all secrets are laid open ; who canst confer happi
ness on all beings, and knowledge on the ignorant : therefore art “ thou called the LORD. What is now said is but a little; the “ whole life would not suffice to speak it all. Thee, therefore do “ I worship. The laws uttered by thee, are eighty and four thouså sand : these also do I worship; and I worship the people who " abide by these commandments.
Therefore, on account of worshipping these three, keep me free " from the ninety-and-six diseases (6) that assail the body; from “ the thirty-and-two accidents and misfortunes that happen to man, " and from the twenty-and-five unlucky circumstances that befal “ him; from the sixteen sources of trouble ; from the ten crimes, " and their corresponding punishments ; from the eight cala" mitous conditions, () and from the five enemies : (8) from all “ these deliver me; and grant untó me gold, (o) silver, pre“ cious stones, sons and daughters, relations and friends, ser" vants and slaves, guards and protectors : these grant me; and “ grant me also a good reputation (or the quality of inspiring res“pect). Fill me with all these; and after death let me reach " that place, where I may hear the law of the Creator: thus, old I “ shall not become, nor sick, nor shall I die, but shall exist unto " eternity."
First, a teacher (or priest) of advanced age must be sought for; and after he is found, the thabike,(10) and thanegan,(11) and the rest of the eight things necessary must be obtained : and these are the eight things: a thabike, thanegan, folded leather,(18) a water-strainer, a fan, a razor, three needles and a broom. After having procured these things, it is necessary to go to the presence of the teacher advanced in years, and thus address him: “Oh, my Lord, admit me to the noviciate of the priesthood : ) will adhere to the
Ten Ordinances.'” To which the teacher answers, “Good, you may enter the noviciate: you must not take away life ; you must not steal ; you must lead a life of perfect celibacy; you must not speak that which is untrue, nor make use of abusive words or coarse uncivil language, nor jests; and you must not sow dissention among friends; any thing of inebriating quality you must not use; after the sun has gained the meridian, you must not eat; you must not listen to music, nor look on at feasts or dancing; you must not wear flowers or use perfumes ; you must not sleep on a high couch or soft bed; you must not possess gold or silver, nor even touch them : that you transgress not these ten rules you must carefully watch.” Thus must the teacher direct; and the novice must say, “ Good, my Lord, I am willing."
Again, at the time he wishes to become a rhahan, he must prepare a large thanegan,(13) and it must be four cubits broad, and six cubits and two mike(14) long, made of nine pieces, and sewn together with fifty-four double seams; and after it is sewn it must be washed, and afterwards dyed with the wood(15) of the jack-tree, cut into small pieces and boiled in water; afterwards the dyed thanegan must be wetted with the juice of the leaves of the dowkyat.(16) After this a thabike, and the rest of the eight things necessary (like as was ordered for the noviciate, a fresh supply of these), must be procured and kept ready; and the novice must then go to the presence of an aged teacher, 'well acquainted with the sacred writings, and along with him he must solicit the attendance of twenty other priests, and they must then go to the thyne.(17)
Having reached the thyne, the person about to be made a priest, must make obeisance to the others, and the chief teacher then, and the three readers, say, “ According to established usage, he must now be interrogated."
Questions now from the three readers (18) to the candidate :
Q. Have you sought for and obtained the attendance of priests of advanced age, and who fulfil the ordinances of the law, for the purpose of ordaining you ?-A. I have.
Q. Have you procured a thabike, thanegan, and the rest of the articles necessary ?-A. They are all in readiness.
Q. Are there twenty priests present?-A. There are.
(By the readers.) Such being the case, you must now put on the two portions of the priest's garment (the one that goes round the waist and the upper robe); and the remaining thanegan (the one for a change of dress), must be folded and kept on the left shoulder. Afterwards the thabike is to be suspended from the shoulder of the
right side, under the arm of the left ; and the rest of the “eight articles” must be put within the thabike. The candidate then, with lifted hands and joined (in attitude of supplication), must retreating go and stand at the distance of twelve cubits, and there, with his feet joined close together, he must attentively remain, and should not turn to either side.
After this is done, the chief teacher says to the three readers : “ Two of you three rise and go over to the candidate and interrogate him." This being said, two of the readers get up, and go to the place where the candidate is, and standing, one on each side of him, they (reading) say: “ You must now answer truly.”-A. I will do so.
(By them.) Every thing respecting your body, without disguise, you must declare; and according to the question answer, and from all other matters you must keep your mind clear.–A, Lord.
(By them.) Like as a cloth with which the feet are wiped at the door of a house, like as it is of little estimation, and like as it is applied to whatever use any one may choose, so must your mind be humble, and so must you receive the commands of your chief teacher.-A. Good, my Lord.
. Q. Therefore, in your body, (19) is there any leprous disease ? A. There is not.
Q. Is there any of that disease which appears by sores in the neck ?-A. There is not.
Q. Are you a person of a sickly habit ?-A. I am not.
Q Are you perfect as to virility ?-A. I am.
one?-A. I ani not. Q. Have you received the permission of your parents to enter
the priesthood ?--A. I have. Q. Have you completed your twentieth year?--A. I have.
Q. Have you procured a thabike, thanegan, and the rest of the articles necessary ?-A. I have.
The two readers then return to the chief teacher, and with the third of their number read as follows: “My Lords, we have
now interrogated the candidate as was commanded us, demanding of him all that was necessary to be asked; therefore, that he may be ordained, will the chief teacher learned in the sacred writings and the other priests consent ?” Then the chief teacher, for himself and the rest, says; “ Good, very well.” The candidate still standing as before, the chief teacher says: “ Let two rhaháns conduct bim hither.” Two rhahàns then go and bring the candidate to the rest of the assemblage; and he having made a proper obeisance, sits down along with them.
The readers then instruct him to say to the chief teacher: “ My Lord, may health, freedom from misfortune, eternal youth, and immortality be my portion. According to the law uttered by him who has no equal, according to it will I act. I will keep my body and my mind humble ; and will humble myself regarding meat, drink, and resting place. I will conform to the law spoken by the divinity; therefore, from exceeding friendship, mercifully grant me permission, I beseech you, to be admitted a priest.”
This he is to speak three times ; after which the chief teacher and the readers shall ask him: “Oh, candidate, who art wishing to become a priest, as even now you have entreated, do
you yourself competent to abide by what is contained in the sacred writings?"-A. I will abide by them. Then the chief teacher says to the rest of the priests:
66 What think you, will this person abide by the law, as he has now professed ?” Then the priests answer: “ There are other questions to be put to him.” The chief teacher then says:
" Let the three readers put them.” They say to him: “You profess that you will be governed by the rules of the everlasting law; let us interrogate you again.” Answer. Ask, and I will answer truly. They then repeat the former questions, and in addition, ask:
you hard of hearing ?”--A. I am not. Q. Are you an absent( or forgetful) person ?-A. I am not.
Q. Are you perfect in the five bodily qualities? (22)-A. I am. (He is questioned altogether three times, that there may be no omission or mistake.)
The candidate then petitions the chief teacher: “Oh, my lord, who art well acquainted with the sacred writings, and who art of advanced age; now have I for the third time reverently and according to the truth replied to you, in all that you have demanded of me; therefore, oh my lord of venerable years, and ye three readers, and all ye other priests, ye are witnesses of all that has been