- By Maha Saddhamma Jotika Dhaja, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt
Today, 5 October 2018, Myanmar joins with other countries in celebrating one of the auspicious days which the United Nations Organization has been holding under its auspices.
We, Myanmar people, have not only recognized the selfless efforts of teachers in their noble profession of teaching but also included them in the Five Categories whom we owe infinite gratitude.
The Five Categories are: (1) The Buddha, the Supreme Teacher; (2) The Dhamma, His Teachings; (3) The Sangha, the entire Body of Buddhist monks who keep the torch of teaching and learning in post Buddha time; (4) Parents, who give birth to us and bring us up; and, (5) Teachers who teach us and train us in good character.
Every time we say prayer we begin with paying respects and obeisance to these Five Categories, and when we share the merits of good works with others we always start with Five Categories.
There are many old sayings to remind us of our credit to teachers.
လက္ဦးဆရာမည္ထိုက္စြာ၊ ပုပၸ ဆရာ မိနဲ႔ဘ
The first teachers at the moment of our birth are our parents.
The teacher who teaches you how to handle soft stone pencil to write
သင္ဆရာ၊ ျမင္ဆရာ၊ ၾကားဆရာ
Teacher is a teaching teacher.
Your eyes are your seeing teachers
Your ears are your hearing teachers
All mass media today are your teachers.
If teacher does not show, you are unsystematic
Parents are responsible for educating and training their children. They are accountable for their bad character. Teachers are responsible for teaching pupils to be learned and good. They are accountable for bad pupils.
Lord Buddha had prescribed 5 duties and rights between Parents and Children, 5 between Husbands and Wives, and 5 between Teachers and Pupils.
Five duties of teachers to pupils are:
1.Teach till pupils are learned.
2. Admonish pupils for good character.
3. Teach pupils science and technology also.
4. Protect pupils from dangers.
5. Send pupils to suitable places.
Five duties of pupils to teachers are:
1. Gather in unity.
2. Listen to teacher’s admonition.
3. Welcome teachers’ arrival.
4. Give necessary service to teachers.
5. Learn thoroughly what teachers teach.
There are three special occasions on which pupils pay homage to their teachers. On New Year’s Day, the day after Thingyan Festival, when pupils visit their teachers with earthen water pots filled with natural scented water and some gifts, fruits, flowers, snacks and pay respects to teachers, begging their pardon for any act of disrespect committed physically, verbally or mentally. Teachers exclaim in rapture Sadu, Sadu, Sadu [well done, well done, well done], your sins are all pardoned.
The second occasion is at the beginning of Buddhist Lent [Rain Retreat] in the month of Waso. On this occasion all lay and monk pupils pay homage to their teachers. Before they take wa vows [Lenten vows], monks pay homage to their teacher monks. The most well-known and widely practiced is Acariya Pujas at the end of Lent. The month of Thadinkyut is the end of Buddhist Rain Retreat. Monks are freed from wa vows. They can go out freely from their residential monasteries. In this month, Acariya Pujas are held across the country. Schools, colleges, universities, institutes, organizations, governmental departments are active with puja activities.
Here we witness that not only Buddhists, but also followers of other faiths — Christianity, Islam, Brahmanism, Hinduism, Ancestor worship, Confucianism, Nat worship, etc. — all in unity hold and participate in Acariya Pujas. The teachers who receive the pujas from the pupils are also followers of different Faiths. But, just as the pupils who perform puja have only one common aim — to pay homage to their teachers, the teachers who receive pujas from their pupils have one common aim to see their pupils with good character and they are extremely delighted.
Here, the writer wishes to share his knowledge and experience of Acariya Pujas with the readers of this highly esteemed daily, the Global New Light of Myanmar, of today’s auspicious issue.
The writer used to meet Sayagyi U Pe Maung Tin, retired first Myanmar Principal of Yangon University, Pali scholar and Professor of Oriental Studies. At one meeting, we were sitting under the shade of trees on benches on the side of the Chancellor Road, leading to the Convocation Hall.
“Hey, Maung Khin Maung Nyunt! I haven’t told you about the Acariya Puja, I initiated in Oxford University way back in 1920?”
“No Saya Gyi, how was it possible you held Buddhist ceremony in a non-Buddhist country, like UK, and at such a prestigious Oxford University.”
“Yeah, Yeah. I’m glad you asked me that question.”
Then Sayagyi related his Acariya Puja ceremony at Oxford University in 1920 as follows:
“There were only a few students at Oxford that time. Including me, 7 students. I was the only one, research scholar in Pali. The rest were all I.C.S. [Indian Civil Service, Highest Serviceman under British Colonial Rule] trainees. They were studying British Constitution legal system, Administration and English culture to become accomplished Black Englishmen to serve British Colonial Government faithfully. Time was that we finished and passed our examinations. So we got together to discuss holding a farewell party to our teachers. Each of us had some souvenirs from our country—Shan bags, lacquerwares, smoking pipes, etc.
I interrupted. ‘I, for one, like to hold Acariya Puja. That’s our way of saying farewell to our teachers’. They all were shocked at my idea. One of them asked me:
‘Ko Maung Tin, you’re Christian, how you would arrange a Buddhist Acariya Puja?’
‘My friend, don’t go astray, Acariya Puja means paying respect to Teachers. It is in all religions.’
‘But would these Oxford dons understand it?’
‘Don’t worry. I’ll explain it’.
So Acariya Puja was held for the first time at Oxford University. When I explained that we owed boundless gratitude to our teachers, one Professor retorted, ‘We are duty bound to teach you. You are duty bound to learn. There is no boundless gratitude.’
But I explained that teachers are on the same level with Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and Parents. So please accept our obeisance. We all worshipped them, with our two hands clasped together and bowed from the floor as they sat on chairs. Some professors shed tears of extreme delight. They said they had never experienced such kind of culture. So Khin Maung Nyunt, please take my good precedent with you when one day, you may be at one of the English Universities.” [The writer won state Scholarship and was sent to London University to work for Ph.D degree in international Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. After four and a half years of research and hard work, he obtained Ph.D degree with flying colours.]
In following the good precedent of Saya Gyi U Pe Maung Tin, the writer held Acariya Puja cum farewell party at Burmese Restaurant owned by Daw Mya Sein on St. Gile Street, Oxford Circus, London. The writer invited Professor B. R. Pearn who was Professor of History, Rangoon University, and author of a great book, “History of Rangoon”. When the writer performed Acariya Puja by sitting on the floor and worshipping them with my two hands. Professor Pearn explained his experience of such pujas when he was History Professor at Rangon University. Lacquerwares, Shan bags and smoking pipes were parting gifts the writer presented them. They all were overjoyed. Myanmar European dinners were served. Unfortunately, photo snaps taken that evening were destroyed by Nargis storm and rain.
When the writer returned to his home country and rejoined his Alma Mater Yangon University International Relations Department, the writer went to see Saya Gyi U Pe Maung Tin now in his late 70’s. The writer told him that his precedent of first Acariya Puja at Oxford University was faithfully followed by the writer at LSE London University in 1960. The writer showed him the snap shots taken. Professor B.R. Pearn explained the meaning of Acariya Pujas to the invitees, the writer told Saya Gyi. He became alert and his face beamed with delight and recalled his memory. “Oh, I know him very well. He’s my friend. How is he? I’d like to meet him again”.
When the writer paid obeisance to him with some food stuff and warm clothing brought from London, Saya Gyi uttered Sadu, Sadu, Sadu.
Now, Saya Gyi U Pe Maung Tin, Professor B.R Pearn, the writer’s Professor at LSE Professor C.W Manning and Ph.D supervisor Mr. Tunstall were no more. The writer himself is now a late Octogenarian. In 7 months’ time, he will be 90 years old.
With this article may I hail the World Teachers’ Day of 5 October 2018.