The Tradition of Religious Examination Festival in Nayone

DSC00489 765x510 72Myanmar people are literate since the beginning of their civilization. They have had writing materials such as metallic stylus, slate pencils and ink brush to scribe on hard pages like stone slabs, metal plates to write on slate board and to brush with ink on folding papers called Parabike. They already reached the alphabetical stage of writing. As to whether they passed through the pictorial and phonetic stages prior to alphabetal stage is still unknown which calls for serious research. Their alphabets number are 33, including vowels and consonents. Early Roman Catholic missionaries were quite amazed to find Myanmar advance in writing and writing materials. “Alphabetica Brimanica” was a good work on Myanmar writing, the original work which the writer had seen in the museum of the Holy City Vatican in Rome when he hitch hiked from Geneva to Italy in 1957.
Myanmar alphabets are closely related to Sanskrit, Pali and South Indian script and not with Chinese writing, though China, like India, is close neighbour. This is perhaps due to Buddhism which we received in the same year Gotuma Buddha became enlightened in Maha Sakarit year (Buddhist Era) 103 of the fourth arrivals of Buddhism to Myanmar, the fourth arrival from Sri Lanka was the only written form of Buddhism became the Fourth Buddhist Council held in Sri Lanka produced the edited and corrected Buddhism and Buddha’s Teachings (Dhamma) in written form in Magada Language. Later Mon missionary monk Ashin Buddha Gosa brought home a copy and all commentaries and sub-commentaries from Maha Vihara where he stayed for many years for learning and re-ordaining in the Sima of Kalayani Ordination Hall on the bank of the Kalayani River.
Written Dhamma known as Tipitakas (literally Three Baskets (Bodies) were multiplied and distributed to monastic centres across his Kingdom. Later King Anawarahta of Bagan brought to his capital all Tipitakas, religious literatures and missionary works to his Capital Pauk-kan Arimadana and founded Buddhist centers in his kingdom.
On the model of Mon monastic centre Teaching schools, monk residences, ordination halls, libraries and meditation caves and tunnels were constructed in the monastic complex.
Buddhism is literate. Unless a person is literate he could not learn Buddha’s teachings neither could he practice and propagate it. So since those times religious examinations already existed in Myanmar.
Three stages of Buddhist learning — Pariyatti, Palipati and Pariveda learning, practising and promoting must begin with literal education Kyaung (ausmif;) is Myanmar word for school and Myanmar word Kyaung stands for teaching schools as well as monks’ residences (Viharas).
Tipitikas are (1) Pariyathi (2) Palpati and (3) Pativeda and each has its own set of canonical texts (1) Three Sudanta (Discourses) (2) Five Viniya (Monks’ disciplines and rules) and Seven Abhidhamma (Samatha and Vipassana Mediataito for concentration of mind and Insight Meditation).
To be able to master that amount of learning, one must have intelligence, perseverance, courage and physical and mental capabilities plus obedience to the senior teacher monks. Monastic schools are open to all regardless of race, status, creed and faith. Royal children and farmer’s children attended the classes, sitting on the floor to receive 3 R’s education first_ Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and moral lessons instructions in civics from the senior monk teachers.
There pupils receive free education and free messing and lodging. Royal patronage and public support for satupyitsa (Four Basic needs— Food, clothing, shelter and medicine) constantly kept monastic education.
But examinations at every level sorted out the pupils smart, intelligent, studious from dull, lazy and undisciplined guys for promotion to higher level. The rejects are either repeated or sent back to their parents to work hard labour in the fields.
At the beginning there seemed to be no date for religious examination. Each monastery might have its own date for religious examination. In course of time the month Nayone (June) came to be fixed for holding religious examinations. Suggestions are made by some scholars that the month Nayone is the fixed month of agricultural activities of Myanmar farmers. So before their busy time begins they hold religious examination festivals. It is also convenient for the teachers and pupils to hold religious examinations just before Buddhist Lent arrives in Waso July.
Some scholars opine that holding religious examinations and festivals began fixed in the reign of King Tha Lun of Nyaung Yan Dynasty. But in the Treatise called Loka Bya ha (Inyone Sandan) complied by Minister of Inyone in the Period of Inwa, Religious Examination Festival in Nayone was vividly described.
Later periods, religious examinations were held not only in Nayone but also other months such as Tabaung, Tazaungmon and Nattaw. There are state Pariyatti Examinations, Shwe Kyi Pariyatti Examination, Mingyun and Mandalay Setkyathiha Examinations that are held at their convenient times.
There are (1) Palthamange (Primary) examination (2) Palthama Latt (middle) Examination (3) Pathamagyi (Upper Examination) and (4) Palthama Kyaw (Highest select Examination). All these examinations are oral and written and interview very tough and strict.
In the days of Myanmar Kings, graduates of monastic education were employed in royal services. Royalty, Military Civil, Legal, Judicial, Foreign Relations and Diplomatic services recruited products of monastic education.
Thanks to monastic education and tough and disciplined examined literacy rate of Myanmar people is always high. The British Colonial Government was quite amazed and appreciated much to find the Myanmar literacy was much higher than their own country of that time.
Today Myanmar Government is promoter monastic education bkef;awmfMuD;ausmif;ynma&; and monks are opening Dhamma Schools not only for literary education but also for training in moral and civics.

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