Mon people and Buddhism in SE Asia

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Mon people and Buddhism in SE Asia

Postby dagon » Wed Oct 30, 2013 5:39 am

Often we see references to Thai, Burmese and Sri-Lankan Buddhist, i often wonder why there are not more references to the Mon people and their contribution to the the introduction, spread and continuation of Buddhism in SE Asia.

If any one has any good sources relating to this subject i would be grateful if you could share.


The Early History of the Mons

Sudara Suchaxaya

The Mons were one of the earliest peoples settled in Southeast Asia. According to the Burmese chronicles, they were the first people settled in Burma as well, immigrated from some where in central Asia several centuries before the Christian Era. Linguistically, the Mon language belong to the Mon-Khmer family.

In the beginning they settled in the area between the lower Salween and Sittang rivers, and established the kingdom called Suvannabhumi, which is mentioned in the early Indian literatures and Chinese records. Around this time there was another state called Pyu centered at Sri Ksetra near Prome in central Burma, to the north of the Mon kingdom. The Pyu people ethnically the Tibeto-Burman, constructed Buddhist monuments and made Brahmanic artifacts. Several Arabic geographists called the country of the Mons Ramannadesa, derived from the ancient Mon word Rmen meaning the Mons themselves. In contrast, the Burmese called the Mons Talaings, derived from Talingna, a place name in southeastern India.

According to the chronicles, the Mons were the people who constructed the Swedagon Pagoda in Rangoon about 2,540 years ago. However, what is obvious is that the Mons introduced Buddhism into Burma for the first time. In the third century B.C. according to the chronicles, Suthammavadi or Thaton, the center of the Mons at the time, had close contacts with India particularly during the time of King Asoka, who sent missionaries called Sona and Uttara to Suwannabhumi.

One of the Mon chronicles mentions that the Mon kingdom at Thaton was established in 302 B.C. by two princes of an Indian king called Tissa. This first kingdom of the Mons had 59 kings who succeeded the founders of the dynasty. The Mon kingdom at Thaton actively contacted and traded with India and Lanka, and received Indian civilization in various aspects including language and religion, particularly Hinayana Buddhism. In fact, the Mons played the role of introducing Indian culture to other peoples in southeast Asia, such as the Burmese, the Thais and the Laotians.


http://www.mrc-usa.org/monhistory1.htm

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Re: Mon people and Buddhism in SE Asia

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Oct 30, 2013 5:48 am

dagon wrote:Often we see references to Thai, Burmese and Sri-Lankan Buddhist, i often wonder why there are not more references to the Mon people and their contribution to the the introduction, spread and continuation of Buddhism in SE Asia.

Probably because history is written by the victors.

The Mon monks were the founders of the Dhammayut Nikāya of Thailand.
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Re: Mon people and Buddhism in SE Asia

Postby dagon » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:53 am

Thank you Bhante - this is in part what my interest is based on, along with vague references to Venerable Phra Acharn Mun Bhuridatta Thera spending time in Mon state. i suspect that the practices of more than a few members of the forum are influenced indirectly by Mon practices. I realize that it is speculation (with all the inherent dangers)

One of the interesting articles that i have come across is http://www.rinpoche.com/stories/burma.htm . Separating facts from regional perspectives/interests is often interesting.

Tapussa & Bhallika met the Buddha


Venerable S. Dhammika explained: “During the Buddha’s eighth week at Bodhgaya, as he sat in the shade of the Rajayatana Tree, he was approached by the merchants Tapussa and Bhallika. These two men were leaders of a large caravan that was passing through Magadha.”1 They “made an offering of rice cake and honey to the Buddha and took the two refuges, the refuge in the Buddha and the refuge in the Dhamma (the Sangha, the third object of refuge, did not exist yet).”2

Venerable Dr. Rewata Dhamma wrote, “The Burmese proudly claim that the Buddha's first meal was offered by Tapussa and Bhallika. According to Buddhist literature they came from Okkala - presently known as Rangoon - on their way to Rajagiri and saw the Buddha at the foot of the Rajayatana Tree in the seventh week after His Enlightenment. After they offered the Buddha rice cakes and honey they requested Him to give them something to remember Him by. The Buddha gave them eight pieces of His hair, which were brought with respect and honour back to Burma. The king of Okkala welcomed them with great honour on their arrival and the hairs were enshrined in a pagoda, which is now the biggest and highest pagoda in the world, the Shwedagon golden pagoda of Rangoon.”3
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Re: Mon people and Buddhism in SE Asia

Postby chownah » Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:18 pm

dagon,
Is it in the chronicles you mention where it is recorded that when the Buddha relics were enshrined in the Shwedagon Pagoda:

"There was a tumult among men and spirits ... rays emitted by the Hairs penetrated up to the heavens above and down to hell ... the blind beheld objects ... the deaf heard sounds ... the dumb spoke distinctly ... the earth quaked ... the winds of the ocean blew ... Mount Meru shook ... lightning flashed ... gems rained down until they were knee deep ... all trees of the Himalayas, though not in season, bore blossoms and fruit.[5]"

The quotes are from Wikipedia where it also says:

"According to some historians and archaeologists, however, the pagoda was built by the Mon people between the 6th and 10th centuries CE."
which would indicate that it did not exist at the time claimed in the chronicles..........could the dubious claims of the chronicles be one of the reasons people do not dwell much on the Mon contribution to the spreading of the dhamma?
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