Asian art

Burmese Buddhist Traditions

Burmese Buddhist Traditions

In Burma, the culture is nearly associated with the culture of Buddhism since the majority of the people residing in Burma is Buddhist. Since the majority of Burmese follows Buddhist traditions, most of the festivals that the Burmese celebrate throughout the year are related to Buddhism. For examples, Thingyan, Bo tree watering festival, Tipitaka Festival, Dhammasekya Day, Festivals of Lights, Tazaundaing Festivals of Lights, Kahtein Thingan offering festival, pagoda festivals. Other than the festivals, the Burmese Buddhist traditions also observe specific cultures in their lifetime.

Some of the Burmese Buddhist traditions along with festivals that the Burmese observe

Veneration for Buddha at home

Burmese Buddhists pray the Buddha daily with offerings. Therefore, every Buddhist family places the Burmese Buddha statues on the shrine in their homes. It is believed that when the Buddha statues are placed in their homes, the family will not face the misfortunes. Hence when the Buddhist family sets up a new house or moves to the new apartment, the set up the Buddha statues in their homes. They don't just set up the statues but performs a formal ritual called anay gaza tin. This ritual is led by a Buddhist monk.

In this ritual, the monk will recite aneka jati samsaram, the 153rd verse of the Dhammapada. The ritual usually takes few hours which is held in the morning time. The ritual consists of four primary parts: offerings made to the Buddha, chanting of paritta, recitation of aneka jati samsaram, recitation of the twelve nidanas. It is believed that with the performance of this ritual, the Buddha statue is imbued with the sacred quality that protects the home and surrounding from misfortune.

Shinbyu

The Shinbyu tradition is closely related to the life of Gautama Buddha, especially the period when he experiences the "four great signs", learns that the life is full of sufferings and notion of self is merely an illusion, and leaves the palace to get the answers to his questions.

Likewise, in this ceremony, the Burmese parents admit their sons to the kyaung, a Burmese Buddhist monastery, once they have reached the age of seven or older. While attaining to the kyaung, the young boys wear robes as the monks wear. They spent their time at the kyaung for three months or even longer and while they are in the monastery they learn the teachings of Buddha as a member of the Sangha. The boys also have the opportunity to join the Sangha at the age of 20 to become a fully ordained monk.

Vassa

The three months period during the monsoon is called Vassa. It is the period when the people will be busy with planting the rice paddies and the monks will remain in kyaungs, a Burmese Buddhist monastery. The beginning of the Vassa is observed by offering new robes to the monks and the end of Vassa is observed by celebration the Thadingyut Festival. During this period, the layperson also observes Uposatha day in which they follow the eight precepts.

Kathina, a robe offering ceremony

After the harvest of the crops, usually during the October or November, another robe offering ceremony is held. This ceremony is known as Kathina.

Vesak

Vesak, the full moon of the Kason month is the sacred day for all the Buddhist since this is the very day when the Buddha was born, became enlightened, and entered parinirvana. Therefore, to venerate the Buddha the Burmese Buddhist celebrate this day by watering the Bodhi Tree.

Pagoda festivals

These festivals are regular festivals that are celebrated throughout Burma. The festivals are dictated by the Burmese religious calendar which usually falls on the full moon days. The majority of the festivals are held during the dry season from the months of Tazaungmon to Tabaung, equivalent to Gregorian month: November to March.

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