Thursday, 27 May 2010

A Question on Aphaggusaradipani tika

Describe how the knowledge of pæ¹i grammar is central to being a commentator on Buddhism in Burmese scholarship, use the Aphaggusæradøpanø ¥økæ as an example.
The identity of a scholar willing to be a great commentator is required to be endowed with the knowledge of pæ¹i grammar. Since ancient period among the majority of Burmese pæ¹i scholars related to the Buddhist literatures, such an identical criterion to identify whether one is learned is mainly used. The majority of Burmese pæ¹i scholars are Buddhist monks who, from the time when they were young novices, have started their study of pæ¹i grammar. Different types of the pæ¹i grammar books are basically prescribed in the monastic education as curriculum texts such as kaccæyana, rþpasiddhi, moggalæna, saddanøtidhætumælæ, saddanøtipadamælæ, saddanøtisuttamælæ, bhedacindæ, abhidhæna ¥økæ and so on. One proverb regarding pæ¹i grammar goes that: “nine times of having studied a complete book of pæ¹i grammar is just to acquire little knowledge of it”. It means nine times is not sufficient; it needs to be studied more. Another saying, “not well-versed in pæ¹i grammar implies not learned in pæ¹i literatures”, also much popular for it. That is why the numbers of pæ¹i commentators always pay careful attention to the grammatical way of defining pæ¹i words.
During the period of Haµsævatø dynasty in 16th century in lower part of Burma, there appeared one of the great commentators by the name of Mahæsuva¼¼adøpa thera, a prince when he was a lay person. As he was a learned monk, he wrote a book known as Aphaggusæradøpanø¥økæ, which is the sub-commentary of Abhidhammatthavibhævinø well known among Burmese Buddhist monks and novices. As a matter of fact, the book of Aphaggusæradøpanø ¥økæ, in which he made much attempt to identify himself his ability of pæ¹i knowledge by inventing diversity of definitions even for a single word, is rarely seen.  Accessibility and acceptability of his work to the public was much significant as he would like to be recognized as a scholar by all the learned persons, so did he such kinds of numerous commentarial definitions.
In the book of Aphaggusæradøpanø there is an example of a word to be defined from Abhidhammatthavibhævinø: Visuddhakaru¼æñæ¼aµ (purest compassion and wisdom) from the very first verse of that book for the purpose of paying homage to the Buddha. He defined the word Visuddhakaru¼æñæ¼aµ into 31 possible definitions by means of particular grammar methods such as dvanda samæsa, kammadhæraya samæsa, bahubbøhi samæsa, etc. It is just like playing with pæ¹i grammar. The intended message of the word is the same though the way to approach it is quite numerous. For instance, among 31 possible definitions, there are 11 definitions with karu¼æ(compassion) as simile, 11 definitions with ñæ¼a(wisdom) as simile and 9 definitions as central message of  karu¼æ and ñæ¼a. Altogether there are 31 definitions.  Herein when compassion is used as simile, the intended meaning is wisdom. On the other way round, when wisdom is used as simile, the intended meaning is compassion. On the other hand, both compassion and wisdom become central message and also the word visuddha (purest) can be used as the qualification of compassion and wisdom.
He did varieties of grammatical definitions in his book. The reason why he used several ways of defining the word is thought that during that period to write a book of commentary or sub-commentary seemed easy, but to be accessible it to the public people was rather difficult. On the other hand, he was from royal family as well as a famous monk around there. Therefore his work had to be excellent. If he made mistakes and his work was not influential on other scholars, it might be inconvenient for him. To identify himself as a scholar, what he did is what he thought that it is good enough; just like that the literature reviews are usually carried out nowadays in order to acquire the identity of who he or she is in the academic field.
Through the significant periods of Myanmar dynasty such as Bagan, Pinya, Innwa, Taungngoo, Nyannyann, Konebaung and till the present time the pæ¹i scholars are well praised. But, nowadays any new pæ¹i books are rarely written by the pæ¹i scholars although the numbers of monks are expert in pæ¹i. If diversities of pæ¹i commentary like the Aphaggusæradøpanø can be composed by anyone, he would be surely appreciated.
In conclusion, to reveal what one possesses is sometimes quite beneficial to those concerned except revealing something with bad intention. If necessary even the Buddha showed his twin miracles to his royal family as to have his identity of Buddhahood accessible to all of his relatives. As hearsay, even only the stanza namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammæ sambuddhassa was taught by a senior monk to the monks and novices long-lasting the whole period of raining season, and also in the examinations of Pathamapyan and Dhammæcariya, more than half percentage of questions come from the diverse grammar techniques.   Likewise, Mahæsuva¼¼adøpa thera, the commentator of Aphaggusæradøpanø ¥økæ also had to classify the pæ¹i grammar into several ways due to that the pæ¹i grammar was strictly emphasized at that time. All of those prove the evidence of how pæ¹i grammar plays as a major role among Burmese Buddhist scholars. 

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