Wednesday, 21 July 2010

SIMA (5)

How Myanmar Buddhists regard the sømæ
There are a large number of monasteries, pagodas and sømæs, all of them are supported by the devoted lay people with much appreciation and enthusiasm, throughout Myanmar even in the area of poverty.   A Myanmar maxim connected with offerings goes thus: “Phayar hmar sein, thingyan hmar kathein, swan hamr pein, kyaung hamr thein.” That means “Myanmar Buddhists regard that among the donation to the establishment of pagoda, the donation of diamond at top of the pagoda’s umbrella excels all the other ingredients in the creation of pagoda; among robe-offerings, the kathina-robe-offering is most excellent; Alms-food offered to the monks for the time being while monks are going alms-round is the highest quality among any other offerings of alms-food. In the same way, among the gifts in the construction of monastic building, the gift of sømæ is the noblest performance.” The other proverb, relating to being subtle and difficult, also stands: “Thadar hmar lein, kyaung hmar thein.”  It shows the obscurity and complication of gender during a study of pæ¹i grammar and the convolution and complexity of sømæ consecration.

It is also believed that such kind of opportunity of donating a sømæ could be rarely gained because it is reckoned as sanctity. Only those who had good deed in the past existence are eligible to become a sømæ donor that is what Myanmar Buddhists believe. A few monasteries without sima are still at present in Myanmar owing to the main reasons: poverty and unworthiness. A superstitious thought firmly has occurred to them that if someone, being unworthy to be a donor of sømæ, offers a sømæ he will probably pass away not long before that he is approved as a sømæ donor. In my experience, a sømæ-donor died after he has promised to complete the whole søma building. It is so accidental that some people, who believe themselves undeserved, are amazingly afraid of being a sømæ-donor.
        Due to the concept of sanctity, women in most parts of Myanmar never enter the sømæ feeling that they are inferior to men who sometimes come into it. On the other hand, when a formal act of ordination ceremony is performed in a sømæ, a postulant (novice) must be there with his utensils such as robes, alms-bowl and so on. Some people occasionally put their rosary beads, needle, string, etc, into the empty alms-bowl believing that if they use such things taken back from the sømæ, it can protect them from any casualty and danger as the postulant is upgraded from a lower stage of novicehood to a higher stage of monkhood by being recited kammavæcæ by members of the several monks. When the ceremony comes into conclusion, the newly ordained monk, believing him so pure, is let first come out from the sømæ followed by a series of seniority of monks in procession. The women generally spread their shawls and towels willingly on the path on which monks are treading. They remain and use those things unwashed for sometime regarding that anything back from the sømæ is gracious and dignified.


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