The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

Also known as the Mahabuddhavamsa, this book is a large compilation of stories involving the Buddha, formar Buddhas, Buddhist disciples, and former lives. In Theravada Buddhism, biographies of Buddhist monks and nuns are known as Apadana, while the stories of Buddha’s former lives are known as Jataka. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled b...

The Author (Mingun Tipiṭakadhara Sayadaw)

The author, Bhaddanta Vicittasārābhivaṃsa, Mingun Tipiṭakadhara Sayadaw, as he is popularly known, was born in the village of Thaibyuwa on November 11, 1911. At the age of eight he was sent to Sayadaw U Sobhita of Min-gyaung Monastery, Myingyan, to start learning the rudiments of Buddhism. When he was ten he was ordained a sāmaṇera by the same Sayadaw. Ten years later he went to Dhammanāda Monastery, a secluded place of holy personages, in Mingun, Sagaing Township, for further learning. In 1930, he received higher ordination. His sponsors were Daw Dhammacārī, a prominent and learned nun of Mingun, who was the author of the Saccavādī-ṭīkā, and Sir U Thwin, a wealthy philanthropist of Yangon. Since then Daw Dhammacārī had become his spiritual mother and Sir U Thwin his fatherly supporter for his religious life. In 1937, when the First Dhammanāda Sayadaw, who was his preceptor at his ordination, passed away, he had to take charge of the Monastery.

Sayadaw had passed a series of religious examinations invariably with flying colours since the age of 13. To mention a few, in his fourth year as a bhikkhu, he passed the Dhammācariya Examination held by the Pariyatti Sāsanahita Association of Mandalay which was a formidable examination in which only a few candidates dare to sit for. The Examination is on the three great Commentaries which candidates normally try to finish one by one in three years. But the author passed all three Commentaries in one year and acquired the rare and coveted title of Pariyatti Sāsanahita Dhammācariya Vaṭaṃsakā.

However, the first time he really made his name for himself as a man of vast learning was when he passed with distinctions the Tipiṭakadhara Examination, which was held for the first time and was also reputed to be the longest and most difficult one. As the name of the Examination suggests, the candidate has to recite all three Piṭakas that he had learned by heart. In addition, he has to pass the written papers on all the Canonical Texts and Commentaries. It took him four years to sit the whole Examination that earned him, in 1953, the unique title of Tipiṭakadhara Dhammabhaṇḍāgārika, which means “Bearer of the Three Piṭakas and Keeper of the Dhamma-Treasure”. Sayadaw’s ability to recite 16,000 pages of Buddhist Canonical Texts has been recorded in the Guinness Book of Records 1985. (Since the author’s achievement there have been only four other holders of the same title so far.)

As regards his work for the sāsana, suffice it to say that even before that great achievement of being Tipiṭakadhara Dhammabhaṇḍāgārika, when the Sixth Buddhist Council was well under way, Sayadaw was assigned the task of editing the Canonical Texts to be approved by the Council as its version. Besides, when the Council was convened, Sayadaw acted as the Vissajjaka, that is, 'Respondent' answering questions on all three portions of the Canon. The Pucchaka, 'Questioner', was the late Mahasi Sayadaw. In answering the questions, the author took the combined role of Thera Upāli and Thera Ānanda who answered the questions on the Vinaya and the Dhamma respectively at the First Council presided over by Thera Mahākassapa.

After the Council, the author devoted himself to literary pursuits. At the request of U Nu, the then Prime Minister of Myanmar, he assiduously compiled Mahā Buddhavaṃsa, being the Myanmar exposition on the lives of the Buddhas as related mainly in the Buddhavaṃsa Pāli Text of the Khuddaka Nikāya. This compilation, resulting in six volumes in eight books, commenced in 1956 and ended in 1969. The work, being the author’s magnum opus and a colossal contribution to Myanmar Buddhist literature, has been received with enthusiastic acclaim by members of the Sangha and the laity alike.

In the year 1980, an historic event in the history of the Sangha in Myanmar took place. It was the emergence of the State Sangha Mahā Nāyaka Committee comprising representatives of all sects of the Buddhist Sangha in Myanmar. The author was unanimously elected permanent General Secretary of the Committee, which, as the Supreme Authority on Buddhist religious affairs of the country, is responsible for the growth, development and prosperity of the Buddha-sāsana.

In addition to his responsibilities as General Secretary of the State Sangha Mahā Nāyaka Committee, the author is busily devoted to the service of the sāsana in three main areas, namely, providing support and facilities for the emergence of more Tipiṭaka Bearers for the perpetuation of the sāsana, providing support and facilities for the dissemination of the Buddha’s Teaching at home and abroad, and providing adequate medical facilities for members of the Sangha from all over Myanmar.

For the first task, the author founded the Tipiṭaka Nikāya Organization whose chief aim is to nurture young bhikkhus so that they may one day become "Bearers of the Three Piṭakas and Keepers of the Dhamma-Treasure" like himself. There are a number of promising learners under his care at Momeik hill near Mingun.

Soon after the formation of the State Sangha Mahā Nāyaka Committee, it firmly resolved to establish two separate universities of Pariyatti Sāsana in Yangon and Mandalay where the Good Law of the Perfectly Enlightened One would be taught in a new system of education to produce Theras who will spread the Teaching in Myanmar and elsewhere. In pursuance of the second objective, the author’s untiring efforts have resulted in magnificent University buildings which have newly sprung up both at Yangon and Mandalay where courses leading to the Degrees of Dhammācariya and Mahā Dhammācariya have been in full swing since 1986.

As to the third important project undertaken by the author which was for the welfare of the Sangha, the Jīvitadāna Sāsana Specialist Hospital for bhikkhus has been founded in Mandalay. It is a 100-bed specialist hospital with all the facilities and equipments for a modern health centre and was formally opened under the auspices of the author himself on August 18, 1990.

In recognition of his great learning and of his invaluable services to the Sāsana, as mentioned above, the Government conferred upon him the title of Aggamahāpaṇḍita (The Supremely Learned One) in 1979 and the title of Abhidhaja Mahāraṭṭhaguru (The Noble Banner and Great Preceptor of the State) in 1984,

Hail and hearty at the age of 79, the indefatigable Sayadaw kept on striving continuously, day in and day out, towards furtherance of his three main tasks, thus setting an exemplary model for emulation to all who desire to promote the welfare of beings by means of the Buddha Dhamma.

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