It absolutely irks me when I read English news articles written about Burmese monks, which repeatedly transcribe the monks’ names into an inconsistent mishmash of Pali and Burmese-influenced spellings.
Here’s a question. What’s the easiest way to distinguish Burmese monks from their counterparts in other countries? Typically, it’s from the color of the robes. Burma is unique among Theravada Buddhist countries in one respect: the color of monk robes. While Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Sri Lankan monks don robes dyed in bright saffron hues, Burmese monks typically dress in drab maroon or burgundy-colored robes (aside from a few outliers).
This is the second installment on Alcohol and the Theravada Buddhist World.
Theravada Buddhism is often dubbed the most orthodox of the Buddhist sects, especially as it is the oldest surviving branch of Buddhism. The word Theravada, of Pali origin, literally means “doctrine of the elders.” As with other Buddhist practitioners, Theravadins tend to be relatively fluid in terms of devotion and practice. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see a Theravadin devotee make offerings to a Mahayana Bodhisattva like Guanyin.
This post was updated on June 22, 2014 to reflect recent developments.
A few evenings ago, a headline on BBC Burmese caught my eyes: “Santisukha monks disrobed, to be prosecuted” (သန္တိသုခ သံဃာများကို လူဝတ်လဲစေပြီး တရားစွဲပြီ). To outsiders, the headline may not mean much. But for well over a decade now, the Mahasantisukha Buddhist Missionary Centre (မဟာသန္တိသုခကျောင်း), a major Buddhist monastery in Rangoon, has been the center of a very contentious ownership dispute, between the Burmese government and the Penang Sayadaw.