A Prominent Mon King
Dhammaceti (1472-92AD) was a prominent king in Mon Chronicles. His brilliant contributions to Buddhism have constituted valuable historical evidences in Myanmar. He was among the most successful Mon Kings in the Hansavati Dynasty. What is the most interesting and envious thing of his is that he was not a royal-blood, although he succeeded to the royal throne of Hansavati. In fact, in a hamlet in Mon Kingdom, he was brought up as a poor cowherdsboy who dared not dream of becoming a king during the time when feudalism reached its apex in Myanmar. According to Dr. Hla Pe, he was a king of effort, wisdom and lot. He was the one from hell to heaven. His life was, more or less, similar to that of King Variru, the founder of the Hansavati Dynasty. He was well recognized as a wise king of Mon Kingdom.
He was born of poor parents U Bhodi Gamon and Daw Tet in a small Mon village of Hansavati in Lower Myanmar in (1406?). He was named Min Tan. He seemed to be a piece of red charcoal promising fire (an ember about to blaze glows brightly). He was also called “Nyankyelay(Sharp-witted Boy) because of his cleverness among his playmates. He was clever at every game owing to his rational thinking. He was able to manage his group of cowherds. It was said he always won every bet among the children. He seemed to be king of playing games. In some games, he played a role of a king and his companions were his attendants. In those days under the reign of feudal lord, the one who imitated the king in the manner of a nitwit could be in trouble, even death up to seventh generations. So at the advice of the elders, he was sent to a monastery for entering the Buddhist Order by his parents in order to have good manners and start his religious education. At first, his novice name was Shin Dhammadhara.
The First Days at the Monastery
He was a rare student who was able to know the essence of learning as he requested his first teacher to explain the meaning of the very first word “Namo” of his very first lesson. He did not want to learn anything in vain. He insisted on his parents’ permission to send him to a better school so as to study under a better teacher. He became a fast learner among his peers on account of his endeavor and rationality. He studied all the texts taught by his teacher omitting none and learnt all by heart. He was like a cat eating a shrimp with special enjoyment.
Meeting with a Good Friend
In his school life, he seemed to be lucky. He could have never improved his learning if he had been proud as a one-eye person among the blind. One’s skills can be improved only when he has a close match. Fortunately, he met with an intelligent novice Shin Dhammanana alias Shin Dhammapala at the monastery and made his best friend. They loved each other. Both of them were eager to learn all of their subjects with heart and soul. Both were never content with their learning and stepped towards their higher academic pursuits. They made up their mind to leave their native for Innwa, the capital city of upcountry, where there were so many scholars in their fields of study in order to carry on their further studies.
Constant Companions in Arms
As they dwelt in a monastery at the foot of the Sagaing Hill over the bank of Innwa, studying hard in peace and tranquility, they met with the lady Shin Saw Pu, a Mon consort of Innwa King, Mohnyinthado (1427-40AD). The consort and the two young monks established symbolic mutual relationship between the Mon nationalities in the foreign land. She was their female donor of the four requisites (monastery, robe, alms-food and medicine) and they became her tutors of religious learning. Then, they also became the confidants of her personal secrets. One day, they all pull heads together confidentially on the present political grounds and made a plan to flee down the Irrawaddy River to Hamsavati, Pegu from Innwa. Shin Saw Pu also made a promise to Shin Dhammadhara who was loved her own son…
“My son Dhammadhara, I know very well that I grow old and I’ve been neglected by my Innwa King, so I requested you to help me manage to get to Hansavati, my native, and to be able to pay homage to the Dagon Sandawshin Pagoda. If I arrive home safe and sound and if I’m elected Queen of Hamsavati, I can also help you succeed to the throne when I pass away, I promise you.”
The consort and the two monks went into a huddle to steal away from Innwa and tried to fulfill her strong desire with zest and zeal without molestation. Her adventurous homeward journey to Hamsavati was enough to be composed in a mysterious story.
Carrying the Day in Hamsavati
On her arrival in the flight from Innwa, the lady Shin Saw Pu donated a grand monastery to each of the two monks- the Leik Pyin Monastery to Dhammadhara and the Atulavasa Monastery to Dhammanana. As parrots that were golden on a golden tree, both monks had their days within a short time with the great help of the lady Shin Saw Pu. However, it was Dhammadhara towards whom an excess of her endearment seemed to flow. She was able to sieze the royal throne of Hamsavati and made a decision to help one of her constant benefactors return to his lay life so as to install the Crown Prince.
Lot and Loss
There has been a pacifying poem “ The nature of Things” composed by Anantasuriya, a chief minister in the kingdom of Bagan under King Naratheinka (C.E.1170-73)…..
“Often a man suffers destruction
In order that another man
Might enjoy well-being
Such is the nature of things!”
So prosperity went to Dhammadhara and at the same time, adversity to Dhammanana.
Great Ruler and Patron of Buddhism
Dhammaceti was not only the apple of Queen Shin Saw Pu but also the oasis of the people in Mon Kingdom. He was able to rule over his land in accordance with good administration and judicature by discussing all with his ministers. He also put special efforts into purification and perpetuation of the Theravada Buddhism. However, he was not an extremist of religion. He had to release many plots of land from the compound of the Shwedagone Pagoda having been donated by Queen Shin Saw Pu, his royal mother- in- law, in order to share the land for gardening plants, growing rice and making shelter for the people because he thought that it was wider than enough. However, in return, the gold weighing the total weight of the queen and his was re-gilded to the pagoda.
Moreover, at the Shwedagon Pagoda stands King Dhammaceti’s stone inscription mentioning his religious contributions. It is a solid evidence for history enthusiasts. One of his remarkable contributions was that for the purification, perpetuation and propagation of the Theravada Buddhism, he together with the Buddhist monks of the three provinces in the kingdom and his ministers assembled at the palace and then deputed two Buddhist missions to Ceylon and there they received afresh their Upasampada (ordination) at the hands of the orthodox monks on the Kalayani River. On the return of the mission, they handed down the process of ordination. Some monks were also sent to India to make some measurements of the original Holy Land of Buddhism in particular the Sattasatta-hathana (seven stations in seven weeks) where the Buddha spent the first seven weeks just after his enlightenment. On their return, he built a model of it near his capital.
It is true that no one is perfect. Dhammaceti was no exception. He had to kill his best friend Dhammanana and his throne-rival Banya Ein, the lord of Pathein. Anyhow, to put it in a nutshell, he was able to contribute to the country to some extent.
[quote font=”0″ font_style=”italic” color=”#000000″ bgcolor=”#dd9933″ bcolor=”#dd3333″]The author of this article is a freelance translator, private teacher and independent researcher on History.[/quote]