A Critical Study of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar and Environmental Ethics

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1.1 Background and Significance of the Problems

The existence and development of human world as well as the historical process of man and woman is mainly created by the public who are working with endeavor. So, the principle of human history is the people who are working. Past history is the lessons for present and present is for future ones. Without studying history, one cannot understand the real situation of country and people. History actually cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and our common community. According to the saying of Robert Penn Warren, it cannot be deniable that studying history of country or religion can make people understand the good and bad beneficiaries of history concerned and they are managed to construct their lives better for their future. The topic I have chosen for my Ph.D degree is focus on the historical research concerning with Konbaung empire.

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When studying the historical background of Konbaung dynasty in brief, there appears the problems and research questions as follow: How did the Buddhism relate with Konbaung period? Is Buddhism really flourished in Myanmar and especially in that epoch? How did Buddhism spread and flourish in that era? Why did Konbaung heirs conclude under British? In what way did it influence the people in Myanmar in the field of environmental ethics?

1.2 Objectives of the research

It is undeniable that to study history of Burma is nothing but to study the history of the teachings of the Buddha. This tendency could be exercised on the life of the Burmese people in the past or in the present. This projected study emphasises on history of Burma and the role of the Buddhist monks in Myanmar. The aims and objectives of this thesis are as under:

  1. To give the material of the policy on the tactic of several dynasties in Burma to apply the Theravada Buddhism as the official religion in the country.
  2. To know the role of the propagation of the Theravada Buddhism.
  3. To analyze why and how the kings and the people paid their respects and supported to their religion.
  4. To emphasize the role of Buddhist monks in the history of Burma and their contribution to education and moral values of society.
  5. To scrutinize the social background in which Theravada Buddhism influenced and how Theravada Buddhism molds the life of Burmese people in their daily life in economy, agricultural, social, education, administration, economics, culture, architecture, literature, politic in that period.

1.3 Statement of the Problems Desired to know

There is a problem in Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar and environmental ethics of Konbaung empire. Despite expressing the historical background of that period by most scholars, there rarely provide how Buddhism arrived in Myanmar and how is related with environmental ethics. This problem has negatively affected the people and country because it is not completed in the historical field. A possible cause of this problem is that they are difficult to collect the data with original language. Perhaps a study which investigates Konbaung reign by a historical method could help resolve the situation.

1.4 Scope of the Research

Even though there are a lot of evidences and references for the fact concerning with Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar, it is here limited the field of Buddhism in Konbaung empire from 1752-1885 because of the time limit. Since time frame is limited, the primary data cannot be going to the field. The analyses are made according to the data collected from secondary data in this study. The key findings and suggestions are forecast viewing these data expressed from ancient to modern days.

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The Konbaung dynasty contributed significantly for unification of Burma and advancement of its civilization. This study suggests that the domination of the Konbaung dynasty was appreciably facilitated by Buddhism, which cemented the relationship between the rulers and ruled at one level and among Burmese people at another level. The Konbaung family attempted to create Burmese society based upon the strict principles of the Theravada Buddhism. This study is also proposing that Buddhism developed high popularity during the Konbaung dynasty and extended active patronage to Buddhism and monastic system.

1.6 Definition of the Terms Used in the Research

The terms of the key words and phrases refer to concepts at the core of one’s study and concepts that must be unmistakable in conducting research with proper care and if the procedures and outcomes are to be properly understood by your reading audience. To illustrate key words of this research are as follows:

Theravada Buddhism- it is believed to be the genuine doctrine of the Lord Buddha who has established the foundation of Theravada in Aparihaniyadesana.

Konbaung dynastry- it means the period from king Alongphaya to king Thipaw (1752-1885)

Environmental ethics – the term is concerned with environment of Myanmar people in their daily life in social, education, administration, economics, culture, architecture, literature, politic at the time of Konbaung Period.

1.7 Review of Related Literature and Research Works

By the time we study the history of Myanmar and Buddhism, we found that Chronicles of Burma were written for one or quite a lot of of the following reasons:

  • to inaugurate the fact that Buddhism reached to Burma since the life time of the Buddha.
  • to preserve that the Rulers were the direct descendants of Mahasamata, the great king;
  • to record the father to son heritage of kingship among the Burmese kings;
  • to compile local histories with undisguised effort to attach importance to each locality as it has been founded by either a princely or saintly person;
  • to recollect what meritorious deeds were done by each king who styled himself as the upholder of the religion;
  • to praise the achievement of effective emperors so that the future kings could follow their example.

Therefore the chronicle is a traditional way of writings the past of Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka and Burma and constitute a strong historical tradition. According to the Dipavamsa, King Ashoka, as his great missionary woks, sent Buddhist missions to nine places after third Buddhist council including Suvannabhum and Lankadipa among them. The Mahavamsa illustrates these facts in great detail and the Burmese chronicles also followed suit. Suvannabhumi was recognized as Thaton or Tikekala in Mon State in Burma. King Ramadhipati known as Dhammaceti of Pegu, now Bago in his Kalyani Sima inscription (A.C 1480). It was traced the beginning of Buddhism to Thaton by Venerable Sona and Uttara in 309 B.C. The story verify the arrival of Buddhism in Burma back to the 4th century B.C. We do have some archeology based studies of Buddhism in Burma before or after the Bagan and Early Bagan periods.

1.8 Conceptual Framework

Even though the projected study aims to trace the history of the Konbaung period in Burma, the particular focus has been devoted to the religion especially the Theravada Buddhism. The ethics of the Theravada Buddhism deeply influenced the way Burmese people live. The proposed study attempts to trace the process of emergence of the Theravada Buddhism as a dominant mode of religion and a way of life in Burma especially in the Konbaung era.

The proposed study is not a narrative of the antiquity and the attempt has been made to explore how the socio-economic and cultural process of Burma intertwined with Buddhism. In other words, this study is an ethno-historical study of religion of Burma. This approach is useful in understanding the factors that condition and mold the life patterns of a community. Venezuela historian, Bereta Perez proposes that history is a complicated domain that touches everyday life of the nation in a critical way and from India, Nicolas Dricks used the framework of ethohistory to construct the political history of South Indian dynasty. By using the similar framework the proposed study attempts to document the evolution of the Theravada Buddhism and its impact upon the Burmese civilization in the past and present.

1.9 Research Methodology

The projected study is an attempt to document the history of Burma and Theravada Buddhism in Konbaung period. History is a study of the past events concerned with the development of a particular place. Every nation has its historical background, so Burma, one of the countries in the world had been standing with their own kings in their past for centuries. The original sources written mainly in Burmese language as well as English are applied and historical data have been gleaned as possible as reach to our knowledge. Apart from the original sources other methods such as comparative, historical, textual, inscriptions, archeological excavation, royal orders, reports and scientific have been utilized for the present work and rational thinking has been applied to clarify the facts. Apparently most of the historical sources on the Konbaung empire and Theravada Buddhism in Burma are available in Burmese language. Keeping this limitation into consideration, the proposed study attempts to use verities of historical sources available in Burmese language such court chronicles of the Konbaung empire, books written in Burmese language on Theravada Buddhism, inscriptions, and officials sources of Burmese government such as gazetteers have been used to explore and document the contribution of the Konbaung period for promotion of the Theravada Buddhism and its impact upon the socio-economic, cultural and civilizational process of Burma.

1.10 Advantages Expected to Obtain from the Research

It is generally believed that Buddhism flourished in the Konbaung Period. This research is written to determine whether this view is correct using Primary and secondary sources in writing this dissertation. By studying this dissertation, it can be obtained the following advantages as follows;

  1. One can realize the situation of the teachings of the Buddha in Myanmar
  2. One can understand the way to apply the Theravada Buddhism as the official religion in the country.
  3. One can distinguish the role of the first Konbaung Empire and the last dynasty in the history of Burma in the propagation of the Theravada Buddhism.
  4. One analyze why and how the kings and the people paid their respects and supported to their religion.
  5. One can receive the knowledge on how Theravada Buddhism influenced the life of Myanmar people in their daily life in social, education, administration, economics, culture, architecture, literature, politic at the time of Konbaung Empire.

1.11 Brief chapterisation

In my present work is divided in to five chapters as follows:

Chapter –I



Life of the Buddha and Brief introduction to Buddhism


Historical background of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar


Theravada Buddhism in Konbaung Period (1752-1885)


Environmental ethics of Theravada Buddhism in Konbaung Period

Chapter –VI



The first one consists of systematic introduction of the topic, objectives, hypothesis, methodology, context of study, review of literature and mention of sources and conceptual framework of thesis.

Chapter two will describe the life of the Buddha and brief introduction to Buddhism which shows the starting place of Buddhism and the ways to liberation from Samsara, the circle of birth and death as well as the key Suttas for Buddhist people.

Chapter three will describe the historical context of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar. With reference to the introduction of Buddhism into Myanmar, the views of the different scholars will be shown. The earliest form of Buddhism that arrived in Myanmar was a pure form of Theravada Buddhism is discussed. It is analyzed that the Myanmars came into contact with Buddhism only after Aniruddha’s conquest of Thaton. Moreover, how the aris, who were disparaged in the Myanmar chronicles, did not appear in the early Pagan period, but appeared only in the later Pagan period and how they were powerful even in the post-Pagan periods and how no Myanmar King had ever stamped out the aris are discussed. How some kings were unable to carry through their reforms because they were not accepted by monks and laypersons is also explained.

Chapter four deals with how the teachings of the Buddha are practised in Konbaung period (1752-1885) This chapter discusses the summary on the contextual of Kongaung dynasty and restructuring of Kongaung. And then religious activities of Konbaung kings and how Atin ayon problem which was disputed for many years were discussed. How King Badon attempted to push through religious reforms after studying Buddhism himself is also included.

Chapter five discuss on the environmental ethics in Konbaung period inconformity with the teachings of the Buddha. It also explained how the teachings of the Buddha influenced Burmese people in their daily life in the field of social, education, administration, economics, culture, architecture, literature, politic and law at the time of Konbaung Empire.

In chapter six, it has been drown conclusion regarding my thesis. It will recapitulate the main points of the whole carrier mine. Suggestions and lessons will be shown in it.

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A Critical Study of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar and Environmental Ethics. (2019, Jul 01). Retrieved January 27, 2023 , from

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