The legend Shwedagon Pagoda
‘A golden mystery...a beautiful winking wonder’ is what Rudyard
Kipling called this Buddhist shrine. The Shwedagon Pagoda is a 98-metre
gilded stupa located in Yangon, Myanmar. The pagoda is situated, to the
west of the Royal Lake, on Singuttara Hill, dominating the skyline of
the city. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Myanmar people
with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within, namely the staff
of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of
Kassapa and eight hairs of Gautama Buddha.
The shrine traces its roots back more than 2,500 years. According to
legend, King Okkalapa of Suwannabhumi, a kingdom covering the area
around present day Yangon, was meditating on Singuttara Hill one day
when he had a vision of Gautama Buddha attaining enlightenment.
Same day, Tapassu and Bhalluka, two traders who came from the village
of Okkala in Suwannabhumi , met the Buddha while he was in concentrative
meditation in Buddha Gaya in the seventh week after Enlightenment.
They were en route to a trading expedition to central and western
India with a fleet of caravans and passing through the district of Gaya.
They offered the Buddha madgu-pindika and having listened to the Dhamma
discoursed to them by the Buddha, immediately became lay disciples. On
their request for a souvenir to worship, the Buddha gave them eight
sacred hair relics from his head. The brothers had a rather perilous
trip back to their village. On returning home, they were warmly greeted
by King Okkalapa. These holy relics were enshrined in the kingdom’s
holiest place, on top of Singuttara Hill.
The hair-relic of Gautama Buddha together with the other three relics
of previous Buddhas were enshrined inside the underground relic-chamber
(Dar-Tu-Ga-Ba) measured in 44 cubic high (66 feet), wide and long. That
was filled with so many precious-stones and enclosed by set of
mechanical automations around.
From the centre of the relic-chamber, the gold, silver, tin, copper,
iron, marble and ironed-brick stupa were encased one after another up to
a height of 44 cubics (66 feet) on completion. As of being enshrined
with three previous relics, the newly built pagoda was called Tiguba in
Pali-Literature meant the place where the three relics were unearthed.
Later it was changed Ti-gon-ba to Da-Gon.
Later, the pagoda was hidden in the bushes and grave of vines for
some about 230 years and there was no trace on records. Only when the
theras - Sona and Uttara came to Suvamnabhumi in 259 B.C, during the
reign of King Asoka, Shwedagon came into public-veneration.
During the reign of King Banya U (1369-1385 A.D), he rebuilt the
Shwedagon up to a height of 84 feet. Onward, the successive Mon Kings
practiced for the preservation and conservation to shwedagon pagoda.
During the reigns of Queen Shinsawpu (1432-1452 A.D) and King Dhammaceti
(1452-1472 A.D), the pagoda was enlarged up to 302 feet and gilded with
pure-gold the weight equal to their respective body-weights.
Finally, king Sin-phyu-Shin of Inn-Wa in 1774 A.D, raised the pagoda
to its’ present height of 326 feet (99.6 meters). By then it was more or
less fully transformed into the magnificent spectacle that is what we
see in presence
Now, the elegant Shwedagon has a pagoda platform of 900 feet from
North to South and 700 feet from East to West, enclosed by a massive
wall around with four main-shrine halls and covered stairways in
Though it has been suffered many a natural disaster; at least 14
times of serious earthquakes, it is still standing fast amid the
spacious platform and high-plinth.
The whole platform is inlaid with white and black marble-slab. On the
platform, over a hundred of rest-houses, pavilions, and worship-hall are
facing to the central pagoda and surrounding which are beautifully
decorated and crowned by pyramidal tiers of decorative-roofing.
Their interiors contain Buddha-images and decorated with mural
painting portraying the different episodes of Jataka-stories and
There is actually a sequence of six pagodas within the golden outer
shrine, one each built of silver, tin, copper, lead, marble and iron
brick . The main golden stupa is nearly 100 meters tall, and plated with
8,688 solid gold tiles.
The umbrella shaped crown is set with more than 5,000 diamonds and
2,000 rubies, sapphires and topaz, then topped with a large emerald
meant to catch the light of the sun. The main stupa is surrounded by
more than 100 other smaller stupas, pavilions and halls
Four stairways climb the hill, one for each of the four cardinal
points. Most visitors use the Southern Stairway, which is guarded at the
base of the hill by two huge half-lion, half-griffins called chinthe.
No matter which stairway you take, at the top you will arrive at the
vast platform created in the 15th century. Surrounding the base of the
pagodas are 64 smaller stupas, as well as assorted chinthe and other
A wide walkway surrounds the pagoda and the stupa at its base.
Opposite the top of each stairway, at the base of the pagoda, are
temples dedicated to some of the past lives of the Buddha. Northwest of
the pagoda is a large open area where most devotees stop to worship the
stupa. . This is also known as the “wish fulfilling place.
Near the northwest corner of the terrace is the Assembly Hall, a
large open space where the highly respected monks of the temple deliver
At the back of the hall is a tall standing Buddha statue. A visitor
may see devotees standing before the statue pulling a long cord. If you
look up, you’ll notice that the cord is attached to a fan over the
Buddha’s head. As the cord is pulled, the fan is moved back and forth,
helping to keep the enlightened one cool as he observes your devotion.
On the north side of the pagoda is the Sandawdwin Tazaung, built over
a spring which, according to legend, was used to wash the Buddha hairs
before they were enshrined in the Pagoda.
No better living testimony to be seen the architectural and
constructional capabilities of Myanmar ancient pagoda builder as
Shwedagon attains the standard symmetry and axial balance. Among the
four-covered stairway, the southern one is the most common. There are
lifts, except for the West whereas the escalator for the convenience of
old-age and tired pilgrims.
Putting aside all the political & social controversy about Myanmar,
the Swedagon Stupa is a breathtaking structure. A beautiful building can
move a person but a structure that has been said to be covered in more
gold than in all the vaults in England will take your breath away.
Meditation programmes from Mahamevna
Mahamevnawa International editation Centre (MIMC) is an organisation
of Buddhist monasteries of Sri Lankan origin established to benefit the
spiritual development. The main monastery is in Polgahawela.
Mahamevna shrine room
The organisation was established in August 1999 and has grown from
strength to strength ever since its inception. Sri Lanka is home to 44
branches of the organisation with approximately 500-resident community
of monks. Overseas branches are in Canada (Toronto), USA (New Jersey and
Los Angeles), UK (London), Germany (Frankfurt), Australia (Sydney and
Melbourne) and India (Bodh Gaya).
The Founder and the Chief Buddhist Monk in charge of these
monasteries is Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thera, who is engaged in
spreading Buddhism to both local and international communities, and in
highlighting the aim and practice of Buddhism.
Founder of Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery, Ven. Gnanananda Thera,
became ordained at the age of seventeen in 1979. He then practiced
meditation, preached Buddhist teachings for many years, and successfully
translated what was difficult to understand concepts into a simple and
comprehensible state, so that the devotees could clearly understand. Ven.
Gnanananda Thera has thus been interested in disseminating Buddhist
teachings including meditation techniques as described by the Buddha
Ven Gnanananda Thera had a great passion to revive and re-establish
the original teachings of the Buddha in an era where the application of
the doctrine had declined and cultural aspects had taken over the true
values of Buddhist teachings and meditation practices. Hence Ven.
Gnanananda Thera was
* June 15
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
* July 14
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
* August 13 6:30 PM
- 8:30 PM
* September 11 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
* October 11 6:30 PM -
* November 10 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
* December 10 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
deeply inspired to take an initiative in order to re-establish the
lost teachings and techniques of meditation, and teach it to the people
in Sri Lanka and the rest of the world.
Mahamevnawa International Meditation Centre (MIMC) was registered as
a charity in the UK in May, 2009. MIMC specialises in educating and
disseminating the ORIGINAL teachings and meditation practices as
preached by the Buddha. Most material and teachings available today in
the name of Buddhism has been contaminated with traditions, rituals and
beliefs that do not reflect the original teachings and meditation
MIMC establishes itself as an organisation that specialises in
disseminating the original teachings as taught by the Buddha. The notion
of original teachings being taught at the centre has attracted masses of
devotees who continue to join the centre and follow its programmes and
activities. These devotees have supported the centre tremendously ever
since while reaping the many benefits from the services offered.
Programmes conducted by MIMC include children’s programmes, youth
programmes and special programmes during which the theory behind
Buddhist teachings and meditation practices is taught. This is also in
demand since it is imperative to the effective practice of meditation.
The resident monks are highly knowledgeable in original Buddhist
teachings and deliver the sermons effectively. These programmes are
currently being delivered at various locations in the UK.
The growing awareness of MIMC and increase in generous donations have
allowed MIMC to establish a permanent premises in Crays Hill, Billericay,
What is Theravada Buddhism?
Theravada, the ‘Doctrine of the Elders’, is the school of Buddhism
that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon,
which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of
the Buddha’s teachings. For many centuries, Theravada has been the
predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia (Thailand,
Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) and Sri Lanka. Today Theravada
Buddhists number well over 100 million worldwide. In recent decades
Theravada has begun to take root in the West.
The Buddha - the “Awakened One” - called the religion he founded
Dhamma-vinaya - “the doctrine and discipline.” To provide a social
structure supportive of the practice of Dhamma-vinaya (or Dhamma for
short [Sanskrit: Dharma]), and to preserve these teachings for
posterity, the Buddha established the order of bhikkhus (monks) and
bhikkhunis (nuns) - the Sangha - which continues to this day to pass his
teachings on to subsequent generations of laypeople and monastics,
As the Dhamma continued its spread across India after the Buddha’s
passing, differing interpretations of the original teachings arose,
which led to schisms within the Sangha and the emergence of as many as
eighteen distinct sects of Buddhism. One of these schools eventually
gave rise to a reform movement that called itself Mahayana (the “Greater
Vehicle”) and that referred to the other schools disparagingly as
Hinayana (the “Lesser Vehicle”). What we call Theravada today is the
sole survivor of those early non-Mahayana schools. To avoid the
pejorative tone implied by the terms Hinayana and Mahayana, it is common
today to use more neutral language to distinguish between these two main
branches of Buddhism. Because Theravada historically dominated southern
Asia, it is sometimes called “Southern” Buddhism, while Mahayana, which
migrated northwards from India into China, Tibet, Japan, and Korea, is
known as “Northern” Buddhism.
The language of the Theravada canonical texts is Pali (lit., “text”),
which is based on a dialect of Middle Indo-Aryan that was probably
spoken in central India during the Buddha’s time. Ven. Ananda, the
Buddha’s cousin and close personal attendant, committed the Buddha’s
sermons (suttas) to memory and thus became a living repository of these
teachings. Shortly after the Buddha’s death (ca. 480 BCE), five hundred
of the most senior monks - including Ananda - convened to recite and
verify all the sermons they had heard during the Buddha’s forty-five
year teaching career. Most of these sermons therefore begin with the
disclaimer, “Evam me sutam” - “Thus have I heard.”
After the Buddha’s death the teachings continued to be passed down
orally within the monastic community, in keeping with an Indian oral
tradition that long predated the Buddha. By 250 BCE the Sangha had
systematically arranged and compiled these teachings into three
divisions: the Vinaya Pitaka (the “basket of discipline” - the texts
concerning the rules and customs of the Sangha), the Sutta Pitaka (the
“basket of discourses” - the sermons and utterances by the Buddha and
his close disciples), and the Abhidhamma Pitaka (the “basket of
special/higher doctrine” - a detailed psycho-philosophical analysis of
the Dhamma). Together these three are known as the Tipitaka, the “three
In the third century BCE Sri Lankan monks began compiling a series of
exhaustive commentaries to the Tipitaka; these were subsequently
collated and translated into Pali beginning in the fifth century CE. The
Tipitaka plus the post-canonical texts (commentaries, chronicles, etc.)
together constitute the complete body of classical Theravada literature.
Pali was originally a spoken language with no alphabet of its own. It
wasn’t until about 100 BCE that the Tipitaka was first fixed in writing,
by Sri Lankan scribe-monks, who wrote the Pali phonetically in a form of
early Brahmi script.
Since then the Tipitaka has been transliterated into many different
scripts (Devanagari, Thai, Burmese, Roman, Cyrillic, to name a few).
Although English translations of the most popular Tipitaka texts abound,
many students of Theravada find that learning the Pali language - even
just a little bit here and there - greatly deepens their understanding
and appreciation of the Buddha’s teachings.
No one can prove that the Tipitaka contains any of the words actually
uttered by the historical Buddha. Practicing Buddhists have never found
this problematic. Unlike the scriptures of many of the world’s great
religions, the Tipitaka is not regarded as gospel, as an unassailable
statement of divine truth, revealed by a prophet, to be accepted purely
on faith. Instead, its teachings are meant to be assessed firsthand, to
be put into practice in one’s life so that one can find out for oneself
if they do, in fact, yield the promised results.
It is the truth towards which the words in the Tipitaka point that
ultimately matters, not the words themselves.
Although scholars will continue to debate the authorship of passages
from the Tipitaka for years to come (and thus miss the point of these
teachings entirely), the Tipitaka will quietly continue to serve - as it
has for centuries - as an indispensable guide for millions of followers
in their quest for Awakening.
Shortly after his Awakening, the Buddha delivered his first sermon,
in which he laid out the essential framework upon which all his later
teachings were based. This framework consists of the Four Noble Truths,
four fundamental principles of nature (Dhamma) that emerged from the
Buddha’s radically honest and penetrating assessment of the human
To be continued