Alex Ruiz Falques
This paper approaches Pali grammatical text from the point of view of scholastic literature, and thus argues that what we call grammar includes branches of philosophy that have been considered absent in Theravada Buddhism. As is well known, Burmese Buddhist scholars have been strong in Pali grammar since the Pagan period. A large number of Pali works written in Burma deal with grammatical or philological issues. Most of these texts have not been studied in the West. For this reason modern scholars have thought that these treatises were merely ancillary books. A deep reading of these texts however reveals that they contain much more than grammatical rules. They contain philosophical discussions that stem from the great Indian debates on logic, epistemology and the authority of scriptures, among other topics.
A small shrine originally constructed in 1742 and subsequently renovated in 1762, in the village of Ma U, was the meritorious deed of two members of one family, a wealthy widow, and later her son. Both donors left relatively extensive statements explicating the significance of their merit making. The two inscriptions reveal generational differences, and how shifting historical circumstances informed their sense of self and the world around them. The shrine testifying to their piety also includes in its programmatic décor a jataka of unknown provenance inscribed with the intriguing tag “ Theravada zat.” The article reads the inscriptions in light of the wider world that was beginning to impinge upon royal subjects’ lives in the first years of the new Konbaung dynasty. The article also examines the significance of recourse to a term that at the time had yet to become the label for a major religion.
On September 18, 1988 a military takeover ended the nation-wide pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar. A common narrative is that after the coup, on the one hand students and others involved in the uprising fled to border areas to escape arrest, and that on the other hand they hoped to continue their struggle through armed means and were drawn by reports of assistance to armed resistance coming from other countries. In presenting the history of the little-known Burma Democratic Front, which was based in Champhai in northeast India and provided recruits early on for the Chin National Front, I demonstrate that this narrative is inadequate in three main ways. First, while some of those who joined the Chin armed resistance fled to escape arrest, the security situation varied between different places and fear of arrest was not the main determinant for many of them in the decision to leave Myanmar. Leaving Myanmar to India was also sometimes not the only option for those fearing arrest. Second, many of those who ended up in the Chin armed resistance went to India to find work or for other reasons unrelated to armed struggle. Third, relationships with others (based on kinship or participation together in university student groups or high-risk activism), and/or active recruitment by others (sometimes previously known to the individual being recruited, sometimes not), were often extremely important for the decision to go to India or join the armed resistance.
A new source reveals Burmese bravery at the Shwedagon pagoda following the hostilities of the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1853. Once buried in the Mormon archives in Salt Lake City a brief journal describing events in and around the Shwedagon Pagoda of that period has surfaced. The journal, written by a man situated in the Shwedagon Pagoda, strengthens postcolonial scholarship focusing on counter narratives to colonial conquest and dominance not easily found in primary sources to date. Destruction or suppression of primary sources served a strategic agenda as another type of bayonet for colonial conquest. Through this new eye witness, we can now glimpse amidst desecration and hostilities into Burmese rebellion against their aggressors.