Thursday, July 2, 2009
Bo Bo Aung - weizzar with the white robe
Who is Bo Bo Aung? The Bo Bo Aung that I am going to write about was born a long time ago. If you travel extensively in Myanmar, especially in the Divisions where you find the Burmah majority, you will find his photograph on the altar. Even in the poorest hut, you can find his photo. He is a man dressed in white like a "phothudaw" with a white cotton turban, a white longyi dressed in the fashion of a Buddhist monk and a white shirt. In short he is a man in white symbolizing purity of thought, speech and action.
Why is he so popular among the Burmah people, you might ask. The answer is simple. He is real and he comes to assist you when you are in deep trouble. His only condition is that you must be of good conduct and that you must be doing something very sincerely for the propagation and promotion of the Buddha Sassana.
Before I go any further, let me explain a little bit about a "phothudaw". If you are Burmese you will understand right away. This explanation is for the non-Burmese readers. Burmese readers please bear with me for a moment. In Buddhist society in Myanmar there are Buddhist monks who wear saffron robes or robes coloured with the bark of special trees. They are usually of a dark brown earthly colour. The phothudaws are not monks. They are layman who devote themselves to religious work. Some of them do meditation and keep the precepts. Some of them help the chief abbot of the village monastery in keeping the monastery in good order. They dress in white. That is why in Myanmar, if a man is dressed all in white, we say "Oh, you look like a phothudaw".
Now to the real story about Bo Bo Aung. In short he is a weizzar. That means he is not an ordinary human being but a human being who has acquired supernatural powers through the practice of meditation and magick. I am using a different spelling for magick to differentiate from the sort of magic done by wayside magicians. He is a man of peace and a man devoted to the propagation of the Buddha Sassana. He has the same powers as the devas. That is why the Burmese call him a "htwet ya pauk" person. This means that he has found a magickal way to transform his body into the body of a deva without actually going through the process of dying. According to Theravada Buddhist belief, when a person dies, he or she may be reborn as a human being or as a deva in heaven. However, if that person is evil, he or she would certainly be reborn as an animal or as one of the inhabitants of hell or the lower spiritual world. By this I mean the world of devils and ghosts. In the case of a weizzar, there are two types of attaining the body of a deva. Some weizzars go through the process of dying. This is called "athay htwet". That is becoming a weizzar by dying first. Then there is another process called "ashin htwet". This is becoming a weizzar without dying. In this process, according to the books I have read and the tales that I have heard, the person who wants to become a weizzar, after the practice of the weizzar path, also called "htwet yat lan" in Burmese, transforms his body into the body of a deva through magick. The magick may be a magickal "dat lone" based on mercury or iron. In this process, the "datlone" is made through the process of alchemy. Or the magick may be through the use of herbs. The key word here is not the process itself for the process is a highly kept secret. Ordinary people will never get this process. This is carefully guarded by the weizzars.
There is also the path of the Inn Weizzar. Bo Bo Aung is said to be an expert in this process. Inns are magickal writings on copper sheets, bamboo paper or even on ordinary paper. Bo Bo Aung got into his possession an ancient writing of Inns by chance. That was how he became a weizzar.
When I was a young boy I heard other people singing a song that goes like this "Bo Bo Aung Ta Baung Nhe Paw lar bi". At that time I was so young and ignorant I didn't know what it meant. In translation it does not mean that Bo Bo Aung had only one thigh. It really means that Bo Bo Aung has appeared in Burma in fulfilment of a prophecy. A "Tabaung" in Burmese language means a prophecy. Sometimes you hear young children singing songs. Sometimes you may hear old crazy men on the street singing songs. These can be prophecies. You can never know. Sometimes messages apprear in strange places and strange ways.
In a book called "Bo Bo Aung and his path" Saya U Pe Tin has given us a detailed description of the life of Bo Bo Aung and his path. By path I mean his practices and the manner in which he acquired all the supernatural powers of a weizzar. To put this story into a proper timeframe, the time was a little after the Burmese era 1100. In terms of the Christian era it was 1700. Now there was a big village called Letpanshay village about a little over five Taing (in Burmese measurement of lenght) to the west of Taungtwin Gyi township. The headman of the village was Pho Hnaung and his wife was Mae Ein Phyu. At that time it so happened that Pho Pyi and Mae Ein together with their four children came to settle down at Letpanshay village from their original place called the Chindwin hills area west of the Ayeyarwaddy river. Eventually they became very friendly with the village headman and his wife.
Pho Hnaung and Mae Ein gave birth to a son called Maung Yazar and he later became known as Pho Yazar to honour the memory of the wise Burmese lord called Pho Yazar. In the family of Pho Pyi and Mae Ein was also born a young girl whose name was Mae Wa. Thus the sons and daughters in Pho Pyi's family were Mae Dun, the eldest daughter, Mae Gyan the second daughter, Mae Lun the third daughter, Pho Myat San Nyo, a son and Mae Wa the youngest child.
It thus came about that one day the village headman U Pho Hnaung passed away and his wife Mae Ein married Pho Pyi. By this time Pho Pyi's wife Mae Ein had already passed away. At that time U Pho Hnaung's son Maung Yazar was still young and so Pho Pyi took on the duties of the village headman of Letpanshay. When Maung Yazar came of age Pho Pyi gave the hand of his daugher Mae Dun to become Maung Yazar's wife. Out of this marriage were born Pho On, Mae Pyae, Mae Taloke, Mae Gon and Pho Hnin Gyi. Altogether five children.
Out of the marriage of Pho Pyi and Mae Ein was born Pho Myat San. When Pho Myat San came of age he married Mae Myat Hla. Out of this marriage was born Pho Ywe. Pho Myat San later married Mae Nyein Yar and out of this marriage were born Pho Din, Pho Aung and Min Yaung, three sons and a daughter by the name of Mae Ei. In total four children. If we count Pho Ywe who was born out of the marriage between Pho Myat San and Mae Myat Hla, Pho Myat San had a total of five children. Out of these five children of Pho Mya San, Pho Aung was later to become the "Bo Bo Aung" that is now so popular as a wizard nowadays. In Burmese language Bo Bo Aung is a true weizzar.
When was Bo Bo Aung born?
No one seems to know the exact date. However, it is known for certain that Bo Bo Aung was the class mate of Maung Waing who later became the Burmese King called Bodaw Phaya. We also know that Maung Waing was born in the Burmese era 1106 according to Burmese chronicles. Therefore it is safe to assume that Bo Bo Aung was born round about 1106. By that reckoning, Bo Bo Aung's age would be 200. Therefore Bo Bo Aung became a wizard or weizzar not too long ago.
Bo Bo Aung's childhood
As a young boy Maung Aung was smart, hard working, and was full of determination to learn his lessons. He paid great respects to his teachers, never told anything which was untrue, always helpful to others and would share whatever sweets or food he had with his friends. He liked to stay by himself in his own honest way. He was well liked by his friends.
Because his parents were poor he did not have nutritious food to eat. As a result of this poor diet he soon got skin disease and his friends called him "Maung Wei". "Wei" is a Burmese word for a mild skin disease.
The Sayadaw's dream
The presiding Sayadaw at Kye Ni monastery was well versed not only in the Buddhist scriptures but also in what is known in Burma as "the worldly arts". (worldly arts means esoteric subjects such as alchemy, talismanic magic, herbal medicine etc. In Burmese it is called Lawki Pyinnya as opposed to Lawkuttara Pyinnya which leads to the end of suffering and Nivarna). The area where the monastery was situated was well known for strange events and happenings connected with tree spirits, mountain spirits, weizzars and tapathees. ( A tapathee is a person whose aim in life is to study "the worldly arts". His powers are not as extensive as a weizzar - Kyaw Myaing).
One day the Kye Ni Sayadaw was having a nap after having his soon. Soon after, a holy man dressed in white garments came to the Sayadaw and led him to the lake at the back of the monastery and pointed towards a certain part of the lake and disappeared. This was actually a dream but to the Sayadaw, it felt as though it really happened. It was a strange and incredible dream. The Sayadaw did not have time to think about this dream as he was very busy with his usual duties of teaching the scriptures to the novices and attending the various "ah-hlus" (social functions) of the village. In Burma, it is customary to invite monks to give blessings and say prayers on special occasions such as Shinpyu ceremonies ect.
One day the Sayadaw went to an ah-hlu in the village. On his way to this function he saw the head of a black cat and the head seemed to be alive and was making a crying sound. Seeing this head he ordered one of his young students to take it to the monastery. When he came back from the social function, the Sayadaw cut open the cat's head and saw a very rare cat's eye called "Amyu-tei". This cat's eye was left for the Sayadaw to see by the Weizzars and Zawgyis as he was well known for his interest in "the worldly arts" and meditation practices.
The copper manuscript
One day the Sayadaw remembered his dream again and thought, "this dream could not have occurred without a reason. I think I'd better go to the lake and see for myself".
So without telling anybody, the Sayadaw went to the lake. As he reached the edge of the lake his foot touched something in the water under a "thee" tree. Upon examining what he had found, it turned out to be a Kyeni Parabaik (a copper manuscript). After washing the copper manuscript, he took it to the monastery.
There are two types of parabaiks in Burma. One is made of Shan paper which is made of bamboo pulp and the other type of parabaik is made of copper. The copper parabaiks last longer and the script is more accurate due to the fact that metal stylus can make better marks on the copper surface. For these reasons, it had been the custom in Burma to write inscriptions about important subjects such as talismanic magic (Inn and Sama) on copper parabaiks.
It is not known for certain whether the Sayadaw put into practice what he read from the copper parabaik. He might have acquired some supernormal powers, no one knew. As for Maung Aung, every day was full of activities and it revolved around his studies and the time he spent playing with his friends. He did not have time to approach the Sayadaw.
Maung Aung's inheritance
Soon afterwards, the Kye Ni Sayadaw passed away. Some of the villagers thought that the Sayadaw had successfully acquired magical powers through the use of talismanic magic. They thought he had left the world leaving his body in the normal manner but had actually become a weizzar. Nevertheless, a special funeral ceremony was held for the Sayadaw.
After the ashes and bones have been collected and entombed, the three chief disciples of the Sayadaw, U Letkhana, U Arsara and U Ardeiksa began to divide the worldly possessions of the Sayadaw. The eldest disciple became the presiding Sayadaw of the monastery. The other two were content with whatever they got.
At that time, Maung Aung was playing near the monastery and came up to get some water. U Letkhana, who was now the presiding Sayadaw called Maung Aung and said jokingly, " you are also one of the Sayadaw's disciples. So you also deserve to get something. Take this pillow". Saying this, he threw a dirty pillow at Maung Aung. Maung Aung did not say anything. Because of his respect for U Letkhana and also because he did not want to offend him, Maung Aung picked up the dirty pillow and placed it by his bedside near his own pillow.
Now Maung Aung had this habit of writing on the floor using his slate. One day, as his elbow was hurting, he took this dirty pillow which he got from the Sayadaw and placed it under his elbow. After many days of using the pillow in this manner, the pillow started to tear at the place where Maung Aung used to place his elbow. He noticed something hard inside the pillow but Maung Aung, being still a young boy did not pay much attention to this.
One day a group of Thaik Sayas (people who study about the history of hidden treasures, especially treasures donated by devotees to the Buddha) came to their village and started doing some digging at a spot in front of the Shwe Intaung Pagoda. At this spot there was a pagoda and on the south of the pagoda there was a statue of a lion. This was where the Thaik Sayas were digging. They were digging at the foot of the lion statue. Ater much digging, the Thaik Sayas got a silver pot. When the monks from Kye Ni monastery heard of this, they started discussing about these events. Maung Aung listened to this conversation with great interest.
"Kodaw, I heard that our Sayadaw also got a copper parabaik", said the first monk.
"Yes, I have seen the Sayadaw reading this copper parabaik", replied the other.
"Now, where is this copper parabaik. Do you have any idea", asked the first monk.
"Ah, that's right. I remember the parabaik now. But I haven't seen it since our Sayadaw passed away. Didn't you see it when we were dividing the Sayadaw's possessions?"
The first monk replied, "No, I didn't see it. I know this copper parabaik is very special but did not dare to ask the Sayadaw about it when he was alive. I think the parabaik contains very valuable writings about Lawki Pyinnya".
The other monk said, "Yes of course. Now we have to start looking for it".
The first monk replied, "You are right Kodaw, but he has not a single clue as to where it could be".
(Kodaw: a term used by monks to address one another. - Kyaw Myaing)