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Buddhist canon preserved on 9500 brass plates

By Cherry Thein, Myanmar Times, Aug 11, 2009

Yangon, Myanmar -- A MONK in Yangon has launched a project to inscribe the entire text of the Theravada Buddhist canon onto brass plates in the Myanmar language, following the completion of a seven-year effort to do the same in the Pali language.

The project is being lead by the Venerable Bhaddanta Nyana from Shwe Kyin Monastery in Bahan township, who held a ceremony in May to honour the donors and workers who helped realise the completion of the Pali version.

He started working on the Myanmar language version the following month.

“Making a copy of the Buddhist canon in Myanmar language will benefit those who are not familiar with Pali, so they can learn the higher discourses of the Buddha’s teachings,” the Venerable Bhaddanta Nyana said.

The Buddhist canon, known in Pali at the Tipitaka (three baskets), consists of three books that form the doctrinal foundation of Theravada Buddhism: the Vinaya Pitaka (rules of conduct for monks), Sutta Pitaka (central discourses of Theravada Buddhism) and Abhidhamma Pitaka (abstract philosophical treatises).

The project to inscribe the Pali version of the Tipitaka onto brass plates was started in 2003 by a team of artisans under the supervision of the Venerable Bhaddanta Nyana.

Each of the Tipitaka’s 40 volumes took one month to craft and required more than 200 plates, for a total of 9628 plates. Each brass plate measures 16 inches high and 8 inches wide.

“We had more than 5600 donors, and the entire cost of the project was K2.3 billion. It took seven years to complete because it’s hard work to inscribe text onto brass plates, and it was also hard to collect funds and brass,” the Venerable Bhaddanta Nyana said.

He said he hoped the cost of finishing the Myanmar-language project would not be much higher than the Pali version.

“The costs of brass and labour are increasing yearly but I want to finish the project because I believe we are blessed by the Dhamma and we will succeed. I appreciate the well-wishers who are contributing to our work. It is a long road, but I believe it will help maintain the Theravada Buddhist doctrines for future generations,” he said.

The Venerable Bhaddanta Nyana said that while it was useful to preserve the Tipitaka on digital media such as DVDs, brass plates would be longer-lasting.

“The brass plates are heavy and they require storage space, but I prefer the old ways of making things because they last longer,” he said.

He said that after the Myanmar-language version of the project was complete, he would embark on a new project to inscribe an English-language version of the canon onto brass plates.

“I would also like to build a pitaka library where we can store the large number the brass plates so Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike can study the texts in one place,” he said.

The Venerable Bhaddanta Nyana invited anyone who is interested in contributing funds to the project to call 548-805 or 09-51-95206 in Yangon, or visit the monastery on Komin Kochin Street in Bahan township.


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