Monday, September 30, 2013

Ten Last Lives Of Our Lord Buddha - Introduction

Our Lord Buddha preaching 5 hermits into  Buddhism.
Ten last past lives of our Lord Buddha Goddama – reincarnated one after another – were the last ten past lives of our Lord Buddha’s 550 previous lives before he was born again last time in 563 BC as prince Theik-dart-ta (Siddhartha) and finally gained enlightenment in around 530 BC and died in 483 BC.

I still remember these memorable stories of our Lord Buddha’s previous lives being taught by old Buddhist monks when I was in Mawgyun National Primary School – known as the National School in Mawgyun because it once was part of the old National-Buddhist-Schools System which was parallel to the  missionaries-run Christian schools during the British colonial times in Burma.

The text book we had to read back then was in the form similar to nowadays colourful graphic novels to make it easy for us young Burmese-Buddhist children. And recently I pleasantly discovered the old book again on a Buddhist literature download site on internet.

The book was illustrated and written by the most famous Burmese Buddhist-painter Sayagyi (Grand-teacher) U Ba Kyi. Following is the short biography of him from the same text book.

Burmese Buddhist-painter Sayagyi U Ba Kyi (F.R.S.A. London)

Burmese Buddhist Painter U Ba Kyi (1912-2000).
Sayagyi U Ba Kyi was born on 16 July 1912 at Kyaikhto town of father U Pho Sin and mother Daw Aye May. Since his childhood he was captivated by painting. So throughout his school education he took up painting as his hobby and studied it seriously.

He joined Yangon University after matriculation and completed I. Sc. (Intermediate Science). He also passed the Teacher Certificate Examination. In 1933 he studied painting under the guidance of U Ba Nyan, RCA London, who had returned from England after his education in art there.

In 1949 U Ba Kyi won a French Scholarship offered by the French Government and he attended the National Higher Academy of Arts in Paris for one year during which he got the rare opportunity of showing his art works at the world's art exhibition Le Salon 49. He also exhibited his paintings in the art shows held in London and Monte Carlo.

In 1958 U Ba Kyi was again awarded a Scholarship by the US Government. He studied art particularly painting for one year at the Academy of Art, Philadelphia. In that year he was admitted to the M.A. (Art) class at the University of Pennsylvania. Also in 1958 the Royal Academy of Art London admitted him as a life member and awarded him FRSA (Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts).

Even though his paintings were his expression of modern concept and technique of art   Myanmar traditional ideas and methods of creating pictures were well-preserved in his artworks on Buddhist themes, for since 1952 he had been doing research on Myanmar traditional techniques of painting promoting it to the general public.

Artist U Ba Kyi's "Birth of Our Lord Buddha" (1960?).
On return from France where he had completed his academic pursuit in painting, he was given an assignment by the YMBA Association to illustrate Buddhavamsa --- History of the Buddha compiled by Sayadaw Agga Maha Pandita Ashin Zanaka-bhi-wun-tha.

U Ba Kyi successfully accomplished his task by using Myanmar traditional method of painting.

His pictures not only vividly depict the Jataka stories but also are appealing to the Myanmar heart. The book has now gone into the 4th edition. It is said that before he began his assignment U Ba Kyi approached the learned Sayadaw monks under whose guidance he performed a series of religious deeds such as praying, telling beads, meditation and other meritorious works until he attained a mental frame of peace, loving kindness and spiritual inspiration.

U Ba Kyi was an accomplished teacher as well. In 1939 he served as art instructor at the School of Fine Arts which was opened in 1941. At the Yangon Institute of Education U Ba Kyi served as lecturer in painting and drawing until his retirement in 1974.

Many of his prominent works are being exhibited at Rangoon National Museum, Tashkent Museum, Peking National Museum, Amsterdam Arts Museum, and Buddha Gaya. The most prominent and world-famous work is the 3,000 sq-ft painting on the wide wall of the departure hall at Rangoon airport.

His oil on canvasses can be viewed in series on the panels of the tazaungs (covered causeway) of Botahtaung and Shwedagon Pagodas. Wunzin Hotel at Meikhtila and Strand Hotel in Rangoon and Rangoon University of Education also display U Ba Kyi's paintings.

His was elected again and again for ten times as chairman of Myanmar Arts and Crafts Asi-ayone (Association). He was also a member of Writers' Association, Film Academy Award Selection Board, Committee for compilation of Encyclopedia Myanmarica, Art Advisor to the Ministry of Culture ,and Patron of Myanmar traditional Arts and Crafts Asi-ayone.

At 6:55 pm on 15 April 2000 U Ba Kyi passed away peacefully. He was 88 and is survived by wife Daw Tin May, two sons, one daughter and six grandchildren.

Giant mural on a wall in the Departure Hall of Rangoon International Airport.
Ten Words Acronym of Ten Buddhist Stories to be learned by-heart

We had to read these stories aloud so many times in the classroom to learn it by heart their combined acronym “Tay Za Thuu Nay Ma Bu San Nar Wi Way” is still stuck somewhere deep inside my brain. And followings are the expansion of those ten words of the acronym.

1. Tay is for the story of Prince Tay-meet-ya.
2. Za is for the story of Prince Maha Za-na-ka.
3. Thuu is for the story of Thuu-wun-na-thar-ma.
4. Nay is for the story of King Nay-meet.
5. Ma is for the story of Ma-haw-tha-dar.
6. Bu is for the Nagar-prince Bu-ri-dart.
7. San is for the story of Prince San-da-kuu-mar-ya.
8. Nar is for the story of Hermit Nar-ya-da.
9. Weet is for the story of Minister Weet-du-ya.
10. Way is for the story of King Way-than-da-yar.

I will try to translate each story every week and post it as soon as I finish as a ten-part series to celebrate our great noble religion Buddhism.

Too many stories of Burmese-Buddhists killing Bengali-Muslim illegals and burning their mushrooming mosques in Burma has been damaging the international image of the gentle Buddhist people of Burma and we Burmese-Buddhists do need to restore our good reputation as peace-loving Theravada-Buddhists, and this series is my contribution.

Book Cover of "Ten last lives of Lord Buddha"(1960?).
Thumbnail paintings for all ten Buddha stories.
Ten Last Lives of Our Lord Buddha (1): Tay-meet-ya