The Way of Inquiry – The First Discourse

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Not my first discourse, I hasten to add, but the Buddha’s first discourse.

That seems like an appropriate place to start. If you are reading this thread then I assume that you wish to know more about the teaching of the Buddha. I will be do my best to reply to any questions that you may have, as long as they are respectful and sincere.


The bodhisatta, Prince Siddhattha Gotama, renounced his palace at the age of 29 after seeing four signs: an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a monk. Seeing that all living beings were trapped by old age, sickness, and death, he resolved to find an escape from this predicament. His noble quest began with the practice of self-mortification because it was believed at the time to be the way to liberation. He practised with five other ascetics as his companions. After six years of strenuous austerities, he realised that this was not the right path, and resumed taking adequate food and rest. Because of this, his five companions thought he had given up the quest, so they left him.

After regaining his strength and health the bodhisatta meditated the whole night and discovered the path leading to enlightnement. By the morning he had eradicated all craving and ignorance, and he gained Buddhahood with the rising of the dawn. Reflecting on the Dhamma that he had realised, he was at first disinclined to teach it, as it went against the current of human desires, and was difficult to understand. Nevertheless, he reasoned that some “with little dust in their eyes” would understand it, so he resolved to teach it.

Realising that his two former meditation teachers had already passed away, he went to Saranath to teach it to the five ascetics who had been his companions in the quest for liberation. When he told them that he had found liberation, at first they did not believe him, because they thought he had given up the path of striving. However, by reminding them of his lifelong honesty, he won them around and they agreed to listen to him. So he gave his first discourse, which is called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – the setting in motion of the wheel of the truth.

This first discourse deals with the Middle Way, and the Four Noble Truths including the Eightfold Noble Path. It is very concise. By the end of the discourse only one of the five ascetics, Kondañña, understood it properly and realised nibbana, the other four had to practise meditation as instructed by the Buddha for some time before realising nibbana. Because he was so quick to understand this concise discourse, Kondañña became known as “Kondañña the Wise.”

The Middle Way

The Buddha began by stating that the way to liberation was the middle way, avoiding the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This middle way comprised eight factors: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

He didn’t explain it in detail, he just stated it in brief.

The Four Noble Truths

Then he stated the Four Noble Truths that he had realised:

1. The truth of suffering (dukkha): birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unloved is suffering, separation from the loved is suffering, not getting what one wants is suffering, in brief the five aggregates of attachment are suffering.

2. The truth of the cause of suffering is the craving that causes repeated becoming, and takes delight now here now there, namely sensual craving, craving for existence, and craving for non-existence.

3. The truth of the cessation of suffering is the complete cessation and abandonment of this craving, and liberation from it without any remainder.

4. The truth of the way to attain the end of suffering, which is the noble eightfold path: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

That, very briefly, is the essence of the first discourse. The Buddha went on to explain that until he had thoroughly realised these four noble truths he did not claim to be fully enlightened. Merely knowing these four truths intellectually is not enough, we have to thoroughly understand them to gain liberation.

What is Genuine Vipassanā Meditation?

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Buddhism / Insight Meditation

There are many discourses on meditation, but the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is perhaps the most important one. Sati means “mindfulness” or “awareness,” and upaṭṭhāna means setting up or “establishing.” So the discourse is about the setting up of mindfulness.

There are four foundations of mindfulness: 1) Body, 2) Feelings, 3) Thoughts, and 4) Mental phenomena.

Mindfulness of the Body

Mindfulness of respiration (ānāpānassati) is just one of several meditation objects in the section on mindfulness of the body. One can also contemplate the four postures of standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, or all daily activities such as moving the limbs, looking here and there, eating, drinking, etc.

The Mahāsi meditation method analyses the body in terms of the four elements: earth (solidity), water (fluidity), fire (temperature), and air (motion). In sitting one contemplates the element of motion in the rising and falling movements of the abdomen; in walking meditation one observes the element of motion in the movements of the feet.

Less frequently taught methods analyse the body in terms of its 32 repulsive components: head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, etc., or compare it to corpses in various stages of decay.

Mindfulness of Feelings

“How, monks, does a monk dwell contemplating feelings? Here, monk, a monk, when feeling a pleasant feeling he knows, ‘I feel a pleasant feeling.’ When feeling a painful feeling he knows, ‘I feel a painful feeling.’ When feeling a neutral feeling he knows, ‘I feel a neutral feeling.’ When feeling a pleasant sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a pleasant sensual feeling.’ When feeling a pleasant non-sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a pleasant non-sensual feeling.’ When feeling an unpleasant sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel an unpleasant sensual feeling.’ When feeling an unpleasant non-sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel an unpleasant non-sensual feeling.’ When feeling a neutral sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a neutral sensual feeling.’ When feeling a neutral non-sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a neutral non-sensual feeling.’”

Mindfulness of Thoughts

A meditator must also be mindful of thoughts (cittānupassana satipaṭṭhāna). Knowing a lustful thought as a lustful thought, an angry thought as an angry thought, etc. Before being able to do this effectively, one should first establish mindfulness on the body and on feelings.

Mindfulness of Mental Objects

The five hindrances — sensual desire, ill-will, laziness, restlessness, and doubt — are one aspect of mindfulness of mental objects. Positive states such as energy, joy, tranquillity, bliss, equanimity should also be contemplated and known whenever they occur.

What is Insight?

Insight is the wisdom that arises when concentration and mindfulness have been firmly established on one or more of the four foundations of mindfulness. When one is able to observe mental and physical phenomena with equanimity, one can see them as they truly are (yathābhūta ñāṇadassana), revealing the three universal characteristics of impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and not-self (anatta).

Until one reaches this relatively high stage, one is not really practising insight meditation, but just establishing mindfulness. However, if you wish to call it “insight meditation” because that is your final goal, then that’s fine too, even though no insight has yet been gained.

A Discussion on Patience

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In his discourse on the Vammika Sutta, the Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw relates the following incident that took place in Thanbyuzayat, a town within Moulmein District, and was published in one of the Daily Newspapers.

Four or five elders from that town were chatting on a religious topic. It is customary in Burma among knowledgeable elderly people to meet whenever there is any social or religious function such as a memorial service for the deceased. They usually discuss religious topics while the reception is going on with light refreshments such as green tea and some delicacies like pickled tea-leaf (laphet). Sometimes, heated discussions take place, and the participants disagree on controversial points. On this occasion, the elders became indignant and assaulted one another ending up with them being interviewed by police officers. The news editor who reported the story, remarked that the elders concerned had been placed in police custody, but “a redeeming feature” was that the topic of discussion happened to be on patience (khantī).

The editor hit the nail right on the head. Intolerance is the worst thing when discussing the topic of patience, which needs to be exercised as advised by the Buddha. Indignation resembles the toad that swells up. It gives a great deal of trouble and therefore really needs to be discarded.


Exorcising Evil Spirits

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If you’re having a lot of difficulties in your family life, it will help to perform an Exorcism Ceremony to drive out all of the Evil Spirits.

If you want, you can invite a Buddhist monk or several monks to perform this ceremony for you, but its not difficult to do it yourself as long as you are courageous, and sincerely committed to doing it thoroughly. Don’t miss out any step.

First of all, take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha using the following Pāḷi formula:

  • Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I go for refuge to the Buddha)
    Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I go for refuge to the Dhamma)
    Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I go for refuge to the Saṅgha)
  • Dutiyampi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (For the second time …
    Dutiyampi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
    Dutiyampi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
  • Tatiyampi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (For the third time …
    Tatiyampi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
    Tatiyampi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Then, undertake to observe the five precepts, which are generally observed by all Buddhists. You don’t have to be a committed Buddhist to take the three refuges and precepts, the benefits of observing these universal virtues are available to anyone, whatever their beliefs. You can do it all only in English if you’re not familiar with Pāḷi, but the Evil Spirits may pay more attention if it is done in Pāḷi, which was the language used by the Buddha.

  1. Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. ( I undertake the precept to refrain from killing living beings.)
  2. Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.)
  3. Kāmesu micchācārā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.)
  4. Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech.)
  5. Surāmeraya-majja-pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants.)

Now, go into every room of your house, including the loft and the basement, opening every cupboard, and read out the list of names of the Evil Spirits on the linked image. You may know some more names that I don’t, so add those to the list, but I have added all the names that I know.

Whenever you find any Evil Spirits, you don’t need to be afraid because you already took refuge in the Fully Enlightened Buddha, and every Evil Spirit is terrified of the Buddha, his teaching the Dhamma, and his ordained disciples the Saṅgha. Just order the Evil Spirits into the toilet and leave them there while you collect all of the other Evil Spirits from every room in the house — and don’t forget the garage.

Finally, take a few deep breaths and go into the toilet or bathroom where you have kept all of the Evil Spirits. Now, grab hold of each one in turn by the neck, and open its mouth, using force or a mole wrench if necessary. Don’t worry, they dare not bite someone who took refuge in the Buddha! Now tip them upside down and shove their necks down into the toilet bowl. When you have dealt with every last one, flush the toilet and they will all be removed from your house.

Don’t ever invite them back into your house again, and all of the worst problems that you had before will gradually be resolved. If any Evil Spirits do get back into your house, just repeat the process until they stop coming back.

Here is the list of their names


P.S. White Spirit is OK. Leave that one in the cupboard if you find it.

Idiot Compassion

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Spoiling with too much Kindness

Parents and grandparents who are too kind to children spoil their character. Doing whatever one wants, and being given everything that one asks for, is not the way for children to learn and grow up. They should be taught the values of contentment, gratitude, respect, and frugality from a young age. As my mother once said, when I asked for another apple: “Apples don’t grow on trees.” Well, we know that what she meant was: “The money to buy apples does not grow on trees.”

The current generation of computer and Internet users expect everything to be tailored to suit their demands.  Software developers cannot possibly satisfy everyone. Even free software or nearly free software is not good enough for them. If something is not to their liking, instead of simply requesting improvements, or asking for temporary solutions, they make demands such as: “This software is unusable, until this feature is added, I will go back to using my old software.” Of course, such threats are empty. If their old software was perfect, why are they trying out something else?

The problem lies between the keyboard and the chair. Negativity breeds dissatisfaction, and obstructs the learning process.

Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity

Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.

And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus — an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s. (Travis Bradberry)

Vivaldi’s Horrible Bookmarking System

“The one thing stopping me from using Vivaldi as my main browser is the horrible bookmarking system that I simply can’t and don’t want to use, coupled with the fact that I can’t import my existing bookmarks although the latter wouldn’t make me use Vivaldi as my main browser, without the simple system as well.” (Alviv)

The above complaint is typical. A new user does not know how to import bookmarks, nor how to add them via the icon in the address bar or keyboard shortcut. Rather than asking how it can be done, he/she just complains.  After a couple of users respond with sarcasm, a moderator edits their replies, fixes the thread title, and locks the thread. This is idiot compassion at work. The fault lies with the new user, who failed to ask before complaining, and threatened not to use the software unless the perceived, but non-existent, faults were fixed.

Constructive Criticism

Since everything is imperfect, everything can also be improved, given time, money, patience, and resourcefulness. Good people respond well to constructive criticism. Even bad people do sometimes. Almost no one likes harsh criticism that is unjustifiable, unfair, untrue, or simply the expression of someone’s negativity.

Did the Buddha Criticise Anyone?

It is true that the Buddha never slandered or abused anyone. He was completely free from jealousy and ill-will. However, he certainly did say some things that were displeasing to others. When he started teaching the Dhamma, the Brahmins were well-established as the “Church” of the day. They held that the Brahmins or priests were a superior caste to workers, farmers, merchants, and nobles. The Buddha ridiculed them in many ways, both in private with his loyal disciples and in public when non-believers were present. They lost most of their support, and conspired to discredit the Buddha by hiring a prostitute to pretend she had had an affair with him, then hiring some thugs to murder her.

The Buddha also criticised evil-doers among his own followers and constantly admonished his loyal disciples not to be heedless. He said, “Ānanda, I will not treat you [gently] as a potter treats an unbaked pot. I will instruct and admonish you repeatedly [robustly if necessary]. The sound core will stand the test.”

A basic assumption in Buddhism is that living beings are imperfect. They have defects rooted in greed, ill-will, and delusion. A Buddha, or Fully Awakened One, is a human being who began his career as a Bodhisatta many aeons ago, and cultivated spiritual perfections to achieve Buddhahood.

When Siddhattha Gotama was born, he was still an unenlightened Bodhisatta. Although already free from the vast majority of human defects shared by ordinary folk, he was still not a Buddha. He left the comfort of his palace, and meditated strenuously for six years to achieve perfection. Thereafter, he became a Buddha, and spent the remainder of his life teaching to others the meditation method that he had discovered for himself under the Bodhi tree.

Those who have faith in the Buddha’s teaching may become lay disciples, monks, or nuns. They become trainees who willingly undertake the discipline prescribed by the Buddha to train the mind, leading the practitioner towards perfection.

The Buddha would encourage his disciples with kindness and admonish them with harshness when necessary to remove their faults. If they did not respond to instruction, he would stop speaking to them. For a disciple this was the ultimate punishment. It is a spiritual death to refuse admonishment from one’s teachers and fellow monks or nuns. (See the Kesi Sutta).

Why are Buddhists Killing the Rohingya People?

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Current Affairs

Virtuous Buddhists observe the five precepts, avoiding killing even snakes and scorpions. It is impossible that they would kill defenceless women and children.

  1. Not all Buddhists are virtuous. Soldiers, especially, are not famous for abstaining from killing.
  2. Buddhists who are normally virtuous sometimes kill in self-defence, e.g. if being attacked or robbed. It is still an unwholesome deed, but less serious. No court should convict them of murder.
  3. Unmindful and uneducated Buddhists who have been stirred up by hate-preaching monks, or by an angry mob, may kill others for no legitimate reason. Their crime is one of murder, and a racially motivated or religiously motivated hate crime at that. It is worse than killing in warfare, or a crime of passion, or even one motivated by greed, e.g. if disturbed by the owner when robbing his house. It is premeditated, first-degree murder. The hate-preachers are extremely blameworthy here. Monks should be preaching about tolerance and reconciliation, but note that “Idiot Compassion” is also wrong. The wrong-doers deserve to be punished by due process of the law.
  4. Killing for revenge is not killing in self-defence. If someone murders a murderer who killed their own relative, it is still murder in the eyes of the law. One would get a lighter sentence due to mitigating circumstances. However, due process should be followed. If the murderer escapes justice in this life, he or she will still face it in the next, so a Buddhist should be long-sighted, not short-sighted, as told in the life of Dīghayu in the Jātaka story.
  5.  Mob rule and vigilante groups only happen when the rule of law is weak, and the judiciary and police are corrupt. This is the situation in Rakhine state. The Rohingya population have long been subjected to injustice, denied citizenship, education, medical care, and other basic human rights.
  6. Every country needs to deal with illegal immigration in a way that is just and not inhumane. Where no evidence of legal immigration can be shown, migrants and their families should be deported to their country of origin.

The Sixth Buddhist Council

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The picture in my blog header shows the man-made cave used for the Sixth Buddhist Council.

Soon after regaining Independence, the Government of Myanmar began plans to hold a Sixth Buddhist Council (Chaṭṭha  Saṅgāyana) in Myanmar, with four other Theravāda Buddhist countries (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos) participating. For this purpose the Government dispatched a mission to Thailand and Cambodia, composed of Nyaungyan Sayādaw, Mahāsi Sayādaw, and two laymen. The mission discussed the plan with leading Buddhist monks of those two countries.

In the historic Sixth Buddhist Council, which was inaugurated with every pomp and ceremony on 17th May 1954, Mahāsi Sayādaw played an eminent role, undertaking the exacting and onerous tasks of Final Editor (Osana) and Questioner (Pucchaka). A unique feature of this Council was the editing of the commentaries (Aṭṭhakathā) and Subcommentaries (Ṭīkā), as well as the canonical texts. In the editing of this commentarial literature, Mahāsi Sayādaw was responsible for making a critical analysis, sound interpretation, and skilful reconciliation of several crucial, but divergent passages.

A significant result of the Sixth Buddhist Council was the revival of interest in Theravāda Buddhism among Mahāyāna Buddhists. In 1955, while the Council was in progress, twelve Japanese monks and a Japanese laywoman arrived in Myanmar to study Theravāda Buddhism. The monks were initiated into the Theravāda Buddhist Saṅgha as novices while the laywoman was made a Buddhist nun. Then, in July 1957, at the instance of the Buddhist Association of Moji, the Buddha Sāsana Council of Myanmar sent a Theravāda Buddhist mission to Japan. Mahāsi Sayādaw was one of the leading representatives of the Burmese Saṅgha in that mission.

Also in 1957, Mahāsi Sayādaw undertook the task of writing an introduction in Pāli to the Visuddhimagga Atthakathā, to refute certain misstatements about its famous author, Ven. Buddhaghosa. The Sayādaw completed this difficult task in 1960, his work bearing every mark of distinctive learning and depth of understanding. By then the Sayādaw had also completed two volumes (out of four) of his Burmese translation of this famous commentary and classic work on Buddhist meditation.

Fake News

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Current Affairs

As far as possible, one should avoid speech that is displeasing to others, but sometimes it is necessary to refute untruths. Nowadays, there is a lot of fake news available as it is easy for rumours to spread without anyone checking the facts. Even before the invention of the Internet, this was a problem. Sir Winston Churchill said: “A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” (Brainy Quotes)

Politicians with an agenda use lies and half-truths to stir up hatred between different groups. Religious and political leaders should be promoting tolerance and harmony, but many seek their own advantage by spreading intolerance and racism. In the Dabbhapuppha Jātaka, a wily jackal saw two otters disputing over the ownership of a fish. He offered his services to make a judgement on their dispute. They agreed, so he gave the head to one, the tail to the other, and took the middle for himself.

In any community where there are people of different religions, or from different ethnic backgrounds, the entire community can be prosperous if they co-operate and remain in harmony. Even within a family or a workplace there can be disputes. Wherever harmony is destroyed, everyone suffers. People may be lynched or beaten to death on the basis of a rumour. Careers, friendships, and marriages can be destroyed by false allegations. Anyone who claims to be fighting the war on error should make a proper inquiry before accepting as true the statement of another, words written in any book or on the Internet. Whenever accusations of serious wrong-doing are made, such as murder, theft, or sexual assault, a proper investigation should be made by the police and a judgement made in the courts. If the decision is just, everyone should accept it and abide by the ruling. If it is not, then one can appeal to a higher court, or just accept it as the result of past evil kamma and get on with one’s life. The world is full of injustice, and it is seldom worthwhile dedicating one’s entire life to reversing an unjust decision.

Free OpenType Fonts for Pali

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I have updated my Pali OpenType font to include all of the currency symbols, including those new in Unicode version 10.0

Pali Typeface Download Pali as a  7-Zip  Archive.

I need fonts with a wide range of diacritics for Pāḷi and Sanskrit words in Buddhist Publications. Over the years I have added a full set of Latin Extended Additional for the benefit of Vietnamese Buddhists, basic Greek, and a full set of Miscellaneous Symbols and Dingbats.

Version 10.0 of Unicode added another currency symbol for Bitcoin. I have added this to my latest fonts to complete support for the Currency Symbols character set.

OpenType features were added using FontCreator 11.5 from High-Logic.

Typeface Sample

Latest Updates

Earlier versions used Contextual Ligatures for Velthuis Encoding of Pāḷi, which led to problems for some users. These newer versions now use a Stylistic Set, which is not enabled by default.

A Bitcoin currency symbol has been added, and some more superscripts and subscripts to use with fractions like (a+b)/c-d).

Version 3.90 adds Stylistic Alternates for gold drop capitals — the Pagoda Symbol is now gold too.

The Stylistic Set for symbols was changed to Character Variants, and a second Stylistic set was added for Romanian Alternate forms: Şş and Ţţ (Localised forms are not supported by the Serif Apps that I use). More superscript and subscript glyphs were added for the fractions feature, which now works for fractions like x+y/(a-b). The fonts were validated to remove suspicious points and other bugs.

Acariya Typeface  • Download 

Cankama TypefaceDownload

Guru TypefaceDownload

Sukhumala TypefaceDownload

Verajja TypefaceDownload

Verajja Serif TypefaceDownload

The Reclining Buddha

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The image of a Reclining Buddha that I use in my Forum Profile has great significance in Buddhism. The image is not of the Buddha sleeping, but of him lying on his death-bed just before his final passing away (parinibbāna). For most people, the last hours of a beloved parent is a moment of great sadness, and the dying person may be greatly distressed too, fearful of what might lie ahead, or grief at separation from loved ones. However, in the case of the Buddha, it was the moment of his final victory over Māra. On the eve of his Enlightenment, he gained personal realisation of the truth and liberation from suffering, but his duty was not yet complete. He had to strive and face adversity for forty-five more years in order to propagate and establish his teaching.

During his last Rains Retreat (August to October) the Buddha was visited by Māra urging him to pass away as he had already accomplished his task of establishing the monastic communities of monks and nuns, and his teaching would therefore be continued after his demise. The Buddha told Māra to wait, and declared that three months from that time he would attain the final nibbāna. This event recorded in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta is significant, because it would put the date of the Buddha’s demise sometime in January, not in May when the Buddha’s final demise is usually commemorated in most Buddhist traditions.

In Theravāda countries, the anniversary of this great event passes by unnoticed in January. The full-moon day this year is 12th January.

The photograph in my profile is, I think, taken of the “Nine-storey Buddha” in Rangoon, which is a huge reclining Buddha not far from the Mahāsi meditation centre. There is an older and more famous statue in Pegu, called the “Shwethalyaung Piya.”