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HISTORY OF THE PYU IN MYANMAR  (BURMA)

There were several early tribes from India, Tibet and China.who migrated into Burma to escape from numerous wars between various kingdoms. . The most notable one was the Pyu, pronounced "pew" from Northern India. They migrated into Burma to escape from numerous wars between various kingdoms in eastern India. They were “Brahman” or from the priestly caste. According to Hindu historians, the term “Burma” is derived from the Indian word “Brahmin”. Over centuries, the name of the country has taken many forms, such as Bharma, Bhama, Barmar, Bama and then, until recently, was known as Burma. The ancient Chinese called the people of this region Mein. Over time, it evolved to Meinma, Mramma, and presently, it is named Myanmar, symbolically meaning “the first inhabitants of the region." This is the English spelling of the country they ruled for nearly a century from mid 19th Century to the mid 20th Century.

The Pyu, whose tradition was deeply rooted in the lifestyle of the eightfold yoga system from Patanjali and the "Yoga Sutras",  established a highly peaceful Hindu kingdom in the great Irrawaddy valley around 500 BC. They were joined by other tribes determined to live a spiritual lifestyle. One of those tribes was from Southern Tibet whose “Khoghan” system of zones influenced their yoga practice. They were also known to practice different forms of Yoga such as Raja yoga, Karma yoga, Tantric yoga, Hatha yoga, Dhanda yoga, Letha yoga, Longi yoga and others.They refined the Hatha yoga system along with the other systems and created the Hanthawaddy yoga system.  By the 3rd Century AD, they had built their elegant capital at Sri Ksetra, near where Pyay is now, with hundreds of golden stupas, temples and monasteries. Their high cultural ideals embraced spiritual beliefs of Brahmanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Tantricism, Mysticism, and Shamanism.

The Pyu settled in these river delta areas because they were fertile and protected by the mountains. The rivers carry away debris and waste as well as bring in life and fresh nutrients Stress and trauma, like debris, need to move through and flow to release or flush from the body. .Hanthawaddy is a form of  “emotional hygiene”. Every morning we should be washing our emotions from a posture of anger to a posture of peace. These river valleys or deltas were known as Waddy. Hantha means peaceful, hence Hanthawaddy (place of peace). This yoga system  developed utilizing the Ko Ghan system with the nine zones, the alignment of the staff (Dhanda) training, and with the controlled breath and energy meditation of Min Zin became known as Hanthawaddy (peaceful place). Our body is the place or temple. Since other streams and rivers join in the valleys there is reference to “joining” of that peaceful place. This peace is what we should find or establish within our temple, "within ourselves".

Chinese Buddhist pilgrims who traveled and studied at Sri Ksetra described this kingdom as a “peaceful land,” a “holy land,” and “the land of a thousand temples.” Pilgrims from the surrounding states visited various monasteries of this region. Chinese traders used the region for rest and restocking of goods before they made their rugged journeys to India, Persia and other countries.

Burmese Pagoda

As early as 500 BC, Chinese traders were using an overland route from China [Yunnan area] through northern Burma into India through Assam. [NOTE: This ancient route, which dates back to 500 BC, became one of the famous roads during WWII. American engineers in 1940 expanded the road and called it THE BURMA ROAD.

One of the earliest written records of Chinese emissaries and traders traveling on this route reported (around 500 B.C.) that:

  “Early in the morning with the rising sun, young and old men of villages and towns practiced elaborate sets of exercises using their bamboo and wooden long staff. They performed their vigorous sequence of exercises, standing, sitting, kneeling and squatting. These exercises were supervised by elders.”

REVIVAL AND PRESERVATION OF THESE SYSTEMS

Anant Krishna Vaidya was an internationally renowned Yogi from India. From 1880-1940, he taught the philosophy, principles, and practice of yoga as the foundation for physical health and fitness, physical culture, athletics and sports, and also for emotional and spiritual growth. In 1914, he founded Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal  at the city of Amravati in India. He also restored, revived, and systemized some of the ancient systems using the staff, rope, and stone: along with various yogic asanas to develop strength, stamina, suppleness, and stability for physical, athletic, and martial training.

Around 1935, Ba Than Gyi, who later became the director of Health and Physical Education, and Sports and Athletics in the Ministry of Education in Burma, became one of the many disciples of Anant Krishna Vaidya. Some of Vaidyas’s yoga exercises and training methods for sports and athletics were incorporated into the curriculum for physical education programs.

During World War II Burma was devastated. Many pre-war programs were phased out including the teaching of Anant Krishna Vaidya. Only a handful of people in Burma continued to practice and teach exercises and drills taught by Vaidya.

After World War II, Ba Than Gyi established the Bando Meditation Center in December 1945 in the city of Maymo in northern Burma. Ba Than Gyi also attempted to integrate some of the teachings of Anant Krishna Vaidya and the ancient Pyu monk’s system, which were still practiced by a handful of Brahmin clans in remote towns such as Homalin, Halin,Tamu, Kalamyo, and Amarapura. With his dedicated staff members, he succeeded in organizing, classifying, and categorizing various yoga postures, exercises and drills. Ba Than Gyi’s son, Dr. Maung Gyi, later brought these systems as well as other systems to Americain the late 1950’s. It is practiced by a small group of dedicated students and teachers here in the U.S. under the auspices of the non-profit American Bando Association.

Great gratitude needs to be given to Dr. Maung Gyi for sharing and restoring these systems

Dr Gyi

Dr. Mung Gyi's Ordination ceremony conducted by his holiness Sayadow"Notice the Monk Staff"

MORE HISTORY OF MYANMAR  (BURMA)

Predominantly vegetarian, the Pyu discouraged killing and placed strong emphasis on preserving the lives of all creatures, great or small. They created an agrarian society complete with sophisticated systems of canals, elaborate irrigation devices and advanced methods of animal husbandry. The Pyu kingdom became one of the major trade routes between India and China. Roman embassies traveling from Rome to China from 97 – 121 AD used this peaceful region for their overland journey.

The Roman ambassadors reported that chains, fetters and prisons were unknown in this peaceful society. Harsh punishments and executions were not practiced as in the surrounding kingdoms. Killing for territorial gain, political dominance and vengeance was against the cultural values.

The end of the Pyu Kingdom

Around the 6th Century, the Mons, a fierce warrior people who originated from Eastern India gradually moved down and subdued the Pyu kingdom and settled in the region. The Pyu scattered, many going north.

In the 8th Century, an offshoot of the old  “Ch’iang” Tibetan tribes from the eastern Himalayas, known to western scholars as “Tibeto-Burmans” migrated into the region. After a long and complicated struggle, the Mons were defeated. The Tibeto-Burmese culture merged with the Mon culture.

Burma emerging as a Nation

By the middle of the 11th Century, Burma emerged as a Nation after numerous wars between small and large kingdoms in the region. The Great King Anawrahta [1044-1077] united the country and established his capital at Bagan in the north central Burma along the Irrawaddy River.

During the next century the city of Bagan grew dramatically. There was a great religious surge among the people, initiating extraordinary architectural and artistic activity in the region. More than 10,000 pagodas, temples, shrines and monasteries were built in the region. Today Bagan is the largest archaeological site in all of Asia. Even though Buddhism was adopted by the kings and the people of Burma, remnants of ancient and rituals of Hinduism, Tantricism, and Shamanism are still practiced today.

Geography

Map of Burma.

The geographical size of present Burma is slightly larger than Germany or France. This country is sandwiched between Tibet to the north, China to the north-east, India to the west, Lao and Thailand to the south-east. Burma has several high mountain ranges coming down from the Himalayas, dense jungles in the east and west, a desert region in the center and the delta region in the south. There are four great rivers: Chindwin, Sittang, Salween and Irrawaddy. These rivers are like 4 long fingers spreading across and dividing the country. The Irrawaddy River is considered to be one of the great rivers of the world. It travels more than 1200 miles from the Tibetan plateau across the middle of Burma to the Indian Ocean. Hundreds of ancient tribes from India, Tibet and China used these rivers in search for food and settlements.

 

 

 

 

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