Yesterday we saw the Tipitaka had been carved on marble slabs at the Kuthodaw Pagoda. Right next door at the Sandamuni Pagoda, there are slabs which contain not just the Tipitaka, but the commentaries and sub-commentaries as well. How it is that the former is classed as the World’s Largest Book and not the one at the Sandamuni Pagoda is a mystery to me.
Overhead View of the Kuthodaw and Sandamuni Pagodas
The history of the Pagoda is written up in stone in the compound and here is a transcript (slightly corrected for spelling and diction):
Nanmyaebonthar Sannandawya Sandamuni Pagoda
1. On the full moon day of Nayon in M.E. 1229 [C.E. 1867] King Mindon dismantled the temporary palace called Nanmyaebonthar and built a 100ft pagoda in its place.
King Badon, the grandfather of King Mindon had a Buddhist statue cast at Mingun. That image was made of 11,368 viss of iron and was entitled “Sandamuni”, which means the image is graceful like the full moon.
It was moved from Amarapura and enshrined in the present [Sandamuni] Pagoda. That’s why it is entitled Nanmyaebonthar Sannandawya Sandamuni Pagoda meaning the pagoda as graceful as a fullmoon in the place of the Nanmyaebonthar Palace.
2. In M.E. 1275 [C.E. 1913], in the compound of Sandamuni Pagoda, Venerable Hermit U Khanti managed to inscribe Sutta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma from [the] Tipitaka with [a] complete explanation (Atthakatha and Tika) on 1772 stone slabs and a historical record was [also] inscribed on an iron sheet and a stone slab.
3. These stone slabs are:
- (a) Vinaya Pitaka – 395 slabs
- (b) Sutta Pitaka – 1207 slabs
- (c) Abhidhamma Pitaka – 170 slabs
4. In [a] seven acre … compound there are:
- 248 pagodas housing a single slab each
- 139 pagodas housing three slabs each
- 72 eight-unit pagodas housing three slabs each,
which altogether contains 891 slabs, and
297 four-pillared pagodas housing three slabs each which contain 891 slabs.
All these pagodas are made of brick and called Dhammazedis. These pagodas contain records of [the] Buddha’s teachings.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that both the pagodas are littered throughout, and there seems to be no proper maintenance programme, and it struck me that maybe it is felt that, whereas there is great merit in building these places, there is no merit in keeping them clean.
But it is really striking to see such wonderful works as those at the Kuthodaw and Sandamuni Pagodas, which hold the most sacred scriptures of the tradition standing in a pile of rubbish, along with ciggie-buts, betel-spit and all the rest of it. When walking around the small pagodas one has to tread gingerly, because it’s not clear what one might be putting one’s foot down on.
Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of the authorities of the respective temples to see that a proper cleaning programme would not only pay respect to the Dhamma, but would also go to find employment for those who might be otherwise unemployed, or under-employed.