Burma, Buddhism And Incense Sticks

Might I inform you a story? It starts with a query. Do you recall the instances of the 1960s and early 1970s or have you heard about them? These had been the instances of the Cuba Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The instances of ‘The Beatles’ asking for ‘Love, Adore, Love’, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, the ‘Rolling Stones’ and Cat Stevens on his ‘Peace Train’, the instances of Hare Krishna, Make Adore-Not War, the instances of Woodstock, Hippies and Flower Energy, the instances of Ravi Shankar with his Sitar, Yoga, Yogis and India. Does any of this ring a bell with you? Properly, that was also the time when I had my very first encounter with Incense sticks. It was completely ‘en vogue’ to burn incense sticks specially on parties and to drift away on swath of incense smoke into the realm of dreams of a greater globe. Yes, in the 1960s we had been prepared to build a globe without having injustices and wars, in short, to make the globe a greater spot, or so we believed, “Peace, brother.”

Back then when I have had my very first ‘Incense Party’ experiences I did, amongst other individuals, not know two factors, namely that the dream of a greater globe would, alas, not turn into reality and that the soothing fragrance of incense sticks would 1 day turn into an every day reality of my life.

What was back in the 1960s the exotic pinnacle of my life as an adolescent in Germany, who with Ravi Shankar playing in the background burned incense for no factors other than to appreciate the sensory pleasure and the exotic atmosphere coming along with it, did later turn into an integral portion of my every day life. Without the need of Ravi Shankar, although. That was 25 years ago when just after some years in South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand – all nations in which incense sticks play an essential part in the people’s lives – I did, ultimately, place down roots in Burma.

In my today’s life I am surrounded by the smoke and aromatic scents of incense sticks at pretty much each and every corner. At household on my family’s Buddha altar, on the streets in nat homes that are placed in or at Banyan trees, in my friends’ properties, in the numerous smaller sized and bigger temples and pagodas that are lining the streets, and even in offices and numerous neighborhood shops everywhere are incense sticks gradually burning away, mainly emanating their beautiful fragrance of sandal wood, which is the most essential and primarily employed ingredient in Asian incense. On the other hand, in case the incense sticks are employed as a repellent to hold away the troublesome mosquitoes it is citronella that is employed as organic insect repellent.

When searching at it closely my post ought to basically be titled ‘Burma, Buddhism And Incense’, not ‘Incense Sticks’ for the sticks are only supporting the layer of aromatic components that is attached to it and burned by way of combustible incense a procedure that is also referred to as direct burning. Aromatic components or aromatic biotic supplies employed for incense are commonly all types of woods, roots, resins, flowers, seeds, fruits, herbs and leaves that release a pleasant fragrance when burned. Based on the intended use some of the mainly employed supplies are sandalwood, agar wood, pine, Cyprus, cedar, star anise, vanilla, cardamom, frankincense, benzoin, myrrh, mastic, Dragon’s blood, galangal, sage, tea, rose, lavender, clove and saffron.

The incense stick is just 1 of numerous feasible types of combustible incense. The other types are cones, coils, ropes and paper. But the sticks are the by men and women worldwide most extensively employed kind of incense. Also, they had been the very first kind of incense I have knowledgeable and it is as a result especially the incense sticks that remind me on these instances in the 1960s and the pleasant feelings the incense sticks have triggered then and do nevertheless trigger today when they are gradually burning away that have triggered my want to create this post.

Incense sticks are mainly red, occasional yellow or dark gray to black and accessible in two types, which are the cored stick and the strong stick. The cored stick that is primarily made in China and India exactly where they are referred to as Agarbatti (derived from the Sanskrit word Agaravarthi, gara = odour, agar = aroma, varthi = wound) comprises incense material and the supporting core of a stick mainly produced of bamboo whereas the strong stick that is primarily made in Tibet and Japan is produced completely of incense material. On the other hand, given that the strong stick has no reinforcing core it is breaking very easily. 1 specific sort of strong incense stick is the ‘Dragon Stick’. These sticks are typically really massive and are burned in open space only for they make such a huge quantity of smoke that if the incense would take spot inside closed space men and women in the area would be rapidly suffocated.

The primary purposes incense is employed for are to worship divine beings and ask for favours of them, to facilitate meditation, to help healing processes, to cleanse (each spiritual and physical) and disinfect, to repel insects or to just appreciate the sensory pleasure of the fragrance. But what ever the goal incense is employed for, asking for divine favours or facilitate meditation or to help healing processes or cleansing and disinfecting or repel insects or to just appreciate sensory pleasure it all occurs out of the very same motive, which is to make the globe a greater spot to be and boost life either on a smaller or smaller sized scale for a restricted quantity of men and women or on a huge scale for mankind in its entirety.

So far I have written a lot about my individual knowledge with incense and what incense is developing and employed for and not so significantly about incense itself. But I assume that is in so far excusable as incense does not exist for the goal of incense itself – which means it is no finish in itself- but for its constructive effects, which is to contribute substantially to the human beings having into the state of getting wholesome, comfy and satisfied. And it is these constructive factors that have triggered the coming into getting of incense and additionally not only that it nevertheless exists but that it was additional created from its earliest types into the science of aromatherapy.

The history of incense starts specifically at the moment when the very first man-produced spark jumped and lit a fire. The name incense itself enables drawing this conclusion due to the fact it is derived from the Latin word incendere that suggests ‘to burn’. On the other hand, although it is specific that incense currently exists as extended as man-produced fire it is completely uncertain exactly where it has originated from. But I think that it is secure to assume that it was not 1 particular spot from which it originated but that it was men and women of numerous various cultures in numerous various locations who found and understood independently the worth of incense and realised that incense is affecting the state human beings are in spiritually, emotionally and – think it or not – also physically. And then men and women started to place incense to various but primarily religious and healing makes use of the border involving which is, by the way, blurred. Millennia old archaeological findings and historical traditions from about the globe do not only assistance this assumption but are irrefutable proof that it is a appropriate assumption.

Exactly where is the incense stick coming from? It was the Chinese who in the course of the reign of the Ming Dynasty that lasted for pretty much 300 years from 1348 to 1644 invented and introduced the incense stick that is referred to as Joss stick in China. There is a wide variety of various incense stick fragrances accessible for which cause the sticks can be categorized according to their aroma as floral sticks, sandal wood sticks, perfumed sticks, and so on and so forth.

It is no accident that I have place ‘worshiping’ at the best of the a.m. summary of makes use of due to the fact of all the makes use of incense is place to the use in religious ceremonies is undoubtedly the most essential 1. By the by, incense creating was an art created and practised by monks and this brings us to the core of the subject Burma, Buddhism and incense.

Incense plays even though there are cultural variations a central portion in all religions from e.g. Christianity to Islam to Hinduism and Paganism and there is certainly significantly to create about. On the other hand, in this post I want to confine it to Buddhism in basic and Buddhism in Burma in certain. I have not described Buddhism in 1 sentence with religions due to the fact Buddhism is by widespread definition not a religion. The definition of religion is really complicated and I acknowledge that the answer to the query ‘Buddhism religion or philosophy?’ depends on how religion and philosophy are defined. Based on what your individual interpretations of religion and philosophy are Buddhism will be a religion, a philosophy or each. What tends to make factors so hard to identify is the truth that there is no absolute consensus amongst scholars on what is needed for anything to be viewed as a religion. On the other hand, in my opinion Buddhism is a ‘Way of Life Philosophy’ rather than a religion. I might make this a subject of one more post sometime in the future but for now I leave it at that.

For all the variations in the detail most religions are fairly significantly alike, which goes also for Buddhism. The initial motives are the very same, the ultimate objectives are the very same and it is only the suggests to attain the ultimate objective that differ. The various primary types of Buddhism are Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism.

Theravada Buddhism, which is the oldest current kind of Buddhism started its triumphal march into present days Burma – given that 1989 also referred to as Myanmar – just after getting been brought to the very first civilisations in this area namely, the Mon and the Pyu kingdoms by missionaries from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) extended prior to the very first look of the Burmans also referred to as Bamar who had been animists.

From the Mon Kingdom ‘Suvannabhumi’ the ‘Golden Land’ Theravada Buddhism also spread to neighbouring nations such as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

In 1056/57 A.D. Theravada Buddhism was introduced into the chiefly animistic Pagan (Bagan), the 1st Burmese Kingdom, by king Anawratha just after his return from the victorious military campaign against king Manuha’s Mon Kingdom Thaton. King Anawratha who ruled Pagan from 1044 to 1077 A.D. was converted to Theravada Buddhism by Shin Arahan, a Theravada Buddhist monk from Thaton.

Just after the collapse of the kingdom of Pagan in 1287 A.D. the tradition of Theravada Buddhism that was practised all through the nation and had turn into dominant was continued. Burma is today with 86 % of its population getting born Buddhists the 2nd on the list of Theravada Buddhism majority nations just after Thailand with 90 % of its population getting Theravadins. Burma is also 1 of the most active Buddhist nations and has the biggest quantity of monks and nuns relative to the total population. At this point I really feel the require to give additional explanation regarding the kind of Theravada Buddhism that is practised in Burma due to the fact it is not the pure Theravada as it was practised by the Mon.

Burma’s Theravada Buddhism is a mixture of Theravada, Nat Cult and Naga Cult, in other words, a mixture of Theravada Buddhist doctrine, Hinduism and deep-rooted components of the original spirit worshipping. In the following I will give a really short explanation as to why this is so.

Even the highly effective king Anawrahta was unable to eradicate the animistic beliefs of his men and women just after getting converted to Theravada Buddhism and determined to make it the dominant belief in his kingdom. Most most likely he was also unwilling to do that as it would have absolutely been met with the sturdy resistance of his subjects. Hence he compromised. On the 1 hand he condemned animistic customs and beliefs and on the other hand he integrated components of it into Theravada by officially accepting a group of ‘Nats’ (celestial beings or guardian spirits) lowered to 36 ‘handpicked’ principal nats to which he added as the 37th nat ‘Thagyamin’. Thagyamin is basically a Hindu deity primarily based on Indra, who is as the ‘King of Nats’ reigning more than ‘Tavatimsa’ (abode of celestial beings also referred to as heaven or seven-highest abode of heaven). Each ‘Naga Cult’ and ‘Nat Cult’ have assimilated with Theravada Buddhist doctrines in Burma and have turn into an integral portion of Burmese people’s beliefs specially in rural regions. Even Buddhist pagodas have nats and nagas as guardian spirits. As to e.g. Yangon’s terrific, golden ‘Shwedagon Pagoda’, (the world’s biggest and most renowned pagoda) this is the nat (guardian spirit) ‘Bo Bo Gyi’. Bo Bo Gyi is in harmonious coexistence with Thagyamin and photos of Gautama Buddha on the pagoda terrace safeguarding the Shwedagon from ill fate.

Irrespective of the certain Buddhist tradition burning incense sticks is an essential ritual. It is customary for Theravada Buddhists to involve incense sticks into their offerings comprising apart from the incense sticks fruits, flowers, water and a candle. On the other hand, the quantity of incense sticks supplied as a present to Buddha is not selected arbitrary. It is often 3 to equal the ‘Three Jewels’ in Theravada Buddhism the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha (Buddhist monk neighborhood) what tends to make it a total of 3 incense sticks. These 3 incense sticks are lit collectively and In the Theravada Buddhist tradition placed as an providing in front of a Buddha statue either at pagodas or on household altars exactly where the area is rapidly filled with the sweet fragrance of Sandal wood, a wood that is given that millennia of the utmost significance to Buddhists.

Some words of warning and tips are at this point in time proper due to the fact in closed environments incense smoke does also have adverse effects on the humans’ wellness. The keyword is ‘indoor pollution’.

According to scientists incense smoke consists of a dangerous mixture comprising carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other volatile chemical substances. These chemical substances can as the scientists say be straight linked to physical issues such as headache, lung disorder, liver disorder and even cancer. Hence, rooms in which supplies employed for incense are burned ought to be effectively ventilated so that a continuous and enough influx of fresh and clean air is assured in order to minimize feasible harm to wellness to a minimum what is, ideally, zero.