Champions of Buddhism, I.1B


On Wizards

Patrick Pranke

12 to 31

pp. 12-13 weikza-do

p. 12

"The Burmese weikza-do, being a powerful Buddhist thaumaturge, ...

{Incidentally, thaumaturges are more typical of Taoist, than of Bharatiya, tradition.}

makes a full and flamboyant use of his powers to assist good people ... . The weikza-do makes his debut ... in early nineteenth-century Burmese folklore in the figure of a wizard named Bo Bo Aung. Bo Bo Aung is portrayed as

a white-clad turbaned layman".

{typically Gurkha men's garb}

p. 13

"A common ... scenario has the weikza-do await the parinibbana of Gotama Buddha's relics, an event that will occur at the end of the current 5,000-year sasana {s`asana 'punishing; teaching; government, dominion'}.

pp. 13-15 weikza-lam

p. 13

"The weikza-lam is an esoteric religious system that requires initiation under

a master or hsaya, and instruction in a repertoire of occult sciences

[p. 26, n. 33 : "Hsaya is the Burmese corruption of P. acariya and generically means simply "teacher.""]

whose mysteries may not be shared with outsiders. ... Apprenticeship in the weikza-lam entails training in ... the following disciplines : the use of magical incantations and spells (mandan {/man.d.ana/ 'adorning , ornament , decoration' < /man.d.a/ 'scum of boiled rice (or any grain); foam or froth of wine'}); alchemy (aggiyat {agniyat}), particularly those subtypes associated with the manipulation of mercury (byada) and iron (than) ...,

p. 14

and importantly because of its efficacy, the casting of ... magical diagrams (in, aing, sama). ...

In addition, runes are used to demarcate boundaries on the ground, especially for rites of initiation and exorcism."

{Renaissance-European grimoria/grimoires likewise describe the drawing on ground of magical circles, the boundaries whereof are similarly demarcated.}

"once readied, he [the hsaya] would extend his hands over the patient's body to sense an aura that indicated the etiology of the ailment and hence the remedy to be prescribed. ...

{This use of "magical passes" (of the healers hands through the aura in the air around the patient's body) is also typical in the spirit-mediumship in vogue in Vietnam -- and is there admitted to be of Taoist provenience.}

p. 15

Or the malady could be caused by payawga, a malevolent influence of ... spirit attack. In such cases, the hsaya would have to engage the dark forces ... using all the occult instruments at his disposal.

{How-be-it, traditional (tribal) shamanry (Siberian, etc.), the healing is ideally performed primarily in dreams (though to be re-enacted publicly in a waking-state) experienced by the curer in contact with spirit-helpers.}

This carried with it some risk for the hsaya ..., but if successful the patient would be restored to normalcy."

{In Siberian shamanry, this process of curing is likewise to considered to carry with it some risk to the shaman.}

pp. 15-16, 27 results of internal alchemy in producing a transcendental body for the adept

p. 15

"The principal metaphor is alchemical, where the corruptible body is transformed into a stable substance, ... transmuted into gold (... Spiro 1982:165).

{As experienced by a successful practitioner of Taoist "internal alchemy", there may be a replacement of the material body by (among various possible substances) a golden one, which is typically deemed more than merely metaphorical (and expected to be sensed in a trance -- if not in a dream).}

It is upon completing this transformation that the practitioner becomes a weikza-do, a "possessor of ["esoteric"] knowledge." {But /vidya/ (the conventionally-supposed etymon of /weikza/) hath the meaning of 'lore' (and not 'knowledge', which is /jn~ana/).}

{Could the true Skt etymology of this Burmese term be /vais`ya-ja DHANUS/? This person cannot be a cakra-vartin nor a buddha, praesumably simply because of not belonging to a ksatriya-jati; and therefore might be a vais`ya. Achievement of the "rainbow-body" (Bod. />ja>-lus/ = Skt /sura-DHAnUs kaya/) may be routine for a vidya-dhara.}

"In one of the more dramatic scenarios, the hsaya has his disciples prepare for him a coffin in which he will lie unconscious. At this time, the hsaya will be helpless against the forces of darkness that will surely try to destroy him. To defend him, disciples will draw protective diagrams, recite the appropriate incantations, and arm themselves with alchemical stones (dat-lon) to hurl at evil forces as they try to enter the consecrated space.

{Cf., e.g., how to the mummy there is recited : "those who are in the funeral chest rejoice because thou hast transformed thyself into a a hawk of gold by means of thy amulets (or talismans) of the City of Gold" (EM, p. 188). There is the caerimony of "the "Opening of the Mouth and the Eyes," ... performed ... on the mummy itself" (EM, p. 192), described as performed by certain priests and priestesses (EM, pp. 192-205).}

p. 16

After a pre-determined lapse of time, the coffin will be opened and if the disciples find it empty with only clothes left behind,

{This is usual in the case with Taoist saints who have become hsien.}

they will know that their hsaya had successfully de-materialized his body and escaped as an immortal (... Spiro 1982:170 ...). A person who makes the transition in this manner is called an ashin-htwet, or one who "exits alive."

A variation on this scenario has the successful practitioner leave behind an incorruptible body in the form of a mummy to serve as a kind of of relic for veneration by the faithful. A weikza-do who departs in this way is called an athay-htwet or one who "exits through ["apparent"] death" -- ... the mind of the practitioner did not die when exiting the body but ascended to the realm of the immortals perfectly alive."

p. 27, n. 39

"According to Theravada metaphysics, when mortals die their minds undergo a moment of "death consciousness" (cuti-citta), which terminates the present life, followed immediately by the moment of "rebirth consciousness" (pat.isandhi-citta), which initiates the next life. Bodhi 2000:122-4.

{"the death consciousness (cuti citta), which is identical in constitution and object to the bhavanga citta. ... The cuti citta is the end of the bhavanga flow of an existence and does not determine the nature of rebirth. The javana[=]s that occur just before the cuti citta arises form a kammic process and determine the nature of the rebirth consciousness." (AIP--"C")}

" " ""

In weikza-lam theory, when a perfected htwet-yat-pauk exits the body, his mind forgoes these two moments and simply continues uninterruptedly in the same life. For a discussion of the destination of htwet-yat-pauks after their exit from the mortal plane, see Foxeus 2011:177-82."

{It would be ridiculous to propose that a momentary event could have any influence on a full lifespan : it cannot, nor are past events capable of influencing a consciousness's future, which is determined, instead, by its own intrinsic nature, which is greatly different from-person-to-person, developments occurring in accord with the state-of-the-development of the universe-as-a-whole. Bauddha metaphysics is absurd.}

EM = Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge : Egyptian Magic. Kegan Paul, Trench, Tru:bner & Co., London, 1899/1901.

Spiro 1982 = Melford Elliot Spiro : Buddhism and Society. 2nd edn. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr.

Bodhi 2000 = Bhikkhu Bodhi : A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma : the Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Cariya Anuruddha. Onalaska : BPS Pariyatti Ednn.

AIP--"C" = Abhidhamma in Practice -- "Cittas".

Foxeus 2011 = Niklas Foxeus : The Buddhist World Emperor's Mission. PhD diss, Stockholm Univ.

{In order to accomplish a more complete description, the antara-bhava must be described in terms both of functions of deities praesiding over (at the least) : (1) transitions betwixt waking-state and sleeping-state; (2) transitions among various sleeping-states and trance-states; (3) interrelations among planes-of-existence; (4) interrelations among subplanes of planes-of-existence; (5) interrelations among species of plants and of animals abiding in subtle planes-of-existence; (6) interrelations among species of plants and of animals abiding in the material plane-of-existence; and (7) interrelations amongst categories of elemental spirits. Besides, the interactions among the various concentric and directional sectors of the several universes (astral, mental, and causal) need also be described in order to suggest methods for localization of redincarnations. The Sthavira-vadin technique of simply evading all these sort of topics pertinent to ro^les of transcendental principles in transmigrations of consciousnesses is so very crude as to rendre itself utterly worthless. [written May 16 2016]}

pp. 16, 27 doings of dead weikza-do

p. 16

"While weikza-do[-]s are freed from the limitations of physicality, they continue to communicate with their mortal followers, imparting instructions either in dreams or meditations, or in person. Sometimes they even take over the body of a disciple for a period of time, or even reanimate the corpse of a recently deceased individual -- whatever is necessary ... . Regardless of the means, the communication weikza-dos maintain with human beings is understood as a sign of their altruism ... . Because they are ever present in the world ..., weikza-dos can be supplicated for protection, for spiritual advice, and for mundane boons as well."

{A former spirit-guide of a defunct shaman, if arranged prior to the death so to function postmortem, is quite capable of peforming all such apparitional activities, with approval of various interco-operative committees of divinities functioning in control of the appropriate aspects of the material plane; along with the assistance of other pertinent spirit-guides and spirit-helpers. In the meanwhile, such former spirit-guide may identify with, and appear in the guise of, the defunct.}

p. 27, n. 40

"The ariya-weizza association described by Foxeus (2011:180-3) asserts that weikza-dos

generate bodies that are stored in hidden grottos which they can enter and exit at will. These bodies are used when acting in the material world."

{Such apparent bodies may, however, be mere spirit-guide-arranged replicas of lower-mental bodies (which may be visible to the living), and of lower-causal body (which is readily able to perform miracles in the open view of the living) -- all of which may have been constructed by divinities for occupation of the defunct when formerly alive locally.}

Foxeus 2011 = Niklas Foxeus : The Buddhist World Emperor's Mission : Millenarian Buddhism ... . PhD diss, Stockholm Univ.

p. 17 loka-uttara

"the weikza-lam also presents itself as a fully developed lokuttara "supra-mundane" salvation system; one ... offering an alternative to the standard soteriology recognized by the religious establishment. ... Second, advocates point out that that the motivation for taking up the weikza-lam is intrinsically meritorious because by definition perfected wizards use their esoteric knowledge to protect ... religion from the forces of evil. ... But the weikza-do ... may choose to remain as he is, a ... wizard, combating evil and doing good ... indefinitely."

pp. 17, 27 unavailing nature of vipas`yana

p. 17

"While generally acknowledging that liberation is possible ... through insight meditation,

votaries of the weikza-lam sometimes question whether it is as easy to attain as claimed by some contemporary teachers of vipassana."

p. 27, n. 41

"The Manosetopad {Manas-setos-pad 'Mind-Bridge-Foot'} Gaing, for example, holds that in the present decadent age, samatha {s`amatha} and vipassana lack real efficacy unless the body is first fortified through cultivating the esoteric sciences it prescribes. ... Pranke 1995:337-8."

p. 18 zawgyi

"The term weikza-do ... In Burmese literature ... only began to take on its present ... connotations in the nineteenth century ... . Prior to that, the weikza-do was a stock character in Burmese legend and drama assimilated to the zawgyi or Burmese alchemist, a ... figure who, because of the acuity of his sense of smell, was often portrayed ... as

having to resort {in dreams set (experienced) within divine Paradises?} to "fruit maidens" plucked from trees to satisfy his sexual needs (Htin Aung 1966:45).

{The growing of human bodies on trees -- a theme encountred in numerous tribal, and other, mythologies (praesumably derived from pertinently recurrent trance-and-dream experiences of expert shamans) -- may be relatable to the Popol Vuh description of human heads growing as fruits on a divine tree.}

As a ... zawgyi, the weikza-do ... was even portrayed as something good to eat, since consuming the flesh of a zawgyi was believed to give one superhuman strength." [p. 27, n. 43 : "The paradigm for this ... is the famous legend in the Maha-yazawin-gyi (c. 1724) ... . ... Kala 1934:186-8."]

{There are various Taoist legendary accounts of persons who acquired praeternatural abilities from comesting "stone soup" made from the mummified internal organs of dead alchemists' cadavres found in funebrial caverns.}

Htin Aung 1966 = Htin Aung : Burmese Monk's Tales. NY : Columbia Univ Pr.

Kala 1934 = U. Kala : Maha-yazawin-gyi, Vol. 1, ed. by Saya Pwa. Yangon : Myamma Thudethana-lin.

p. 28, n. 45 edible writing

"in weikza-lam practice, the ... consumption of runes (in, aing, sama) often displaces actual alchemy ... ." ... A similar science of "edible letters" (za yig) is attested in the Tibetan "treasure text" (gter ma) tradition {practiced in Bon, and adopted from Taoism}. Characters are written on slips of paper which are then consumed. Garrett 2009:87-91."

Garrett 2009 = Frances Garrett : "Eating Letters in the Tibetan Treasure Tradition". J OF THE INTERNAT ASSN OF BUDDHIST STUDIES 32.1-2:85-114. {Nearly everything reported in this unscrupulous journal is some practice plagiariazed, without acknowledgement, directly or indirectly from traditional Taoism, wherein it had been in common usage for centuries before plagiarized.}

p. 18 Vajra-yana formerly practiced in Burma

"the weikza-do shows remarkable similarity to the awe-inspiring mahasiddha, the "great accomplished one," of medieval Buddhist tantra from Bengal. Several of the eighty-four mahasiddhas of that tradition are portrayed as having attained immortality through alchemy ... . A common epithet of the mahasiddha in tantric literature is is vidya-dhara.

The Tibetan historian Taranatha (1575-1634) claimed that mahasiddhas had transmitted Buddhist tantra to Burma ...,

[p. 28, n. 46 : " Taranatha asserts that during the Indian Pala dynasty (eighth to twelfth century A.D.), ... Mantrayana flourished in Burma ..., and that ... the tantric Guhya-mantra was reintroduced by disciples of the Tamil mahasiddha S`anti[-]gupta. Chattopadhyaya 1980:330-1.]

... which is suggested by ... tantric imagery found at Minnanthu {named for siddha Mina-natha?}, a twelfth-century temple complex located on the outskirts of Pagan.

And as late as the fifteenth century, inscriptions record that tantric texts were ... in Upper Burma."

[p. 28, n. 48 : "These included the Mahakalacakka and its t.ika, the Mr.tyu[-]van~cana, literally "Cheating Death" ... . ... Chattopadhyaya 1980:331.]

Chattopadhyaya 1980 = Chimpa Alaka Chattopadhyaya : Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India. Calcutta : K. P. Bagchi & Co.

pp. 19, 29 Konbaun beginning of the weikza-lam

p. 19

"the Konbaung king, Bodaw-hpaya (r. 1782-1819) ... in the early nineteenth century imported from north India numerous treatises on Hindu calendrics, numerology, medicine, and alchemy. These were translated from Sanskrit and Bengali into Burmese. That there is ... historical connection between this and the emergence of the weikza-lam is suggested by the fact that the figure of King Bodaw-hpaya plays a major role in the legend of Bo Bo Aung."

p. 29, n. 50

"According to the legend, Bo Bo Aung and Bodaw-hpaya were childhood friends. When they grew up, Bo Bo Aung became a monk in Sagaing while Bodaw-hpaya became king and built his new capital across the river. One day, Bo Bo Aung discovered a manuscript with instructions on how to make magical diagrams (in). He mastered this science and returned to lay life whereupon ... Bo Bo Aung humbles the king with his magic. ... Ferguson and Mendelson 1981:67."

Ferguson & Mendelson 1981= John P. Ferguson & E. Michael Mendelson : "Masters of the Buddhist Occult : the Burmese Weikzas". In :- John P. Ferguson (ed.) : Essays on Burma. pp. 62-80.

pp. 19, 29 apotheosis of Taoist hsien ('immortals')

p. 19

"when we look at specific weikza-lam techniques for achieving physical invulnerability and descriptions of the weikza-do's "exit" from the mortal plane, we find close parallels with Chinese Daoist procedures for attaining immortality through "corpse deliverance" (shi[-]jie) in which the physical body is shed like a cicada husk and the immortal spirit is set free (Cedzich 2001:11). Of the many scenarios for transition envisaged in Daoist sources, leaving behind an incorruptible body and {i.e., alternatively} leaving behind little {hair and finger- and toe-nails} or nothing at all, match closely the two Burmese categories of athay-htwet "exit through ["apparent"] death" and ashin-htwet "exit alive" that mark the apotheosis of the weikza-lam practitioner."

p. 29, n. 51

"Needham 1971:301 ff. Chinese techniques of exorcising tombs to protect corpses from demon attack are also similar to the strategies used by disciples of of the would-be htwet-yat-pauk to protect him while he lay helpless in his coffin. See Bokenkamp 1999:239-42. On Chinese Buddhist permutations on these Daoist beliefs, see ... Ritzinger and Bingenheimer 2006".

Cedzich 2001 = Ursala-Angelika Cedzich : "Corpse Deliverance, Substitute Bodies, Name Change and Feigned Death : Aspects of Metamorphosis and Immortality in Early Medieval China". J OF CHINESE RELIGIONS 29:1-68."

Needham 1971 = Joseph Needham : Science and Civilization in China, Vol. 2. Cambridge Univ Pr.

Bokenkamp 1997 = Stephen R. Bokenkamp : Early Daoist Scriptures. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr. TAOIST CLASSICS, 1. (reprinted 1999)

Ritzinger & Bingenheimer 2006 = Justin Ritzinger & Marcus Bingenheimer : "Whole-Body Relics in Chinese Buddhism". INDIAN INTERNAT J OF BUDDHIST STUDIES 7:37-94.

pp. 19-20 & 30 terminology of the Vijja-magga-dipani by Ledi Hsayadaw

p. 19

"Ledi Hsayadaw ... his Vijjamaggadipani composed in 1898 ...

p. 20

presented presented an explication of mundane "lokiya" weikza-lam praxis in the idiom of abhidhamma. This was to provide ... an authoritative vocabulary and theoretical structure ... to articulate ... (Pranke 1995 [read "1985"?]:348)."

p. 30, n. 54

"Technical terms were adopted ... from the Abhidhamma Vibhanga and from the Pat.isambhidamagga of the Khuddaka Nikaya. Categories included

beda-weikza (P. veda-vijja),

manta-weikza (P. manta-vijja) {Skt mantra-vidya},

gandari-weikza (P. gandhari-vijja),

lokiya-weikza (P. lokiya-vijja),

ariya-weikza (P. ariya-vijja),

sintamaya-weikza (P. cintamaya-vijja), and

weikzamaya-eiddhi (P. vijjamaya-iddhi) {Skt vidyamaya-r.ddhi).

Ledi 1895 = "Vijjamagga-dipani". Reprinted in Ledi Dipani Paung-hkyup, vol. 2, pp. 291-355. Yangon : Thathana-yay uzi Htana Pon-hneik Taik. 1985.

p. 20 litterary polemics

To "objections ... Weikza-lam advocates respond by referencing abhidhamma a` la Ledi Hsayadaw ... .

Appealing to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, they note that the Buddha himself could have lived for an entire eon had he been asked to do so.

To the criticism that the desire for extraordinary long life betrays an attatchment to existence ... they respond that it is out of compassion that the Buddhist wizard prolongs his life,

sticking around in crummy samsara for the sake of others."

{This would be similar to (but rather more in accordance with Hina-yana ideals than) the typical Maha-yana vow by a bodhi-sattva to remain within samsara.}

pp. 21, 30-1 venerated mummies as whole-cadavre relics of saints

p. 21

"Housed in impressive halls and often covered in gold-leaf, these mummified bodies attract thousands of pilgrims a year."

p. 30, n. 60

"The most famous mummy of an acclaimed arahant is that of Sunlun Hsayadaw, which is preserved at Sunlun-gu Monastery in Mingyan in Upper Burma. It is displayed in an ornate gilt and glass sarcophagus surrounded by a circumambulatory walkway. Other notable full-body relics of acclaimed arahants include the gilded mummy of U Pyinnya (1864-1961) at Shwe-pauk-pin Monastery at Dala and the body of Zalun Hsayadaw, U Thuzata (1904-1984), kept at a modest shrine at Ngapali.

p. 31, n. 60

A video of the latter can be found on YouTube ... . The body of the htwet-yat-pauk, Dipa Aye-mya Hsayadaw, U Nandathiri (1910-1985), is enshrined at the Shin-hpyu Shin-hla Pagoda in Sagaing.

The most impressive shrine to a weikza-do is the Maha Hsay Wingaba Pagoda in Insein Township, Yangon. Built in 1958 as an elaborate Buddhist theme-park, it houses the gilt body of the Karen htwet-yat-pauk, U Thuriya."

p. 21 identical veneration

"The veneration shown to the preserved remains of acclaimed arahants and of weikza-dos is identical ... prostrating, circumambulating and reciting prayers; and the wishes made by the votaries : for health, for prosperity, and for happy rebirth, and so on, are likewise the same."


Be'ne'dicte Brac de la Perrie`re; Guillaume Rozenberg; and Alice Turner (edd.) : Champions of Buddhism : Weikza Cults in Contemporary Burma. National Univ of Singapore Pr, Singapore, 2014.