Back to OWR Homepage Back to South-East
Asian Religions timechart

Thuddama Nikaya

Doctrines The Thuddama Nikaya adheres to the basic tenets of Buddhist doctrine. It differs from the Shwegyin Nikaya in adopting a more pragmatic view of monastic discipline. This allows, for example, monks to become directly involved in national politics.

History The Thuddama Nikaya derives its name from the religious council (Thudamma) which was founded towards the end of the 18th century by King Bodawpaya (r. 1782-1819). Bodawpaya was a reclkess megalomaniac king who provoked a number of border clashes with the British in India. Continued provocation of the British by Bowdapaya's successor, Bagyidaw, led the British to invade Burma in 1824 and to force it to surrender in 1826. Following Burmese surrender, eastern Burma was ceded to the British.
In 1852 the British took possession of western Burma. The interior of Burma remained independent, and this was ruled by King Mindon (r. 1853-78). During his reign Mindon called the fifth Buddhist council, which produced a revised edition of the Pali Tipitaka. Mindon's death in 1878 led to chaos in independent Burma and provided the British with the opportunity to occupy the rest of the country. British rule in Burma was harsh and unpopular and a series of uprisings against the British broke out, leading them to bring to an end the monarchy. All that was left for the Burmese as a national symbol was the Sangha. Accordingly, members of the Sangha, particularly those belonging to the Thuddama Nikaya, became politicised through their involvement in the struggle against British rule.
Independence from the British came in 1947. Burma's first premier was U Nu, who ruled the country from 1948 to 1962. Between 1954 and 1956 U Nu organised a sixth Buddhist council which was modelled on Mindon's fifth council. Economic underdevelopment, combined with conflicts within the Sangha between modernists and traditionalists, served to discredit the government of U Nu, which was replaced in a coup by a new government under General Ne Win. Ne Win's government did not, however, fare any better than that of his predecessor. Continued economic deterioration led to rioting in 1988 and the resignation of Ne Win. In 1990 a national election was held which was won resoundingly by Aung San Suu Kys National League for Democracy. The election result was not recognised by the military who still retain control over the country. The only source of effective opposition to the government is the Burmese Sangha.

Symbols Temples, pagodas, images of the Buddha.

Adherents Thuddama comprises about 85 to 90 per cent of the Burmese Sangha. (Spiro 1982, 316) It has about 250,000 ordained monks. (Harris et al. 1992, 351)

Headquarters/
Main Centre
  Thuddamma centres are to be found throughout Burma