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Ministry Of Religious Affairs

      The Union of Myanmar has a population of more than 48 million (1995 Census). According to the country's basic principles, anyone can freely profess any religion he or she likes. Currently, the population consists of Buddhists 89.28 %, Christians 5.06 %, Islamists 3.78 %, Hindus 0.51 %, Animists 0.21 % and others 0.16 %.
      As to Theravada Buddhism, the Union of Myanmar officially recognizes nine ganas (sects). They are: Sudhamma gana; Shwekyin gana; Dhammanu-dhamma mahadvaranikaya gana, Dhammavinayanuloma muladvaranikaya gana; Anauk-chaung dvara gana; Veluvanna nikaya gana; Catubhummika mahasatipatthana ngettwin gana; Ganavimutti gadoh gana; and Dhamma- maharin gana.
      At present there are 167,562 bhikkhus (monks) and 239,341 sammaneras (novices) in Myanmar According to the 1980 Convocation of Samgha of All Ganas, supervision of samgha by samgha, Sasana affairs, religious education affairs, religious judgemental affairs (Vinicchaya), misdeeds of the samgha, law cases between lay people and the samghas or samaneras, defrocking of immoral samghas, and general admonition are to be carried out by the samgha themselves. So these are being done by samgha organizations at different levels, viz, One State Ovadacariya Committee, One State Central Working Committee of Samgha, One State Samgha Mahanayaka Committee, 49 State Division Samgha Nayaka Committees, 500 Township Samgha Nayaka Committees, and 5763 Ward Samgha Nayaka Committees. There are now 24,154 practising nuns who receive the advice of the State Samgha Mahanayaka Committee. The nuns also follow the principle of supervision of nuns by nuns. Hence there are now Township Buddhist Nuns Committees and State / Division Buddhist Nuns Committees.
      At the second meeting of the State Samgha Mahanayaka Committee 47 members plenary meeting the Chairman Sayadaw of the State Samgha Mahanayaka Committee had given instruction that Buddhist nuns should also be given missionary tasks. So, like bhikkhus the nuns also are now engaged in social work such as the education and fostering of children.

Presentation of Buddhist Religious Titles
      The number of Buddhist religious titles awarded from 1-4-1995 to 14-11-1997 are as follows:
Title 1996 1997
- Abhidhajamaharatthaguru 1 2
- Aggamahapandita 16 22
- Aggamahaganthavacakapandita 15 12
- Mahaganthavacakapandita 16 19
- Culaganthavacakapandita 11 9
- Aggamahakammathanacariya 5 4
- Mahakammathanacariya 2 7
- Mahadhammakathikabahujanahita 1 -
- Dhammakathikabahujanahitadhara 2 2
- Abhidhaja-aggamahasaddhammajotika 1 3
- Aggamahasaddhammajotika 13 17
- Mahasaddhammajotika 6 16
- Saddhammajotikadhaja 3 5
- Sirisudhammamanijotadhara 2 1
- Sihasudhammamanijotadhara 1 1
- Sudhammamanijotadhara 1 -
- Aggamahasirisudhammasingi - 1
- Sirisudhammasingi 1 1
- Sihasudhammasingi 2 3
- Sudhammasingi - 2
Total .... 99 127

      Worthy recipients are presented with Buddhist religious titles in a grand ceremony held every year on the full moon day of Myanmar calendar month of Tabaung inside the Mahapasana Great Sacred Cave. These ceremonies are attended by State leaders who give away the titles in person. The Title Presentation Ceremony is usually followed by the Grand Dry Rations Donation Ceremony Title recipient Mahatheras receive the yearly cash donations for alms-food as prescribed. Likewise, on the demise of Mahatheras cash donations for funeral rites are given according to the title category.

Meetings of the Samgha Organizations
      The weekly meeting of the State Samgha Mahanayaka Committee, 47 member Plenary Meeting (every four months), and the annual meeting of the State Central Working Committee of the Samgha are held so that recording of activities of the samgha organizations, giving decisions on religious matters, and adoption of future programmes can be done so as to purify, perpetuate and propagate the Sasana.

All-Gana Meeting of Mahadvaranikaya
      The State helped out as necessary when the Mahadvaranikaya held its all-gana Mahanayaka devotional offering ceremony and Mahasannipata meeting on 11-3-96 at Athoke, Yekyi Township, Ayeyarwady Division. On these occasions the Secretary-1 of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) supplicated on religious affairs. Cash donations were made on both occasions.
      In 1995, Theravada Ovadacariya Committee sent out for practical missionary work 21 Sasana Takkasila Dhammacariya graduate monks of the State Pariyatti Sasana Universities (Yangon & Mandalay) to the border areas, Again, in 1996, 71 Sasana Takkasila Dhammacariya graduate monks were sent out for similar work lasting two years to these areas. To enable the bhikkhus to serve as missionary bhikkhus in the hills and border areas, three short-term courses for missionary bhikkhus were held in the period between 1-4-95 and 14-11-97. These courses were attended by 153 bhikkhus who have since been assigned missionary duties at the respective areas.
      In the period from 1 April 1995 to 14 November 1997, due to the efforts of missionary bhikkhus in the hills and border areas up to 64,173 persons have accepted the Buddha's Teaching. Buddhist religious buildings havealso been set up with donation under the management of the Work Committee for the Development of Border Areas and National Races. The missionary workers already appointed include 29 nuns and 41 lay persons.
      The State Samgha Mahanayaka Committee has created the 9 members Theravada Buddhist Missionary Ovadacariya Committee of Theras, The committee's duties are to help run the work of missionary workers, to increase the number of those who accept Buddha's Teaching region-wise, and to supervise the work of the missionary bhikkhus. The committee regularly holds a monthly meeting for coordinating, discussing and giving decisions. The State Samgha Mahanayaka Theras themselves have taken 12 trips to give encouragement to the missionary wokers in the border areas.
      Monastic education schools are openedin the States and Divisions for the education of orphans and poor children. In the period from 1-4-95 to 14-11-97, 1,557 monastic education schools were opened for 94,392 students in 244 townships.
      Systematic training of children to become good and well-disciplined is being given at Buddhist Cultural Courses every year during the summer vacation under the supervision of the Township Buddhist Cultural Course Supervisory Committees. During the period from 1-4-95 to 14-11-97 280090 children sat for the examination in 603 Townships. Of them, 167,817 passed, 61,641 gaining distinctions; out of which 19,490 passed with three distinctions.
      Moreover, during the summer vacation the Ministry of Religious Affairs in collaboration with the Union Solidarity and Development Association conducts classes in the Teaching of the Buddha Courses (Basic Level and Higher Level). Basic Level courses were attended by 7,678,565 trainees in 28 Townships of the States and Divisions
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