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Burmese political theory
in the 1870s

Andrew Huxley

In 1885 Upper Burma was invaded and its political and legal institutions
destroyed. What possibilities thereby became lost to the world? The Indian
civil servant who had lobbied most intensely for the invasion of Mandalay
came to regret what he had done:
It was a pity they would have learnt in
2 If Burma had avoided being annexed to British India, what might it
have become? Thailand
s recent history offers some kind of clue. The consti-
tutional monarch of Thailand has made himself astonishingly popular over
the last sixty years. If Britain had chosen to rule Burma through a client king,
then a newly independent Burma in 1948 would have inherited at least one
of its traditional political institutions. In this alternative universe, might
s political and legal institutions of the 1870s have embraced demo-
cratic and rule-of-law virtues by the 1970s? What might Burmese modernism
have looked like, under a less destructive form of British imperialism?
Although such hypothetical questions don
t lead to any determinate answer,
we can only evaluate Burmese legal and political theory by imagining
an answer.

Few would dispute the centrality of law to Burmese culture. This is evi-
denced by Burma
s having: (1) a voluminous legal literature, the three
best-known genres of which were
dhammathat, rajathat and pyatton; (2) a
homegrown legal profession (the
shene); and (3) a home-grown legal history
dhammathat book-lists). Burmas political theory is less visible. Some-
times it is found in the
dhammathats, mixed with rules on divorce and agri-
cultural credit. Sometimes a whole text is devoted to it. One such political
genre is the Royal Order, wherein the king can give his own account of how
politics works. Others are the
myittasa and rajovada genres, in which monks
and ex-monks expound
dhamma to the king. It was in the 1870s that
Burmese thinkers
first broke out of these genres.

My chapter focuses on the first Burmese account of politics to appear in
print, and on the
first to be written as the policy statement of a coup d’état.
Hence the reference in my title to the 1870s.
Leviathan is the epithet J. S.
Furnivall gave to the Anglo-Burmese colonial state (Furnivall 1939).
denotes that part of the Pali Buddhist tradition dealing with the
ethics and practice of kingship.
Dhamma covers a spectrum of meanings
lawto necessary conditionsto things as they should be, but raja can
only mean one thing. For the rest of this chapter I shall translate
as king-law. In the 1870s, my title suggests, Burmese political theor-
ists had to tweak the tradition of king-law so as to better confront political
theory and practice in British Burma.

I look at two Burmese politicians, one in British Burma, faithfully serving
Victoria, Empress of India, and one in Mandalay, faithfully serving King
Mindon of Mandalay (1853
78). U Kyaw Htun, from Arakan, got his first
job with the British a year before the Second Anglo-Burmese War. He joined
the British troops on their way to invade Rangoon, and was never to return
home. His
Essay on the Sources and Origins of Buddhist Law won the Judicial
s Prize in early 1876 and was published in 1877.3 Its contents
include a short analysis of Burmese political theory. U Hpo Hlaing
s Rajad-
(written in 1879) is a work of political theory addressed to a
monarch on his taking the throne.
4 Its title can be translated as Com-
pendium of King-Law
. Kyaw Htun and Hpo Hlaing were political activists
as well as political theorists. For the three months that his coup lasted, Hpo
Hlaing was the most powerful man in Upper Burma. A few years earlier,
Kyaw Htun had very nearly become the most powerful Burmese in Lower
Burma, but was suddenly disgraced and sacked. The lives of political theor-
ists illuminate their work. What Cicero did as a member of the triumvirate
helps us understand his
De re publica. That Hobbes tutored the Stuart pre-
tender in France helps us understand his
Leviathan. Kyaw Htun and Hpo
Hlaing led lives as dangerous, and lived in times as interesting, as Cicero and
Hobbes. Though my focus is on their work, I shall have to say a good deal
about their lives.

King-law, the Pali Buddhist political tradition, was well over two thousand
years old by the time Kyaw Htun and Hpo Hlaing wrote about it. I haven
the space to give a comprehensive history of its development,
5 but I need to
describe three of the salient characteristics this body of knowledge had
acquired in Burma by the 1870s. First, how it distinguished data from theory.
Second, how it used lists and combinations of lists to preserve its theory. (We
Europeans are so unfamiliar with organising knowledge this way that I must
ffer a tutorial in listology, illustrated by several examples.) Third, the who
issues: who taught this discipline to which students under what condi-
tions? What was its seat-in-life, its sociology of knowledge? I deal with these
points in the rest of my introduction. I then devote a section each to Kyaw
Htun and Hpo Hlaing, before drawing some conclusions.

How does king-law distinguish between data and theory? I had better
fine my terms. By data, I mean the history of everything that has hap-
pened in the world. By
theory, I mean suggestions as to how the data may
be shaped and structured, so as to inspire answers to current problems. The
canonical data-bank is largely made up of the collection of 547
Ja ̄taka,
many of which tell stories about kings, queens, ministers, usurpers, and
princes. We normally think of the
Ja ̄takas as narratives, but they are more
than that: they are exemplary narratives or, as lawyers put it, precedents. A
monk or courtier, let us say, has to advise a king who plans such grandiose
acts of merit that the country will be bankrupted.
Dont be like Vessantara
Ja ̄taka No. 547the king will be told: When Vessantara gave more away
than his people could stand, they threw him out.
This is no different from
how European politicians use history:
Dont be like Charles I in the 1630s.
When Charles I took more tax from his people than they could stand, they
threw him out.
The Burmese chronicles draw no line between the kings and
queens described in the
Ja ̄taka, and the kings and queens who actually
ruled Burmese cities. They belonged, after all, to one super-dynasty: o
spring of Maha
̄sammata, the original and the exemplary king of this cycle
of ages. Maha
̄sammatas history is told in the Aggañña sutta (Sermon
on Origins), one of the two great allegories on the rise and fall of the state
which are prominent within the king-law data-bank. Theory, the shaping
mechanism, consists of the various
king-lawlists with which this chapter is
concerned. Such a list is designed to be memorised verbatim in Pali.
6 Pali
grammar and morphology allow complex ideas to be expressed in a couple
of words. Here, by way of example, is the
4 solidarities list as generations of
Buddhist students have committed it to memory:
assamedham purisamedham
/ samma
̄pa ̄sam vajapeyyam // We shall see later that a great deal of information
is packed within these words.

A political theory that relied on a single king-law list would be like a
cookbook that contained only
fish recipes: we know were going to need
other cookbooks. The
4 solidarities solve some political problems, but there
are others on the menu. Each list specialises in a di
fferent range of problems,
and my particular ambition in this chapter is to translate these ranges into
the political terminology (
rule of law, bureaucratisation, fiscal accountability,
etc.) that my morning paper uses. Burmese political theorists expressed their
individuality in choosing which lists to emphasise, just as these days our
political theorists choose which topics they will cover: John Rawls said a lot
about how politics should handle risk, but little about subsidiarity.
7 Pope
John Paul II said a lot about subsidiarity, but little about risk. Each time a
political theorist picks some lists and arranges them into a bouquet, she
makes a statement about which problems are most important to her. Before I
analyse the statements that Kyaw Htun and Hpo Hlaing made, I must o
ffer a
tutorial in the mathematics of the bouquet of lists, or
list-of-lists, as I shall
henceforth call it.

Buddhists combine lists in different ways. In his work on the Abhid-
hamma, Rupert Gethin (1992) describes matrix-like combinations where a
row of 3 combines with a rank of 7 to generate 21 new possibilities. King-law
uses a simpler arithmetic. The most common combinatorial device is the list-
of-lists, which is based on addition. Imagine I
m a Burmese monk. Tomor-
row a 10-year-old boy will join the monastery for the
first time, and I have to
deliver a sermon at his
shin-pyu ceremony. To generate my sermon, I shall
choose three relevant lists (but ones that have never been put together in this
particular way before). As a list-of-lists, my sermon could be presented in
this form:


12 kinds of children
4 noble truths
4 o
ffences of defeat
3 lists of 20 items

If I ever published my sermon, I could title it the 20 things a novice should
be told at their shin-pyu ceremony
, following the useful naming convention of
what I call the
checksum(the total of items contained in all the lists). Now
s turn to some canonical and post-canonical examples, starting with two
that Gethin has discussed. At A.i.295
7 the middle way is defined as:

  1. 1  4 applications of mindfulness

  2. 2  4 right endeavours

  3. 3  4 bases of success

  4. 4  5 faculties

  5. 5  5 powers

  6. 6  7 awakening factors

    6 lists of 29 items checksum

    Checksum 29 has its own set of numerical associations. In the science of

lists, these are what give 29 its own personality. There are approximately 29
days in the moon
s cycle, so 29 is appropriate for those occasions which stress
the calendrical or the lunar. The next personality number, 37, has spatial
8 To convert the 29 definitions of the middle way into a check-
sum of 37, the list-combiners needed to add any list of eight. They chose the
Noble Eightfold Path. Gethin rates the resulting 37 Elements of Enlighten-
as one of the most important Pali list-of-lists (Gethin 1992: 156). This
process need never stop. The
Golden Pali Text is Burmas earliest Pali docu-
ment, and the earliest Pali text to have survived from anywhere in the world.
It incorporates the
37 Elements of Enlightenment into 7 lists of 88 items
checksum. Im not sure what personality was attributed to the number 88 by
the king and queen who dedicated this o
ffering. It must have meant some-
thing, because after it was discovered at the last minute that two items had

been omitted from the 14 kinds of knowledge possessed by the Buddha, the
two items were written in abbreviated form on the rim of the silver reliquary.
Janice Stargardt comments that
These defects were made good . . . The
ritual completeness of the deposit was thus assured
(Stargardt 1995: 2078).
ll give a final example from nineteenth-century Siam to show the list-of-
lists operating in a king-law context; a work called
24 Forms of Princely
(Gray 1886: 40). Its title derived from its checksum:


Third, and briefly, I turn to the seat-in-life issues. Who taught king-law to
whom in what educational institutions? Occasionally, a
Ja ̄taka hints at how
princes were educated. There is mention of an
(an officer who advises the king on dhamma and artha) (Gokhale 1966: 18,
citing J ii 30). Elsewhere there
s a list of five disciplines, which could be the
syllabus he taught from:
artha (knowledge of the conditions and causal rela-
dharma (norms, standards of behaviour), matra (due measure in pun-
ishment and taxation),
kala (knowledge of the daily timetable of a king) and
parisad (how to treat the various classes of society).9 As to Burma, heres a
description of the syllabus of princely education in the fourteenth century,
from a work written in 1780:

After he had received the lordship of Pyinsei, Mingaung sought an
education like that of other princes, in elephant and horse manage-
ment, in handling a shield, in the use of bows and spears, and some
instruction in the chronicles of the country and the customs and
precedents in use in it, and their distinctions.

(Bagshawe 1981: 51)

Prince Charles, heir apparent to the Windsor dynasty, received a not dis-
similar education. Charles has learned to hunt on horseback. He spent a year
at school in the Australian outback at the age of 16, so he can probably
manage a kangaroo, if not an elephant. For
bows and spears, substitute five
years in the navy, latterly in command of his own ship. And for the academic
stage (
the chronicles of the country and its customs and precedents), compare
s bespoke degree course at Trinity, Cambridge, in British history,
constitutional law, archaeology and anthropology. Imagine a Burmese tutor
taking a bunch of princes through the
Ja ̄taka and the king-law lists. Imagine

4 crafts
5 arts
8 merits
7 means of action
4 lists of 24 items


shall apply this kind of listological analysis to Kyaw Htun and Hpo

him writing up some of his better lectures for publication. Imagine some
of these texts spreading through Burma
s manuscript tradition. Such is the
seat-in-life of the
rajovada and myittasa genres.

Kyaw Htun of Lower Burma

Kyaw Htun entered the British records on 18 December 1851 (under the
Moung Kyaw Doon) when he was appointed a clerk in the Akyab
ffice of Arthur Phayre, the Commissioner of Arakan. I know only two
things about his life before 1851: that his parents were
lineal descendants of
the ancient Arakanese Royal Family
,10 and that he acquired perfect copper-
plate handwriting for both Burmese and English. I infer that he spent some
years at an English-run school (perhaps a mission school) in Akyab. I don
know his age, but I
ll assume that he was about 17 when he started work
for the British commissioner, meaning that he was born around 1834. When
the Second Anglo-Burmese War started, the British troop-ships, provision-
ing in Akyab, were on the lookout for trustworthy interpreters. Phayre
recommended Kyaw Htun, who had been in his o
ffice a year, to Lt Col.

I know his family, also that they are respectable. He has learnt English,
and I think you will
find him useful as a Burmese interpreter. I think
Rs. 35 would be a fair amount of wages for him.

He enlisted on 18 December 1852 under General Steele as a guide and inter-
preter to the British forces
, and fought at Martaban and Beeling. After the
war was won, Kyaw Htun moved back from the army to the Civil Service. He
became clerk to J. S. Baird, the Assistant Commissioner of Prome, and spent
the next decade at Prome, working his way up from Burmese writer, to assist-
ant clerk, to treasurer, to record keeper. In September 1866, he was promoted
to Extra Assistant Commissioner (EAC), 1st class, 1st grade (earning Rs.400
per month) and moved from Prome to Danubyu,
12 the fortified river port
upstream from Rangoon. He was to spend the next seven years as EAC of
Danubyu. Subject only to sporadic supervision by his British superiors, his
word in Danubyu, and for twenty miles up and down the river, was law. The
Reverend John Marks
13 records how Kyaw Htun helped out in a crisis. The
premises Marks had bought at Henzada for his mission school were
overnight by a rise in the river.

While waiting anxiously, and thinking what we should do, my friend
Moung Kyaw Doon, the Extra Assistant Commissioner, came along,
and at once solved the problem by putting a very suitable house (his
own property) at our disposal, free of rent, for half a year.

(Marks 1917: 114)

In 1871 and 1872, as Kyaw Htun neared the age of 40, his career prospects
shone bright. Just before Albert Fytche retired as Chief Commissioner, he
had agreed with Colonel Plant to propose promoting Kyaw Htun beyond the
glass ceiling to Assistant Commissioner. Had it happened he would have
been the
first non-European in Burma to reach this level.14 In 1872, the Chief
Commissioner endorsed him to the newly appointed Judicial Commissioner
one of the most intelligent native officials in Burma.15 When the Viceroy
of India came to Rangoon that year, Kyaw Htun was singled out to meet
him: the Earl of Mayo awarded him a gold watch and medal. Perhaps it
was a bad omen that the Viceroy was assassinated a few days later in the
Andaman Islands. Within a year of hitting these peaks, Kyaw Htun
s career
came abruptly to an end.

The year 1873 proved to be Kyaw Htuns climacteric. He started the year
well by publishing
Pakinnaka dipani kyam (Explanatory Treatise on Miscel-
laneous Topics
), a book summarising Burmese culture and history, and con-
trasting it with British history and institutions (Kyaw Htun 1873). He is the
first modern Burmese editor of a printed work. Other Burmese publishers
over the previous four years had moved text straight from one manuscript to
one book. Kyaw Htun extracted and compiled the various texts he printed
.16 On 19 April 1873, a month before publication, Kyaw Htun received
unexpected visitors
Kinwun Mingyi (one of the senior ministers to the
Peacock throne) and his entourage on their way back to Mandalay from their
embassy to London. Htin Aung summarises Kinwun Mingyi
s diary entry:

At 8pm the steamer stopped at Danubyu to take on firewood.
Maung Kyaw Tun, the township o
fficer, was acquainted with Major
McMahon, who sent him a letter. At 7 pm he arrived and presented
to the Royal secretary a copy of the ms. of a book which was being
printed. The book was a comparative study of English and Burmese
terms and phrases relating to history, law and taxation. He left the
steamer at midnight.

(Htin Aung 1974: 138)

The ambassadors took this copy of Pakinnaka dipani back to Mandalay,
where Hpo Hlaing would have been able to consult it.
17 The British paid little
attention to their prot
gé’s work. The only review of it that I have seen in
English came eleven years after publication.

Meanwhile, events in Danubyu were unravelling. Six months after publica-
tion, the Judicial Commissioner (Kyaw Htun
s ultimate boss) announced:

The Judicial staff this year lost Moung Kyaw Doon, an intelligent
and learned judge, but who unfortunately allowed himself to engage
in speculations of trade and to adjudicate upon matters in which it
was considered that he had a pecuniary interest.

During the Viceroys visit the previous year, an anonymous petition had been
handed to him alleging dirty deeds in Danubyu. The petition was shunted
leisurely down the system, to lodge with Kyaw Htun
s immediate superior
William DeCourcy Ireland, Deputy Commissioner at Henzada. Ireland
spent the next nine months surreptitiously investigating a
ffairs in Danubyu.
Ireland accused Kyaw Htun of having become a rich man, worth 2
1⁄2 lakhs of
rupees, by skimming o
ff the profits of Danubyus fishing and river trade. He
alleged speci
fic instances of Kyaw Htuns involvement in robbery, sexual
misconduct, and perversion of justice. An investigation by Ireland
s superior,
who admitted to having
a high opinion of [Kyaw Htun]s character,20
acquitted him of the wilder charges, but found him guilty on count two:
Trading, and deciding suits brought on these trading transactions in his own
court in his own favour.
Kyaw Htun escaped jail by submitting his resigna-
tion on 15 November on grounds of ill-health.
21 The archives reveal that
Ireland ran a one-man campaign to destroy Kyaw Htun
s career, but they do
not reveal his motives. Undoubtedly, the disgrace of Kyaw Htun was a sig-
ficant event in British Burma. It taught Burmese onlookers that the British
treated their courtiers just as capriciously as had the Burmese kings. Why
endure the uncertainties of working for the British as EAC, when one could
earn more money, have more independence, and enjoy higher status as a
barrister or doctor?

Strange, then, that so soon after Kyaw Htuns disgrace, his second publica-
tion should be funded by the British government. In 1874, the Judicial
Commissioner announced a prize of Rs.1,000 for the best essay in English
on the sources and history of Buddhist law. In early 1876, he awarded the
prize to Kyaw Htun and arranged for its publication as a twenty-page
pamphlet in 1877. This is Kyaw Htun
s Essay on the Sources and Origins
of Buddhist Law
(hereon his Prize Essay). It is a thoughtful summary of
Burmese tradition, discussing the di
fferent ways in which one might speak of
the sourcesof law. It contains a mixture of lists and stories taken from both
the canon and the
dhammathats. I shall concentrate on what Kyaw Htun tells
us in the
Prize Essay about king-law. He presents a list of king-law lists, with
checksum 28:

The Laws binding on a King or Ruler, numbering twenty-eight in
all, are the [
4 solidarities] (sangahavatthu) . . . the [3 coronations]

(Kyaw Htun 1877: 3)

Kyaw Htun set these lists within his telling of the Maha ̄sammata story, mak-
ing it far more explicitly a social contract than it was in the
Aggañña sutta
(see Huxley 1996: 407; Collins 1996: 42). Kyaw Htuns small print reads:
everyone except Maha
̄sammata must obey the 5 wheel-turning precepts, while
̄sammata alone must obey the 28 duties incumbent on the king. Mention

of coronations leads Kyaw Htun to continue the Aggañña Sutta story, and by
the time he
finished it, he had lost his thread. He forgot to give the remaining
lists, and left us with a puzzle: How shall we complete the equation 4 + 3 + n
+ p . . . = 28? I
ll propose a solution based on three comparable texts written
earlier in the Konbaung dynasty (1752
1885). The first is a lecture by a
Regius Professor, addressed to foreign royalty while conducting a diplomatic
mission. The lecture was delivered in the
fifteenth century, but this account
of it was written in 1780. The second is a classical poem written in the
1810s in praise of King Badon (1781
1819). The third is King Bagyidaws
38) appeal, in a Royal Order of 1824, for supernatural aide to dislodge
the British from Rangoon. Let
s look at these three from the list-of-lists

In 1780, the year before the coup and counter-coup that put Badon on the
throne, Shin Sandalinka wrote his
Maniyadanabon, his edition of the wise
counsels given by the courtier Minyaza to the kings of Ava in the early 1400s.
How far this work can be used as a source for
fifteenth-century Burma is
debatable, but it is certainly a useful source on Konbaung Burma in the
eighteenth century. One passage reproduces an address on king-law that
Minyaza was invited to give before the King of Monland:


O King, who are lord of all your people, if you wish to attain great
honour and reputation in this present life, and if you hope to become
lord of all men in the course of your successive lives in this world,
you must act so as to perfect the rule of religion in your knowledge,
charity, patience, enthusiasm, piety, kindness and fortitude; also you
must act so as ful
fil the ten royal duties of almsgiving, piety, liberal-
ity, uprightness, gentleness, austerity, self-control, mercy, patience,
and consistency; you must also act so as to ful
fil the four ways of
helping other men, almsgiving, wise conduct, kind words and treat-
ing others like oneself. In acting thus you will win much bene
fit in
your present and your future lives.

(Bagshawe 1981: 96)
Schematically, as a list-of-lists, this lecture can be represented as:

7 virtues
10 king-law virtues

4 solidarities

3 lists with 21 items checksum

The Rajadhiraja Vilasini (Manifestation of the King of Kings) is a
panegyric on King Badon written by the 1st Maungdaung
sayadaw in Pali
(with Burmese commentary). The
Uddesa (prcis) summarises chapter two,
which describes Badon
s patronage of the worldin terms of king-law lists:


4 solidarities
10 king-law virtues

7 ways not to make things worse
5 wheel-turning precepts
4 lists with 26 items


4 solidarities
10 king-law virtues

3 coronations (implied)
7 ways not to make things worse
4 lists with 24 items


He took a constant delight in the observance of hereditary precepts,
such as [the
4 solidarities, the 7 ways not to make things worse and the
10 king-law virtues] and so forth.

(Maung Tin 1914: 16)

The Niddesa (the chapter itself) leaves out the 7 ways not to make things
, describing instead the 5 precepts preached by the Wheel-turning
Emperor in the
Cakkavattis ̄ıhana ̄da Sutta (Discourse on the Lions Roar
of the Wheel-turning King). Mixing together the
Uddesa and Niddesa yields
the following list-of-lists:

My third example comes from Bagyidaws order in 1824. It was addressed
to Burma
s protective spirits and asked for their help in kicking the British
out of Rangoon. King Bagyidaw deserves this help because:

Like the forefathers beginning with Maha ̄sammata . . . the King
observes the
4 ways of a leader, and the 10 rules of a king so as
to ameliorate the lot of the ruled. For the same reason, he had
muddha abhiseka coronation just like Ashoka. He made the
appropriate o
fferings to the nats, as directed in the [7 ways not to
make things worse
] rules . . .22

Which yields the following list-of-lists:

Lets return to the problem Kyaw Htun has set us. How would he have
completed his equation 4 + 3 + n + p . . . = 28? Here
s my reconstruction in


4 solidarities
3 coronations
4 roads not to take

10 king-law virtues
7 ways not to make things worse
5 lists with 28 items checksum


income, expressed as share-of-rice
outgoings, for the government and army
outgoings, for farmers and merchants
respect, to be shown by the rulers to the ruled


All of these lists occur in Richardsons bilingual edition of Manugye dham-
.23 Kyaw Htun must have regarded his copy of Richardson (with its
Burmese text on the left hand of each spread and its English translation on
the right) as his Rosetta stone. Writing a twenty-page essay in English is a
sharp test of one
s language skills, and Kyaw Htun must have been relieved
to have Richardson
s translations from Burmese into English available.
There are, however, many other king-law lists to be found in
Manugye. I
think that Kyaw Htun chose these particular
five lists as representative of the
Burmese political tradition.

I have offered a reconstruction of Kyaw Htuns list-of-lists based on three
Konbaung texts. I shall use other Konbaung texts to explain the current
interpretation of each of the lists. I start with Kyaw Htun
s account of the 4

  1. (1.)  Thatha Maida, meaning that he should not receive more than a
    tithe of the produce of the country.

  2. (2.)  Pooreetha Maida, by which he binds himself to pay his servants
    and Army once every six months.

  3. (3.)  Thamapatha, by which he is bound to assist his subjects with
    money, and to receive payment of it three years after, without
    charging interest.

  4. (4.)  Wahtsapayah, or the use of courteous and fitting language;
    according to the age and position in life of the person addressed.
    (Kyaw Htun 1877: 3)

When he wrote this, Kyaw Htun had few predecessors in the Romanisation
of Pali. These days (unless we fussed over diacritics), we would transliterate
his four terms as
Sassamedha, Purisamedha, Samapasa and Vacapeyya. Kyaw
s Burmese text (whatever in the quote above is not in italics) is a close
translation from the Commentaries [Mp iv 69; Spk i 144]. This Commentar-
ies passage has been translated and discussed in most of the languages of
mainland Southeast Asia. Evidently Southeast Asian Buddhists found it
good-to-think. I suspect that this was because the list implies a balance-sheet
between ruler and ruled:

The ruler is entitled to his tax share of the rice crop. The ruled are entitled
to a redistribution of all this tax, either as wages or as loans. Everything
ff-balance-sheet is summed up in the word respect. The ruler should use

sweet language, because the ruled would like to retain some, at least, of their
dignity. But why the two di
fferent categories of outgoings?

Purisamedha is the rulers wage bill. It is the budget through which he pays
his bureaucrats and soldiers. In Burmese terms, these soldiers are
(the higher-status villagers on the irrigation systems nearest the capital city,
who were expected to form themselves into army units during the campaign-
ing season, and could muster for self-defence at fairly short notice at other
times of year). They are under a separate bureaucracy to the
athi (the free
non-servicemen who lived in villages beyond the nuclear zone, sometimes in
villages that lacked an irrigation system). King Badon gives us a glimpse of
how the
ahmudan finances were organised. Soon after his accession, he

King Alaung-hpaya, following the [4 solidarities], made loans from
the Royal Treasury to certain Saw-bwas, Myo-zas, Thagyis, Kalans
and to other o
fficials and commoners. Some part of the principal
amounts of these loans is still outstanding . . . There are also moneys
that remain to be collected, from the time of my brother Sin-gu-min,
from various Princes, Ministers and commoners, arising out of
criminal suits brought, according to their
kamma, against various
Princes, Ministers and commoners.

When the king advances money to a military commander or local ruler
under his
purisamedha budget, the recipient was under an obligation to
account. In other words, he faced criminal charges
according to his kamma
if the money was spent otherwise than as the king intended. The sammapasa
section of the balance-sheet describes the king as merchant banker, and as
bank of agricultural credit. Wet rice cultivation requires money or credit up
front. Just to get started each year, you need to invest in compost, seed rice,
and a week
s hire of labour and heavy equipment. But if your crop failed last
year, your credit is no good this year. The 1750s edition of
Manugye dham-
, associated with Alaungpaya, founder of the Konbaung dynasty,
says that:

If a person has incurred debts beyond his means of paying, and his
family are unable to assist him . . . he shall make a petition to the
king, who will say
On conditions, give him an advance . . . In three
years the king may take back the advances. This he may do in
accordance with the [
4 solidarities].

It is in this role as lender of last resort that the Burmese king won the
hearts of his
athi population. But Badon talks as if there were a means

Kings observe the [4 solidarities], of which sammapasa means that
loans are advanced to the poor for three years without taking inter-
est on them. As for loans made by other people, they might take
interest on them as it is already a recognised usage.

Which I read as meaning Thats just poor people I help, you understand. I can
charge normal rates to my middle class subjects
. E Maung argues that
language like this is the language of entitlement. The Burmese jurists had
moved from
moral exhortations to legal obligations binding on the ruler
(Maung 1951: 6). The Konbaung dynasty, in E Maungs view, had developed
this particular king-law list into constitutional law. His view is plausible: the
idea of a balance-sheet between ruler and ruled does suggest an entitlement
on each of the parties doing business together. From the balance-sheet it is a
short step to thinking that the ruler and the ruled owe correlative rights and
duties to each other under a social contract. However, I haven
t yet found a
Burmese text that stresses correlativity as strongly as did the early modern
European theorists.

Kyaw Htuns second list is the 3 coronations, which he works into his
account of Maha
̄sammata. Once the Great Elect had accepted the invitation
to rule over them:

the people poured on him the three kinds of Beet-theik, viz:- (1.)
Yazza Beet-theik consecrating him King. (2.) Manda Beet-theik
marrying him to a Queen. (3.) Thenga Beet-theik, confirmation or
renewal of his engagement to abide by all the laws . . .

(Kyaw Htun 1877: 3)

It is the third item (a Burmanisation of the Pali phrase meaning solidarity
) that connects the coronation ceremony with constitutional law.
Ryuji Okudaira, in his study of the nineteenth-century Burmese sources on
coronations, sees the ceremony as something like a referendum: the king asks
the people to endorse the fact that he rules according to the ten royal virtues
and the four solidarities (Okudaira 1994: 7, 9). Coronation European-style is
an on-o
ff validity switch at the start of a monarchs reign. But Burmese
kings are encouraged to
renew their vowsmid-reign, which gives a hitherto
bad king the chance to turn over a new leaf. By choosing to undergo the
sangaha abhiseka, a king could relaunch his career by declaring, in effect,
Now that my throne is secure thanks to my adhammic acts against potential
rivals, I choose henceforth to rule according to dhamma
. The form in which he
declared this was an oath to the people
s representatives to rule according to
dhamma. As Badon explained, Coronation means a promise on the part of
the king to rule with benevolence and justice . . . placing a curse on him if he
fails to do so.
27 Mindon underwent such a coronation in 1874, twenty-two
years after becoming king.

A king thus constrained by his oath is, in European terminology, a prin-
ceps legibus non solutus
(Prince not freed from obedience to the laws). This
terminology goes back to Ulpian (the
first European lawyer to have clearly
distinguished between public and private law) as cited in D.1.3.31.
29 It is one
of the oldest themes to survive in contemporary western discourse on polit-
ics and public law. It is, to use a single word derived from Ulpian
s Latin, the
absolutism theme.30 Some European political theorists Robert Filmer,
Joseph de Maistre
explain that absolutism is the most rational political
structure we can adopt, given the way the world really is. There were
no Filmers or de Maistres in Burma under the
first nine Konbaung kings.
Until King Mindon (1852
78) no-one argued that kings need the freedom to
act adhammically (that is, to transgress or revoke any of the traditional
understandings of the king-law lists). In Part two I shall describe how
Mindon systematically dismantled the
4 solidarities section of the Burmese
constitutional settlement.

At this point in his exposition, Kyaw Htun gets diverted. In my reconstruc-
tion, the next list is the
4 roads not to take (partiality, hate, illusion and fear).
In the canon these are presented as part of the causal chain that leads to
ffering [D.iii.182]. It is Ja ̄taka No. 22 that firmly links the list with gov-
ernment. The Buddha-to-be, born as the leader of a pack of wild cemetery
dogs, and unjustly accused of criminal damage, exhorts a king that partiality,
hate, illusion and fear are the four ways to misjudge a case. These
4 roads not
to take
itemise aspects of the kings duty, when acting as a judge, to act fairly.
In Europe we think of
due process and fair procedure as judicial values. The
4 roads not to take cover much the same ethical territory.

Next come the 10 king-law virtues (generosity, morality, liberality, honesty,
mildness, religious practice, non-anger, non-violence, patience and non-
ffensiveness), first mentioned in the canonical Ja ̄taka verses [J.iii.274].
This list seems too much concerned with personal morality to be part of
political theory as we understand the term. But the Burmese aren
t embar-
rassed to admit ethics into constitutional law. This list reminds us that a
Buddhist king is duty-bound to be a good king. How, then, could a tutor to
the royal princes bring this list alive? I suspect that it was by linking each of
the ten virtues to episodes in the
10 last Ja ̄taka (No. 538547 of the Pali
recension). The Burmese princes, I surmise, were taught ten di
fferent ways to
be good, illustrated to them by precedents from the Stories of the Buddha
Former Births. The
10 virtues allow some rudimentary analysis and com-
parison of the precedents, along the lines of
In this episode the king displayed
great respect for morality, but very little for non-violence
. My aim in this
article (to understand Burmese politics in European terms) becomes impos-
sible with the
10 virtues. I know nothing in the European tradition that
fies the particular virtues that each monarch should display. The 10-
year-old princess, later to become Queen Victoria, declared simply and
I will be good.31

Finally, the 7 ways not to make things worse,32 which appears at the begin-
ning of the
Great Discourse of the Final Nirvana [D.ii.75]. The special 1781
edition of
Manugye, written in connection with Badons accession to the
throne, translates the Pali into Burmese thus:

The king should: [1] Hold meetings and consult with his royal coun-
sellors three times a day, [2] Tackle a
ffairs with the application of
consistent rules, [3] Only collect taxes and impose punishments
which tradition allows, [4] Respect and cherish the elderly, [5] Govern
his subjects paternalistically, without oppression, [6] Make the usual
fferings to the Nats who watch over the capital city and the rest of
the kingdom, (7) Provide for the monastic community.

(Okudaira and Huxley 2001: 252)

The Konbaung authors treated items [1] and [2] as determinative of
the list
s character. They invoked it in relation to good governance,
fficient decision-making and better bureaucracy. In 1786 King Badon

It is right that the affairs of the Kingdom should not evade the [Law
not making things worse] . . . In accordance with the [7 ways not to
make things worse
], which rules the actions of Kings, and in accord-
ance with ancient custom, those Ministers and o
fficers who attend
. . . the law courts will go to their proper place [therein] . . . at the
hour of the day and they will deal with whatever matters need to be
dealt with for the true administration of the law . . . The Ministers
. . . and petitioning lawyers will all take their places at a moderate
distance from the Heir and make their reports upon whatever needs
to be reported, about crime, about the a
ffairs of the country in
general and about the Religion.

This seems to be what Tim Murphy, in the English context, calls adjudica-
tion as the mode of government
(Murphy 1991: 194). Part of this lists
meaning is to reinforce a preference for presenting policy issues in the guise
of legal issues. And part of it (since king-law is a subset of ethics) implies a
counsel of perfection: kings should keep on searching for ever more e
ways to govern.

At worst Ive given my own summary of Konbaung political theory as it
was about 1870. At best I
ve reconstructed Kyaw Htuns summing up of
it. I
ll end this first part by summarising my comparisons with European
political theory in tabular form:

Table 1 Konbaung political theory as Kyaw Htun saw it, with English equivalents

4 solidarities
3 coronations
4 roads not to take

10 king-law virtues
7 ways not to make things worse

balance-sheet between ruler and ruled
absolutism unacceptable
due process; fair procedure
[no equivalent]

rule of law

Hpo Hlaing of Upper Burma

Hpo Hlaing was born in 1830 to a family that had served the Konbaung kings as staff officers for more than fifty years. His father, Yindaw Wungyi, had a reputation as a scholar and as a friend to the Europeans in the Burmese capital. However, Yindaw Wungyi was murdered by King Tharrawaddy (183846) in 1845. The details are disputed: either he had been complicit in a plot against the king, or he was an innocent victim of one of the kings periodic insane rages. Hpo Hlaing advanced socially after his fathers death: he was adopted by two of Tharrawaddys sons, Mindon and Kanaung, and thenceforward received a princes education. He attended the leading teaching monasteries of the
capital as a novice, and then as a monk. By December 1852, the loss of
the Second Anglo-Burmese War had made King Pagan (1846
52) unpopular:

Mindon and Kanaung were talked of as replacements. Pagan sent men to arrest his brothers, but they escaped to raise a revolt. He also tried to arrest Hpo Hlaing but, so the story goes, the troops who went to his monastic cell missed him, because he was up all night reciting the Pattha ̄na in the ordination hall. That homage to the Abhidhamma was his last act as a monk: at dawn, he
put on lay clothes and made his way to join Mindon and Kanaung. Because he
gave the crucial advice that secured their victory, for the next twenty-seven
years, as long as King Mindon ruled, Hpo Hlaing was a protected person. For
most of that time, he served the king as minister, but occasionally he was too
blunt in his criticisms and had to go into exile for a year or two. In 1871, he was
exiled for maintaining that the consumption of beer in moderate quantities did
not breach the precepts. In 1873, there was a more serious row, when he criti-
cised the king to his face for giving favours to those o
fficials who pandered
their daughters to him. Mindon snatched down from the wall the very spear
with which his father had killed Hpo Hlaing
s father:

King Mindon:
Hpo Hlaing:

Who was executed with this spear?
My father the Yindaw Wungyi was executed with that

spear, your Majesty.
Do you also want to be executed by the same spear?

King Mindon:
Hpo Hlaing (projecting his chest towards the king): Please execute me, your Majesty.

An adopted son criticises his fathers predatory sexual appetites: perhaps this
is as much to do with the Oedipus complex as with the good government
agenda. At any rate, Mindon backed down and left the room. When the
other courtiers remonstrated with Hpo Hlaing, he replied:

If he had struck me with that spear and I were killed, that would
have been worthwhile. If kings are to order what they feel like at any
point, the country will be lost because of the ill deeds that will be
done. If I leave that behind me as my reputation, my death will be of
little bene
fit. It is right to be afraid of that kind of foul smell sticking
in the noses of all the peoples … Have your say … That is what
ministers are for.

In 1879, Hpo Hlaing showed that he was prepared to risk his life in order to
prevent the country being lost.

When King Mindon died, Hpo Hlaing was co-leader36 of the coup for
constitutional monarchy
, and wrote Rajadhammasangaha to instruct the
new king in the cabinet arrangements that would now bind him. The plotters
kept control of Mandalay for three months, running the country from their
headquarters in the Southern Royal Gardens, having installed one of the
weakest of Mindon
s children, the 20-year-old Thibaw Prince, onto the
37 They drafted an oath of office for him to swear that invoked three
of the king-law lists and the
sassamedha taxs upper limit of 10 per cent,
before saying:

There is the oath of allegiance twice administered to ministers
and o
fficers. They shall meet and talk and decide rules that would
stand the test of time and remain good for several generations to
come. Once they had decided the rules, people should abide by

Thibaw was being asked, as I understand it, to cede legislative sovereignty to
his Council so that they could draw up a formal constitution. As far as we
know, Thibaw took the oath without demur (and, perhaps, without under-
standing). All government functions were reorganised into fourteen minis-
tries. Hpo Hlaing headed the new
Sassamedha department, which gave him
sole authority to authorise payment from the Treasury. By controlling
all government expenditure, he, in e
ffect, controlled the government,
though Kinwun Mingyi was the oldest and most prominent of the ministers

The coup was defeated when Thibaw managed to win the support of an
army commander. On 13 February 1879, units of the Household Guard
under the Yanaung Myoza
s command arrested Hpo Hlaing and two of the
other coup leaders. Hpo Hlaing was sacked from court, but escaped death or
imprisonment. He used his retirement to add to his reputation as an author.
Previously he had translated Amp
res textbook on chemistry from French
to Burmese (
Pyinthit Dat kyan), and developed a Morse Code for the Burmese
alphabet to use on Kanaung
s newly installed telegraph line. Between 1879
and his death in 1883, he wrote his popular book on medicine and health
Udobhojana Sangaha, and wrote Mahasu Ja ̄taka, a Burmese summary
of Sanskrit works on divination. With the possible exception of the Ledi
sayadaw, Hpo Hlaing was the most prolific Burmese author of the late
nineteenth century. It is his
Rajadhammasangaha (Compendium of
) that concerns us. U Htin Fatt produced his revised scholarly
edition of the
Compendium of King-Law in 1978. His seventy-six-page
introduction describes and discusses all the known textual and epigraphic
evidence of Hpo Hlaing
s career. I have drawn heavily on Htin Fatts
work, and owe an equally large debt to Euan Bagshawe, who has
made his translation of the Htin Fatt edition of 1978 available to all
for free.

Hpo Hlaing had divided the ninety-four pages of Compendium of King-
into three parts, respectively thirty-one pages, thirty-eight pages, and
sixteen pages long. At the end of each part he summarised its content in
traditional Burmese deadpan style. Part 1 ends:

In this section the [7 ways not to make things worse
and other rules that are to be followed by kings and their ministers
the book named
Rajadhammasangaha sets out.

His three summaries reveal nothing of his authorial intentions. That, I
take it, was the point. The longer it took Thibaw to discover what was going
on, the easier for the conspirators to prosper. Hpo Hlaing has, I think, writ-
ten a muddled book when he was quite capable of writing a clear book.
He did so by slavishly following Burmese genre conventions. The closer
Compendium of King-Law resembled earlier works in the myittasa and
rajovada genres, the better the chance that the young Thibaw king would
skim through it without realising its revolutionary import. The plotters
needed all the help they could get, and Hpo Hlaing
s hide it in the small
strategy might have bought them a few extra weeks. As a result, Hpo
Hlaing emerges as Burma
s first ironist. He wrote the Compendium of
entirely within Burmese genre constraints, but did so ironically,
that is, in full appreciation of the muddying e
ffect that strict adherence to
genre could have.

Lets examine the structure by way of its Parts and Sections:

Table 2 The structure of Hpo Hlaings Compendium of King-Law

Part 1:
6) 7 ways not to make things worse (as the People of the West);
13) 4 solidarities (as the People of the West)
15) 3 motives leading down (Burmas population decline),
18) 2 motives leading up (leading to a 2×2 Burmese deontology)
24) 4 rules for here and beyond (as the People of the West),
6) 5 winning arguments and 4 ways for people to do what theyre told

Part 2:
7) Three Birds Ja ̄taka (the West on implementation)
10) 10 royal virtues (plus sticks and carrots debate)
18) 7 ways to beat an enemy
(1922) six more random lists
27) Art of War sections
36) five more random lists, interspersed with:

(32) another Art of War section
(31, 33, 36) the revolutionary manifesto

Part 3:
6) Singalovada sutta
(7) 7 types of wife
(812) Singalovada sutta

Coda: Hpo Hlaings autobiography in Pali verse, followed by an auto-commentary in

If one omits the last two sections from Part 1 (the 5 winning arguments
from Narada sutta and the 4 rules for defeating inferiors from the Dham-
), Part 1 makes much better sense. From beginning to end, the argu-
ment would become a sociological and political comparison between Burma
the people of the western countries. The first six sections contain his
revolutionary theory, and the last
five his Weberian analysis of the motiv-
ation behind western capitalism. Perhaps Hpo Hlaing tacked on the two
lists of s25
6 to ensure that, despite its strong start, Part 1 ended on an
40 Or perhaps he was making up the numbers? If the list-of-lists
analysis in
fluenced him (and nowhere does he even hint that it does), then the
extra two lists might have arithmetical signi
ficance. Heres the schema:

Part 1: 8 lists contain 34 items
Part 2: 16 lists contain 116 items
Part 3: 13 lists contain 65 items
37 lists of 215 items checksum

I am not aware of any special personality attached to the number 215. But 37,
as we have seen, connects with space, with protection, and with the 37 nats,
who may be invoked for protection against most threats. The
Compendium of
is a book about how Burma may be protected from Britain.

What are we to make of the books tripartite structure? Why are the 37
lists divided into three parts? Htin Fatt gives an answer that is of considerable
jurisprudential interest:

. . . after dealing very elegantly with the question of rights in the first
part of the book, in the second and third parts he went on to demon-
strate the duties mutually incumbent upon the rulers and those who
accept their rule.

Hpo Hlaing, in Htin Fatts reading, understood the social contract between
ruler and ruled in terms of correlative rights and duties, and used this
relationship to provide the structure of his book. I remain agnostic. To
my eyes, the contents of Hpo Hlaing
s three parts are distinguishable as

Part 1: Morality for kings

Part 2: Techniques of governance
Part 3: Rules for the Buddhist laity

The first two parts concern the ruler; the third addresses the ruled. Part 1
deals in moral generalisations; Part 2 in institutional particulars.

How do we know which of the 37 king-law lists in Compendium of King-
Hpo Hlaing thought most important? That the book is, fundamentally,
a comparison between Britain and Burma suggests a likely answer. He
explicitly singles out four areas (three lists and one theme) as being the
areas in which the British have worked out a political ethics superior to the
Burmese. The
first two of the lists are old friends:

Because . . . they give the greatest importance to the [4 solidarities]
. . . the peoples of the West stand out for their prosperity . . . Since
the [
7 ways not to make things worse] have been observed, the
peoples of the western countries are at present the most advanced of
all lands.

The third list, which I call 4 rules for here and beyond, has not, as far
as I am aware, previously appeared in any Burmese work of king-law. It is
from the
Alavaka sutta [S.i.213] wherein the Buddha answers ten questions
put by the earth-destroying demon Alavaka. Alavaka asked him
What strat-
egies hold good both in relation to this world and the next?
The Buddha
answered with this list:
[1] sacca truth, [2] dhamma learning, [3] dhiti pur-
poseful energy, [4]
ca ̄ga charity.I think that Hpo Hlaing has searched the
vast repertoire of canonical lists for one that best expressed his understand-
ing of what had prodded Europe into modernity. That which Max Weber
fied as a certain combination of Puritan attitudes, Hpo Hlaing identifies as the 4 rules for here and beyond. Of these four, it is dhiti that most
interests him. We can have all the technological knowledge in the world,
he says, but unless we exert ourselves, nothing will get made.
43 Part of
the western mindset that encourages purposeful energy is a
fixation with

Thus the peoples of the West, recognising . . . that failing to keep
properly to time brings loss, and punctuality brings pro
fit, do
not go beyond a promised time and, so that work may be done
quickly, make use of telegraph lines, steam ships and steam trains . . .
women, men, important and unimportant people, all
carry watches so as not to miss an appointment.

These are the three lists in which Burma lags behind Britain. Fourth comes a
theme: that Burma
s government institutions are weaker than the British, in
that Burma is unable to get its policy intiatives enforced at lower levels of the
bureaucracy. In Burma, though government tells its minions what the new
policy is, they
find ways to delay its implementation:

If in a major project you speak without meaning it, you will get
much blame . . . The peoples of the western countries know that
speaking the truth and keeping faith bring great bene
fits, while
untruth is a great fault . . . Whatever they have agreed in joint
consultation to enact into law cannot be begged o
ff, there are no
exceptions and the law is so enacted

Since he talks in terms of promise-keeping, it is possible to read this passage
as extolling the virtues of sticking to agreements. But in context, I think he is
talking about bureaucrats who agree the king
s new policy to his face, but
subvert it behind his back. This is one of two explanations o
ffered by Hpo
Hlaing as to why the Burmese state is weaker than the British state. The
other explanation is that the mid-levels of the bureaucracy travel the
ways not to go
: since a bias might be introduced by bribes or presents and by
the status of people involved in the action.
46 Government by king-in-cabinet
will automatically put an end to such di

What one man does not know another will; when one man has feel-
ings of hate, another will not; when one is angry, another will be
calm. When people have agreed in a meeting and preserve their soli-
darity, there will be no need for fear . . . [When] people conduct their
business in an assembly there is no way in which the [
4 ways not to go]
can be followed.

The checks and balances involved in cabinet government will cancel out each individuals bias, duress or ignorance. These are the final words of the
Compendium of King-Law, and they sound like an anticipation of Jrgen
Habermas. The Burmese minister and the German professor both believe in
the disinfectant powers of decision-making by committee. But they di
over democracy: Habermas is in favour, and Hpo Hlaing was not. Hpo Hla-
ing wanted to move Burma from absolute monarchy to rule by an oligarchy
of courtiers and generals. He belongs with the barons at Runnymede, not
with the conventioneers at Philadelphia. If his two explanations overlap, we
may substitute the
4 ways not to go for the weak statetheme, in order to
present Hpo Hlaing
s analysis of how the people of the western countries
excel as a list-of-lists:

  1. 1  4 solidarities

  2. 2  7 ways not to make things worse

  3. 3  4 rules for here and beyond

  4. 4  4 ways not to go

    4 lists of 19 items checksum

I dont attach any significance to the checksum: I believe that here, at the
heart of what Hpo Hlaing had to say, he was no longer guided by numero-
logical considerations. These four lists happen to be what the data (the com-
parison between Britain and Burma) threw up. Hpo Hlaing
s analysis of
modernity is itself modern.

It remains to interpret what Hpo Hlaing says about these four lists. The
4 solidarities would cause difficulty to anyone writing about it in the 1870s.
Mindon had systematically dismantled that whole chapter of Burma
s con-
stitutional understandings whose heading was the
4 solidarities. Kyaw Htun,
observing Upper Burma from down-river in Danubyu, put it thus:

Since [Maha ̄sammatas time], up to about 12 years ago, the several
Kings and Rulers contented themselves with one tenth of the
revenues of the country, but the present Sovereign of Burmah intro-
duced a system of paying his servants, and abolished the tithe

(Kyaw Htun 1877: 2)

King Mindon changed the currency of the tax system from rice to cash. In
1857, he imposed a poll tax, named the
sassamedha tax, at three kyat per
household. It rose to
five, and then to ten kyat per household after 1866.
Thant Myint-U has calculated that this
vast change in the working of polit-
ical power
imposed a severe drag on the most dynamic parts of Upper
s economy (Myint-U 2001: 115, 124). In respect of the 4 solidarities,
it was Mindon who was the revolutionary. Hpo Hlaing, inaugurating the
post-Mindon era, had to decide whether this bit of the tradition has been
solidarities ways not to make things worse
4 rules for here and beyond 4 roads not to take
budget under cabinet control
institutional cabinet government
motivation of western modernity
epistemological cabinet government



irretrievably ruined, or whether it could be reconfigured to present needs. His
attempt at recon
figuration was to shift the name sassamedha from the tax to
the central treasury department that he headed. As to the
7 ways not to make
things worse
, Hpo Hlaing merely added some detail. Like his predecessors, he
thinks of the list in terms of optimising the daily procedures for cabinet
government. He adds four checkpoints for successful meetings:

  1. 1  The time and place of meeting to be circulated in advance

  2. 2  An unfinished meeting to adjourn to a fixed date

  3. 3  Follow the agenda. Let everyone have their say.

  4. 4  The final decision should be made public, and should pursue consensus.

These help us achieve discussion, leaving out individual prejudices, aiming for
.49 Finally the 4 roads not to take concentrate on the institutional
advantages that comes with well-conducted cabinet government:

As has been said on the [7 ways not to make things worse], if a
number of people get together for any sort of action, there can be no
question of following the [
roads not to take] way.50

As I did with Kyaw Htun, I shall try to summarise Hpo Hlaings core
message in tabular form, with European equivalents:

Table 3 Konbaung political theory, as Hpo Hlaing saw it, with English translation

Two of Hpo Hlaings Burmese readers differ as to the extent of his debt to
western thinking. Tin Ohn reads
Compendium of King-Law as showing that:
Burmese intellectuals were fully aware of the world outside their own coun-
try and were quick enough to appreciate the new ideas.
51 Htin Fatt concedes
that Hpo Hlaing was enthusiastic about some of the political ideas arriving
from western countries. However:

We cannot say that it follows from this that it is only a book that
copies western ideas; in it the author compares the past with the
present, the old with the new, western notions with eastern, in his
search for objectivity.

If youre a Burmese proponent of cabinet government, as Hpo Hlaing was,
does that make you un-Burmese? If you covet the strong government that
westerners have achieved, are you thereby betraying your eastern roots? Did
Compendium of King-Law so revolutionise the Burmese political trad-
ition as to catapult itself outside that tradition as Kyaw Htun and his con-
temporaries understood it? We are now in a better position to assess the
fferent emphases of Tin Ohn and Htin Fatt. In relation to Table 3s
first, second and fourth lists, we can make a direct comparison between
Burmese king-law as presented by Kyaw Htun and by Hpo Hlaing. Mindon
monetarisation of the tax system had destroyed a long-entrenched part of
the Burmese constitutional settlement. Certainly, Hpo Hlaing
s treatment of
4 solidarities is a new approach to the theme, but the old approach was
already dead. In this respect Hpo Hlaing was a revivalist rather than a revo-
lutionary. In respect of the
7 ways not to make things worse Hpo Hlaing was a
traditionalist: the details he added were well within the parameters set down
by Burmese tradition. In respect of the
4 roads not to take, he gave an epi-
stemological twist to the Buddhist analysis of natural justice. Decisions
reached after full discussion by a well-briefed cabinet were likely to be better
(meaning purged of more of the
4 roads not to take) than decisions reached
in other ways. This does introduce something new into the previous Burmese
discourse on the
4 roads. In relation to this list and this list only, Hpo Hlaing
does choose to bend the tradition he inherited into something new.

There were two big might-have-beens in relation to Upper Burmas
governance. Hpo Hlaing
s coup of 187980 might have succeeded, and
Compendium of King-Law become the official ideology of Mandalays con-
stitutional monarchy. Or Viscount Du
fferin and Randolph Churchill might
have accepted Kinwun Mingyi
s proposals of 1886 and installed a consti-
tutional monarchy in Mandalay. In the
first case, Upper Burma might have
been able to evolve through the twentieth century as a nominally independ-
ent state, like Thailand. In the second case, Upper Burma might have been
subject to indirect colonial rule, as were the northern Malay states. I concede
that we cannot know whether these might-have-beens would have brought a
better future for the Burmese. But looking at Burma as it actually was in
1948, and as it is in 2007, it is hard to imagine that things could have turned
out worse.


  1. 1  My thanks to Patricia Herbert, Euan Bagshawe, Michael Charney and John Okell,
    for their help in researching Kyaw Htun and Hpo Hlaing.

  2. 2  Charles Crosthwaite, cited in Harvey (1932: 439).

  3. 3  Kyaw Htun (1877).

  4. 4  Hpo Hlaing (1979). Euan Bagshawes translation (2004) of the whole text is avail-

    able at

  5. 5  For an excellent guide to the first millenium of its history, see Steven Collins


  1. 6  Note the interesting ambiguity in the Pali word ma ̄tika ̄. It can refer to each
    item in a list:
    Monks, there are these eight ma ̄tika ̄ for the removal of robe-
    privileges …
    [V.i.255]. And it can also refer to the list as a whole: the
    Pa ̄timokkha, which is a list-of-lists comprising 227 items, is commonly referred
    to as the
    ma ̄tika ̄ of the second half of the Vinaya. If you know the list, its
    because you have learned all its items by heart, and can reproduce each one

  2. 7  Subsidiaritymeaning which levels of government are appropriate to handle
    which problems.

  3. 8  That is, 32 quarters of the compass + 4 options in the third dimension + the point
    where the observer sits.

  4. 9  The five Pali nouns are in A.iii.151. The information in brackets is from the
    Commentary [Mn P.iii.283]. See Gokhale (1953: 162).

  5. 10  India Office Library Records [henceforth IOLR], P4/36 November, citing Col. W.
    s letter to Albert Fytche, June 1871.

  6. 11  IOLR, P4/36 November.

  7. 12  Kyaw Htun spelled it Donabyooon the front of his Pakinnaka Dipani Kyam.

  8. 13  Born into the Jewish faith in Londons East End. Spent most of his life as an

    Anglican missionary in British Burma. For a few eventful years, he ran an Anglican

    church and school in Mandalay.

  9. 14  IOLR, P4/36 November, Plant to Fytche, June 1871.

  10. 15  IOLR, P3/37, 18 March 1872.

  11. 16  John Okells translation of a manuscript letter (Kyaw Htun to Col. Ardagh)

    bound into the SOAS library copy of Pakinnaka Dipani Kyan.

  12. 17  Though I have not yet found conclusive proof that he did.

  13. 18  Emil Forchhammer, Rangoons Professor of Pali, said that it recommends itself

    for the fair judgment which the author displays in the selection and arrangement
    of the material, and in the omission of all, or, nearly all, that a European critic
    would condemn as emanating from national idiosyncrasies
    (Maung Tet Pyo
    (1884), General remarks by Dr E. Forchhammer, Professor of Pali and Govern-
    ment Archaeologist, British Burma: 1

  14. 19  IOLR, V/24/2233: Judicial Commissioners Report for 1873: 49.

  15. 20  IOLR, P4/36 November.

  16. 21  IOLR, P4/35 November, inclosing a medical certificate dated 14 November from J.

    Lamprey, Surgeon-Major HM 67th Regiment, Rangoon, attesting to Kyaw

    Htuns impaired vision.

  17. 22  ROB 2451824. Than Tun justifies this date (the manuscript has 1571817) at:

    Than Tun 198490: VII:10910.

  18. 23  The 10 royal duties, 4 solidarities and the 7 ways not to make things worse all appear in a single passage offering reasons why the king should not be a sexual predator
    (Richardson 1896: 181). The
    4 roads not to take are enumerated (without their
    collective name) as characteristic of the seven types of incompetent judge (Rich-
    ardson 1896: 157). The
    3 kinds of coronation are given their collective name in the
    s opening pages (Richardson 1896: 7). Richardson adds an enumeration
    taken from a named manuscript source (
    Benga Rheos Book, letter su.).
    Unfortunately, we do not know who Benga R
    heo was. If Manugye was indeed
    Kyaw Htun
    s source for the 3 coronations, he has used it critically. Manugyes
    becomes thenga in the Prize Essay, with the implication that this kind of
    coronation connects with the
    thenga taya leba (the 4 solidarities).

  19. 24  Badons ROB of second waning day of Kahson 1144, quoted in U Tin (2001: 304).

  20. 25  Richardson (1896: 109).

  21. 26  ROB 2811795 s.56.

  1. 27  ROB 1831796, Than Tuns English summary.

  2. 28  Htin Fatt, Introduction, trs. Bagshawe (2004: 58ff) (see Hpo Hlaing 1979). This

    ceremony was designed by Hpo Hlaing, along lines indicated in his Decisions of

    King Mahasammata, written two years before. Htin Fatt was unable to find a copy.

  3. 29  Ulpianus libro 13 ad legem Iuliam et Papiam: Princeps legibus solutus est: Augusta
    autem licet legibus soluta non est, principes tamen eadem illi privilegia tribuunt, quae

    ipsi habent.

  4. 30  See, as representative of a much larger literature: Esmein (1913), Daube (1954),

    Simon (1984).

  5. 31

  6. 32  Pali apariha ̄niya, literally meaning connected with whatever causes non-decay.

    Buddhists believe that things will naturally get worse. What deserves special atten-

    tion are the few things that can reverse the downward trend.

  7. 33  RoB 14th waxing day of Tazaung-hmon, 1148, quoted in U Tin (2001: 314).

  8. 34  My paraphrase of Htin Fatt, Introduction, trs. Bagshawe (2004: 56) (see Hpo

    Hlaing 1979).

  9. 35  Htin Fatt, Introduction, citing the Hmawbi Sayadaw Theingyi, trs. Bagshawe

    (2004: 56) (see Hpo Hlaing 1979).

  10. 36  Kinwun Mingyi, Hkanbat Wungyi, and Yeinangyaung Wungyi were the other

    important figures in the coup.

  11. 37  On one account, they would have preferred to enthrone the Nyaungyan Prince,

    but he had taken sanctuary inside the British Residency, which refused the
    Kinwun Mingyi
    s formal demand for their delivery. See: Aung San Suu Kyi (1990:
    43). Thibaw Prince had learned English and cricket at Rev. Mark
    s Anglican
    school in Mandalay, before shifting to a more traditional education at the Bagaya

  12. 38  ROB 12101878, Than Tuns summary of the Burmese text.

  13. 39  Rajadhammasangaha, trs. Bagshawe (2004: 119) (see Hpo Hlaing 1979).

  14. 40  There seems to be more obfuscation in Part 2. The agenda for the institutional

    implementation of the coup is to be found in s31, 33, and 36. But these sections are
    hidden within a deliberate muddle of lists from a military manual, along with a
    random handful of king-law lists.

  15. 41  Htin Fatt, Introduction, trs. Bagshawe (2004: 75) (see Hpo Hlaing 1979).

  16. 42  Rajadhammasangaha, trs. Bagshawe (2004: 103), 94 (see Hpo Hlaing 1979).

  17. 43  Ibid.: 117.

  18. 44  Ibid.: 123.

  19. 45  Ibid.: 122.

  20. 46  Ibid.: 92.

  21. 47  Ibid.: 174.

  22. 48  Ibid.: 92.

  23. 49  Ibid.: 89.

  24. 50  Ibid.: 174.

  25. 51  Tin Ohn (1963: 90).

  26. 52  Htin Fatt, Introduction, trs. Bagshawe (2004: 70) (see Hpo Hlaing 1979).

in 01) Classical Magahi Magadhi,
02) Classical Chandaso language,

03)Magadhi Prakrit,

04) Classical Hela Basa (Hela Language),

05) Classical Pāḷi

06) Classical Devanagari,Classical Hindi-Devanagari- शास्त्रीय हिंदी,
07) Classical Cyrillic
08) Classical Afrikaans– Klassieke Afrikaans

09) Classical Albanian-Shqiptare klasike,
10) Classical Amharic-አንጋፋዊ አማርኛ,
11) Classical Arabic-اللغة العربية الفصحى
12) Classical Armenian-դասական հայերեն,
13) Classical Azerbaijani- Klassik Azərbaycan,
14) Classical Basque- Euskal klasikoa,
15) Classical Belarusian-Класічная беларуская,
16) Classical Bengali-ক্লাসিক্যাল বাংলা,
17) Classical  Bosnian-Klasični bosanski,
18) Classical Bulgaria- Класически българск,
19) Classical  Catalan-Català clàssic
20) Classical Cebuano-Klase sa Sugbo,

21) Classical Chichewa-Chikale cha Chichewa,

22) Classical Chinese (Simplified)-古典中文(简体),

23) Classical Chinese (Traditional)-古典中文(繁體),

24) Classical Corsican-C
orsa Corsicana,

25) Classical  Croatian-Klasična hrvatska,
26) Classical  Czech-Klasická čeština,
27) Classical  Danish-Klassisk dansk,Klassisk dansk,

28) Classical  Dutch- Klassiek Nederlands,
29) Classical English,Roman
30) Classical Esperanto-Klasika Esperanto,

31) Classical Estonian- klassikaline eesti keel,

32) Classical Filipino klassikaline filipiinlane,
33) Classical Finnish- Klassinen suomalainen,

34) Classical French- Français classique,

35) Classical Frisian- Klassike Frysk,

36) Classical Galician-Clásico galego,
37) Classical Georgian-კლასიკური ქართული,
38) Classical German- Klassisches Deutsch,
39) Classical Greek-Κλασσικά Ελληνικά,
40) Classical Gujarati-ક્લાસિકલ ગુજરાતી,
41) Classical Haitian Creole-Klasik kreyòl,

42) Classical Hausa-Hausa Hausa,
43) Classical Hawaiian-Hawaiian Hawaiian,

44) Classical Hebrew- עברית קלאסית
45) Classical Hmong- Lus Hmoob,

46) Classical Hungarian-Klasszikus magyar,

47) Classical Icelandic-Klassísk íslensku,
48) Classical Igbo,Klassískt Igbo,

49) Classical Indonesian-Bahasa Indonesia Klasik,

50) Classical Irish-Indinéisis Clasaiceach,
51) Classical Italian-Italiano classico,
52) Classical Japanese-古典的なイタリア語,
53) Classical Javanese-Klasik Jawa,
54) Classical Kannada- ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಕನ್ನಡ,
55) Classical Kazakh-Классикалық қазақ,

56) Classical Khmer- ខ្មែរបុរាណ,

57) Classical Kinyarwanda
58) Classical Korean-고전 한국어,
59) Classical Kurdish (Kurmanji)-Kurdî (Kurmancî),

60) Classical Kyrgyz-Классикалык Кыргыз,
61) Classical Lao-ຄລາສສິກລາວ,
62) Classical Latin-LXII) Classical Latin,

63) Classical Latvian-Klasiskā latviešu valoda,

64) Classical Lithuanian-Klasikinė lietuvių kalba,
65) Classical Luxembourgish-Klassesch Lëtzebuergesch,

66) Classical Macedonian-Класичен македонски,
67) Classical Malagasy,класичен малгашки,
68) Classical Malay-Melayu Klasik,
69) Classical Malayalam-ക്ലാസിക്കൽ മലയാളം,

70) Classical Maltese-Klassiku Malti,
71) Classical Maori-Maori Maori,
72) Classical Marathi-क्लासिकल माओरी,
73) Classical Mongolian-Сонгодог Монгол,

74) Classical Myanmar (Burmese)-Classical မြန်မာ (ဗမာ),

75) Classical Nepali-शास्त्रीय म्यांमार (बर्मा),
76) Classical Norwegian-Klassisk norsk,
77) Classical Odia (Oriya)
78) Classical Pashto- ټولګی پښتو
79) Classical Persian-کلاسیک فارسی
80) Classical Polish-Język klasyczny polski,
81) Classical Portuguese-Português Clássico,
82) Classical Punjabi-ਕਲਾਸੀਕਲ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ,
83) Classical Romanian-Clasic românesc,
84) Classical Russian-Классический русский,

85) Classical Samoan-Samoan Samoa,

86) Classical Sanskrit छ्लस्सिचल् षन्स्क्रित्

87) Classical Scots Gaelic-Gàidhlig Albannach Clasaigeach,
88) Classical Serbian-Класични српски,
89) Classical Sesotho-Seserbia ea boholo-holo,

90) Classical Shona-Shona Shona,
91) Classical Sindhi,
92) Classical Sinhala-සම්භාව්ය සිංහල,
93) Classical Slovak-Klasický slovenský,

94) Classical Slovenian-Klasična slovenska,

95) Classical Somali-Soomaali qowmiyadeed,
96) Classical Spanish-Español clásico,
97) Classical Sundanese-Sunda Klasik,
98) Classical Swahili,Kiswahili cha Classical,

99) Classical Swedish-Klassisk svensk,
100) Classical Tajik-тоҷикӣ классикӣ,
101) Classical Tamil-பாரம்பரிய இசைத்தமிழ் செம்மொழி,
102) Classical Tatar
103) Classical Telugu- క్లాసికల్ తెలుగు,
104) Classical Thai-ภาษาไทยคลาสสิก,
105) Classical Turkish-Klasik Türk,
106) Classical Turkmen
107) Classical Ukrainian-Класичний український,
108) Classical Urdu- کلاسیکی اردو
109) Classical Uyghur
110) Classical Uzbek-Klassik o’z
111) Classical Vietnamese-Tiếng Việ

112) Classical Welsh-Cymraeg Clasurol,
113) Classical Xhosa-IsiXhosa zesiXhosa,

114) Classical Yiddish- קלאסישע ייִדיש

115) Classical Yoruba-Yoruba Yoruba,

116) Classical Zulu-I-Classical Zulu

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