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Burmese term meaning a sect or monastic group. Some scholars argue that ‘sect’ is not the best translation of the term, since the various Burmese gaings have not developed separate doctrines and distinguish themselves largely in terms of their different practices. The chief characteristics of a gaing are: a distinctive monastic lineage, some form of hierarchical organizational structure, separate rules, rituals, and behavioural practices, affiliation across local boundaries, and some recognition by the secular authorities. In historical terms, after the mission of Chapata to Sri Lanka.the Burmese Saṃgha at Pagān split into two divisions known as the purimagana (earlier going) and paccagana (later going). After the fall of the Pagān dynasty six gaing were known to have flourished in the early 14th century in the land of the Mons (see Mon) in lower Burma. After a period of reunification, however, the Saṃgha in lower Burma declined. Town-dwelling monks began to adopt a distinctive headgear and became influential in the closing decades of the 17th century, sparking off a conflict with their forest-dwelling counterparts. A dispute also arose between the so-called Ton Gaing and Yon Gaing, which centred on the manner of wearing the robe in public, namely whether it should be worn over one shoulder or both. Successive monarchs were drawn into the dispute, which was only resolved in 1782 when King Bodawpaya intervened and restored the orthodox practice favoured by the Yon Gaing of covering both shoulders. After this the Saṃgha remained united for some seven decades until the advent of the Shwegyin Gaing. There were nine officially acknowledged gaing when the state-sponsored ‘Congregation of the Saṃgha of All Orders’ was convened in May 1980 in a successful attempt to form a unified Saṃgha with a national character.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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