NAYPYIDAW — The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has decided to sue the Moe Pya Buddhist sect, which is preparing to publish a doctrine on what it calls “present karma Buddhism.”
The concept of karma is key in Buddhism and refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where the intent and actions of an individual are believed to influence their future. Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering, the religion prescribes.
In contrast, the doctrine of “present karma Buddhism” focuses only on the present time, stating that one’s actions and deeds at present determine one’s life in the present and immediate future. This, critics say, goes against the idea of rebirth in Buddhism, and that one’s karma in previous lives shapes their current life, as well as future lives.
Union minister for religious affairs and culture U Aung Ko told the media after the Lower House parliamentary session on Monday that the decision was reached after the Moe Pya sect continued preaching its doctrine despite a warning from the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee. The committee is the highest Buddhist religious authority in the country and is appointed by the government to oversee and regulate the Sangha, or monkhood, in Burma.
U Nay Win, who claims himself a layperson of the Moe Pya sect, published an advertisement in the Dec. 3 and 4 issues of the state-run newspaper Myanmar Alinn Daily, publicizing the doctrine and announcing that books and CDs on “present karma Buddhism” would soon be released.
The head of Mandalay Division’s religious affairs department then issued an announcement in the Dec. 6 issue of the Myanmar Alinn Daily opposing the Moe Pya sect’s advertisement. The department head summoned U Nay Win and demanded he not proceed with the publication, but he refused.
“U Nay Win refused to sign [a statement that he would not publish books and CDs]. He said he would continue with what he believes. So we will sue him and our ministry will take action in line with the law to safeguard Buddhism,” U Aung Ko told the press.
U Nay Win told The Irrawaddy that he would promote the present karma doctrine despite warnings from the authorities.
“I’ve sent a letter to [President] U Htin Kyaw and [State Counselor] Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stating that I would publish the doctrine since freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution,” U Nay Win told The Irrawaddy.
He said he had also sent copies of a letter dated Dec. 11 to over 70 entities, including Union ministers, division and state chief ministers, four departments under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, and the headquarters of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and its regional chapters.
“I’ve informed them all that I will continue,” said U Nay Win.
The Moe Pya sect was established by U Nya Na in the early 1980s. He introduced present karma Buddhism, which was branded as a false doctrine by many of Burma’s Buddhist monks. The sect was based in Mandalay’s Patheingyi Township and had a membership of around 300 that time. The sect’s membership at present is unknown.
In February of 1983, U Nya Na was sentenced to five years in prison by a Sagaing Division court for promoting present karma Buddhism. However, he submitted appeals to higher courts and after a three-year trial, he was pronounced not guilty by Burma’s Supreme Court.
Later, in 1991, he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in connection with his doctrine and spent seven years behind bars.
Again he was handed a 20-year jail sentence in 2010 for religious offenses and was released in a general amnesty in March 2015. In 2011, the government officially declared present karma Buddhism a false doctrine.
Minister U Aung Ko said that the Moe Pya sect has attempted to promote its interpretation of karma since U Nya Na’s most recent release. Likening it to a “radical doctrine,” he said such ideologies had caused divides among Buddhists in Burma.
“In cases of disputes over the Dhamma preached by the Buddha, we formed a state-level Sangha group consisting of Buddhist monks who are experts in Buddhist doctrines, in order to investigate and give rulings,” the minister explained.
“We formed such a group and reviewed [the Moe Pya sect’s] doctrine. We found that the religious doctrine and concepts of U Nya Na are totally against Theravada Buddhism. So, we have placed a ban on it,” U Aung Ko told The Irrawaddy.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.