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Notes on Statecraft Print E-mail

Philosophy:  Statecraft of Burmese Kings

Notes on Burmese Statecraft

Kyaw Myaing

The five strengths of Kings


  1. Physical strength - strength of the body

  2. Economic strength - including armed forces

  3. Learned ministers - strength of the advisors

  4. Royal relatives - strength of the family

  5. Intellectual strength - strength of knowledge and wisdom.[1] 

Jambuka (crow who was the Boddhistava) gave this lecture to the King of Benares.

The four Thingaha Principles for uplifting the whole country

Thingaha principles means the principles for developing and uplifting the country. Those who have authority over the kingdom should use these Thingaha principles to develop and uplift the state.

  1. Thatha Maeda - This is the ability to collect taxes from the people in accordance with the laws enacted after proper discussions have been made between the King and his ministers.

  2. Puritha Maeda - This is the ability to distribute salaries and other entitlements to the ministers, servants of the royal household and the troops.

  3. Thama Partha - This is the ability to help the merchants and the farmers without any hindrance and helping them with loans without taking interest.

  4. Wasa Paeya - The ability to speak in sweet words preceded by a smiling face.[2]

How to overcome evil persons

  1. Overcome the angry person by not responding with anger.

  2. Overcome the evil person by practicing righteousness.
  3. Overcome the stingy persons by liberal donations.

  4. Overcome liars by truthfulness.[3]


Seven tactics of overcoming one's enemies

  The seven ways of overcoming enemies is given in the Kamanki Niti Kyan.[4]


          Tharma Upai - Being united

  1. Dana Upai - Giving gifts and possessions
  2. Dunna Upai - Giving punishments

  3. Beida Upai - Breaking up the unity of the other side
  4. Maya Upai - Deceiving the enemy using various methods

  5. Upekka Upai - Being indifferent and letting things take their own course
  6. Einda Jala Upai - Causing fear in the enemy camp


Three kinds of power of kings

  There are three kinds of powers that kings should have. This is written in the Abidan Kyan.[5]


  1. Pabawa Thutti - To be wealthy in paddy, rice, gold and silver (Material wealth)
  2. Okethaha Thutti - To have multitudes of courageous and skillful warriors (Defense capability)

  3. Manta Thutti - To have all the skills and knowledge of good kings such as the ten virtues of kings, the four Thingaha principles etc. (Knowledge of statecraft).


Five ways to get things done

There are five ways for to get things done. This is written in the Narada Sutta of the Anguttara Pali scriptures.


  1. To thank the good deed done for you.
  2. To recite a very potent mantra

  3. To say words that appeal to the other person
  4. To give gifts

  5. To show the ancient customs of the clan or tribe[6]

        How to practice the four Thingaha     principles


1.      Giving donations.

2.      Talking with sweet and pleasant words.

3.      Working for the benefit of others.

4.      Giving the same status to the other person. [7]

  Source: Diga Nikaya, Parhtaya Wut, Theingalawada Sutta, Buddhist Scriptures.



The six skillful arts of the King



  1. The art of negotiations. (theindi)
  2. The art of warfare. ( weggiha )

  3. The art of advancing into war ( yarna )
  4. The art of retrenchment ( arthana )

  5. The art of appeasing two enemies who are on both sides ( dweda )
  6. The art of making alliance with a powerful King to escape the wrath of your enemy. (arthaya ). [8]


The ten principles of good governance for Kings


  1. Giving charity
  2. Keeping precepts (five precepts, ten precepts)

  3. Providing the ministers and troops with food and clothing.
  4. Being honest and truthful.

  5. Being courteous and civil.
  6. Keeping the Sabbath.

  7. Having a good temper
  8. Being compassionate.

  9. Being forgiving
  10. Not opposing the wishes of the people.[9]


Ancient Burmese political philosophy

  According to ancient Burmese tradition, Burmese kings are absolute monarchs. This means that they have the power of life and death over all subjects within their kingdoms.

The Burmese Kings do not claim that their right to rule over their subjects was given by God.  They did not believe in the Divine right of Kings as the kings of the west. 

Then the question may be asked, "how did the Burmese kings get their authority". To answer this question, we will have to look at how the Maha Thamada King was selected in the Mahawun Kyan. The Bagan Wundauk Min U Tin has written about this ceremony for the coronation of the Maha Thamada Min in the "Myanmar Min Oke Khoke Pon Sar Dan".

 " Once upon a time in ancient history, a group of wise and righteous men selected Manu to be their king.  They said to him, please rule over us and censure and banish those who should be banished. Praise and reward those who are praise worthy and deserve rewards.  For performing these kingly duties we promise to give you one tenth of all our produce from our fields, orchards and gardens. We promise to give you one tenth of our grain, our fruits and our flowers. Thus this group of men made a solemn verbal contract with the future King and crowned him as King to rule over them by performing the ritual of pouring holy water over his head three times."[10]

  That was how the Maha Thamada King got his authority to rule over the subjects of his kingdom. 

  To perform the Mauda Baiketheik ceremony according to ancient tradition, three classes of people in the country, the nobles, the Brahmins and the rich merchants had to crown the King by performing the water libation ceremony in accordance with the procedure written in the "Raja Thayveka Dipani Kyan".[11]

  At the coronation ceremony the following words were said:

"O Lord and noble King! We who are the Nobles, the Brahmins and the Merchants crown you king by performing this ceremony of water libation to rule and protect and watch over us. 

Rule over us in accordance with the law.  Pray have a kind heart for the Nobles, Brahmins and Merchants and look unto them like the children of your own bosom and seek their prosperity.  Have a heart of compassion and desire their welfare.  Protect the Nobles, Brahmins and Merchants. If you rule over us in this wise, it will indeed be good.  If you do not rule us in this wise, may your head be split asunder into seven pieces." (p. 119)

(This shows that Burmese political philosophy is in line with the modern concept of a social contract between the king and the people.)


[1] Ibid; (p.312)

[2] Ibid; (p. 230)

[3] Ibid; (p.294)

[4] Ibid; (p.337)

[5] Ibid; (p.356)

[6] Ibid; (p.292)

[7] Ibid; (p.247)

[8] Ibid; (p.361)

[9] Ibid; (p.324)

[10] Ibid, (p. 118)

[11] Ibid, (p.118)

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 19 March 2008 )
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