Congregation of The Sangha

   In full, the Congregation of the Sangha of All Orders for Purification, Perpetuation and Propagation of the Sasana (Buddhist religion), held under the auspices of the Ne Win government on May 24-27, 1980. The purpose of the assembly was to ensure religious orthodoxy and state supervision of the Sangha. This was accomplished through the establishment of a nationwide hierarchy of monks' committees on the national, state/division, township, and ward/village tract levels, similar to the structure of the Burma Socialist Programme Party and the state under the Constitution of 1974. The Congregation brought together 1,219 monk representatives, who ratified rules relating to the organization and management of the Sangha, including the requirement that all monks carry identification cards. They also chose central governing bodies, including the 33-member State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee. By the end of 1981, Sangha Nayaka Committee members had been elected on the three lower levels. Coordination with state agencies, for example, the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs, was tight. Although the Sangha was expected to govern itself and discipline errant monks, it enjoyed little or no autonomy. The new rules ratified by the Congregation prohibited the establishment of new sects (gaing) outside of the nine already in existence. By ensuring that the Sangha was controlled by conservative senior monks, the new system established by the Congregation minimized monk political activism. This was reflected in the ease with which the Overturning the Offering Bowl movement in late 1990 was suppressed by the State Law and Order Restoration Council. A second Sangha Congregation was held in May 1985.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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