GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (99)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

If it is true that in the rivers and along the coast, the Mughals always failed against the Arrakanese, it should be borne in mind that the potential of the former – with an army of more than seven hundred thousand men, an admirable amount for the time – was infinitely higher. Tiri-thu-dhamma’s ambition went far beyond simply expanding his domain: he intended to conquer all of Bengal.

Now, how could he aim for such a thing if he did not have the support of the Portuguese, even with a contingent – a few hundred men – quite limited? In any case, fighting the Mughal empire seemed an impractical enterpriset. Even so, Tiri-thu-dhamma was willing to take the risk. Was he not, after all, the supreme guardian of the Maamuni (the Buddha) and Lord of the White Elephant and, as such, the greatest Buddhist king in that region? Bigger than the king of Ceylon, bigger than the king of Siam, bigger than the king of Burma.

But there was more. Tiri-tu-dama believed that he would have the role of “the world’s redeemer.” That is, he hoped to be able to reincarnate as Buddha and thus unite the disunited world and bring peace, happiness and salvation to all. He could only do it (know if he was the chosen one) by trying something great. If he succeeded in the crusade against the Muslim Mughal, then he would be lord of his destiny.

His grandfather Ranzagari had an identical dream, who, when conquering Pegu, had taken over the much desired White Elephant, now in his care.

The Burmese king, Bayin-naung, had also idealized something like this. Neither one nor the other was able to fulfill this wish, perhaps due to sins committed in previous lives and not yet atoned for. This would also explain the fact that his father, Min-kha-maung, reigned ten years without achieving anything. It tormented him to think that he, too, might be forced to retreat due to “a past failure.” He had nothing to lose if he tried. The first step in his long rise to universal glory implied the defeat, on the battlefield, of an emperor who looked like a “universal monarch” even though he did not have the necessary attributes. Once Bengal was conquered, India, Buddha’s homeland, would follow. It had been in the shadow of a sacred fig tree that he had reached “the state of enlightenment”.

If he conquered India, all the kings of the world would come to revere Tiri-thu-dhamma. He would then take the opportunity to crown them again and, after indoctrinating them in the noble Eight Paths, he would let them go so that they could govern their nations “in peace and love.” This was the view of the strange Tiri-thu-dhamma.

In order to materialize it, it was urgent to obtain the support of the “white foreigners of Goa,” whose expertise as sailors, musketeers and artillerymen far exceeded that of the best elements of the Mughal army. What the Arrakanse monarch was unaware of was that the Portuguese moved precepts similar to his own. Tiri-thu-dhamma was unaware that the Pope had delegated to the Portuguese, via the Portuguese Patronage of the East, the evangelization of all Asia, and it was also the aim of the Holy Father that all the kings of the world should come to the Holy City and leave it ready to spread throughout the Faith of Christ.

The Arrakanese monarch was unaware of all this, for whom the Portuguese were nothing more than simple pagans unaware of the Buddha’s teachings, a set of eight practices that correspond to the fourth noble truth of Buddhism. It is also known as the “middle way” because it is based on moderation and harmony, without falling into extremes.

 

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