Simavicarana, here superbly edited and introduced to the academic world for the first time by Petra Kieffer-Mulz, is one example of the great wealth of Pali works composed by King Rama IV of Siam (Thailand).
It is generally agreed that Ayutthaya and early Bangkok were not flourishing centres of Pali literary composition compared to the North, where enduring works like Mangalatthadipani, Jinakalamalini, and Camadevivamsa were produced. Ayutthaya does not seem to have produced much beyond a few inscriptions and the Saddhammasangaha, a history of Pali scriptures, unless we are permitted to venture that the various Pali versions of Thai tales that are loosely designated as "Pannasajataka collections" were composed in Central Thailand, since these Pali versions are not found anywhere else. In the early Bangkok period, three rather substantial works were composed by Phra Vimaladhamma: Culayuddhakalavamsa (a history of Ayutthaya), Mahayuddhakalavamsa (a history of the Mon), and Sangitiyavamsa (a history of the Buddhist councils from the first council in India to the ninth council during the reign of King Rama I). All of these works composed in Central Thailand. considered from the point of view of grammar and style, are not without blemishes.
With King Rama IV's earnest research and his sustained efforts to promote Pali grammar and Pali studies, central Siam became the seat of Pali scholarship and literary activity. It is reported that when Rama IV was the abbot of Wat Bovoranives, Pali was used as a spoken language. At that time, Pali was a living language, at least within the walls of the temple.
The Pali works of King Rama IV span a wide range of subjects and genres. He used a variety of metres and he had a very good command of elegant prose. as is evident in the Simc7vicarana. His Pali compositions include prayers, journals, travel accounts, historical works, correspondence. and religious expositions and explanations. All these works demonstrate his skill in handling diverse subjects and literary styles. His expositions and explanations are well researched and abound with references to canonical texts and other treatises as we would expect in modern scholarship.
King Rama IV's Pali oeuvre inspired his contemporaries and students to study and compose in Pali. One of his followers, his own son, Prince Patriarch Vajirananavarorasa, stands out as one of the great successes in Rama IV's efforts to promote Pali scholarship.
The corpus of King Rama IV's Pali works takes up more than two hundred printed pages, or more than five hundred pages together with Thai translations. The corpus has been published several times, most recently in 2004 to celebrate Rama IV's two-hundredth birth anniversary. However, despite the fact that the royal monk was international in outlook, and that works like Sinic7vicarana itself were international in scope, these works are scarcely known to international scholarship - and without a knowledge of these works, the understanding of Thailand's Pali literary heritage may be deemed incomplete.
Petra Kieffer-Pulz has performed a great service to the academic world by editing the Simavicarana and providing it with a thorough introduction and detailed annotations. She has opened a new window into the Pali scholarship of Siam. We hope that her work and fine scholarship will inspire a new generation in the study of the Pali literature of Siam.
The text edited here as Letter 2 (below. pp. 3-47) belongs to the 1 literary category of letters (sandesa) sent to spiritual friends. It is a reply by Thera Vajiranana Makuta Sammata (Deva)vamsa' of Siam (the later King Mon2kut, Rama IV) to Thera Lamkagocda Dhirananda in Sri Lanka. This letter is supplemented by a short letter (Letter 1; below. pp. 1-2) dated to the 5th day of the bright half of the month of Migasira in the year BE 2387/1844 CE: corresponding to December 14th. 1844'. which gives the names of the writer and the recipient, lists the ten presents sent together with the letters and, finally. announces a reply connected with the discussion of ceremonial monastic boundaries (simakatha-patisamyuttam patisc7sanarn). Letter 2 is undated, but quotes the same writer and recipient' and consists of a thorough investigation into the visumgamasima as used in Siam and the neighbouring countries.
Here the information is not given in the way writers and recipients are in general named at the beginning or end of letters, but as the ones responsible for the research paper which follows.
In Letter 2 the writers explain that they want to show their own considerations on the "discussion of boundaries" (simakatha , Letter 2, Se' XXXI; Se' IX) and state that the reply is one that explains the decision with respect to the definitions in the Vinaya"( Vinayalakkhana-vinicchaya-dipakam, Se'-'), or "that explains the definitions in the Vinaya" ( Vinayalakkhana-dipakam, Ce). In verses 6, 73, 80, 81 they call their letter katha. Letter 2 is probably mentioned in another letter by the ten Dhammayuttika monks written to Sobhita Siridhamma at the same time as Letter 1 and 2,5 where it is described as a sasanapanna for Lamkagoda Dhirananda "explaining the definitions of geimasima" (gamasimalakkhanaparidipikam).
The title given to Letter 2 in the introduction to the Siamese edition (Se', pp. ka-dha) and as a heading in Se', i.e., simavicarana, "Investigation on boundaries", is not to be found in the text itself, but seems to be current in Siam.
In the Siamese editions the two letters are thought of as belonging together. The Ceylonese edition prints only Letter 2. In the preface to the Siamese edition (Se'. pp. ka-dha) Prince Damrong Rajanubhap writes that Somdet Phra Sangharaja-chao Krommamuen Jinavarasirivadhana8 obtained them [i.e., the letters] from Sri Lanka, translated them and presented them to the National Library that they might be published when the occasion arose.
In an introduction to these two letters Krommluang Jinavara-sirivadhana Luang Somdet Phra Sangharaja-chao wrote.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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