Hundreds of thousands of protestors went on 22222 general strike on Monday this week in Myanmar, many heading to protest at a military facility in the capital Naypyitaw; the largest demonstration seen so far in the country after the recent coup.
Dubbed the “Five-Twos” (22222), in reference to its date – 2021/02/22, the concept to many resonates with the 8888 uprising happened on August 8th, in 1988 – (1988/08/08).
It has been three weeks since the military took power now in Myanmar, and still protestors are daily calling for the release of civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the restoration of democracy.
Lucky 9 – the dictator’s favorite number
The belief in prophecies, cosmology, and numerology is deeply embedded in Burmese society and influences attitudes and behavior at almost every level.
General Ne Win, the former president (from 1962-1988), believed that the number 9 was his lucky number.
In 1987, he issued notes in denominations of 45 and 90 from multiples of 10, to replace demonetized notes of 100 and 50 kyats, for the reason that these were divisible by, and added up to 9.
Even the date change used when the name of Burma was officially switched to Myanmar was announced on May 27 (since 2 + 7 = 9).
Ne Win died at the age of 92, which somehow proved right a soothsayer telling him that he’ll live long by way of this number.
The magic of numbers in a Buddhist nation
Numbers and numerology play a mystical and symbolic part in Burmese lives.
Some concepts of the belief showcase avoiding certain numbers.
Number 10 is feared to bring bad luck. Others are inspired by particular numbers such as their date of birth.
Buddhist scriptures involve certain numbers like 4 noble truths and 8 righteous ways to Nirvana.
4 and 8 (4 directions and 4 intermediate directions) are the meaning of path.
Besides, mercy release, an ancient Buddhist ritual for free caged animals to generate positive karma, is usually carried out on one’s birthday, by releasing a number of birds corresponding to the age being celebrated brings good luck.
And even though today, an increasing number of people in urban Myanmar are gradually being increasingly influenced by the western belief that 7 stands for ‘good or luck’, while 13 brings bad luck; Sino-Burmese believe the number 8 brings good fortune, while 4 sounds similar to the Chinese and Japanese word for ”death.”
As such, even in these turbulent times, it would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of numerology in Myanmar.