Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw A Biographical Sketch The late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw was born in the year at Seikkhun, a large, prosperous and charming village lying about seven miles to the west of the historic Shwebo town in Upper Burma. At the age of six he was sent to receive his early monastic eduction under U Adicca, presiding monk of Pyinmana Monastery at Seikkhun. Six years later, he was initiated into the monastic Order as a novice samanera under the same teacher and given the name of Shin Sobhana which means Auspicious. The name befitted his courageous features and his dignified behaviour. He was a bright pupil, making remarkably quick progress in his scriptural studies.
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At the age of six the Sayadaw was sent to receive his early monastic education under U Adicca, presiding monk of Pyinmana monastery at Seikkhun. He proved to be an apt and bright pupil, making quick, remarkable progress in his scriptural studies. When U Adicca left the Order, Shin Sobhana continued his studies under Sayadaw U Parama of Thugyi-kyaung monastery, Ingyintaw-taik, till the age of nineteen when he had to make a fateful decision in his young life whether to continue in the Order and devote the rest of his life to the service of the Buddha Sasana or to return to lay life.
Shin Sobhana knew where his heart lay and unhesitatingly chose the first course. With due and solemn ceremony, he was ordained a full-fledged bhikkhu on the 26th day of November , Sumedha Sayadaw Ashin Nimmala acting as his spiritual preceptor. Within four years of his ordination, the future Mahasi Sayadaw, now Ashin Sobhana, took in his stride all the three grades lower, middle and higher of the Pali scriptural examinations conducted by the Government.
Ashin Sobhana next went to the city of Mandalay, noted for its pre-eminence in Buddhist learning, to pursue advanced study of the scriptures under Sayadaws well-known for their learning. His stay at Khinmakan West monastery for this purpose was, however, cut short after little more than a year when he was called to Moulmein by the head of the Taik-kyaung monastery, Taungwainggale who came from the same village as Ashin Sobhana to assist him with the teaching of his pupils.
While teaching at Taungwainggale, Ashin Sobhana went on with his own studied of the scriptures, being specially interested in and making a thorough study of the Mahasatipatthana Sutta. Sobhana took up intensive practice of vipasana meditation for four months with such good results that he was in turn able to teach it properly to his first three disciples at Seikkhun while he was on a visit there in After his return from Thaton to Taungwainggale owing to the grave illness and subsequent death of the aged Taik-kyaung Sayadaw to resume his teaching work and to take charge of the monastery, Ven.
Sobhana sat for and passed with flying colors the Government-held Dhammacariya Teacher of the Dhamma examination in June On the eve of the Japanese invasion of Burma, Mahasi Sayadaw had to leave Taungwainggale and return to his native Seikkhun.
This was a welcome opportunity for the Sayadaw to devote himself whole-heartedly to his own practice of satipatthana vipassana meditation and in turn to teach it to a growing number of disciples at Mahasi monastery, Ingyintaw-taik whence the Sayadaw came to be known as Mahasi Sayadaw at Seikkhun which fortunately remained free from the horror and disruption of war. It was during this wartime period that the Sayadaw was prevailed upon by his disciples to write his monumental Manual of Vipassana Meditation, an authoritative and comprehensive work expounding both the doctrinal and practical aspects of satipatthana method of meditation.
Eventually, on the 13th of November , the Buddhasasananuggaha Association was founded at Rangoon with Sir U Thwin as its first President and scriptural learning and practice of the Dhamma as its object.
Sir Y Thwin donated to the Association a plot of land in Hermitage Road, Kokine, and Rangoon, measuring over five acres for erection of the proposed meditation center.
In , the Center occupies and area of In the meantime Burma has regained her independence on 4th January In May , during one of his sojourns at Seikkhun, the Sayadaw completed a new nissaya translation of Mahasatipatthana Sutta. This work excels the average nissaya translation of this Sutta which is of great importance for those who wish to practice vipassana meditation but need guidance. On 4th December , Mahasi Sayadaw personally inducted the very first batch of 25 yogis into the practice of vipassana meditation.
As the yogis grew in numbers later on, it became too strenuous for the Sayadaw himself to give the whole of the initiation talk. From July the talk was tape-recorded and played back to each new batch of yogis with a few introductory words by the Sayadaw.
Within a few years of the establishment of the principal Sasana Yeiktha at Rangoon, similar meditation centers sprang up in many parts of the country with Mahasi-trained members of the Sangha as meditation teachers. These centers were not confined to Burma alone, but extended to neighboring Theravada contries like Thailand and Sri Lanka.
A few such centers also grew up in Cambodia and India. According to a census, the total number of yogis trained at all these centers both in Burma and aboard had passed the figure of seven hundred thousand.
In recognition of his distinguished scholarship and spiritual attainments, Mahasi Sayadaw was honored in by the then President of the Union of Burma with the prestigious title of Agga Maha-Pandita the Exaltedly Wise One. For prior consultations for this purpose, Government dispatched a mission to Thailand and Cambodia, composed of Nyaungyan and Mahasi Sayadaws and two laymen.
The mission discussed the plan with the Thathanabaings Primates of the Buddhist Church of these two countries. At the historic Sixth Buddhist Council, which was inaugurated with every pomp and ceremony on 17th May , Mahasi Sayadaw played an eminent role, performing the exacting and onerous tasks of Osana Final Editor and Pucchaka Questioner Sayadaw.
A unique feature of this Council was the redaction not only of the Pali Canon canonical texts but also of the atthakathas commentaries and tikas sub-commentaries. In the redaction of this commentarial literature, Mahasi Sayadaw was responsible for his part for making a critical analysis, sound interpretation and skillful reconciliation of several crucial and divergent passages in these commentarial works.
In the year while the Council was in progress, twelve Japanese monks and a Japanese laywoman arrived in Burma to study Theravada Buddhism.
The monks were initiated into the Theravada Buddhist Sangha as samaneras novitiates while the laywoman was made a Buddhist nun. In the same year Mahasi Sayadaw was assigned the task of writing in Pali an introduction to the Visuddhi-magga Atthakatha, one that would in particular refute certain misrepresentations and misstatements concerning the gifted and noble author of this attakatha, Ven.
The Sayadaw completed this difficult task in , his work bearing every mark of distinctive learning and depth of understanding. By then the Sayadaw had also completed two volumes out of four of his Burmese translation of this famous commentary and classic work on Buddhist meditation.
At the request of the Government of Ceylon now Sri Lanka , a special mission headed by Sayadaw U Sujata, a senior lieutenant of Mahasi Sayadaw, was sent to Ceylon in July for the express purpose of promoting satipatthana vipassana meditation.
The mission stayed in Ceylon for over a year doing good work, setting up 12 permanent and 17 temporary meditation centers. Following completion of a specially constructed central meditation center on a site granted by the Ceylonese Government, a larger mission led by Mahasi Sayadaw himself left on 6th January for Ceylon via India. The mission was in India for about three weeks, in the course of which its members visited several holy places associated with the life and work of Lord Buddha, gave religious talk on suitable occasions and had interviews with Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, President, Dr.
Rajendra Prasad and Vice President Dr. An especially interesting feature of the visit was the warm welcome accorded to the mission by members of the depressed classed who had embraced the Buddhist faith under the guidance of their late leader Dr. The mission enplaned at Madras for Ceylon on 29th January and arrived at Colombo the same day. On Sunday the 1st February, at the opening ceremony of the permanent central meditation center named Bhavana Majjhathana, Mahasi Sayadaw delivered an address in Pali after Prime Minister Bandaranayake and some others had spoken.
Led by Mahasi Sayadaw, the members of the mission next went on an extended tour of the island, visiting several meditation centers where Mahasi Sayadaw gave suitable discourses on vipassana meditation and worshipping at various places of Buddhist pilgrimage like Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Kandy. This historic visit of the Burmese mission under the wise and inspiring leadership of Mahasi Sayadaw was symbolic of the close and mutually beneficial ties dating from ancient times spiritual kinship between these two Theravada Buddhist countries.
Its positive contribution to the welfare of the Buddhist movement in Sri Lanka was a steady revival of interest and activity in Buddhist meditation discipline, which seemed to have declined in this fraternal land of ours.
In February , a visitor to the Sasana Yeiktha would be struck by the spectacle of a young Chinese practicing vipassana meditation. The yogi in question was a young Chinese Buddhist teacher from Indonesia by the name of Bung An who had become interested in this kind of Buddhist meditation.
Later he was ordained a bhikkhu and named Ashin Jinarakkhita. Mahasi Sayadaw himself acted as his spiritual preceptor. After his return as a Buddhist monk to his native Indonesia to launch a Theravada Buddhist movement in that country a request was received by the Buddha Sasana Council to send a Burmese Buddhist monk to promote further missionary work in Indonesia.
It was decided that Mahasi Sayadaw himself, as the preceptor and mentor of Ashin Jina-rakkhita, should go. As early as the year , Mahasi Sayadaw at the request of the Minister in charge of Sangha Affairs of Thailand, had sent Sayadaws U Asabha and U Indavamsa to promote the practice of satipatthana vipassana meditation in that country. These two commentarial works of the Theravada School deal in the main with Buddhist meditational theory and practice, though they also offer useful explanation of important doctrinal points in Buddha-vada.
They are thus of the utmost importance for those who are going to be meditation teachers. In pursuance of his undertaking, Mahasi Sayadaw began teaching these two works on 2nd February and for one and one-half to two hours a day. On the basis of notes of his lectures taken by his pupils, Mahasi Sayadaw started writing his nissaya translation of Visudhi-megga Mahatika and completed it on 4th February The production of this nissaya translation was an exceptional performance on the part of Mahasi Sayadaw.
For tackling this part, the Sayadaw had to, among other things, familiarize himself with ancient Hindu philosophical doctrines and terminology by studying all available references, including works in Sanskrit and English.
Mahasi Sayadaw has to his credit up till now 67 volumes of Burmese Buddhist literature. At one time, Mahasi Sayadaw was subjected to severe criticism in certain quarters for his advocacy of the allegedly unorthodox method of noting the rising and falling of the abdomen in vipassana meditation. It is not, however, imposed as an obligatory technique upon any yogi who comes and practices meditation at any of the Mahasi yeikthas meditation centers.
Such a yogi may, if he likes and if he finds that he is better accustomed to the anapana way observing the inbreath and outbreath , meditate in this latter mode.
Since this criticism was voiced in the English language with its worldwide coverage, silence could no longer be maintained and the late Sayadaw U Nanuttara of Kaba-aye world Peace Pagoda campus forcefully responded to the criticisms in the pages of the Ceylonese Buddhist periodical "World Buddhism". Among the earliest of such yogis was former British Rear Admiral E. Shattock who came on leave from Singapore and practiced meditation at the Sasana Yeiktha in On his return home to England he published a book entitled "An Experiment in Mindfulness" in which he related his experiences in generally appreciative terms.
Another such practitioner was Mr. Robert Duvo, a French-born American from California. He came and practised meditation at the Center, first as a lay yogi and later as an ordained bhikkhu.
He has subsequently published a book in France about his experiences and the satipathana vipassana method of meditation. Particular mention should be made of Anagarika Shri Munindra of Buddha Gaya in India, who became an anterasika close disciple of Mahasi Sayadaw, spending several years with the Sayadaw learning the Buddhist scriptures and practising satipatthana vipassana insight meditation.
He now directs an international meditation center at Buddha Gaya where many people form the West have come and practised meditation. Among these yogis was a young American, Joseph Goldstein, who has recently written a perceptive book on insight meditation under the name "The Experience of Insight: A Natural Unfolding". Both of them were accomplished yogis.
Welcomes you Note: There is a twin site for Mahasi meditation in Europe: www. Here you can find information about Vipassana meditation in the tradition of the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma now Myanmar. Meditation Method: Vipassana meditation is in the tradition of the late Ven.
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At the age of six the Sayadaw was sent to receive his early monastic education under U Adicca, presiding monk of Pyinmana monastery at Seikkhun. He proved to be an apt and bright pupil, making quick, remarkable progress in his scriptural studies. When U Adicca left the Order, Shin Sobhana continued his studies under Sayadaw U Parama of Thugyi-kyaung monastery, Ingyintaw-taik, till the age of nineteen when he had to make a fateful decision in his young life whether to continue in the Order and devote the rest of his life to the service of the Buddha Sasana or to return to lay life. Shin Sobhana knew where his heart lay and unhesitatingly chose the first course. With due and solemn ceremony, he was ordained a full-fledged bhikkhu on the 26th day of November , Sumedha Sayadaw Ashin Nimmala acting as his spiritual preceptor.