The 2500th Buddha Jayanti saw a great revival in Buddhism in Sri Lanka. There was renewed attention to Vipassana Meditation. With this revival an international level meeting was held in order to discuss what needs to be done to mark the Buddha Jayanti. This meeting was chaired by then Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala. The Burmese ambassador U Ba Lwin, Mr. H. Sri Nissanka, Mr. Abeysundara and Mrs. Regina Fonseka were also present. The Burmese ambassador suggested that the best thing to do to mark Buddha Jayanti was to promote Insight meditation techniques to the Sri Lankans, which is the only way to bring immense satisfaction to them. The Lanka Vipassana Bhavana Samitiya (Lanka Insight Meditation Society) was formed.
The society with the help from the government, made a formal request to the main meditation center in Burma the Thathana Yeiktha meditation center to send teachers to Sri Lanka to begin meditation courses for laypersons and monks. The chief in charge of this meditation center the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw U Sobhanaaccepted the request after having long discussions with Venerable Kahatapitiya Sumathipala who was in Burma when the request came. Soon after this Ven. Sumathipala returned to Sri Lanka and organized the arrangements here. With his help the lay society acquired land for the first meditation center and laid other plans for promoting vipassana meditation.
Formation of the Meditation Centre
On 28th July of 1955, a Burmese delegation of four theros led by U Sajata, a close assistant to Mahasi Sayadaw, arrived in Sri Lanka. Under their guidance and with very much help from locals a complete meditation center was built in about six months at Kanduboda, a serene suburb 25kms from Colombo. On 8th January of 1956 the Kanduboda Siyane Meditation Centre was officially declared open.Ven Kahatapitiye Sumathipala thero was elected as the chief instructor and in-charge of the meditation center as an honor to his immense commitment to the creation of the meditation center.
Biography: b.1904 Seikkhun, Myanmar (Burma). Started training age 6, novice age 12, full ordination 19 under Sumedha Sayadaw Ashin Nimmala. By age 22 had passed 3 grades of Pali examinations, studying under a number of important monks. Was invited to Taungwainggale monastery to help teach and during this time, became deeply involved in the study of the Mahasatipatthana sutta and Vipassana meditation. In 1938 went to well-known Vipassana teacher Mingun Jetavan Sayadaw to study and showed remarkable progress, also passing his Dharmachariya (teacher of the Dharma) examination in 1941. After this, returned to Mahasi monastery in his home village of Seikkhun and gradually became known as Mahasi Sayadaw (the Venerable from Mahasi).
Mahasi Sayadaw's reputation soon spread. In 1948 he was invited to Rangoon to be the spiritual patron of the Buddhasasana Nuggaha Association and the abbott and teacher of the association's head temple, the Sasana Yeiktha. Both of these had recently been created especially for him. His meditation techniques and courses rapidly became popular and his reputation spread through Asia. In 1954/1955 the Burmese Government invited the Theravada community of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka to the Sixth Buddhist Council in Rangoon, and Ven. Mahasi played a major role in events. His prowess and fame as a translator was also growing and he published a number of excellent scholarly retranslation of scriptures.
By this time, Mahasi Vipassana groups had started in several neighboring countries. In 1952 Ven. Mahasi toured Thailand, Sri lanka in 1955 and 1959, Indonesia in 1955 (?), India/Nepal in 1979,80,81. A number of Western students (such as Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg) who had attended courses at the Sasana wrote books (see below) about their experiences, and this resulted in tours to England, Europe and America in 1979 and 1980. These were exhausting tours of several months, yet the Mahasi, at the age of over 75, continued to demonstrate his commitment and energy. Each tour resulted in the establishment of many new centres and affiliated temples.
Ven. Mahasi passed away on the 14th of August 1982 shortly after returning from another tour of India and Thailand. He is succeeded by many dedicated students, and from 1984-1996 the Sasana organisation undertook twenty-two teaching missions to the West. Among the most important teachers are: Sayadaw U Pandita, Sayadaw U Lakkhana, Sayadaw U Janaka and Sayadaw U Silananda. Other students in this lineage include BuddhaNet's founder Ven. Pannavaro: [Lineage]: (Mahasi Sayadaw › U Janaka › Ven. Pannavaro)
Comment: The tradition started by Ven Mahasi Sayadaw is one of the most active of all recent Theravada revivals and is of great importance in Burma and the East, as well as the West. Probably several million people have been to centres or courses. The organisation has a loose structure with the unification being in the teachings and lineage rather than in administration or a large centralised organisation.
Particular teachings: Vipassana meditation according to the Mahasatipatthana sutta. Main Temple: Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre
Buddha Sasana Nuggaha Organisation
No 16, Sasana Yeiktha Road
Yangon, (Rangoon) 11201Myanmar (Burma)
Tel: (+95) 01 541971, 552501
Fax: 289960, 289961
Web site: web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism//mahasi.htm#world
Centres: Check Buddhanet listings for your area or visit the Mahasi Web site
Full name title: Shwe Taung Gon Sayadaw U Panditabhivamsa
b.1921, commenced study age 7, novice age 12, fully ordained age 20. Studied under many eminent dharma teachers and passed Pali and Dhamma examinations culminating in the Dhammachariya (Dhamma teacher) degree in 1952.
First practised Vipassana 1950 under Mahasi Sayadaw and played important role in 6th Sangha Council. In 1959 accompanied Mahasi to Sri lanka and spent 3 yrs
there opening new centres. On return to Burma became chief meditation teacher to three temples.
Upon death of Mahasi in 1982, was elected principal preceptor of Buddha Sasana Nuggaha Organization. Headed main Mahasi temple them moved to his own meditation centre. Has made many visits to the West and is head of many temples and centres here.
The Webu Sayadaw was born on the 17th of February 1896 in Ingyinbin, a small village near Shewbo in upper Burma. He was ordained as a novice at the age of nine and was given the name Shin Kumara. At the age of twenty he was ordained as a full member of the Sangha, now being addressed as U Kumara. ("Webu Sayadaw" is a title meaning "the holy teacher from Webu," given to him after he became an established teacher.) U Kumara went to Mandalay to study at the famous Masoyein Monastery, the leading monastic university of the time. In his seventh year after full ordination he abandoned the study of the Pali scriptures and left the monastery to put into practice what he had learned about meditation. After leaving the monastery, U Kumara spent four years in solitude. Then he went to his native village Ingyinbin for a brief visit. He taught his former teacher at the village monastery on request the technique of meditation he had adopted. He said: "This is the shortcut to Nibbana. Anyone can use it. It stands up to investigation and is in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha as observed in the scriptures. It is the straight path to Nibbana. The Webu Sayadaw emphasized the practice of meditation as the only way to bring the teachings of the Buddha to fulfillment. The study of the scriptures, though helpful, is not essential for the realization of Nibbana. The technique of meditation taught by the Webu Sayadaw is anapana sati, "mindfulness of breathing," which requires one to be aware of breathing in while breathing in, of breathing out while breathing out, and of the spot or area which the stream of air touches while the breath is entering and leaving the nostrils. Though anapana sati is basically a way of developing samadhi, one-pointed concentration of mind, the Webu Sayadaw said that when concentration is developed to a sufficient degree, the meditator can gain insight into the three characteristics of nature -- impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self. The direct understanding of these three characteristics is called pañña, wisdom, which is the most essential quality required of a meditator to reach Nibbana. The Webu Sayadaw was not a scholar and his discourses do not cater to the intellectual who prefers the study of Buddhist philosophy to the practice. His refreshing simplicity, his patience, his lovely sense of humor, and his humility, all revealed in his dialogue with his audience, illumine a side of Buddhism which cannot be perceived by reading treatises and texts. The statements of the people in the audience offer us a glimpse of how Buddhism is practiced in Burma today. The Webu Sayadaw undertook pilgrimages to the Buddhist sites of India and Sri Lanka. He passed away on the 26th of June 1977 in the meditation center at his native village Ingyinbin. He was believed by many to have been an Arahat, a person who has in practice fully understood the Four Noble Truths and attained the end of suffering.
Ven. Webu Sayadaw was one of the most highly respected monks of this century in Burma. (Sayadaw is a title used for monks. It means "respected teacher monk.") He was notable in giving all importance to diligent practice rather than to scholastic achievement. Webu Sayadaw was born in the village of Ingyinpin in upper Burma on 17 February 1896. He underwent the usual monk's training in the Pali scriptures from the age of nine, when he became a novice, until he was twenty-seven. In 1923 (seven years after his ordination), he left the monastery and spent four years in solitude. He practiced (and later taught) the technique of Anapana-sati (awareness of the in-breath and out-breath). He said that by working with this practice to a very deep level of concentration, one is able to develop Vipassana (insight) into the essential characteristics of all experience: anicca (impermanence), anatta (egolessness) and dukkha (unsatisfactoriness). Webu Sayadaw was famous for his unflagging diligence in meditation and for spending most of his time in solitude. He was reputed to be an arahant (fully enlightened one), and it is said that he never slept.
For the first fifty-seven years of his life, Webu Sayadaw stayed in upper Burma, dividing his time among three meditation centres in a small area. After his first trip to Rangoon, at the invitation ofSayagyi U Ba Khin, in 1953, he included southern Burma in his travels, visiting there to teach and meditate from time to time. He also went on pilgrimage to India and Sri Lanka. Webu Sayadaw spent his final days at the meditation centre in the village where he was born. He passed away on 26 June 1977, at the age of eighty-one. The following describes Sayagyi's first meeting and subsequent contact with this noble person. At the beginning of 1941, U Ba Khin had been promoted to the post of Chief Accounts Officer, Burma Railways Board. One of his duties was to travel on the Rangoon-Mandalay line auditing the accounts of local stations. He travelled in a special carriage for the Chief Accountant, with full facilities for office work and sleeping overnight. His carriage would be attached to the main train, then detached at various stations.
One day in July, by error his carriage was detached at a station in the town of Kyaukse, forty miles south of Mandalay. Although he was not scheduled to audit the accounts here, as Accounts Officer he was permitted to check the accounts of any station, and he proceeded to do this. After his work was over, he decided to visit the nearby Shwetharlyaung Hill and set out with the local station master. Sayagyi had heard that a monk named Webu Sayadaw, who had reached a high stage of development, was residing in the area. From the top of the hill they could see a cluster of buildings in the distance. They recognized this as the monastery of Webu Sayadaw and decided to go there. At about 3:00 p.m. they arrived at the compound. An old nun sat pounding chillies and beans, and they asked her if they could pay respects to the Sayadaw. "This is not the time to see the reverend Sayadaw," she said. "He is meditating and will not come out of his hut until about six o'clock. This monk does not entertain people. He only comes out of his hut for about half an hour in the evening. If there are people here at this time, he may give a discourse and then return to his hut. He will not meet people at times they may wish to meet him." U Ba Khin explained that he was a visitor from Rangoon and that he did not have much time. He would like very much to meet Webu Sayadaw. Would it not be possible to pay respects outside? The nun pointed out the hut, a small bamboo structure, and the visitors went there together.
Sayagyi knelt on the ground and said, "Venerable Sir, I have come all the way from lower Burma, Rangoon, and wish to pay respects to you." To everyone's astonishment, the door to the hut opened and the Sayadaw emerged, preceded by a cloud of mosquitoes. Sayagyi paid respects, keeping his attention in the body with awareness of anicca. "What is your aspiration, layman?" Webu Sayadaw asked Sayagyi. "My aspiration is to attain nibbana, sir," U Ba Khin replied. "Nibbana? How are you going to attain nibbana?" "Through meditation and by knowing anicca, sir," said Sayagyi. "Where did you learn to be aware of this anicca?" Sayagyi explained how he had studied Vipassana meditation under Saya Thetgyi. "You have been practicing Vipassana?" "Yes, sir, I am practicing Vipassana." "What sort of Vipassana?" Webu Sayadaw questioned him closely and Sayagyi gave the details. The Sayadaw was very pleased. He said, "I have been meditating in this jungle alone for years in order to experience such stages of Vipassana as you describe." He seemed astonished to encounter a householder who had reached advanced proficiency in the practice without being a monk. Webu Sayadaw meditated with Sayagyi, and after some time said, "You must start teaching now. You have acquired good parami (accumulated merit), and you must teach the Dhamma to others. Do not let people who meet you miss the benefits of receiving this teaching. You must not wait. You must teach–teach now!" With a Dhamma injunction of such strength from this saintly person, U Ba Khin felt he had no choice but to teach. Back at the railway station, the assistant station master became his first student. Sayagyi instructed him in Anapana meditation in his railway carriage, using the two tables of the dining compartment as their seats.
Although Sayagyi did not begin to teach in a formal way until about a decade later, this incident was a watershed. It marked the point at which Sayagyi began to share his knowledge of meditation with others. In 1953, at a time when there was much conflict and strife in lower Burma, some government officials suggested that they should invite some of the saintly monks of the country to visit the capital, Rangoon. There was a traditional belief that if a highly developed person visited in a time of trouble, it would have a beneficial effect and the disturbances would calm down. Webu Sayadaw was not well-known in Rangoon because prior to this time he had strictly confined his travels to his three meditation compounds at Kyaukse, Shwebo and Ingyinpin, never leaving this small area of northern Burma. Sayagyi, however, felt strongly that this saintly monk should be invited to visit Rangoon. Even though he had not seen nor communicated with Webu Sayadaw since 1941, Sayagyi felt confident that he would accept the invitation, so he sent one of his assistants to upper Burma to ask the Sayadaw to come and visit his centre in Rangoon for one week.
This was during the time of the monsoon retreat when the monks, according to their monastic rules, must spend their time in meditation rather than in travel. Monks are not ordinarily permitted to travel during the monsoon retreat; however, for a special purpose, a monk may leave his retreat for up to seven days. When U Ba Khin's messenger reached Mandalay and people heard what his mission was, they scoffed. "Webu Sayadaw never travels," they told him. "Especially not now during the rainy season. He will not go out for even one night, let alone seven days. You are wasting your time." Nevertheless, Sayagyi had sent him on this errand, so he persevered. He hired a taxi to Shwebo and sought an audience with the Ven. Sayadaw. When the assistant told Webu Sayadaw that he had been sent by Sayagyi U Ba Khin and extended Sayagyi's invitation, the monk exclaimed, "Yes, I am ready. Let us go." This response was a great surprise to everyone.
Webu Sayadaw, accompanied by some of the monks from his monastery, then paid a visit to the International Meditation Centre. This visit, coming after more than a decade since the two men had first met, demonstrated Webu Sayadaw's high regard for Sayagyi. Moreover, it was unusual for a monk to stay at the meditation centre of a lay teacher. Between the years of 1954 and his death in 1977, Webu Sayadaw made regular annual visits to towns in southern Burma to teach Dhamma. During Sayagyi's lifetime, he periodically visited I.M.C. as well. The Sayadaw was held to have attained high attainments in meditation, and it was a great honour for I.M.C. to receive him. When Webu Sayadaw visited Sayagyi's centre, he usually gave a short Dhamma talk every day. He once mentioned, "When we first visited this place it was like a jungle, but now what progress has been made in these years. It resembles the time of the Buddha when many benefited! Can one count the number? Innumerable!" At one time, Sayagyi decided to fulfill the Burmese tradition of becoming a monk at least once in one's lifetime. Without notifying anyone in advance, he and one of his close disciples, U Ko Lay (the ex-Vice-chancellor of Mandalay University) went to Webu Sayadaw's centre at Shwebo and, under the Sayadaw's guidance, took robes for a period of about ten days.
After Sayagyi's death, Webu Sayadaw visited Rangoon and gave a private interview to about twenty-five students from Sayagyi's centre. When it was reported to him that Sayagyi had died, he said, "Your Sayagyi never died. A person like your Sayagyi will not die. You may not see him now, but his teaching lives on. Not like some persons who, even though they are alive, are as if dead–who serve no purpose and who benefit none."
The Webu Sayadaw was born on the 17th of February 1896 in Ingyinbin, a small village near Shewbo in upper Burma. He was ordained as a novice at the age of nine and was given the name Shin Kumara. At the age of twenty he was ordained as a full member of the Sangha, now being addressed as U Kumara. ("Webu Sayadaw" is a title meaning "the holy teacher from Webu," given to him after he became an established teacher.) U Kumara went to Mandalay to study at the famous Masoyein Monastery, the leading monastic university of the time. In his seventh year after full ordination he abandoned the study of the Pali scriptures and left the monastery to put into practice what he had learned about meditation.
The Webu Sayadaw emphasized the practice of meditation as the only way to bring the teachings of the Buddha to fulfillment. The study of the scriptures, though helpful, is not essential for the realization of Nibbana. He was not a scholar and his discourses do not cater to the intellectual who prefers the study of Buddhist philosophy to the practice. His refreshing simplicity, his patience, his lovely sense of humor, and his humility, all revealed in his dialogue with his audience, illumine a side of Buddhism which cannot be perceived by reading treatises and texts. The statements of the people in the audience offer us a glimpse of how Buddhism is practiced in Burma today.
The Webu Sayadaw passed away on the 26th of June 1977 in the meditation center at his native village Ingyinbin. He was believed by many to have been an Arahant.
The existence of the Global Pagoda in Mumbai, and all beings benefiting from Vipassana owe an infinite debt of gratitude to Venerable Webu Sayadaw (1896-1977), the respected monk teacher of Burma. Webu Sayadaw was the first to strongly exhort Sayagyi U Ba Khin to teach Vipassana, in July, 1941, an instruction that U Ba Khin immediately followed.
Soon, the happy, liberating light of Dhamma began glowing worldwide after Sayagyi U Ba Khin's devoted student Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka started teaching Vipassana in Mumbai, India from 1969.
To gain real benefits of Dhamma, Webu Sayadaw stressed much on Viriya, or Right Effort of proper, continuous, untiring practice, and to get rid of laziness and wasting time. He taught Anapana meditation, objectively observing the natural in-coming, out-going breath.
Ven Webu Sayadaw meditating under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, India
Anapana is taught in Vipassana courses as the important preparatory exercise for Vipassana practice - the surgery of the mind to take out all defilements to fully purify the mind, be liberated from all misery, and then most importantly, the practice of Metta Bhavana to share the benefits thereby gained, with all beings in all the lokas (planes of existence), in all the world systems.
Below is one of Venerable Webu Sayadaw's well-known discourses, "To light a fire", translated from Burmese by Roger Bischoff.
(For original article, and more information on Venerable Webu Sayadaw :"To Light a Fire: A Dhamma Discourse", by The Venerable Webu Sayadaw, translated from the Burmese by Roger Bischoff. Access to Insight, 7 June 2010
Ven. Webu Sayadaw was born to Daw Kyin Nu and U Lu Pe in 1896 in British Burma near Khin U township in modern day Sagaing Division. He underwent the usual monk's training in the Pāli scriptures from the age of nine, when he became a novice, until he was twenty-seven. His given title as a monk was Kumara Kassapa.
In 1923 (seven years after his ordination), he left the monastery and spent four years in solitude. He practiced (and later taught) the technique of Ānāpānasati (awareness of the in-breath and out-breath). He said that by working with this practice to a very deep level of concentration, one is able to develop Vipassanā(insight) into the essential characteristics of all experience: anicca (impermanence), anatta (egolessness) and dukkha (unsatisfactoriness). Ven. Webu Sayadaw was famous for his unflagging diligence in meditation and for spending most of his time in solitude. He was reputed to be an arahant (fully enlightened one), and it is said that he never slept.
For the first fifty-seven years of his life, Ven. Webu Sayadaw stayed in upper Burma, dividing his time among three meditation centres in a small area. After his first trip to Rangoon, at the invitation of Ba Khin, in 1953, he included southern Burma in his travels, visiting there to teach and meditate from time to time. He also went on pilgrimage to India and Sri Lanka. Ven. Webu Sayadaw spent his final days at the meditation centre in the village where he was born. He died on 26 June 1977, at the age of eighty-one.