Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sayagyi U Goenka Pilgrimage: A Day in Kyaukse

On this day, pilgrims descended on the important town of Kyaukse, near the Mandalay airport and just south of the city of Mandalay. This is a place of vast importance in the biography of Webu Sayadaw. For many years, this monk's whereabout were totally and entirely unknown, and even present-day biographers have been unable to construct any narrative of where the great monk was for nearly a decade. Likely he was practicing intensive Vipassana meditation in wild forest regions, and had little to no contact with other people at this time. However, Kyaukse marks the site where Ashin Kumara, as he was then known at the time, resurfaced after so many years away. Suffering from chronic stomach problems, he had a dream in which a supernatural being directed him to a special well in Kyaukse that contained celestial water. "Drink some of this," the being promised, "and you shall suffer no more." U Kumara followed the advice, and true to his word, his stomach pains did indeed ease. 

As he recuperated, he found a cave just up a hill where he could meditate intensively, later followed by a black stone on which he would sit for many hours in the open air. Located on Webu Hill, U Kumara ultimately because known as "the Sayadaw on Webu Hill," or just "Webu Sayadaw" for short.

Eventually-- to speed the story up many years in the space of a sentence-- a vast monastery was built around the great monk, which is what a young government minister found in 1943 when he had a brief layover en route to Yangon. The Minister's name was U Ba Khin, and upon meeting Webu Sayadaw for the first time here and describing his meditation practice, he was instructed in no uncertain terms to begin teaching immediately! Just a few hours later, he taught his first student: a train worker at the Kyaukse station. Later, with Webu Sayadaw's blessing, U Ba Khin would open IMC, where a young Indian named S.N. Goenka would learn under him, and eventually spread this wonderful Burmese Dhamma around the world...

An Indian pilgrim takes photos of the very cave where Webu Sayadaw began his practice in Kyaukse

The very kuti where Webu Sayadaw was meditating when U Ba Khin came to the site as a young government minister

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