Monday, 10 August 2015

Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw and Meditation Monastery



Born in March 1913, U Aung Tun married young and had three daughters. His first wife died, and subsequent two wives left the marriage to become nuns. U Aung Tun’s first profound awakening occurred upon reading Sun Lun Sayadaw’s biography. Like him, this highly revered monk had little educational background, and yet achieved the greatest spiritual heights— prompting U Aung Tun to wonder, “why not I?” This, combined with having received a sharp blow to the head while attempting to rob a house, prompted the 46 year old man to travel to his sister’s home in Kyaung Ga Lay and follow nine precepts for nine days. Here, from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day he practiced ānāpāna meditation in the sitting position, not changing his posture unless having to meet the calls of nature. He developed profoundly during this time, and this determination and perseverance would go on to characterize his future teaching style.

Following this period, he continued his practice, in later months moving to his nephew’s home, where it is believed he attained the third state of enlightenment. Once, he described viewing his past lives “in his vision… like a television series.” He later decided to go to Twante to meditate alone in a forest, and accepted an offer to have lunch at the home of U Su Ya in Hmawbi, and it is here where he is believed to have become fully liberated—nearly 21 months after beginning his ardent practice. Sayadaw U Okkatta, as he was now known, came to establish himself here, and soon thousands of Burmese disciples were coming to pay their respects and learn from him. The Sayadaw also started to travel and give Dhamma talks, where audiences numbered as much as 3,000.

Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw drew particular inspiration from the Buddha’s vow at the time of his enlightenment, Ayoo kye kye, ayay khan khan lu yin thay ma thay yin tayar ya, or “I will try [either until my] bones dry up [or until] the case is accomplished,” and he exhorted his monks, too, to work until enlightenment or until their bones broke apart. In his teachings, this translated into encouraging longer periods of sitting without changing posture, starting with a minimum of two hours and building up from here.

The Sayadaw passed away at the age of 60 on July 8th 1973, after which the body was kept in state for three years. Disciples say that despite not being embalmed, the body did not become rotten during this time, but “dried up,” and eventually left seven relics, two from the eyes, four from the bones, and one tooth. They were once taken to a jeweler to be examined without prior explanation, and the jeweler thought they were real precious gems! However, when looked at more closely, it became apparent that vein-like lines were also present. These are on display annually in April and are believed to emit light from the pagoda. 


Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw has influenced many great monk of today, including the Thabarwa Sayadaw in Than Lyin. Discourses of the great monk can be found here.