Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Cremation for Sayadaw U Pandita

As shared recently here, one of the world's greatest Vipassana teachers has died. This was also reported on Buddhist Channel, and cremation services are planned for Friday April 22 in Bago. An open question concerns what type of funeral it will be. In the past, monk cremations were large and glorious affairs, but some revered Sayadaws began speaking out against this as a waste of funds and not serving the ultimate purpose of Dhamma, and requiring that their own eventual funerals be humble affairs. Of course, U Pandita was no ordinary monk or even meditation teacher by any marker, and so many may justifiably wish to honor his life. Devotees are also waiting to see what relics may appear, as many believe he attained the state of being fully liberated.

Sayadaw Gyi's body is now available for paying respects in Yangon's Panditarama (Shwe Daung Gone Yeikthar) until tomorrow's midday. The body then will be transported to Bago with a retinue of buses, leaving the Yangon Panditarama at 1 PM. According to the Burmese program, Sitagu Sayadaw will give a discourse at 8:30 pm on April 21. The cremation ceremony will start the following day at around noon. 

Yangon Panditarama: No.80(က)။ သံလြင္လမ္း၊ ဗဟန္းၿမိဳ႔နယ္၊ ရန္ကုန္ၿမိဳ႔။ Phone no.: 01-705525.

Bago Panditarama: ပဲခူးတိုင္း၊ သံျဖဴေက်ာင္းေက်းရြာ၊ အင္းတေဂၚ၊ ၁၀ မိုင္ကုန္း မွတ္တိုင္။ Phone no.: 09-49450787.

Below, a recent photograph depicting the carrying of U Pandita's corpse to the eventual cremation pyre:

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Summit of her Ambition: The Spirited Life of Marie Byles

The Australian Marie Byles claimed to be the first Westerner to set foot in, and learn the Dhamma at, both Maha Bodhi Monastery in Mandalay and Thanboddhay Monastery in Monywa. She learned under Saya U Thein, the student of Saya Thet Gyi at the first site; then from Mohnyin Sayadaw, the greatest monastic disciple of Ledi Sayadaw at the second. She wrote meticulously about her experiences traveling and meditating throughout Burma in 1957 in Journey Into Burmese Silence, a book that is freely available here.

Now, Anne McLeod has written a biography about his pioneering woman, looking at what drove her to take trips few others were making at this time. 

Here is an excerpt about her life story:
In 1924 Marie Byles became the first woman allowed to practise law in New South Wales. Told she could only work as a law clerk, she triumphed over the patriarchal legal profession and a society that viewed women as second-class by establishing a successful practice. As legal advisor for women’s organisations in the 1930s she helped change legislation that discriminated against women’s rights in marriage and divorce – most cruelly, in the guardianship of their own children. Instead of the fame and fortune she could have earned through law Marie devoted herself to the conservation of the Australian environment. 
An early member of the elite Sydney Bush Walkers club, Marie and her friends (including Paddy Pallin who made their camping equipment) spent every weekend exploring unmapped terrain within reach of Sydney. As they grew to know and respect the landscape, the bushwalkers developed a commitment to protect the most beautiful and ecologically sensitive areas and became leaders of the conservation movement.
A zealous advocate for wilderness Marie worked as legal advisor on behalf of the Federation of Bushwalking Clubs to petition the government to reserve vast areas of land for future generations. Before the National Parks and Wildlife Service was constituted in 1967, bushwalkers took responsibility for managing the reserved areas by serving on Trusts and attending regular working bees to make paths that are still walked today.
It was mountains though that held the greatest fascination for Marie. After reaching the summit of Mt Cook in 1928, she twice returned to New Zealand’s South Island to climb virgin peaks and map unexplored areas before leading an international expedition to south China in 1938. The failure of this dream became the catalyst of a journey into places not found on a map as she began a quest to find the meaning of life beyond success and failure.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Funeral Services for Sayadaw U Pandita

Word has come that the great Sayadaw U Pandita has passed away during Water Festival in a Bangkok hospital. Also known as the Shwe Taung Gon Sasana Yeiktha Sayadaw, he was born on July 29, 1921, and so was 94 when he passed away. As his hometown was Bago (Pegu), his body will be moved there for cremation after a large ceremony at Panditarama on April 20th. The cremation ceremony will take place in Bago on one pm on April 22nd. Foreign yogis who wish to pay their respects and attend the ceremony may request permission from the monastery to do so.

Sayadaw U Pandita lived through times that scarcely another being can imagine. He saw his country during Colonial British times, Japanese occupation, independence, military dictatorship, and fledging democracy. Perhaps more importantly, his life intersected with the great patipatti movement of the 20th century; perhaps more than "intersecting;" his energy, wisdom, and enthusiasm in so small part pushed this movement along to become what it was.

U Pandita was the student of Mahasi Sayadaw, and hand-chosen by him as one of three monks to respond to the Sri Lankan government's requests in the 1950s for trained Burmese monks to go to the island and teach Dhamma to the people. From there he began traveling internationally and to the West often, where his English ability allowed him to deliver these essential teachings of liberation to yogis around the world (and took a number of trips to International Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, to lead courses there). By the time of his passing, Panditarama had become one of the great centers and traditions of Myanmar, with a loyal and dedicated following around the world, including branches in six foreign countries. The great monk's life of Dhamma and service to Dhamma literally touched millions of beings. May he be happy and liberated!

As The Lion's Roar reported, Joseph Goldstein issues this statement following his passing:

So many of us here are saddened to hear of Sayadaw U Pandita’s passing. He was such a powerful influence in all of our lives, urging us on to realize our highest aspirations. His great service to the Dhamma is inestimable. It feels like the passing of an era.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: "Tiny Irregular Crumbly Chunks"

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

17 January

Sitting alone in the early morning, shutters closed due to the chill, I no longer hear the solitary pink-robed nun whose early chanting near the Mahamuni statue usually reverberates in the hut.

I sit with the breath flattening, as if it has lost its volume, only a thin intermittence half free of the body. More attention is given to the area of contact between the breath and the upper lip, something which until now I have given less attention because I have been intent on distinguishing (distracted by) the visual nimitta - usually for me a bright if rather broad light - and anyway the sensations that are felt on the upper lip and those that well unbidden within and through the entire body are quite distinct. In turn, the awareness of the breath becomes sharpened and clearer, until it reaches a stage where it breaks up almost into tiny irregular crumbly chunks.

Now too with the more deliberate focus at that place, the sensation fines to a needlepoint or roughens to one or two grains of dust. Outside someone is sweeping, short brusque strokes, pausing intermittently, resuming:
Endless brush strokes
sweeping through the mind,
settled on namarupa.
Sitting further, I become aware that the body is composed of innumerable, so many, individual flecks that appear insubstantial, unfixed; and while I remain aware of the body as a whole neither are these flickerings simply the same ones recurring.
1000 points
sweeping mind and body,
settled in namarupa.
On our evening walk through Ingyinbin village, again we are greeted with unguarded warmth by the local people, again the girls are just leaving the weaving factory. Looking back after them, I notice the dust clouds stirred up by the returning oxcarts and motorcycles: sunlight and fine dust particles hopelessly enmesh and the lightness of one and the heaviness of the other holds them together in suspension.
Rust-coloured, the late sun
bound in the dust of returning carts; gathered at their gates,
children dash towards us, smiling.
The following morning rain falls. Dust that last night wouldn’t settle will do so now for at least a day or two. Aum Pyee worries that the remaining unharvested rice will be ruined should the rain continue into a second day. Looking at the ground, I see particles of dust coagulate as they become absorbed into large misshapen droplets.
Cheerless hours, old Bhante-ji departed,
three young puppies with their motherscattered. Nearby the hut, a notched bamboo pole
extended, the elderly woman snares
thin uppermost branches, stripping
the tree of its small, plum-like fruits.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The First Vipassana Course in the Philippines

Although Yangon is "only" 2662 kilometers from Manila, the two Asian (and ASEAN) countries have had little contact in the last few centuries. The British (and nearly the French) came to Burma, while the Spanish and Americans landed in the Philippines-- with only the Japanese Imperial Army briefly colonizing both. 

The two cities also reached their heyday around the same time, in the pre-WWII era, when Manila was known as the "Pearl of the Orient" and Rangoon and Mandalay were some of the most cosmopolitan cities on the continent and with the most celebrated universities. But while Burma is one of the most devotedly Buddhist countries in the world, Catholicism reigns in the Philippines, and is one of the few Asian countries in the region to have scarcely been touched ever by the Buddha's teachings. 


Because in the last decade or so, the Philippines-- as have a number of other countries around the world-- has seen a renewed interest in the profound teachings and practice of the Buddha. Several Pa Auk monks have recently made the islands a home, and the ten-day courses in the tradition of Sayagyi U Goenka have been becoming popular. In fact, one of the initial supporters was a Catholic nun, and one course has even been held in a Catholic seminary near Cebu. 

Good news is coming for Filipino meditators, which will be shared in an upcoming post. For now, enjoy this video that recaps the first successful U Goenka course held here.

Below, a photo of the grounds of the new Vipassana center.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: Ordinariness in Everything

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

16 January

Back from Shwebo following a muddle over the pickup arrangements, and Karen with a heavy cold, the prominent gold pagoda spire seen at a distance of some kilometres foreshortens the distance. Return with evening-time.

Under the wispy moon in the still-blue sky
lines of white birds sweeping into the tamarinds.
Silent, graceful, landing as new leaves.
The following morning I walk with Kwau Soe to the patipatti compound, where shortly after Yan Aung Shwe joins us, wearing treble sweaters. We examine the U Ba Khin building, which Aung Shwe has recently upgraded adding new facilities and paint. He wants the small corner room with generous windows on three sides where U Ba Khin spent a week ordained to be reserved for serious mediation only. Beyond this building stands another, rather dilapidated one, used during Webu’s time by his donor, a former Burmese Railways Minister.

From a nearby tree Kwau Soe plucks from a tree vine several tiny orange berries each with a black spot at one end which he holds out in his open palm. He explains that in his childhood they used to thread these berries onto a thread of cotton to make necklaces:

Kauw Soe gathers the tiny orange berries
they once threaded onto necklaces:
the devas on their elevated platform are benign.
He also stops to pick up from a narrow ledge at the arahant’s pool a small tortoise, white on the underside and less than half the size of his palm, with two small legs occasionally emerging and flailing, while the head remains firmly ensconced within the body - until the creature is returned to the water, where its head and legs re-emerge and after a brief flurry it disappears beneath the surface of the stagnant water. Shortly after, we visit the deva platform, a place where Webu is said to have been sometimes found meditating; and to my surprise beneath the expansive banyan tree nearby there are a couple of gnat altars decorated by devotees with fresh cut sprigs placed in jars; then over we head to the monks’ quarters, where just today the aged blue Plymouth car donated to Webu some sixty years ago has been towed back from Kin-U, a mere shell but impressive still.

We enter Webu’s rooms, where Aung Shwe recounts for me the last hours of the Sayadaw’s life: a final visit to the toilet in the adjoining room followed by collapse on his return, immediately lifted and carried by his assistants to the dais where shortly he passes away, cradled in arms including those of the current Sayadaw on the pariyati side. Several events of the final days are captured in the photographs that hang on the walls and I look long at them.

Karen and I return to the hut after lunch and sit through the afternoon, re-entering it late but still bright and welcoming.

Leaving the hut, the warm sun,
the wavy leaved tree displays perfumed white flowers
which we saw yesterday cupped in the old woman’s hands.
Perhaps this is a reasonable juncture at which to digress and recount an event of a few days later concerning the now 81 year old Sayadaw and the 83 year old Indian nuclear physicist and physician recently arrived to take robes and meditate. On the morning of his ordination the Indian gentleman is sat down on a small wooden stool beside the concrete trough used for washing by the monks and a young monk proceeds to shave the remaining ring of grey hair from the elderly fellow’s head in quick straight bursts of the razor. From there Bhante leads him to the dining room, where he becomes a novice prior to receiving full ordination. Pali phrases are said and repeated, robes passed as dana to the preceptor are returned and donned with the help of a couple of attending novices. Next a large young monk directs us to the Sima Hall, where an animated preceptor Sayadaw proceeds gleefully to compare the ripened age of each the novice, he himself, and the Buddha; once again he points to the upper lip and repeats Webu’s injunction to hold the attention right there uninterrupted on the breathe 24 hours in the day. The village musicians start up prematurely, thinking the foreign guests (six of us at this time) who now vacate the hall include the entire ordination party. It’s another 30 minutes before their cymbals and drums sound again in urgent unison as the monks reappear and we have the chance to give to tach of them a modest dana.

Late in the afternoon the guests enter the Sayadaw’s quarters in the ramshackle old teak hall, rows of empty Red Bull cans lining the inner entrance. Sayadaw sidles onto the floor with us and the priceless Buddha relics are brought out. A new glass dome has replaced the old one which has been roughly glued together following an earlier mishap. It is topped with a small black carved pagoda and the same wood serves as a pedestal, studded with lips of ivory. It is an ivory lotus that houses the tiny container which contains the dozen or so ‘mustard seed’ sized bone relics, wrapped in a small piece of purple cloth. Each petal has been individually carved, so that one that is near the relics curves up from the rest of the holder almost perpendicularly. Each of us in turn has a white cloth placed on our head while another holds the relic holder over the head for a couple of minutes. This has happened for me before, and at least this time the mind remains composed even though there is a strange and unsatisfied sense that there should be a ‘special’ experience or sensation to report. Ordinariness can feel like a major disappointment! Finally, it is Snow’s turn; as I rest the relics on her head a sudden buzzing sound is immediately followed by an itchy sensation and I realise a mosquito has just landed and bitten me on the cheek.

Sayadaw scrambles after almost spilling
a ‘mustard seed’ bone relic.
Cats, medicines, newspapers, plus one freshly ordained monk.

Cats race the roof as the black wooden bowl
housing the Buddha relics gets held in turn
above each head. Still within the mind kicks.

I hold the relic holder above Snow’s head
two minutes; knees pretty unsteady; hands
occupied, a mosquito stationed on my cheek.

As if I hadn’t appreciated the ordinariness in everything, later bhanti-ji, quite hard of hearing, explains that he had heard little or nothing, and asks why the grains of rice had been treated so reverently and whether it was these that had been referred to as ‘mustard seeds’.

The Sayadaw himself, surprisingly impish and bright-faced, each day perambulates the compound with his walking poles, using them to indicate this or that or else to admonish recalcitrant novices:

81, more a jaunty 18, soiled
robes and hugely calloused feet, this
Sayadaw held Webu when he passed.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Engaging with the Dhamma: Advice for Burmese Monastic Life

One hidden trap that some foreign yogis bring to their stay in Myanmar is coming with a frame of understanding how Dhamma is practiced in the Golden Land by idealizing it; this certainly applies to stays at monasteries as well. One becomes quite attached to this expectation, which ultimately carries within it the seeds of disappointment, as it is an preconception that will be impossible to meet. And when one’s experience inevitably starts falling outside that unrealistic frame, frustration (and even stronger emotions) sets in.

For example, it is not the case that all monks have joined the order with the sole purpose of attaining nibbana, that all lay supporters behave with perfect scruples when at monasteries and pagodas, that all young children possess a clear comprehension of the basic Buddhist principles as a result of their upbringing and education. Yes, some monks do watch the English Premier League while playing with their smart phones, some lay people flirt and listen to music at pagodas, and some children seem to take a pleasure in torturing monastery dogs.

There can be also be a well-intentioned but counterproductive (and condescending) Western meditators' bias that exults in finding wisdom in the poor, simple Burmese countryside, as if devotion and purity of practice can be explained by merely being burdened with less material opportunity in life. Some would-be monastics seek out monasteries in particularly isolated, rural villages with this as a partial motivation. But such an approach ignores the commonalities that form the fundamental human experience, whether in an affluent Los Angeles suburb, downtown Paris, a poor Delta hamlet… or almost any monastery. Lobha, dosa, and moha are encountered at every turn, as is the intention to follow the Noble Eight Fold Path.

In other words, this whole issue exemplifies the very thing Dhamma students who come to Myanmar come to practice… Dhamma! Yogis should examine their expectations carefully, and experience the country with open eyes, appreciating it on its own merits, not filtering it through an ultimately impossible standard or distorted set of expectations. The Middle Path is negotiated with life circumstances, and it can be inspiring to see how some of Burmese monks and meditators work to bring the Buddha’s teachings into every moment of (real, unvarnished) life.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Maha Myat Muni Pagoda: A Single Dhammic Object

The Maha Myat Muni Buddha image! In this single object, now heavily coated in gold, can be seen the intersection between myth and documented history, between ancient India and modern Myanmar, between political power and the quest for liberation, and between external devotion and internal faith. Meditators from lands without a strong Dhamma history may not understand how— or even be aware that— centuries of devoted Buddhist practice manifest through material objects, especially Buddha images. One of the clearest examples of this is the Maha Myat Muni Buddha statue. As British colonial writer George Bird wrote over a century ago, “[S]o highly venerated was this image, that from the earliest times pious pilgrims from most distant Buddhist countries have been in the habit of coming to the shrine to pay their devotions.” The tradition and reverence continues to this day.

Ingyinbin Journal: Not to Get Carried Away

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

11 January

Interesting to read Aya Khema and find recounted in intenser and more developed form some of the experiences that have started to occur over the past couple of weeks during Anapana. Not that what is experienced is within a long pole’s reach of the jhanas, but these days have given a more sustained settledness when meditating than hitherto and this is heartening. I walk to the hut with some degree of mindfulness, contentment and a feeling of positive anticipation. Walk through the grounds, say hello to the three young puppies who continue to refuse to be petted, and climb the five concrete steps into the hut, leaving my jandals on the platform outside the gate, which I close behind me, and then settle onto my cushion, having, on the cooler days, closed the shutters on two of the three walls and face the other. 

The body is quickly comfortable and relaxed, although the mind continues intermittently with uninvited thoughts and it can take a good 30 minutes until a stage is reached where it too feels contained and settled, not leaning out after things or feeling that things reach in after it, odd sorts of distractions really. The mind is settled yet doesn’t remain unwaveringly on the breath, a number of times it gets lulled into extraneous thoughts for up to several seconds, or even between times there continue to be fleeting little distractions, sometimes fleeting images or forms of half-thought that are not yet verbal or properly formed. Balancing this, to some extent, the mind is progressively absorbed in the calming, pleasant, upwelling body sensation that begins in the head region and slowly incorporates section by section downward the rest of the body, sometimes skipping from chest to feet and legs and then working back through the hips and torso. 

There is a slight tightness, often, in the legs that can linger, but it is not particularly uncomfortable, indeed the feeling is generally muted because along with it there is a smooth and active feeling of ease throughout the legs and the entire body. The mind tends to feel anchored in the chest or head area, but sometimes when I focus on this I realise that that is a notion more than a place and the mind can move freely and inhabit various portions of the body, not necessarily in any order, nor is it jerky. And where the mind arrives it quietens, soothes, warms and kind of stirs; the body seeming to remain body in its shape, but again on reflection that is notional and the mind and body prove a perfect accompaniment where they are together all over. This can fill a two hour sitting, although the feeling of fluidity and fullness varies from sit to sit. Much piti, both of an energetic showering kind (which seems to emanate mostly from the surface of the body) that brings refreshment and eases any tightness, and another upswelling kind that seems to emanate from or reside deep within the body itself - and the feeling that - almost that - the mind can generate or facilitate either kind, though not in an easily controlled or predictable way, rather there is a feeling of confidence to be able to bring a feeling of calm and settledness to parts of the body by concentrating the attention on them.
Like a glass of milk
topping the brim:
nothing to be added.
Agitation, where it occurs, is mental rather than physical, a feeling of eagerness to keep developing, pressing towards certain sensations occurring, or the mind being more one-pointed, or desiring the suffused sense of light, lightness of the body, to become a full-fledged patibhaga nimitta. Too eager.

Not to get carried away, the morning and evening group sittings bring me down to earth. I remain self-conscious when sitting with others, especially because I am often noisy in the throat and tend to be -
Commotion barely discernible.
Surrender in and out.
Listening to Pa Auk’s or U Jotika’s talks also sets me back in my modest place.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: A Krishnamurti Color

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

10 January

From the traditional music emanating from nearby loudspeakers at 4am we know it is to be another donor meal day. Bhante arrives soon after 4:30 and we sit with the music still sounding over the grounds. The breakfast is lavish, satisfying, a hindrance to meditation. Lunch more so: beans, mint, salad, bamboo and other roots, ground nuts, white rice and biryani (including a few sultanas), grapes, apples, little oranges, banana cake with nuts in it. 35 Kin-U teachers from their association have banded together to give this dana: and the benefit to them is clear in their faces, the way they serve the monks and then us, waiting on us with care and pleasure. The retired headmaster, wearing a black leather jacket over a rough sweater and other layers, and with his black hair swept over the bald part of his head, not unlike Krishnamurti color = excepted, enquires regarding our comfort, chats with us a few minutes about family and origins, and tells us something of his own history.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: Morning Sadness

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

9 January: Uposata

On the way to the hut I notice several pairs of children’s sandals discarded at the monastery gate. Some of the children are playing with their spinning tops in the school yard. One sits in the area in front of the classroom and is using a broken brick to hammer a finger-length rusted nail deeper into the nut or berry that serves as his top. A string is wound round the nail and top and pulled until the top is released. It flips onto its nail end and the young monk regathers it before it slows and tumbles onto the ground by looping his thread round the nail and flipping the top to catchable height.
Morning sadness.
The pigeons on the high pagoda ledges are muted.
The breeze through Webu’s hut door is chilly.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Former Myanmar President U Thein Sein now Buddhist Monk in Pyin Oo Lwin

The Irrawaddy magazine reports that former Myanmar President U Thein Sein has revealed he is now a Buddhist monk at Dhamma Dipati, a part of the Dhamma Sahaya Sasana Center of Institute of Dhamma Education (IDE), run by the highly esteemed Dr. Nandamala (also known as Pa Chote Sayadaw, or “Professor Sayadaw”).  The article reports that Sitagu Sayadaw highly encouraged U Thein Sein, while still President, to take robes at his first opportunity. Apparently, the former head of state has done just that, leaving aside his lay clothes and worldly responsibilities just days after turning over the reigns of government to the democratically elected NLD party.

Dr. Nandamala also has centers in Sagaing and Yangon. His English in excellent, and his method of teaching very accessible to meditators, as he designs his teaching based on the level of the student and his/her needs. There are many kutis for students who come to learn pariyatti from him. Abhidhamma courses are offered regularly to foreigners, and more information is posted on Dr. Nandamala’s website. There is a beautiful Dhamma Hall on site, and accommodations are two per room when filled. It is not a meditation center, and is primarily open when lectures or study courses are offered. The center teaches a variety of courses, such as the Visuddhimagga, and the Maggāmagga-ñāṇadassana-visuddhi (Purification by knowledge and vision of what is Path and Not Path), and Kankhavitarani-visuddhi.

Lithuanian nun Sayalay Piyadassii stayed at the center for some time, and comments on her experience studying Abhidhamma here:

“After staying in Myanmar for more then a year it was inevitable that the mind became curious about Abhidhamma teachings. Slowly, slowly, reading a little bit here, a little bit there, listening Dhamma talks from one teacher and then another, some knowledge started to arise. And the mind became more and more fascinated with the topic. Especially when the information that slowly was being gathered started to make more and more sense, and even more than that, it brought a lot of clarity and understanding into the actual practice of the Dhamma. But it was not until the day when I had a fortune to join Ven. Sayadaw's course on the most deep and profound Abhiddhama book, Patthana, did the mind ever tried to understand that last, but most fascinating topic of relationships between different ultimate realities. While I was studying on my own this field always seemed so high, that I literary never thought I'd be ever able to comprehend even the 'ABC' of it. But believe it or not, after just two weeks of attending the classes which Sayadaw gave, I could say, 'Actually, it is not that difficult! At least the basics, we can understand!'…And it so rewarding!

But, I would like to give one warning to anyone who is considering to plunge into this most interesting field of Buddhist philosophy: if you learn Abhidhamma, the field of your Dhamma studies will narrow down a lot. And it is very much likely that the teachings that are not touching the roots, not touching the ultimate realities, will appear shallow. Mind will find it difficult to find satisfaction in such shallow teachings. And that will direct the mind towards the practices which actually deal with the Dhamma on a level of ultimate realities. The choice of where to go to practice in such case narrows down significantly, but there are places, and the experience of this deep and profound teachings is nothing that the words could possibly describe. Try it if you dare!”

Ingyinbin Journal: The Scratchings of a Broom

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

8 January 

Each day on the way to breakfast we walk over dust that has been swept, at least from a ‘here’ to a ‘there’, the scratchings where the broom has passed forming an interesting pattern, more watery than the lake. Meanwhile various white birds are still settled in the trees; in ones or twos or threes they depart. The patterns left in the dust by other birds as they stroll about are in contrast tangled, like ripples.

Nearby, sweetly intoning monks; on mp3
U Jotika expounds the citasikas; & entering
at the window light, blend of blends.
Around the corner a monk reclines in his chair of wooden boards, reciting what is on the sheet before him. Someone has dropped a fresh gladioli stalk onto the ground, its serial flowers still fresh in the dust. A couple of schoolboys respond to my greeting and we high-five …otherwise it is mainly dust on the ground all the distance round the crumbling perimeter wall of the monastery to our sitting hut. I do notice, near the gate entrance, a couple of ox-carts loaded high with rice hay, the driver precariously balanced atop; and a sweet-looking light brown-grey bird of reasonable size, a firm beak and I think russet on the upper breast. Another bird like this, maybe larger, is perched high in the tamarind tree immediately opposite the entrance, where often we see the little squirrels take a leap from the bare electric cable on the wooden poles onto the tree, a good metre or two’s gap.
Half the length of its tail, the squirrel
scampers along the aerial cable:
earth its mirror.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Chan Myay Myaing: 2017 Mettā Course Flyer Available now!

The highly popular mettā course will be held again at Chan Myay Myaing's Pyin Oo Lwin monastery in Winter 2017. The flyer for this special course has just been released, although applications will not be accepted until May 2016. To download the flyer, go here

Summer Meditation Retreats at Thabawa

The following message comes from Sayalay Khema Cari at Thabawa Monastery. For more information, or to apply, contact her at: 

"Analysis of TRUTH"
18th to 28th April 2016 at Thabarwa Centre, Than Lyin, Yangon.

Applying Pali and Abhidhamma into Vipassana Practice, by Sayalay Cala Theri.
Including meditation, chanting, Dhamma discussion.
18th to 26th April (8 days)
7.30 am-9.00am:Pali*
9.30 am-11.00 am:Abhidhamma *
12.00pm to 4.30pm:Self-study
4.30pm:Walking and standing meditation at a nearby ancient pagoda (outdoor activity)
5.40pm:Dhamma discussion
7.00pm:Basic Buddhism
8.00pm:Sitting meditation
9.00pm:Chanting and sharing merits
* These are intermediate levels. But beginners are welcome to come and listen.

Meditation Retreat

27th to 28th April (2 days) 
7.30 am: Basic meditation instructions and taking 8 precepts
8.30am:Sitting meditation
9.15am:Walking and standing meditation
10.00am: Sitting meditation
3.00pm: Sitting
4.00pm:Dhamma Discussion
4.30pm:Walking at Stupa (outdoor activity)
5.40pm:Meditation Discussion
7.00pm:Dhamma and Meditation discussion
8.00pm:Sitting meditation
9.00pm:Chanting and sharing merits

Theinggu Method- by Sayalay Wisanda (Intense breathing method)
1st-5 May 2O16

7.3O-9.30am MEDITATION
7-8pm discussion


10-16may 2016
7days retreat with fasting-during the new year retreat

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Former President of Myanmar to Become Buddhist Monk

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) announces that with the recent Burmese election, now-former president U Thein Sein will soon ordain as a Buddhist monk and intensively practice Vipassana meditation. While to many Westerners there it may seem like something of a contradiction to go from the highest echelons of power to a life of voluntary simplicity and poverty, but in over a thousand years of Burmese history it's not so odd. While past kings went in and out of monkshood, to take only the last century or so, many Burmese heads of state have flirted with renunciation before, during, and after their leadership. 

For example, the first independence leader, General Aung San, said he briefly considered leaving aside the nationalist cause in order to follow as a student of the Italian monk (and friend of Webu Sayadaw and Sun Lun Sayadaw) U Lawkanawta. The first president, Sao Shwe Thaike, learned Anapana and Vipassana under Sayagyi U Ba Khin at International Meditation Center, and later became a leader in Shan Buddhist revival. His president at the time, U Nu, was perhaps the greatest meditator-in-office, trying to encourage Vipassana meditation as a state policy of newly independent Burma and once refusing to interrupt his self-imposed 45-day course even when Karen rebels were camped out in Mingaladon and nearly took over the capital of Rangoon! Even Ne Win, the general who launched the 1962 coup that Myanmar only recovered from in 2010, spoke at the end of his days in power as wishing to leave his lavish life behind for that of cool monkhood. While Than Shwe, who was in charge for much of the recent years, seems not of the same religious bent, he did oversee the construction of the splendid and inspiring Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Daw. And Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has studied under Sayadaw U Thumana and Sayadaw U Pandita, and now is advised by Sitagu Sayadaw. Much attention was paid when she arranged for her sons to come to Myanmar when it was still extremely politically unstable and have the traditional shinpyu, or ordination ceremony. 

In short, post-presidency monkshood and meditation in Myanmar may be akin to American presidents setting up charities following their tenure. While some such as Carter and Clinton devote themselves wholly to those issues they care most about, others such as Ford, Reagan, and Bush have done far less. 

To read more about the Pyin Oo Lwin monastery where U Thein Sein went, see here.

Metta Retreat Photo Albums

Sayadaw U Indaka, Daw Ariya, and Daw Viranani completed their annual mettā-bhavana retreat in Chan Myay Myaing Monastery in Pyin Oo Lwin, and have shared the inspiring photos and commentary about the course here. Although the course typically fills ups within days after it is offered, interested yogis may apply for the one to be held in one year's time in the cool hilly region of Myanmar.  

Friday, 1 April 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: Words Not Mattering

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

7 January

In Monywa, the careful young man trimmed my hair with a set of mechanical clippers like those my father used fifty years ago, though more carefully. Last evening, on our walk, we watched with several villagers the rice harvester set to work in the adjoining field. What takes hours if not days for a group of industrious villagers takes a matter of minutes for this machine. The bystanders' amazed eyes tell a story - if only an initial chapter, because the process of transition to the mechanical and new, impressive in its own limited way, has several chapters still to run and of necessity the tale is not one simply of the alleviation of misery but also the permutations and distresses of novelty.
The body effulgent
breathing somewhere (breathing)
body effulgent.
While this occurs, with the large orange sun mimicking the flat horizon, the small puppy with its degenerate legs is near its last. Not a month old, and born half paralysed, its many sores have begun to smell rank and it has stopped dragging itself around. Instead it lies on the blanket Karen has prepared, and, to her surprise, the mother who has kept its distance until now emits a small whine and comes to her to be stroked.
The children arrive hands outstretched,
‘thank you’ & ‘whats name’?
Words not mattering, they saunter away.

Ingyinbin Journal: "I Would Stay Here Unmoved"

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

6 January

Walk from one monastery to the other along the grooved tracks used by carts and motorcycles.
Eyes downcast; nothing
in the fields, feet dust-covered;
mind undisturbed.
It is in the ordination (sima) hall where our teacher U Ba Khin was ordained for one week where we sit. Recently refurbished, it sits under three tiers of manufactured tile sheets - clean, and the pigeons like to roost there at times, although they prefer the shallow stone shelves high on the pagoda, where their ongoing commotion reminds us of the rumbling of a train, like those passing in the distance from time to time. Birds chatter throughout the morning and, sitting late in the hut, we hear the hollow wood struck, followed by a metal gong, struck in twos, and next across the road the pariyati [side] bell, struck repeatedly in threes. The dogs howl bark and whimper en masse - their lunch too! One sits with the body welling pleasantly and the mind settled in a place where it feels content to remain:
Birds continue to clamour,
dogs howl when the meal bell is struck, pounding wood:
I would stay here unmoved.