Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Webu Sayadaw's Meditation Cave

Before U Kumara (the future Webu Sayadaw) popped up in Kyaukse out of the blue on March 12, 1924, no one was quite sure where he had been spending time. All that was known was that he was in the midst of years of intensive, solitary practice; even his modern biographers and closest disciples have been unable to reconstruct those early years in any detail. And while U Kumara continued his secluded practice here, Kyaukse was also where the next phase of his life began, and from where word about the achievements of the noble monk would spread to the rest of the country. 

The first site of note at Webu Sayadaw Monastery in Kyaukse is Dhat Ma Shaw Well, situated on the right side of the road, between the inner and outer monastery gates. After leaving his formal studies behind at the Masoyein Monastery in Mandalay in his mid-twenties, U Kumara spent some time living in remote caves and forests; perhaps given these hardships, he was frequently afflicted with stomach illnesses. 

One story goes that he was once travelling by train from Shwebo when someone advised him about a well near the Webula Hills that was known for its medicinal qualities. (In one version this was a holy man or pilgrim clad entirely in white. In another, it was a woman who met him before the train, and when U Kumara suggested that he may go home to Ingyinbin seeking a cure, she diverted him instead to Kyaukse) Soon after, he had a dream in which a being directed him to come here and search for a well of clear, bluish water. When he found the well, it is said that the same supernatural being appeared to personally offer him the water, and after drinking it, the monk’s stomach pains ceased. U Mya Thaung wrote that following this event, Webu Sayadaw never again laid down, had a cold, or spit. Those who wish may drink from this well, but note: pilgrims do so at their own risk.

Dhat ma shaw carries a couple of different meanings. Translated literally, it means “the knife falls down,” a reference from the 12th century when King Alaung Sithu is believed to have passed through here, back when the village was known as Paung. At that time, one of the royal attendants accidentally dropped his knife in this well. But when “knife falls down” is said quickly in Burmese, it can be heard as “the diarrhea has stopped,” a reference to the curative effect the well water had on Webu Sayadaw.

The words “ye phyu ye pya,” (or “white water, blue water”) came to be associated with the famous Kyaukse well that healed Webu Sayadaw. The white color refers to the water found naturally throughout these hills, while the curative water in Webu’s story was blue. Located around Webu and Weba Hills, this gave rise to the clever ditty, “Ye phyu ye pya, webu weba,” which references the geography, water quality, and famous monk all at once.

Beside the well is a stone tablet with a Burmese inscription, telling the Phaung Daw Oo story of the magical royal barge that carried King Alaung Sithu by air around the country. The king constructed a pagoda wherever he stopped, and so today many pagodas carry the name Phaung Daw Oo, meaning “the prow of the royal barge.”

Today, only serious meditators are allowed to enter and meditate in this cave, which is still standing today. Below is a photo of an inscription on this cave, with the translation below:

"Follow the tip of the nose - align with mindfulness,
To other object - (mind) should not be let go.
Contact and mindfulness - should be known continuously,
(thus) the difference between body and mind - will be known without fail."
The benefactor Venerable Webu Sayadaw
Champion 1998"

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