Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Birth of Ledi Sayadaw and the Birth of Insight

After over four years of continuous effort by dozens of volunteers, Part 2 of the meditator's guide to Burma is almost out! Here is a sneak preview introducing the birthplace of the great Ledi Sayadaw:

On the surface, Sain Pyin seems pretty much like any other nondescript, rural, Dry Zone village. But for Burmese followers of the Buddha’s teachings, it is anything but! This is where the future Ledi Sayadaw was born, novitiated and ordained as a full bhikkhu in the mid-1
9th century. 

U Sarana translates Sain Pyin as “plain with wild oxen.” But it was not only oxen roaming these plains in the lower Chindwin Valley, as many kinds of wild animals called this the once-vast wilderness home. While far from developed today, the land has mostly been tamed, and the much tinier village of Ledi’s time has become a modest town of around 1,000 homes.

Given the lay name of Maung Tet Khaung, a miraculous event accompanied his birth in December 1846. After turning ten, the boy was sent to study at Kyaung Ma Monastery, becoming a novice at age fifteen and being given the name Shin Nyanadhaza, or in Pāḷi, Ñāṇadhaja, this means “banner of wisdom.” He learned Pāḷi and the scriptures under Sayadaw U Nanda, as was common in pre-colonial Burma, when monasteries were charged with looking after the educational needs of the community’s young men. Shin Nyanadhaza continued his monastic studies in nearby Ye Thwet Village. By the time of his full ordination, he had read all the books to be found in the two towns near his home.

Soon after becoming a bhikkhu, Shin Nyanadhaza went to Mandalay with another monk to continue his formal studies at the royal capital. Erik Braun notes that this journey would mark “a radical change in his life, for during his time there he was exposed to the ongoing encounter with the West. Before he left the city, he would find himself an active participant in that encounter.” But Sain Pyin Gyi is where that boy became a young man before that adventure ever started.

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