Friday, 18 January 2019

Ledi Sayadaw and Mahasi Sayadaw... sharing a home?

On a visit with Myanmar Pilgrimage to the Pyinmana monastery where Ledi Sayadaw lived between 1914-16, we were taken into the inner shrine area where Ledi resided, wrote, and meditated. Here we found two photos: one of Ledi, and the other of an elder Mahasi Sayadaw. In the West such a side by side juxtaposition would be comparable to the American baseball fan hanging Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees pennants in his house (e.g., that of two opposing teams). But in Myanmar, there is nothing the slightest bit out of the ordinary by this arrangement, in which the current monastic resident merely wishes to show his great respect for the two meditation masters, scriptural scholars, and Burmese Buddhist reformers.

Where the lineage lines outside of Myanmar can appear as fixed and rigid, these hard lines are transposed within the country as being dotted instead of solid, and fluid rather than set. Here, it is well understood that spiritual masters usually develop through a variety of influential teachers (either living or in the past) as well as contemporaries, and in many cases charting clear causal lines of influence can be somewhat arbitrary or artificial. That is why, then, it is completely normal to find a portrait of Mahasi Sayadaw in the monastery where Ledi lived and taught for two years, and just a drive away from the site where he ultimately passed away and was cremated.

This site is called "Zingyan Monastery", the Burmese word zingyan indicting a walking meditation path, so the site name suggests that this is where Ledi practiced mindful walking. The current abbot kindly showed us the very path where the great Ledi's feet once tread. Passing through a row of trees on either side and heading towards the ruins of an old water tank that captured and stored rain water, the modern yogi can retrace Ledi's very footsteps while following his instructions of mindfulness. The last picture is the Burmese plaque still standing of the donor who sponsored this practice area for Ledi.

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