Mahasi Sayadaw

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Mahasi Sayadaw U Sobhana
မဟာစည်ဆရာတော် ဦးသောဘန
Mahasi Sayadaw.jpg
The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw
Title Sayadaw
Personal
Born
Maung Thwin

(1904-07-29)29 July 1904
Died14 August 1982(1982-08-14) (aged 78)
Religion Buddhism
NationalityBurmese
School Theravada
LineageMahasi
EducationDhammācariya (1941)
Occupation Buddhist monk
Senior posting
Based inMahasi Monastery, Yangon, Myanmar
Predecessor U Nārada
Successor U Pandita, Dipa Ma
Website www.mahasi.org.mm

Mahasi Sayadaw U Sobhana (Burmese : မဟာစည်ဆရာတော် ဦးသောဘန, pronounced  [məhàsì sʰəjàdɔ̀ ʔú θɔ́bəna̰] ; 29 July 1904 – 14 August 1982) was a Burmese Theravada Buddhist monk and meditation master who had a significant impact on the teaching of vipassanā (insight) meditation in the West and throughout Asia.

A sayadaw is a Burmese Buddhist title used to reference the senior monk or abbot of a monastery. Some distinguished sayadaws would often be referred to as a sayadawgyi (ဆရာတော်ကြီး, as a sign of reverence. The terms "sayadaw" and "sayadawgyi" originally corresponded to the senior monks who taught the former Burmese kings. These sayadaws may be influential teachers of Buddhism and also important meditation practitioners. They usually are abbots of monasteries or monastery networks with a large number of resident monks and a lay following.

Burmese language language spoken in Myanmar

The Burmese language is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken in Myanmar where it is an official language and the language of the Bamar people, the country's principal ethnic group. Although the Constitution of Myanmar officially recognizes the English name of the language as the Myanmar language, most English speakers continue to refer to the language as Burmese, after Burma, the older name for Myanmar. In 2007, it was spoken as a first language by 33 million, primarily the Bamar (Burman) people and related ethnic groups, and as a second language by 10 million, particularly ethnic minorities in Myanmar and neighboring countries.

Myanmar Republic in Southeast Asia

Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and also known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by India and Bangladesh to its west, Thailand and Laos to its east and China to its north and northeast. Myanmar is the largest of the mainland Southeast Asian states. To its south, about one third of Myanmar's total perimeter of 5,876 km (3,651 mi) forms an uninterrupted coastline of 1,930 km (1,200 mi) along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. The country's 2014 census counted the population to be 51 million people. As of 2017, the population is about 54 million. Myanmar is 676,578 square kilometres in size. Its capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city and former capital is Yangon (Rangoon). Myanmar has been a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1997.

Contents

In his style of practice, derived from the so-called New Burmese Method of U Nārada, the meditator lives according to Buddhist morality as a prerequisite for meditation practice. Meditation itself entails the practice of satipatthana , mindfulness of breathing, anchoring the attention on the sensations of the rising and falling of the abdomen during breathing, observing carefully any other sensations or thoughts. This is coupled to reflection on the Buddhist teachings on causality, gaining insight into anicca , dukkha , and anattā .

U Nārada Burmese buddhist philosopher

U Nārada, also Mingun Jetawun Sayādaw or Mingun Jetavana Sayādaw, was a Burmese monk in the Theravada tradition credited with being one of the key figures in the revival of Vipassana meditation.

Satipatthana

Satipaṭṭhāna is the establishment or arousing of mindfulness, as part of the Buddhist practices leading to detachment and liberation.

Dukkha is an important Buddhist concept, commonly translated as "suffering", "pain", "unsatisfactoriness" or "stress". It refers to the fundamental unsatisfactoriness and painfulness of mundane life. It is the first of the Four Noble Truths and it is one of the three marks of existence. The term is also found in scriptures of Hinduism, such as the Upanishads, in discussions of moksha.

Biography

Mahāsi Sayādaw was born in 1904 in Seikkhun village in Upper Burma. He became a novice at age twelve, and was ordained at the age of twenty with the name Sobhana. Over the course of decades of study, he passed the rigorous series of government examinations in the Theravāda Buddhist texts, gaining the newly introduced Dhammācariya (dhamma teacher) degree in 1941.

In 1931, U Sobhana took leave from teaching scriptural studies in Moulmein, South Burma, and went to nearby Thaton to practice intensive Vipassana meditation under Mingun Jetawun Sayādaw (also rendered Mingun Jetavana Sayādaw), also known as U Nārada. This teacher had practiced in the remote Sagaing Hills of Upper Burma, under the guidance of Aletawya Sayādaw, a student of the forest meditation master Thelon Sayādaw.[ citation needed ] U Sobhāna first taught Vipassana meditation in his home village in 1938, at a monastery named for its massive drum 'Mahāsi'. He became known in the region as Mahāsi Sayādaw. In 1947, the Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu, invited Mahāsi Sayādaw to be resident teacher at a newly established meditation center in Yangon, which came to be called the Mahāsi Sāsana Yeiktha.

U Nu Burmese nationalist and political figure

Nu, known honorifically as U Nu or Thakin Nu, was a leading Burmese statesman, politician, nationalist, and political figure of the 20th century. He was the first Prime Minister of Burma under the provisions of the 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma, from 4 January 1948 to 12 June 1956, again from 28 February 1957 to 28 October 1958, and finally from 4 April 1960 to 2 March 1962.

Mahāsi Sayādaw was a questioner and final editor at the Sixth Buddhist Council on May 17, 1954. He helped establish meditation centers all over Burma as well as in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, and by 1972 the centers under his guidance had trained more than 700,000 meditators. In 1979, he travelled to the West, holding retreats at newly founded centers such as the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, U.S. In addition, meditators came from all over the world to practice at his center in Yangon. When the Mahāsi Sayādaw died on 14 August 1982 following a massive stroke, thousands of devotees braved the torrential monsoon rains to pay their last respects.

Sri Lanka Island country in South Asia

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Indonesia Republic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres, the 14th largest by land area and the 7th largest in combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world's most populous island, is home to more than half of the country's population.

Thailand Constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia

Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country at the centre of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula composed of 76 provinces. At 513,120 km2 (198,120 sq mi) and over 68 million people, Thailand is the world's 50th largest country by total area and the 21st-most-populous country. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, a special administrative area. Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest. Although nominally a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, the most recent coup in 2014 established a de facto military dictatorship.

Practice

Mahāsi's method is based on the Satipatthana Sutta, which describes how one focusses attention on the breath, noticing how one breaths in and out. Practice begins with the preparatory stage, the practice of sila , morality, giving up wordly thoughts and desires. [1] [2] [note 1] The practitioner then engages in satipatthana by mindfulness of breathing. One pays attention to any arising mental or physical phenomenon, engaging in vitaka, noting or naming physical and mental phenomena ("breathing, breathing"), without engaging the phenomenon with further conceptual thinking. [3] [4] By noticing the arising of physical and mental phenomena, the meditator becomes aware how sense impressions arise from the contact between the senses and physical and mental phenomena, [3] as described in the five skandhas and paṭiccasamuppāda . This noticing is accompanied by reflections on causation and other Buddhist teachings, leading to insight into dukkha, anatta, and anicca. [5] When the three characteristics have been comprehended, reflection subdues, and the process of noticing accelerates, noting phenomena in general, without necessarily naming them. [6]

Satipatthana Sutta 10th sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya

The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, and the subsequently created Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta, are two of the most celebrated and widely studied discourses in the Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhism, acting as the foundation for contemporary vipassana meditational practice. These suttas (discourses) stress the practice of sati (mindfulness) "for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the extinguishing of suffering and grief, for walking on the path of truth, for the realization of nibbāna."

Sati (Buddhism) Buddhist concept of mindfulness or awareness

Sati is mindfulness or awareness, a spiritual or psychological faculty (indriya) that forms an essential part of Buddhist practice. It is the first factor of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. "Correct" or "right" mindfulness is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path.

<i>Anatta</i> Non-self, a key concept in Buddhism

In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali) or anātman (Sanskrit) refers to the doctrine of "non-self", that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in living beings. It is one of the seven beneficial perceptions in Buddhism, and along with dukkha (suffering) and anicca (impermanence), it is one of three Right Understandings about the three marks of existence.

Notable students

Publications

Mahāsi Sayādaw published nearly seventy volumes of Buddhist literature in Burmese, many of these transcribed from talks. He completed a Burmese translation of the Visuddhimagga , ("The Path of Purification") a lengthy treatise on Buddhist practice by the 5th century Indian Theravadin Buddhist commentator and scholar Buddhaghosa. He also wrote a volume entitled Manual of Vipassana Meditation. His English works include:

Notes

  1. Jeff Wilson notes that morality is a quintessential element of Buddhist practice, and is also emphasized by the first generation of post-war western teachers. Yet, in the contemporary mindfulness movement, morality as an element of practice has been mostly discarded, 'mystifying' the origins of mindfulness. [1]

Related Research Articles

Vipassanā (Pāli) or vipaśyanā (Sanskrit), "insight," is prajñā "insight into the true nature of reality", defined as anicca "impermanence", dukkha "suffering, unsatisfactoriness", anattā "non-self", the three marks of existence in the Theravada tradition, and as śūnyatā "emptiness" and Buddha-nature in the Mahayana traditions.

U Pandita Burmese monk

Sayadaw U Pandita was one of the foremost masters of Vipassanā. He trained in the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Myanmar. A successor to the late Mahāsi Sayādaw, he has taught many of the Western teachers and students of the Mahāsi style of Vipassanā meditation. He was the abbot of Paṇḍitārāma Meditation Center in Yangon, Myanmar.

Buddhist meditation

Buddhist meditation is the practice of meditation in Buddhism. The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā and jhāna/dhyāna.

Vipassana movement Buddhist meditation movement

The Vipassanā movement, also called the Insight Meditation Movement and American vipassana movement, refers to a branch of modern Burmese Theravāda Buddhism which gained widespread popularity since the 1950s, and to its western derivatives which were popularised since the 1970s, and gave rise to the mindfulness movement.

Dipa Ma Bangladeshi meditation teacher

Dipa Ma was an Bangladeshi-born- Indian-American Buddhist teacher of Theravada Buddhism. She was a prominent Buddhist master in Asia and also taught in the United States where she influenced the American branch of the Vipassana movement.

Jack Kornfield American writer

Jack Kornfield is a bestselling American author and teacher in the vipassana movement in American Theravada Buddhism. He trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma and India, first as a student of the Thai forest master Ajahn Chah and Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma. He has taught meditation worldwide since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist Mindfulness practice to the West. In 1975, he co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, and subsequently in 1987, Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. Kornfield has organized teacher training and led international gatherings of Buddhist teachers including the Dalai Lama and has worked as a peacemaker and activist.

Webu Sayadaw Burmese buddhist monk

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Gil Fronsdal American Buddhist teacher

Gil Fronsdal is a Norwegian-born, American Buddhist teacher, writer and scholar based in Redwood City, California. He has been practicing Buddhism of the Sōtō Zen and Vipassanā sects since 1975, and is currently teaching the practice of Buddhism in the San Francisco Bay Area. Having been taught by the Vipassanā practitioner Jack Kornfield, Fronsdal is part of the Vipassanā teachers' collective at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He was ordained as a Sōtō Zen priest at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1982, and was a Theravāda monk in Burma in 1985. In 1995, he received Dharma transmission from Mel Weitsman, the abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center.

Joseph Goldstein (writer) American vipassana teacher

Joseph Goldstein is one of the first American vipassana teachers, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) with Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg, contemporary author of numerous popular books on Buddhism, resident guiding teacher at IMS, and leader of retreats worldwide on insight (vipassana) and lovingkindness (metta) meditation.

The Venerable Chanmyay Sayadaw U Janakābhivaṃsa, is a Theravada Buddhist monk from Myanmar.

U Vimala Burmese Buddhist monk

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The Nissarana Vanaya Meditation System was developed by Matara Sri Ñāṇārāma Mahathera, a highly respected senior meditation master of Sri Lanka and the first Upajjhaya of Sri Kalyani Yogasrama Samstha. This Buddhist meditation system uses samatha and vipassanā techniques in combination to allow what it claims are more intense insight results than ‘dry insight’ meditation. It was refined over decades by the head monks of the Nissarana Vanaya.

Samatha

Samatha (Pāli) or śamatha is a quality of mind which is developed in tandem with vipassana (insight) by calming the mind and its 'formations'. This is done by practicing single-pointed meditation, most commonly through mindfulness of breathing. Samatha is common to many Buddhist traditions.

Sayadaw U Tejaniya Burmese Buddhhist monk

Sayadaw U Tejaniya is a Theravadan Buddhist monk of Chinese descent and the meditation teacher at the Shwe Oo Min Dhamma Sukha Forest Center in Yangon, Myanmar whose teachings have attracted a global audience.

Sunlun Sayadaw, was a renowned Burmese Sayadaw and vipassanā meditation master of Theravada Buddhism. He was named for Sunlun village, which is near Myingyan, middle Burma.

References

  1. 1 2 Wilson 2014, p. 54-55.
  2. Mahāsi Sayādaw, Manual of Insight, Chapter 5
  3. 1 2 Mahasi Sayadaw, Practical Vipassana Instructions
  4. Bhante Bodhidhamma, Vipassana as taught by The Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma
  5. PVI, p.22-27
  6. PVI, p.28
  7. "Our Teacher -". vipassanadhura.com. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  8. "About". Jack Kornfield. Archived from the original on 2013-12-22. Retrieved 2013-12-21.

Sources