By Shyamal Sinha,New Delhi
Prominent Burmese monk and influential vipassana meditation teacher Sayadaw U Pandita died on Saturdaymorning at the age of 94.
Sayadaw U Pandita had been hospitalized in Yangon since mid-March, but was transferred to a hospital in Bangkok for additional treatment two weeks before his death. The teacher’s disciples have prepared his remains to allow students and followers to pay their respects at Panditarama Shwe Taun Gon Sasana Yeiktha, the meditation center Sayadaw U Pandita established in Yangon in October 1990. On Wednesday his remains will be moved the Panditarama Hse Mine Gon Forest Center in Bago, some 50 miles northeast of Yangon. Funeral rites and cremation will take place on Friday, the seventh day of his passing.
Born on 29 July 1921, Sayadaw U Pandita trained in the Theravada Buddhist tradition from the age of 12, ordaining as a monk when he was 20. He was one of the foremost living teachers of vipassana meditation and a successor to the late monk and meditation master Mahasi Sayadaw U Sobhana (1904–82). Both teachers played significant roles in popularizing vipassana meditation in the West and throughout Asia.
Vipassana, or insight meditation employs mindfulness of breathing, thoughts, and feelings, and contemplation of impermanence to gain insights into the true nature of reality, defined in Buddhism as the three marks of existence: impermanence (Skt. anitya), suffering or dissatisfaction (Skt.duhkha), and the realization of non-self (Skt. anatman).
Sayadaw U Pandita began practicing vipassana under the guidance of Mahasi Sayadaw in 1950, becoming a meditation teacher at the Mahasi Sasana Yeik Tha meditation center in 1955. Following Mahasi Sayadaw’s death 1982, Sayadaw U Pandita became the guiding teacher of the Mahasi Meditation Center. In 1990, he founded the Panditarama monastery and meditation center in Yangon, where he was head preceptor. There are now branch meditation centers in Australia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, and the US.
Among the many Western teachers to study under Sayadaw U Pandita were Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, founders of the Massachusetts-based non-profit Insight Meditation Society. Talks given by Sayadaw U Pandita at the Insight Meditation Society in 1984 were compiled and published in the book In This Very Life: Liberation Teachings of the Buddha.
Sayadaw U Pandita was also a scholar of the Theravada Buddhist canon, the Tipitaka in Pali (Skt. Tripitaka), and was renowned for teaching a rigorous and precise method of self-examination, emphasizing a foundation of moral discipline (Skt. sila). He served as an advisor to retreat centers, monasteries, and Buddhist organizations in a number of countries, and regularly traveled to lead meditation retreats around the world. Possessing extensive knowledge of both the theory and practice of samatha and vipassana meditation, he continued to lead retreats and give Dharma talks until his health prevented his from doing so.He was widely recognised as vipasna guru globally .