Sayagyi U Ba Khin
(1899 - 1971)
Sayagyi U Ba Khin′s aspiration was to give lay people, who lead busy and often unsettled lives, a tool to understand through practice the teachings of the Buddha. He knew that a working man would not be able to devote long periods in the forest to meditation. Therefore, he designed the Ten-Day Course and a technique to enable the diligent student to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha up to the understanding of the truth and Nibbana.
Sayagyi U Ba Khin started to practise Vipassana meditation in 1937 under Saya Thetgyi, a disciple of the famous Buddhist monk, the Venerable Ledi Sayadaw. Saya Thetgyi was one of the first lay meditation teachers in Burma (Myanmar), as up until then the practice of meditation was mainly reserved for monks. Sayagyi progressed rapidly and in 1941 Sayagyi encountered the Venerable Webu Sayadaw, a renowned Buddhist monk who was reputed to have reached the highest stage of liberation - Arahatship. Venerable Webu Sayadaw was impressed with Sayagyi′s understanding of the teachings of the Buddha - the Dhamma and said: “I thought you must have spent a long time by yourself in the forest and that you must have made great efforts there.” Venerable Webu Sayadaw urged Sayagyi to start teaching immediately - “You have to give the Dhamma, share the Dhamma you have with everyone....Do not wait”.
From that day Sayagyi U Ba Khin devoted his life to teaching meditation. He founded the International Meditation Centre in Rangoon (Yangon) in 1952, where he designed and built the Light of the Dhamma Pagoda for meditation. He showed how meditation can be successfully integrated into everyday living by people from all walks of life. Sayagyi U Ba Khin passed away on 19 January 1971.
“When I say, life is suffering, as the Buddha taught, please be so good as not to run away with the idea that, if that is so, life is miserable, life is not worth living, and that the Buddhist concept of suffering is a terrible concept which will give you no chance of a reasonably happy life. What is happiness? For all that science has achieved in the field of materialism, are the peoples of the world happy? They may find sensual pleasure off and on, but in their heart of hearts they are not happy concerning what has happened, what is happening and what may happen next. Why? This is because, while man has mastery over matter, he is still lacking in mastery over his mind.
Pleasure born of sensuality is nothing compared with the piti (or rapture) born of the inner peace of mind which can be secured through a process of Buddhist meditation. Sense pleasures are preceded and followed by troubles and pains, as in the case of a rustic who finds pleasure in cautiously scratching the itches over his body, whereas piti is free from such troubles and pains, either before or after. It will be difficult for you, looking from the sensuous field, to appreciate what that piti is like. But I know you can enjoy it and have a taste of it for comparative evaluation. There is, therefore, nothing to the supposition that Buddhism teaches something that will make you feel miserable with the nightmare of suffering. But please take it from me that it will give you an escape from the normal conditions of life, a lotus as it were in a pond of crystal water immune from its fiery surroundings. It will give you that Peace Within which will satisfy you that you are getting not only beyond the day-to-day troubles of life, but slowly and surely beyond the limitation of life, suffering and death.”
- Sayagyi U Ba Khin
Sayamagyi Daw Mya Thwin
Sayamagyi Daw Mya Thwin (Mother Sayamagyi) was Sayagyi U Ba Khin′s foremost disciple. She practised and taught with Sayagyi from 1953 until his demise in 1971. Mother Sayamagyi continued to teach at IMC Rangoon (Yangon) until she and her late husband, Sayagyi U Chit Tin, left Burma (Myanmar) in 1978 to fulfil Sayagyi′s aspiration to teach meditation to the people of the west. Travelling and teaching all over the world for 30 years Mother Sayamagyi has established Centres throughout the world including five Centres each with a Pagoda for meditation.
“Meditation is conducive to a calm mind”
- Mother Sayamagyi