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Venerable Ledi Sayādaw

A Biographical Sketch

This revered monk was a prolific author who lived during the British occupation of Burma in the 19th century.

The Sayādaw’s lay disciple, Saya Thet Gyi, was the teacher of U Ba Khin, a well-known Burmese meditation master.

U Ba Khin was the teacher of Sri Goenka, a famous meditation teacher with an international meditation centre at »» Igatpuri in India, and branch centres throughout the world.

The Venerable Ledi Sayādaw was born in 1846 in northern Burma. He attended the monastery school, and ordained as a novice at fifteen, taking the name Ñānadhaja (banner of knowledge). His education included a study of the Abhidhammatthasangaha, on which he later wrote a controversial commentary — the Paramattha Dīpanī — in which he corrected certain mistakes in the widely accepted commentary. His corrections were eventually accepted by the bhikkhus and his work became the standard reference.

At the age of twenty, on 20 April 1866, he took the higher ordination and continued his studies in Mandalay. There, an examination of twenty questions was set for two thousand students. Ñānadhaja was the only one to answer all the questions satisfactorily. His answers were published in 1880, as the Pāramī Dīpanī (Manual of Perfections).

In 1886, Venerable Ñāna-dhaja went into retreat in Ledi forest, just to the north of Monywa. After a while many bhikkhus started coming to learn meditation. The Ledi-tawya monastery was built, whence the Sayādaw became known as Ledi Sayādaw.

Though Ledi Sayādaw was based at the Ledi-tawya monastery, he travelled throughout Burma at times, teaching both meditation and scriptural courses. He was a rare bhikkhu who excelled in both the theory and practice of Dhamma. During these trips many of his books were written. For example, he wrote the Paticcasamuppāda Dīpanī in two days while travelling by boat from Mandalay to Prome.

The Venerable Ledi Sayādaw was the outstanding Buddhist figure of his age. All who have come into contact with the Dhamma in recent years owe a great debt of gratitude to this scholarly, saintly monk who was instrumental in re-enlivening the traditional practice of Vipassanā, making it more accessible to both monks and lay people. His concise, clear and extensive writings served to clarify the experiential aspect of the Dhamma.

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