Ven. Webu Sayadaw (1896 – 1977)

Introduction

Ven. Webu Sayadaw was one of the most highly respected monks of the last century in Burma. (Sayadaw is a title used for monks. It means “respected teacher monk.”) He was notable in giving all importance to diligent practice rather than to scholastic achievement. Webu Sayadaw was born in the village of Ingyinpin in upper Burma on 17 February 1896. He underwent the usual monk’s training in the Pāli scriptures from the age of nine, when he became a novice, until he was twenty-seven. In 1923 (seven years after his ordination), he left the monastery and spent four years in solitude. He practiced (and later taught) the technique of Ānāpāna-sati (awareness of the in-breath and out-breath). He said that by working with this practice to a very deep level of concentration, one is able to develop vipassanā (insight) into the essential characteristics of all experience: anicca (impermanence), anat (egolessness) and dukkha (unsatisfactoriness). Webu Sayadaw was famous for his unflagging diligence in meditation and for spending most of his time in solitude. He was reputed to be an arahant (fully liberated one), and it is said that he never slept.

For the first fifty-seven years of his life, Webu Sayadaw stayed in upper Burma, dividing his time among three meditation centres in a small area. After his first trip to Rangoon, at the invitation ofSayagyi U Ba Khin, in 1953, he included southern Burma in his travels, visiting there to teach and meditate from time to time. He also went on pilgrimage to India and Sri Lanka. Webu Sayadaw spent his final days at the meditation centre in the village where he was born. He passed away on 26 June 1977, at the age of eighty-one.

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