Last Sunday I gave you a brief outline – a very brief one too – of the life of our Lord Buddha, up to the moment of his attainment of Buddhahood. I am going to tell you today what his teachings are. Buddhist teachings are preserved in what we call the Tipitakas, consisting of the Suttas (Discourses), the Vinaya (Laws of discipline for Sanghas, or monks ) and the Abhidhamma ( Philosophical Teachings). We have the Tipitakas in Pali in several volumes which will require an intelligent Pali scholar some months just to read through. I propose, therefore, to confine myself today only to essentials, that is to say, the fundamental Truths of Buddhism. Before Lord Buddha took upon himself the task of spreading his Dhamma (Teachings), he remained in silent meditation for a continuous period of 49 days, viz;, seven days under the Bo tree and seven days each in six other spots nearby, enjoying at times the peace of Supreme Nibbana and at another going deeper in investigation into the most delicate problems of Paramattha-Dhamma (Ultimate Realities). On his complete mastery of the law of Patthana (the Law of Relations), in which the infinite modes of relations between thought moments are also dealt with, there emerged from his body brilliant rays of six colours, which eventually settled down as a halo of six-coloured rays around his head. He passed through this seven times seven days meditation without food. It is all beyond us to be without food for 49 days. The fact remains that he was throughout the period on a mental plane as distinct from a physical plane, in which mankind normally is. It is not material food that maintains the fine-material existence and life-continuum of beings in the Fine-material Worlds of the Brahmas, but the Jhanic Piti, which in itself is a nutriment. So also was the case with the Buddha, whose existence during this long period was on a mental rather than physical plane. Our experiments in this line of research have firmly convinced us that for a man of such high intellectual and mental development as the Buddha, this is a possibility.
It was the day break of the 50th day of his Buddhahood when he arose from this long spell of meditation. Not that he was tired or exhausted, but, as he was no longer in the mental plane, he felt a longing for food. At that time, two traders of a foreign land were travelling in several carts loaded with merchandise through the Uruvela forest. A Deva of the forest who was their relative in one of their previous existences advised them to take the opportunity of paying homage to the All-Enlightened Buddha who had just arisen from his meditation. They accordingly went to the place where the Buddha was seated, illumined by the halo of six coloured rays. They could not resist their feelings. They lay prostrate in worship and adoration before the Buddha and later offered preserved rice cakes with honey for the first meal of the Buddha. They were accepted as His lay disciples. On their request that they might be given some tokens for their worship, the Buddha presented them with eight strands of hair from His head. You will be surprised to know that these two traders were Taphussa and Bhallika of Okkalapa, which today is known as Rangoon, where you are at this moment. And the renowned Shwedagon, which you all probably have visited, is the Pagoda in which were enshrined all the eight hair-relics of the Buddha under the personal direction of the then ruler of Okkalapa, 2540 years ago. It has been preserved and renovated till now by successive Buddhist kings and devout laymen. Unfortunately, however, these two traders of Okkalapa, who had the privilege of becoming the first lay disciples of the Buddha, were disciples only by faith, without a taste of the Buddha-Dhamma in actual practice, which alone would give them deliverance from suffering and death. Faith is, no doubt, a preliminary requisite, but it is the practice of the Teachings which really counts. The Buddha therefore said, “The Path must be trodden by each individual; Buddhas do but point the Way.”
The Teachings of the Buddha
“Buddhism is not a religion according to its dictionary meaning because it has no centre in God, as is the case in all other religions. Strictly speaking, Buddhism is a system of philosophy coordinated with a code of morality, physical and mental. The goal in view is the extinction of suffering and death.”
The Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha in his first sermon, known as the Dhamma Cakka Pavattana Sutta (viz. the Discourse to set in motion the Wheel of Dhamma) form the basis on which is founded this system of philosophy. In fact, the first three of the Four Noble Truths expound the philosophy of the Buddha, while the fourth (the Eightfold Noble Path which is a code of morality-cum-philosophy) serves as a means for the end. This first sermon was given to the five ascetics led by Kondanna, who were his early companions in search of the Truth. Kondanna was the first disciple of the Buddha in practice to become an Arahat (i.e Holy One who got beyond the limitations of all fetters).
Now we come to the Four Noble Truths. They are:
(i) Dukkha Sacca : The Truth of Suffering
(ii) Samudaya Sacca: The Truth of the Origin of Suffering
(iii) Nirodha Sacca: The Truth of the Extinction of Suffering
(iv) Magga Sacca : The Truth of the Path leading to the Extinction of Suffering
To come to a complete understanding of the fundamental concepts in the philosophy of the Buddha, emphasis is laid on the need for the realisation of the Truth of Suffering. To bring home this point, Lord Buddha tackled the problem from two different angles.
Firstly, by a process of reasoning. He made his disciples feel that life is a struggle, life is suffering; birth is suffering; old age is suffering; illness is suffering; death is suffering. The influence of sensuality is, however, so strong in mankind that they are normally apt to forget this themselves, to forget what they have to pay therefor. Just think for a moment how life exists in the pre-natal period; how from the moment of birth the child has to struggle for existence; what preparations he has to make to face life; what, as a man , he has to be struggling till he breathes his last. You can very well imagine what life is. Life is indeed suffering. The more one is attached to self, the greater is the suffering. In fact, what pains and sufferings a man has to undergo are suppressed in favour of momentary sensual pleasures which are but occasional spotlights in the darkness. But for the Moha (delusion) which keeps him away from the Truth, he would surely have worked out his way to emancipation from the rounds of “Life, Suffering and Death.”
Secondly, the Buddha made it known to his disciples that the human body is composed of Kalapas (atomic units), each dying out simultaneously as it becomes. Each Kalapa is a mass formed of the following nature elements:
(i) Pathavi : Extension (literally, earth)
(ii) Apo : Cohesion (lit., water)
(iii Tejo : Radiation (lit., heat and cold)
(iv) Vayo : Motion (lit., air)
(v) Vanna : Colour
(vi) Gandha : Smell
(vii) Rasa : Taste
(viii) Oja : Nutritive essence
The first four are called Maha-Bhutas, i.e., essential material qualities which are predominant in a Kalapa. The other four are merely subsidiaries which are dependent upon and born out of the former. A Kalapa is the minutest particle noticeable in the physical plane. It is only when the eight nature elements (which have merely the characteristic of behaviour) are together that the entity of a Kalapa is formed. In other words, the coexistence of these eight nature elements of behaviour makes a mass which, in Buddhism, is known as a Kalapa. These Kalapas, according to the Buddha, are in a state of perpetual change or flux. They are nothing but a stream of energies, just like the light of a candle or an electric bulb. The body, as we call it, is not an entity as it seems to be, but a continuum of matter with life force coexisting.
To a casual observer, a piece of iron is motionless. The scientist knows that it is composed of electrons, etc., all in a state of perpetual change or flux. If it is so with a piece of iron, what will be the case for a living organism, say a human being? The changes that are taking place inside the human body must be more violent. Does man feel the rocking vibrations within himself? Does the scientist who knows that all is in a state of change or flux ever feel that his own body is but energy and vibration? What will be the repercussion on the mental attitude of the man who introspectively sees that his own body is mere energy and vibration? To quench thirst one may just easily drink a glass of water from a village well. Supposing his eyes are as powerful as microscopes, he would surely hesitate to drink the very same water in which he must see the magnified microbes. So also, when one comes to a realization of the perpetual change within himself (i.e., Anicca or Impermanence), he must necessarily come to the understanding as a sequel thereto of the Truth of Suffering in consequence of the sharp sense of feeling of the radiation, vibration and friction of the atomic units within. Indeed, Life is Suffering, both within and without, to all appearances and in ultimate reality.
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 way. It will be difficult for you, looking from a 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.”
What then is the Origin of Suffering? The origin of it, the Buddha said, is Tanha or Craving. Once the seed of desire is sown, it grows into greed and multiplies into craving or lust, either for power or for material gains. The man in whom this seed is sown becomes a slave to these cravings and he is automatically driven to strenuous labours of mind and body to keep pace with them till the end comes. The final result must surely be the accumulation of the evil mental forces generated by his own actions, words and thoughts which are motivated by Loba (desire) and Dosa (anger) inherent in him.
Philosophically again, it is the mental forces of actions (Sankhara) which react in the course of time on the person originating them, and which are responsible for this stream of mind and matter, the origin of suffering within.
The Path Leading to the Extinction of Suffering
What then is the Path leading to the Extinction of Suffering? The Path is none other than the Noble Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha in his first sermon. This Eightfold Path is divided into three main stages, namely, Sila, Samadhi and Panna.
Sila (The Precept)
1. Right Speech
2. Right Action
3. Right Livelihood
Samadhi (Tranquillity of Mind)
4. Right Exertion
5. Right Attentiveness
6. Right Concentration
Panna (Wisdom, Insight)
7. Right Aspiration
8. Right Understanding
(1) Sila. The three characteristic aspects of Sila are:
1. Samma Vaca; Right Speech
2. Samma Kammanta: Right Action
3. Samma Ajiva: Right Livelihood
By Right Speech is meant: Speech which must be true, beneficial and neither foul nor malicious.
By Right Action is meant: The fundamentals of morality, which are opposed to killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and drunkenness.
By Right Livelihood is meant: A way of living by trades other than those which increase the suffering of all beings – such as slave trading, the manufacture of weapons and traffic in intoxicating drugs.
These represent generally the Code of Morality as initially pronounced by the Buddha in his very first sermon. Later, however, he amplified it and introduced separate Codes for the Monks and Lay disciples.
I need not worry you with what has been prescribed for monks. I will just let you know what the code of morality, or the precepts, for a Buddhist Lay Disciple is. This is called Panca Sila, or the Five Precepts, which are:
(i) Panatipata: Abstaining from killing any sentient being. (Life is the most precious thing for all beings and in prescribing this precept the Buddha’s compassion extends to all beings.)
(ii) Adinnadana: Abstaining from taking what is not given. (This serves as a check against improper desires for possessions.)
(iii) Kamesu-micchacara: Abstaining from sexual misconduct. (Sexual desire is latent in man. This is irresistible to almost all. Unlawful sexual indulgence is therefore something which the Buddha prohibited.)
(iv) Musavada: Abstaining from telling lies. (This precept is included to fulfil by way of speech the essence of Truth.)
(v) Surameraya: Abstaining from intoxication. (Intoxication causes a man to lose his steadfastness of mind and the reasoning power so essential for the realization of Truth.)
The Panca Sila therefore is intended to control actions and words and to serve as a foundation for Samadhi (Equanimity of Mind).
(2) Samadhi. Ladies and gentlemen, we now come to the mental aspect of Buddhism, which I am sure will greatly interest you. In the second stage of the Eightfold Noble Path, viz., (Samadhi) are included:
1. Samma Vayama: Right Exertion
2. Samma Sati: Right Attentiveness
3. Samma Samadhi: Right Concentration
Right Exertion is, of course, a prerequisite for Right Attentiveness. Unless one makes a determined effort to narrow down the range of thoughts of one’s wavering and unsteady mind, one cannot expect to secure that attentiveness of mind which in turn helps one to bring the mind by Right Concentration to a state of One-pointedness and Tranquillity (or Samadhi). It is here that the mind becomes freed from hindrances – pure and tranquil, illumined within and without. The mind in such a state becomes powerful and bright. Outside, it is represented by light which is just a mental reflex, with the light varying in degrees from that of a star to that of the sun. To be plain, this light which is reflected before the mind’s eye in complete darkness is a manifestation of the purity, tranquillity and serenity of the mind.
The Hindus work for it. To go from light into the void and to come back to light is truly Brahmanic. The New Testament, in Matthew, speaks of “a body full of light.” We hear also of Roman Catholic priests meditating regularly for this very miraculous light. The Koran, too, gives prominence to the “Manifestation of Divine Light.”
This mental reflex of light denotes the purity of mind within, and the purity of mind forms the essence of a religious life, whether he be Buddhist, Hindu, Christian or Muslim. Indeed, Purity of Mind is the greatest common denominator of all religions. Love, which alone is a means for the unity of mankind, must be supreme, and it cannot be so unless the mind is transcendentally pure. A balanced mind is necessary to balance the unbalanced minds of others. “As a fletcher makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought, which is difficult to guard, difficult to hold back.”
So said the Buddha. Exercise of the mind is just as necessary as exercise of the physical body. Why not, then, give exercise to the mind and make it pure and strong so that you may enjoy the “Jhanic Peace Within.”
When Inner Peace begins to permeate the mind, you will surely progress in the knowledge of Truth.
Believe it or not, it is our experience that under a proper guide, this Inner Peace and Purity of Mind with light can be secured by one and all irrespective of their religion or creed, provided they have sincerity of purpose and are prepared to submit to the guide for the period of trial.
When by continued practice one has complete mastery over one’s mind, one can enter into Jhanic states (trances) and gradually develop himself to acquire the attainments (Samapattis) which will give one supernormal powers like those exercised by Kala-Devila, the hermit teacher of King Suddhodana. This, of course, must be tried in penance and away from human habitations, but it is rather dangerous for those who still have traces of passion in them. Anyway, such a practice, which gives supernormal powers in this mundane field, was not encouraged by the Buddha, whose sole object of developing Samadhi was to have the purity and strength of mind essential for the realization of Truth.
We have in Buddhism forty methods of concentration, of which the most outstanding is Anapana, that is, concentration on the incoming and outgoing breath, the method followed by all the Buddhas.
(3) Panna. Ladies and gentlemen, I will now take up the philosophical aspect of Buddhism in the third stage of the Noble Eightfold Path, – viz.,Panna or Insight. The two characteristic aspects of Panna are:
1. Samma-sankappa: Right Aspiration
2. Samma-ditthi: Right Understanding
Right Understanding of the Truth is the aim and object of Buddhism, and Right Aspiration (or Right Thought) is the analytical study of mind and matter, both within and without, in order to come to a realization of Truth.
You have heard of Nama and Rupa (mind and matter) so many times. I owe you a further explanation.
Nama is so called because of its tendency to incline towards an object of sense. Rupa is so called because of its impermanence due to perpetual change. The nearest terms in English to Nama and Rupa therefore are mind and matter. I say “nearest” because the meaning is not exact.
Nama, strictly speaking, is the term applied to the following:
(i) Consciousness : (Vinnana)
(ii) Feeling : (Vedana)
(iii) Perception : (Sanna)
(iv) Volitional Energies : (Sankhara)
These, together with Rupa in the material state, make what we call the Panca-kkhanda or Five Aggregates. It is in these five aggregates that the Buddha has summed up all the mental and physical phenomena of existence, which in reality is a continuum of mind and matter coexisting, but which to a layman is his personality or ego.
In Samma-sankappa (Right Aspiration), the disciple, who by then has developed the powerful lens of Samadhi, focuses his attention into his own self and by introspective meditation makes an analytical study of the nature, first of Rupa (Matter) and then of Nama (mind and the mental properties). He feels – and at times he also sees – the Kalapas in their true state. He begins to realize that both Rupa and Nama are in constant change – impermanent and fleeting. As his power of concentration increases, the nature of the forces in him becomes more and more vivid. He can no longer get out of the impression that the Panca-kkhandha, or Five Aggregates, are suffering, within the law of Cause and Effect. He is now convinced that, in reality, all is suffering within and without and there is no such thing as an ego. He longs for a state beyond suffering. So eventually going beyond the bounds of suffering, he moves from the mundane to the supramundane state and enters the stream of Sotapanna, the first of the four stages of the Ariyas (Noble Ones). Then he becomes free from (i) ego, (ii) doubts and (iii) attachment to rules and rituals.
The second stage is Sakadagami (Once-Returner), on coming to which sensuous craving and ill-will become attenuated. He ceases to have any passion or anger when he attains the third stage of Anagami (Non-Returner). Arahatship is the final goal. Each of the Ariyas can feel what Nibbana is like, even as a man, as often as he may choose by going into the fruition stage of Sotapanna, etc., which gives him the Nibbanic Peace Within.
This “Peace Within”, which is identified with Nibbana, has no parallel because it is supramundane. Compared to this, the Jhanic Peace Within , which I mentioned earlier in dealing with Samadhi, is negligible because while the Nibbanic Peace Within takes one beyond the limits of the thirty-one planes of existence, the Jhanic Peace Within will still keep one within these planes – that is to say, in the fine-material world of the Brahmas.
Ladies and gentlemen, just a word more. What I have said includes only some of the fundamental aspects of Buddhism. With the time at my disposal, I hope I have given you my best:
To come to a state of Purity of Mind with a light before you;
To go into a Jhanic state at will;
To experience for yourselves Nibbanic Peace Within.
These are all within your reach.
Why not, then, try for the first two at least, which are within the confines of your own religion? I am prepared to give you any help that you may require.
May I again express my gratitude to you all for your patient listening. My thanks are also due to the Clergy of the Church for their kind permission.
U Ba Khin,
30th September 1951
Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899-1971)
“Dhamma eradicates suffering and gives happiness. Who gives this happiness? It is not the Buddha but the Dhamma, the knowledge of anicca within the body, which gives the happiness. That is why you must meditate and be aware of anicca continually.”
Sayagyi U Ba Khin
Sayagyi U Ba Khin was born in Rangoon, the capital of Burma, on 6 March 1899. He was the younger of two children in a family of modest means living in a working class district. Burma was ruled by Britain at the time, as it was until after the Second World War. Learning English was therefore very important; in fact, job advancement depended on having a good speaking knowledge of English.
Fortunately, an elderly man from a nearby factory assisted U Ba Khin in entering the Methodist Middle School at the age of eight. He proved a gifted student. He had the ability to commit his lessons to memory, learning his English grammar book by heart from cover to cover. He was first in every class and earned a middle school scholarship. A Burmese teacher helped him gain entrance to St. Paul’s Institution, where every year he was again at the head of his high school class.
In March of 1917, he passed the final high school examination, winning a gold medal as well as a college scholarship. But family pressures forced him to discontinue his formal education to start earning money.
His first job was with a Burmese newspaper called The Sun, but after some time he began working as an accounts clerk in the office of the Accountant General of Burma. Few other Burmese were employed in this office since most of the civil servants in Burma at the time were British or Indian. In 1926 he passed the Accounts Service examination, given by the provincial government of India. In 1937, when Burma was separated from India, he was appointed the first Special Office Superintendent.
It was on 1 January 1937, that Sayagyi tried meditation for the first time. A student of Saya Thetgyi–a wealthy farmer and meditation teacher–was visiting U Ba Khin and explained Anapana meditation to him. When Sayagyi tried it, he experienced good concentration, which impressed him so much that he resolved to complete a full course. Accordingly, he applied for a ten-day leave of absence and set out for Saya Thetgyi’s teaching centre.
It is a testament to U Ba Khin’s determination to learn Vipassana that he left the headquarters on short notice. His desire to meditate was so strong that only one week after trying Anapana, he was on his way to Saya Thetgyi’s centre at Pyawbwegyi.
The small village of Pyawbwegyi is due south of Rangoon, across the Rangoon River and miles of rice paddies. Although it is only eight miles from the city, the muddy fields before harvest time make it seem longer; travellers must cross the equivalent of a shallow sea. When U Ba Khin crossed the Rangoon River, it was low tide, and the sampan boat he hired could only take him to Phyarsu village–about half the distance–along a tributary which connected to Pyawbwegyi. Sayagyi climbed the river bank, sinking in mud up to his knees. He covered the remaining distance on foot across the fields, arriving with his legs caked in mud.
That same night, U Ba Khin and another Burmese student, who was a disciple of Ledi Sayadaw, received Anapana instructions from Saya Thetgyi. The two students advanced rapidly, and were given Vipassana the next day. Sayagyi progressed well during this first ten-day course, and continued his work during frequent visits to his teacher’s centre and meetings with Saya Thetgyi whenever he came to Rangoon.
When he returned to his office, Sayagyi found an envelope on his desk. He feared that it might be a dismissal note but found, to his surprise, that it was a promotion letter. He had been chosen for the post of Special Office Superintendent in the new office of the Auditor General of Burma.
In 1941, a seemingly happenstance incident occurred which was to be important in Sayagyi’s life. While on government business in upper Burma, he met by chance Webu Sayadaw, a monk who had achieved high attainments in meditation. Webu Sayadaw was impressed with U Ba Khin’s proficiency in meditation, and urged him to teach. He was the first person to exhort Sayagyi to start teaching. An account of this historic meeting, and subsequent contacts between these two important figures, is described in the article Ven. Webu Sayadaw and Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
U Ba Khin did not begin teaching in a formal way until about a decade after he first met Webu Sayadaw. Saya Thetgyi also encouraged him to teach Vipassana. On one occasion during the Japanese occupation of Burma, Saya Thetgyi came to Rangoon and stayed with one of his students who was a government official. When his host and other students expressed a wish to see Saya Thetgyi more often, he replied, “I am like the doctor who can only see you at certain times. But U Ba Khin is like the nurse who will see you any time.”
Sayagyi’s government service continued for another twenty-six years. He became Accountant General on 4 January 1948, the day Burma gained independence. For the next two decades, he was employed in various capacities in the government, most of the time holding two or more posts, each equivalent to the head of a department. At one time he served as head of three separate departments simultaneously for three years and, on another occasion, head of four departments for about one year. When he was appointed as the chairman of the State Agricultural Marketing Board in 1956, the Burmese government conferred on him the title of “Thray Sithu,” a high honorary title. Only the last four years of Sayagyi’s life were devoted exclusively to teaching meditation. The rest of the time he combined his skill in meditation with his devotion to government service and his responsibilities to his family. Sayagyi was a married householder with five daughters and one son.
In 1950 he founded the Vipassana Association of the Accountant General’s Office where lay people, mainly employees of that office, could learn Vipassana. In 1952, the International Meditation Centre (I.M.C.) was opened in Rangoon, two miles north of the famous Shwedagon pagoda. Here many Burmese and foreign students had the good fortune to receive instruction in the Dhamma from Sayagyi.
Sayagyi was active in the planning for the Sixth Council known as Chatta Sangayana (Sixth Recitation) which was held in 1954-56 in Rangoon. Sayagyi was a founding member in 1950 of two organizations which were later merged to become the Union of Burma Buddha Sasana Council (U.B.S.C.), the main planning body for the Great Council. U Ba Khin served as an executive member of the U.B.S.C. and as chairman of the committee for patipatti (practice of meditation).
He also served as honorary auditor of the Council and was therefore responsible for maintaining the accounts for all dana (donation) receipts and expenditures. There was an extensive building programme spread over 170 acres to provide housing, dining areas and kitchen, a hospital, library, museum, four hostels and administrative buildings. The focal point of the entire enterprise was the Maha Pasanaguha (Great Cave), a massive hall where approximately five thousand monks from Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Cambodia and Laos gathered to recite, purify, edit and publish the Tipitaka (scriptures). The monks, working in groups, prepared the Pali texts for publication, comparing the Burmese, Sri Lankan Thai, and Cambodian editions and the Roman-script edition of the Pali Text Society in London. The corrected and approved texts were recited in the Great Cave. Ten to fifteen thousand lay men and women came to listen to the recitations of the monks.
To efficiently handle the millions in donations that came for this undertaking, U Ba Khin created a system of printing receipt books on different coloured paper for different amounts of dana, ranging from the humblest donation up to very large amounts. Only selected people were allowed to handle the larger contributions, and every donation was scrupulously accounted for, avoiding any hint of misappropriation.
Sayagyi remained active with the U.B.S.C. in various capacities until 1967. In this way he combined his responsibilities and talents as a layman and government official with his strong Dhamma volition to spread the teaching of Buddha. In addition to the prominent public service he gave to that cause, he continued to teach Vipassana regularly at his centre. Some of the Westerners who came to the Sixth Council were referred to Sayagyi for instruction in meditation since at that time there was no other teacher of Vipassana who was fluent in English.
Because of his highly demanding government duties, Sayagyi was only able to teach a small number of students. Many of his Burmese students were connected with his government work. Many Indian students were introduced by S.N. Goenka. Sayagyi’s students from abroad were small in number but diverse, including leading Western Buddhists, academicians, and members of the diplomatic community in Rangoon.
From time to time, Sayagyi was invited to address foreign audiences in Burma on the subject of Dhamma. On one occasion, for example, he was asked to deliver a series of lectures at the Methodist Church in Rangoon. These lectures were published as a booklet titled “What Buddhism Is.” Copies were distributed to Burmese embassies and various Buddhist organisations around the world. This booklet attracted a number of Westerners to attend courses with Sayagyi. On another occasion he delivered a lecture to a group of press representatives from Israel, who were in Burma on the occasion of the visit of Israel’s prime minister, David Ben Gurion. This lecture was later published under the title “The Real Values of True Buddhist Meditation.”
Sayagyi finally retired from his outstanding career in government service in 1967. From that time, until his death in 1971, he stayed at I.M.C., teaching Vipassana. Shortly before his death he thought back to all those who had helped him–the old man who had helped him start school, the Burmese teacher who helped him join St. Paul’s and, among many others, one friend whom he had lost sight of over forty years earlier and now found mentioned in the local newspaper. He dictated letters addressed to this old friend and to some foreign students and disciples, including Dr.S.N. Goenka. On the 18th of January, Sayagyi suddenly became ill. When his newly rediscovered friend received Sayagyi’s letter on the 20th, he was shocked to read Sayagyi’s death announcement in the same post.
Shri S.N. Goenka was in India conducting a course when news of his teacher’s death reached him. He sent a telegram back to I.M.C. which contained the famous Pali verse:
Anicca vata sankhara, uppadavaya-dhammino.
Uppajjitva nirujjhanti, tesam vupasamo sukho.
Impermanent truly are compounded things, by nature arising and passing away.
If they arise and are extinguished, their eradication brings happiness.
One year later, in a tribute to his teacher, Shri.S.N. Goenka wrote: “Even after his passing away one year ago, observing the continued success of the courses, I get more and more convinced that it is his metta (loving-kindness) force which is giving me all the inspiration and strength to serve so many people–Obviously the force of Dhamma is immeasurable.”
Sayagyi’s aspirations are being accomplished. The Buddha’s teachings, carefully preserved all these centuries, are still being practiced, and are still bringing results here and now.
Source: Vipassana Research Institute