Friday, 2 June 2017

Saya Thet Gyi's Method, in Mandalay

This 31-acre site got its name from the sapling of a Bodhi tree that was brought from Bodhgaya in the 19th century. The whole area, in fact, has been known as Bodhigone, or literally “Bodhi table.” This refers to the physical base on which a Bodhi tree is placed or from which it grows, and can also be used metaphorically. Even though the original tree is no longer here, the name remains.

Today Secretary U Win Maung is one of Maha Bodhi’s primary lay supporters. He recalled coming here regularly as a young man and learning under Saya U Thein directly. Upon returning from an extended stay in Singapore to find parts of the center left unattended, he made it his life’s mission to oversee much-needed renovations here. Bhaddanta Karunika Bivantha is the primary meditation instructor here. He spent thirty years learning under Saya U Than, another of Saya Thet Gyi’s important disciples, and today teaches in the tradition of his guru.

The daily meditation regimen consists of eight one-hour sittings, with a 30-minute break between. The sayadaw joins the meditators for three sittings daily. Anāpāna is taught according to the four stages of the First Tetrad as described by Ledi Sayadaw (in brief, these are: (1) establishing mindfulness, (2) knowing if the breath is long or short, (3) feeling the whole breath, and (4) becoming peaceful within calm observance.), and Bhaddanta Karunika Bivantha teaches that the student must pass through all four stages before moving to vipassanā. Practically speaking, yogis often follow anāpāna for the first four days of a 7-day course and switch to vipassanā during the final three days. Concerning the kind of vipassanā practiced here, Bhaddanta Karunika Bivantha instructs yogis to become distinctly aware of vedanā and how it is constantly changing. Once the yogi understands that vedanā is anicca, he says, then one can move on to observing the four elements.