Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

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pilgrim
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Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by pilgrim » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:19 am

Who are the notable ( western monastic) teachers who teach the Burmese traditions? I can think of only
Bhante Pesala, UK - Mahasi tradition
Bhante Bodhidhamma, UK - Mahasi tradition
Ajahn Ottama, Czech/Swiss - Mahasi tradition
Ven Pannyavaro, Australian - Mahasi tradition
Ven Vivekananda, German - Mahasi tradition
Ven Dhammadipa, Czech - Pa Auk tradition
Ven Yuttadhammo, Canadian - Mahasi, thru Thailand
Its puzzling that several decades after the Burmese meditation boom which saw hundreds of westerners trained in these systems, it has produced so few teachers. What are the reasons? and what can be done to remedy this?
Last edited by pilgrim on Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:49 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:45 am

Are you restricting this to "famous" people? And to monastics?

A lot of teachers teach some sort of Mahasi approach. We've had, in addition to Thai, Bangladeshi and American teachers here in my Wat. None of them are famous, so I would infer that there are quite a few other non-famous Westerners teaching Mahasi, or other Burmese approaches, in some capacity. Of other people I have met, "our" Dhammanando Bhikkhu (English) has long experience with the Mahasi approach, as does Phalañānī Bhikkhuni (German).

Quite a few famous, or somewhat famous, Western lay teachers spent time in Burma, particularly with U Pandita (Goldstein, Armstrong, Fronsdal, Kearney, etc, etc.). Ven Dhammanando mentioned to me that he met, or knew of, quite a few of these people in the mid 80s when he was based in Bangkok, and they were waiting for visas to Burma... Some were ordained during that time (at least Armstrong and Kearney from that list).

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by pilgrim » Tue Apr 19, 2016 4:01 am

I'm thinking more of monastics who are actively teaching or replicating the teaching centres which they trained under, in the West.
I also just thought of the nun, Ven Ariyanani who mostly stays in Burma but with occasional visits to the West.
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:10 am

There are several reasons, but the lack of a Western Sangha is the root cause.
  1. Ajahn Chah died in 1992, Mahāsi Sayādaw died in 1982
  2. Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahm, and Ajahn Sucitto trained for several years in Thailand with Ajahn Chah. Most of us westerners have trained in Burma for relatively short periods in meditation, but at different times, and not as part of a Sangha. Of those monks who were in Mahāsi Yeikthā with me in 1979/1980, Alan Clements disrobed, and Venerable Aggacitta has a monastery in Malaysia.
  3. Wat Pah Nanachat did a lot for training western monks in the Thai Forest tradition.
  4. The English Sangha Trust had connections with Thailand when it started, through Ajahn Paññavaddho, but not with Burma.
  5. Burma has been much less accessible to tourists during the 1980s and 1990s. I had to leave Burma in 1982 to live in Thailand due to changes in immigration rules, and could only return after more than a year in Thailand. Many more tourists travelled through Thailand than did through Burma, and some of them ended up as monks or nuns.
The best hope for the future may be from those monks trained by Sayādaw U Paṇḍita, but will they stay in Burma or return to the West? Many of his western disciples have disrobed and are teaching as lay people.
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by pilgrim » Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:25 am

I perceive that in these Burmese centers, greater importance was given to the meditation method than to the lifestyle as a monastic. In Burma it was relatively easy to practise as a monastic. However, in the west where there is less support, the monks gave up the robes. Would it then help if returning monks first stayed at the many Burmese temples before coming together to start their own monastery?

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:55 am

pilgrim wrote:Would it then help if returning monks first stayed at the many Burmese temples before coming together to start their own monastery?
I stayed at the Burmese Vihāra in Wembley, which was founded with the encouragement of the Mahāsi Sayādaw, from the time that it opened in 1985 until I left in 1993 to go to Chithurst. The Burmese monks refused to give up accepting money, and the lay people could not see the fault of offering money to monks.

The sad fact is, that though the Mahāsi Sayādaw strictly enforced the Vinaya rules while he was alive, the corrupt practice of offering money to monks became prevalent after his demise. The most senior monk at Mahāsi Yeikthā in 1998/1999 when I last visited also could not answer my question whether it was meritorious for lay people to offer money to monks. When asked (through a Burmese monk interpreter), he got up and left the room.

There is no future for establishing a Western Sangha unless the Vinaya is respected. Perhaps Sayādaw U Paṇḍita's monastery in Manchester could do better, but since I have not trained at Paṇḍitārāma, they won't accept me there. There are only Burmese monks residing there.
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by dagon » Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:02 am

pilgrim wrote:I perceive that in these Burmese centers, greater importance was given to the meditation method than to the lifestyle as a monastic. In Burma it was relatively easy to practise as a monastic. However, in the west where there is less support, the monks gave up the robes. Would it then help if returning monks first stayed at the many Burmese temples before coming together to start their own monastery?
It would help if some of the national and cultural chauvinism was dropped. I am welcomed in the Sri Lankan Vihara, Thai Wat and The (Burmese) Buddhist society which are all within 30 mins drive of my house in Australia.

There is Theravada Buddhism which at difference time has enjoyed various levels of support in different places and in turn these places have provided a reservoir of Dhamma teachings and teachers. This is especially true of both Upper and Lower Burma.

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:06 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Ajahn Sumedho . . . trained for several years in Thailand with Ajahn Chah
Ven Sumedho trained with Ajahn Chah at least ten years.
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by SarathW » Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:23 am

since I have not trained at Paṇḍitārāma, they won't accept me there
I thought you all are trained under Buddha's guidance!
The above attitude seems like a cult. :shrug:
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by pilgrim » Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:30 am

SarathW wrote:
since I have not trained at Paṇḍitārāma, they won't accept me there
I thought you all are trained under Buddha's guidance!
The above attitude seems like a cult. :shrug:
In Burma, for better or worse, meditation lineage is very important and they don't want to mix teaching styles.
I edited the OP to include two persons omitted earlier, Ven Pannyavaro of Australia and the German monk Ven Vivekananda who is based in Lumbini

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:44 am

SarathW wrote:
since I have not trained at Paṇḍitārāma, they won't accept me there
I thought you all are trained under Buddha's guidance!
The above attitude seems like a cult. :shrug:
It is just about ensuring that monks are well trained before they are accepted there. If someone was running a GP surgery they would ensure that a new doctor joining the practice was well-trained.
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:12 am

Hi Dagon,
dagon wrote: It would help if some of the national and cultural chauvinism was dropped. I am welcomed in the Sri Lankan Vihara, Thai Wat and The (Burmese) Buddhist society which are all within 30 mins drive of my house in Australia.

There is Theravada Buddhism which at difference time has enjoyed various levels of support in different places and in turn these places have provided a reservoir of Dhamma teachings and teachers. This is especially true of both Upper and Lower Burma.
If you mean we should be thankful for the half-full cups we have, rather than bemoan the half-empty, I totally agree.

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by katavedi » Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:42 am

A few more I can think of:

Ven Khippapanno - Mahasi tradition
Beelin Sayadaw - Mahasi tradition
Ven U Zatila - Mahasi tradition
Sayadaw U Thuzana - Mahasi tradition
Sayalay Susila - Pa Auk tradition
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:24 am

katavedi wrote:A few more I can think of:

Ven Khippapanno - Mahasi tradition
Beelin Sayadaw - Mahasi tradition
Ven U Zatila - Mahasi tradition
Sayadaw U Thuzana - Mahasi tradition
Sayalay Susila - Pa Auk tradition
Are any of these Western teachers? I think they are all Burmese, even if they are teaching in the West.
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by katavedi » Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:30 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
katavedi wrote:A few more I can think of:

Ven Khippapanno - Mahasi tradition
Beelin Sayadaw - Mahasi tradition
Ven U Zatila - Mahasi tradition
Sayadaw U Thuzana - Mahasi tradition
Sayalay Susila - Pa Auk tradition
Are any of these Western teachers? I think they are all Burmese, even if they are teaching in the West.
Sorry, my mistake -- I overlooked the thread title and was responding to what I read in the first post. I was kind of curious as to why only Westerners were being mentioned... :embarassed:
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by pilgrim » Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:48 am

I edited the OP to clarify.
But just for info sake, I think Ven Khippapano is ethnic Vietnamese. Susila Sayalay is ethnic Chinese Malaysian.
I also just learnt that the nun Ariyanani has disrobed and is now known as Ariya B. Baumann. :(

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by bazzaman » Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:50 pm

U Jagara (French Canadian)... but I don't know of his recent activities:
http://bit.ly/1ThYtQQ" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by Ben » Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:02 am

bazzaman wrote:U Jagara (French Canadian)... but I don't know of his recent activities:
http://bit.ly/1ThYtQQ" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I met him at SN Goenka's main centre, Dhammagiri, in 1989. We were both there at the same time for the winter program of long courses.
Six years ago we just missed each other when I checked into the hotel he checked out of an hour previously.
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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:42 am

The Thai forest tradition emphasises living life as a monastic whereas the Burmese tradition emphasises meditation, it's not surprising then that the latter produces in the west a much higher proportion of lay meditation teachers as opposed to long term monastics.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: Western teachers - Burmese ordination/traditions

Post by The Thinker » Mon May 02, 2016 7:35 pm

pilgrim wrote:I edited the OP to clarify.
But just for info sake, I think Ven Khippapano is ethnic Vietnamese. Susila Sayalay is ethnic Chinese Malaysian.
I also just learnt that the nun Ariyanani has disrobed and is now known as Ariya B. Baumann. :(
was just searching dharma seed when I came upon this: - http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/188/31192.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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