Paṇḍitārāma Shwe Taung Gon Sāsanā Yeikthā Sayadaw-gyi

A Biography of Sayadawgyi, the Founder of the Panditarama Centers

Sayādaw U Paṇḍita1

Our benefactor, the Panditarama Shwe Taung Gon Meditation Center Sayadawgyi, was born on Thursday, July 28, 1921 in the Shwebo Su quarter of Tadah Kalei Village in Yangon. His parents were U Hpe and Daw Chit Su. He was the ninth of ten children. When he was four years old, his mother passed away. When he was ten, his father passed away.

When he was a young boy he liked playing marbles, developing his skill so that he could hit his target every time. At age seven he began his education under the tutelage of Sayadaw U Jagara in the village monastery of Kaw Che, Bago Division. As a schoolboy he passed the Pahtama Ngay and Pahtama Lat oral examinations in Buddhist scripture held by the Dakkhinayone Shwe Kyin Daik in Kawa Township. At age twelve, he ordained as a novice under the supervision of Sayadaw U Jagara.

At age eighteen, he went to study under the great Sayadaw Ashin Kelasa of the Mahabodhi Forest Monastery in the village of Kyauk Tan in Bago Township. There he passed the Kyauk Tan Mahabodhi Forest Monastery Oral Scriptural examinations for the Pahtama Kyi level.

When he reached twenty years of age, on the eighth waning day of Dapou Dweh in 1941, he became a monk with the sponsorship of U Bo Han and Daw Thaung of Kyauk Tan in the Khanda Sima hall of the Mahabodhi Forest Monastery. His preceptor was Mahabodhi Sayadaw U Kelasa.

During World War II, he was an assistant teacher at the Kyaikkasan New Shwe Kyin Daik Study Center in Thinghan Kyun Township. During that period, in 1947 at the age of 26, he passed the examinations for Pahtama Lat in the first ever Pali Pahtama Pyan Examinations. He passed the Pahtama Kyi examinations in 1948 as well as the Cetiyangana Pariyatti examinations for students.

In 1950 at the age of 28 he went to Mandalay to study at the new Mahavisuddhayone Study Center under the guidance of Zi Pin Sayadaw Ashin Sujatatthera. He studied the Pali, Commentaries and Subcommentaries related to the Dhammacariya level of study under many excellent teachers. He also studied in Yangon under Saya-gyi U Aung Myat at the Phaya Kyi Daik and with Ashin Vasetthabhivamsa of the Than Lyin Thapyaykan Dhammikarama Study Center. In 1952, at the age of 30, he passed the Siripavara Dhammacariya and Sasanadhaja Siripavara Dhammacariya exams. The following year, he passed the Cetiyangana Teaching Level Examination, taking first place.

While living at Kyaikkasan Shwe Kyin Monastery, he studied English with Saya-gyi U Hpe Thin. They made an agreement that whoever saw the Dhamma first would tell the other. Saya-gyi went to Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha, practiced, and became satisfied and inspired. He then went to the Shwe-Taung Gon Sayadaw-to-be and urged him to practice under the guidance of Mahasi Sayadaw. Therefore, in 1951, at the age of 29, he approached Mahasi Sayadaw and receiving his instructions, began the practice of Satipatthana under the tutelage of Ashin Vicara. He became firmly convinced that only when Pariyatti is followed by practical experience would he gain a firm footing in the teachings of the Buddha. After he practiced, the intention arose in him to spread the Dhamma to the whole world, beginning with his close relatives and companions.

He had the desire for others to know and experience the taste of the Dhamma, which is many times better than all the other tastes of the world, and for others to beautify their lives and develop their virtues with the Dhamma. In 1954, at age 33, while he was teaching Pali, he participated in the Sixth Great Sangha Council as both Reciter and Corrector of Pali.

In the following year, he went to Mahasi Sayadaw to continue his work of Vipassana and carried out the responsibility given to him by Mahasi Sayadaw.

In 1959, at the age of 37, he accompanied Mahasi Sayadaw to Colombo, Sri Lanka, for the opening of a new meditation center. He taught the Dhamma there in accordance with the instructions of Mahasi Sayadaw for nearly three years before returning to Myanmar due to poor health. In Myanmar he studied profound scripture and practice under the direct guidance of Mahasi Sayadaw, and during that time also instructed yogis who came to practice according to the Mahasi method.

In or 1979, at the age of 57 he was appointed Nayaka Sayadaw and in 1982, after the passing away of the most Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, he was appointed sole Ovadacariya of Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha, a post he held for eight years.

In 1990, at the age of 68, he founded Panditarama Shwe Taung Gon Sasana Yeiktha. With a broad vision that included the Sasana of the future, he worked tirelessly to preach the Dhamma of the Buddha in accordance with the instructions of Mahasi Sayadaw, encompassing both scripture and practice so that neither is omitted.

There are many yogis, both foreign and local, who have had the chance to take shelter under the shade of Panditarama Sayadawgyi’s Sila, Samadhi and Panna, and to absorb the nourishment of the Dhamma, having come to see its virtues through Sayadawgyi’s great Metta and keen determination.

Following heart surgery in 2007 at age 86, the momentum of Sayadawgyi’s teaching increased in a manner inconsistent with his age. In addition to holding a yearly 60-day special retreat at the Panditarama Hse Main Gon Forest Center, he travelled on Dhamma missions to the US, Taiwan, Nepal and Singapore.

Within Myanmar, Centers are now located in Yangon, Bago, Mawlamyaing, Pyin Oo Lwin, Than Lyin, Htauk Kyant and Hle Gu. Overseas centers are located in Nepal, Australia, Malaysia, England, USA, Canada, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. These spread the light of the Dhamma far and wide.

All the centers work hand in hand to spread the Sasana of Practice which includes Scripture and the Sasana of Scripture which includes Practice, in accordance with the high-level desire of their benefactor, the Panditarama Shwe Taung Gon Sayadawgyi. Starting In 2010, the annual Dhamma Family Gathering was begun so that all the centers, both within Myanmar and abroad, could listen to Sayadaw-gyi’s guidance together in order to carry out their projects uniformly and so that Sasana work could continue long into the future. 2017 marks the 8th annual Gathering.

While putting all his energy into promoting the Sasana, Practice that is not without Scripture and Scripture which is not without Practice, Sayadawgyi passed away on Saturday, the 9th waxing day of Dagu, 1377 (16 April 2016) at 7:35 a.m. at the age of 95 years, 75 vassas.