Introduction (Eighteen Days In Solitude-- Instructional Dhamma Talks in Retreat)

By Venerable U Ñāṇaransi ; The translator: Ven. Uttamo

“Eighteen Days in Solitude” is not a famous novel like “The Hundred Days in Solitude” for entertainment, which you can't take anything with you after death. These were the instructional Dhamma talks on Samatha-Vipassana practice. It was giving in the year of 2002 during the 18 days retreat in Rangoon. Ven. U Nyanaransi the meditation teacher was not well-known outside Burma either. But he was well-known in Burma as an author and Dhamma teacher. An interesting and colorful man in his life. The following short biography came from 2 of his books, the famous and best seller, “The Story of a Man Who has Faith and Taken Refuge in the Triple Gems”. And the second book was “A Man Walking on the Path of Spiritual Knowledge”, and from some of his talks. This short biography is not promoting the identity view which all Buddhists should be abandoned, but for a reflection on Dhamma. There were many things we can learn from his life. The Buddha always emphasized on wisdom (panna). Without wisdom or wisdom faculty, human beings, out of ignorance and craving create a lot of problems in life, and in societies around the world.

He was born in 1937 as Sun Lwin in the south-western part of Burma. The only son to a Muslim parents. So at the young age he was forced to educate the Koran teaching by his father. He never easily accepted anything with blind faith without knowing them clearly. His father appointed a good teacher for Koran teaching. Because of his intelligent and philosophical mind always questioned about the existence of God and the Creation. He asked questions to his teacher who wouldn’t give the proper answers to satisfy his mind. At last he said to his father that he wouldn’t accept any religions without knowing clearly.

This made his father very angry and later it broke up the family apart. After finishing his high school, he went to Rangoon. He worked at day time in a government office and studied at a night time university. There he met a Christian woman and fell in love with her. Out of love he wanted to become a Christian and studied Christianity (Lust is stronger than faith. Here is the same God and Creation). After over 3 years, with different views and feelings, they separated. And then his mother arranged a Muslim woman for him. He married this woman out of respect for his mother. In his last year of B.A degree, he moved to Rangoon University and continued the study on Philosophy. For this purpose he resigned his job as a government stuff and taught as a teacher at night time schools.

From that period, he started writing romantic short stories. With his interest and sharp mind passed his B.A degree with distinction in Philosophy on Ethics. This was the first time happened in the history of Philosophy Department. He continued his M.A degree and taught as a tutor at the Department. As a Philosophy teacher he was an atheist and influenced by Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-Tung Thought or communist literatures. He didn’t have a happy family life and it became degenerated and ended up with divorce (there were some reasons behind this. The most important was the fanatic view of his Muslim wife). Later he met another young Buddhist Chinese woman who was one of his students. He married her because she resembled his first love whom he couldn’t forget (the main cause was they had strong kammic link from their past lives). One day his teacher Professor Dr. U Khin Maung Win (Yale University graduate, later he became Educational Minister) gave him an assignment for writing a textbook on Buddhist Ethic in Burmese. As a curriculum for students in Philosophy, he was already success in writing books and a bright person, but didn’t know much about Buddhism except in the Philosophy books. This was a great turning point in his life. This was also a very strange case because there were other Buddhist teachers in the Department. He came from the Muslim family and didn’t know much about Buddhism. The working of kamma was inconceivable. He had strong kammic link with Buddhism in his past lives.

So he studied and researched diligently for many months with Buddhist texts in English and Burmese. Near the end of his research, his teacher told him to stop the project. The reason was wanting to send him to Northern Burma, the Kachin State as the head of philosophy Department, and an assistant lecturer. Even though he didn’t has the chance for writing the textbook, gained the priceless knowledge of Buddhism. During these periods, he wrote some books on Philosophy; “ABC of Philosophy”, “Philosophers of the World”, “Chinese Philosophers”, “Russian Philosophers”, “Einstein”(a biography in 2 volumes), etc. He also studied world religions and wrote a book on world religions. With the knowledge on religions, he preferred Buddhism to more than others. But still he was not becoming a Buddhist yet. Because he still couldn’t accept the idea of rebirth and need to verify it. Later he encountered evidences for rebirth and the law of Kamma. In his second book on his life, “A Man Walking on the Path of Spiritual Knowledge”, mentioned an incident on rebirth. As a young boy in the primary school, one day the teacher taught about Taunggnoo History (round about 14th or 15th century). The teacher told the story of a Burmese King from Ava (Inwa) Kingdom attacked the Kingdom of Taunggnoo (it was recorded in the history book). At the end of the story, he suddenly cried. The teacher asked him the reason. He only said to her that in his past life he was a Buddhist. In the evening after back home and told his mother what had happened. At that time he was the king of Ava and with the help of his teacher, a Burmese monk named Phamei Sayadaw conquered Taunggnoo kingdom. He told his mother in details of the episode. This was remembering one of his past lives as a young boy.

Another incident was happening around 1971 or 1972, and he was still a teacher in Rangoon University. A spirit possessed a spirit worshipper and wanted to see him. At that time he was a materialist (influenced by communism) and rejected to meet the spirit and took them as nonsense. After some days passed by, the spirit possessed again to the same man and requested to see him and wanted to give him something. He rejected it again, but this time his wife persuaded him to go and see what would happen. As soon as he was arriving to the spirit house, the spirit possessed the same man instantly and told him about the story. She was a kind of vemanika peta (a kind of earthly supernatural spirit) and his daughter in past life. At that time he was a king in Shan State (something like a maharaja in India). After she passed away in that life and born as a vemanika peta and looked after the treasures they left behind. He didn’t believe what she said and asked her to show him the evidences. The spirit with her psychic power gave him some ancient silver coins with a peacock symbol and letters on it and also some ancient Buddha images. As a vemanika peta, she was searching for him. She asked permission to him to become his daughter again. She made a prediction to him that after she was born and he would resign his job as a university teacher. This youngest daughter was born to him in 1972 and later he also resigned his job as a teacher.

After resigned his post as a teacher and entered the movie films business. He studied books on movie art and then directed some movie films and opened classes for acting. One day during a class lecture on acting, a group of five persons were acting wrongly. So he asked them to look into his eyes and talked to them how to do it. And then these people fell into the subconscious states. He was surprised and did not know what to do with them. But instantly he remembered that they were in the hypnotic states. He had been written a book on hypnotic before by reading some books on them. Now, he used this chance to make a test. He ordered them to cry and they cried. Asked them to laugh and laughing heartedly. Now knowing that he had this ability and from that day onwards he hypnotized people if had any chance. And also found out that he could cure their past lives related diseases which medicines had no effects.

One time he hypnotized one of his old university students. This male student in the hypnotic state told his past life which had connection with him. So he was very interested and asked more information from him. He said that in that period he was their teacher and teaching on the art of warfare. And he had three daughters and the youngest one was now his present wife. It was a great shock for him. He couldn’t believe it. So he had to try again with another student who was mentioned by the first student. This student also mentioned the same episode in the hypnotic state. He still unsatisfied with the result and wanted to try on his wife. At first his wife was rejected for sometimes. In the end he succeeded and in the hypnotic state she confirmed the same episode as mentioned by the two students. He continued to ask her where about in her last life from this life. In her last life, she was the daughter of a well-known traditional doctor in a city in Burma. Later she ordained as a nun. So it was easy for him to make inquiries by following the story. And it confirmed what she had said before. It solved his doubts on rebirth and the law of kamma. During the periods of his treatments to illnesses with hypnotism and made records of them with the photos of these people, later he wrote a book about them. Publication censor-board not allowed to publish this book. [Quite a strange censorship by a Buddhist government. Even western scientists were making researches about rebirths (for them was reincarnations) quite a long time ago and they confirmed it also. These are not superstitions and even helping to understand rebirths and law of kamma which are important for Buddhism.]

Later he became a Buddhist and wrote a book on his life, entitled “The Story of a Man Who has Faith and Taken Refuge in the Triple Gems.” It came out in 1989 and became a best seller book in Burma. Reprinted quite a few times and made him rich. It had four volumes; volume I “Three World Religions and Sun Lwin”, volume II “World Philosophy and Sun Lwin, and volume III “The Buddhist Texts and Sun Lwin”. The third volume ended up with his desire to walk the bodhisatta path. During his periods of following the bodhisatta way, he was associated with people who were practicing the worldly Dhamma, such as mantras, mandalas, for long life and psychic power (gandhari vijja). So he was misleading by these people. Because of following the bodhisatta way and only practice samatha and never vipassana. Later he reflected his desire and vow carefully after reading some books about the bodhisatta path, both Theravada and Mahayana. And found out that he didn’t have any qualities of them mentioned there in the Theravada texts.

One day he went to Sayagyi U Ba Khin’s Centre for ten days retreat. And penetrated the four Noble Truths with direct experience, let go of his desire for the bodhisatta path. Described this experience in his last book, “Walking on the Path of Spiritual Knowledge” (came out in 2003). Later he gave up his wealth and family and ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1994. His ordination had two purposes. Continued his practice and giving lectures on Dependent Origination (Paticcasamupada) around Burma. The last purpose came from Mogok Sayadaw’s and Ledi Sayadaw’s teachings. After ordained, he went to Taunggnoo, stayed in a forest and pratising alone there for sometimes. Later established a meditation centre there. Also busy with moving across Burma and giving lectures on Paticcasamupada to all Buddhists who were inviting him. He was so popular that had a lot of invitations. Maybe overworked and health problems, he passed away in 2002. This instructional talks were giving in 2002, from 17th October to 3rd November. Even might be his last talks. He passed away in lower Burma. In one of his talks he mentioned to end his biography by writing on his life as a monk. He did not finish his biography and would never be. But one thing is sure that will finish his spiritual journey in the near future. Because he had already on the straight and right path without any hindrances anymore.

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