Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw U Ukkaṭṭha (1913-1973)
[The following short biography and instruction on practice was compiled by Ven. Uttamasara (U Ottamasara) from his website—From Avijjā to vijjā. It seems to me after Sayadaw passed away in 1973, his disciples wrote a book on his life and practice. I had read this book very long time ago and now don’t have any memory about it.]
Sayadaw was born on 16th March 1913 and his parents named him Maung Aung Tun. When he was young not studying well enough that only could read and write little. He was four times married (but in Sayadaw’s talks only mentioned two wives). For supporting his families, he lived a life of as an alcoholic, gambler, professional thug and as a robber boss. (It seems to me also working as a farmer in his home village in the farming season. According to his auto-bio talk, every year he stayed at two places, one is his village during the farming season and outside this period he stayed with his second wife in Rangoon). He was committed some crimes and had been in prison. One day, his wife (in Rangoon) bought a book on Soon Loon Sayadaw life and practice. Soon Loon Sayadaw was illiterate, but he heard a few words on Dhamma from others and practiced diligently and in four months became a noble one (arahant). This was made U Aung Tun (Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw) interest, and he read the book with pictures which told about Sayadaw’s lay life and about the four santāpāṭṭhas. The following thought arose in him, “If he could become an arahant, if I practice also will become one.” This was the first time which made his interest in the practice.
At the age of 46 and his last attempted for robbing a house, his head was injured with the attacker’s knife and had a strong saṃvega—wise urgency. In the 7th day his head wound became a little better and took the book on Soon Loon Sayadaw with him to his Naw-gon village in Maw-be. He went to the village monastery and taking the nine precepts.
He shut himself up in a room of the monastery sīmā (usually a small building for the meeting of saṅgha matters) and started his practice. With the very strong determination of “If I don’t die, then let kilesa dies!” With continuous mindfulness (sati) he observed the in-breath and out-breath touching at the tip of the nostril. Very strong painful feelings (vedanā) were arising in his body that he was very often fallen down on the floor from the sitting posture. Even though falling down on the floor, he did not change his posture but still continued to observe the painful feelings until it subsided (a very tough guy indeed, who didn't do anything for the comfort of the body). He had a strong determination that in battling with defilements one of them had to die-he himself or the kilesa. On the 6th day of 12th September 1959, he attained the first realization (stream enterer).
[Some may think it as impossible, even Soon Loon Sayadaw had to practice for one month to enter the stream. Soon Loon Sayadaw had a disciple called U Mya Maung who was very cruel and bad in his life. He was the son of a village head-man. He had seven wives and treating them very bad. If he has suspicions that other men are having an affair with his wife, he will give them trouble too. One time he drove a bullock cart with heavy loads on it. At one place he crossed a stream and going up a slope but it was too heavy that the ox could not pull it up there. He beat the ox with force but still it could not pull the cart up there and at last it fell down. He beat the ox again to let it getting up but without any success. So, he piled up some straws on the ox and lit the fire on it. It did not mention the ox died or not. But because of these evil actions, he had to pay for its result.
After some time, he had strong saṃvega and came to Soon Loon Sayadaw and became a monk named as U Manisara—the essence of gem. He went to Maung Yin Paw valley (where Soon Loon Sayadaw also practiced as a novice) and did the practice. He took seven days to become a noble one (arahant). The year was 1942 on March on the 10th, 12th, 14th and the day after full-moon day (i.e., Buddhist calendar days). It took two days for each realization, while a month for Soon Loon Sayadaw.
In 1946 on April U Manisara went to the toilet at 11:30 p.m. at night. At that time, he was staying in a cave (it seems Soon Loon Sayadaw’s monastery has caves because its name is the cave monastery at Soon Loon—a name of a place) On the way he met some men who arrested him and bound his body with rope and put ragged cloth in his mouth, and then put him in his cave, burnt his body with fire. U Manisara could not shout for help, and he informed Soon Loon Sayadaw with mind-to-mind, Sayadaw received his message and able to get him out from the burning cave. After he informed Sayadaw he went into the fruition state (phalasamāpatti) which protected his body without any harm. This kamma retribution came from his evil deed of burning the ox with straw fire. (Maybe he was also had a lot of enemies in lay life). In the same year he passed away and lived a very short life.
In some of Mogok Sayadaw’s talks, he mentioned people who had two wrong views and their characters—i.e., eternalism and annihilation of views or sassata and uccheda views. Character of uccheda view is easier for enlightenment than sassata character, who has very strong diṭṭhi and bhava-taṇhā. Thae Inn Sayadaw and U Manisara were uccheda characters.
Both of them had strong saṃvega and with strong saddhā and determination that had quick results. Even they did not know about the suttas and western philosophy or philosophers to practice Dhamma. Buddha Dhamma is complete in itself and does not require outside teachings to understand it. We need strong faith in the triple gems, determination and really doing it. To understand Buddhism is not in the books—in oneself and the world around us. Buddhist texts are only guidelines. We use these guidelines observe oneself and the world with contemplation. It teaches us all the times its causes—pollutions of the mind and its results—all the sufferings and problems in today humans and its societies—around the world.]
On the 9th day he changed his nine precepts to eight precepts and went inside the garden of great sister Daw Bwa Sein and used to sit in meditation under the sae-yoe tree. In the afternoon he went to the cemetery of Naw-gon village for the practice where no-one could disturb him. After he overcame vedanā (i.e., dukkha vedanā) and increasing his effort for seven days without sleep and foods. During the sittings many mosquitoes and gnats bit his whole body and the white clothes (wear as a pha-khao) were stained with blood. He could have equanimity to the internal vedanā and also had patience and endurance to the external ones. His second stage of realization (i.e., once-returner) came on the 10th October 1959. In this stage he could see things with samādhi power.
After over a month practicing at the village, he went back to his home in Rangoon. And then after three days passed, he was arrested for a crime (robbing) which he did not know anything. He was sent to Inn-sein prison (also in Rangoon) questioned and tortured by the crime inspector to get the confession from him. After a month in the prison, at last he was freed because of no evidence for the crime. As soon as he was freed and rushing back to his home village to continue his practice in a bamboo forest. One day he was going to the toilet to release his stomach problem inside a bamboo thicket and there he realized the 3rd level of Nibbāna (i.e., non-returner) with the knowledge of seeing the six celestial heavens, 20 brahma-god realms and all the hells to the deepest avīci-hell (i.e., divine eye). He knew his first and second levels of realization only after the 3rd attainment (because he had no teacher to guide him and no knowledge about the practice).
He ordained as a monk on 12th March 1961 with the requests of Sakka (the king of 33 gods) and brahmā-gods. Furthermore, he did not want to stay in the monastery to continue his practice and received the permission from his teacher to go to the forest for a retreat. On the way, he spent a night at his strong lay supporter U Su-ya’s house because he wanted to offer him some foods in the morning. At night, in his sitting, he realized the final Nibbāna (arahantship) on the 20th May 1961. There was no more to do now. Later three brahmā-gods came to see and request him to spread the Dhamma. For 12 years as a monk, he gave teaching around Burma—to the east in Taung-gyi (in Shan State), to the west in Sit-twe (in Arakan State), to the north in Myit-gyi-nar (Kachin State) and to the South (in Kau-Thaung, the most southern part of Burma), etc.
Every day he gave two talks on these occasions about his 21 months of practicing experiences on the khandhas and the four paths, which we have already seen in his talks. After the talk, he asked people to sit meditation and at the same time gave instruction on his seat.
On the 8th July 1973 he laid down his khandha forever (It seems to me he was quite ill in his last years and bearing his illness and continued to teach people.) His undecomposed body was kept in his monastery for three years. One day suddenly the monks heard a thud sound inside the glass coffin and went near to see it and found out two corneas of the eye there. It was red color and like ruby and transparent. They preserved the relics in the monastery, and we can see it in some of Burmese Dhamma website of these relics photo. Mogok Sayadaw’s eye relics were the whole eyeballs crystallized in the fire instead of becoming ashes. Dhamma power is unthinkable and impossible becomes possible.
Thae Inn Sayadaw was a very good example for yogis—he showed us with his life that nothing is impossible if one had a strong mind and effort (i.e. one can give up one's life for Dhamma) and a strong faith to achieve it. (here we can include one main factor, and that is the strong saṃvega; it is the best in the battle with the kilesa enemies.) From being a thief and a robber to becoming a noble man, he turned his life upside down and reached the highest fruition that the Buddha expects his followers to reach. For the sake of future generations, he left the Thae Inn Gu paṭipatti sāsana, which is now more than half a century old. It is still thriving and now continues its tradition by the famous teacher Ven. U Candima Sayadaw. The following Dhamma instruction is from one of Sayadaw’s talk-
Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw was illiterate of Suttas, so his teachings were simple and direct of the practice. But sometimes it had profound meanings underneath them, we have to read it with contemplation. Reading Suttas also is the same manner.
“Don’t want to see it, don’t want to hear it and don’t want to know it. If you stay away from these three desires (wanting), stream enterer is easy (sotāpanna) and once-returner (sakadāgāmī), non-returner (anāgāmi) and a noble one (arahant) are also easy. You have to practice hard, with faith (here strong saddhā mind) and will attain Dhamma in one sitting. (This is not an exaggeration and the Buddha himself said about it in some Suttas, see the Mahāgosiṅga Sutta, Majjhima Nikāya 32.) If you know how to do it and it’s very easy. Close your eyes and put your hands on top of the other. First, you have to get the ānāpāna sati (mindfulness of the breath). Only to know its nature of distention or pressure. Don’t think about the past and the future. In the khandha whatever is arising only know one vedanā (i.e., to know the feeling (experience) of vedanā nāma nature and its vanishing.) How it feels it and you observe its nature. Don’t let the knowledge of knowing pain arises.
There is no one pains, no one aches and no one is in numbness. The entity of man and the entity of woman are not existing dhamma (phenomena). Don’t concern for the khandha if you are concerning about it will not free from apāya (woeful existence). It wants to die, then let it dies. It’s not me, you must have this state of mind. Vedanā (feeling) is not a permanent dhamma. If it’s arising and has to fall away. It’s happening according to its nature, and vanishing according to its nature. Don’t get up from sitting (also not changing) until vedanā is ceased. Let bones and skin be worn out. If I have to die, then let me die; otherwise, I must attain the Dhamma. You must have this kind of spirit. Anyhow, you’ll not die (no-one dies in practice). If you practice like as you die (i.e., kilesa) or I die in a war battle, and you’ll attain it. Ignorance (avijjā) and knowledge (vijjā) are battling in war. This is changing the unwholesome mind to wholesome mind.
Today, most people are turning wholesome into unwholesome, with all the internal and external pollution that comes along and causes disasters—such as global warming and rising temperatures that threaten the survival of the human race.
He (kilesa) is crushing me (paññā or knowledge) and I am crushing him. You have to fight vedanā (dukkha) with patience and endurance. Don’t retreat and stop it. Don’t change it and get up. At near death you can’t stop it (that is true, no pain is greater than near dying. We’ll see a true story in Sayadaw U Candima’s talk). This is exercising for dying (Mogok Sayadaw also mentioned this point very often). This is changing the four woeful existences with the heavens (there are many)
If vedanā (dukkha vedanā) becomes stronger and take the breathing a little stronger (Ānāpāna sati is not simple and like an art. It needs skill to develop it. Thae Inn tradition has their breathing system, even they are recording their system with talk recorder. Every yogi should try it out and find the system suitable to them.) If you did not breathe (a little stronger) and follow it (with normal breathing) and can’t bear the vedanā. If this is still not possible and spreading it to the whole body and contemplate, not at one place. Check one’s mind, if the preceding mind wants to stop it and uplifting it with the following mind. It’s not practicing by force. Don’t note it, if you note, it becomes a concept (as painful, painful or aching, aching, etc.) you following it to look at its nature. Following it up without break and look at its nature from the beginning, middle and to the end. It’s ungovernable and not-self dhamma. You can’t request it for not painful and aching. Don’t make it as your own nature. “I, me” is not exist, if you take it as real, then “I” have to suffer. If you see a lot its nature “I, me” will fall away. If you can succeed to overcome the internal worldly dhammas (loka-dhamma—i.e., the eight worldly conditions) and the external worldly dhammas become water (8 worldly conditions are -gain and non-gain, fame and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain). If this body and mind come into existence is great suffering (mahādukkha). You have to live with it even if you don't love it (the opposite is true for ordinary people—they fall madly in love with the body, but the body hates them and later kills them). Even you don’t want to pain, and you have to be pained by it. (Nowadays humans are the opposite—they don’t want to pain, but they are looking and creating for it up to the international levels—e.g., polluting the whole nature, creating global warning, wars in many places, etc.)
You don’t want to experience all these, but you have to experience it. Don’t want it anymore. Don’t crave for it and clinging to them. (The worldlings’ views are always the opposite of the ariyans’ views. It was like the east and the west. Worldly people always go toward the West, where the sun sets and becomes darker and darker. Therefore, man's delusion grows. This is the way of the fools (bāla). The ariyans and the wise (paṇḍitas) are its opposite. They are walking towards the east, where the sun is rising. Their lives are better and better, and they are become wiser and brighter with full of light. This is the way of the wise (paṇḍitas). East and West never meets!
revised on 2022-02-13
- Content of "Two Sides of A Coin" (Dhamma Talks by Sayadaw U Ukkaṭṭha)
- Content of Dhamma Talks by Sayadaw U Ukkaṭṭha and Sayadaw U Candima
- Content of Publications of Bhikkhu Uttamo
According to the translator—Bhikkhu Uttamo's words, this is strictly for free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma—Dhamma Dāna. You may re-format, reprint, translate, and redistribute this work in any medium.