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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
WINTER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 33 not a retreat. Rather, in a short span of time, he founded a monastery in the nearby “Ledi forest” that would give him his name, the Ledi Sayadaw, or the “respected teacher of the Ledi forest.” It is at this time that he began to meditate in earnest, using the theory he had learned in Mandalay. The annexation of royal Burma by the British in 1885 only cemented his feeling that time was of the essence. The threat to Buddhism was now immediate. In the following years, Ledi Sayadaw made meditation central to his life. Eventually, in 1900, he even gave up control of his monastery and moved into mountain caves near the banks of the Chindwin River to focus more intently on his practice. One Burmese biography relates that his samadhi became so deep during this period that an attendant, checking in on him one day, found him floating two feet off the ground! Whether true or not, Ledi Sayadaw’s own accounts during this time also tell of profound achievements in stilling his mind. In the only document in which he refers to his own meditative accomplishments, he says: Near the end of the Buddhist tradition many people are born, but try finding a man like me in the world. Set up the flag of great dili- gence—proclaim me like no other! I practice all sorts of meditation. With lion- like intellectual powers, I have completed the path of jhana. I have mastered and control all five of the masteries [of the jhanas]. In all the realms under and above Brahma, I have set up the flag of power abundantly. I will reside in contentment. In the future I will be brave and unsurpassed during the victory of the next Buddha, Metteyya. Such a blunt statement of meditational accom- plishment by a Theravada monk is extremely rare. But Ledi Sayadaw was an unusual man. He said that he had finished the jhanas, the deep and powerful absorptions that prepare the mind for insight, and that he had done so by control- ling the five masteries: turning the mind to the absorptions, entering them, staying as long as one likes, and then leaving them easily and with an accurate knowledge of precisely what one has done. To have such mastery is considered Buddhist monastery, Burma, ca 1890 PHOTOBYPHILIPADOLFEKLIER©THEBRITISHLIBRARY