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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
WINTER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 37 shared his Abhidhammic orientation and focus on momentary concentration. And there are many. In direct succession, he taught the layman Thetgyi, who taught U Ba Khin, a Burmese layman and government official, who in turn taught many influential teachers from a host of different countries and cultures, including Daw Mya Thwin, Ruth Den- ison, Robert Hover, John Coleman, and S.N. Goenka. Goenka established over 120 centers throughout the world, and he taught the influ- ential mindfulness teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein. Though outside of his own lineage, Ledi Sayadaw also fundamentally shaped the intellectual and religious climate that influenced another Burmese monk, the Mingun Sayadaw. Born twenty-four years after Ledi Say- adaw, Mingun Sayadaw would teach Mahasi Sayadaw, whose practice—noting of perceptual events as they arise at the sense doors—also reflects an Abhidhammic orientation first fixed in popular consciousness by Ledi Sayadaw. Mahasi Sayadaw’s method became the charter form of insight meditation in the West. It is used as the standard (though not the only) basis for practice at the influential Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and its approach informs mindfulness training in many secular settings, including the well-known Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program of Jon Kabat-Zinn. Ledi Sayadaw was an innovator who used his scholastic training and concern over the future of the Buddhist tradition to make practice pos- sible on a mass scale. But his legacy goes deeper, for he also popularized the notion that practice could define one’s place in Buddhism. Whether intentional or not, this highly democratic move has had profound implications for Buddhism in the modern age. Lineage in the Buddhist reckon- ing has always been more than a laundry list of names or even a commemoration of great teach- ers. It is, rather, a tunnel back in time, a sort of wormhole to the Buddha himself and the promise of his teachings. In a nonliteral but vital sense, to sit deep in meditation brings the awakening of the Buddha, some 2,500 years ago, closer than yes- terday’s dishes or the last presidential election. It brings the practitioner into a powerful and imme- diate relationship with the Buddha. Such practice has led to the elevation of the layperson’s role in Buddhism and even laid the ground for meditation to detach from the rest of Buddhism as a separate tradition in its own right. Greater in scope than even he could have imagined, such developments, in all of their far-reaching implications, trace their origins to the efforts of Ledi Sayadaw. IMS/EMILYCARPENTER Retreat for young adults at the Insight Meditation Society, 2010