Maha Bodhi Monastery in Mandalay
Maha Bodhi Monastery was founded in 1950 by Saya Thein, who was a disciple of Saya Thet Gyi and a contemporary of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. U Thein was born in 1898 and from Yahkaing Chaung Village (near the hometown of Saya Thet Gyi in Pyaw Bwe Gyi). He came to Mandalay after marrying a local girl and began to work as a trader. For most of his life U Thein taught meditation as a lay person, and towards the end of his life he took on robes and was given the name U Pyinnya Tharmi.
Monks and lay disciples came to this center, including U Own Maung and the younger U Myint Sein, who also trained under Mohnyin Sayadaw. U Myint Sein became a teacher spread Saya Thet Gyi’s teachings throughout Mandalay for many years until his death in 2005 at the age of eighty-two.
Bhaddanta Karunika Bivantha, the current Sayadaw, spoke about meditation courses offered at Maha Bodhi in January 2014. He said that there are no formal beginning and ending dates, and lay practitioners as well as monks may request to come at any time. The recommended meditation regimen is eight times per day for an hour each, with a 30-minute break in between. The Sayadaw meditates three times per day with meditators, and the rest on his own. When asked how he taught, he recited the very famous Ledi Sayadaw poem about the four stages of anapana. His view is that a student must pass through all four stages before going to vipassana: knowing if the breath is long or short, then feeling the whole breath, and finally becoming peaceful within calm observance. The teaching of anapana here is according to what many Burmese know as “ti, thi,” which means “touch, then know.” At Maha Bodhi, anapana is usually the first four days of a 7-day course, with vipassana being the final 3 days. When asked how he teaches Vipassana, he said that one should try to know what is happening with vedana and how it is changing. If the yogi understands that vedana is anicca, then one can move on to understanding the four elements. As with the Dhamma practice at Maha Bodhi, it is interesting to note that the four elements also have a central place in the practice in Ledi Sayadaw, Saya Thet Gyi, and U Ba Khin.