The Caretaker monk of Ledi #1 cave in Monywa
Shwe Taung Oo Pagoda features two caves. One is where Ledi Sayadaw spent much of the period from 1900-1902 in meditation at night, after studying and teaching throughout the day. It was to this more secluded pagoda that he retreated from the increasingly busy Maha Ledi Monastery. In those days, carnivorous animals and poisonous snakes were common, and if the villagers were to be believed, ghosts and other hideous creatures as well. Still, the venerable monk was not entirely separated from human contact, as he continued his teaching duties and went on to write and publish several more books that were composed while he dwelt in these caves. Biographer Erik Braun also writes, “It is during this time that he began to formulate through his texts a vision of meditation that would be appropriate on a mass scale…his presentation of meditation to lay people… [was] a practice that did not require any jhāna cultivation at all.”
Past the main pagoda stupa, keep walking towards the field beyond, where you will soon see a red sign indicating the two Ledi caves, one to the right and one to the left. The more relevant cave is to the left, being the one where Ledi spent most of his time. An elder monk acts as the caretaker, and he has been here for twenty years. The cave is well ventilated and filled with natural light, and is a comfortable place for meditation. It can fit perhaps six to eight people comfortably. Several golden Buddha statues are inside, as well as an image of Ledi in sitting mediation to the left. Due to the high pilgrimage traffic, it’s not recommended to plan to sit here for longer than an hour or two, as there may be a fair amount of comings and goings and accompanying chatter.