Former Myanmar President U Thein Sein now Buddhist Monk in Pyin Oo Lwin
The Irrawaddy magazine reports that former Myanmar President U Thein Sein has revealed he is now a Buddhist monk at Dhamma Dipati, a part of the Dhamma Sahaya Sasana Center of Institute of Dhamma Education (IDE), run by the highly esteemed Dr. Nandamala (also known as Pa Chote Sayadaw, or “Professor Sayadaw”). The article reports that Sitagu Sayadaw highly encouraged U Thein Sein, while still President, to take robes at his first opportunity. Apparently, the former head of state has done just that, leaving aside his lay clothes and worldly responsibilities just days after turning over the reigns of government to the democratically elected NLD party.
Dr. Nandamala also has centers in Sagaing and Yangon. His English in excellent, and his method of teaching very accessible to meditators, as he designs his teaching based on the level of the student and his/her needs. There are many kutis for students who come to learn pariyatti from him. Abhidhamma courses are offered regularly to foreigners, and more information is posted on Dr. Nandamala’s website. There is a beautiful Dhamma Hall on site, and accommodations are two per room when filled. It is not a meditation center, and is primarily open when lectures or study courses are offered. The center teaches a variety of courses, such as the Visuddhimagga, and the Maggāmagga-ñāṇadassana-visuddhi (Purification by knowledge and vision of what is Path and Not Path), and Kankhavitarani-visuddhi.
Lithuanian nun Sayalay Piyadassii stayed at the center for some time, and comments on her experience studying Abhidhamma here:
“After staying in Myanmar for more then a year it was inevitable that the mind became curious about Abhidhamma teachings. Slowly, slowly, reading a little bit here, a little bit there, listening Dhamma talks from one teacher and then another, some knowledge started to arise. And the mind became more and more fascinated with the topic. Especially when the information that slowly was being gathered started to make more and more sense, and even more than that, it brought a lot of clarity and understanding into the actual practice of the Dhamma. But it was not until the day when I had a fortune to join Ven. Sayadaw's course on the most deep and profound Abhiddhama book, Patthana, did the mind ever tried to understand that last, but most fascinating topic of relationships between different ultimate realities. While I was studying on my own this field always seemed so high, that I literary never thought I'd be ever able to comprehend even the 'ABC' of it. But believe it or not, after just two weeks of attending the classes which Sayadaw gave, I could say, 'Actually, it is not that difficult! At least the basics, we can understand!'…And it so rewarding!
But, I would like to give one warning to anyone who is considering to plunge into this most interesting field of Buddhist philosophy: if you learn Abhidhamma, the field of your Dhamma studies will narrow down a lot. And it is very much likely that the teachings that are not touching the roots, not touching the ultimate realities, will appear shallow. Mind will find it difficult to find satisfaction in such shallow teachings. And that will direct the mind towards the practices which actually deal with the Dhamma on a level of ultimate realities. The choice of where to go to practice in such case narrows down significantly, but there are places, and the experience of this deep and profound teachings is nothing that the words could possibly describe. Try it if you dare!”