Extract 11 - How Webu Sayadaw Travelled to Sri Lanka and India

For an explanation of words in Pali - the language of the time of the Buddha - please see the Pali Glossary.

The fame of the Webu Sayadaw did not remain restricted to Burma, it also spread to other countries. That is why on the full moon of Natdaw in 1957 the Webu Sayadaw travelled from the Aung Mye meditation centre in Shwebo to Sri Lanka.

Webu Sayadaw had been invited by a tea merchant and his daughter and he was accompanied by Ven U Lokanatha [an Italian monk], U Sumana, and the minister for the railways, U Thein Nyunt. The tea merchant was the older brother of the then prime minister of Sri Lanka.

Before the Webu Sayadaw travelled to Sri Lanka, U Lokanatha spent some time there on his way back from Burma. As Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, Aroma, the niece of the then prime minister, had read the news that the Webu Sayadaw had attained arahatship. When the prime minister invited U Lokanatha to his residence for the meal, she asked him whether this was true. (After the Sayadaw passed away, this Aroma came to Inginbin on 25 August 1977 to pay respects.) U Loka­natha explained to her that the Webu Sayadaw was a very special and lofty person, that he was radiating peace that put also the devotees paying their respect at peace.

Upon his return to Burma, Aroma desired U Lokanatha to ask the Sayadaw for a day when she would be permitted to pay respects to him. U Lokantha duly proceeded to Kyauk Hse and asked the Sayadaw to appoint a day. As it was time for the Sayadaw to move on to Shwebo, he gave them an appointment there, and he asked U Tin Aung to build a dwelling for the guest from Sri Lanka. However, the Sayadaw travelled to Sri Lanka before the guests from there came to Burma.

The Sayadaw and party went by boat and had to travel for four days and three nights. As the Sayadaw was not accustomed to sailing, he felt seasick when the waves were high. However, he did not com­plain at all. When U Sumana reported about his own seasickness the Webu Sayadaw just said, “All you need to do is meditate. If you feel seasick, meditate in a relaxed way. It will disappear. This is the best medicine.”

When Webu Sayadaw arrived in Sri Lanka he was received with great honours by the Burmese Ambassador, bhikkhus, and the Prime Minister’s brother who had invited him, and he was then escorted to his house which was named “Manohari”. The Webu remained in Sri Lanka for twenty-two days and preached the Dhamma every day.

After eating the morning meal he always gave a discourse. Then the Sayadaw took rest from nine to eleven o’clock. At eleven o’clock Webu Sayadaw ate the midday meal and then preached and gave the precepts to people until four o’clock. In the evening he discussed the Dhamma with disciples. U Thein Nyunt translated for the Sayadaw. The Sayadaw also went to pay respects to the tooth relic of the Buddha when he was dwelling in Sri Lanka.

When the Sayadaw flew from Sri Lanka to Madras, U Lokanatha remained in Sri Lanka. The Sayadaw and his party went on pilgrimage to the Buddhist sites in India: Buddha Gaya, Rajagiri, the Deer Park in Sarnath, Sāvatthi, Kusinagara, Lumbini, and the seven places of impor­tance in Bodhgaya. They also went to the place where Devadatta sank into the ground, the relic chamber, the eleven important places inside Jetavana monastery, and the six places outside the monastery, Pubbārāma monastery, the palace of queen Mallikā, the place of the entering into the fire element by the Buddha in Kusinara, Kakuṭṭhā river and village (the place where Ānanda offered clean water to the Buddha shortly before the Buddha’s Parinibbāna), and the Asokan pillar at the birth place of the Buddha in Lumbini as well as other places. They also went to the Taj Mahal.

Because U Thein Nyunt, being the minister for railways, had to go to a meeting in New Delhi when they arrived in Calcutta, Webu Sayadaw went along with him. On this journey they also went to Sanchi, the location where the relics of Sāriputta and Mahā-Mogallāna are enshrined. From New Delhi the party returned to Calcutta and thence to Rangoon.

On the return journey, between Sāvatthi and Rajagiri, U Sumana said to the Sayadaw that it seemed impossible that at the time of the Buddha seventy million (seven koṭi) people lived in Sāvatthi. Sāvatthi and Rajagiri were only about 300 miles apart, whilst Burma from south to north stretched for about 2000 miles, and the population of Burma was only about twenty million.

The Sayadaw asked him, “Who was the richest man of Rajagiri?”

“It was Jotika, sir.”

“Who was Jotika’s wife?”

“It was Satulakāyī from the North Island, sir”

“Do ladies from the North Island usually come to live in the south? Why did she come?”

“She came because of Jotika’s great merit, sir.”

“What was Jotika’s palace?”

“It was a palace that arose out of the ground, sir”

“Is it ordinary that palaces arise out of the ground?”

“It is not, sir.”

“So, why did this happen?”

“Because of Jotika’s great merit, sir.”

“Yes, you say that it is impossible for seventy million people to live in the three hundred mile stretch of the kingdom of Sāvatthi. Not only seventy million people can live there, even a thousand million people can live there. And why? At this time the Buddha was there. For Masters of Merit, for Masters of Kamma, there is no such word as ‘impossible’. Whatever such a Master of Merit, a Master of Kamma desires to happen, anytime, will happen.”