Burma is one of the few countries in the world where Theravāda Buddhism still survives in its original form. The bhikkhus (monks) of Burma make every effort to preserve the Theravāda Buddhist teachings. A Buddha’s Teachings deal mainly with the way the human mind works and the relationship between the mind and body. The nature of the human mind has not changed since the Buddha discovered the path leading to the understanding of the absolute truth about mind and matter. This ultimate reality and the practice leading to its realization are, and will always remain, the same, regardless of economic or social conditions, so people today who put into practice what the Buddha taught can discover this reality for themselves.
The foundation of the teachings is the Four Noble Truths: (1) the truth that all conditioned phenomena (physical and mental) are unsatisfactory (suffering), (2) the truth that there is a cause for this, (3) the truth that there is an end to this unsatisfactoriness or suffering, and (4) the truth that there is a path leading to the end of suffering.
The path to the end of suffering is called the Eightfold Noble Path as it is divided into eight parts which are grouped under the threefold training of sīla (morality), samādhi (calm control over the mind, concentration), and paññā (insight, wisdom).
There are actions that are called skillful (kusala) because they support an individual’s progress towards Nibbāna, and there are unskilful (akusala) actions that have the contrary effect. All actions based on greed, aversion, and ignorance of the Law of Cause and Effect are unskilful.
The most unskilful actions are: (1) to kill a sentient being, (2) to steal, (3) to have unlawful sexual relations, (4) to speak untruth, and (5) to take intoxicants.
The Buddhist lay person undertakes to abstain from these ﬁve courses of action by taking the ﬁve moral precepts.
Once an action has been done there is no way to annul it. The effect can be minimized through the awareness of impermanence, which is the object of insight meditation. There is, however, no one, not even the Buddha, who can give an “absolution from sin”, as effects are determined by the Law of Kamma, which is applicable to all sentient beings.
Ven. Webu Sayadaw emphasized the practice of meditation as the only way to bring the teachings of the Buddha to fulﬁlment. Ven. Webu Sayadaw was believed to be an Arahat, i.e., a person who has in practice understood the Four Noble Truths completely and therefore attained the end of suffering.
The technique of meditation taught by Ven. Webu Sayadaw is one of forty techniques mentioned in the scriptures for the development of samādhi or concentration. It is called Ānāpāna-sati and requires that the meditator be aware (1) that he is breathing in while he is breathing in, (2) that he is breathing out while he is breathing out, and (3) of the spot or area in the region of the nostrils where the stream of air touches while he is breathing in and out.
In the Visuddhimagga Ashin Buddhaghosa describes sixteen ways of approaching Ānāpāna meditation, but Ven. Webu Sayadaw kept reminding his disciples that they did not need to know about all of these, all they really needed to know was the reality of in- and out-breathing.
Though Ānāpāna is a way of developing samatha (tranquillity of mind), samādhi (concentration of mind to one-pointedness) and jhāna (absorption states), Ven. Webu Sayadaw said that when concentration is developed to a sufﬁcient degree, the meditator automatically gains insight into the three characteristics of nature — anicca, dukkha, and anattā — if his mind is open to recognize them. Anicca means “impermanence” or “instability”, “change”, and is characteristic of all conditioned phenomena, be they physical or mental. Dukkha denotes the unsatisfactory nature of all these phenomena: nothing that is impermanent or changing can ever give lasting satisfaction. Anattā means “non-self”, “non-soul”, and applies to all phenomena — conditioned and unconditioned. According to the Buddha, there is no permanent ego, soul, or personal entity, but only physical and mental phenomena interrelating. In Buddhism the understanding of these three characteristics of anicca, dukkha, and anattā is called paññā or wisdom, and paññā is the quality which enables a meditator to reach Nibbāna.
U Hte Hlain, the collector of some of the discourses contained in this book, writes, “Ven. Webu Sayadaw preached sometimes ﬁve, sometimes ten times a day. Seven main points were always included in his discourses. If Ven. Webu Sayadaw gave 10,000 discourses in his life, then these points were expounded by him 10,000 times. He always included them, even if he had to repeat them again and again. He always explained the teachings in simple terms, so that the ordinary person could understand. He tried to explain the Dhamma in such a way that the most difﬁcult thing became easy.”
The seven Points are:
(1) One can only expect the fulﬁlment of one’s aspirations if one is perfect in morality.
(2) When practising generosity (dāna) in the religion of the Buddha, the mental attitude and volition involved are very important.
(3) Believing in the law of cause and effect one should always act with an upright mind.
(4) One should not aspire to any happiness of either the human or celestial worlds — which are impermanent — but only to Nibbāna.
(5) Because of the arising of the Buddha we have the opportunity to practise right conduct (caraṇa) and wisdom (paññā) fully and therefore beneﬁt greatly.
(6) From the moment we are born to the moment we die, there is the in-breath and the out-breath. This is easy for everybody to understand. Every time we breathe in or out, the breath touches near the nostrils. Every time it touches we should be aware of it.
(7) While we are walking, working, doing anything, we should always be aware of the in- and out-breath.
Paramount importance is given to right action and the experience and understanding drawn from it. As we shall see in the discourses, Ven. Webu Sayadaw wants his audience to realize the teachings through their own experience, for themselves, rather than through hearing them; and he says that in this way, as they begin to see the teachings as a reality, people can pass beyond doubt.
Webu Sayadaw's Life
Webu Sayadaw and Sayagyi U Ba Khin
Discourses by Webu Sayadaw
- Discourse I - What Really Matters
- Discourse II - Extinguishing the Fires Within
- Discourse III - Keep Your Mind on the Spot
- Discourse IV - A Roof That Does Not Leak
- Discourse V - The Flight of an Arrow
- Discourse VI - Work Without Wavering!
- Discourse VII - To Light a Fire
- Discourse VIII - A Happiness That Ever Grows
Already published discourses in the blog are displayed when clicking on the link Read Discourses:
Extracts from further Discourses by Webu Sayadaw
- The Power of Forbearance
- How Mahā-Kassapa Was Deceived
- Dhamma-Asoka’s Younger Brother
- Mahosadha and King Videha
- Don’t Destroy Yourselves
- A Discourse Delivered at the IMC, Yangon (Rangoon)
- Words of Wisdom - Always Enunciated by Ven. Webu Sayadaw
- The Path to Be Followed in This World
- Interview with Webu Sayadaw
- How to Use Dāna
- How Webu Sayadaw Travelled to Sri Lanka and India
Open the Pali Glossary for a better understanding of the pali words used in the discourses.