Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 2.1.13: Arakasuttaṃ

(Make the Best Use of this Short Life)

The Venerable Ledi Sayadaw had been based at the Ledi-tawya monastery and travelled throughout Burma, teaching both meditation and scriptural courses. He was reknown for his aptitude to expound the theory of Dhamma, pariyatti, but also for his skills as a paṭipatti teacher. His Manuals -dīpanīs - of Dhamma present an inexhaustible source and reference till this day.

Ledi Sayadaw wrote many books on Dhamma in Burmese. It had been his benevolent compassion that he wanted to write in such a way that even a simple farmer could understand. Before his time, it was not usual to write on Dhamma subjects so that lay people could have access to them. The reciation of long, oral passages in Pāli and literally presented translations made it diffcult for the ordinary person to understand them.

It was Venerable Ledi Sayadaw`s great aspiration and unique foresight to open the door of Dhamma to the majority of people and to spread Dhamma to all levels of society. Once he summoned all the Bhikkhus of his monastery. He requested U Thet to stay on for ten or fifteen days to instruct them. The Sayadaw told the gathering of Bhikkhus, “Take note, all of you. This layperson is my great pupil U Po Thet from lower Burma. He is capable of teaching meditation like me. Those of you who wish to practise meditation, follow him. Learn the technique from him and practise. You, Dāyaka Thet hoist the victory banner of Dhamma in place of me, starting at my monastery!”
U Thet then taught Vipassana meditation to about twenty-five monks learned in the scriptures. It was at this point that he became known as Saya Thetgyi
(-saya- means: teacher; -gyi- is a suffix denoting respect).

Saya Thetgyi later fulfilled the wish of Ledi Sayadaw to teach the Dhamma to many when he began holding regular courses at his sala in Pyawbwegyi. Saya Thetgyi's reputation as a householder meditation teacher spread. He taught simple farmers and labourers as well as those who were well-versed in the Pāli texts. The village was not far from Rangoon, which was the capital of Burma, so government employees and urbanites, like U Ba Khin, also came.

In 1941, a seemingly coincidence incident occurred which was to be important in Sayagyi U Ba Khin's life. While on government business in upper Burma, he met by chance Webu Sayadaw, a monk who had achieved high attainments in meditation. Webu Sayadaw was impressed with U Ba Khin's proficiency in meditation, and urged him to teach. But it was only much later, in 1952, that Sayagyi U Ba Khin opened the International Meditation Centre (I.M.C.) Rangoon, two miles north of the famous Shwedagon pagoda where many Burmese and foreign students had the good fortune to receive instruction in the Dhamma through him.

Venerable Ledi Sayadaw passed away in 1923 at the age of seventy-seven at Pyinmana, between Mandalay and Rangoon, in one of many monasteries that had been founded in his name. The great householder teachers, Saya Thetgyi passed away at a meditation centre at Arzanigone, on the northern slope of the Shwedagon Pagoda in 1945, Sayagyi U Ba Khin passed away in January of 1971 after sudden illness.*

S.N. Goenka wrote in a tribute to his teacher: “Even after his passing away one year ago, observing the continued success of the courses, I get more and more convinced that it is his mettā force which is giving me all the inspiration and strength to serve so many people…Obviously the force of Dhamma is immeasurable.”

Their inestimable legacy lives on, the Buddha's teaching, carefully preserved all these centuries, is still available today and not only to those who have left the householders life, but to householders as well, it can be applied still bringing results here and now. May everyone desirous to benefit from the teaching ardently realize the advise that was given by the teacher of old, Araka, as presented in this sutta and be enabled to make the best use of this very life.

This present allusion to Araka is given in the Arakajātakavaṇṇanā, where Buddha teaches the mettāsutta (see 4.3.4.) to his disciples and referes to one of his previous lives, when he was born as the Brahmin teacher Araka. Araka, although he had not attained the path nor any of the fruits thereoff -evaṃ karonto hi maggaṃ vā phalaṃ vā alabhantopi brahmalokaparāyaṇo ahosi - but had strongly develpod the four brahmaviharas in this live and was consequently reborn in the brahmin worlds. Therefore Buddha emphasised to his disciples the importance of following this example in order to prepare them for the fields of Brahma: So isigaṇaṃ ovadanto “pabbajitena nāma mettā bhāvetabbā, karuṇā muditā upekkhā bhāvetabbā. Mettacittañhi nāmetaṃ appanāppattaṃ brahmalokaparāyaṇataṃ sādhetī”ti and he conluded mettāya ānisaṃsaṃ and refers to the following verses of Arakajātakaṃ: With a boundless mind of metta full of pity towards all beings in this world, whether above, below or across, infinite and spreading everywhere, such an infinite benvolent mind, full of welfare for others, being set as an example, nothing else can remain. - Yo ve mettena cittena, sabbalokānukampati; uddhaṃ adho ca tiriyaṃ, appamāṇena sabbaso, appamāṇaṃ hitaṃ cittaṃ, paripuṇṇaṃ subhāvitaṃ; yaṃ pamāṇakataṃ kammaṃ, na taṃ tatrāvasissatīti.

Pāli lesson (with audio) 2.1.13

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*For more details beyond this minute summary on the lives of these eminent teachers plese refer to: Sayagyi U Ba Khin-Journal, VRI
Last modified: Monday, 14 December 2015, 8:31 AM