Updated on June 9, 2019

Sayadaw and Sayadawgyi

A sayadaw is the senior monk or abbot of a monastery. Some distinguished sayadaw would often referred to as a sayadawgyi as a sign of reverence.

The terms “sayadaw” and “sayadawgyi” originally corresponded to the senior monks who taught the former Burmese kings. These sayadaws may be influential teachers of the Buddhist Dhamma and also important meditation practitioners. They usually are abbots of monasteries or monastery networks with a large number of resident monks and a lay following. However, sayadaw is used interchangeably with the term “U”.

Honorific terms

Several honorific terms exist for Buddhist monks, reflecting their achievements and the number of Vassa. They include “Bhaddanta”, “Ashin”, “Shin”, “U”, “Upazin”, “Sayadaw” and “Sayadawgyi”. These names are used as prefixes to the Pali proper names of the Burmese monks of Theravada tradition.

Mingun Sayadaw

A sayadaw may be known by his given Dhamma name, a qualified name, or by the name of his monastery. Thus, Venerable Mingun Sayadaw U Vicittasarabhivamsa, who served as “Chief Reciter” at the Sixth Buddhist Council in Yangon, could be addressed as:

  • Mingun Sayadaw (in reference to his monastery at Mingun)
  • U Vicittasarabhivamsa
  • Sayadaw U Vicittasarabhivamsa
  • Mingun Sayadaw U Vicittasarabhivamsa
  • Tipitaka Sayadaw U Vicittasarabhivamsa
  • Tipitakadhara Dhammabhandakarika Sayadaw U Vicittasarabhivamsa — in reference to being the first monk to be awarded the titles Tipitakadhara (“Bearer of the Tipitaka — the three baskets of Vinaya, Sutta, and Abhidhamma”) and Dhammabhandakarika (“Treasurer of the Dhamma”).

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