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Trail blazer Sayadaws

In April of 1979, Mahasi Sayadawgi made a Dhamma Duta mission to the US. At the request of the devotees, Sayadawgyi agreed to leave behind Sayadaw U Silanandabhivamsa and Sayadaw U Kelasa as “trail blazers” for the promulgation, preservation, and the promotion of Sasana.

There were no Burmese Buddhist monasteries and/or temples, but the Sayadaws were determined to sacrifice their blissful lives back in their homeland to do whatever they can to (a) help with the Buddhist rites and rituals (b) teach theory and practice of Dhamma (c) encourage core supporters to found “Theravada Buddhist Society of America” [by the middle of 1979] (d) solicit donations (often going “door-to-door”) from families who want pass on the legacy to their family memebers (e) encourage young adults and children to Dhamma Courses and take “Aye-Thet Scholarship Examination” (f) hold short term and [some] long term meditation retreats (in Zen temple, churches, …) (g) strive to have “Dhammananda Vihara”.

Sayadaw U Silanandabhivamsa had served as the Chief Compiler of the “Pali-Mynamar Dictionary” as part of the Sixth Buddhist Council. Sayadaw is an expert in Pali, Sanskrit family of languages, and English. Sayadaw is highly regarded by non-Burmese devotees (including Vietnamese and American) not only for his wisdom but also for his “humble” actions (void of “boasting”).

The journey was not smooth as indicated by some entries in his “journal”, but well-wishers (including the Khoo family, Dr. Tin Wa and friends, Dr. Maung Maung Chwan and friends, Dr. Julie Han and Executive Committee members who did the fund-raising, Dr. Rina Sircar who offered Sayadaw to be a Lecturer at her University, the Sri Lankan monks who “sponsored” Sayadaw) all shared Sayadaw’s resolve to spread Dhamma in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Details can be found in the Commemorative Book for Sayadaw U Silanandabhivamsa (1927 – 2005) and the companion DVD set for “Sayadaw’s Final Journey”. I was fortunate to be asked to be MC for the Service, which was attended by Sittagu Sayadadaw and many monks from US, UK, and Burma. I was blessed to be a member and editor for the “Commemorative Book” project.

Sayadaw’s teachings (“Basic Course in Buddhism for children”, “Abhidhamma courses in Burmese and English”, “Dhammapada”, “Patissasamupada”, “Four Foundations of Mindfulness”, ….) are available as Dhamma Dana. Tathagata Meditation Center (TMC) depicts Sayadaw’s dhamma duta mission in US and Mexico by photos of the wall of the dining hall, and by publishing Sayadaw’s works. Many audio tapes were transcribed by Sarah E. Marks, U Osadha, … and edited/polished as books. Sayadaw’s Thai devotee published “Paritta Pali: Protective Verses” in Pali and English with an accompanying audio CD. Ko Jeffey [Wong, Fremont] put Sayadaw’s Abhidhamma courses (coovering 50+ audio tapes) into COBY MP-3 player and distributed them at Abhidhamma courses offered in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sadhu, sdahu, sadhu.

This morning (December 15, 2013) at Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, the resident Sayadaws and devotees conducted the 86th Birthday for Sayadaw U Silanandbhivamsa and offered soon dana in the “U Silanandabhivamsa Memorial Dhamma Hall.”

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