The Founder of State Pariyatti Sasana Universities by Venerable Ashin Ketu
It is the most Venerable Mingun Sayadaw who founded two State Pariyatti Sāsana Universities respectively in Yangon and Mandalay. The former is situated near Kaba-Aye Pagoda and ChaIIhasaIgāyanā Cave and the latter is near Mandalay Hill. The most Venerable Mingun Sayadaw played essential role in the history of Buddhism in Myanmar. Here Myanmar (Burmese) words are needed to explain briefly. Mingun is the name of a place and Sayadaw is a polite expression to the Buddhist monks. Actually his name is Venerable Ashin Vicittasāra. He lives in Mingun. So he is called Mingun Sayadaw.
Venerable Mingun Sayadaw was born on Wednesday November 11, 1911, to U Hson and Daw Hsin in Kyeebin Village, two kilometers south-west of Myingyan town in central Myanmar. He was the second of three children with an elder sister and a younger brother. His grandfather U Chai, a medical practitioner and an adept in astrology selected the name Maung Yan Shin but because the boy was lovable family and friends called him Maung Khin.
At the age of eight he was sent to Sayadaw U Sobhita of Min-gyaung Monastery, Myingyan, to start learning the rudiments of Buddhism. When he was ten he was ordained a SāmaIera by the same Sayadaw. His teacher Sayadaw U Sobhita named him Koyin Vicittasāra. Koyin in Myanmar language means novice (in Pāli SāmaIera). Vicittasāra is his name in Pāli. Myanmars use to take Pāli names after ordination. Ten year later he went to Dhammanāda Monastery, a secluded place of holy personages, in Mingun, Sagaing Township, for further learning. Under the guidance of Sayadaw U Paññācakka of Dhammanāda, he studied Pāli Texts with their commentaries and sub-commentaries. A day’s study schedule for him was heavy.
In the morning the Presiding Monk lectured Moggallāna’s Grammar. After the midday meal the Abhidhāna was studied. In the afternoon the Iīkā-thit was taught. In the early evening the PaIIhāna was studied. The PaIIhāna is the fifth treatise of Abhidhamma. It has five volumes. Here the style of PaIIhāna teaching is Myanmar way. At night he attended the lectures on Bhedacintā (the Pāli aphorism) and Kaccāyanasāra (resume of the Kaccāyana Grammar).
On Sabbath days the stories from Dhammapada had to be written in Pāli. Rhetoric was taught and the Maghadeva LaIkā was studied for facility in versification. Composition of ratu and auspicious eulogies was practiced. Ratu is one of Myanmar poem style Literature. Later, more advanced material such as the text of the Pāli Cannon, the Major Commentaries, Sub- commentaries, exegeses and expositions were studied. One of his favorite subjects was Moggallāna’s Grammar.
In 1930 he received higher ordination, his sponsors being Daw Dhammacārī, a prominent and learned nun of Mingun, the author of Saccvādī-Iīkā, and Sir U Twin, a wealthy philanthropist of Yangon. Since then Daw Dhammacārī had become his spiritual mother and Sir U Twin his fatherly supporter for his religious life. In 1937 when the First Dhammanāda Sayadw, his preceptor at his ordination, passed away, he had to take charge of the Monastery.
The Mingun Sayadaw has passed a series of religious examinations invariably with flying colors since the age of 13. To mention but a few, in his fourth year as a Bhikkhu (a monk), he passed the Dhammācariya Examination held by the Pariyatti Sāsanahita Association of Mandalay, a formidable examination which only a few candidates dare to sit for. The examination is on the three great Commentaries which candidates normally try to finish one by one in three years. But the Mingun Sayadaw passed all three Commentaries in one year and acquired the rare and coveted title of Pariyatti Sāsanahita Dhammācariya VaIamsakā.
The first time the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw really made his name for himself as a man of vast learning was when he passed with distinctions the TipiIakadhara Examination, held for the first time and reputed to be the longest and most difficult one. As the name of the Examination suggests, the candidate has to recite all three PiIakas that he had learned by heart. In addition, he has to pass the written papers on all Canonical Texts and Commentaries. It took him four years to sit for whole Examination that earned him in 1953 the unique title of TipiIakadhara DhammabaIIāgārika, which means “Bearer of the Three PiIakas and Keeper of the Dhamma-Treasure.” The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw’s ability to recite 16,000 pages of Buddhist Canonical Texts has been recorded in the Guiness Book of Records 1985.
When the Sixth Buddhist Council was well under way, the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw was assigned the task of editing the Canonical Texts to be approved by the Council as its version. Beside, when the Council was convened, the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw acted as the Visajjaka, that is, ‘Respondent’ answering questions on all three portions of the Canon. The Pucchaka ‘Questioner,’ was the late Mahāsi Sayadaw. In answering the questions, the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw took the combined role of Thera Upāli and Thera Ānanda who answered the questions on the Vinaya and the Dhamma respectively at the First Council presided by Thera Mahā Kassapa.
After the Council, the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw devoted himself to the literary pursuits. At the request of U Nu, the then Prime Minister of Myanmar, he assiduously compiled Mahā Buddhavamsa, being Myanmar exposition on the lives of the Buddhas as related mainly in the Buddhavamsa Pāli Text of Khuddaka Nikāya; the compilation, resulting in six volumes in eight books, commenced in 1956 and ended in 1969. The work, being the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw’s magnum opus and colossal contribution to Myanmar Buddhist literature, has been received with enthusiastic acclaim by members of the Sangha and the laity alike.
The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw considered the benefit which would accrue if an institution be established where would-be candidates for the TipiIakadhara Examination could dwell without anxiety about material support and study material. The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw consulted the Momeit Pagoda Trustees. They pointed out that the buildings in the area were fully utilized only a few days in the year at the annual pagoda festival. If an institution were established for would-be candidates there those buildings would be better utilized for the benefit of the Sāsana.
On 18 February, 1978, the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw donated all the monies awarded by the government as TipiIakadhara DhammabhaIIāgārika to the newly established TipiIaka-Nikāya Monastery. On Myanmar New Year Day of that year, the Momeit Pagoda Trustee Committee was enlarged and converted into the TipiIaka-Nikāya Missionary Organization with the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw as supreme patron Sayadaw. The TipiIaka-Nikāya Monastery in Yangon was opened on 23 November, 1980.
In the year 1980 an historic event in the history of the Sangha in Myanmar took place: it was the emergence of the State SaIgha Mahā Nāyaka Committee comprising representatives of all sects of the Buddhist Sangha in Myanmar. The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw was unanimously elected General Sectary for life of the Committee, which, as the Supreme Authority on Buddhist religious affairs of the country, is responsible for the growth, development and prosperity of the Buddha Sāsana.
To produce monks capable of missionary work at home and abroad and to develop the spirit to serve in areas urban or rural, poor or prosperous. To alleviate the physical pain, mental suffering, anxiety and anguish by means of the teachings of the Buddha.
To realize these principles, the State SaIgha Mahā Nāyaka Committee firmly resolved to establish two separate State Pariyatti Sāsana Universities in Yangon and Mandalay. The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw had at his disposal an experienced and widespread body in the Tipitaka-nikaya Missionary Organization. So on May 10, 1982, the State Samgha Mahā Nāyaka Committee resolved to request the General Secretary in person of the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw to undertake the task of establishing the Pariyatti Sāsna Universities together with the required buildings in Yangon and Mandalay.
The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw traveled the length and breadth of the country accepting donations towards the Pariyatti Sāsana Universities. With TipiIaka-Nikāya Missionary Organization as the mainstay UpaIIhāka Ministrative Committees were formed to continue the work. The universities opened in Yangon in June and Mandalay in August, 1986.
The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw always solicitous for the well being and Pariyatti learning advancement of the monks initiated a major project for the construction of a specialist Sāsana hospital in Mandalay. The hospital started accepting in-patients in November 1989.
In revent honour and high recognition of the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw’ pure moral conduct, deep and extensive learning, encyclopaedic literary effort, inspirational sermons and great service to the Sāsana, the Government of the Union of Myanmar presented to the Venerable Mingun Sayadaw the title of AggamahāpaIIita in 1979 and the highest title AbhidhajamahāraIIhaguru in 1984. The Venerable Mingun Sayadaw passed away at the age of 82 but the name, Venerable Mingun Sayadaw echoes in the heart Buddhist people in Myanmar.
Sabbe sattā sukhī attānam pariharantu.
Mingun Sayadaw at the age of twenty
Mingun Sayadaw at the age of twenty-five
Mingun Sayadaw at the age of forty-five
Mingun Sayadaw at the time of Chaṭṭhasaṅgāyanā
Mingun Sayadaw traveling around the country
Sayadaws in front of Sima
Mingun Sayadaw passed away at the age of 82 (in 1993)