Discussion Forum Discussion Forum

Births and Deaths

Mother Sayama

Toggle
Mother Sayama
Answer
3/20/17 11:18 PM
A bit overdue: Mother Sayama, the leading student of U Ba Khin (Goenka's teacher) died at the end of January (1/28/17).  

I remember reading about her seemingly mythical presence in Eric Lerner's Journey of Insight Meditation.  She's one of those folks we can pay homage to for helping deliver the dharma in a lasting form in modern times.  

http://www.internationalmeditationcentre.org/docs/sayagyi.html
https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/in-memoriam-mother-sayamagyi/4164

RE: Mother Sayama
Answer
4/8/17 6:03 AM as a reply to Noah D.
I read Eric Lerner's book years ago then re-read it. I learned more about Buddhism from that book than any other. Since then I've learned more about Buddhism and I can see the limitations of Sayama's knowledge.

She didn't seem to know anything about jhanas. She thought that jhanas are bad. Now I can see that using the first four jhanas is important.

When it comes to vipassana, she followed the body-scanning techniques of U Ba Khin. Goenka popularised these techniques and many people think this is what vipassana is. However, there are many different forms of vipassana and this may not be one of the better ones. There are four foundations of mindfulness and mindfulness of physical sensations is just one of them.

When it comes to stream entry, she didn't seem to understand anything about this. It seems that nobody that she taught ever got to that stage. Towards the end of the book Eric Lerner tries to explain what has been happening in his meditation but she dismisses it. He accepts her explanation, but I think she got it wrong.

At the end of the book he becomes disillusioned with meditation and Buddhism, which is a real pity because I think he could have become enlightened if he'd found a different teacher. He had determination and ability. He was told, however, that ability to meditate well is only one of many paramis that are needed to get to enlightenment. I think she was jealous of his ability. She certainly didn't understand how to help people towards enlightenment. No wonder he became disillusioned.

RE: Mother Sayama
Answer
4/8/17 3:39 PM as a reply to Andrew McLaren Lewis.
Andrew McLaren Lewis:
...
she followed the body-scanning techniques of U Ba Khin...

When it comes to stream entry, she didn't seem to understand anything about this....

... He was told, however, that ability to meditate well is only one of many paramis that are needed to get to enlightenment....
Those were the kinds of things I experienced at my two Goenka retreats.  I think there may be a correlation between 'slow-rolling' stream entry along with a focus on the ten paramis, and having a high return rate of students along with a robust financial/social ecosystem..

I feel the most important step on the path of awakening is that first step from where you have no idea about meditation, to where you have a lot of ideas about it. Goenka delivers that step to anyone, anywhere, practically any time, for free. The only caviat is: be ready for a wild ride, and don't expect to be coddled throught it.

After that first step, if Goenka is not working for you, it's easy to find other paths up the mountain

RE: Mother Sayama
Answer
4/8/17 8:33 PM as a reply to Andrew McLaren Lewis.
Respects to Sayama and farewell to a Dhamma teacher. I heard her approach to teaching was less rigid than Goenka's style and slightly different, even though from the same lineage. I also read somewhere (don't remember where) that she attained stream-entry during her training in Burma which was greeted by a "sadhu 3x" from Webu Sayadaw, a reputed Arahant. 

I am thinking though that comments about her teachings may be more appropriately moved to the section on 'teachers' than in this section, IMHO.

RE: Mother Sayama
Answer
4/8/17 9:57 PM as a reply to Ben V..
In my time in the Goenka tradition I heard some strange tales about Mother Sayama. I think one of them was that when Goenkaji was in Australia in the 80's looking for land to build a meditation centre, Mother Sayama was with him and said to choose the Blackheath centre land as it was directly accross from a deva city she could see. 

When I cleaned  his Dhamma Giri residence as a Pali student, I saw a big portrait of Mother Sayama in his personal shrine room that housed some Buddha relics.  She was well respected.