Just asking if someone is aware of a complete English translation of Anattadīpanī by Ledi Sayadaw. While an extract is contained in "A Collection of Manuals of Buddhism by Ledi Sayadaw" I was unable to locate a full translation.

The reason for my interest is the following:

According Braun's The Birth of Insight, Anattadīpanī was focused on vedana contemplation (pag. 132):

Even the Manual on No-Self, which takes the feelings (vedana) as its subject matter, still begins with an explanation of meditative mindfulness of the body (kayagatasati) and its physical elements as a preparatory exercise.

And according the book A Brief Biography of Anagam Sayagyi U Thet And His Teaching (pag. 124), U Thet found inside that book (as well as in Bhāvanādīpanī) a confirmation of his experience and "technique" which he later would pass to U Ba Khin and finally would arrive to Goenka:

He [Saya Thet] was quite satisfied with his new-found insightful perceptions of the continually changing nature of rupa and nama. But his findings need to be verified or validated by some authority. [...] Saya Thet read "Anatta Dipani" and "Bavana Dipani", the books he had brought back from his home, and checked up all his findings by personal experience. He felt as if the [Ledi] Sayadaw was teaching him at close quarters. The concepts, explanations and instructions heard over ten years ago came back bit by bit, and checked well against his personal findings.


Can you provide the complete references from Braun, and is the other U Htay Hlaing? I have never read anything like a complete technique being passed to Saya Thet Gyi. Following is our take (shared here from a draft) concerning the question of Saya Thet Gyi's teachings:

There are very few surviving records of Saya Thet Gyi’s instructions, discourses, or details about his own meditation practice and development. Erik Braun examined Saya Thet Gyi’s famous student Sayagyi U Ba Khin’s biography and teaching, and this analysis gives a window into Saya Thet. Braun notes that while U Ba Khin’s teachings reference Abhidhamma concepts and the observation of impermanence of physical sensations, “[h]is teachings…simplify the technique further than Ledi had.” For example, U Ba Khin mentions kalāpas “rather than the four elements, which together comprise the kalāpas… This method is not a dramatic divergence from Ledi, but such a fine-tuning points to the fact that meditation teachers who considered his teachings to be authoritative did not necessarily preserve exactly the same approach to meditation.”

In contrast to Ledi Sayadaw, who developed remarkable mastery of many key areas of Buddhist scholarship and practice, Saya Thet Gyi’s activities were centered on formal meditation instruction. Because he did not possess the level of mastery or textual authority of Ledi Sayadaw, he was more limited in how he could best disseminate the Buddha’s teachings. In understanding where Saya Thet fits into the overall Ledi framework, Anauk Sayadaw (အေနာက္ ဆရာေတာ, who himself teaches in the Saya Thet tradition) referred to the concept of Ledi “mu” and Saya Thet Gyi “ni.” This refers on one hand to the written oeuvre and scriptural mastery of Ledi Sayadaw, and on the other to the specific meditation technique as taught by Saya Thet Gyi, which fit within the general constructs laid out by his teacher. Expanding further, Anauk Sayadaw noted that within the enormous breadth of Ledi’s teachings, Saya Thet Gyi fashioned a particular and specific way to practice, of which Ledi Sayadaw gave his explicit stamp of approval.

At his tazaung, Saya Thet Gyi offered no structured courses of a specified time length (indeed, the very concept of formal “courses” likely did not exist in those days), but rather yogis were invited to come and practice for however long they chose, with many staying between one to two weeks. Instructions were not formalized and depended more on the teacher-student relationship, as well as the student’s own background, aptitude, and progress. When a new student arrived, Saya Thet Gyi would begin by teaching ānāpāna, and only if he felt the student was ready would he switch to Vipassanā practice, sometimes directing them to focus on the awareness of anicca at the top of the head, or center of the chest, while doing so.

In this way one can see how Saya Thet Gyi occupied the middle station between the giants of Ledi Sayadaw and Sayagyi U Ba Khin, who both transformed Buddhist practice in unprecedented ways. Braun notes that the “most salient difference between Ledi and U Ba Khin… is not in the theory of meditation but in the practicalities of its teaching. In sharp contrast to Ledi’s more flexible approach to meditation instructions, U Ba Khin established a rigid timetable for practice throughout the day at his center.” Thus, while Saya Thet Gyi may not have turned his tazaung into a fully functioning meditation center churning out regular courses as U Ba Khin eventually did, he plays an important intermediary position, by narrowing down Ledi’s teachings— in large part due to the simple fact that Saya Thet did not have the same breadth and depth of knowledge as his teacher.

Regarding his teaching style, Saya Thet Gyi did not meditate all day with students, and when in the tazaung with them, he spent most of his time in the single cell, from which he sent mettā. He typically came in the mornings to check in and give instructions, at which time he would sit upon a small raised platform in front of the three Buddha statues still existing today. Aware of the sensitivities of being a lay teacher and deeply respectful of the Saṅgha, he was careful not to sit in anything that resembled a formal monk’s seat. In fact, he forewent a higher seat of any kind because he did not wish to put himself in a position of power or being above others. And if a monk came to learn from him, he was sure to pay formal respects prior to teaching, and would see that the monk sat higher than him. On many days Saya Thet Gyi gave no discourses at all, but only meditation instructions, so that students would focus entirely on the practice.

In his early days as a teacher, he tended to advise students to stay with the mindfulness of breathing for several years, but as he progressed as a teacher he was said to bring students to change the focus of their attention after less time, sometimes as short as a week. To assist newcomers in improving mindfulness of their body elements, Saya Thet Gyi sometimes forbade yogis to shower up till or on the day when Vipassanā instructions were given.

Some of the few anecdotes that survive suggest how much Saya Thet Gyi tailored his teachings to the individual student. For one student who was quite learned in the Abhidhamma and had extensive intellectual understanding of samatha and jhana practice, Saya Thet Gyi counseled him to be aware of the breath, either by counting breaths or feeling its touch. After one week, he taught the man vipassanā. For another student who was in his older years and in ill-health, he instructed him in the practice of ānāpāna along with odata kasina (developing concentration via a continuous focus on the color white). While the primary intention was to help the man accumulate paramis for the next life, the practice eventually led him to understand the four elements; and he also reported some relief from his heart disease.

  • Thanks for the answer, very useful. To be clear, neither of both authors says that U Thet learnt the technique from a Ledi's book. I added the relevant quotations and a link to the second book (by Ledi Pannasiha). You can read an introduction here (I'm going to add some comments if a form of an answer, given its length) – robermann Sep 27 '15 at 9:24
  • This conversation (discussion related to this answer) has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Sep 27 '15 at 13:24
  • @robermann, Shwe Lan Ga Lay, wondering if you can merge some of the fasts discussed in the deleted answers and chat with this answer so some of the facts are available to the general public. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Sep 29 '15 at 3:54
  • @SumindaSirinathSalpitikorala Tried with a review, but was discarded by peer review, sorry. – robermann Oct 2 '15 at 14:02
  • No worries but nevertheless great to see people from the aware of the Ledi, Sunlun, etc. traditions. Also like to get to know you two better. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Oct 3 '15 at 3:57

Bhikkhu Pesala kindly agreed to share with us a draft of an English translation of Anatta Dipani.

The final version may later be published in his Web site, together with other translations of Ledi Sayadaw's works.

At the moment many drafts are available on http://www.aimwell.org/LediSayadaw/.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.