My Dear Students!

By Prajna Murdaya

In a distinctly green-colored house on Woodrow Street in Daly City, my siblings and I spent eleven wonderful years of our childhood learning Buddhism from Bhante U Sobhana at the Dhammananda Vihara. We went every Sunday starting in 1983. I was about nine years old then, the rest of my brothers and sisters were between the ages of eleven and three. Every time we went, Bhante had always already prepared a big lesson for us. It was nicely typewritten, usually about 10 pages long.

In the beginning we learned prayers, such as the 5 precepts and the basic Paritta. As we became more literate, Bhante started giving us lessons on Buddhist history,
and also introduced us to Jataka stories. When we grew older, he taught us more about Buddhist cosmology. For example, we read more deeply into reincarnation
and the different planes of existence. Each of us read the written lesson aloud. That way he could be sure that each of us was paying attention to the lesson and reading every word.

When one of us was finished with reading the lesson, another student would read the same lesson over again. Of course, we were bored by having to read the lesson over and over again, but as Bhante said wisely, “Repetition never spoils one’s memory!” By around 1994, which was the time I graduated from high school, Bhante had written well over a thousand pages of lessons for us, and we had read them all aloud!

Reading the lessons aloud not only helped us remember them better, but also doubled as an opportunity to practice pronouncing the numerous Pali words that were used throughout the lessons. That helped us to chant our prayers more skillfully.

I have to admit that I was not always very enthusiastic about going to school each week. Like most children, there were other things I wanted to do on Sunday
afternoons than to go a temple for three hours. And as I studied in high school, my assignments took a lot of time and sometimes I was very reluctant to go. But for whatever reason, I still went pretty consistently, and I benefited from the experience.

I began to see it as a nice retreat away from my daily life, and learned to appreciate its peaceful atmosphere. But whether or not the students were reluctant to be at the lesson, Bhante was always cheerful and happy. He was always patient with us, even though as children we were horribly naughty. He always adapted to our spontaneous behavior. He showed us great generosity and care, and treated us as if we were his own grandchildren. He would always stuff us with snacks and sweets every time we came as well. He certainly felt like a grandfather to us, and it was certainly a blessing to be able to spend time with him. It seems as if Bhante has never changed his cheery personality ever since the first day we met him, even though during the time we took lessons from him, I had grown at least a foot taller.

Throughout those years we have grown up and changed. I felt that the lessons became more and more meaningful as I grew up, and I learned to appreciate Bhante’s
cheeriness, sensitivity, and patience. Attending each lesson certainly enhanced my background knowledge of Theravada Buddhism. After I started studying at the University, I did not have as much time to visit the monastery every week, but the Bhante’s lessons had helped build my confidence in Buddhism.

Often times my friends ask me about Buddhism, and often times the reason I can answer them is the fact that I went to these classes continuously for eleven years. It really helped me a lot when discussing Buddhism with others now. Currently I am the President of the Buddhist Community at Stanford, and thanks in large part to Bhante’s lessons, I feel that I am able to help represent Buddhism at my school.

I recall that the beginning of each of Bhante’s lessons would begin with “My dear students! When I read that greeting the first few times, I wondered who he was so boisterously addressing. After a while, I realized happily that he was referring to me and my brother and sisters, because for all those years, we were the ones who read his lessons. I feel very special and grateful to Bhante Sobhana for all his efforts in teaching me about Theravada Buddhism. He has made a large and positive impact on us and on our family.

Prajna Murdaya comes from a respective Indonesian family. Being devoted Buddhists, the parents gave all their four children Pali names (Metta, Prajna, Upekkha, and Karuna). Before sending them to the United States for education the parents found out about Dhammanada Vihara through a Myanmar Sayadaw visiting Indonesia and finally met with Ven. Sayadaw U Sobhana in Daly City, California, in 1983. Since then the four brothers and sisters came to Dhammananda Vihara to take classes on Buddhism every Sunday. For the next 11 years they studied Buddhism in addition to their regular school lessons. Prajna is now graduating from Stanford University and he is currently serving as the President of the Buddhist Community at Stanford. – Editor

Sayadaw U Sobhana Recevies Agga Maha Saddhammajotikadhaja Title

In an announcement made by Myanmar Government on the Independence Day, January 4, Sayadaw U Sobhana, the resident monk of Dhammananda Vihara, was conferred on the prestigious title “Agga Maha Saddhammajotika Dhaja”. The title is given to people for their outstanding contributions to the propagation of sasana throughout the world. Various titles were conferred on to sayadaws, nuns and laity on that auspicious day. This is the third time that a TBSA Sayadaw has been honored by the Myanmar government. On two previous occasions, Sayadaw U Silanada received Agga Maha Pandita title in 1993 and Agga Maha Saddhammajotika Dhaja in 1999, respectively.

Sayadaw U Sobhana came to the United States in 1981 per invitation of Theravada Buiddhist Society of America to reside at the Dhammamnanda Vihara Monastery in the San Francsico Bay Area to help disseminate Buddhism in America. Since then Sayadaw has taught Buddhism and Vipassana meditation to
laity especially to young students.

Sayadaw was born in Myingyan, Central Myanmar in 1921. As a young boy he studied at the American Baptist Missionary School and became a novice at the Chan Tha Gyi Monastery in Mandalay. Later in 1939, he passed the Government Intermediate examinations and sat for the Advanced Pali Text examination in 1941. He became a full-fledged monk in the higher ordination (upasampada) in 1943.

Sayadaw went to Calcutta, India in 1949 and studied Sanskrit. From 1950 to 1957, he continued his studies in English and Sanskrit in Colombo, Sri Lanka and passed General Certificate of Education (GCE) administered by University of London in 1955.

He was a member of Editorial Board (Pativitsodhaka) Sayadaws at the Tipitaka/Myanmar Dictionary Department and carried out research work on Pali Text. He also continued his sasana work as Anunakaya Sayadaw at the Japan Dhammaduta Missionary Branch of the Buddha Sasana Council. For twenty-two years, from 1959 to 1981, Sayadaw taught Pali Text and Vipasana meditation at the Bodharama Monastery in Nakhorn Sawan in Thailand as a member of the Mission sent by the Myanmar Buddha Sasana Council.

The State Ceremony was held on March 15, 2000 (Full Moon Day of Tapaung) at Kaba Aye Hlaing Gu (World Peace Cave) — the site of the Sixth Buddhist Council — in Yangon, Myanmar. Sayadaw U Sobhana, accompanied by TBSA secretary U Kyaw Tay Za, left USA on March 10 to attend the ceremony. Sayadaw received the title before an audience of 1500 attendees. Sayadaw returned to Dhammananda Vihara on March 24.

A Personal Appreciation

A Personal Appreciation of and Felicitations for Sayadaw U Silananda

M. Tin-Wa, Ph.D.

When one of the Editors of Dhammananda Newsletters requested that I write an article in English on whatever topic I choose, one that is most relevant and timely, I decided to give a summary of U Silananda’s life and work in the US from my personal perspective. Hopefully, this will inspire the readers to continue to support him more in every way in his Dhamma work.

Since his detailed biography and articles about his many accomplishments have already been covered or listed in previous issues, announcements, flyers and in books and booklets, it would be redundant to repeat or reproduce them all over again. I have chosen to provide an overview of Sayadaw’s extraordinary depth of Buddhist knowledge, his ability to communicate this knowledge of the process of insight and Buddhist teachings clearly and precisely in English to laypeople and most important of all, his singular dedication and ability to inspire others through the Buddhist missionary work. The best way for me to do this is to give a brief personal account of what I encounter during my association with him for twenty years.

I will begin with a short pertinent background of myself, describe my first meeting with the Sayadaw and my continuing association with and support to him in his worthy cause. Along with my four brothers, I was brought up as a Burmese Buddhist. During the pre-teen and teen years, we attended the Mya-Thein-Dan
Monastery in Pa-zung-daung during our Summer Holidays to take religious instructions and to learn additional Burmese language, culture and manners from the learned monks. In our teen years, we were ordained as novices ( koyins). However, when I left Myanmar in early 1962 right after College for US, I lost complete touch with any Burmese monks. Lest we forget our culture, roots and religious inheritance, our mother would read, extract and rewrite in English some Buddhist
literature and sent us some concise articles on the essence of Buddhism along with other worldly advice since we were away from homeland for long years.

After 16 years in the US, when I met my college friend, Daw Mu Mu Khin, she informed me that her mother just arrived with some Burmese monks. She took
me to meet the most Venerable Taungpulu Sayadaw in November 1978 who was visiting US and residing at a temporary monastery in Palo Alto Hills. It was only about 20 minutes away from Stanford University where my Austrian wife, Anna, was completing her M.D. degree and I had just come up from Southern California. Just a week prior to my chance of meeting with my old friend Mu Mu, I had mentioned to my wife about my dream where I was searching for some Burmese monks. I remarked to her that I had not been ordained as a monk yet, which is very important in our tradition. When we met Taungpulu Sayadaw, a week later, Anna reminded me about my dream, and the great opportunity available and immediately urged me to request ordination as a monk. My wish was granted by the Sayadaw.

When the Sayadaw returned to Myanmar in early December 1978, I became involved in the effort to bring back the Sayadaw and establish a permanent monastery along with Dr. Rina Sircar and her students, my friend Mu Mu and other Burmese. Then we received word from Taungpulu Sayadaw that Mahasi Sayadaw and several monks would be visiting US around April 1979 and we should make the appropriate plans to receive them. Mahasi Sayadaw first went to Yucca Valley in Southern California for Dhamma talks and retreat. On the day Mahasi Sayadaw and his group were to fly in to San Francisco, I received a phone call from my brother Dr. Hla N. Tin from Southern California. He called from the airport informing me about his visit with the Sayadaws. He stated that all the monks accompanying Mahasi Sayadaw were very learned, and I should take good care of them. I had known him to be a person not easily impressed nor readily offering praise to anyone unless well deserved. He said he was at Yucca Valley and was very satisfied with the intelligent answers given by these monks which included our Sayadaw U Silananda. That was a very strong and objective recommendation of the Sayadaws I was about to meet from a person who had always excelled in academics and had keen analytical training with a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics. So, with that knowledge, I made extra effort that the Sayadaws’ visit went
smoothly and productive.

Their visit was such a success that one of the Burmese families, U Chit Tun offered his home to be used as a monastery for U Silananda and U Kelasa who were accompanying the Mahasi Sayadaw. He requested Mahasi Sayadaw to leave them behind to spread the Dhamma in the Bay Area with expressed support from U Htin Paw to make it succcessful. Sayadaws arrived at U Chit Tun’s house in July 1979. At that time, along with my friend Mu Mu, I was committed to helping Dr. Rina Sircar and her students to establish a permanent monastery for Taungpulu Sayadaw. However, within a few weeks time, I found myself, having to come forth
to safeguard the continued stay of U Silananda and U Kelasa in the US. I was able to secure a temporary quarters for six months per kind favor of an American Chinese student of Taungpulu Sayadaw, David Wong. Most of the support during this period was provided by Dr. Rina Sircar and her students with some help from some Burmese families.

It was during this period I discovered that not only does Sayadaw U Silananda has the knowledge, but also the determination and dedication about spreading Dhamma in the West. In addition to teaching a very popular Abhidhamma course at the California Institute for Asian Studies which Dr. Rinar Sircar arranged, he would travel up and down the Bay Area with me and give Dhamma talks and performed other religious functions even if it was for only one or two persons. I knew firsthand how much sacrifices he had made. He overcame a lot of obstacles in the beginning. My respect for him grew and that is why I have continued to help him in any way I can till now. My sentiment was shared recently by a Vietnamese student of his, Ms. Ha Truong. When I met her in Popa Hill in Myanmar in 1996, she had spent most of the year as a nun in Myanmar. She said, “Now that I know how all Sayadaws are revered and how well they are taken care of by the community in
Myanmar, I respected U Silananda even more, for the sacrifices he must have made to come to US to teach us. ”

In December 1979, U Silananda and U Kelasa were invited by a Sri Lankan monastery in Washington, D.C. where they continued with their missionary work. The Burmese community in Washington, D.C. organized to support and eventually set up a monastery for U Kelasa who stayed behind and became the Abbott of Mangalarama Vihara. However, U Silananda decided to return to California and helped Sayadaw U Pyinnya Wuntha set up the Monastery in Los Angeles. He did a lot of travelling up and down in California giving Dhamma talks and Meditation retreats wherever he was invited.

During the six months from July to December 1979, after attending some of his courses, teachings and retreats, supporters around the San Francisco Bay Area expressed their intent to establish a monastery for U Silananda. Around October 1979, U Silananda indicated to me that another group headed by Dr. Maung Maung Chwan, Eddy, Stanley and Peter Khoo were also interested in the same thing. He asked me to persuade the different groups I have been working with to throw support behind Dr. Chwan’s group for the sake of unity to support the common goal. By February 1980, the good news of the approval of non-profit status by the State of California was received. Not so pleasant news was that the able TBSA President Dr. Chwan had to relocate to the East Coast and his initiative and energy was lost to TBSA.

At this point, I thought we might lose U Silananda to Los Angeles or elsewhere, because no suitable place had been made available for him to reside in the Bay Area. That was when I locked up my office in April 1980, worked exclusively and diligently for a few months with his supporters. I also found and rented a two-bedroom house on Staples Street in San Francisco, known as the first Dhammananda Monastery, over some strong objections of some TBSA Board members. They were concerned about the liability of the rent money if the support was not forthcoming, and so were considering to rent a studio apartment at best. I prevailed after I assured them that I solely guaranteed the payment of the year lease if such was the case. U Hla Oung, Dr. Julie Han Wood and Dr. Swe Aye came forth also to share the burden with me. We celebrated the historical Opening Ceremony of the first Dhammananda Vihara monastery on July 27, 1980 and proved that such fears were unfounded. Instead, great momentum and confidence were gained to start looking for a permanent place which resulted in the purchase of the
Woodrow Street property in Daly City, the second Dhammananda Vihara within two years.

After Sayadaw U Silananda got settled in at the Daly City monastery, I took a  leave from TBSA from 1982 to 1994. During this period, in addition to fulfilling my initial commitment to support the establishment of a permanent Taungpulu monastery and the construction of the Pagoda, I concentrated on helping U Silananda in other matters, such as, initiating the Tipitaka CD-ROM project, founding Dhammachakka Meditation Center (DMC) and helping Dr. Marc Lieberman, a former student of Taungpulu Sayadaw with his founding of Nama-Rupa Foundation to which he requested me to join as founding member and director. Through these two
groups effort, Abhidhamma Newsletters and other publications of U Silananda came out. Well functioning monasteries, such as the Tathagatha Meditation Center in San Jose founded by the nucleus of the Vietnamese group who attended the functions of the above two groups and Abhyagiri Monastery on over 250 acres in Northern California also, came about. Both of these monasteries are offering meditation retreats, dhamma talks and other services not only to the Burmese community but also to the US community at large. Another development is the link between DMC and the Bodhi Tree Dhamma Center from Florida which invited U Silananda for month long Winter stays. Another offshoot of this is that the Burmese community in Florida were able to attend functions of U Silananda in Florida and later they organized with Sayadaw’s help to establish Dhamma Thukha Monastery. (see the New Years’ Wish article for U Silananda by Paddamya Khin in May 1997 issue of Dhammananda Newsletter.)

As a cascading effect from that, Burmese community in Jamaica is also establishing a monastery. Another outcome from DMC activities is that one of the attendees,
Oscar Valentinuzzi of Argentina became a monk known as U Nandisena, and assisted U Silananda in making inroads with the Spanish speaking meditators to
establish a Center in Mexico. Recently they had an opening of the first Theravada Buddhist Monastery in Mexico (see news in this issue). Plans are underway to
establish a monastery in Puerto Rico soon. Another domino effect.

I rejoined the TBSA Board in 1995-96 at the request of the Sayadaws because they felt very restricted and uncomfortable at the Daly City Monastery and needed a
New Monastery soon. Because of past misunderstandings, annoyance and report by neighbors, the city and county began investigating the legality of a monastery in a residential area, and began limiting the use of the facility. The new Board searched many places, including undeveloped lands, in cities, commercial districts, farmlands according to the minimum requirements set by the Sayadaws, with many hotly debated discussions. With the patience and guidance of the Sayadaws, the purchase of the Half Moon Bay property was achieved.

At the Sayadaws’ suggestion, I continued to serve the 1997-98 Board as Advisor in their effort to obtain the necessary approval to establish it officially as a
Monastery on the Planned Agricultural Development (PAD) land and obtain permits for expansion to enable larger meditation retreats, festivals, etc. Now it is officially recognized and approved as a Monastery by the Planning Commission and the permit to build and expand is forthcoming.

Sayadaw U Silananda is much sought after for his Dhamma Talks and Meditation Retreats all over the world. Everywhere he went, he encouraged his students to start up a new monastery for themselves. I understand Canada is next in line to have a monastery as a result. During recent months, he had to split his time between Malaysia where he conducted a long Meditation Retreat and in Myanmar, where he was requested by the Government to serve as Rector of the newly founded International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University. In another month, he will be returning to US to continue his work as usual in an unselfish manner.

My wise grandfather, well read both in non-religious and religious literature, had once told me, that one does not necessarily become a good monk by shaving one’s head and putting on the robes. But if you come across a good learned monk with sila, his advice was to seek him, support him and learn as much as you can from him. I believe I tried to follow his advice and have benefited greatly in the real sense of Buddhist tradition. As U Silananda is getting on in age, I would like to entreat all of his supporters to help with their generous donations for the current expansion project of the Monastery in Half Moon Bay, the third Dhammananda Vihara. This way, his students from all over the world can come to him here for his Dhamma talks and Meditation Retreats and he can slowly cut down on his extensive travels
which may take a toll on his health in his golden years, that none of us like to see. He deserves the best and we are not asking for much for him. Please contact TBSA at 17450 South Cabrillo Hwy., Half Moon Bay, CA 94019, USA, or call 650-726-7604 for making your generous donation.


Canada Visit

Venerable Sayadaw U Silananda’s Canada Visit

Half Moon Bay Venerable Sayadaw U Silananda has been traveling to outside of the United States and giving dhamma talks and meditation sessions in various locations. In the past few months Sayadaw traveled to Canada in response to the invitations of various Theravada Buddhist groups in Canada.

Sayadaw is a well-known Theravada Buddhist teacher and is well respected by Buddhists throughout the Americas. Sayadaw made a long journey throughout Canada covering from Eastern part to Western Coastal area during May and June, 1998. The following is the report of his visit to Canada.


Sayadaw visited Ottawa from May 12–15. This was in response to the invitation of Myanmar Ambassador Dr. and Madame Kyaw Win. This is Sayadaw’s
second visit in two years to this city. Sayadaw’s visit was well received by families of Myanmar Embassy and friends. During his three-day visit, Sayadaw gave
Dhamma talks and meditation sessions. Myanmar Ambassador and families of the Embassy also offered Waso Robes to the Sayadaw for the upcoming Waso festival and shared merits.

Although the Buddhist community in Ottawa is very small, Sayadaw was very pleased to see full support from local Myanmars who attended his talks. Some
foreign dignitaries were also present. Among them were the Ambassador of Sri Lanka and his wife, and the wife of the Thai Ambassador. The Sri Lankan
Ambassador extended his support by making a kind offer the Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple to be used in Sayadaw’s future visits. Sayadaw left Ottawa on May 15 for Toronto.


Venerable Sayadaw U Silananda arrived in Toronto on May 15 from Ottawa. Sayadaw was invited by Burma Buddhist Association of Ontario and stayed at the
Dhammikarama Burmese Monastery in Toronto. This 3-day visit was filled with dhamma talks and meditation sessions which were held at the Thai monastery. Sayadaw was overwhelmed by the outcome of the Myanmar attendance at his meditation sessions.

About 40 Myanmars were always present in all of his sessions and were very respectful to the Sayadaw. They all wanted Sayadaw to stay longer. Plans are being made to invite Sayadaw next year and various efforts are already underway to establish a bigger Myanmar temple in Toronto in the near future. The total number of attendance was about 100 during his visit. There were some Sri Lankan yogis among the attendees. Sayadaw left Toronto on May 20 to continue his journey to Montreal.


This visit to the beautiful city was in response to the invitation of a Vietnamese Theravada Buddhist group. During the four days in Montreal, Sayadaw led a four-day Vipassana retreat near Montreal. About twenty yogis attended the retreat, two Canadian Buddhist monks among them. This was the last stop in this leg of journey to the eastern part of Canada. Sayadaw flew back to Half Moon Bay on May 24.


Sayadaw then made another trip to the western part of Canada. This time to visit Vancouver of British Columbia in Canada. He arrived there on June 13 and stayed until the 19. Sayadaw was invited by the Manawmaya Theravada Buddhist Society in Vancouver. Sayadaw led a six-day Vipassana retreat. The committee of this organization was very pleased to have an opportunity to learn Theravada Buddhism closely from the visiting Sayadaw. Among the attendees were some Myanmar students, a few Vietnamese and a Canadian Buddhist monk.

A noteworthy story that has some Myanmar history connection is that among the visitors was a Vietnamese lady who came to pay respects to the Sayadaw. She is the great grand daughter of the late Prince Myingun of Mandalay. Prince Myingun raised a rebellion against King Mindon (1853-78); but he was not successful and fled first to India, and eventually to Vietnam where he lived for the rest of his life. He there married a Vietnamese lady and had a daughter named Ma Phyu. This lady surprisingly caught up on her father’s mother tongue and was able to speak Myanmar fluently. On his visit to Vietnam in 1958, Sayadaw was invited by her to
perform a memorial service for her father at his tomb in the cemetery in Saigon (now Ho Chi Ming City).

Jamaica Visit

Venerable Sayadaw U Silananda Visits Jamaica

In fulfilling the invitation of The Theravada Buddhist Association of Jamaica (TBJ), Venerable Sayadaw U Silananda visited Jamaica in January, 1999 for two weeks. This is Sayadaw’s third consecutive year to visit this Carribean island nation since 1997.

About thirty Myanmar families live in Jamaica and the majority of them live in the capital, Kingston. Others live in Montego Bay and other cities. Despite a small number, Myanmar Buddhist devotees there are very active in community religious work in trying to propagate Theravada Buddhism in the Carribean region.

Sayadaw stayed in Kingston for about 8 days and gave dhamma talks and retreats. Sayadaw continued his journey to Montego Bay and spent about 6 days there performing his dhamma duties. In Kingston, Sayadaw gave three nights of lectures and instructions on the Principles and Practice of Vipassana Meditation at the Coutleigh Hotel. More than a hundred interested people attended his meditation sessions. The turn out in Sayadaw’s dhamma sessions was overwhelming due to the well organized program of Theravada Buddhist Association of Jamaica.

Advertisements of his retreats were made in the newspaper prior to his visit and flyers were distributed. TBJ gave out free instruction cassette tapes and handouts and complimentary refreshments were served in Sayadaw’s dhamma sessions. Besides Myanmars and Jamaicans, other attendees included Sri Lankans, Indians, Americans and Swedish.

In addition to that, Sayadaw also spoke on Live Radio Talk program at the Jamaican Power radio station and discussed on Buddhism. Sayadaw also appeared on JBC Live TV program and talked about Theravada Buddhism and performed demonstration on how to practice Vipassana Meditation. Actually, the success of this trip was led by the great success of the first visit to Jamaica in 1997. That trip was the first official visit by a Theravada Buddhist Monk to Jamaica. During his first visit Sayadaw had an opportunity to meet the Honorable Governor General of Jamaica.

Theravada Buddhist Association of Jamaica was officially formed in 1998 and now has over a hundred members. They have honored Sayadaw U Silananda of Half Moon Bay, California and Sayadaw U Tejobhasa of Sanford, Florida, to be their spiritual leaders and executive committee members of the association. Although TBJ is still young, all its members are trying their best to spread Theravada Buddhism and to make Jamaica a fully functional Theravada center in the region. Their next goal is to establish a monastery and they are actively seeking support, advice and monetary donations from all donors. In supporting this goal, Sayadaw U Silananda donated Dhamma books to TBJ Library and U.S.$ 2000.00 to the association.

Anybody willing to support TBJ should contact: Theravada Buddhist Association of Jamaica, #13, Cactus Way, Bluecastle Close, Mona, Kingston-6,Jamaica.W.I. Tel: 1-(876) 977-3356, 977-3223, 927-1186, Fax: 1-(876) 702-4618, 977-2029. E.mail:,