Sayādaw U Paṇḍita (b. 1921; also known as Ovādacariya Sayādaw U Paṇḍitābhivaṃsa) is one of the foremost living masters of Vipassana meditation in the Burmese Theravāda Buddhist tradition. A successor to the late Mahāsi Sayādaw, he has taught many of the Western teachers and students of the Mahāsi style of Vipassana meditation. He is the abbot of Paṇḍitārāma Meditation Center in Yangon, Burma.
Sayādaw U Paṇḍita was born in 1921 in the greater Yangon area in Burma. He became a novice at age twelve, and ordained at age twenty. After decades of study, he passed the rigorous series of government examinations in the Theravāda Buddhist texts, gaining the Dhammācariya (dhamma teacher) degree in 1952.
U Paṇḍita began practicing Vipassana under the guidance of the Mahāsi Sayādaw beginning in 1950. In 1955, he left his position as a teacher of scriptural studies to become a meditation teacher at the Mahāsi Meditation Center.
Soon after the Mahasi Sayādaw passed away in 1982, U Paṇḍita became the guiding teacher (Ovādacariya) of the Mahasi Meditation Center. In 1991, he left that position, founding Paṇḍitārāma Meditation Center in Yangon. There are now Paṇḍitārāma branch centers in Burma, Nepal, Australia, United Kingdom and the United States.
U Paṇḍita became well-known in the West after conducting a retreat in the spring of 1984 at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts in the United States. Many of the senior Western meditation teachers in the Mahāsi tradition practiced with U Pandita at that and subsequent retreats. The talks he gave in 1984 at IMS were compiled as the book “In This Very Life.”As of 2005, he continues to lead retreats and give dharma talks, but rarely conducts interviews himself.
A complete biography by Thāmanay Kyaw is available at under the title”One Life’s Journey”.
Method and style of teaching
Sayādaw U Paṇḍita is known for teaching a rigorous and precise method of self-examination. He teaches or Vipassana meditation, emphasizing sīla or moral discipline as a requisite foundation. He is also an erudite scholar of the Pāli Tipiṭaka or Theravāda Buddhist canon.
Complete meditation instructions from Sayadaw U Paṇḍita are available at:
A first hand account of meditation at his forest center near Yangon is in audio format by Diana Winston is available at
In This Very Life, Wisdom Publications, 2002, ISBN 0861713117 also available in part on the web at:
On The Path to Freedomavailable as a free e-book in PDF format at
Back on the first trip abroad the author accompanied Sayadaw on, we stayed one night at the cousin of the King of Thailand. At the Bangkok airport, she asked Sayadaw a question,
“If you were to give the most concise, the most clear explanation of the nature of vipassanÃ¢ possible, how would you do it?”
Sayadaw had the king’s cousin open her palm and then make a fist. “What do you perceive?” he asked.
“I perceive tension and hardness, Bhante,” the king’s cousin answered.
Sayadaw had her spread her hand, “What do you perceive?” he asked again.
“I perceive loosening and movement, Bhante,” she answered.
Sayadaw told her to slowly, minutely and mindfully make a fist and open it. “What do you perceive?” he asked again. She answered, “Other than coming to perceive even more the tension and hardness, looseness and movement, I came to perceive hardness and softness, warmth and coolness.”
“That kind looking to perceive the natures which are, as they are, is the work of vipassanā,” Sayadaw said. When he said that, she understood well the nature of vipassanÃ¢. She was extremely pleased with Sayadaw’s ability to give such an immediate and experiential explanation. Most people think that vipassanā is extremely difficult work. It seemed that the Thai king’s cousin had thought that way, too. Apparently, she concluded that though she had thought it difficult work before, now that Sayadaw had explained it, it was quite easy.
Excerpt from “One Life’s Journey”, chapter on Vipassana.
- Sayadaw U Pandita