The Most Venerable Sayadaw U Vicittasarabhivamsa

"Tipitakadhara, Dhammabhandagarika, Agga Mahapandita, Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru"

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Written by Maung Maung Lay (Sorbonne)

( 'The Light of Dhamma',Vol. 1, No. 3, 1981)

The most Venerable Sayadaw U Vicittasarabivamsa, Secretary of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, was born at Kyipin Village in Myingyan Township on Wednesday the 11th Waxing day of Tazaungmon, 1273 B.E. (1911 A.D.) His parents were U Sone, a Head man of the village and Daw Sin. He is the second son of their three children. He was named Maung Khin.

During his boyhood his character was exceptional. He did not join his companions in playing vulgar games. He used to have a life of cleanliness, and eat food only allowed by his parents.

His father died at the age of 30, when he was 4. If he had lived long, he would have seen his son as the first Tipitakadhara title holder.

When he attained 5 years, his mother, Daw Sin sent him to the village monastery in order to get basic monastic education. The presiding Sayadaw of the monastery was U Sasana who was educated from the Nan U Monastery in Mandalay.

There, the Venerable Sayadaw U Sasana taught him the Burmese alphabets, basic Pali grammar, Mangala Sutta (38 blessings) and Lokaniti. (A Guide on Conduct.)

When he was a school boy, his grandfather taught him the Buddhist prayers and recitations. His grandparents, U Chai and Daw Aunt loved him dearly because he was so intelligent that he could learn quickly by rote all the Buddhist recitations taught by the elders.

Like all the Buddhist boys he was initiated as a novice at the Min Kyaung Taik in Myingyan by the Preceptor Venerable Sayadaw U Sobhita. From the age of 7, he learned from him. He could follow all his lessons more quickly than his classmates, possibly by his intuition and ingenuity. He read his lessons three times a day. He never left his study until he finished his daily homework.

Since his childhood, he has spent his leisure by reading journals, magazines and books. He began to have literary taste at 10.

At 10, as his mother wished to sponsor the initiation of his son into the Order, he was reinitiated as a novice by the Preceptor Venerable Sayadaw U Sobhita. The Venerable Sayadaw named him "Shin Vicittasara." The name in Pali means "Outstanding."

After learning eleven parittas by rote, Sayadaw U Sobhita taught him "Kaccayana Grammar" (Pali Grammar). Being an outstanding student, he did not find any difficulty in learning such a Grammar. This Grammar, written by Thera Kaccayana, is a very important treatise for the monks in Theravada Buddhist countries. It is like a key for learning the Tipitaka (Buddhist Texts).

At 13, he sat for the Vinaya Examination held by the Sanghasamaggi Association in Myingyan where he succeeded in reciting the Pali Grammar. He became very famous in Myingyan religious circle. At 14, he sat for another Pariyatti Examination conducted by the same Association where he succeeded in reciting the Abhidhamma before the elder monks. He was then presented with Pitaka texts by the Venerable Sayadaw U Sobhita and his uncle, U Phyu Lwin. Since then he was keen on learning these canonical texts.

Since 14, he was very much interested in poems and other literary works. Knowing his interest, Sayadaw U Sobhita proposed him to study the volume called "Poranadipani", a treatise on composition of poems written by Hmawbi Saya Thein. This treatise is the fundamentals for his future courses of study of religious examinations.

At 15, he passed the Lower Grade Religious Examination (Pahtamange). The following year, he passed the Middle Grade Religious Examination (Pahtamalat).

Since his youth, he has studied Buddhist canonical texts, Pali Atthakatha and Tika. He learnt the texts by rote during the day and recited them at night.

At 19, he left for Mingon Hill in Sagaing Township to continue his study under the direction of the Venerable Sayadaw Ashin Panna Tikkha of Dhammanada Monastery. While learning there, he obtained good support from Thilashin Daw Dhammacari.

In 1292 B.E. (1930), with the support of Sir U Thwin and Lady Thwin, he was ordained monk (rahan).

In 1294 B.E. (1932 A.D.), he also passed the Pahtamagyi Examination sponsored by the Venerable Thetpan Sayadaw, President of the Maha Sanghasamaggi Association.

In 1295 B.E. (1933 A.D.), he sat for the Higher Grade Religious Examination (Pahtamagyi) and passed with credit. The following year, he reappeared the same examination and stood first with credit and thereby obtained the rare title "Pahtamakyaw."

In 1295 B.E. (1933 A.D.), he also passed the Pariyattisasanahita(Sakyasiha) - Examination- Sathindan (Graduate Level). The following year, he passed the Pariyatti-sasanahita (Sakyasiha)Examination-Sachadan (Lecturership). The word Abhivamsa was then suffixed to his name by the Maha Sanghasamaggi Association. Thus he has been known as "Ashin - Vicittasarabhivamsa."

In 1303 RE. (1941 A.D.), he passed the Dhammacariya Examination with distinctions and obtained the title "Sasanadhaja-siripavara- dhammacariya."

In 1312 B.E. (1950 A.D.), he sat for the Third Tipitakadhara Selection Examination where he recited the five Vinaya Texts and became the holder of "Visittha-vinayadhara Mahavinayakovida" title. He was honoured by the President of the State and many Sayadaws and laymen.

In 1313 B.E. (1951 A.D.), he sat for the Fourth Tipitakadhara Selection Examination and passed the recitation of the first five treatises on Abhidhamma and corresponding written examination. In 1314 B.E. (1952 A.D.), he passed the recitation of the second part of the Abhidhamma Pitaka and corresponding written examination with distinctions. He was honoured and offered the title "Buddhasasanavisittha Abhidhammika Mahabhidhammakovida" with a religious flag marked by two white umbrellas, by the President of the State.

In 1315 B.E. (1953 A.D.), he sat for the Sixth Tipitakadhara Selection Examination and passed the recitation test and corresponding written examination of remaining Pitaka Texts. The President of the State honoured him at a grand ceremony where he conferred "Tipitakadhara" title on the Venerable Sayadaw U Vicittasarabhivamsasa. He became the first monk to win this title. During the same year, he was praised and honoured by many religious associations as well as Buddhist devotees throughout the country.

From 1954 to 1956, the Sixth Buddhist Synod was held at the Mahapasana Cave in the Kaba-Aye Pagoda compound in Rangoon.

During the Synod, he participated in answering all the questions concerning Vinaya (Disciplinary Rules). There he also acted as a member of the Sangha Executive Committee.

At the request of the Prime Minister and the Buddha Sasana Council, he started writing a treatise on the Life Story of the Buddha (Maha Buddhavamsa) in 1955 and concluded it in 1960. His work Maha Buddhavamsa, consisting of six volumes, is his master-piece. Besides, he edited many religious texts in Pali.

In 1979, the Council of State of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma conferred the title "Agga maha Pandita" * on him. In 1980, he took responsibility as the Akyanpay Sayadaw (Adviser) to the Sangha Working Committee for convening the First Congregation of the Sangha of all Orders. At the Congregation he was elected as the Akyosaung Sayadaw (Secretary ) of the State Sangha Mahanayaka Committee.

Until now he is holding the same responsibility in the State Sangha Mahanayaka Committee. Moreover, he continues to support, materially and spiritually, the members of the Sangha in their study of the Buddhist Canonical Texts.

He is indeed a Sasana Arjani (the Outstanding Buddhist Monk) still living in our beautiful land of pagodas.**

* For a monk to obtain such a title, he should:- (a) be well-versed in the Pili Canonical Texts, (b) be continuously teaching these texts, (c) be well-known as being learned in these texts. (d) have had a minimum of 20 years of monkhood, and (e) be unblemished in the observance of Vinaya (Disciplinary Rules).

** Sayadaw passed away in 1354 B.E at the age of 81.