ledi sayadaw controversial at times


from Sarah abbot

S: I think you’re right (about the ‘eye of the beholder’. I used to
occasionally visit Dr U Rewatta Dhamma in Birmingham and London in the 70s
and I had a lot of admiration for the difficult task he set out to
accomplish, being based in one of England’s most run-down slum areas at
the time. We talked a little about Abhidhamma, but not about controversies
in Burma.

The following, however, are extracts from an article of his on the

He starts his article with this introduction which I know you’ll agree
with, but which I post for others:
“At the heart of the Abhidhamma philosophy is the Abhidhamma Pitaka, one
of the divisions of the Pali Canon recognized by Theravada Buddhism as the
authoritative recension of the Buddha’s teachings. This canon was compiled
at the three great Buddhist councils held in India in the early centuries
following the Buddha’s demise: the first, at Rajagaha, convened three
months after the Buddha’s Parinibbana by five hundred senior monks under
the leadership of the Elder Mahakassapa; the second, at Vesali, a hundred
years later, and the third, at Pataliputta, two hundred years later. The
canon that emerged from these councils, preserved in the Middle Indian
language now called Pali, is known as the Tipitaka, the three “baskets” or
collections of the teachings”
S: Later when he introduces the commentaries, some don’t agree when he
When the authorship of the Commentaries is ascribed to Acariya
Buddhaghosa, it should not be supposed that they are in any way original
compositions, or even original attempts to interpret traditional material.
They are, rather, carefully edited versions of the vast body of
accumulated exegetical material that Buddhaghosa found at the Mahavihara
in Anuradhapura. This material must have preceded the great commentator by
centuries, representing the collective efforts of generations of erudite
Buddhist teachers to elucidate the meaning of the canonical Abhidhamma.
S: He adds more details on the commentaries and when it comes to the
commentary on the Abhidammattha Sangaha, he writes:
2. Abhidhammathavibhavini-Tika, or in brief, the Vibhavini, written by
Acariya Sumangalasami, pupil of the eminent Sri Lankan elder Sariputta
Mahasami, also in the twelfth century. This tika quickly superceded the
Old Commentary and is generally considered the most profound and reliable
exegetical work on the Sangaha. In Burma this work is known as tika-gyaw,
“the Famous Commentary.” The author is greatly respected for his erudition
and mastery of the Abhidhamma. He relies heavily on older authorities such
as the Abhidhamma-Anutika and the Visuddhimagga-Mahatika (also known as
the Paramatthamanjusa).
Although Ledi Sayadaw (see below) criticized the Vibhavini
extensively in his own commentary on the Sangaha, its popularity has not
diminished but indeed has even increased, and several Burmese scholars
have risen to defend it against Ledi Sayadaw’s criticisms.
< >
“4. Paramatthadipani-Tika, “The Elucidation of the Ultimate Meaning,” by
Ledi Sayadaw. Ledi Sayadaw of Burma (1846-1923) was one of the greatest
scholar-monks and meditation masters of the Theravada tradition in recent
times. He was the author of over seventy manuals on different aspects of
Theravada Buddhism, including philosophy, ethics, meditation practice, and
Pali grammar. His tika created a sensation in the field of Abhidhamma
studies because he pointed out 325 places in the esteemed Vibhavini-tika
where he alleged that errors and misinterpretations had occurred, though
his criticisms also set off a reaction in defense of the older work.”
S: So it seems there has been a significant amount of controversy by
Burmese scholars and bhikkhus too. In case there is any question about
whether Dr U Rewatta Dhamma would know, I just made use of that psychic or
psycho tool bar favourite;-) to find this:

A lifetime of Buddhism — The Ven. Dr. Rewata Dhamma
was born in Myanmar in 1929. He has studied Theravada
Buddhism since childhood. He obtained the highest degree in
Pali examination at the age of 23 and was then awarded the
title of Sasanadhaja siripavara dhammacartiya by the then
president of Myanmar in 1953.
S: Anyway, Kel, I appreciate the approach you referred to of reading.
Considering and testing out according to your experience and appreciate
the high regard you have for Ledi Sayadaw’s writings. Indeed they contain
a wealth of detail and there’s no doubt about his familiarity with all the
texts in Pali.

I may respond later to the extract of Ledi Sayadaws that you kindly
posted for me. It’s good to discuss these points further I don’t think
they are minor academic points at all, but crucial aspects of how we see
the practice.


Sarah> > “Ledi Sayadaw’s ….Paramattha-dipani created a sensation in the
> > field of Abhidhamma studies because he pointed out 325 places in
> Kel: The version I read is he overheard Sri Lanka monks saying
> Burmese Abhidhamma studies were based on commentaries with some
> errors. So he took it upon himself and corrected those since he was
> uniquely qualified due to intimidate knowledge of the whole
> tipitaka. So I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder really.

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