Our Spiritual Leader

The Most Venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw Bhaddanta Āciṇṇa


The Most Venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw Bhaddanta Āciṇṇa, also commonly referred to as “Pa-Auk Sayadaw” (“the Sayadaw”), the Spiritual Leader of Pa-Auk Tawya Vipassana Dhura Hermitage (California), is the Abbot and principal teacher of Pa-Auk Tawya Forest Monastery, Mawlamyine, Mon State, Myanmar.

The Sayadaw was born in 1934, in Leigh-Chaung Village, Hinthada Township, in the delta region about one hundred miles northwest of the capital, Yangon. In 1944, at age ten, he ordained as a novice monk (*samanera) at a monastery in his village. During the next decade, he pursued the life of a typical scholar-novice, studying the Pali Texts (including Vinaya, Suttas and Abhidhamma) under various teachers. He passed the three Pali language examinations while still a novice.

In 1954, at age twenty, the Sayadaw received the higher ordination as a bhikkhu. He continued his studies of the Pali Texts under the guidance of learned elder monks. In 1956 he passed the prestigious Dhammacariya examination and was conferred the title of “Dhamma Teacher”.

During the next eight years, the Sayadaw continued his investigation into the Dhamma, travelling throughout Myanmar to learn from various well-known teachers. In 1964, during his tenth “rains retreat” (vassa), he turned his attention to intensifying his meditation practice and began to practise “forest dwelling.” Although he continued with his studies of the Pali Texts, he now sought out and gained instruction from the revered meditation teachers of those times.

For the next sixteen years, he made forest dwelling his primary practice. He spent these years in the southern part of Myanmar, in Mon State: three years in Mudon Township (just south of Mawlamyine) and thirteen years in Ye Township (approximately one hundred miles down the coast). During this period, he lived a very simple life, devoting his time to meditation and study of the Pali Texts

In 1981, the Sayadaw was requested to assume the abbotship of Pa-Auk Forest Monastery by Venerable Aggapanna, then the incumbent abbot before the latter’s passing five days later. The Most Venerable accepted the request and become the new abbot of the monastery. As such the Venerable Acinna becomes known as the Pa Auk Tawya Sayadaw.

In 1997 the Sayadaw published his Magnum Opus, an enormous five-volume tome titled The Practice that Leads to Nibbana, explaining the entire course of teaching in detail and supported by copious quotations from the Pali Texts.

Pa-Auk Sayadaw is held in high esteem by the international community of meditation practitioners for his role as an accomplished Dhamma and Meditation teacher. On January 4, 1999, in public recognition of the Sayadaw’s achievements, the government of Myanmar bestowed upon him the title Agga Maha Kammathanacariya, which means ‘Most Highly Respected Meditation Teacher’.

The Sayadaw speaks fluent English and has lectured and led retreats outside of Myanmar since 1997 such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore & Indonesia.

In December of 2006, he travelled to Sri Lanka to undertake a long-term personal retreat, staying in seclusion and suspending his teaching schedule throughout 2007. His teaching schedule for 2008 includes a four-month retreat in the United States, July – October, to be held at the Forest Refuge in Barre, Massachusetts

The Sayadaw personally conducted a six-month intensive retreat at Pa-Auk Forest Monastery, Myanamar from January to June of 2010. After the retreat, with the invitations by the Singapore Devotees, the Sayadaw joined bhikkhus from Tusita Hermitage in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India for Vassa (Rains Retreat). The Sayadaw entered his own personal retreat for the three-month period. In years 2011, 2012 and 2013, Sayadaw spent his Vassa (Rains Retreat) in USA.

The Sayadaw’s teachings have been published in several books which are highly regarded internationally. 

In brief, the system of meditation taught at Pa-Auk Forest Monastery is based on the instructions by Lord Gotama Buddha as found in the Pāli Canon (Tipiṭaka) and its commentaries. The system comprises the threefold training of strict observance of precepts (sīla), developing concentration (samādhi), as a basis for attaining wisdom (paññā). This is further subdivided into the seven stages of purification which provide a step-by-step formula for systematically purifying one’s body (physical actions), speech and mind of defilements in order to realize Nibbāna in this lifetime.

A brief biography of The Most Venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw Bhaddanta Āciṇṇa

             1934—The Venerable Pa Auk Tawya Sayadaw was born on 24th June about 8.00 a.m on Sunday in Leigh-chaung Village, Hinthada township. He is the fourth son of U Phyu and Daw Saw Tin.

            1944—On 2nd May, he was ordained as a novice under the preceptorship of Sa-lin Kyaung Venerable Sayadaw U Sona at Salin Monastery in Leigh-chaung Village.

            From May 1950 to May 1952—He studied the Buddhist Scriptures (Pariyatti) in Ye-kyee Taik-thit Kyaung from Sayadaws: Venerable Ashin Mahinda, Venerable Ashin Pundavamsa and Venerable Ashin Paññavanta. He passed the Pathama Nge (Pali Primary) Examination in 1951 and the Pathama Latt (Pali Intermeditate) Examination in 1952.

            1952—He studied Pali verse composition, rhetorical composition, higher Yamaka and Rupa-Siddhi for three months from Venerable Sayadaw Ashin Uttama of Aung Mingala Theik-dhi Kyaung in Kyi-myin-taing, Yangon.

            1952—He moved to Masoyein Kyaung- taik in Mandalay in the month of Thadinkyut (around October). He then studied Patthana from Sayadaw U Suriya and U Sumana, the higher Yamaka from Vinaya Sayadaw and rhetorical composition from Pali Sayadaw.

            1953—He passed the Pathama Kyi (Higher Pali) Examination.

            1954—On 10th May he received his higher ordination in the Kanda Sima of Ye-kyee Taik-thit Kyaung, Hinthada Township under the preceptorship of the Most Venerable Mavgala Sayadaw,Ashin Panna, the sect president of Ye-kyee. The patron-donor then for the Venerable Ashin Acinna was U San Chein, Daw Aye Tin and family of Hinthada Township.

           1954—The Venerable Ashin Acinna moved to Myin-wun Kyaung – taik in Mandalay. He studied Bhedacinta, Atthasalini Commentary, Silakkhandha Vagga Commentary, Samanta-pasadika Commentary etc from various Sayadaws who are Venerables Padamya Sayadaw U Ukkamsa from Myin Wun Taik Kyaung; Amarapura Sayadaw U Ukkamsa, Sayadaw U Ariya, Sayadaw U Kumara (now known as Bamaw Sayadaw) and Sayadaw U Paññajota from Phayagyi Kyaung-taik; Sayadaw U Suriya and Sayadaw U Puññananda from Taung-htee-lin Kyaung -taik.

            1956—While staying in Phayagyi Kyaung-taik in Ukkam, the Venerable Ashin Acinna sat for an examination and passed with the title Sasanadhajasiripavara-dhammacariya.

            1964—The Venerable Ashin Acinna began to practice meditation in Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre under the guidance of the Most Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw and Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita (now know as the Venerable Shwe Taung Gon Sayadaw).

            1964—The Venerable Ashin Acinna began to practice forest dwelling during his 10th vassa. He also learnt meditation from: the Venerable Ka-thit-waing Sayadaw for 10 days, the Venerable Than-lyin Sayadaw who taught four elements meditation for 6½ months in 1966 and the Most Venerable Shwe-thein-daw Tawya Sayadaw who taught mindfulness of breathing for 3½ months in 1967.

            Since 1964—Practising forest dwelling, he stayed for: one Vassa in Taung-waing-gyi Tawya near Nemindara Hill, Thathon; three Vassas in Citta-sukha Tawya Kyaung in Mudone Township; and 13 Vassas in Ah-sin Tawya Kyaung, Ye Township. Now he has been staying in Pa Auk Tawya since 1981. While staying in those places, he studied the Buddhist Scriptures and practiced meditation as much as he can. Teaching meditation to local and foreign meditators as much as he can, he tries to promote and propagate Pariyatti (study), Patipatti (practice) and Pativedha (realization) of the Buddha’s teachings.

            1966— He learnt meditation from the Venerable Than-lyin Sayadaw who taught four elements meditation for 6½ months.

            1967— He also learnt meditation from the Most Venerable Shwe-thein-daw Tawya Sayadaw who taught mindfulness of breathing for 3½ months .

            1996—The Most Venerable Pa Auk Tawya Sayadaw received the title ‘Maha Kammatthanacariya’ given by the government.

            1999—The Most Venerable Pa Auk Tawya Sayadaw received the title ‘Agga Maha Kammatthanacariya’ given by the government.