The Wise Investigator

Sayadaw U Tejaniya explains how taking an interest in life as it is can lead to liberation.

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Sayadaw U Tejaniya began his Buddhist training as a young teenager in Burma under the late Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw (1913-2002). After a career in business and life as a householder, he ordained as a monk some ten years ago. He teaches meditation at Shwe Oo Min Dhammasukha Tawya in Rangoon, Burma.

In June, I caught up with U Tejaniya at the Insight Meditation Society’s Forest Refuge, in Barre, Massachusetts, where he was about to lead a three-day retreat at the nearby Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. U Tejaniya's relaxed demeanor and easy sense of humor belie a commitment to awareness that he encourages his students to apply in every aspect of their daily lives, and his earlier role as a householder gives him a rare insight into the challenges faced by his lay students. U Tejaniya’s delightfully illustrated book, Don’t Look Down on the Defilements, They Will Laugh at You, aptly characterizes his teaching style—accessible and true to the traditional teachings of the Buddha.

—James Shaheen, Editor


And what is wrong effort? You have to look for yourself; someone on the outside can’t tell you. You must recognize the mind that is using effort, and how it’s using effort, and whether it is wasting energy with forced effort. When you try too hard, you squander your energy. If you’re a serious practitioner, you cannot afford to do this. It’s a lifetime practice, a marathon, not a sprint.

You say that we can cultivate awareness in all our activities. Yet the challenge is great. Can you give a practice that is particularly suited to lay life, one you found useful as a businessman? For laypeople, speech is a great opportunity to practice. The four precepts of right speech [the precepts cautioning against false speech, malicious speech, harsh speech, and useless speech] gave a real boost to my awareness as a layperson and businessman. Since awareness and wisdom had to come into the picture whenever I spoke, I had to apply them all day.

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