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The Abode of the Holy Recluses

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Myanmar

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     Sagaing is a town noted for its tradition in the history of Buddhism. The glory of Sagaing is the countless pagodas and monasteries of Sagaing Hills. Sagaing is a unique place in the Buddhist world, as well as in Myanmar, a place of extraordinary tranquillity and beauty.

     In the current era, another addition to the unique grandeur of Sagaing Hills is underway, the "Sitagu International Buddhist Academy". The founder is the revered preacher monk, the Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw. Such a religious university fits in nicely with the splendour of the hills famed for the study and practice of Buddhism. At present there are over 900 monasteries with over 9000 monks and novices, as well as numerous nunneries and lay meditation centres. All of these institutions will be complemented wonderfully by the Academy.

     The term 'academy' comes from the Latin word akademial" the garden or olive grove that had been owned by Akademus, a gallant hero of the Trojan War. In its broadest definition, it is an institution for literary, artistic, musical, or scientific pursuits.

     The original Academy was a school in which the ancient Greek philosopher Plato taught during 4th century B.C. Plato and his pupils would discuss many different subjects, such as mathematics, natural science, and good government. After Plato died, the Academy was carried on by his followers and successors. It lasted until 529 A.D., when the Roman Emperor Justinian caused it to be shut down. It was the ancestor of all later Western colleges and universities.

     Gradually the term acquired the meaning of a higher school, and in that sense, it was used by Ptolemy I in Alexandria, Spanish Muslim caliphs, Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and others.

     At the close of Middle Ages, academies began to be formed in Italy, first for the study of classical, and then, Italian literature. One of the earliest was the Platonic Academy founded in Florence in 1442 by Cocimo de Medici.

     The most famous of the institutions from the Renaissance was the Academia de la Crusca, the Academy of the Learned. The Calvinists in France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands called their higher institutions academies until the 18th century, when the term 'university' was gradually adopted.

     In England, institutions for both secondary and higher learning were also called academies, especially in the 18th century. In modern times, institutions for higher learning, especially for subjects such as military science, agriculture, fine arts, and commerce, have been called academies.

     The best-known academies in the United States include the National Academy of Design which was incorporated in 1828, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, founded in 1904. Another academy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is famous for its Academy Awards, presented to actors, directors, photographers, designers. and others in the motion picture industry who have done work of great artistic merit.

     Britain's best-known academies are the Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal Academy of Music, both in London. The Royal Academy of Arts was set up in 1768. It provides a fine art education and holds annual exhibitions.

     The Royal Academy of Music was founded in 1822.

     Also in London are the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Founded in 1904, and the Royal Society, an association founded in 1662 for the study of scientific subjects.

     A military academy is a specialized school that trains people to become officers in the armed forces. An academy such as this is called "Sit-Tekkatho" in Burmese. 'Academy' is often synonymous with 'university'.


     According to Myanmar legend, the Buddha himself visited Sagaing Hills. The 99 ogres of Sagaing Hills became the disciples of Lord Buddha and reached the state of Sotapanna, the first stage on the path to Nibbana. These 99 disciples built a pagoda enshrining the lower robe of lord Buddha. The head of the ogres was known by the name Zeta, Therefore, his pagoda was named 'Zetawun.'

     During the Pagan Era, the revered Buddhist monk "Shin Arahan" came to Sagaing Hill. He was the one who started Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar. He stayed at Anuruddha Kyaung, under the patronage of King Anawratha. Sagaing has a very strong religious past. Looking back at the history of Sagaing, there were 9 original Kyaungs or monasteries, Zetawun Pagoda, Shin Arahan ordination hall, and other buildings for the initiation of adult monks.

     Pariyatti,the theoretical aspect of Buddhism, flourished in Sagaing starting with the Vinayalankara, the sub-commentary on Monastic Code of Discipline by Taungphila Sayadaw. Also, during Myanmar's Pinya Era, the well known Shin Ariyavamsa composed the Manisaramanusa, a sub-commentary on Tigakyaw and Manidipa, the subcommentary on Mulatika. These two treatises concern Abhidhamma doctrine. Ashin Varatejo, the abbot of Tilokaguru monastery, composed the sub-commentary on Mahaparitta. The author monk at the time of writing this was only 25 years old, and in his 5th year of monkhood. By and by, the Pali Sutta, Vinaya, and Abhidhamma Pitakas came to be subjects of superb scholarship in Sagaing.

     Patipatti, the practical application of the Buddha's teachings, were exemplified by such notable monks as Maha gandayon Sayadaw and Yatana Htut Khaung Sayadaw. In this way, Sagaing hills became a flourishing ground for the practise as well as the study of Buddhism. Monasteries, besides being holy places, are focal points of academic study. It is therefore fitting that Sitagu International Buddhist Academy has come into being along the same traditional lines as the glorious Buddhist institutions of Sagaing's and Myanmar's past.

     The Academy will be comprised of the following departments:

      The Department of Suttantadhamma

      The Department of Abhidhamma

     The Department of Vinayapitaka

     The Department of Vinayaviniccaya

     The Department of Foreign Languages

     The Department of Buddhist History and Culture

     The Department of Comparative Studies of Religion

     The Department of Research and Composition

     If the need arises, classes in Hindi, Sanskrit, German, French, and Japanese will be offered. 4-years B. A. courses, 6 - years M.A. courses, and Ph.D. courses will be taught. Applicants to the Academy will be required to pass a matriculation exam in English, must not be over 35 years of age, and be a monk or nun, and must have passed Pathamagyi or Dhammacariya. The cost of food and lodging must be borne by the candidate. The Academy will take responsibility only for the academic courses.

     At present, courses are being held in the buildings of Savatthi, Nalanda, Rajagaha, Kappilavatthu, Lumbini, Devadaha, Gandhara, Gaya, Magadha, Uruvela and Adhipati.

     The Sitagu International Buddhist Academy has now arisen like a brilliant full moon, shining upon all of us the teachings of Lord Buddha, the knowledge and practice that will lead us to incomparable tranquillity, the peace and freedom of Nibbana.

The Sitagu Association


     The Sitagu Association was founded by the Venerable Sayadaw, Ashin Nyanissara, Abbot of Sitagu Monastery, in 1980 on the full-moon day of Kason (Vesak). That date marked the 2604th anniversary of the Buddha's birth, as well as being the commemoration day of three other sacred events in the Blessed One's life: the Prophesy, the Enlightenment and the Great Demise.

     The Sitagu Association is organized into four committees: the Committee of Admonitory Sayadaws (Ovadacariya Aphwe), the Oversight Committee (Anupalaka Aphwe), the Main Governing Committee (Padhana Oosaung Aphwe) and the Assistant Committee (Kappiyakaraka Aphwe).


     The Sitagu Association is based at Sitagu Monastery in the Sagaing Hills, Sagaing, Myanmar. Situated on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, some fifteen miles south of Mandalay, the Sagaing Hills have for many centuries been an important centre of Theravada Buddhism and of Myanmar Buddhist culture and civilization. The Zetawun Pagoda History even recounts how the Buddha himself visited these hills and converted the local inhabitants to his holy teachings.

     General Aims of the Association

     The Sitagu Association was established with three main aims or objectives in mind:

     1. To strive for personal welfare through self-development and the cultivation of knowledge (attattha cariya),

      2. To strive for the welfare of kin, friends and associates (natatthacariya) and

     3. To strive for the welfare of all people without regard to caste, race, nationality or creed (lokattha-cariya).

      The Association's Four Welfare Projects

     The Sitagu Association has undertaken four welfare projects since 1980:

     1. the Sitagu Water Donation Project,

     2. Sitagn Ayudana Hospital,

     3. Sitagu International Buddhist Academy and

     4. Sitagu Buddhavihara.

     The first three projects are located in the Sagaing Hills, while the fourth has been established in Austin, Texas, in the United States. All four projects are supported entirely by funds raised through private donation.

The Sitagu Water Donation Project

     Sagaing is located in the dry zone of Myanmar, and for centuries, residents have had to rely on collected rain water to satisfy their daily needs. The Sitagu Water Donation Project was begun in 1982 to alleviate water shortages experienced by the monasteries and nunneries in the Sagaing Hills. Over the past seventeen years, ten water reservoirs have been built which are supplied with water from the Ayeyarwady River by means of ten water-pumps of thirty horse-power each. The pumps are housed in three water-pump stations, and the entire network is connected by over 250,000 feet, or more than 47 miles, of water-pipe. From the Zedi Hla Pagoda in the south, to the Padamya Pagoda in the north, and flanked by the Minwun Ridge in the west, the water supply system covers an area of eight square miles, and supplies over 500,000 gallons of water per-day to more than 8000 monks, novices and nuns living in some 870 monasteries and nunneries. The Water Donation Project has yet to reach approximately fifty monasteries and nunneries in the area, but construction is nearly complete on an eleventh water reservoir and a new water-pump station.

Sitagu Ayudana Hospital

     Construction began on the Sitagu Ayudana Hospital in 1985,and the hospital opened in 1989. The hospital now has one hundred beds, including those in the VIP, eye patient, and infectious disease wards. The out-patient department (O.P.D) and in-patient wards are housed in seven buildings. Besides these, the hospital boasts a modern laboratory, an X-ray hall, a general operation theatre, an eye operation theatre, an indigenous medicine clinic, a training centre, a museum, a library, a computer office, an administrative office, guest hostels which include a VIP section, staff quarters, and a Buddha-shrine ball. On average, the hospital treats sixty in-patients and two hundred and fifty out-patients per-day, and since its inception has provided health care to over 100,000 individuals. Over the last nine years, the hospital staff has grown to more than seventy persons, including doctors, nurses and general personnel. Medical specialists from Mandalay also kindly donate their services on a weekly basis in the areas of general medicine, surgery, urology, dentistry, orthopaedics, and in the treatment of diabetes and heart disease.

     The eye treatment department in particular is equipped with technically advanced instruments for both the surgical extraction of cataracts, and for their removal without surgery through use of laser equipment. In addition, for the past four years the hospital has organized a special medical program in the month of December during which time eye specialists from England and the United States are invited to perform cataract operations in which hundreds of patients are given intra-ocular-lenses. The special program has been expanded this year to include two sessions, the first being held in October and the second in December. It is planned that this very successful medical program will be continued on a yearly basis.

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

     Since the founding of Buddhism over 2500 years ago, Buddhist monasteries have been key institutions in the preservation and transmission of much of Asia's vast religious, intellectual and cultural heritage. From them grew the ancient and classical universities of India and Central Asia, the Mahayanist colleges of Tibet, China, Korea and Japan, and the great Theravada scholastic centres of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Although varied in their sectarian and national affiliations, Buddhist monasteries through out the centuries have carried on the burden of learning and teaching for the benefit of the world.

     Inspired by the accomplishments of the past and looking forward into the future, in 1994, the Sitagu Association, headed by the Venerable Thegon Sayadaw, Ashin Nyanissara, launched the construction of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy with the aim of propagating the Three-fold Saddhamma of scriptural study (pariyatti), Buddhist practice (patipatti) and realization of the Dhamma (pativedha) in the contemporary world. With this project the Sitagu Association intends to create a world-class modern educational institution designed to provide undergraduate and graduate level training in Buddhist Studies and related academic subjects to qualified monks, nuns and laypersons.

     The Academy Campus

     The campus of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy is situated just beneath the Swam-oo Ponnya-shin Pagoda in the narrow plain separating the western-most spur of the Sagaing Hills and the Minwun ridge. Thus far, twelve buildings have been completed which serve a variety of functions, such as classrooms, offices, a research centre, and library; these include the Adhipati Kyaung (Chancellor's Office), Savatti Hall, Kappila-vatthu Hall, Lumbini Hall, Nalanda Hall, Gandhaya Hall, Rajagaha Hall, Devadaha Hall, Gaya Hall, Uruvela Hall, Magadha Hall and Vesali Hall. Construction is underway to complete three residences for the Rector, Registrar and General Manager by the end of 1998.

     Academic Faculties

     Sitagu International Buddhist Academy will be organized into three faculties: I. Faculty of Dhamma, 2. Faculty of Vinaya and 3. Faculty of Dhammaduta Training. Each of these faculties will be arranged into a number of departments as outlined below.

      1. The Faculty of Dhamma will be comprised of four departments: A. Language Studies Department, B. Buddhist Studies Department, C. Abhidhamma Studies Department and D. Research Department.

     2. The Faculty of Vinaya will be comprised of four departments: A. Vinicchaya Department. B. Bhikkhu Training Department, C. History and Culture Department and D. Devotional Practice Department.

     3. The Faculty of Dhammaduta Training will be comprised of three departments: A. Religions Department, B. Mission History Department and C. Missionary Training Department.

     Diploma and Degress Programs

     The Academy will conduct courses and provide facilities for research in approved fields of study for the following Diploma and Degree Programmes:

     Diploma in Language Studies

     Diploma in Buddhist Studies

     BA. degree in Buddhist Studies

     MA. degree in Buddhist Studies and

     Doctorate degree in Buddhist Studies.

     Teacher Training Program

     Besides the several internationally trained monastic and lay scholars already conducting preliminary courses on campus, the Academy is engaged in an ongoing teacher training program in which promising young scholar-monks holding Dhammacariya degrees are sent abroad to earn M.A. and doctorate degrees in such areas as Sanskrit, Indian philosophy, the history of Indian and world-religions, and other disciplines related to the field of Buddhist Studies. These monks will form the core of the faculty as the Academy expands its academic program.

      Admission Policy

     Admission to Sitagu International Buddhist Academy is open to any student— bhikkhu, novice, nun or layperson— who holds a Dhammacariya or equivalent degree from an accredited university. The Academy maintains a policy of non-discrimination, and qualified students are welcome regardless of race, creed, nationality or gender.

Sitagu Buddha Vihara

     In 1994, the Venerable Ashin Nyanissara founded the Theravada Dhamma Society in Austin. Texas, in the United States. The Society is organized into an Oversight Committee (Oosaung Aphwe) and an Executive Committee (Aloap Amhu-Saung Aphwe) consisting of five monks and fifteen laypersons. The Society purchased fifteen acres of land outside the city of Austin and named the monastery it established there the Sitagu Buddhavihara.

     In the summer of 1998, the monastery's ordination ground (sima) was consecrated, and construction began on an eighty foot pagoda which, when finished, will resemble the famous Shwezigon Pagoda at Nyaung Oo, Myanmar. The pagoda will occupy the centre of the vihara compound and will be flanked on each of its four sides by small monastic residences. In addition, a dining hall and separate meditation huts are planned. The pagoda itself will contain thirty-seven meditation cells on its lower terrace, and its second and third terraces will have a preaching hall and a Buddha-shrine room.


     The Sitagu Association is a private non-profit making organization, whose several charitable projects are supported entirely by private donation. The good works performed thus far over the last eighteen years have been made possible through generosity of countless kind donors of many faiths. Persons interested in contributing to the maintenance and progress of any of the Association's worthy projects may send their inquiries to:

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sagaing Hills, Sagaing

Union of Myanmar

     Tel. 072 - 22044 (Adhipati Sayadaw) (Chancellor's Office)

     072 - 21610 (Rector's Office)

      072 - 21587 (Registrar's Office)

     072 - 21611 (Information & Enquiry)

     072 - 21310 (Sitagu Ayudana Hospital)

     072 - 21270 (Sitagu Monastery)

     Fax. 072 - 21587 (Registrar's Office)

     Theravada Dhamma Society of America

     9001 Honey Comb Drive, Austin, TX 78737 U.S.A

     Tel. 512-301-3968 Fax. 512-301-1803