Conversation with Sayadaw U Kovida – by Maia Duerr and Hozan Alan Senauke

Sayadaw U Kovida is a highly respected senior monk who was born in Burma 81 years ago. Although he now lives in exile in New York, he was once the patron of Ma Soe Yein monastery, one of the oldest Buddhist schools in Burma.

In 2001, Sayadaw visited the U.S. and stayed at the Sasana Joti Center, a New York monastery. Every year he went back to Burma, but since September 2007, he has not been able to return. Sayadaw is now the patron of Sasana Moli – the International Burmese Monks Organization – founded in October 2007. Sasana Moli (which translates to “crown jewel of the monastic community”) is an alliance of more than 50 monks from the U.S., the U.K., Singapore, Canada, and Malaysia.

On December 15, 2007, BPF staff members Alan Senauke and Maia Duerr had the honor of a private audience with Sayadaw at the Mettananda Vihara in Fremont, California. The day before, Sayadaw was awarded an honorary degree from the University of San Francisco on behalf of all Buddhist monks in Burma. We met on the second floor of the vihara, with several members of the Burmese community joining us. Sayadaw welcomed us with a bow and a warm smile, and sat in a chair near the altar of the Buddha beautifully decorated with food offerings. Maung Yit served as our translator.

Maia: Please tell us about how you got involved in the movement for democracy in Burma in the 1990s, and what happened to you as a consequence.
Sayadaw: In 1988, there was a general uprising in Burma. I was not involved in that. In 1990, the army started shooting at people and shooting at monks. Some young monks came to me and showed me their bloody wounds. This is how I got involved. According to the Vinaya [Buddhist rules for the monastic community], the only way you should get involved in political matters is if the government starts hurting people. That was the first time that we overturned the alms bowls. We did this as a boycott because there were a lot of students who got shot and hurt. kovida

Dear Sayadaw you are always in our hearts

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