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June 25, 2019

Nostalgia for Venerable Sayadaw Kosalla

(In commemoration of the World Teachers’ Day)

(Venerable Kosalla served as Dean of the Faculty of Pariyatti at the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University (ITBMU) up to 2008 when he passed away. The author studied Buddhist literature under his tutelage at the ITBMU for seven years. He wrote this article in memory of his gratitude at the time of his passing-away) 

It was at about 9 o’ clock on the night of 27th November, 2008. After a hard day’s work, I, as usual, returned home on a jam-packed bus. Having made pauses at many bus-stops, it came to the stop where I had to get off. Although night advanced, my street was still busy. I weaved my way through the pedestrians who were all in a fluster. Tiredness and hunger quickened my slow, weary steps as I approached my house. Once I stepped into the downstairs of my house, one of my sisters came running towards me and told me in an urgent air, “Brother, this afternoon, a student from the ITBMU telephoned you that Ven. Kosalla passed away yesterday,” “What,” I exclaimed in a panic.  I thought I had misheard her. I, therefore, asked her again out of breath, “Can you repeat what happened to my Sayadaw yesterday?” She hesitantly answered that the Sayadaw had died suddenly the previous day at Mawlamyine Railway Station. Alas! This bad news was a bolt from the blue to me. Out of surprise and sorrow, I stood rooted for a few moments where I was. I found no word to express how sad I felt at this unexpected news. At the same time, I was filled with a fit of remorse, for I had not visited the Sayadaw for over a year. And I realized that the Sayadaw’s untimely death was a severe blow to the academic board of the ITBMU and an irreplaceable loss not only to the university but also to the Buddhist literary circle. Really, a brilliant star shinning undiminished in the sky of the ITBMU for some years has now fallen down.

I was adrift into reverie to my first meeting with the Sayadaw. This happened in the early part of 1999. I was then attending the second semester of the diploma course for Buddha Dhamma at the ITBMU. I noticed that, from the beginning of the second semester, soon after every Vinaya class started, a plain- looking aged monk came up and sat at the back of the class, sometimes listening attentively to the Vinaya lectures and sometimes perusing a book. Sometimes, he stayed there for the whole period but sometimes, he left the class at half of the lecture. I had not known until then that he would later become Dean of the Pariyatti Faculty and my supervisor when I compiled my M.A thesis and win high regards of all students from various countries for his stupendous literary talent and excellent teaching. After a few days, I knew through U Win Maung, one of my close class-mates, that he was a holder of the Siripavara Dhammacariya title, had secured a B.A degree from Yangon University and an M.A degree from Kelaniya University, one of the most prestigious universities in Sri Lanka. Soon, I was introduced to him and had a good chance to intimately exchange pleasantries with him. Only then did I come to know that he was a gold medalist in an English Diploma Course conducted by Aquinas College, Colombo and that he was invested with a plethora of knowledge on mundane as well as supramundane affairs.

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