A fascinating video has appeared on the always excellent Burma Dhamma. It is a recent film of the cave at Shwe Taung Oo Pagoda in Monywa where the very famous Ledi Sayadaw spent much of the period from 1900-1902 in solitary meditation. Ledi Sayadaw (1846-1923) is a vital part of the modern Burmese vipassanā (insight) meditation movement along with U Nārada (1868-1955) and Mahasi Sayadaw (1904-1982).
Aside from the isolation, the danger from wild animals at this time must of been a momentous fear to overcome. Anyone who has read Kamala Tiyavanich’s Forest Recollections: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand, which reports similar experiences from Thailand will be aware of the various dangers, human, animal and superhuman than threatened solitary meditators:
I stayed [in the forest] for two nights. The first night, nothing happened. The second night, at about one or two in the morning, a tiger came–which meant that I didn’t get any sleep the whole night. I sat in meditation, scared stiff, while the tiger walked around and around my umbrella tent (klot). My body felt all frozen and numb. I started chanting, and the words came out like running water. All the old chants I had forgotten now came back to me, thanks both to my fear and to my ability to keep my mind under control. I sat like this from 2 until 5 a.m., when the tiger finally left.