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Thai Forest Traditions: selected instructors

Educators are noted below in approximately chronological order. For some notes on the names and titles of Thai monks, see the endnotes. [1]Sao Kantasilo, Phra Ajaan (1861-1941) Ajaan Sao and his trainee Ajaan Mun developed the Kammatthana custom. A real forest-dweller, Ajaan Sao left no composed records of his teachings. Another of his students– Phra Ajaan Phut Thaniyo– did, nevertheless, tape a few of them in Ajaan Sao’s Teaching: A Reminiscence of Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo, giving us an alluring look into Ajaan Sao’s terse but powerful teaching style. Mun Bhuridatto, Phra Ajaan (1870-1949) Ajaan Mun was born in 1870 in Baan Kham Bong, a farming town in Ubon Ratchathani province, northeastern Thailand. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1893, he invested the remainder of his life wandering through Thailand, Burma, and Laos, house for the many part in the forest, taken part in the practice of meditation. He drew in a huge following of students and, together with his instructor, Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo Mahathera (1861-1941), established the forest meditation custom (the Kammatthana custom) that subsequently spread out throughout Thailand and to numerous countries abroad. He passed away in 1949 at Wat Suddhavasa, Sakon Nakhorn province.

— Adapted from A Heart Launched.

A recently modified bio of Ajaan Mun, written by Ajaan Maha Boowa, is readily available from Wat Pah Baan Taad. For more about Ajaan Mun and the history of the Kammatthana tradition, see the essay “The Customs of the Noble Ones,” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Dune Atulo, Phra Ajaan (1888-1983) Ajaan Dune Atulo was born on October 4, 1888 in Praasaat Village in Muang District, Surin province. At the age of 22 he ordained in the provincial capital. Six years later on, disillusioned with his life as an ignorant town monk, he left to study in Ubon Ratchathani, where he befriended Ajaan Singh Khantiyagamo and reordained in the Dhammayut sect. Soon thereafter, he and Ajaan Singh met Ajaan Mun, who had actually simply gone back to the Northeast after several years of wandering. Impressed with Ajaan Mun’s teachings and with his deportment, both monks deserted their research studies and took up the wandering meditation life under his assistance. They were therefore his first 2 disciples. After roaming for 19 years through the forests and mountains of Thailand and Cambodia, Ajaan Dune got an order from his ecclesiastical superiors to head a combined study and practice monastery in Surin. It was therefore that he took control of the abbotship of Wat Burapha, in the middle of the town, in 1934. There he remained till his death in 1983.

— From Presents He Left.

Thate Desaransi, Phra Ajaan (1902-1994) Ajaan Thate was globally recognized as a master of meditation. In addition to his large following in Thailand, Ajaan Thate has trained numerous western disciples. Lee Dhammadharo, Phra Ajaan (1907-1961) Ajaan Lee was among the foremost teachers in the Thai forest ascetic custom of meditation established at the millenium by his teacher, Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta. His life was short however eventful. Understood for his skill as an instructor and his proficiency of supranatural powers, he was the very first to bring the ascetic tradition out of the forests of the Mekhong basin and into the mainstream of Thai society in central Thailand.

— From The Autobiography of Phra Ajaan Lee.

Khamdee Pabhaso, Phra Ajaan (1902-1984)

Ajaan Khamdee was born into a farming family in Khon Kaen province in northeastern Thailand. At the age of 22 he ordained at the local temple in line with Thai custom, but was dissatisfied with the kind of practice customary at town temples. As a result, in 1928 he reordained in the Dhammayut sect, and in the following year ended up being a trainee of Ajaan Singh Khantiyagamo, a senior disciple of Ajaan Mun. Taking up the life of a wandering monk, he looked for peaceful places in different parts of northeastern Thailand till concerning Tham Phaa Puu (Grandfather Cliff Cave) in Loei province, near the Laotian border, in 1955. Finding it a perfect location to practice, he stayed there for most of the remainder of his life, moving down to the foot of the hill below the cavern when he became too old to work out the climb.

Well-known as an instructor of strong character and gentle personality, he attracted a large following of students, both lay and ordained. By the time of his death, a substantial abbey had actually matured around him at the foot of Grandfather Cliff.

— From Making the Dhamma Your Own.

Sim Buddhacaro, Phra Ajaan (1909-1992) Looang Boo Sim Buddhacaro was born upon the 26th November 1909 in Sakhon Nakhon Province, North-East Thailand. His moms and dads were farmers and devoted fans of the regional abbey. At the age of 17 Looang Boo Sim took novice ordination and soon afterwards became a disciple of the Ajaan Mun. Looang Boo Sim stayed with Ajaan Mun and various of his senior disciples for several years, taking full ordination at the age of 20 at Wat Sri Candaravasa, Khon Kaen.

In later years he was the Abbot of a number of abbeys in various parts of Thailand and was provided the ecclesiastical title of Phra Khroo Santivaranana in 1959. In 1967 he developed an abbey in the remote mountains of Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai province that stayed his home till his death in 1992.

— Adjusted from Just So.

Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno, Phra Ajaan (1913-2011) Age-old Ajaan Maha Boowa was born in Udorn-thani, North-east Thailand in 1913. He ended up being a monk in the customary method at a local abbey and went on to study the Pali language and texts. At this time he also began to meditate however had actually not yet discovered an appropriate Teacher. Then he caught sight of the Ven. Ajaan Mun and instantly felt that this was somebody really special, someone who undoubtedly had actually achieved something from his Dhamma practice.

After completing his Grade Three Pali research studies he therefore left the study monastery and followed Ven. Ajaan Mun into the forests of N.E. Thailand. When he overtook Ven. Ajaan Mun, he was informed to put his scholastic knowledge to one side and focus on meditation. Which was what he did. He typically went into solitary retreat in the mountains and jungle however always returned for aid and advice from Ven. Ajaan Mun. He stayed with Ven. Ajaan Mun for seven years, right until the Ven. Ajaan’s diing.

The vitality and uncompromising decision of his Dhamma practice drew in other monks committed to meditation and this ultimately resulted in the founding of Wat Pa Bahn Tahd, in some forest near the village where he was born. This enabled his mother to come and live as a nun at the monastery.

Ven. Ajaan Maha Boowa is popular for the fluency and skill of his Dhamma talks, and their direct and dynamic method. They undoubtedly show his own attitude and the way he personally practiced Dhamma. This is finest exhibited in the Dhamma talks he offers to those who go to meditate at Wat Pa Bahn Tahd. Such talks generally happen in the cool of the night, with lamps lit and the only sound being the pests and cicadas in the surrounding jungle. He typically starts the Dhamma talk with a couple of minutes of stillness– this is one of the most preparation he requires– and after that quietly starts the Dhamma exposition. As the style naturally develops, the pace speeds up and those listening significantly feel its strength and depth.

The formal Dhamma talk may last from thirty-five to sixty minutes. Then, after a more general talk, the listeners would all go back to their singular huts in the jungle to continue the practice, to try to find the Dhamma they had actually been listening about– inside themselves.

— From To the Dying breath.

Fuang Jotiko, Phra Ajaan (1915-1986) Ajaan Fuang was one of Ajaan Lee’s a lot of devoted trainees, spending some 24 rains retreats in the company of his renowned teacher. After Ajaan Lee’s death, Ajaan Fuang continued at Wat Asokaram, Ajaan Lee’s bustling abbey near Bangkok. A true forest monk at heart, Ajaan Fuang left Wat Asokaram in 1965 searching for greater solitude more conducive to meditation, and ultimately ended up at Wat Dhammasathit in Rayong province, where he lived as abbot until his death in 1986.

— Adapted from Awareness Itself.

Chah Subhaddo, Phra Ajaan (1918-1992)

Ajaan Chah was born in 1918 in a town in the northeastern part of Thailand. He ended up being a beginner at a young age and got greater ordination at the age of twenty. He followed the austere Forest Tradition for several years, living in forests and asking for almsfood as he wandered about on mendicant trip. He practiced meditation under a variety of masters, consisting of Ajaan Mun, who had an indelible impact on Ajaan Chah, providing his meditation the direction and clarity that it did not have. Ajaan Chah later ended up being an accomplished meditation instructor in his own right, sharing his awareness of the Dhamma with those who sought it. The essence of the teaching was rather easy: be mindful, don’t hold on to anything, release and give up to the method things are.

Ajaan Chah’s basic yet extensive teaching design had an unique interest Westerners, and in 1975 he established Wat Pah Nanachat, a special training abbey for the growing number of Westerners who sought to practice with him. In 1979 the first of a number of branch abbeys in Europe was established in Sussex, England by his senior Western disciples (amongst them Ajaan Sumedho, who is presently senior incumbent at the Amaravati Buddhist Abbey, England). Today there are ten branch abbeys in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Ajaan Chah died in January, 1992 following a long illness.

— Adapted from A Tree in a Forest (Chungli, Taiwan: Dhamma Garden, 1994) and Bodhinyana.

Suwat Suvaco, Phra Ajaan (1919-2002) Born on August 29, 1919, Ajaan Suwat ordained at the age of 20 and ended up being a trainee of Ajaan Funn Acaro 2 or 3 years later on. He likewise studied briefly with Ajaan Mun. Following Ajaan Funn’s death in 1977, Ajaan Suwat remained on at the abbey to supervise his teacher’s royal funeral service and the building of a monolith and museum in Ajaan Funn’s honor. In the 1980’s Ajaan Suwat pertained to the United States, where he established 4 monasteries: one near Seattle, Washington; 2 near Los Angeles; and one in the hills of San Diego County (Metta Forest Monastery). He returned to Thailand in 1996, and died in Buriram on April 5, 2002 after a long disease.


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