13.Luangpoo *Thate* /3/3

. Forty-third to Fiftieth Rains Retreat, 1965-72    at Hin Mark Peng   O J O

Hin Mark Peng was well known among the people of those parts for its extreme cold. They had a saying: "If you don't have a blanket, don't go and sleep at Hin Mark Peng". It's the coldest spot in all that region during the Cool Season. It was a place haunted by fierce spirits and wild animals such as tigers and bears.

About forty years previously, anyone passing by boat would remain deadly silent and not even dare look up.[191] Fears like this led it to become a place of isolation and solitude, without anyone daring to go near. Such isolation always attracted forest meditation monks so that they could put the quality of their renunciation to the test. Any forest monk able to stay there considered it a sign of the steadfastness and confidence of his practice, while his Dhamma companions saw him as truly courageous in renunciation.

It also became a place of significance for the law enforcement officers. As the surrounding population started to expand, the wild animals were forced out and gradually disappeared. Smugglers and cattle rustlers then used it as a place for sending contraband across the river. Whenever any water buffalo or cattle went missing, or if news came of smuggling activities, government officers and those who had lost their things would gather there to wait in ambush to recover their property and catch the culprits. Eventually, such a bad reputation also tarnished the neighbouring villages of Koke Soo-ak, Phra Baht and Hooay Hat.

Whenever the old people who were custodians of the local history got together, they would always tend to tell about the future of Hin Mark Peng: "Kings from three cities would come to develop a flourishing Hin Mark Peng". This arose because of those three great rocks lined up together on the bank of the Mekong River. (In fact, they all merge into one mass but from far away it looks as if there are three rocks.) The northern rock (that is the one upstream) would belong to Luang Phra Bahng, the middle rock to Bangkok and the southern rock to Vientiane.

Listening to this made me laugh, for whoever would come and build anything worthwhile in such a place! The jungle there was impenetrable. It was home to wild animals that were still to be found there more than forty years later — towards the end of 1964 — when I first came to check out the place. I both saw and heard the barking deer and partridges, while to my delight overgrown monkeys appeared leaping from branch to branch.

This kind of air and landscape were rare so I was delighted to have discovered such a place. I therefore resolved to come with Ven. Kum Pan and spend the Rains Retreat there. I thought that I would be able to cease all building work and avoid taking on any further commitments. Other people might equate that with confused thinking, but in my heart I truly knew my position: I had already accomplished much building work. I had not inconsiderably ministered to the group of monks and lay devotees. In the future it was better that I cease with all that and focus all my efforts on the practice — readying myself for death. I had reached an age when one couldn't be sure when death would come.

I therefore spoke with Ven. Kum Pan about staying with him and taking a restful break. This meant all construction work and such things would be left totally to him, although I would be happy to advise on Dhamma practice. He not only agreed but was happy with this arrangement. He said that finding the material resources to start building was beyond his ability, but that if funds became available he would accept all responsibilities. I told him that something might possibly turn up; however, I would not go out looking for anything. We would accept anything offered and if no one brought things, well, that was all right too.

After the Rains Retreat, Nahng Dtim (of a car spare parts shop) in Vientiane, Por Lee, Maer Pao (Pha) of Koke Soo-ak Village with Nai Prasop-phon, Khun Nitisahn and relatives (from Udorn-thani) resolved to come and build us each a hut. Each hut cost about five thousand baht. (All the huts built here have been built in the Thai Style.)[192] Nahng Nuay built one kuti in memory of Nahng Boowa- thaew Malai-kong at a cost of ten thousand baht.[193]

In 1966 lay people from Bangkok came to visit by boat. The location and surroundings so impressed them that they helped to raise funds to renovate and to build a large wooden Study Sala (Sala Karn Parien). It was built in the Thai style with two floors, the lower storey having a veranda on three sides surfaced with concrete. The area of the top floor was seventeen metres by eleven metres, while that of the ground floor was nineteen and a half by sixteen metres. It was all finished on the twentieth of July 1967 at a cost of more than eighty thousand baht. The actual labor came mostly from the monks and novices themselves. Ven. Kum Pan was suffering from some eye disease and left for treatment and never returned.

In the same year, the Bangkok devotees sponsored the building of two more huts, while Nai Sakchai and his relatives from Pangkhone market, of Pangkhone District in Sakhon Nakorn Province offered another. Each cost about seven thousand baht while monastery funds were used to build another four toilets.

In 1968, a reinforced concrete rain water storage tank was built behind the Study Sala.[194] It was eleven metres by three metres with a depth of a hundred and eighty centimetres. It cost fifteen thousand baht.

In 1969, a two-storey kuti was built on the bank of the Mekong River... another hut was built... In 1970, a hut was built... and when a storm blew a tree down onto the western veranda of the large Study Sala the authorities repaired this at a cost of twenty thousand baht. This year also saw the building of a reinforced concrete rain water tank in the nuns' quarters with dimensions of three by six by two metres... another reinforced concrete rain water tank of similar dimensions... and the area in front of the large study hall was paved... After the Rains Retreat, thirty student monks from Korat came to receive meditation training for five days.

In 1971, another hut was built... together with another six toilets for the nuns' quarters and two more for visitors and a place for visitors to stay... also a reinforced concrete rain water tank in front of the Uposatha Hall... costing thirty thousand baht. These projects were all sponsored through the monastery's funds.

I fell ill around the fifth of July 1971, just before the entry to the Rains Retreat. At first it was influenza with a bronchial infection — to which I am susceptible. They sent for the doctor at the local tobacco estate, but I did not improve. Dr. Tawinsree Amornkraisarakit — lady doctor and assistant director of the Nongkhai Provincial Hospital — with Khun Tawan, the provincial economics officer, brought a car to take me for treatment in Nongkhai Provincial Hospital. The doctor treated me for five days but my condition didn't improve. An x-ray showed lung congestion, pleurisy and pneumonia, with an area of infection. Khun Dtoo Khovinta therefore sent a telegram about the situation to Prof. Udom Posakrisna in Bangkok.

When Prof. Udom learned about this, he invited me to go to Bangkok where he would await me at Siriraj Hospital. The lack of specialist care and equipment in Nongkhai required my traveling to Bangkok. Thao Kae Kim Kai and Dr. Somsak, the director of Nongkhai Provincial Hospital, put me on the plane so that they could take me to Siriraj Hospital. I was a patient there under the specialist care of Prof. Udom with Dr. Thira Limsila in regular attendance on me.

I received excellent care and attention from all the doctors. They used suction to bring up a large amount of fluid from the lungs, and during the first week my condition steadily improved. By the second week however, I was beginning to have allergic reactions to the drugs, and then other complications set in. Perhaps this had something to do with an idiosyncratic unease when staying in large buildings.

As my hospitalization extended so my condition deteriorated until my breathing became quite shallow and my voice was reduced to an almost inaudible whisper. The doctors would draw a lot of fluid from my lungs and the condition would ease a little bit, but my general feeling of weakness did not improve. I therefore asked the doctors to allow me to leave the hospital, but they requested that I stay longer. I was not able to do this, and so asked to be discharged from the hospital on the fifteen of August 1971.

This was the period when I became disenchanted with and saw the irksomeness of the body: 'This lump of a body that had brought illness and trouble to me and others. Of what use was the tiny amount of food, all that I was able to swallow each day? Better not to eat at all today.'

I told Mrs. Kantharat' Sapying, who brought me food every day, please not to bring the food in, for I had decided not to eat anymore. She wept and went to find Dr. Chavadee Rattapong. Dr. Chavadee sent for Dr. Rote Suwanasutth' because Prof. Udom's duties had taken him out to the provinces. I explained to the doctor about my condition, and how I didn't feel well in such large buildings. Dr. Rote therefore gave me permission to leave, and arranged a car to take me to stay at Mrs. Kantharat's house for three days. Before I left Dr. Banyat Paritnyanon' came to examine me and gave some advice on my treatment.

Dr. Rote and Dr. Chavadee kept in close contact, bringing me medicine every day, and my condition gradually improved. Examining within myself I realized that I wasn't going to die quite yet — although to other people it might have appeared otherwise. Some fortune tellers were even predicting that I would certainly die within five days. When Prof. Ouay Ketusingh' came to visit me, I asked his opinion about returning to my monastery. He answered by saying the quicker I could return the better. This was a pleasant surprise since I had already resolved that if I were going to die, it would be better and more fitting for me, as a true monk, to die in the monastery.

Thao Kae Kim Kai hired a special plane to take me back, and it filled up with the monks and lay devotees helping to see me on my way. We arrived at the air field in Nongkhai at almost midday. The Mekong River had just burst its banks and because of the flooding we had to request help from the N.P.K. (The Mekong River Marine Patrol) who were kind enough to lend us a boat from Kong Nang Village. This took us to Wat Hin Mark Peng where we arrived at five o'clock in the evening.

Dr. Chavadee had accompanied me and taken care of me all the way back to the monastery, and then stayed on to treat me for another five or six days. When she saw that I was out of danger and improving she traveled back to Bangkok.

While I was ill, whether in Nongkhai Provincial Hospital or in Siriraj Hospital, many monks, novices and lay people — some known to me and some unknown — had come together to show me extraordinary care and concern. This was evident from the throngs that came to visit me every day while I was in Nongkhai Provincial Hospital. Even more so in Siriraj Hospital where such great numbers came that the doctors had to forbid visiting.

Some people who came to visit were not allowed to see me, so they asked instead to be allowed to bow their respects from outside my room. This was amazing. So many people came to visit when I was ill, and yet I hardly knew anyone in Bangkok! Some people who had never seen me before would come in and then burst into tears, even before they had time to bow their respects.

I would therefore like to record here the good will shown by everyone — my appreciation for everyone's kindness will always remain with me. This applies especially to those people who came to visit and help care for me in Wat Hin Mark Peng. Some came back repeatedly, even though traveling conditions during that time had become so difficult because of the flooding. It meant journeying by long-tailed boat[195] because all the road links were cut. This could sometimes take three or four hours so it really does deserve the utmost appreciation.

As soon as I was back in the monastery my general condition began steadily to improve. I had eminent and respected visitors come to call on me. My Rains Retreat[196] however was curtailed because I had not returned in time.

My illness at that time brought great benefit to my meditation practice. When I arrived at Nongkhai Provincial Hospital, my condition was deteriorating so much that I had immediately set about preparing myself for death. I had resolved to let go, not grasping at anything. I had instructed myself: "You must leave your body and disease in the doctor's hands. Ready yourself for death; concentrate your heart; establish potent mindfulness and investigate your heart to purify it completely".

After that my mind was calm and peaceful without any disturbances.

When the doctors had come along and asked how I felt I would answer that I was just fine. Thao Kae Kim Kai had come and carried me off by plane to Bangkok, and I went along with it. I even went as far as Siriraj Hospital, where the doctors had asked about my condition and I had again said that I was 'as good as ever'. However, onlookers might have thought the opposite. My extended stay in the hospital had its effect when I had started to find it tiresome and the days and nights seemed to lengthen. I therefore needed to bring back to mind my original resolution about not holding back but being willing to let go of everything: "I've already relinquished all that haven't I? Why then am I involving myself in that sort of thing. It's all their affair. It has to follow its own course and schedule. My dying though, is not involved with all that. We each must do our separate duties as best we can."

My resolution towards letting go then settled down in the stillness of the present-moment Dhamma (paccuppanna-dhamma) until there was no feeling of what was day and what was night time. There was only the brightness of the stilled heart, one with itself. When I later came to examine the state of my body and mind, I realized that it wasn't yet time for them to disintegrate and pass away. Nevertheless, if I were to stay in the hospital, there would be continual encounters with external sense impressions and their defusing would demand the constant attention of my concentration and wisdom. No way! Better that I go back and fight them on my own battle ground — (which was the monastery). That was why I had returned to the monastery, as I have described above.

The year 1972 saw the start of the construction of the Uposatha Hall. I will give a more detailed account of this in a future section. At the same time we also built a meeting sala for the nuns. It was a wooden two-storey structure with concrete posts and an asbestos roof, four metres by nine, with a four meter wide veranda on the ground floor going all the way around... It cost a little over seventy thousand baht...

31. Fifty-first and Fifty-second Rains Retreat    1973-74 Establishing Wang Nam Mork as a Monks' Dwelling Place

I had helped to relocate the old school of Koke Soo-ak and Phra Bart villages so that it could be connected up to the rear of the new building. This new structure had concrete posts and four class rooms. It cost eighty thousand baht but hadn't been fully completed through lack of funds. In 1974 I was able to continue the work by joining up the old and new buildings and partitioning off an office for the head teacher. Underneath I made a reinforced concrete rain water tank of seven by six by two metres.

At the time we were moving the school I also went to set up another dwelling place for monks in the Wang Nam Mork Forest. This was about six kilometres to the west of Wat Hin Mark Peng and still had jungle with mountains, caves and streams. It was therefore ideal for anyone intent on developing their meditation in solitude, and its natural environment was also well worth preserving.

32. Fifty-third Rains Retreat, 1975    Building Wat Lumpini

A lay person gave about three rai of land in Lumpini District. When other donations increased the area to eleven or twelve rai, another place for solitude and practice could be set up. Wat Lumpini was the equal of Wang Nam Mork — that I had just established — because streams skirted it on all four sides. It was aimed at those who wished for more solitude, as Wat Hin Mark Peng was becoming less peaceful.

From about 1974 there seems to have been a steadily growing interest among the people of Bangkok and Central Thailand in making contact with the various monasteries in the Northeast. Wat Hin Mark Peng also became more involved in receiving visitors from Bangkok.

In 1975, Somdet Phra Ñaa.nasangworn, the present Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, was supporting the scheme of sending the foreign monks who had been ordained at Wat Bovoranives to study Dhamma in many different parts of Thailand, and many came here to stay for the Rains Retreat. They were all well committed to the practice.

33. Fifty-fourth Rains Retreat, 1976-77    Spreading the Dhamma Abroad

My trip to foreign lands this time received support and assistance from many parties who were concerned with teaching Dhamma abroad. Besides, I wanted to go and visit both the Thai and foreign monks living over there. They had gone to spread the Dhamma, and I wanted to hearten and encourage them.

It struck me as amusing that, although I was old and had recently been readying myself for death, I found myself preparing to go abroad. Moreover, I didn't even know their language. In fact this trip wasn't completely satisfactory for me as I always bear three things in mind:

If one wants to go to any particular place or region —

1. One should know their language.

2. One should know their customs and traditions.

3. One should know about their livelihood.

This is all concerned with proper social discourse and communication with people. However, the lack of language alone makes the other two points almost moot. Notwithstanding this, I still received ample help with interpretation and liaison from those who were knowledgeable about such things. This gave me such good understanding that the language barriers fell away and almost ceased to be a problem.

I well knew that I was already very old, already advanced in years. Going here and there no longer held any appeal for me — I had already traveled around quite widely — and finding a place to die like Wat Hin Mark Peng seemed ideal indeed. Then Maer Chee Chuang — (from Singapore, who through her faith in Buddhism became a nun, coming to spend the Rains Retreat at Wat Hin Mark Peng) — invited me to visit Singapore, Australia and Indonesia.

She felt with my old age, and the constant stream of visitors coming to see me in the monastery, that I didn't have enough time to rest. Furthermore, most of my visitors only seemed interested in asking for lottery numbers.[197] If I were to go away, it might give me some time to rest. I gave this some consideration and came to the conclusion that, besides the problems with my language deficiency, my 'strange face' might provoke the curiosity of the crowds over there. What sort of rest would that be!

Of more important was that I should clearly consider all possible contingencies. I was elderly and had come to be considered quite a popular figure so that any mishap, or my illness or death, might cause difficulties for other people. This would especially bring criticism down on the one who had made the original invitation, that, "they had taken me away but not looked after me". Even so, she kept up with her efforts aimed at inviting me. These were bolstered when her elder brother — who helped lead the Buddhist Society in Perth, Western Australia — sent a letter inviting me to go and visit the Buddhists there.

After due consideration, I came to the conclusion that this time there were three good reasons to accept the invitation:

The first reason concerned the lack of senior monks in Indonesia, which, with a population of more than a hundred and thirty million, had ten million Buddhists living among Muslims and Hindus. When someone mentioned this to me, it made me feel really compassionate towards them all. I was also delighted to learn that they liked to meditate. (Every religion in which there is worship of a deity, requires the devotee to sit in peace of heart and focus on the divine being.)

The second reason arose because of the many monks from Indonesia and Australia who had come to ordain with Somdet Phra Ñaa.nasangworn — the present Supreme Patriarch of Thailand — in Wat Bovoranives. Before the beginning of that year's Rains Retreat, the English-born Ven. Dorn (Donald Riches) had taken tapes of my Dhamma talks and photographs to show in Australia. Once he knew that I was going with a party to Australia, his preparations to receive us caused some people to become quite excited at the prospect. There was also a senior Thai monk, Ven. Phra Bunyarit' Pa.n.dito, already living and teaching there. This monk had done much to propagate Buddhism in Australia and had inspired many to come and ordain in Thailand.

The third reason came from my reflection that, in the future, Buddhism would be spreading to many other countries. It might come to be disseminated following the Christian missionizing[198] model, where Thai monks might go out and only spread the superficialities of Buddhism. Whereas if individuals from the country concerned came to be ordained, they could be trained truly to penetrate to the inner core of Buddhism. They could then spread the genuine Teaching themselves for that's the only way to penetrate to the essential.

One Indonesian monk, Ven. Sudhammo, who had been ordained at Wat Bovoranives under Somdet Phra Ñaa.nasangworn, had then come to spend the preceding Rains Retreat (of 1976) at Wat Hin Mark Peng. He was exactly the sort of monk who would be able to spread Buddhism — and he was in Indonesia, awaiting my visit there.

After considering all three reasons for going, I made up my mind: 'In whatever way I can, may the remainder of this life be dedicated to the advancement of Buddhism'. This decision allowed me increasingly to see the possible value of my life, and caused me to give up personal comfort for Buddhism.

I had, in fact, previously received invitations from various individuals and groups in Bangkok to make a pilgrimage to the Buddhist holy places in India. They offered to look after me and take care of my needs in every way, but I had never accepted. To find the inspiration to go, I had often tried to imagine what such a trip would be like, but my heart always remained indifferent to the idea.

I reflected that India had been the birth place of Buddhism, and that although I may have missed the chance to be born in time to meet the Lord Buddha, and the age when Buddhism was flourishing, the Holy Places were still there. I should therefore go and pay my respects so that I could gain inspiration, understanding and empathy — yet my heart remained indifferent to the idea. Perhaps this apathy arose from a previous birth as I might have been born as a Buddhist monk in India when the Hindus were suppressing the monks and the holy places.[199] Perhaps this had been so traumatic an experience that it was deterring me from going to India in this life.

Whoever has the faith and opportunity to go on pilgrimage to the Four Holy Places[200] will gain great merit. The Lord Buddha spoke about this to Venerable Ananda: "These four holy places will be a great source of merit for people after I have finally passed away".

I lack the merit to go there, so I can only esteem and commend them. Anyhow, I would like to take this opportunity to remark how indebted I feel towards the people of India because their soil was the birth place of Buddhism.

Before setting out for foreign lands I went to stay at Air Force Lt. General Payom Yensootjai's garden abode for monks in Dorn Muang. Every night, more and more people were attracted to come and listen to Dhamma and sit in meditation. I feel that the present day citizens of Bangkok,[201] City of Angels, are more aware of their situation: 'Though born in a heavenly city, as the worldly description has it, we remain very much human beings struggling and stuck in the 'rat race' — the common lot of human beings everywhere'. So perhaps we will want to transform ourselves into true spiritual beings knowing that angels born in heaven don't have the same opportunity for skillful and generous actions as we do in this human realm. When such angels have exhausted their store of merit made in their previous human life times, they return to birth in the human realm. Sometimes even this is not certain and they may be born in the lower realms (Apaaya). It is different for the Noble Disciple — for instance, the stream-enterer[202] — who after death is assured of not being born into any woeful existence.

I am just an old monk and I was born in a place with inadequate educational opportunities. On occasion, they have invited me to give Dhamma instruction to highly educated people, and at first I felt quite reticent and embarrassed about it. This does however fit in with the Buddhist principles of not discriminating because of caste or class.

Assessment should be based on right knowledge and good conduct. When a knowledgeable person turns to evil ways, he or she is liable to cause more strife and trouble to the country than the uninformed person who does the same thing. An ignoramus who doesn't do evil is better than a learned man who uses his knowledge for evil means. People may have only limited knowledge, but if they employ it in trying to develop goodness, it will bring advancement to all — from the immediate group right through to the national level.

Such considerations gave me more self-confidence about teaching, knowing that the more educated my listeners the easier they should be able to understand. The Lord Buddha's Dhamma Teaching points towards knowing the nature of things, and this can fit in with the latest ideas of science.

Good scholars should only explore and enquire for knowledge that is concerned with weighty, significant issues that may lead to the enrichment of peoples' lives. They shouldn't be aiming for knowledge to increase their social position or status. For instance, teachers nowadays can educate their pupils to high levels so that they in turn may take that knowledge and teach other teachers. On the other hand, there are bad pupils who, spotting the teacher's trifling mistake or having a difference of opinions with them, work to have their teacher dismissed. They use their teacher's services, and then plot together to force him or her out, and even think it an honorable and admirable thing to have done. This then becomes an era for the development of corruption and wickedness and that can only lead to decline.

33.1 Singapore — The First Stop   

Our party included Ven. Steven, Ven. Chai Charn, Dr. Chavadee and Maer Chee Chuang. We set out from Bangkok on the seventh of November 1976, reaching Singapore the same day where a welcoming party of devotees received us and showed us all of the city.

Singapore is a small island. It is only thirty kilometres long by twenty-five kilometres wide and with slightly more than three million people on the main and smaller surrounding islands it is densely populated. They have therefore built blocks of flats of ten, twenty or more floors to utilize all available space. Seeing all these high-rise apartment buildings we might imagine all Singaporeans to be rich but in truth they are just the same as in any other country of the world. There are quite ordinary houses with tin roofs or even thatch, just as there are in our villages.

As long as all human beings have defilements of greed, aversion and delusion, every sort of contrast and variety will continue to exist. Although each country's government aims and strives to attain equality, achieving it must remain impossible. I don't know of a single country that has been successful. Regimes that employ communist ideology give out propaganda that all their citizens are prosperous, trouble free and equal. Why then should their people try to sneak away and escape from such a so called 'promised land'? Why? Because our human defilements are too deeply entrenched![203]

The Lord Buddha continually taught about this, saying that one should have sympathy and pity for one's fellow creatures, always wishing them well through mutual harmony. Everyone wishes this. Yet when one comes to act on the principle, the defilements insidiously veil and cover it up so that one forgets and falls once again for the old delusions...

Singapore[204] had wide roads sufficient for its traffic needs, and their drivers kept to the highway code — they didn't drive in a selfish way. There were no traffic policemen at the crossroad and intersections, with traffic lights standing in their place. The roads were swept clean, few people were milling about and the shops had plate glass frontages to keep out the dust.

Besides the tall blocks of flats, the ordinary houses were also all set out in a very orderly, pleasing fashion. Between the houses and along the roadsides were shady trees — all very pleasant and worth seeing. When there was sufficient space between houses — whether it was in the central or outer suburbs — they planted it as a public park, sometimes big and sometimes small, where people could go to sit and relax. The beaches were planted with trees and provided with proper car parking. They liked to plant beautiful varieties of flowers all over the place. Their soil was good, and their climate was blessed with frequent rain that kept their flowers and bushes always green and flourishing.

Although Singapore might be a small, heavily populated island, don't imagine that it lacks jungle. There were conservation areas even in the midst of the city, for an awareness of their scarce resources made them take especially good care of such things. Singapore seemed higher above sea level than Bangkok, and therefore didn't flood so easily and could be more easily kept clean. The inhabitants also conscientiously upheld the laws and regulations.

Whatever the outer circumstances, we shouldn't lose sight of our condition. Our birth was messy and then we continually associate with both external and internal impurities. We bathe and shower and in no time are dirty again. This only concludes with the corruption and putrefaction of death. If these are the underlying conditions, where can we find a place that is clean? It is only possible when all the individuals of a group come together in mutual understanding about the truth. They can then help each other — according to their various responsibilities — to uphold the cleanliness. How can we each safeguard this inner cleanliness? Well, we can start by watching over and securing the cleanliness in what is around us.

For any society to prosper and flourish it requires these four conditions:

1. The land and terrain are favorable to the people living there.

2. The leaders and government who lay down the laws are just, being neither too slack nor too oppressive towards the populace.

3. All the populace helps in keeping and respecting the laws of the land.

4. The bureaucrats and officials are just and honest.

A society enjoying all four conditions will have full prosperity. A deficiency in one of them means that any prosperity will remain incomplete.

It's out of the question that Bangkok can be made as clean as Singapore because its location is not favorable. It is sinking below sea level — so don't let anyone pretend they can fix Bangkok's problems, as is vacuously claimed in the newspapers. The best way is that we uphold purity in our own lives and responsibilities. Please don't be so negligent and selfish about your affairs. Hurling abuse at each other over trivial mistakes tarnishes one's behavior and manners, forfeiting all culture and refinement as if one were a completely ignorant person.

I taught Dhamma and meditation every night of the ten nights that our party remained in Singapore. The meetings would not last more than three hours, with each night between twenty and thirty Singaporeans coming for training.

This teaching of Dhamma was really nothing more than a pointing out of the afflictions and flaws of the worldly life. Anyone capable of seeing the harmful nature of the world can also see Dhamma, because the world and Dhamma are interrelated and interconnected. Whenever I explained Dhamma, the problems of the world always became highlighted on every side. These problems are the same the world over and can be summarized into three issues:

1. Problems concerning family and livelihood.

2. Problems about looking for inspiration.

3. Problems about overcoming and transcending suffering.

It's not surprising that problems of this first category should arise. When there is a world there must also be world-shattering problems. If we fasten something ourselves, we must also be able to untie it! Who else can do it? Unless that is, someone could help by explaining the means of disentanglement.

The fish hooks itself because it mis-takes the angler's camouflaged bait. It hungrily snaps it up but when the hook catches there is no more eating, only pain and suffering. This is how desire leads to suffering. I offer you this consideration: Make do without. Once the hook catches, the more we struggle, the more we intensify the pain. We then become full of remorse and feel sorry for ourselves because of what we are suffering. Yet it all originated in our own fatal error. All we can do is wait for the lucky fisherman to take us away for his evening meal.

With the second issue, as long as we still have hopes and dreams we will have to struggle all the way, until every exit has been tried and failed. The manner of the untrained heart is like that of a newly caught wild animal. However much it might stamp and paw the ground, provided that its bindings remain firm and unbroken, it will eventually tire and become still, knowing when it is beaten. We human beings are much the same. When our wishes don't find fulfillment in the object of affection, our heart's contentment is stilled. That is how one knows where one's heart is going for refuge. It is going out to find pleasure in external objects that are only able to provide a superficial, false sort of happiness.

True happiness is that of the quiet and serene mind, without struggle. This will be the experience of anyone who discovers the point of true happiness. Their heart will continue to abide in happiness irrespective of their posture or activity. Although anyone lacking such realization won't be able to appreciate such a possibility — it will be totally beyond their comprehension.[205]

Concerning the third issue, I taught them to review and go over the first two points until they perceived, that apart from the stilled heart, every other kind of happiness was temporary and false. I then instructed them to be diligent in cultivating and developing that happiness, and to continue their analysis until they became skilled. When adept, they would be able to abide as their heart wished, whatever conditions they were subjected to, for with this accomplishment one may abide in freedom either in happiness or pain.

From what I heard from the Singaporeans, it seems that they are blessed with virtuous views and opinions. They realized the peril of birth in this world, seeing that this existence is unauthentic and full of deception. I had no idea that the people of Singapore would be so knowledgeable about the basic principles of the Lord Buddha's Teaching... When they received the genuine Buddhist Teaching, all their previous beliefs seemed to disappear, so that only the essential Dhamma Truth prevailed.

It was admirable how they showed their joy and firm conviction in their understanding of Dhamma. Amazingly, some people seemed instinctively to be keeping the Five Precepts, and practicing samadhi meditation so that insight-knowledge could arise about themselves and others.

33.2 To Australia   

We flew out of Singapore for Australia on the seventeenth of November. Our point of entry was Perth and after stopping over there, we carried on to Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. These were all big cities where there was much interest in Buddhism. If there was a local Buddhist society, they would invite me to teach Dhamma. Whether they were Thai, Lao, Burmese, Sri Lankan or Caucasian, they all gave me an outstanding welcome. All in our party wish to express our great appreciation for this help.

Conversation with a Hindu Leader   

While I was in Perth, a swami came to visit. By a swami I mean one ordained in Hinduism who wears robes in color and shape similar to a 'Tibetan monk'. He described himself as a Hindu Lama. Hinduism has many sects, with many deities — it allows one to worship any of them, provided it's remembered that they all originate from one deity. (That is the deity that was supposed to have created the world and who has no material body.)

This swami had already been ordained for forty-five years and was seventy-six years old. He was already waiting for me in the reception room and when he saw me he immediately raised his palms together in añjali and gave a friendly welcome. I reciprocated, with words of greeting, and we established a friendly rapport, so that I could ask about his religion and its particular way of practice. He said that he was a head swami-lama who taught Hinduism and that his family was Hindu. He was a devout and dedicated Hindu who had ordained while still a youngster, and had once gone to find the Mahayana monks in Tibet.

Another swami came but he was an ordinary lay person, and unlike the first one wasn't ordained. He was eighty-one years old but his whole appearance was delightful — his complexion and constant smile made him look more like a sixty-one-year-old. He was already waiting for me, and when I came in, he lifted his hands in añjali as the first swami had done. He told me that as soon as he saw me he felt great loving-kindness for me. (Our way of putting it would be that he had a 'feeling of great respect'.)

After words of welcome I first asked about his religion, just as I had done with the first swami. I begged his pardon[206] before making my enquiries, but he said there was no need because our dhammas were equivalent. (What he meant by this will now be explained.)

He said that he didn't adhere to any religion because: "This world only has one deity". The Teachings of every religion derive from the one deity — (namely Brahma) — and when one's action was right and good, then one touched the original deity. He told me that he had studied yoga in India with six different teachers, and that they had taught him many techniques. Some examples he gave were the yoga postures, fasting and controlling the breathing. (This shows that these techniques, which had been in existence before the Lord Buddha's time, are still extant today.) He possessed great knowledge and ability concerning Hinduism, and had given up everything — he had no family). This was why the Hindu devotees referred to him as swami.

Our discussions together were harmonious and well-received by all — Ven. Steven acted as interpreter — and as they were about to depart, they asked permission to bow at my feet for their blessing and good fortune. (It seemed like they had elevated me like some deity!) This caused me some embarrassment because they themselves were so aged, worthy and virtuous. I therefore told them there was no need to bow for our dhammas 'being equal' was already blessing enough. As they left, they kept turning around to face me and making añjali repeatedly, clearly showing their respect.

Although one swami was ordained and the other wasn't, they explained their path to the deity in the same way for they were both Hindus. I had asked them about their techniques for reaching the deity and their response had been the same.

The first swami told me about slowly repeating the mantra word 'Om' two or three times and evoking the deity in the heart. He said: "By the heart recollecting the deity, it would manifest as different images in the heart. The deity would then teach knowledge about right and wrong[207]... doing good and spurning evil... sometimes there would be only a voice rather than an image".

(According to Buddhist principles this would be ruupa-jhaana.[208] "One who sees Dhamma, sees me"[209]... Dhamma is the Great Teacher continually pointing out the right way to proceed, and how to avoid going wrong.)

"The deity would then disappear leaving a state of emptiness, and this is reaching the Lord Nirandorn."[210]

(This is the aruupa-jhaana[211] that was the state cultivated by the hermits A.laara and Uddaka, when Prince Siddhattha left the palace to study with them. He eventually saw that because they were still attached to those meditation states their way could not lead to the ending of suffering.[212] "Puññapaapaani pahiyati"... Only after abandoning both good and evil can one go beyond suffering, he then left them to try the way of harsh asceticism [before finding the Middle Way].)

The second, unordained swami explained in much the same way, but he didn't refer to a mantra. Perhaps this was a secret of his sect that he didn't want to reveal. However, I do think he used a mantra in the same way as the first because they were of the same sect. He simply said that when one reached the deity, it might manifest as various images, or as a voice that would teach one. He did not speak about the emptiness that remained after such visions and voices had disappeared, about having reached the Lord Nirandorn.

The Essentials   

Those of you who are engaged with all the religions, are you finding this absorbing and enjoyable? What do I mean? Well, I will try to explain and ask your indulgence for my ideas because I have never had opportunity to research the scriptures of any religion other than Buddhism.

They say that one needs a firm faith that the deity exists, although they cannot see the deity's body. After putting faith in the deity, one opens up to, or one inclines the heart to rest in the deity, at which point the deity manifests for one to see. It is similar to this in Mahayana Buddhism.

In Theravaada or Hinayaana Buddhism, the Lord Buddha does have a body, which is that of Prince Siddhattha of the Sakyans. He went forth into the homeless life and with great exertion comprehensively cleansed all impurities and defilements from the heart. He realized Buddhahood through perfecting all the Dhamma virtues.

However it was not merely the body of Phra Siddhattha that became the Lord Buddha. When one has faith and trust in the virtuous qualities of the Lord Buddha, one can receive them into the heart, or incline one's heart out to rest in those wholesome qualities until it becomes fully and firmly established in one-pointedness (ekaggataarama.na). Various images or sounds can arise in such a state and according to the creed of the formless deity, this state would be 'one with the deity', and it would manifest to teach one.

The Buddhist Teaching would maintain that such manifestations were images or visions — nimitta — arising out of meditation, and the sounds would be the clarifying voice of Dhamma. Dhamma — being itself without form — would need to manifest in this way to accommodate to people with bodies.

In summary, every religion or sect teaches its adherents to abandon evil and do good, to receive the virtuous qualities of its deity into their heart, or to give their heart to the deity. The way to reach the deity is the same for each religion. However, when a particular religion's devotees don't understand the truth, mistaken assumptions can arise. They may think that because another religion practices in a different way it is wrong and that only their way is correct. They propagandize and criticize and stir things up so that they can become pre-eminent with an increasing number of adherents. This is not what a Good Teacher with Dhamma would have taught, and sages would view such ideas with a dubious eye. Those who practice should find this relationship — between meditative visions and coming in touch with the deity — as something worth investigating.

Some Suggestions for Ven. Mahaa Samai   

During my trip to Australia I was not only able to teach Dhamma to anyone interested but could also exchange views with other monks. This was especially so with Ven. Mahaa Samai who had been sent out by Mahamakut Monastic College to take up residence at Wat Buddharangsee in Sydney.

Although Ven. Mahaa Samai was originally from Champahsak in Laos, he had gone to stay at Wat Sapatoom in Bangkok while still a boy. He had received novice and bhikkhu ordination and passed his grade five Pali examinations from Mahamakut Monastic College, Wat Bovoranives. In 1959 he went to teach general studies for a year in Wat Bodhisomphorn, Udorn-thani and then volunteered to go and spread Dhamma in Australia. He had been there for two years — being part of the second party that followed after Ven. Chao Khun Pariyat' — and was the first monk to stay at the new Wat Buddharangsee. At the time of writing [1976] he has been a monk for thirteen years and is a courteous, model monk worthy of respect.

Ven. Mahaa Samai could be considered a representative of the Thai Sangha who wished to spread Buddhism to Australasia, for no Theravada monks had ever been resident there before. The local people were basically Christian and this was to be the first Theravada monastery with monks.

People today all over the world are better educated, especially about a science that is based on investigating the actual truth of things. Christianity teaches reliance on faith and disallows critical analysis of the teachings of one's faith. This conflicts with modern scientific principles, and a pope once even punished someone whose calculations pointed to a spherical world system. Finally however, everyone — including the later popes — has accepted and used that theory right up to today.

Buddhist Teaching gives complete freedom to investigate anything — even the Buddhist Teachings themselves. This is because the principles on which Buddhism is based are far higher than those of science. It doesn't just examine and analyze material things, but is able to detect the underlying truth of mental phenomena. After penetrating through with insight, the realized truth is used solely for the peace and benefit of oneself and others, without causing harm to anyone. Some people can apply it so that they are able to go beyond the world — for example the Lord Buddha and the arahants.

It's such a pity that although modern people receive a superior education, most of them consider just finishing their course work and securing a degree to be enough. It may not have even crossed the minds of some people that the text books that formed the basis of their course had originated in someone else's understanding — which contained more than they were able to read in their books. Their learning is not something original to their own understanding because true knowledge can only come through individual experience.

The Buddhist Teaching calls this 'paccatta.m'clearly seeing or knowing for oneself — and it arises from the strength of the cultivated mind that has attained to stillness and calm, bringing insight and self-transformation. This is a genuine change from one's old nature to the true condition that is in line with the Buddhist Noble Truths.

Anyone aiming for clear insight into the truth of Buddhism needs to combine learning with practice. One or another alone is not enough. In this time of advanced education, it becomes necessary for anyone propagating Buddhism to have trained themselves in both ways. Any deficiency in this, and the results will not be as good as might have been expected.

My further advice to Ven. Mahaa Samai was that he should propagate the whole package. By this, I mean that besides fully keeping the Patimokkha Rule — the small size of the group precluded study classes — the other duties and practices should be maintained. For instance, the dhutanga practices — these include the going out on alms round which should also help reduce kitchen expenditures.

The spreading of Buddhism needs study together with practice so that it can put down roots that will endure. Ven. Mahaa Samai and all the monks agreed with all my advice, and decided to carry out such a plan in the future.

I suggested to Ven. Mahaa Samai that there are three criticisms that are most common concerning the spreading of Buddhism in other countries:

1. The monks taking advantage of the lay community by not working but only begging for things.

2. Theravada Sect monks, unlike the other religions and sects, being 'selfish' and only concerned about themselves without helping others in need or distress.

3. Theravada monks who, though they forbid the killing of animals, still eat meat.

Anyone going out to spread Buddhism will be certain to encounter these criticisms so I advised Ven. Mahaa Samai to prepare suitable replies and explanations. He could then answer instantly any of these criticisms.

An even more dangerous hazard is that those who go to spread Buddhism are unfamiliar with the local ways and customs. This may cause offence during interactions with the local residents and can lead to discouragement and disillusionment, or it may cause one to forget oneself and be lured away to join in the fun of 'going native'.

Reflections Arising from Australia   

As we all know, the history of Australia describes how it had been a wild place with its peoples undeveloped... and how Britain had got rid of its convicts and gangsters by transporting them there... eventually the new people organized themselves and energetically developed agriculture and then supplied raw materials to the expanding industries of the world... until its present prosperity was established... Australia is endowed with many natural mineral resources and an enormous land area, although its population is only thirteen million... They don't just sit back enjoying their prosperity but try to develop it even further.

Let's turn to have a close look at this Thai City of Angels of ours. If we go into town, we cannot see a single 'angel' for its streets are crowded with loafers and layabouts. People haven't 'developed', nor do they know what that means. They mistakenly think that when something is finished there will be no need for any more work in the future. Children are delighted when they become teenagers. It's only when they become old that they realize it was just a stage on the way to old age.

Materials have to be removed and lost from somewhere in order for them to be brought to construct the well-planned and attractive city with its traffic system. It just shows how they take things from here to improve things over there. We come to growth because of food, and yet that involves destroying the lives of other animals and crops. Going along our way, we are only concerned with getting to our destination and have no thought that the base and origin from which we set forth is being left far behind, step following step. Don't just look ahead with your 'front-facing eyes' but also use wisdom to check behind. The truth that will free us from careless delusions and bring us to the Noble Truths of the Lord Buddha's Teachings can then be seen.

33.3 Visiting Indonesia   

From Australia we went back to Singapore and on the twenty-fourth of December 1976, continued on to Indonesia. All the people I knew seemed to be there — Ven. Chao Khun Suviirañaa.n', Ven. Phra Khru Dhammadhornsombat', Ven. Sudhammo, Ven. Aggapaalo and Ven. Khemiyo. They all had gathered to await me at Jakarta airport with members of the local Buddhist Society. I had the opportunity to visit other places besides Jakarta, for example Bandung, Jogjakarta, Mendut, Samarang, Surabaya and Bali.

I visited Buddhist Societies and the Buddhist monasteries that our Dhammaduuta monks coming from Thailand to spread Buddhism had established. Ven. Chao Khun Vidhoondhammaaporn' was the head of the organization that had built monasteries that included Wat Majjhimasaasanawong' that adjoined the Mendut Chedi, Wat Dhammapadiipaaraam' in Badoo, Malang and Surabaya. I viewed each site with delight and noted that the local Buddhists, women and men, young and old, would without fail come every evening to chant their devotions. Afterwards there would be a sermon from a monk who would then lead them in meditation.

Some Views of Mine   

Going around Indonesia I saw venerable sites and objects that had the features of a syncretic religion. I couldn't help but feel saddened by this and reflect on the situation in Thailand. Who can deny the great value of memorials and venerable sites — one only has to look at Indonesia. All the monks and scriptures have disappeared, we cannot even say when it happened, but anyhow their sacred sites remain for the minority Buddhists.

My thoughts went back to Thailand with its immense wealth of religious objects and sacred Buddhist sites, more numerous even than in Indonesia. However many immense and amazing monuments Indonesia may have, they can't compare with the beauty of our Shrines and Uposatha Halls. Nowhere else in the world are there such inspiring and worthy sites. I am absolutely convinced that if only the Thai people were to study and come to a true understanding of Buddhism, their correct practice would make it impossible for other sects and ideologies to overwhelm and obliterate Buddhism from Thailand.

Ven. Chao Khun Suviirañaa.n', Ven. Phra Khru Dhammadhornsombat' and Ven. Sudhammo were our guides throughout our tour of Indonesia and they looked after us very well. Although Ven. Chao Khun Vidhoondhammaaporn' was away in Bangkok, it became obvious to me how greatly they respected him there, for even small children knew of him when his name was mentioned. This gives me trust in his devotion the sacrifices he's made for the Buddhist Teachings which make him an important asset for Somdet Phra Ñaa.nasangworn, the present Supreme Patriarch of Thailand.

Many centuries have passed since the first Thai delegation of monks went to spread Buddhism overseas. This present endeavor in Indonesia seems to me to be the most effective and fruitful since Ven. Chao Khun Phra Upali of the Ayutthaya[213] period led a group of fifteen monks to help re-establish Buddhism in Sri Lanka... It is a shame that there are so few capable monks for they are a great boon to Buddhism and to the international community, for nowadays they are much in demand. "When the giver has something in demand, shouldn't he give it to those in need?" Or is it that the Thai Sangha that numbers tens of thousands of monks is so impoverished that it doesn't have anything to offer them!

At this time, some of the people of Indonesia are finding inspiration again in Buddhism and... totally dedicating themselves to it... even when the monks had been unable to visit, they had formed themselves into Buddhist Societies, and they were all certain that the Buddhist revival would continue into the future... in accordance with a five-hundred-year-old legend.

May all revered and worthy monks spread their loving-kindness towards Indonesia, to reverence the Buddhist religion and recollect the great compassion of the Lord Buddha.

33.4 Feelings about Going Overseas   

After traveling around these various countries — Australia, Indonesia and going through Singapore three times — we arrived back in Bangkok on the 24th of January 1977. We had been away for a little over two months. Although this may seem a short period, I certainly found it to be much more valuable than I had expected.

Quite a few people in Singapore and Australia had shown a genuine interest in studying Dhamma. This was most evident in Indonesia where their enthusiasm and earnestness had grown even more following the teaching I had been able to give. After going and witnessing this for myself, I had to feel sympathetic towards them. Though they have few teachers, they manage for the most part to continue with the practice.

I have written about these teachings in Dhamma Questions and Answers from Abroad, while a more detailed description of our journey is found in An Account of Traveling Abroad. Anyone interested can read about it in these publications.[214]

The durian fruit[215] is thick skinned and has sharp prickles to protect its inner flesh. Whoever wants to eat it must carefully turn it around to find the seam between the segments and split it open along that line. You have probably partaken of this choice fruit and know its delicious flavor. What is there in this world that is impeccably good and right in its every aspect? The art of knowing how to get at the good part of the durian fruit is similar to wise people who know how to train themselves and practice so as to develop flawless virtue.

Among human beings of every gender, age group, race or tongue — and this extends to the animal kingdom — you probably won't find even one who doesn't admit to desiring their own happiness while abhorring suffering. It is because of these two conditions that all the sentient beings of the world struggle to find a way out of their loathed suffering and attain to the state of happiness that they desire.

This struggle sometimes becomes apparent in the striving for development and progress. Although this development may seem to be a logical advance, with proper inspection, one will find that it is a very one-sided progress. The other side being a fall into degeneration and retrogression. The experience of suffering is of enormous value on the road to progress and development — (it gives the impetus to increasing cleverness so that one can survive). Yet at the same time, and in manifold ways, one brings more turmoil and distress into the world.

I had never gone abroad before, except when I had gone for morning alms round by boat, paddling across the River Mekong to the Laotian city of Vientiane, and then returning to my monastery. Yet here I was, with one foot in the grave, going away with people on an overseas's trip. I can't say that I saw anything worth getting excited about, other than seeing how the people and animals live in each country. Conditions were basically identical to what I already knew in Thailand and Laos, except the minor differences arising from local preferences.

All countries are in agreement on the one essential issue — an abhorrence of suffering and the struggle to overcome it. Thus the situation is that neither we nor any other creature wish to suffer, yet we are born encircled by these two conditions. We therefore need to reflect on how we should proceed with our lives regarding the three things that I will explain below. Each of us must live in a right, moral, Dhamma way. The results of misunderstanding this and going astray will not just entail failure to achieve happiness for oneself and others, but will also multiply the suffering and turmoil for both oneself and others.

Whether they are influential, intelligent and knowledgeable, whether they are wealthy or poor, they all come up with the same excuses when talking about the virtues of Dhamma and its moral restraint. "I did it because of social pressure. It was what they expected of me." Recognize the fact that society is corrupt, and start to question your own role in it — why shouldn't each of us be able to help in correcting things? Why shouldn't we be able to counter the bad influences and develop a good and beneficial society?

Family. Society. Livelihood. These three things will advance smoothly in an orderly peaceful way if their development accords with the Dhamma principles for lay people (the Gihipa.tipatti),[216] as set down by the Lord Buddha. A lack of harmonization will cause one's way of life to become worthless and it will only bring conflict. It is Dhamma with virtue that guides the world to happiness. The development of any nation, ideology or system — whether it is of material or administrative progress — that is deficient in such Dhamma virtue won't bring complete happiness to the heart. Dhamma requires that each person withdraws from bad conduct and becomes fearful about initiating corrupt behavior together. This is the true and supreme progress for the family, for society, for the advancement of the standard of living and for the nation as a whole.

My journey was facilitated in every way by the management — especially Air Force Lt. General Choo and Khun Supharp Sutthichot' — and staff of Thai International Airways... They helped arrange my passport and visas, and all along the way gave me exceptional assistance... I must give a special mention to Khun Sutthiphon Kansut and his wife (Khun Dtik) who arranged so much for us in Jakarta, with air tickets and accompanying me safely to Singapore and later Indonesia. So my special thanks to everyone who helped our party...

Approximately two months after our return, the lay people in Singapore invited me to go back to see whether there was a suitable site to build a monastery, as a center for teaching meditation. I went, but although we looked at about ten different sites, none of them seemed suitable. In one way this was a good thing, for if we had indeed built a monastery, the taking care of it would have become an extra burden for me.

34. Fifty-fifth and Fifty-sixth Rains Retreat, 1977-1978    This Conditioned Body is the Va.tacakra

The bodily aggregate is the endlessly turning wheel of birth and death.[217] The heart of one without training must also spin with it, while anyone who has practiced will grow tired and weary of the whole affair. My body had been like this when, in 1964, I had left our group in Phuket. Even when I was sitting quietly, my voice had become so dried out and hoarse that I could no longer speak.

It happened again when some newly ordained monks — (medical students[218] from Siriraj Hospital) — came to train under me. Straight after they had left, my old symptoms returned and I came down with various minor complaints. My voice was left hoarse and weak, and it has never been the same since. Dr. Rote invited me to go to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok for a general medical examination. The tests there found no particular disease except the illness of old age — this is the nature of the cycle of birth and death. This is what befalls all bodily and mental phenomena and only the circumstances will differ.

35. Fifty-seventh Rains Retreat up to the Present, 1979-1991    Twenty-seven Years at Wat Hin Mark Peng

Thinking back over those twenty-seven years that I have been in Wat Hin Mark Peng — what a long time it seems! If one were a lay person that would be more than enough time to establish a comfortable position and standard of living. Being an elderly monk, I take care of the monastery, which is the normal role for old monks everywhere. I can no longer get around as I once could, and even if I were able to go, there is no forest left for tudong wandering like in the old days. They have cut it all down.

The number of devotees[219] also seems to be multiplying daily and wherever I go, more 'children' appear — born from the word rather than the womb. They have trailed after me ever since 1978, when Air Force General Harin Hongsakun invited me to go into the solitude of Orb Luang, Jormtong District of Chiang Mai Province. A crowd of people trailed after me, and instead of being able to cut down on food and bodily comforts, and get down to meditation — the opposite occurred. They provided a banquet, with cushions and a luxurious bed on which to sleep.

When the Four Requisites of clothing, food, shelter and medicine become extravagant and overabundant, they can become an obstacle to the development of the beginner's meditation. A very wealthy and affluent monastery will tend towards dissension and disharmony, and its Dhamma study will not progress as it should. It is the same with the everyday world where an excess of wealth and affluence can become a threat to the whole community. The leaders and officials become corrupt and swindle the public and government, plundering the country and dividing the spoils. Contention arises among them when their vested interests don't agree. Any influential merchant or citizen who gets in their way is killed and so countless deaths occur. This is why the Lord Buddha said:

"Sakkaaro kaapurisa.m hanti" — "Power and influence destroy men of inferior wisdom."

The longer one stays in the same place, the more roots are put down. Lay devotees come to the monastery and notice features that aren't quite perfect or beautiful enough, which inspires them to build more permanent replacement structures that are more attractively designed.

These beautiful buildings then need looking after, for not to do so would be an offence against the monks' Discipline. Need one ask who the caretaker is? It's this old monk of course. Teaching and training all the monks and novices who come here how to sit, to lie down, to eat, to go on alms round and all the various duties and obligations, including study requirements — this all falls on the shoulders of this old monk. They give one the title of senior incumbent and that seems quite fitting as one is truly encumbered. This though is unavoidable and one has to do one's best with the situation until the end of one's life.

The Virtue and Merit of Buddhism   

I called to mind my teachers and the great masters of the past, the Lord Buddha being the prime example and how they led and guided the Teaching. The thought arose that I too had managed, step by step, to help guide this development along. My birth as a human being had not been wasted. Furthermore, I had ordained as a Buddhist monk and had fulfilled my obligations.

Whenever people paid respect or made offerings to me, I always thought: 'What are they venerating? They and I are identical — in that we are all conglomerations of the elements of earth, water, fire and air. They must at least be honoring the saffron robe which is the emblem and banner of the arahants. Such faith sustains the religion, and although conviction from within may be half-hearted, they have trust in what has been passed down to them'.

I am fully aware of the immense virtue and value of Buddhism. Since my going forth and ordination, it has supported and nurtured me towards becoming a good and virtuous person. The Teaching has never led me to commit the slightest immoral deed.

Yet even so, we are always resisting and being recalcitrant towards it and continuing our evil ways. Our dwelling and sleeping places, our sleeping mat, pillow, and mosquito net, the food we eat — everything we daily pick up and use here, the whole lot belongs to the Buddha's Teaching. The medicines to treat any illness we might develop, belong to the faithful Buddhist devotees who selflessly donate them.

When we first ordain as monks we are completely dependent on the saffron robe, the emblem of the Noble Ones, which our Preceptor and Teachers bestow on us. (One's Preceptor and Teachers are simply the representatives of the Buddhist Teachings because they have all, without exception, taken refuge in the Triple Gem.) When one has received this matchless apparel, the people bow their respects and support one with floods of offerings. I have been able to survive to the present day because of this Teaching. Buddhism has brought infinite and untold virtue and blessings to me personally, and to all of us in the world.

Coming to live here, wherever I have been before, I have always done whatever I could, provided my health was up to it, to build a basis of solid durable constructions for Buddhism. Now that I am old and don't have enough strength for building projects, lay devotees become inspired to sponsor the constructions that will stand in for me in the future. We have shared any resources that are left over out among other monasteries.

Yet I will never become a slave to bricks, concrete and wood because I know that such materials are just external things. Despite their beauty and stylish design, no matter how many millions they cost, if we behave immorally they all become hollow and completely meaningless.

The true core or heart of Buddhism does not lie in material things, but in individual actions. This has been my guiding principle. The going forth in ordination has been termed nekkhamma or renunciation because it is the giving up of all forms of sensuality. Having resolved to train oneself — following the Noble Truth of the Lord Buddha's Teaching — to escape from all suffering, one should not then bury oneself under a pile of bricks and mortar.

... These sorts of building projects[220] tend to be the source of great complications and difficulties and they mainly fail through lack of adequate resources — especially lack of moral virtue. Success makes one feel happy and warm inside, whereas failure brings the tearing of hair and agitation. I never allowed such feelings about my projects, and remained quite impartial and unconcerned about whether or not they would succeed.

I think of every project as just a part of the duties of the religion. The resources all come from the devotees for I myself have no wealth. When the work is completed, it benefits Buddhism and brings much merit to the lay devotees. There should be no need to solicit contributions for that only brings annoyance so that people become fatigued with the whole business. I was able to complete all the projects because of donations that came in from all directions, including overseas contributions. Any offerings — such as Ka.thina and Sangha-daana — towards Wat Hin Mark Peng were kept specifically for that purpose,... while any contributions given to me and intended for my personal use — from one baht to ten, a hundred... to even millions — I have channelled all into the various community projects that I have already mentioned. Funds for this never seem to have dried up, and there remains a strong interest in aiding my projects... I myself don't seem to have retrogressed because of this and everything has gone smoothly. Saadhu! Saadhu! Saadhu! [It is well!] Past merit seems to have enabled me to be successful in this.

I have never gone out looking for even a penny, but funds have rolled in from all directions. I've become something like a 'central reserve bank' for those Buddhists who want their funds directed to what will be most beneficial for Buddhism... Administrating these funds can be difficult because of the lack of records... But somehow I have smoothly managed them... by allowing sufficient to accumulate in a project-fund — for Sala, Uposatha Hall etc. — to complete the work then totally clearing its account.

Any monk engaging in such management needs to be absolutely sure of his ability and his incorruptibility, otherwise he should not involve himself. If one goes against this principle, it will damage the Buddhism that one respects so much, and will also lead to one's own downfall. There are examples of this everywhere. This 'Capital M'[-oney] can be quite deadly and has already destroyed many people.

Aiming solely for the benefit of Buddhism and the common good, without taking selfish advantage will be of great fruit, whereas undertaking anything for selfish motives will bring unfortunate results. It will be very damaging if one tries to get something for oneself while pursuing Buddhist projects. This is even more so for some 'monks'. After involving themselves in building works, such projects seem to take them over, and their inner spiritual work and discipline are all abandoned. They build outwardly but fail to build their inner selves, and this leads to great decline.

36. Summary   

It is now about sixty years since I first saw the forest here and it was 1964 when I actually came to live here. I have steadily developed it since that time and you can see the results with your own eyes. The important point being that this all arose through the faith and energy of my disciples, both monks and lay people, who contributed whatever they could — whether labor or money. There are more of them than I can ever hope to mention.

The Supreme Patriarch of Thailand (the late Somdet Phra Vaasana Mahaathera) graciously came to officiate at the ceremonial opening of the Mondop.[221] He was very pleased and officially declared Wat Hin Mark Peng to be a 'Model Monastery' in the development field, and gave me official recognition of this on the twenty-sixth of May 1982. This marks quite an honor for the monastery.

I really hope that Wat Hin Mark Peng may continue to be a place for monks to practice for the long-lasting benefit of Buddhism. Therefore may all of you who have helped in the support of Wat Hin Mark Peng be happy, long prosper and be firmly established in the noble Buddhist Teaching.

I have been a monk now for sixty-eight years and I have tried to practice only for the benefit of myself and others, starting with myself and then carrying this further for the good of others. By this I mean that I could go on tudong with great meditation teachers, starting with my very first year as a monk. I was determined to practice following the instruction of my Teachers, and as I had no other responsibilities to occupy me I could apply myself fully to the task.

In later years, I was able to be away from them and therefore had to accept many responsibilities. A group of monks started following me and I had regularly to instruct the lay people. In those days because there were so few forest meditation monks, when lay people saw anyone with a following of monks they would immediately consider him an 'Ajahn' or Teacher and would trail after him. Even when it was like that I never slackened with my meditation efforts, and even saw it as a stimulus to practice even harder. This then became of benefit, both to myself and others.

To be truly of benefit to others requires that one first be of benefit to oneself. One is then able to share what one has with other people. If no one shows interest in receiving it, one hasn't lost anything. This has been part of my practice ever since I was ordained.

On HM the King's birthday on the fifth of December 1990, I received by his order the ecclesiastical title of Ven. Phra Rajanirodharangsee Gambhiirapaññaavisit' Yatiga.nsasorn Bowornsanghaaraam Araññavaasee. I have already described my feelings about such ecclesiastical titles,[222]... and I haven't changed my mind,... but they explained to me that this was the way the king of Thailand always showed his appreciation for the work and responsibilities of senior monks,... and when they increased their good works so their title would be elevated. I am just a forest monk and I can only reflect on the gracious favor and offer my blessing — Anumodanaa! — to HM the King.

36.1 The Blessings and Beneficence of Parents   

We believe that having been born together in this world we all owe each other mutual benefit and welfare. Children are indebted to their parents and parents have new obligations towards their children. Each remembers their debt to the other without any thought of calling it in. The recalling to oneself of one's parental debt will, however, enable one to repay it, according to one's perception of it — for some this will be great, for others small. One got into this form of debt by one's own actions without coercion from anyone else, and so no one else can take it over.

People acknowledge their parental debt in innumerable ways. They recall that from their first until their last day, they had been and always would be cared for with love and devotion in every way. For instance, they had to rely on mother and father in learning how to sit up, to lie down, to stand up, to walk and to talk — for everything. When their parents became angry with them and smacked or caned them, the parents had also held back somewhat, remembering that "this is my child". Sometimes they couldn't bring themselves to do it.

There is a natural instinct in all beings for parents to love their offspring, and this includes even the animals. They love without thinking or knowing why, or what they can gain from it, and the children respond in the same way. The bonding between animals however is short-lived and only occurs while the offspring are still small, for with maturity it is all lost. Human love and affection knows no end. It endures until death and even beyond. The person who doesn't acknowledge the goodness and beneficence of his parents, and who doesn't repay their kindness is base and worse than an animal.

I'm going to boast a bit here: I was born their son, but my ordination while still young prevented me from providing my parents with the material support that everyone usually gives. However my life as a monk allowed me to sustain and nourish their heart's aspirations and good will, and that was what they appreciated beyond all else. They could constantly call to mind that: "our own son is a monk!". No matter how near or far away — even a thousand kilometres distant — they could still be happy and content because their aspirations had been fulfilled.

When both my parents became older, I returned to teach and fortify their faith until both decided to ordain and wear white robes. (Of course they already had faith. I was able to encourage and reinforce it so that they felt confident enough to ordain.) Their meditation brought them many remarkable experiences that strengthened their faith even more. I taught them about the path to happiness (Sugati) and both would attentively listen to me as pupils listen to their teacher. They received all the teaching with open hearts, not worrying that a 'child should be teaching his parents'.

My father was a white robed chee pa-kao for eleven years before his passing away, at the age of seventy-seven. My mother was a white-robed nun for seventeen years, and died after my father when she was eighty-two. I taught them right up to their final moments, offering all the advice I possible could, and I really feel that I was able completely to repay my debt to them. I had no other outstanding debts. I organized funeral ceremonies suitable to their position and in accordance with my being a monk.

Being ordained as a Buddhist monk for so long has allowed me to see the changing condition of this aging body with the transformations in the external world. I've seen so many things, both good and bad, and it has greatly expanded my wisdom and knowledge. I don't feel that I have wasted being born into the world with them. I consider that I have been indebted to this world for I have taken its elements of earth, water, fire and air to form a body. In maintaining it I have had to absorb and use the things of the world, for absolutely nothing of it belongs to me. After death everything must be left behind in this world.

Some people never consider such issues and by that fall into unyieldingly grasping hold of things — 'everything is mine!'. Husband, wife, children and grandchildren, household possessions — 'they are all mine'. To the end, even when those things disappear or are broken, they still retain their hold on them as 'mine'.

36.2 Activity that should not to be Performed    Kamma that should not to be Made

There is activity that we should not perform, yet having been born it has to be undertaken. We have been born with this self that is called 'conditioned'[223] and so, as a matter of course, we must grow old, become ill and die. Not a single person wants it to be like that — becoming old and decrepit until one can no longer go anywhere. No one wants to die, not to see their children and grandchildren's faces again. After death those that remain, even if they are the children of the deceased, will not keep the corpse at home for more than fifteen days, and most people will take it away for cremation. There it is, the 'activity that we should not undertake'. One respects them so highly and then throws them on the fire — yet this has become a necessary action. No one is going to keep the corpse at home.

The kamma[224] that should not be made occurs after someone's death. It doesn't matter who it is, one's father, mother, brothers, sisters or other relatives including one's respected Teachers, there have to be funeral rites. This requires a lot more labor and material things than at the time of birth, which succeeded with just the two — mother and father.

Funeral rites entail the feeding and receiving of guests, lay people and monks, and the finding of offerings for the monks. For those left behind who are not so well off this is no small burden. When they don't have enough, they have to borrow from relatives and friends, and so go further into debt. This sort of debt has absolutely no advantage and brings only loss. Still, anyone who is practicing generosity will treat it as a meritorious deed, which is a sort of profit for oneself. However one takes it, it is still 'something that we should not undertake' and yet, when those still living are confronted with this situation they feel obligated.

36.3 Coming to Birth — Dying   

Coming to birth and dying are not the same for human beings of this world. In being born there is a sequence dependent on the parents. Whoever is born before is called 'elder', and whoever comes after is 'younger'. Dying is not like that. Whether one dies first or later depends on the results of one's kamma, each according to his or her own. Sometimes the younger dies before the elder or vice versa. After death one doesn't necessarily have to go on to be reborn as siblings, for again this depends on the results of kamma. One who has committed evil may be born as a preta or fall into deepest hell, into avicii.[225] Those who have purified their heart and transcended the mass of suffering will attain even to Nibbana. It all depends.

I think that I have completely repaid my debt to my parents who have passed away... I was their youngest son and I've accomplished whatever duties were appropriate for a monk towards them both. Both probably thought the same about this, and wouldn't have wanted to call in any debt of mine, because it had all worked out as they wished.

Ajahn Kumdee Ree-o rahng, my eldest brother, loved me very dearly, and I was sorry that he died when I was away spending the Rains Retreat in Chantaburi Province. I was unable to arrange his funeral in a way commensurate with his love for me. When my other elder brothers and sisters were still alive, I was able to teach them about virtue and Dhamma, each according to their temperament and potential, so that when they were about to die, they had some refuge in the heart. They hadn't wasted their life, for on meeting the Lord Buddha's Teachings they had practiced as much as they could, according to their ability.

Mrs. Ahn Prahp-phahn, my eldest sister and the second child, passed away in 1974 at the age of eighty-eight.

Mrs. Naen Chiang-tong, my elder sister and the third child, passed away in 1978 at the age of ninety.

Mr. Plian Ree-o rahng, my elder brother and the fourth child, passed away in 1972 at the age of eighty.

Mrs. Noo-an Glah Kaeng, my elder sister and the fifth child, passed away in 1973 at the age of seventy-nine.

Ven. Phra Gate, my elder brother and the sixth child, passed away in 1946 at the age of forty-eight with fourteen years as a monk.

Mrs. Thoop Dee-man, my younger sister, passed away on the sixteenth of May 1990 at the age of eight-six.

I made sure that all my brothers and sisters received the complete and proper funeral that they would have expected.[226] This was especially so with the youngest, Mrs. Thoop Dee-man, who in the last part of her life came to receive training with me as a white-robed nun at Wat Hin Mark Peng.

She seems to have secured good results from her meditation practice that stood her in good stead when she became very ill, in the final part of her life. Her children came and took her away for hospital treatment in Sakhon Nakorn Province. They told me that her mindfulness was good and she was aware right up to the final moments. She had described what she was feeling to her children and grandchildren who were caring for her: that her feet were becoming cold, that the coldness had reached her calves, her knees and her chest. She mindfully concentrated on her chest and her breathing became fainter and fainter and finally everything became still.

Now I have to depend on myself, for all my relatives and Meditation Masters are no longer available. I will continue to do good until no life remains because after death no one else can do either good or evil for us.

This autobiography has now reached my eighty-ninth year and I think I will finish with this much.

Translator's Epilogue[227]   

In November 1992, Venerable Ajahn Thate again fell ill with a lung infection. Complications set in with symptoms of heart disease and prostrate problems, and while treatment helped his health was never as strong as before.

As described previously,[228] Venerable Ajahn Thate had always found Wat Tam Khahm to be an especially good place for both his Dhamma practice and his health. So in March 1993, he moved from Wat Hin Mark Peng to take up residence at Wat Tam Khahm, in the mountains of Sakhon Nakorn Province. Ven. Ajahn Kiem Sorayo was the abbot there and was very happy to welcome his venerable guest.

Venerable Ajahn Thate's health then gradually improved and he amazed everyone with his renewed vigour and appetite. At his ninety-second birthday celebrations, he praised the local people of Sakhon Nakorn as the most supportive and caring of all. He told them that he was sorry not to have come to stay there when he was younger, when he could have taught them more.

However, during May of 1994, Venerable Ajahn Thate's condition again changed for the worse with a deterioration in his strength and appetite. A medical professor and his team came and discovered a gall bladder obstruction — from gall bladder stones or perhaps from a growth. Despite Venerable Ajahn Thate's advanced age of ninety-two, they tried their utmost to nurse him back to health so that he could continue his teaching for another couple of years.

A few days before the start of the Rains Retreat, Venerable Ajahn Thate spoke privately about his personal affairs. He charged that if he should die his body should first be kept at Wat Tam Khahm but that the cremation should take place at Wat Hin Mark Peng.[229] When his disciple took this opportunity to ask how long his body should be kept, Venerable Ajahn Thate replied that that should come from the general agreement of everyone involved.

Although Venerable Ajahn Thate was obviously frail and in pain during most of the Rains Retreat of 1994, he never complained or displayed any upset. He was a shining example of the good Dhamma practitioner to those monks who were taking care of him.

On the morning of Saturday, 17 December 1994, after some liquidized food and his medicine, Ven. Ajahn Thate was, as usual, taken around in his wheelchair for some 'mobile meditation'. (With his infirmity, this had come to replace his normal walking meditation). After thirty minutes he said he was tired and went back to bed. His body seemed somewhat restless so his disciples played a tape of one of his own Dhamma talks on meditation. He confirmed to the monks that, 'it was certainly necessary to set (the mind) in neutrality'. Later in the day, after another 'wheel-around' he agreed that he was tired and so was helped into bed. This was at nine o'clock in the evening.

The attendant monk respectfully suggested to the Venerable Ajahn that he should fix his attention on going to sleep so that he could wake up rested and strong. He nodded in agreement and almost immediately became still. His attendant noticed how easily he had gone to sleep and knowing that he usually slept on his right side[230] the attendant called on another monk to help turn him to that side, thinking that he could rest longer in that position.

The monks massaged Venerable Ajahn Thate's hands as he slept and noticed that he was very still without any movement at all — abnormally so. (Some saliva was dribbling from his mouth but the monks thought that was because he had drunk so much herbal medicine.) The peaceful look on his face meant that the monks attending did not have an inkling that the Venerable Ajahn Thate had in fact already passed away.

Venerable Ajahn Thate's Funeral   

An ending of such great dignity and peace perfectly completes a life lived that way. His life had touched many, many, people and this became manifest in the funeral and cremation rites. When news spread about his passing, local monks and villagers immediately started coming to pay their last respects. It was announced that HM the King of Thailand would officially sponsor the funeral rites.

As Venerable Ajahn Thate had previously ordered, his body was first kept at Wat Tam Khahm and then moved to Wat Hin Mark Peng. This is a bigger monastery and so much more appropriate for dealing with the funeral arrangements for the cremation was obviously to be a national event.

The cremation of Venerable Ajahn Thate took place on 8 January, 1996. People from all over Thailand — led by HM the King and the royal family — came to pay their final respects. Each region where the Venerable Ajahn had stayed seemed to be represented — even from overseas — so it was as if even in death he was still able to bring people together. It is estimated that there were ten thousand monks present and many hundreds of thousands of lay people. (The temporary car park was filled with up to thirty thousand vehicles, including many small and large buses from all parts of Thailand.) Yet even with such numbers, it was arranged in a fitting and appropriate way and all accomplished through volunteer help and finance. (There were free food stalls and refreshments, showing the spirit of generosity that is so vital a part of the Lord Buddha's Teaching. Also half a million memorial books of Venerable Ajahn Thate's teachings were distributed to those present.)

The good weather allowed the arrangements to proceed smoothly. HM the King honored Venerable Ajahn Thate with royal sponsored funeral rites and the full panoply of ancient custom and ritual. When all was ready, HM the King flew in by helicopter officially to lead the making of offerings and light the cremation fire. The monks followed this, filing past the coffin, then the dignitaries with all the ordinary people who had supported Venerable Ajahn Thate for more than seventy years as a monk.

The actual cremation took place later that night with a full moon shining down on the crematorium, lake and fountain, specially built for the occasion. (The crematorium is an imposing structure with traditional Thai tiered-roofs.) These remain as a landmark and memorial to Venerable Ajahn Thate when devotees come to practice Dhamma and remember his example.

The next morning, when the fire was cooled, the bones and ashes of Venerable Ajahn Thate were reverently removed and safeguarded as relics.

Thus ends the biography of Venerable Ajahn Thate. It started in a remote village at the beginning of the century and closed more than ninety years later surrounded by hundreds of thousands of disciples, including the King of Thailand. Along the Way, Venerable Ajahn Thate had continually taught and that continues in the practice he inspired and the books and taped talks he left behind — including this book.


Appendix A    Siila: Precepts[231]

Anyone — of any religion or none — can appreciate the basic Buddhist guidelines for action and speech. There is no dogma hidden among these precepts for it is a plain and simple way of living without harming or hurting any creature. The other feature to bear in mind is that it is something that the individual accepts voluntarily. No one commands one to receive them. It is the individual's volition that changes a list of precepts into a way of living. The appreciation and mindfulness of one's actions and speech then become more subtle, which automatically leads on to meditation.

There are the basic Five Precepts and these become more refined with the Eight Precepts.

These Precepts can be received by simply saying:

"I undertake the training rule/precept... "

  • 1) "to abstain from taking life.
  • 2) to abstain from taking what is not given.
  • 3) to abstain from sexual misconduct.
  • 4) to abstain from false speech.
  • 5) to abstain from intoxicants causing heedlessness."


  • 1) "to abstain from taking life.
  • 2) to abstain from taking what is not given.
  • 3) to abstain from unchastity.
  • 4) to abstain from false speech.
  • 5) to abstain from intoxicants causing heedlessness.
  • 6) to abstain from untimely eating.
  • 7) to abstain from dancing, singing, music and unseemly shows, from wearing garlands, smartening with scents, and embellishment with unguents.
  • 8) to abstain from the use of high and large luxurious couches."

Appendix B    The Dhamm' Characters as Written by Venerable Ajahn Fan Aacaaro[232]

"... In 1982 the compiler brought a copy of her book, Aajaaraa-phiwaht, (???) to show Venerable Ajahn Thate. It was the commemorative book for the royal opening of the chedi and museum of the late Ven. Ajahn Fan Aacaaro. On leafing through the book, he came across a sample of Ven. Ajahn Fan's handwriting using the dhamm' characters and asked whether the compiler of the book could understand them. When she admitted her ignorance, Venerable Ajahn Thate smiled and remarked that it was a shame that such knowledge was disappearing so fast, and that future generations would be completely ignorant of it... Just a few days later, Venerable Ajahn Thate kindly gave her the translation beautifully typed out. The original dhamm' characters and his translation appear below, together with his explanation:..."

{image omitted from this edition — JB}

'Wise people are those that are able to prevent the arising of evil in their personality. There is a simile about a person planting a tree, a mango tree for example. The person steadily tends and cares for it, stopping any growth of parasitical creepers or pests because he is afraid that otherwise the tree will not flourish, and won't be fruitful. This is similar to the body of the wise person. It is natural for such a person to guard against wrong actions of body, speech and mind, so that they don't become the source for sadness and depression. Thus the Sakavati-Ajahn Teacher inquires into the first part of the Maatikaa which is "kusala dhamma...". He translates correctly and adds more similes so that I come to understand.'

"I wrote down the Thai translation of this text so that my readers can compare and understand its meaning. This Dhamm' alphabet is fast becoming extinct because nobody studies it anymore. Except, that is, for those who were ordained sixty years ago and learned it then. The Thai alphabet was then not so widespread and the monks had to learn the Dhamm' characters. We learned from actually reading the palm leaf manuscripts rather than just learning the vowels and consonants.

The subject matter was always about the Buddha's Teachings. For instance, about generosity, morality and meditation; about the heavenly fruits of good deeds and the dreadful results in hell of bad deeds. After studying one or two manuscripts one could read them all.

In former days, in the time of Wiang-jan (Vientiane), the people still flourished and prospered with the Lord Buddha's Teachings. They studied using three alphabets: Dhamm', Korm, and 'Small Thai' (???).

They called them Dhamm' characters because they were only used for Dhamma, the Teachings of the Lord Buddha. An exception being those monks who disrobed after many years and used their knowledge to gain a living in astrology or herbal medicine. Otherwise, these characters were used to write down magic formula and spells. People then really held the Dhamm' characters to be sacred and supernaturally powerful. They considered them the very teaching of the Lord Buddha and it's true as they thought...

We only studied the Korm characters enough to know what they were about but did not write in them. If they were used in writing, again it was only for the Buddha's Teachings, the same as the Dhamm'. The Lesser ??? Thai script could be used for anything and is still used to this day in Vientiane, for that's where it originated but it has evolved a great deal since then..."

Appendix C    The Buddhist Order of Monks in Thailand

The Buddhist Order of monks (bhikkhus) has an unbroken lineage of twenty-five centuries. In this world of growth and decay there is often need for reform as standards decline. Such reform historically has happened either through the king inviting knowledgeable monks to come and teach the ignorant monks, or by an internal process.

In the chaos that followed the destruction of the old Thai capital of Ayutthaya, the general standard of the monk's understanding and conduct declined. When Crown Prince Monkut (later to become King Rama IV) became a monk and learned the Pali language, he found that there were great differences between what the texts described and what was actually practiced. A group of monks gathered around him intent on trying to follow more strictly the vinaya Discipline. When his son, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), ascended to the throne, he formally acknowledged this reform group as the Dhammayut' (or Dhammayuttika) Nikaya. As this reform movement spread in influence, it acted as a catalyst for general reform. So that the majority grouping — the Mahaa-Nikaya — reformed itself and the whole Community of monks became revitalized.

This book spans the time when this reform movement was spreading, and shows how it also affected the tudong monks out in the forests.

Appendix D    More Building Projects

Details of building projects abbreviated in the main text (Section 30) are detailed here:

35.1 The Uposatha Hall of Wat Hin Mark Peng

Around 1966, Mr. Gong Pewsiri from Koke Soo-ak Village... made a large Buddha-ruupa on the rocks facing the River Mekong... using the local rock... and organized it all himself for about one thousand baht. It was more than five metres high... but wasn't particularly beautiful because the workers were just ordinary local artisans rather than expert craftsmen... several attempts at remodelling transformed that into what we have today... After it was finished we built a pavilion around it...

On the twenty-sixth of March, 1970, the monastery received a royal proclamation establishing its boundaries (visu.mgaama-siimaa). Seeing that Wat Hin Mark Peng had now been properly established according to the law,[233] I decided it was the right time to build an Uposatha Hall. Formal meetings of the monks could then convene according to the Discipline and that would be for the future growth of the Buddhist Teaching. The site of the large Buddha-ruupa seemed ideal, for if we were to build the Uposatha Hall around it we would have both a main Shrine Hall, and the main presiding Buddha-ruupa.

The foundation stone-laying ceremony took place on the twelfth of April 1972, with Somdet Phra Maha Virawong (Pim Dhammdharo) of Wat Sri Mahaa Dhaatu in Bangkaen, Bangkok heading the monks and Air force Lt. General Choo Suddhichot' leading the lay devotees.

They constructed this Uposatha Hall with tiered double roofs,[234] which are seven metres wide and twenty-one metres long, while the ceiling is nine metres above the floor... in all it cost about seven hundred thousand baht. The consecration ceremony... took place between the fifth and seventh of April 1973.

In 1986 the baked clay tile roof was replaced and it was redecorated inside and out... which cost more than four hundred and fifty thousand baht.

35.2 Wat Hin Mark Peng's Mondop

In 1972 I thought that this spot on the bank of the River Mekong would be an ideal site for building a mondop. It would be an artistic landmark for the Mekong River basin and have a Buddha-ruupa and Buddha relics. I also thought to myself that it could be a place to keep my bones... and then other people would not have to trouble themselves about finding a place.

... In 1977 things started to happen with plans being drawn and the Fine Arts Department inspecting and improving the artistic design... it has three stories and is thirty-six metres high, with each floor being thirteen metres square... and the total cost was finally about five million baht.

35.3 The Desarangsee Hall

... The original sala at Wat Hin Mark Peng was all wooden with some woven split bamboo sides and a tin roof... this was replaced by the Sala Desapradit' that was also made of wood... because of the number of visitors this gradually became too dilapidated and overcrowded so... a new two-storied concrete sala was built, twenty-three metres wide by forty-four metres long... and cost more than seven and a half million baht. They named it the Sala Desarangsee B.E. 2529...

35.4 Mural Wall Painting

... Paintings were commissioned in September 1987... On the central wall they portray scenes from the Lord Buddha's life... the right-hand wall depicts aspects of Wat Hin Mark Peng... the left-hand wall portrays Northeast regional customs and traditions... They took twelve months to paint at a cost of six hundred and fifty thousand baht....

35.5 The Bell Tower

... A bell that cost sixty thousand baht was cast and hung in a tower which cost three hundred and fifty thousand baht....

35.6 Wat Hin Mark Peng's Library


35.7 The Drum Tower


35.8 Dwelling Places for the Monks

... Huts have been repaired and completely rebuilt... large or small according to the circumstances... usually in the Thai Style... until there are now fifty-six huts or kutis for the monks and novices... with thirty-seven in the nuns' quarters. The nuns' sala, the kitchens, toilets, washing facilities, a largish waterworks and electricity generators... these are valued at not less than ten million baht....

35.9 The Monastery Perimeter Wall

... Since 1965, the monastery became ever more solidly established... with its area also expanding through donations. In 1985 the local District Officer helped arrange official acknowledgement of this with land deeds from the Department of Land for two hundred and sixty-one rai... It was the first place in that region to have legal claim to the land.

... seeing the expansion of the local villages and the already established nature of the monastery... I thought it would be good to mark the boundaries clearly with a perimeter wall... the provincial Accelerated Rural Development prepared the site and it was built in 1986 at a cost of more than one and a half million baht.

Celebrating HM The King's Fifth Cycle Anniversary   

After finishing all these building projects... according to plan... I thought it would be appropriate that everyone who had helped could come together and see the results... and also take the opportunity to celebrate HM the King's Fifth Cycle Anniversary.[235]... So on the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth of April 1987 many senior monks and lay people came together to honor HM the King, to admire the completed monastery and to celebrate my own eighty-fifth birthday...

I was able not only to establish Wat Hin Mark Peng on a solid foundation but the remaining resources were shared out... among other deserving monasteries, schools and hospitals etc... To give some idea of this I will mention those projects that I can remember and have not yet described:

1. Wat Araññavaasee received an Uposatha Hall, a Dhamma Study Hall, two kutis, a perimeter wall and a concrete road. This cost more than nine million baht.

2. Wat Phra Buddhabaht-korkaeng (Wen Koom)... Srii Chiang Mai District received buildings costing more than three and a half million baht.

3. Wat Pah Kut Ngiew... Bahn Peur District... more than two million baht.

4. Wat Phra Buddhabaht-Bua-bok... Bahn Peur District... more than three and a half million baht.

5. Wat Pah Desarangsee (Wang Nam Mork)... Srii Chiang Mai District... two and a half million baht.

6. Wat Bodhisomphorn... in Udorn-thani where one million baht was donated.

7. The Phra Buddhabaht-Desarangsee-Vitayah School... of Srii Chiang Mai District and the Glahng Yai Nirodharangsee School... in Bahn Peur District received school buildings worth four million seven hundred thousand baht. The Ministry of Education acknowledged this aid to their school's programme by honoring me in 1987 and 1988 with their special award... and likewise in 1989 from the National Committee for Primary Education...

8. The Nirodharangsee-kampeepaññajahn Trust which is a scholarship fund for poor but well behaved, hard working and clever students in the province of Nongkhai. At present, it contains almost one million two-hundred thousand baht. There is also Nongkhai's Midday Meal Programme fund for pupils that stands at almost two and a half million baht. We are helping to provide a lunch time meal for pupils in six schools in the Bahn Mor - Phra Buddhabaht area and aim to give help province-wide.

9. The Thate Desarangsee Fund for caring for the monks and novices and the maintenance of the buildings of Wat Hin Mark Peng, which stands at five million seven hundred thousand baht.

Besides this, there are the following projects still being implemented:

1. A hospital ward for monks and novices at Khon Kaen University Medical School that has four million two hundred thousand baht allocated to it at present.

2. A hospital ward in the district hospital of Pa Tew in Chumporn Province that my devotees have named the Luang Poo Thate Desarangsee Eighty-eighth Year Memorial Building and to which they have contributed three million baht.

3. An Uposatha Hall at Wat Pah Nah Seedah...

4. A crematorium for Wat Hin Mark...

5. A water treatment plant for Wat Hin Mark...

6. A Shrine Hall and guest kuti at Wat Hin Mark...

Plans to build a Chedi-Museum are now nearing completion.


The words defined in this concise Glossary[236] are mostly either Pali, the language of the Theravada Buddhist scriptures, or Thai.

For Thai measurements, place names, titles etc., also see under that heading.

(Thai-Pali): Acts of service by a junior monk or novice for his teacher (Ajahn), e.g., supplying drinking and washing water, cleaning his hut or kuti, washing his robes, etc. This is part of the monastic training laid down by the Buddha.
(Thai): Teacher. A respectful title used for senior monks and one's meditation teacher. (Also more generally for university teachers, etc.) See Thai Titles.
'Not-self', egolessness, one of the three characteristics of all existence. See Ti- lakkha.na.
Impermanent, transient, one of the three characteristics of all existence. See Ti- lakkha.na.
Raising the hands, palms together, as a gesture of respect. Grahp: (Thai) bowing from the kneeling position to show high respect.
Worthy one; one who has attained Nibbana.
Meditation on the unbeautiful, 'loathsome', usually ignored, side of the body. Used together with the three characteristics of existence as an antidote for infatuation. Also see Kamma.t.thana kaayagataasati.
In Thai used to describe a trance-like meditative state; the mind's underlying resting place. Also see reference in separate glossary to 'Steps Along the Path'.
A Buddhist monk; an alms mendicant.
The Holy life; religious life; strict chastity.
The Awakened One; Enlightened One; usually referring to Siddhattha Gotama after his Enlightenment.
(Thai); Cetiya (Pali): Stupa, pagoda, usually a cone shaped monument containing relics.
Chee-pah kao:
One who wears white robes (rather than the yellow robes of monk or novice) and who lives the homeless life under the Eight Precepts. Also see Maer Chee.
(Pali); jhit, jhit-jai (Thai): Mind; heart.
The Teachings (of the Buddha); the Truth; the Supramundane; virtue.
Thing; phenomenon; nature; condition.
Dhammayut'( Nikaaya):
One of the two Theravada 'sects' in Thailand. See Appendix C.
An element; natural condition; earth, water, fire and wind or air. Dhaatu-khandha (Thai): the body. Taht (Thai): the elemental 'winds', 'humors', physiological processes, from a Thai traditional view point.
See Tudong.
Suffering. See Noble Truths.
(??? Thai); i.t.thaarama.na (Pali): Those four arom or objects that (as far as the world is concerned) are worth wishing for: material gains, rank, praise and pleasure.
: Meditative absorption in a single object. Full concentration. Also see Nirodha- samaapatti.
(Pali); Karma (Sanskrit): Intention, volitional speech and action, which can be wholesome, unwholesome or neutral.
(1) 'Working ground' or subject of meditation; the act of meditation. The subjects mentioned in this book are: AAnaapaana-sati: mindfulness of breathing. (Also see A. I. 30,41; Vism. 197); Buddhaanus-sati: recollection of the virtues and qualities of the Lord Buddha. (Also see A. VI, 10, 25; D.33; Vis. VII.) The Thai daily chanting also includes such a recollection; Kaayagataa-sati: mindfulness occupied with the body; contemplation on the 32 impure parts of the body.
(2) This is also used as a general term describing the way of practice of meditation monks originating in the forests of N.E. Thailand.
The annual robes-giving ceremony, offered sometime during the month following the Rains Retreat.
Aggregate; category. Refers to each of the five components of human psycho-physical existence: body, feeling, perception, mental-formation, consciousness. For the unenlightened, these form the five groups of clinging for the identification of 'self'.
Defilements; impurities; impairments. These include: greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, wrong view, doubt or uncertainty, sloth, restlessness, shamelessness, lack of moral concern.
(Thai): A large umbrella, usually hand-made from bamboo and cloth, used as a forest shelter by hanging a mosquito net from it.
(Thai-Pali): A monk's hut or simple shelter. (Often translated here as 'hut'.) However, it can also mean any dwelling place for monks or nuns so in the more established monasteries it might be quite a big structure.
Maer Chee
(Thai): A nun in white robes who keeps either Eight or Ten Precepts. Also see: Chee- pah kao.
Mahamakut Monastic College:
A monk's university based at Wat Bovoranives in Bangkok, which is the central organizing authority for many official Dhamma courses and their examination.
The older and numerically larger of the two 'sects' of Thai Theravada Buddhism. See Appendix C.
A large, usually square-sectioned monument or building.
Naama (-dhamma):
Mind; name; mental factors; mentality. Also Ruupa-dhamma.
Knowledge; wisdom; insight.
Renunciation; letting go; giving up the world; self-denial. This term is always used in the Pali texts as an antonym to kaama, sensuality.
(Pali); Nirvana (Sanskrit): The extinction of the fires of greed, hatred and ignorance; the extinction of all defilements and suffering; Liberation; the Unconditioned.
A grouping or 'sect', which has developed in the Bhikkhu Sangha.
(Thai); Nimitta (Pali): Mark, sign. An image or vision, which sometimes arises in meditation.
Highest state of concentration possible, where there is a temporary suspension of all consciousness and mental activity. (See the Po.t.thapaada Sutta (D.i.178); Vis. XXIII.) Also Saññaa-vedayita-nirodha.
Noble Truths
(The Four): The briefest synthesis of the entire teachings of Buddhism: The Truth of: (1) Suffering (Dukkha); (2) the Cause, Origin or Source of Suffering (Samudaya); (3) the Cessation or Extinction of Suffering (Nirodha); (4) the Path, the Way, the Noble Eightfold Path (Magga).
; Upasampadaa (Pali), Boo-at (Thai): Going Forth; this is the assembled monk's formal acceptance of a candidate-monk into the Community. There is no taking of life- vows. This is therefore different from the Christian 'ordination'.
The language of the ancient texts of the Theravaada Canon.
The four most serious offenses against the Monk's Discipline (the Vinaya Rule), which automatically causes the offender to fall from being a monk. They are: sexual intercourse, theft, murder and falsely claiming supernormal attainments.
(Paaramitaa): 'Perfection'. Ten qualities leading to Buddha-hood: generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, honesty, determination, loving-kindness, and equanimity.
The fundamental 227 rules observed by monks (bhikkhus). A single monk recites it with the whole Community (of monks) present, every lunar fortnight.
The annual formal assembly for bhikkhus that marks the end of the Rains Retreat; when each monk offers the others the opportunity to admonish him for any transgressions he may have committed.
Rains Retreat
; Pansah (Thai); Vassa (Pali): The annual three month period during the monsoon season — from the full moon (usually) of July to the full moon (usually) of October — when monks are restricted from traveling. It also is the measure of years for a monk or nun.
Matter; form; material; body; corporeality. See Naama-dhamma.
(Thai): The usually quite large, open-sided hall used for general meetings or more specific functions.
Concentration; one-pointedness of mind; the condition of mind when focussed, centered and still.
Recluse; holy one; a Buddhist monk; one following the Brahmacariya.
(lit: congregation) (1) Those Noble Ones forming the third of the Three Jewels; (2) the Order of monks.
Compounded things, conditioned things, formative factors, determinations.
Favorable conditions (for meditation, etc.): suitable abode; suitable location; suitable speech; suitable person (as spiritual companion and teacher); suitable food; suitable climate; suitable posture.
Mindfulness; awareness; attentiveness.
Virtue; morality; moral conduct; a precept; training rule. See Appendix A.
The formally agreed and designated assembly place required for any formal meeting of the Community of monks. In Thailand they mark this area by boundary stones which usually encircle the Uposatha Hall.
The author's home language is the Northeastern dialect, which is very close to Laotian. As in English, where many root words come from Greek and Latin, Thai has many that come from Pali and Sanskrit — especially in Buddhist terminology. Some of the following names and titles are therefore Thai-Pali.
Thai Measurements:
Baht: The Thai currency. (25 baht are (1992) worth one US$); Sen: The old Thai unit of distance, equal to 40 metres; Rai: The old Thai unit of area, equal to 1600 sq. metres. (2.53 rai = one acre.)
Thai Place Names:
villages are often named after a local feature of the landscape so: Bahn = Village; Dong = Rain Forest; Nakorn = City; Nah = Field; Nong = Swampy Lake; Phra Bart = Buddha-footprint; Poo = Mountain; Tam = Cave. (Over the years, with the increase in population some villages have become towns and then Districts and then even Provinces.)
Thai Titles:
In Thailand, not using an honorific before the person's name is rude — unless speaking to intimates or children. Hence the large number of 'titles'.
(Thai); Acariya (Pali): Ven. Teacher; Meditation Master. (Also sometimes used as an honorific for school teachers, etc.); Khun (Thai): the equivalent of Mr., Mrs., or Ms.; Phra or Tahn: Venerable, generally used in addressing younger monks; Phra Thera: a senior monk of at least 10 years standing but usually much more; Luang Por (Ven. Father), Luang Poo (Ven. Grandfather): These are both general forms of address to highly venerated Elder monks; Luang Dtah is less respectful. It is often applied to a monk ordained late in life, perhaps after having a family.
; Chao Khun; Phra Khru: Officially awarded ecclesiastical titles. As one moves up the hierarchy, so one's title changes and another monk may then receive that same title. This can be confusing, therefore their Thai name is often appended in brackets to differentiate between holders of the same title.
: The 'three characteristics of existence' are Impermanency (aniccaa), Suffering (dukkha), and Not-self (anattaa).
(Thai); dhutanga (Pali): Often refers to the forest monk's way of life, his wandering through forests and living at the foot of trees. It more literally refers to the 'austere practices' that are 'means of shaking off or removing defilements'. Traditionally (Vism. 59- 83) there are thirteen of these: wearing refuse-rag robes; possessing only the three robes; eating only alms food; on alms round going from house to house; eating only one meal a day; eating only from one's alms bowl; refusing food that comes late; forest dweller's practice; living at the roots of trees; open-air dweller's practice; charnel-ground dweller's practice; any-bed user's practice; sitter's practice (of not lying down).
Observance Day. Also see Wan Phra.
(Pali); Bot (Thai): In established monasteries there is usually a special Shrine Hall, often with the main Buddha-statue, where all formal Sangha observances are carried out. In forest monasteries more informal arrangements are allowed by the Discipline.
Monastic Discipline or Rule, which includes the core 227 Paatimokkha rules together with many other ordinances for the right living and harmony of the Community of monks.
Wan Phra:
(Thai): The Observance Day (Quarter-moon Day) or 'Buddhist Sabbath' follows a lunar calender. The villagers of that time would also measure their year in lunar months and days. So, for example, rather than Monday, Tuesday, etc., they would refer to 'the second or third day of the waxing moon'. Also Uposatha.
(Thai): A monastery or 'temple'.

The Meaning of Anattaa[237]   

Anything fashioned by conditions, whether physical or mental, is called a sa.nkhaara. All sa.nkhaaras are unsteady and inconstant (anicca.m) because they are continually moving and changing about. All sa.nkhaaras are incapable of maintaining a lasting oneness: This is why they are said to be stressful (dukkha.m). No sa.nkhaaras lie under anyone's control. They keep changing continually, and no one can prevent them from doing so, which is why they are said to be not-self (anattaa). All things, whether mental or physical, if they have these characteristics by nature, are said to be not-self. Even the quality of deathlessness — which is a quality or phenomenon free from fashioning conditions, and which is the only thing in a state of lasting oneness — is also said to be not-self, because it lies above and beyond everything else. No one can think it or pull it under his or her control. Only those of right view, whose conduct lies within the factors of the path, can enter in to see this natural quality and remove their attachments to all things — including their attachment to the agent that goes about knowing those things. In the end, there is no agent attaining or getting anything. However natural phenomena behave, that is how they simply keep on behaving at all times.

When meditators practice correctly and have the discernment to see that quality (of deathlessness) as it really is, the result is that they can withdraw their attachments from all things — including their attachment to the discernment that enters in to see the quality as it really is.

The practice of all things good and noble is to reach this very point.

Ven. Phra Ajahn Thate Desarangsee


7 # 5 4 [In the traditional Thai calendar: 7 = the seventh day (Saturday); 5 = the fifth lunar month; 4 = the fourth day of the waning moon — JTB]
He finally received the ecclesiastical title of Phra Raja-nirodharangsee
The Buddhist texts were traditionally inscribed in these characters which are of Indo-Cambodian root. See Appendix B.
As opposed to the local Esan or Northeast regional dialect.
A forest fruit abundant in the North-east of Thailand that could be eaten when there was no rice.
See Appendix A.
See Glossary. Thai Measurements.
There are no obligatory life vows for Buddhist monks.
Kamma.t.thaana monks. See Glossary.
The nursery-rice fields are sown by 'broadcast-sowing' and the young seedlings therefore need to be separated and individually replanted in larger, prepared fields. This must all be done by hand with bent back, as each seedling is pushed into the half-flooded paddy fields.
I.e., the basic diet.
Rice planted on upland fields, which is a different strain from that planted in the flooded paddy fields.
The skilled splitting of bamboo and whittling the strips to raffia thinness. Reaping would usually start at dawn, when the dampness keeps the bamboo strips pliable enough to be pulled tightly around the rice sheaf.
The typical cart would have been two-wheeled, with a yoke for a pair of water buffalo. During plowing, one water buffalo at a time would be used to pull the plow through the semi-flooded paddy-fields.
Dukkha Sacca. The term dukkha (suffering) is not limited to painful experience but refers to the ultimate unsatisfactory nature and the general insecurity of all conditioned phenomena which, on account of their impermanence, are all liable to be unfulfilling. This needs great wisdom to see in its true profundity. See Glossary: Noble Truths.
Folk belief spoke of charms, herbs, and magical tattoos that would 'armour' the skin against any weapon.
Occult and magical things.
Ordering others to kill any living creature is a breach of the monastic discipline and of basic Buddhist morality.
Thailand even sent troops, late in 1918, to help the Allies.
Venerable Ajahn Mun (1870-1949), through his impeccable example and skill in teaching others, was mainly responsible for revitalizing the forest tradition in modern Thailand. He taught and trained many disciples who became meditation masters in their own right. Through the purity of their practice and by pointing to the essence of the Buddha's Teachings, they were able to inspire people to cultivate the Buddhist Path throughout Thailand and later overseas. Nowadays, he is considered the 'Father' of the present N.E. Thailand meditation tradition.
Wandering for seclusion through the forest. See Glossary.
pra-kane (Thai): formally offering certain articles, mainly food or medicines, into the hands of the monk.
Concentration. See Glossary.
Walking along the paddy dyke paths.
Huts used by the villagers when out working in their fields, usually just a very simple thatch and bamboo structure raised on posts.
Wat is a monastery or 'temple'.
Lit: the 'going forth', Pabbajaa (Pali); going-forth or 'novice-ordination'. Full 'bhikkhu ordination' requires a minimum age of 20 years.
The Traibhum or Three Worlds, a cosmogony and commentary.
Nak Dhamm'. It has three grades: Grade Three (Nak Dhamm' Dtree), Grade Two (Nak Dhamm' Toh), and the top Grade One (Nak Dhamm' Aek).
See Glossary.
2467 BE.
Siima. See Glossary.
Upajjhaaya: The head monk who presides over the ordination ceremony.
Kammavaacaariya: Another senior monk who recommends the ordination candidate's acceptance into the community of monks.
The month of offering and sewing of robes immediately following the Rains Retreat.
Pali is examined in nine grades. On passing grade three one is given the title Mahaa before one's name.
In those days tudong was uncommon, and some saw it akin to undisciplined vagrancy. A monk's parents might be shocked and ashamed to discover that their son had left on tudong.
Young boys would lodge with a monk, helping him with chores while receiving support and education. This enabled poor boys from villages without schools to come and live in the towns and it formed a route for them to go on to higher education.
Lit: the twelfth [lunar] month.
Probably meaning the making and repair of robes, krot, bowl-stand, etc.
Daily Chanting and Recollection of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
The jungle at night is very dark and even darker during a storm.
Kuti: (Normally) a very simple hut or dwelling for a monk or nun.
See Appendix C.
Venerable Ajahn Sao Kantasiilo (1860-1942) (pronounced 'Sow') was Venerable Ajahn Mun's original teacher, and together they were the 'Fathers' of the Thai forest meditation lineage.
Sappaaya: See Glossary.
Aegle marmelos: a medicinal, hard shelled fruit, about the size of an orange.
Acariya-vat': these duties form part of the young monk's training. See Glossary.
A title of respect for an elderly lady.
On transferring to the other Nikaya, (Group or 'sect') the counting of seniority starts again. See Glossary and Appendix C.
Saññaa-vipallaasa: delusional derangement.
Paaraajika: meaning he would have to disrobe. See Glossary.
I.e., he claimed enlightenment.
Conditions can be exacerbated by the local jungle's heat and humidity.
He had actually stopped breathing for quite a period, before recovering.
An area of jungle outside the town, set aside for the cremating of dead bodies. Somewhere feared by the residents but favored as a place of solitude by tudong monks.
Dhaatu (Pali) — Taht (Thai): See Glossary.
Pee (Thai) means a ghost or spirit, of which there are many varieties. The pee-um manifests as a suffocating feeling or a kind of nightmare, as if a ghost is sitting astride one's chest.
Country folk inevitably hunted in the jungles and fished in the floods.
Pogostemon patchouli: from which camphor-like crystal smelling salts are made.
'Subconsciousness'. See Glossary.
Nirodha-samaapatti. See Glossary.
Ayatana: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch and mind 'doors'.
[Iddhi-]patiharn (Thai): psychic powers and such like.
Before entering, the determination is made to withdraw after a certain length of time.
Jhaana: full concentration on a single object. See Glossary.
Saññaa-vedayita-nirodha (also called nirodha-samaapatti); magga, phala, nibbana; jhaana- samaapatti
Lit: ghost or demon realms; i.e., those of blame and doubt. The previous paragraphs and hypothetical questions are phrased this way to forestall any criticism that the author, by even bringing up such profound subjects, might be seen as hinting about his own attainments.
This lacuna appears in the original, probably meaning that it is better to go no further into the matter.
Chee-pah kao: A layman who lives the homeless life under Eight Precepts, wearing white robes rather than the saffron robes of a monk or novice. See Appendix A.
A folk belief that any sudden or extraordinary abundance was an omen of approaching death.
Lit: dhaatu-khandha and aayatana.
Luang Dtah: See Thai Titles in Glossary. Mun is a given name and this is not the same person as the famous meditation master.
[sic] Master or Mister, not Venerable.
In those days, monks who were able to live unharmed in remote, 'demon-infested' caves and jungles were held in superstitious awe.
The traditional Pali phrases start with: "Araha.m sammaa sambuddho... ".
Monks who have committed a paaraajika offence are barred.
There are no life vows for Buddhist monks. Badly practicing monks, especially those who have broken the paaraajika offenses, can tarnish the whole Community. A monk guilty of such an offence — in this case, falsely claiming to be an arahant — is automatically no longer considered a monk even though he may still be wearing robes.
To Thai ears, the cock normally crows: "aek-ee-aek-aekkk". But Luang Dtee-a now heard: "jhit-jao- pen-aek," where aek means one.
'Dtook-gaer' is the Thai name for the gecko-lizard, and for its cry; 'dtoo-a -jow-gaer-laew' is its new message, where gaer means old.
Described following a famous Thai literary mountain-maze.
Dtai (Thai): the old style torch made from crumbly, rotten wood particles, compressed in an inflammable resin and bound in leaves in a long cylinder.
According to the monk's discipline, water has to be filtered of all living creatures before use.
Wan Phra: The Buddhist 'Sabbath', which falls on the full, new and quarter moons.
This would break the monk's and nun's Precepts.
Often employed in exorcising 'demon-possession'. The villagers still had many animist beliefs.
In the days before motorized rice mills, each house would have a stamp mill. The 'mortar' would usually be a partially hollowed out tree trunk into which the unhusked rice would be fed by one person, while another person worked the pestle. This was pivoted on a long pole so that stepping with all one's weight on one end would lift the heavy pestle up at the other end. Stepping off, the pestle would fall on and pound the husks from the rice. Collecting water from the village well and pounding the rice were daily chores.
An 'adept' initiated into some occult power. It could be concerned with medicines, black magic, hunting powers, or, in this case, invulnerability. It was believed that certain ritualistic rules secretly received from the teacher had to be strictly observed in order for the spells and 'gifts' to keep on working.
I.e., reversing or inverting the normal act of respect. Feet are considered unmentionably low and contemptible in polite Thai society. The author adds his apologies in parentheses for even mentioning the matter!
A power object, an amulet or charm.
Wat Pah Salawan. The rail line had not then been extended to Udorn-thani and Nongkhai.
A constitutional monarchal style of democracy.
Lit: great convergence.
Asubha. See Glossary.
Nakorn Wiang-jan (Thai-Lao): then the French colonial capital of Laos.
The ancient northern Lao capital, Nakorn Luang = Capital City.
The River Mekong is a great river, but the volume of water rapidly declines after the Monsoon so that massive 'island' sand banks are exposed.
A famous statue of the Buddha, after which the city is named.
The river usually forms the border between Laos and Thailand except for this stretch, where both banks belong to Laos.
The traditional medicines from the Buddha's time were often pickled in (cow's) urine.
Buses or trains were rarely available.
Probably the scholastic monks.
As the author explains at the end of this section, this is aimed mainly at monks (and celibates) and should be understood in that context. The special Thai vocabulary for monks is sometimes used and this makes close translation difficult.
Celibate life. See Glossary.
Mahaa-niyom was originally the verse (gaathaa), 'mettaa-mahaa-niyom'. This then became an idiom, meaning that someone is attractive or charming, having charisma, perhaps by using an occult spell to make one desirable to others.
Unfortunately, it is still very much the case that ordination for men is much more widely supported and therefore more easily accomplished.
According to the monastic discipline, a monk or nun cannot be alone with the opposite sex and always needs a chaperon.
There is a tradition in Thailand that every young man should ordain for a certain period — here are no life vows for a mon — which shows his 'maturity', after that he may marry. Therefore monks, in some quarters, may be considered desirable future partners.
Cousin of the Buddha and personal attendant, renowned for his memory of the Buddha's discourses.
Ittarom. See Glossary.
Fully-ordained Buddhist nun. This eminent disciple of the Buddha, Ayya Upalava.n.na, was an arahant and foremost in psychic powers amongst women.
I.e., by not indulging in sensual pleasures but turning to examine their effect on the mind, one can transcend them. Thus there is neither indulgence, nor repression but the middle path of restraint and insight.
Lit: of the samana (recluse, lit: 'the peaceful one' ) gender. (In Thai there are three genders: male, female and samana.)
A Thai pun: to mould or fashion = pan; fist = kam-pan.
According to the monastic Rule, monks are strictly prohibited from accepting money, gold and silver.
Craving for and indulgence in pleasurable experience arising from the five senses.
The Shan States and Burma are mainly Buddhist; many of the hill tribes are Buddhist(-animist).
This area of Burma was home to many ethnic groups: Shan, Mon, Karen etc., and it was still under British colonial rule.
Lit: the Japanese War.
The familiar name of Piboon Songkram, who headed the Thai government at that time.
One of the highest in Thailand, over 2,000 metres.
Muntiacus muntjak are quite small in size, have a barking cry when alarmed, and are normally very shy.
Ang-sa: (Thai) the long, narrow rectangular piece of yellow cloth, worn across the left shoulder beneath the monk's robe.
An ordinary candle protected from the wind by a cylinder of cloth. Normally used by forest monks.
Monks on tudong would carry a bag with bowl and spare robes over one shoulder while the other shoulder was balanced with a small bag and krot.
Acacia insuavis (Leguminosae).
Mi-ang is the fermented tea leaf, so this would be an area of tea bush plantation, quite high up in the mountains.
Ti-lakkha.na: impermanence; suffering; not-self. See Glossary.
Lit: 300 sen.
Buddhaanussati: See Kamma.t.thaana: in Glossary.
The different hilltribe groups have their own distinct languages, mostly quite different from Thai. In those days with no schools, most people would not be able to speak Thai.
See Glossary. ('Body and mind-concomitants'.)
Lit: "would have made for a lot of fun." A euphemistic way of saying that he might have become unbalanced.
A monk depends on the generosity and goodwill of the lay people for his alms food. If there are many villagers, however poor, each will only be required to contribute a small portion. If there are too few families, unless specifically invited, a monk may feel reluctant to stay there so as not to impose on them.
For Thais, rice is the staple at every meal. In Thai, 'to eat' literally is 'to eat rice'.
Wild yams, taros and other potato-type tubers were widely found and eaten throughout Northern Thailand. In the North-east of Thailand, they were considered more a famine food, glutinous rice being very much the staple.
Attakilamathaanuyoga. See (Sam. LVI. 11).
Colocasia antiquorum Aroideae, the coco-yam or taro.
Pai is a playing or gambling card; too-ah and be-er are gambling games using cowrie shells.
Lit: 'to lay down forest cloth.' In the Lord Buddha's time, the monks would collect discarded cloth to wash and sew together into 'rag-robes'. Tort phah pah continues this tradition, sometimes by offering the cloth with a leafy branch resting on it, sometimes by actually laying out the cloth in the bushes where the monk would pass.
Lit: 'hot-hearted', i.e., impatient for quick results.
Pee dtong leeung: where pee is spirit or ghost; dtong is a large (banana) leaf; leeung is yellow. This tribe is also called the Marabi, an ethnic group of North Thailand.
In the Shan States of Burma.
Kan-dtok and kan-pahn: types of large raised trays on pedestals.
Generally, Thais are very modest about such things.
Unlike other parts of Thailand where snakes are sometimes eaten, and meat and fish may be only half-cooked or raw
Of the sack- or upas-tree, Antiaris toxicaria (Urticaceae).
Slaves were commonplace up until the late nineteenth century.
Anusaya-kilesa: seven unwholesome latent defiling tendencies or inclinations of the mind: sensuality; grudge; speculative opinions; doubts; conceit; craving for continued existence; ignorance. Fear falls in the realm of the last three.
Vaasanaa-nisai. He was praised by the Buddha as being foremost in wisdom and ability to expound on the Dhamma. (Although some other individual traits were also remarked upon.)
Phra Sammaa Sambuddha Chao who has fulfilled all the Perfections (paaramii: See Glossary) and thereby perfected his whole character and transcended all personality traits.
A laywoman devotee.
Jhaana: there are eight levels of absorption concentration depending on the refinement of the meditation.
Pubbe-senha-sannivaasa: a Pali-Thai word pointing to the power of remembering former births, specifically one's former partner.
The leader and personification of evil forces.
paaramii. See Glossary.
khun (Thai). There are plays on words here difficult to convey in English.
Kaama-khun (Thai); in Pali (kaama-gu.na) means 'the cords (or strands) of sensuality'. (See D.33; M.13, 26, 59, 66).
Nekkhamma (Pali): renunciation. This term is always used in the Pali texts as antonym to kaama.
A hollow section of large bamboo gives a deep resonant sound, often used in the villages for signalling, almost like a drum.
Austere practices. See Tudong in Glossary.
Abhiññaa: psychic powers; divine ear; reading the minds of others; remembering past lives; divine eye; knowledge of liberation of the mind.
Ti-lakkha.na. See Glossary.
Lokiiya-abhiññaa; lokiiya-jhaana: mundane psychic powers and absorption-concentration of the unenlightened being.
A cousin of the Lord Buddha, who originally had mundane psychic powers but through jealousy and ambition eventually tried to kill the Buddha and subsequently lost them.
An ancient, devoutly Buddhist people, once powerful in present day Burma and Thailand, now an ethnic minority group in both countries.
Ti-sara.nagamana: Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
Now the main Dhammayut' monastery in the town of Udorn-thani.
In Thailand, this is traditionally considered a very inauspicious dream.
An annual ceremony where the villagers present offerings to the monks to make merit for the dead, while the distribution of the gifts is done by drawing lots.
Dhamma-osot (Thai): To cure sickness through the practice of Dhamma, using the healing power of virtue and meditation.
Not to be confused with the more famous Ajahn Mahaa Pin Paññaabalo mentioned earlier.
The Northeast region is generally regarded as the poorest part of Thailand. It is also the driest and most infertile so that many people had to go off and work as laborers in the other regions of Thailand when there was no work in the fields.
See Appendix C for background to this tension.
This whole area was rich in tin deposits. Dta-gooa Toong means Field of Tin while Tai Muang means Behind the Mine.
A monk's 'ordination' is registered and details entered in a small identification book. This is the equivalent of the ordinary Thai citizen's I.D. card.
Historically, education had started in the local monastery. As the bureaucracy developed, so monastic affairs were subsumed under the Education Ministry.
Aesop's Fables are taught in Thai elementary schools.
nipa fruiticans.
About two acres. See Glossary: Thai measurements.
Upajjhaaya: is a senior monk who is certified to conduct ordinations, etc.
I.e., some donors wanted it to be used specifically for Ven. Ajahn Thate's personal use, rather than for general use.
Lit: "falling? — rising?". This refers to concentrating on the abdominal movements from breathing.
Thai idiom, meaning 'without advertising'. This development is significant because it shows the gradual acceptance by the central authorities of the Kammatthana Forest tradition.
'Phra Raja-tahn Samanasak', which is conferred by the king. See Thai Titles in Glossary.
'Phra Raja-tahn Samanasak Phra Raja-kana-sahman Fai Vipassanaa. Addressed as 'Chao Khun'.
Where Arañña means 'forest'.
Loka-dhamma: gain and loss; honor/prominence and dishonor/obscurity; happiness and misery; praise and blame. (Vis. XXII); cp. (A.VIII, 5).
It is in the Poo Pahn range, with heights of over 300 metres.
Wild boar were common in jungle monasteries until quite recent times. They have a reputation for dauntlessness, agility, toughness and the ability to eat virtually anything.
Hin Mark Peng is the name for some huge rocks on the bank of the River Mekong.
This refers to the traditional design, being raised off the ground on posts, with a high peaked, steeply angled roof (for better rain run-off during the monsoon season). 'Hut' is here the normal translation of kuti however this can be any-sized dwelling for monks or nuns.
This exemplifies the author's wish to show appreciation for such good works. As specific names and costs are not as meaningful for non-Thai readers, the author has given permission for future passages to be simplified which is indicated by ellipses...
Collecting water from the roof, mainly for drinking during the long, hot dry season.
A long, low boat with an extended propeller shaft.
I.e., the full specified three months were not completed.
Thinking that he might have seen the future winning numbers in his meditation.
Thailand has always been open to missionaries. The Thai king is Buddhist but protects all religions.
Buddhism declined from being a major religion in India for many reasons: The Muslim invasions from the North-west, the Hindu resurgence and a probable decline in Dhamma practice. The famous Buddhist 'temple' in Bodh' Gaya became a Hindu temple until this century, when a 'Buddhist revival' has led to its restoration.
Place of the Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment, First Dhamma Teaching and Final Passing Away.
Bangkok is the western name, in Thai it is 'Krung Thep' or City of Angels.
People who have realized the first of the four stages of enlightenment.
I.e., rather than the underlying problems being class and capital, they are greed, aversion and delusion.
Compare with Bangkok!
Lit: like playing the flute to a water buffalo. Like 'pearls before swine', perhaps.
In accordance with Thai good manners.
The ellipses in this paragraph are in the original.
Meditative absorption on an object.
Quoting some teachings of the Buddha.
Nirandorn means 'eternity'.
Meditative absorption on a non-material object
When Prince Siddhattha Gotama went forth from his palace into the homeless life, these were his first teachers whom he then surpassed. See the Ariyapariyesena Sutta [M.I.163-166].
The former capital of Siam between 1569-1767, when it was destroyed by invading Burmese forces.
'Pucchavipassana Dhamma Nai Dtang Pratate'; 'Prawat Cheewit Karn Pai Dtang Pratate'. No English translation is available. ??? include Thai titles ???
Durio zibethinus (Malvaceae). The durian is generally highly prized and one of the most expensive fruits. There is a skill to splitting it open without spoiling the succulent fruit inside.
This includes generosity, morality, right livelihood and meditation.
Vatacakra (Thai); va.t.tacakka (Pali).
Becoming monks for a short period.
Lit: children and grandchildren.
For more details see Appendix D.
See Glossary.
See Section 28.1.
Sankhaara. See Glossary.
Volitional action. See Glossary.
The preta or realm of hungry ghosts; avicii is one of the most painful hells. But note that no realm is eternal for all are conditioned by one's deeds or kamma.
See the following section for the venerable author's own passing and funeral.
Based on "A Disciple's Notes" in a Thai language memorial publication: ???
See Section 29 above.
In Thailand, the bodies of important people will be preserved for a certain time to allow suitable arrangements to be prepared and for people to come and pay their last respects. Two of Venerable Ajahn Thate's prominent supporters had also already built a crematorium and chedi at Wat Hin Mark Peng.
Recommended by the Buddha himself.
This had been added by the translator for those unfamiliar with the Buddhist Precepts. They are mentioned throughout the text.
Included as an addition at the back of the original Thai edition of the Autobiography.
Thai Law has special regulations about such things.
In the traditional Thai architectural style.
In Thailand, one's birth-year accords with the name of an animal and a number. There are twelve animals in the cycle and ten numbers, which means both cycles come full circle at age 60. It is considered an especially significant birthday.
Another Glossary specifically for Steps along the Path follows that work.
Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
©1996 Wat Hin Mark Peng.
Transcribed from a file provided by the translator, with minor revisions in accordance with the Access to Insight style sheet. Pali words are represented using the Velthuis method.
This Access to Insight edition is ©1996–2010.
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How to cite this document (one suggested style): "The Autobiography of a Forest Monk: Venerable Ajahn Thate of Wat Hin Mark Peng Nongkhai Province", by Venerable Ajahn Thate (Phra Rajanirodharangsee), translated from the Thai by Bhikkhu Ariyesako. Access to Insight, June 7, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/thate/thateauto.html.
Editor's note: For more information about this book, write to: The Abbot, Wat Hin Mark Peng, Sri Chiang Mai, Nongkhai, Thailand 43130.