News at Tipitaka Network
Wat Pah Nanachat
First forest monastery in Thailand
by P. Rajakaruna, Daily News (Sri Lanka), Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Wat Pah Nanachat is a Buddhist monastery in Northeast Thailand, in the Theravada forest tradition. It was established by Venerable Ajahn Chah Thera to provide English-speaking people the opportunity to train and practise in the way the Buddha taught his monks in the forests 2600 years ago.
Ven. Ajahn Chah Thera established Wat Pah Nanachat in 1975 as a place where his western disciples could live and train in the Dhamma-Vinaya. Ajahn Sumedo, an American, served as the first abbot; after 2 years he went to England and founded monasteries there. Ajahn Pabhakaro, the second abbot, now assists with running the monasteries in England.
Then, Ajahn Jagaro took over. He later established a monastery in western Australia just outside Perth. The current abbot, Ajahn Passanno, has been in charge since 2006. Originally mostly westerners and the old Thai trained at Wat Pah Nanachat. In recent years, however, a variety of Asians have added to the international atmosphere.
Today there are more than 100 branch monasteries of Ajahn Chah's Wat Nong Pah Pong in Thailand and around the world.
English serves as the primary language for communication and instructions, initially making easier for those not fluent in Thai to learn the traditional ways of monastic training, study the teachings of the Master and assimilate the appropriate behaviour for blending in harmoniously with the local culture.
The main purpose of Wat Pah Nanachat is to provide an environment for ordaining and training monks in the lifestyle and practices of Venerable Ajahn Chah and the other Forest Masters.
It is not a meditation centre that conduct retreats, but there are facilities for a limited number of male and female guests to stay at the monastery and practise with the resident community.
Guests are expected to follow the daily monastic routine and join in with all meditation sessions, meetings, and work activities Generally, guests have many hours of the day free for study and individual meditation practice. In order to make the best use of the situation it is expected that they will have had an orientation in Buddhist teachings and meditation.
The lifestyle encourages the development of restraint, modesty and quietude. It is the deliberate and sincere commitment to this way of life that facilitates a community atmosphere where people of diverse backgrounds, nationalities, and personalities can co-operate in the effort to work along the path of the Buddha and realize its goal of enlightenment.
Wat Pah Nanachat is situated in a small forest in the northeast of Thailand about 15 kilometres from the city of Ubon Rachathani. In 1975 Ven. Ajahn Chah established this monastic community which consists of monks, novices and postulants from a wide range of nationalities.
The training aims to follow the Dhamma - Vinaya, the teachings and code of monastic discipline as laid down by the Buddha, respecting both teaching and code of monastic discipline.
The monastic life encourages developments of simplicity, renunciation and quietude. It is a deliberate commitment to this way of life that creates a community environment where people of diverse backgrounds, personalities and temperaments can co-operate in the effort to practice and realize the Buddha's path to liberation.
Any one wishing to visit the monastery is recommended to arrive before 8.00 am in order to participate in the meal offering and have the opportunity to talk to the abbot. Wat Pah Nanachat is primarily a training centre for non-Thai nationals preparing themselves of take ordination.
A genuinely interested layman first would become a pakow (anagarika) wearing a white robe and taking an alms bowl. After 3 months he can start going forth as a novice and wear orange robes. Full ordination can take place about one year later.
Anyone considering being ordained a bhikkhu would benefit from a stay at Wat Pah Nanachat, whether he plans to ordain here or not. Unless fluent in Thai, one isn't likely to find this situation of thorough training combined with easy communication elsewhere in Thailand.
Those interested in staying for a period of time or considering ordination are requested to write to the monastery at least one month in advance, because space is limited. If one would like to visit and stay at Wat Pah Nanachat, he/she may write to: Guest Monk, Wat Pah Nanachat, Bahn Bung Wai, Ampher Warin Chamrab, Ubon Ratchathani 34310, Thailand.
At present, there is no permanent nun's community at Wat Pah Nanachat. Women interested in a monastic commitment (as a nun) are invited to contact affiliated nun's communities at Amarawathi Buddhist Monastery in England.
The monastic way of life
The contemplative life of a Buddhist monk or nun is one of simplicity, celibacy, and contentment. They do not seek the happiness based on sensuality and worldly distractions, but instead strive for the more subtle, inner happiness that blossoms forth when peace and wisdom take root in the heart.
Meditation is a central feature of the lifestyle, and monastics cultivate those qualities that support it; generosity, renunciation, loving-kindness, humility, integrity, determined effort and mindful awareness in all activities.
Since the time of the Buddha, monks have followed His example by living close to nature in forests, mountains and caves. Far from the stress and busyness that afflict city life, a tranquil, natural setting provides the perfect environment developing peace and wisdom. Forest monasteries in Thailand provide a clam atmosphere of silence and solitude.
Theravada Buddhism and the Thai Forest Tradition
The Theravada Buddhist Tradition looks to the original teachings of the Buddha as its guide and offers a comprehensive system for effectively exploring and liberating the deepest levels of consciousness.
It has flourished mainly in Southeast Asia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Monastic Sangha in its original for has survived throughout twenty-five centuries and is one of the oldest continuous institutions in history.
For 800 years Thailand has been under the serenely compassionate shelter of Buddhism, and the Buddha's teachings pervade almost every aspect of life within the kingdom, uniting the people into a harmonious, peace-loving society.
The contemporary Thai Forest Tradition, growing and blossoming throughout the 20th century, is a down-to-earth, 'back to the roots' movement that models its practice and lifestyle of that of the Buddha and his first generation of disciples.
The advent of the modern age notwithstanding, forest monasteries still keep alive the ancient traditions through following the Buddhist monastic code of discipline (Vinaya) in all detail and developing meditation in secluded forest.
Thailand has been blessed with a great number of impeccable and profoundly wise Buddhist meditation masters, and one of the most eminent was Venerable Ajahn Chah (Luang Por Chah), Born in 1918. He studied and trained in remote monasteries with some of the most impressive teachers of his era before establishing his own forest monastery near the city of Ubon.
Venerable Ajahn Chah Thera
Much of the western Theravadan Sangha originated here with the encouragement and support of Ajahn Chah. In Thailand, Ajahn Chah earned fame by his skill at training monks in high standards of Dhamma-Vinaa. He is one of the most influential monks of Thai Buddhism. Chah took robes as a novice at age 13.
He was ordained as a bhikkhu when he was 21. In 1946, following his 18th Rain Retreat, he set out as a phra tudong. wandering the forests and practising meditation in lonely places.
Teaching of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Ginaree influenced him during this period, in 1954, Ajahn Chah accepted an invitation by his mother and villagers to return to Bun Gor to established a new monastery - Wat Nong Pah Pong. After many years of teaching, his health began to deteriorate, and he passed away in 1992.
Ajahn Chah taught in a direct, uncomplicated and straightforward manner. He thought with charm and humour and was a master at using everyday situations as opportunities for learning. He stressed that mere intellectual knowledge never brings true happiness.
This can only be known through personal experience and transformation, through the insight that arises naturally when the mind is radiant, quite and still. His popularity grew by leaps and bounds, and presently there are more than 300 forest monasteries that follow his teachings.
Whatever we may be it's only
There are simply the universal
Ven. Ajahn Chah
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