Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

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Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Goob » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:54 am

Hello,

I'm interested in investigating the teachings of some western teachers in the Thai Forest Tradition that didn't train under Ajahn Chah or belong to his monasteries. Not that I have anything against these particular teachers, quite the opposite, it's just that I'm interested in the various modern perspectives. I know Thanissaro Bhikkhu is a given, but do you fine people have any other interesting suggestions?

Be well.
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby perkele » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:37 pm

I like this very much: http://www.forestdhamma.org/audio/panya-audio/, collected talks by Ajahn Paññavaddho (disciple of Ajahn Maha Bua)
The audio quality is not very good, from back in the old days when they used tapes. But there are pdf transcriptions.
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Goob » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:08 pm

Ah yes, I remember reading those A while back and remember them to be very good. Thanks!
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:01 pm

I'm interested in investigating the teachings of some western teachers in the Thai Forest Tradition that didn't train under Ajahn Chah or belong to his monasteries.


I don’t think there’s very much to investigate here. Outside of those in the Ajahn Chah circuit very few western monks in the TFT have set themselves up as teachers.

The Ajahn Thet disciples of the 70's and 80's have all disrobed except Ajahn Munindo, who switched to Ajahn Chah, and Ajahn Dhammachando (Tan Chad), who lives as a hermit in Tak Province and doesn’t teach.

The Buddhadāsa disciples have all disrobed, with the exception of the veteran German monk Tan Khemadassī (who was only rather loosely associated with Ajahn Buddhadāsa). He lives as a hermit on an island in Trat Province and doesn’t teach. Of those who’ve disrobed I think only the ex-Santikaro Bhikkhu now teaches.

As for Ajahn Mahā Boowa’s disciples, I’m not up-to-date with the recent generation, but of the four I used to know back in the 80's, Ajahn Paññavaḍḍho is deceased, Tan John Vuḍḍhiko disrobed, and I haven’t heard anything about Sīlaratano or Abhijāto taking up teaching. Paññavaḍḍho gave a few interviews and Q & A sessions in the last years of his life, but their contents were scarcely more than a reiteration of Mahā Boowa’s teaching.

Then there are some western Dhammayutt monks who trained in the TFT but with less well-known ajahns. Here too I’m not up to date, but I think most whom I used to know have disrobed except the New Zealander Tan Guttasīla and the Aussie Bill Platypus (I forget his Pali name). I've no idea what's become of those two.

If you're interested in TFT-like stuff that's independent of Ajahn Chah, it might be more fruitful to look at those teachers who were formerly in the Ajahn Chah camp but then moved onto other pastures, or who are technically still in the camp but whose dhammic centre of gravity appears to lie elsewhere than in Ajahn Chah's teachings.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Zom » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:04 pm

I don’t think there’s very much to investigate here.


Thanks Bhante, very interesting information.

By the way, in Suan Mokh there is Ven. Dhammavidhu (western monk; I guess, he has more than 10 vassas, though I don't know details), teaching at 10-days anapanasati retreats (Buddhadasa method).

If you're interested in TFT-like stuff that's independent of Ajahn Chah, it might be more fruitful to look at those teachers who were formerly in the Ajahn Chah camp but then moved onto other pastures, or who are technically still in the camp but whose dhammic centre of gravity appears to lie elsewhere than in Ajahn Chah's teachings.


You imply Ajahn Brahm perhaps. But who esle "were formerly in the Ajahn Chah camp but then moved onto other pastures" ? :reading:
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:08 pm

There is Ajahn Sukhacitto, who resides at Amaravati, and although there isn't a disciple of Ajahn Chah, and although coming from Ajahn Buddhadāsa has his own distinct style. the few teaching he gave while I was there were really good, but I do not know if they are available on the Amaravati site as there has been changes since my time.
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Goob » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:38 pm

Thanks Bhante (and others)! That's very interesting.
Any thoughts on why there are so few western disciples setting themselves up as teachers, or why so many have disrobed for that matter?

I have heard news of a new Dhammayut Monastery presently being built in rural Virginia, USA, isn't Ajahn Dick Silaratano the abbot there?
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Zom » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:13 pm

Any thoughts on why there are so few western disciples setting themselves up as teachers, or why so many have disrobed for that matter?


I think in most cases the reasons are:
a) lack of Buddhist faith
b) lack of a solid foundation for being a monastic (not everyone is ready to be a monk, even if he thinks otherwise)
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:33 pm

richard_rca wrote:Thanks Bhante (and others)! That's very interesting.
Any thoughts on why there are so few western disciples setting themselves up as teachers, or why so many have disrobed for that matter?

I have heard news of a new Dhammayut Monastery presently being built in rural Virginia, USA, isn't Ajahn Dick Silaratano the abbot there?

two westerners who I know who were monks both have strong faith but left for different reasons. there isn't one reason why everyone disrobes.
Last edited by Cittasanto on Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Monkey Mind » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:33 pm

"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Monkey Mind » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:13 pm

http://birken.ca/about/monastics

Ajahn Sona trained under Gunaratana's tradition in addition to Chah lineage.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:08 pm

richard_rca wrote:Thanks Bhante (and others)! That's very interesting.
Any thoughts on why there are so few western disciples setting themselves up as teachers, or why so many have disrobed for that matter?

I have heard news of a new Dhammayut Monastery presently being built in rural Virginia, USA, isn't Ajahn Dick Silaratano the abbot there?

I believe a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Thai Forest tradition tends to coalesce around specific teachers like Ajahn Chah, Buddhadasa, etc. I can imagine it is a very hard transition to make once a beloved teacher dies, and in many cases it may be enough to lead even a strong bhikkhu towards disrobing.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Zom » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:48 am

a beloved teacher dies, and in many cases it may be enough to lead even a strong bhikkhu towards disrobing.


As I see it, it this case he can't be considered "a strong bhikkhu", but, rather, "weak" one 8-)
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby perkele » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:33 pm

Dhammanando wrote:As for Ajahn Mahā Boowa’s disciples, I’m not up-to-date with the recent generation, but of the four I used to know back in the 80's, Ajahn Paññavaḍḍho is deceased, Tan John Vuḍḍhiko disrobed, and I haven’t heard anything about Sīlaratano or Abhijāto taking up teaching.

richard_rca wrote:I have heard news of a new Dhammayut Monastery presently being built in rural Virginia, USA, isn't Ajahn Dick Silaratano the abbot there?

Yes, as far as I know Ajahn Dick Silaratano is the abbot there. I think this is the contact address: http://www.forestdhamma.org/contact/
See also here and here for some pictures of three months ago.
Hope they are doing well there.
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Goob » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:54 pm

Dear Richard...

Forest Dhamma Monastery near Lexington, Virginia is presently a work in progress. We spent much of last year laying to infrastructure and constructing our first buildings. Right now I am in Thailand but I'll be returning to Virginia shortly before the middle of March to begin the 2nd phase of construction.

You are more than welcome to come to pay us a visit. We do have some interesting work projects scheduled for this spring and summer and we can always use a hand. The accomodations are a bit rustic but we'll be able to keep you fed and put a roof over your head.

The address is:

255 Snakefoot Lane
Lexington, VA 24450
540-336-7292

Our website is: www.forestdhamma.org

A GPS should take you there. Otherwise give us a call for directions.

Metta,
Ajaan Dick
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby marc108 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:52 pm

Ajahn Sujato. While he did train at some of the Ajahn Chah related monasteries, I dont believe he ever met Ajahn Chah, and I would consider him very much an 'independent'.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:03 pm

You imply Ajahn Brahm perhaps. But who else "were formerly in the Ajahn Chah camp but then moved onto other pastures" ?


It wasn't Ajahn Brahm whom I had in mind but rather those monastics whose withdrawal from the Ajahn Chah scene was their own choice. For example, the American Ajahn Sumano, formerly of Chithurst but now living alone in Chiangmai, the Aussie Bill Platypus, who began at Wat Pa Nanachat but then disrobed and switched to the Dhammayuttika Nikaya, and then all the western breakaway nuns (I don’t remember any of their names) who started out with Ajahn Sumedho.

Any thoughts on why there are so few western disciples setting themselves up as teachers,


I think that in part it’s due to the type of people who get drawn to the forest tradition. The preponderance of them are pretty introverted. But mostly it’s due to the fact that few of these monks regard themselves as qualified to teach. I mean in the forest tradition in general the idea is that teaching is the preserve of spiritual virtuosos —monks with high attainments— and until you become such yourself it’s best to keep your mouth shut and not take on responsibilities that are likely to distract you from this aim.

In the Ajahn Chah tradition it’s different because there the monks don’t really have a choice in the matter, but are pushed more or less willy-nilly into teaching positions.

or why so many have disrobed for that matter?


Doubt, loss of faith in the Dhamma, despair about their capacity for progress, sexual desire, boredom, depression, culture shock, homesickness, ill health, pārājika offences, long-concealed saṅghādisesa offences, aversion to Thai people or food or climate, contempt for their fellow monks, family problems, etc., etc. Besides these there are an extra two reasons that seem to be peculiar to those living in the west. One is an uncomfortable feeling of alienation from the surrounding culture; there are moments when it just seems so absurd to be walking around a modern western city in an ancient Indian ascetic’s garb. The other is that it’s a great deal easier for a monk to get burned out than it is when he’s living in Asia.

I recall reading that in the Thai sangha as a whole, the proportion of the monk population at any given time who will remain in the robes for more than a decade is about 7%, while those who will be monks for life amount to less than 1.5%. So statistically it would appear that disrobing is really just what comes naturally. The oddballs who don't disrobe are the ones whose behaviour needs explaining. :)

Yes, as far as I know Ajahn Dick Silaratano is the abbot there.


Thanks for the news.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Clarence » Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:09 pm

Venerable,

If I may ask, but what is your tradition? Do you consider yourself a forest tradition monk or do you have a different background?

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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:51 am

If I may ask, but what is your tradition?


Theravada, but without being allied with any particular one of the Theravadin sub-traditions.


Do you consider yourself a forest tradition monk or do you have a different background?


My background is rather variegated, comprising six years in Thai and Burmese urban pariyatti monasteries, six years in monasteries affiliated with the late Khrubar Phrommajak, two years in an Ajahn Chah wat, one year in a Dhammayut forest wat, two years in vipassana meditation centres, and nine years living alone. Though I don’t identify with any particular sub-tradition, the monks whom I have most to do with nowadays are Thais belonging to Khrubar Phrommajak’s Lamphun branch of the Chiang Mai tradition of Khrubar Sriwichai.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Western Teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition

Postby cooran » Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:00 am

Maybe have a look at : http://forestsangha.org/

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