Please join talk Wed June 22 on Buddhism: A Pathway to Peace and Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University
“Buddhism : A Pathway to Peace and Conflict Resolution”
at Berkley Center, Georgetown University, 3307 M Street, NW,
on Wednesday, June 22 from 12.00 to 1.30 pm.
Image credit: www.abhayagiri.org
Ajahn Pasanno Bhikku
Ajahn Pasanno took ordination in Thailand in 1974 with Venerable Phra Khru Ñāṇasirivatana as preceptor. During his first year as a monk he was taken by his teacher to meet Ajahn Chah, with whom he asked to be allowed to stay and train.
One of the early residents of Wat Pa Nanachat, Ajahn Pasanno became its abbot in his ninth year. During his incumbency, Wat Pa Nanachat developed considerably, both in physical size and reputation. Spending 24 years living in Thailand, Ajahn Pasanno became a well-known and highly respected monk and Dhamma teacher. He moved to California on New Year’s Eve of 1997 to share the abbotship of Abhayagiri with Ajahn Amaro. In 2010 Ajahn Amaro accepted an invitation to serve as abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England. Ajahn Pasanno is now the sole abbot of Abhayagiri.
Ajahn Pasanno (born Reed Perry, Manitoba, Canada, July 26, 1949) is the most senior Western disciple of Ven. Ajahn Chah in the United States, and most senior in the world after Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Hemadhammo. For many years he was the abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat International Forest Monastery in Northeast Thailand.
In the late 1990s, Ajahn Pasanno moved to California to head the new Abhayagiri Monastery. With more than 40 years as a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk), Ajahn Pasanno has been instrumental in training many monks in Thailand and the United States and has been supportive of training for women.
Info credit: Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery
Ajahn Jayanto Bhikku
Born in Boston in 1967, Ajahn Jayanto grew up in Newton and attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, during which time a period of world travel kindled a great interest in the spiritual life. A meditation class at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center led him to live for a while at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, where he made plans to join the monastic community of Ajahn Sumedho as a postulant at Amaravati Monastery in England in 1989. Taking bhikkhu (monk) ordination at the related Cittaviveka Monastery in 1991, he trained there and at Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery until 1997, at which point he embarked on a period of practice in Thailand and other Asian Buddhist countries. He returned to the UK in 2006, where he lived at Amaravati until moving to Temple in 2014. Since 2009 Ajahn Jayanto has helped to lead the efforts to establish a branch monastery in New England, and he now serves as abbot of Temple Forest Monastery.
Info credit: Temple Forest Monastery
Thai Forest Monastery Tradition
The Thai forest monastery tradition is one branch of the Theravāda Buddhist tradition. Theravāda literally means “the Doctrine of the Elders” and is named so because of its scrupulous adherence to the original teachings and rules of monastic discipline expounded by the Buddha. The Forest tradition also most strongly emphasizes meditative practice and the realization of enlightenment as the focus of monastic life. Forest monasteries are primarily oriented around practicing the Buddha’s path of contemplative insight, including living a life of discipline, renunciation, and meditation in order to fully realize the inner truth and peace taught by the Buddha.
Living a life of austerity allows forest monastics to simplify and refine the mind. This refinement allows them to clearly and directly explore the fundamental causes of suffering within their heart and to inwardly cultivate the path leading toward freedom from suffering and supreme happiness. Forest monastics live frugally with few possessions. This fosters the joy of an unburdened life and assists Forest monastics in subduing greed, pride, and other taints that abound in the mind.
Forest monastics live in daily interaction with and dependence upon the lay community. While laypeople provide the material supports for the renunciant life, such as alms food and cloth for robes, the monks provide the laity with teachings and spiritual inspiration. Forest monks follow an extensive 227 rules of conduct. They are required to be celibate, to eat only between dawn and noon, and not to handle money. They also engage in a practice known as “tudong” or austere practice” in which they wander on foot through the countryside, either on pilgrimage or in search of solitary retreat places in nature. During such wanderings, monks sleep wherever is available and eat only what is offered by lay people along the way.
The emergence of the contemporary Forest tradition is associated largely with Ajahn Mun and his teacher and contemporary, Ajahn Sao. Both were the sons of peasant farmers in the northeast of Thailand. Ajahn Mun was born in the 1870s in Ubon province near the borders of Laos and Cambodia. He trained under the forest monk
Ajahn Sao, vigorously practicing meditation, and then turned to a life of ascetic wandering and meditation practice in the wilderness. Ajahn Mun became a great teacher and exemplar of high standards of conduct. Almost all of the accomplished and revered meditation masters of twentieth century Thailand were either his direct disciples or influenced by him. One of these great meditation masters following in his example was Ajahn Chah.
Ven. Ajahn Chah (Phra Bodhinyana Thera)
In 1954, after many years of practice without a permanent home, Ajahn Chah was invited to settle in a dense forest near his birth village. Over time, a large monastery called Wat Pah Pong was established there as monks, nuns, and laypeople came to hear Ajahn Chah’s teachings and train with him. His teachings and community contained elements commonly held throughout the Forest tradition, focusing on a simple, aesthetic, and rigorous lifestyle, discipline and moral conduct, meditation and contemplation, and a transformative inner experience rather than a reliance on scholarly knowledge.
As disciples gathered around Ajahn Chah, branch monasteries in his lineage also began to be established. Many new branch monasteries have continued to be established even after his death in 1992. At present there are more than three hundred Forest branch monasteries in Ajahn Chah’s lineage spread throughout Thailand and the world. Environmental conditions may cause the details of life amongst these many monasteries to vary somewhat; but in all of them, simplicity, heedfulness, and the strict adherence to monastic discipline support and encourage residents to live a pure life focused on the continuous cultivation of virtue, meditation, and wisdom.
Ajahn Sumedho & the Western Sangha
Ajahn Chah’s style of teaching and personality had a unique ability to reach people of other nationalities. Many foreigners came to learn from, train under, and take ordination with Ajahn Chah. The first of these was the American-born monk, Ajahn Sumedho, in 1967.
In 1975, a group of Ajahn Chah’s foreign disciples were asked by villagers from Bung Wai to start a new branch monastery. Bung Wai was a small rural town not far from Ajahn Chah’s monastery. Ajahn Chah agreed, and established Wat Pa Nanachat (The International Forest Monastery) as a monastic training center for internationals, with Ajahn Sumedho as abbot. Since that time, Wat Pa Nanachat has become a respected forest monastery and opened up additional branches, including some in remote forest and mountain locations. Wat Pa Nanachat currently includes, under its umbrella in Thailand, over fifty monks representing twenty-three nationalities.
In 1976 the English Sangha Trust invited Ajahn Sumedho to establish a Theravada monastery in London. Along with a small group of monks, Ajahn Sumedho heeded the request and established the first branch monastery in Ajahn Chah’s lineage outside of Thailand. Since that time, a number of Ajahn Chah branch monasteries have been created throughout Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand – including England, Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Canada and the United States.
This development has included the establishment of a community of nuns (siladhara). The first residence specifically for nuns was set up in 1980 close to the Chithurst Monastery and the second in 1984 as part of the Amaravati community. All of these monasteries, under the guidance of many of Ajahn Chah’s senior Western disciples, are allowing the example of forest monasticism to spread westward. They are permitting the direct and simple practice of the Buddha’s original teachings, as it has been preserved in the forest tradition for 2500 years, to accompany Buddhism as it more generally transfuses throughout and adapts to the Western world.
These monasteries are initiated only at the request of the lay community and are supported entirely by the lay community’s generosity. They provide centers for monastic training, as well as teaching and practice for the lay community. Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, the first monastery in the United States to be established by followers of Ajahn Chah, was founded in 1996 in the mountainous forests of northern California. Temple Forest Monastery, bordering a National Wildlife Refuge in the small town of Temple, New Hampshire, is the second such branch.