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Ven Ajahn Chah
Ven. Ajahn Sumedho
Ven Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho and two western disciples
Chah (Pra Bhodinyana Thera) was born into a typical farming family in Baan
Gor village, in the province of Ubon Rajathani, N.E. Thailand, in 1917.
He lived the first part of his life as any other youngster in rural Thailand,
and, following the custom, took ordination as a novice in the local village
temple for a number of years, where he learned to read and write in addition
to some basic Buddhist teachings. After a number of years he returned to
the lay life to help his parents, but, feeling an attraction to the monastic
life, at the age of twenty he again entered a temple, this time for higher
ordination as bhikkhu, or Buddhist monk.
He spend the first few years of his bhikkhu live studying scriptures and learning Pali, but the death of his father awakened him to the transience of life and instilled in him the desire to find the real essence of the Buddha’s teaching. He began to travel to other monasteries, studying the monastic discipline in detail and spending a very brief but significant time with Venerable Ajahn Mun, the most outstanding meditation Master of the ascetic, forest-dwelling tradition.. Following his time with Venerable Ajahn Mun, he spend a number of years travelling around Thailand, spending his time in forests and charnel grounds, ideal places for developing meditation practice.
At length he came within the vicinity of the village of his birth, and when word got around that he was in the area, he was invited to set up a monastery at the Pa Pong forest, a place at this time reputed to be the habitat of wild animals and ghosts. Ven. Ajahn Chah’s impeccable approach to meditation, or Dhamma practice, and his simple direct style of teaching, with the emphasis on practical application and a balanced attitude, began to attract a large following of monks and lay people.
In 1966 the first westerner came to stay at Wat Pa Pong (Wat=temple), Venerable Sumedho Bhikkhu. From that time on, the number of foreign people who came to Ajahn Chah began steadily to increase, until 1975, the first branch monastery for western and other non-Thai nationals, Wat Pa Nanachat, was set up with Venerable Ajahn Sumedho as abbot.
The year 1976 Venarable Ajahn Chah was invited to England together with Ajahn Sumedho, the outcome of which was eventually the establishment of the first branch monastery of Wat Pa Pong outside of Thailand. Since than, further branch monasteries have been established in England, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Italy.
In 1980 Venerable Ajahn Chah began to feel more acutely the symptoms of dizziness and memory lapse which he had been feeling for some years. This led to an operation in 1981, which however, failed to reverse the onset of the paralysis which eventually rendered him completely bedridden and unable to speak. However this did not stop the growth of monks and lay people who came to practise at his monastery, for whom the teaching Ajahn Chah are a constant guide and inspiration. Venerable Ajahn Chah passed away in 1992.
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