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    A Clear Awareness of Nature Paid Member

    Thai society, like most societies, has done little to support women in dharma practice, but nevertheless, laywomen and ordained nuns have played a crucial role in transmitting the Buddha's teachings. As a result of the forest tradition, in fact, many more Thai women took up meditation than had ever before. Unlike scholastic Buddhism, which was the province of monks and male novices, the forest is open to everyone. The forest master Maha Boowa compared his tradition to a university that "covers a vast area, far longer and wider than any other secular university…and can accept more students, irrespective of nationality, caste, sex, age and prior academic qualities." Dozens of nunneries were established by the disciples of Ajaan Mun. Ajaan Lee, for one, a well-known meditation master and disciple of Ajaan Mun, had twice as many nuns as monks at his monastery. More »
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    Conserving the Inner Ecology Paid Member

    Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (1906-1993), one of the modern Thai sangha's most provocative interpreters of Buddhist thought, formed a wilderness tradition all his own. He was ordained as a monk in 1928, but two years later, fed up with the prevailing monastic system, he founded Wat Suan Mokkhabalarama—the Garden of Empowering Liberation Monastery—in the forest near Chaiya in southern Thailand. For Buddhadasa, the city represented the imposition of artifice on the natural. To conform with nature meant to let go of our defilements—wild nature, he taught, must be conserved in order for beings to attain nirvana. And society, by extension, must be reformed before human beings will have the wisdom to conserve and unite with nature. This approach has made Buddhadasa the inspiration for social and environmental protest worldwide, and the engaged Buddhists of today such as Thailand's Sulak Sivaraksa have modeled their activism on his teachings. While Buddhadasa is known as a "forest monk," and insisted that his monks live in the forest, his view departed from that of the monks in Ajaan Mun's tradition, and his teachings were decidedly less orthodox. The Kammatthana monks view the wilderness as an indispensably good teacher, but essentially dangerous—part of samsara and something to be transcended—whereas Buddhadasa saw nature as dharmic perfection. He promoted the integration of the scholarly and practice aspects of the Buddhist path, and during his twenties retired to the jungle for six years armed with Buddhist scriptures. Moreover, unlike the Kammatthana monks, Buddhadasa believed practitioners had to hone right understanding before any successful attempt at meditation practice could be undertaken. Ajaan Mun, by contrast, insisted on practice over study. Whereas Kammatthana monks entered the forest in search of personal teachers, Buddhadasa sought no teacher: the transcriptions of his hundreds of dharma talks are his legacy, and while several monasteries in Thailand and around the world align themselves with his teachings, he has no formal lineage. In an excerpt from a dharma talk on conservation, Buddhadasa lays out his notion of nature as dharma, the fundamental goodness of the wilderness, and explains how, through right view and conforming ourselves to nature, we can end suffering. More »
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    Teachings of the Forest Masters Paid Member

    Bhikkhu Buddhadasa. Heartwood oj the Bodhi Tree. Boston Wisdom Publications, 1994. Bhikkhu Santikaro, trans. Mindfulness with Breathing: Unveiling the Secrets of Life. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1997. Bhikkhu Santikaro and Roderick Bucknell, trans. Keys to Natural Truth. Bangkok: Dhamma Study Practice Group, 1989. Bucknell, Roderick, trans. Handbokh for Mankind, rev. ed. Bangkok: Dhamma Study Practice Group, 1993. Bucknell, Roderick, trans. Buddha-Dhamma for Students, rev. ed. Bangkok: Dhamma Study Practice Group, 1988. Kornfield, Jack. Living Dharma. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1996 (contains a session of questions and answers with Ajaan Chah and an essay by Ajaan Maha Boowa; the Achaan Dhammadharo included in this book is not the same person as Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo). More »
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    Death Watch Paid Member

    In late 1947, the great meditation master Ajaan Chah (1918-1992) arrived at Khrong Forest Monastery. He found that if he wanted to stay at this wat, he would have to follow the traditional thudong (dhutanga) practice of dwelling in a cemetery. He forced himself to try. More »
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    Knowing the Tiger's Growl Paid Member

    In late 1936, a student of Ajaan Mun named Thet spent a meditation retreat by himself near a Lahu village on a mountain in northern Siam. He was about thirty-four years old then and had been wandering in the wilds for many years. Hearing a tiger's growl was nothing new, but this time, alone in a hut outside the village, he was stricken with fear: More »
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    The Home Culture of the Dharma Paid Member

    Throughout its history, Buddhism has worked as a civilizing force. Its teachings on karma, for instance—the principle that all intentional actions have consequences—have taught morality and compassion to many societies. But on a deeper level, Buddhism has always straddled the line between civilization and wilderness. The Buddha himself gained awakening in a forest, gave his first sennon in a forest, and passed away in a forest. The qualities of mind he needed in order to survive physically and mentally as he went, unarmed, into the wilds were key to his discovery of the dharma. They included resilience, resolve, and alertness; self-honesty and circumspection; steadfastness in the face of loneliness; courage and ingenuity in the face of external dangers; compassion and respect for the other inhabitants of the forest. These qualities formed the "home culture" of the dharma. More »