Monday, February 20, 2012

Thai Forest Buddhist Meditation (video)

Wisdom Quarterly
() Theravada Buddhism in the Thai Forest tradition as Way to Happiness

The pursuit of happiness, the way to freedom from unhappiness, is Buddhist meditation. It is immediately effective (timeless) not because unhappiness ends but because, in the present moment, everything is all right.

Unhappiness (dukkha, disappointment, woe, suffering) is not due to impermanence alone, but by the very threefold nature of "things." Conditioned phenomena are unsatisfying by their very nature.

Buddhism is the path to seeing the true nature of things directly. This opens up the possibility of liberation from all unhappiness. Practice, not theory, is essential. These Western monks, early students of Ajahn Chah, returned to the West and took up the monastic life to benefit the world.


Learning to meditate according to the Thai Forest style is much easier in America than Thailand where clear English is hard to come by. But the difficult accommodations, heat, mosquitoes, lack of suitable food, and other hardships make it an experience one never forgets. Here Ajahn Luangta Michael explains breathing meditation according to tradition.
  • One of the best and most accessible books ever written on the subject is What the Buddha Never Taught by Canadian journalist Tim Ward.
  • Keeping the Breath in Mind by Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo (translated and distributed freely by the eccentric American monk Ven. Thanissaro) is a very helpful "how to" guide.
But the most famous Thai monk in this tradition was Ajahn Chah, who created Wat Pah Nanachat ("International Forest Monastery," where Tim Ward visited) for foreigners to learn and practice in English. He had many great Western disciple, the funniest and perhaps most accomplished of which is the great Ajahn Brahm, now an abbot in Australia who (contrary to tradition) welcomes both female and male practitioners.

() Life of Ajahn Chah in
Isan (Laotian NE Thailand)

Basic Instructions
  • Place right foot on left leg, right hand on left.
  • Eyes closed, "look" at the breath with the mind's eye.
  • Bhutto means Buddha. When breathing in, think "bhu."
  • When breathing out, think "tho."
  • Do this all the time.
  • Have a feel (sensation, awareness) when the breath touches the nostril or upper lip.
  • Know the breath when breathing in and when breathing out, slowly, comfortably.
  • Do it for 10 minutes every day at first, and build up to one or two hours.
  • Practice every day 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes and more.
  • Up the level of meditation until, like a battery, it is charged, intensified, and concentrated (samadhi).
  • When it is full, it can be of use for insight (vipassana) to know what things are true by heart, which is far better than normal thinking.

Thailand (Isan) Today
(Thaipulsedotcom) I visited Wat Pah Nanachat (and Ajahn Chah's other temple Wat Nong Pah Pong) in 2011. It is a great place. There were only a few monks about, so I walked around shooting video. I stayed overnight and found that the Australian monk in charge, a young guy maybe 28, was way too engrossed with getting chores done and having a big result from it. He was kind of like a military drill instructor. He was completely stressed out about some new people who had just arrived.

(HeartS0ngs) I feel fortunate to just be a layperson with enough conviction and wisdom (which I hope lasts) to keep practicing the Noble Eightfold Path alone, with only the Internet for guidance. I'm not sure I could survive life in a forest monastery! But I believe it would be a wonderful opportunity for intensive training and practice for anyone strong enough to undertake it.

(BuddhaWhisper) Seems like there are politics everywhere, even in a Buddhist Monastery, in all traditions. And it's no better in Western Dharma centers.

(Dharmathai) I agree with Ven. Dhammavuddho. I was ordained in a Thai temple full of Thai monks, and the same kind of unhelpful unfriendliness was evident. The Western monks seem to have a much better grip on what a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk, recluse) in the Buddha's Dispensation should represent through actions and speech. However, what Ven. Dhammavuddo says about the lack of stress on meditation is now also true: Many practitioners get lost in rules (vinaya) and dogma and no longer seem to focus on the practice and knowing the real heart.

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