I did not come to Thailand because of the food, touristy places, night life, culture or just because. I come to Thailand to pursue my spiritual cultivation.
Beneath the surface, the practice of Buddhism at its purest exist in Thailand. And that is what I have discovered that prompted me to return to Thailand again and again.
Today is Vesak Day or Visakha Bucha. I thought of sharing part of my journey with you leading to my travels to Thailand and the birth of this blog. So that for those who are searching for answers in life, you may, like me, find the answer in the profound teachings of the forest tradition.
From young, I had always felt a deep sense of impermanence about people and events around me. That we could lose loved ones and life is very fragile. It struck me in a very profound way. When I tried to explain it to adults around me, I was told I was being too negative or pessimistic. No one was able to explain or understand me.
Initially, I believed what they said. I thought I was negative and a joy kill to be around. I doubted myself and dislike myself for having all these thoughts.
Still, I was always a curious person. There is a drive within me to seek answers. So from as young as 13 years old, I was already reading psychology and even books on astrology in an attempt to find correlation in human behavior.
But then, it was often the path I walked alone. No one understood me and in my search I was left astray and going towards a downward spiral.
All the worries and thoughts that had haunted me since young came through in a real nightmare, when at the point my life was going well, my whole world suddenly crumbled. I lost my dad to stroke and my mom almost did not make it due to tonsil cancer. I was brought to my knees.
My worst nightmare came through. It was so traumatizing that I would not even wish it on my worst enemies.
I went into my shell, feeling disappointed and disillusioned till some friends called up and almost dragged me back out to do voluntary work to keep my mind from spiraling downwards. One told me I would be no help to nurse my mom back to health if I myself was not in a proper state of mind.
So I went to help up in a Buddhist society and mixed with some youths around my age. We had a good and inspiring leader which made our work with lots of wholesome fun and meaningful.
Then one day, I chanced upon a book called The Spiritual Biography of Acariya Mun Bhuridatto. The book, over 500 pages looked interesting. I thought it would make a good read for my mom.
I requested a copy of the book to take home and passed it to my mom to read. She told me that I should read it as I may like it.
So one rainy Saturday afternoon, I had nothing to do and remembered the book. I took it out from my bookshelf and started reading.
And I could not put it down.
The book was written by the late Ajahn Maha Boowa, a well known monk in Thailand.
I realized to my amazement, for the first time in my life, I read a book that deeply resonated with the depths of my heart. All the things that Luangta mentioned in the book, it was something I am searching for.
The Thai forest tradition. The teachings of the late Ajahn Mun. It was the answers I have searched for all my life.
By then, I was fairly familiar with different sects of Buddhism having practiced meditation under a few traditions and listening to talks by oversea speakers including monks and nuns with huge following. I also learned abhidhamma on my own.
But the Thai forest tradition resonated very deeply with me.
Ajah Mun passed away in 1949, long before I was born. But one of his youngest disciple, Luangta Maha Boowa who was born in 1913 was then still alive.
I knew I must meet him. I must.
So started my determination of meeting him. Through some karmic obstruction, it took me 2 years before I could finally visit his temple, Wat Pa Baan Taad in Udon Thani. Basically I took a flight to Don Meung, then walked over to the adjoining train station and bought a train to Udon Thani.
I could not speak Thai that time. But I was able to communicate through a series of gestures and pointing to the ticket, to beg the train staff to please let me know when to disembark. Since the train would just stop for a while and leave with no announcements. After that, I would leave to approach a tuk tuk driver.
Often the driver could not speak English. That time there was no GPS and Smartphones. The driver had to stop to ask people. Somehow I managed to get to the temple.
It was all worth it. I spend few weeks practicing in Wat Pa Baan Taad. And I have the good fortune of heing guided by Ajahn Dick Silaratano, a monk from America who actually translated the spiritual biography from Thai to English.
It has been almost 2 decades since I first stepped into a Thai forest monastery.
I will end this post with recommendation of online resources and YouTube channels that you may consider exploring if you are interested to learn more about the Thai Forest Tradition.
1. Accesstoinsight, at the Thai forest tradition section: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/index.html
This contains teachings of famous forest ajahns being translated in English.
2. Forest Dhamma including books and audio: https://forestdhamma.org/
Provides books online of translated teachings of Luangta Maha Boowa.
3. YouTube channel: Forest Dhamma Audiobooks.
Contains audio books mainly by Luangta Maha Boowa including the Spiritual Biography of Ajahn Mun.