American Thai Forest Monk to Visit PIMC in June by Robert Beatty, June 2003

On the far Northeastern side of Thailand, just 60km from the Cambodian border, lies the town of Ubon Ratchathani. Farmlands and hundreds of kilometers of forest surround Thailand.s fifth largest city. Leaving town on a dirt road, one finds a sign in English letting you know that just behind the rice fields is Wat Pa Nanachat. Nancy and I brought members of our Thai Pilgrimage to this secluded monastery last January. Ajahn Sumedo, the senior western monk of the Theravada Lineage established this International Forest Monastery under the guidance of the revered Thai monk, Ajahn Chah. Although the local Thai community supports the monks, English is the main language spoken. Jack Kornfield lived here as a monk for several years.

We were privileged to sit in the Dharma Hall with a monk named Ajahn Chandako. He is a tall, lanky fellow raised in Minnesota. Like most monks in the Ajahn Chah lineage, his demeanor is quiet, warm, and light hearted. He spoke with depth and humor about integrating his western background with his present life as a Buddhist monk.

In Thailand, once a monk is well established in his practice, some years after being ordained, he may choose to go on .tudong.. This is a form of wandering around the countryside on foot, finding places that are conducive to meditation. Traveling with all  his worldly possessions slung on his shoulder, he sleeps under a small umbrella covered by a mosquito net and a tarp. All of his daily needs are met by the generosity of nearby villagers when he walks on alms round each morning. The Dana of the villagers allows the monk to devote his life to meditation, and his generosity of spirit offers them dharma inspiration and teachings. It is a dynamic and interactive process that keeps the practice of the dharma flourishing.

This summer Ajahn Chandako will travel to the Czech Republic to do a three-month retreat. When we learned that he planned to visit his father in Salem en-route to Europe, we invited him to spend the month of June in a .Northwest tudong.. We made arrangements with a friend of ours for Ajahn Chandako to camp on private land in a forest on Sauvie Island. During his month of tudong on the island, we will make arrangements for him to offer us teachings at PIMC on Sunday nights.

Having “our” monk on tudong so close to home presents us with a precious opportunity to practice Dana. According to their precepts, monks cannot store food or prepare meals. Ajahn Chandako will need a food delivery once each morning so that he has a meal by 10am. This will allow him to complete his single meal of the day before the sun reaches the zenith. If you would like to participate in this age-old ritual of preparing food and offering it to a monk, this is a golden opportunity. More details will be forthcoming, as we know them.