Forest Sangha Newsletter April 1992

Ajahn Chah Passes Away; Venerable Thitapanno
50th Day Commemoration; Ven. Nyanaviro
A Noble Life: 17.6.1918 to 16.1.1992
A Niche in the Woods; Aj. Viradhammo
Life of a Forest Monk (Pt III); Luang Por Jun
Work in Hammer Woods; Mike Holmes
Staying Alive; Ajahn Sucitto

Being Nobody; Aj Sumedho
Why Are We Here; Aj Chah
Brightness; Aj Sucitto


The 50th Day Commemoration

Ven. Nyanaviro sent us a report of the commemorative services at Wat Pah Pong fifty days after the death of Venerable Ajahn Chah.

At 1 pm 300 lay people and 200 monks and nuns gathered in the new sala. The floor is polished granite and the walls are partially marbled. Four huge chandeliers hang from the high ceiling. Large garlands of flowers hang from the walls and the shrine is covered in artificial lotuses - which look beautiful. The cry of the wild chickens breaks into the silence - they are all over the Wat!

Ajahn Jun gave a desana at 2 pm mentioning the debt of gratitude we all have to Luang Por Chah. He exhorted us to make an effort to keep up the practices that Luang Por Chah taught. He also talked about the benefits of keeping good standards regarding sila and the monastic conventions, and reminded us that the practice was not in the forest or the Wat, but is the work of the mind in the body. 'So all of Buddhism is right here in this body/mind. Don't let the practice become perfunctory - put life into it.'

Even though Ajahn Chah is dead, the goodness and virtue that he embodied is still alive.

At 7 pm about 3000 lay people and 300 monks and novices gathered in the new sala for the evening chanting. At 9 pm Luang Por Pannananda gave a desana:

He started by praising Ajahn Chah as one of the great monks of this era who taught a pure kind of Buddhism, with nothing extraneous. Ajahn Chah had trained a Sangha which could continue, most notably overseas where monasteries had arisen from his inspiration. They represented an historic occasion in the development of Buddhism.

Luang Por Pannananda commented that Ajahn Chah had taught people to be wise. The way the Pah Pong Sangha was handling the proceedings was a good example: in Thailand some degenerate practices had crept into funeral services, making of them an excuse for a party with gambling and alcohol. Yet the purpose of a funeral is for the study of Dhamma, not for distraction! It's a lesson, a reminder.

Even though Ajahn Chah is dead, the goodness and virtue that he embodied is still alive. We must maintain that which he gave to us all: we have to be 'mediums' for Luang Por Chah, channelling his goodness and virtue through our hearts. If we reflect on Luang Por Chah's metta, sila and panna and internalise them, then it's as if he is in our hearts, far better than hanging a medallion with his picture on it around our necks.

Luang Por Pannananda concluded by reflecting that the Buddha left the Dhamma-Vinaya, not an individual, as our teacher, and that his teaching was one of sustaining compassion, wisdom and purity. So our practice is to wish all beings well, refraining from harming others or the environment. Then to have wisdom - whatever we're doing, inquiring as to why are we doing it, what our purpose is, and what is the most skilful means. And to dwell in purity - honouring goodness by making body, speech and mind good; associating with good people, and frequenting places of goodness.

Luang Por Pannananda had witnessed a decline in most monasteries after the teacher died, with schisms occurring between the disciples. So we should be careful not to get attached to views, or to wealth and gains, and agree to have regular meetings in order to maintain harmony. Sangha and laity should support all the things that are in line with the way Luang Por Chah taught - and refrain from the things he cautioned us about. We must all help to do this.

The evening continued with different senior monks giving talks. Ajahn Santacitto was next and his memory of Thai was excellent. They were still talking when we left at 4.45 am - but probably finished at dawn with morning puja.

With respect and anjali
Wat Pah Nanachat, 6th March