Wat Pah Nanachat (WPN)
The International Forest Monastery www.watpahnanachat.org/ picasaweb.google.com/105007927083171937889?gsessionid=DT1tod5vr62HROHeEWehLQ
all Ajan Chah forestsangha.org/
Bahn Bung Wai
Ampher Warin Chamrab
Ubon Rachathani 34310
Wat Pah Nanachat is a Buddhist monastery in Northeast Thailand, in the Theravada Forest Tradition. It was established in 1975 by Ven. Ajahn Chah (1918-1992) as a branch monastery close to his own traditional forest monastery Wat Nong Pah Pong in Ubon Rachathani province, with Ven. Ajahn Sumedho, an American disciple of his, as the first abbot.
The monastery aims at providing English-speaking people the opportunity to train and practise the ancient lifestyle that the Buddha taught his monks in the forests over 2500 years ago.
Gründung des Klosters Wat Pah Pong
Im Jahre 1954 wurde Ajahn Chah [ * 17. Juni 1918 Thailand; † 16. Januar 1992) ] zurück in sein Heimatdorf eingeladen. In einem von Malaria befallenen Wald namens „Pah Pong“ schlug er sein Lager auf. Trotz der Härten dieser schutzlosen Umgebung und der spärlichen Nahrung, sammelten sich allmählich immer mehr Schüler um ihn, die von seinem wachsenden, guten Ruf angezogen wurden. Das Waldkloster, das so um ihn herum entstand, wurde „Wat Pah Pong“ genannt. Auf dieselbe Weise sollten bald weitere Zweigklöster in ganz Thailand gegründet werden.
1967 kam ein amerikanischer Mönch nach Wat Pah Pong. Der ehrwürdige Sumedho hatte gerade sein erstes Regenzeit-Retreat (das „Vassa“ – eine dreimonatige Zeit des Rückzuges während derRegenzeit) in einem Kloster an der laotischen Grenze verbracht. Obgleich seine Bemühungen durchaus fruchtvoll gewesen waren, erkannte der ehrw. Sumedho, dass er einen Lehrer benötigte, der ihn in allen Aspekten des monastischen Lebens ausbilden konnte. Zufällig hatte einer von Ajahn Chahs Schülern das Kloster, in dem der ehrw. Sumedho zu diesem Zeitpunkt lebte, besucht – dieser konnte sogar ein wenig Englisch sprechen. Nachdem Sumedho von Ajahn Chah gehört hatte, reiste er nach Wat Pah Pong. Ajahn Chah nahm diesen neuen Schüler bei sich auf, aber beharrte darauf, dass dieser Westler keinerlei Sondervergütungen empfangen würde. Er aß die gleiche, einfache Almosenspeise wie die anderen thailändischen Mönche. Das Training dort war streng und äußerst fordernd. Ajahn Chah brachte seine Mönche häufig an deren Grenzen, um ihre Ausdauer zu überprüfen, damit diese Geduld und Gleichmut entwickeln würden. Manchmal veranlasste er lange und scheinbar sinnlose Arbeitsprojekte, um deren Anhaftung an Ruhe und Stille zu frustrieren. Das Hauptgewicht lag dabei immer besonders auf der genauen Befolgung des Vinaya. Bald kamen weitere Westler nach Wat Pah Pong. Als der ehrw. Sumedho ein Bhikkhu von fünf Jahren war, erachtete Ajahn Chah ihn als kompetent genug um selbst zu unterrichten. So kam es, dass der ehrw. Sumedho und eine Handvoll westlicher Bhikkhus in der heißen Jahreszeit im Jahre 1975 in einem Wald nahe Wat Pah Pong ihre Lagerstatt aufschlugen, um auf Almosenschalen die schützende Glasierung zu brennen. Die Bewohner des nahegelegenen Dorfes Bung Wai erfuhren davon, und baten die Mönche in diesem Wald in ihrer Nähe dauerhaft zu bleiben. Ajahn Chah stimmte zu, und so wurde Wat Pah Nanachat („internationales Waldkloster“) gegründet. Der ehrw. Sumedho wurde der erste Abt dieses Waldklosters, in dem nun westliche Waldmönche auf Englisch unterrichtet werden sollten.
Staying at Wat Pah Nanachat
Our monastery is situated about fifteen kilometres from the city of Ubon Rachathani. English serves as the primary language of communication and instruction. Our community consists of monks, novices and postulants from a wide range of nationalities.
Although Wat Pah Nanachat is not a meditation centre, there are facilities for a limited number of male and female guests to stay at the monastery and practise with the resident monastic community.
We would like our guests to follow the daily routines of the monks as much as possible, and join in with all communal meetings and work activities. As the teachers of the forest tradition stress, in monastic life, qualities like co-operation, respect and self-sacrifice both facilitate communal harmony and individual growth in the practice. Generally, the training at Wat Pah Nanachat aims to follow the Dhamma-Vinaya, the teachings and code of monastic discipline as laid down by the Buddha, respecting both the letter and the spirit. The monastic life encourages development of simplicity, renunciation and quietude. It is a deliberate commitment to this way of life that creates a community environment where people of diverse backgrounds, personalities and temperaments can co-operate in the effort to practice and realize the Buddha’s path to liberation.
In general, guests have many hours a day for study and meditation practice on their own. To make good use of the situation it is necessary to have had previous meditation experience and exposure to Buddhist teachings. The daily routine in the monastery is usually:
|03:00 AM||Morning wake-up bell|
|03:30 AM||Morning meeting: chanting and meditation|
|Dawn||Monks go out to surrounding villages on alms-round. Lay guests sweep the monastery or help in the kitchen.|
|08:00 AM||The meal|
|10:00 AM||Chores period|
|04:00 PM||Afternoon drink|
|06:15 PM||Evening meeting: chanting and meditation|
The schedule may be supplemented by periods of group practice, communal work or Dhamma instructions according to the needs of the community. After the meal the abbot or a senior monk is available to receive visitors and resident guests and answer questions. Four times in a lunar month, on the Wan Pra (the Buddhist Holy Day), the community observes a late-night vigil, during which time there is the opportunity to discuss aspects of Dhamma practice with one of the senior monks.
Much of the day is reserved for private practice, using the time for sitting and walking meditation either in one’s private hut in the forest or one of the meditation halls. Regarding meditation instructions at Wat Pah Nanachat, rather than solely utilizing a particular technique, we aim our practice to include all aspects of daily life, however simple and ordinary, as opportunities to develop mindfulness and other spiritual qualities such as diligent effort, joy, contentment, patience and faith. In time, the virtuous qualities that grow out of such a training gather strength and contribute towards deeper peace and concentration leading to insight and the growth of liberating wisdom.
The Buddhist lay-training guidelines (precepts):
Lay guests who stay at Wat Pah Nanachat are expected to abide by the traditional eight Buddhist precepts. The first five form the basic guidelines for conduct leading to harmony and self-respect. The other three precepts encourage a spirit of renunciation and simplicity and are among the fundamental principles of monastic practice.
The five training precepts:
|1. Harmlessness:||to refrain from intentionally taking the life of any living creature.|
|2. Trustworthiness:||to refrain from taking anything that is not given.|
|3. Chastity:||to refrain from all sexual activity.|
|4. Right Speech:||to refrain from false, abusive, malicious or disharmonious speech and worldly gossip.|
|5. Sobriety:||to refrain from taking intoxicating drinks or drugs; smoking is prohibited at all times at the monastery.|
The three renunciation precepts:
1. To refrain from eating after midday. The monastery practice is to eat one meal a day in one bowl at one sitting. This frees time for meditation and enhances simplicity of life.
2. To refrain from using entertainment such as music, dance, playing games, and beautifying or adorning the body with jewelry or makeup. This assists in focusing the mind’s attention inwards towards Dhamma.
3. To refrain from using high or luxurious beds or seats and from indulging in sleep. This develops the qualities of wakefulness, mindfulness and clear awareness in all postures and in all activities throughout the day.
These training precepts are guidelines for good conduct in body and speech and provide a necessary foundation for the development of mindfulness, clear comprehension and meditation in our endeavour to cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path. The precepts serve to promote harmony within the community through restraining unwholesome speech and action. These fundamental principles of training cultivate the self-discipline necessary for spiritual development and are taken up as an act of deliberate personal choice and initiative.
Staying as a guest:
If you wish to come and stay at Wat Pah Nanachat, you need to write in advance to the guest monk and allow several weeks in which to receive a written response. We only have limited space for guests and are often booked up, so it is good to write well in advance. Please understand that it is the wish of our community to not have e-mail and internet in the monastery. Guests are accepted initially for three days. If they wish to stay longer, they can consult the guest monk or the abbot. The best time to arrive is before 8:00 am in order to take part in the meal and meet with the guest monk.
Resident lay guests in Wat Pah Nanachat wear traditional Thai lay monastic attire: loose white and long trousers with a white shirt for men, and a white blouse and long black skirt for women. Men staying longer than one week are asked to shave their heads, beards and eyebrows. Guests are advised to be in good physical and mental health and to have health coverage or travel insurance. If you have previously had any serious mental illnesses, please inform us openly about them, so we can be sure that your stay in the monastery won’t give rise to major problems for you and the community. There is no malaria at Wat Pah Nanachat.
While the monastery provides bedding and a mosquito net, guests are expected to supply other requisites (e.g. a good flashlight/torch, an alarm clock, flip-flop sandals, candles, mosquito repellent and toiletries). A padlock for locking away personal valuables is very useful. The monks are happy to the share food and drinks that are offered to them with the layguests each morning, but as it is part of the renunciant tradition to accept whatever is offered, they are unable to arrange any special diets for the guests or residents. Please do not bring electronic gadgets like mobile phones, portable computers, cameras, etc. with you, or lock them away in the monastery safe. These things create a worldly atmosphere which impinges on the simple, meditative lifestyle in the monastery. Also, this is a strictly non-smoking monastery.
The very existence of Wat Pah Nanachat is due to the faith and goodwill of the Thai people. The society of rural Northeast Thailand is culturally conservative and still upholds many of their unique traditional values. Guests are asked to please respect and be sensitive to these local traditions through being mindful of appropriate dress and deportment. Please note that the financial expenses of the monastery are completely covered by the donations out of faith and free will by our lay-community, whether local or international.
During the months of March and April, the major part of the community of monks goes on retreat to the mountains of western Kanchanaburi province. At this time the number of lay people accepted may be limited, so it is best to write in advance. Also, Wat Pah Nanachat receives a lot of visitors around January 12th to 17th and around June 16th. Accommodations are likely to be full around these days, so drop-in guests who arrive around these dates might not be able to stay overnight.
People need some experience with meditation before coming to Wat Pah Nanachat, preferably a meditation retreat. Doing a Buddhist meditation retreat is like putting in the foundation, which can be built upon during your stay at Wat Pah Nanachat. A typical meditation retreat for beginners lasts about 10 days. Some good places to do a meditation retreat in Thailand are:
- Wat Suan Mokkh (Chaiya, Surat Thani 84110). (Meditation retreats are every first 10 days of the month, please arrive early on the last day of the previous month. No need to reserve or write in advance.) The meditation teaching is in the style of Ajahn Buddhadasa. Retreats last 10 days. www.suanmokkh.org
- Wat Khao Tham (Ko Pha-Ngan, Surat Thani 84280). Teachers: Steve and Rosemary Weismann. 10-day retreats for beginners. Retreats begin mid-month, usually around the 13th or 14th of each month. www.watkowtahm.org
- Thailand Vipassana Centre (1. Dhamma Kamala: 200 Baan Nerrnpasuk, Tambon Dongkeelek, Ampher Meuang, Prachinburi 25000 Tel/fax: 037-403515; e-mail: email@example.com ; 2. Dhamma Kuta : c/o Mrs Pornphen Leenutaphong, 929 Rama I Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok; tel/fax: 02 – 216 4772 fax: 02 – 215 3408). These two centers offer 10 day retreats using the meditation technique of S. N. Goenka.
- Sorn-Thawee Meditation Centre (Bangkla, Chasoengsao 24110. Tel: 038-541405). The meditation teaching here is based on the technique of Mahasi Sayadaw. Visitors here are encouraged to do a 20-day retreat.
- Wat Ram Poeng (Tambon Suthep, Ampher Meuang, Chiang Mai 5000. Tel: 053-278620 e-mail: watrampoeng.hi5.com; firstname.lastname@example.org). The meditation teaching here is based on the technique of Mahasi Sayadaw. Retreats can be anything from 10 to 26 days depending on how long one wishes to stay.
- Wat Sanghathan (Bangphai, Muang, Nonthaburi 11000, Thailand, located just north of Bangkok). Tel: (02) 4471766 or 4470799; e-mail: email@example.com; website:www.vimokkha.com. 7 day intensive Meditation Retreats are held at the „Khao Yai Saeng“ Meditation Center, which is a branch of Wat Sanghathan in the „Khao Yai“ National Park about 250 km northeast of Bangkok. Contact Wat Sanghathan for the address.
For more information on these (and other) retreat places in Asia, read the booklet Retreats in Asia and have a look at the blog wandering dhamma.
At present, there is no permanent nun’s community at Wat Pah Nanachat. Women interested in a monastic commitment are invited to contact our affiliated nun’s community at:
- The Nuns Community at Amaravati (Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, Great Gaddesden, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HPI 3BZ, U.K. / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you would like to visit and stay at Wat Pah Nanachat, please write a letter (suggesting possible dates) to:
How to get to Wat Pah Nanachat:
- By train: three fast trains per day depart from Bangkok central railway station (Hualamphong) to Warin Chamrab (5 km south of Ubon Rachathani). There are also several night trains.
Taxis or tuk-tuks will be waiting once you arrive in Ubon. They can bring you directly to the monastery. Alternatively, you can take a songthaew (a small public bus with two rows of seats in the back) from Warin Chamrab to Wat Pah Nanachat. The songthaew passes close to Wat Pah Nanachat. Wat Pah Nanachat is just about 500 meters away from the road, in the forest behind the rice fields, with a white wall around it.
- By airplane: There are a number of flights a day between Bangkok and Ubon, even with budget-airlines and quick internet booking.
- By bus: There are many air-conditioned long-distance buses with reclining seats that depart from the Northern Bus Terminal ‚Mor Chit‘ in Bangkok.
Ordaining at Wat Pah Nanachat
One of Ajahn Chah’s main purposes for establishing an international forest monastery was to offer a solid training as a Buddhist monk to foreigners unfamiliar with Thai culture, using English language for communication and instruction. So in 1975 Wat Pah Nanachat came to be, as a place where Westerners (or other non-Thai speakers) can take on the yellow robes and become Buddhist monks. It has proved very useful to enter the monastic life taking gradual steps, as life in a foreign culture with its new forms and routines does not come easy for most non-native Buddhists, and takes time.
The following is a description of the various stages involved in becoming a monk at Wat Pah Nanachat.
So you’d like to ordain…
There are several stages that we go through at Wat Pah Nanachat in making the transition from lay person to monk (bhikkhu). Having the intention to prepare for ordination, you would first stay in the monastery as an eight-precept layperson for about one month. Then you would become a white-robed postulant (anagarika, a ‚homeless-one‘, in Thai known as a ‚pa-kow‘). Pa-kows make a formal commitment to the eight precepts, and begin to train in the general monastic rules. After about four to six months, one can proceed to request the Going Forth (pabbajja) as a novice (samanera). The main difference between a pa-kow and a novice is that a pa-kow is still able to own and handle money, and therefore has more freedom and independence, while the novice adopts an additional precept that prevents him from ownership and the handling and use of money. This makes the samanera a full alms mendicant relying on the support of the lay community for his living. Novices wear the same brown robes as the monks and train in almost the same ways as the monks, but their explicit code of rules is much smaller and less detailed. At Wat Pah Nanachat our novices already start studying the monks rules, and also acquire various basic skills of monastic life such as chanting and making robes and other requisites. Otherwise novices practice meditation and apply themselves to the duties of communal life just as the monks.
If everything goes smoothly, one is well prepared, and the Sangha considers one ready for bhikkhu life, after about one year as a novice, one can proceed to request Higher Ordination and become a part of the bhikkhu Sangha. This is a typical course of training that our monastery has used for many years now and seems to work well. It is a gradual way of becoming familiar and adapting to the new lifestyle, Thai culture, practices and rules of conduct as a monk, and it also enables our community to get to know its new members in an unhurried way. In addition, being a novice and already living in the midst of the Sangha is a very conducive opportunity to reiterate or clarify ones own plans and possibly communicate them to parents and close family members before making the step to a full commitment to the bhikkhu life.
The community requests that people coming to ordain as monks at Wat Pah Nanachat have a genuine interest in long-term training within the communities associated with Ajahn Chah. The monastic code requires new monks to be under dependence of a teacher for a period of five years. We consider this to be a good time frame for an initial commitment, as in such a period one has learned enough about the ups and downs of monastic life that one’s further aspirations become clear naturally. Such a long term commitment helps to create a stable community and facilitates the continuity needed in one’s own practice to overcome personal restlessness and to find peace and contentment in one’s spiritual search. If you are still interested in checking out different places, communities and traditions in order to find out what suits you, we recommend that you explore all your options well before taking on the training in the yellow robes at Wat Pah Nanachat, as the opportunities to travel around individually as a novice and a new monk are limited. Please also clarify your relationships to parents and family before ordination. With their support you will feel much more at ease living here long-term.
For now, we’d like to welcome you to come and see what it is like here, as a guest first and then, if you and the community wish, as a pa-kow. You will find out by living here to what extent you would like to commit yourself to monastic life in our community. For becoming a pa-kow, there are no specific requirements, but for novice and bhikkhu ordination one needs one’s parent’s permission. Generally we have agreed upon an age limit of about fifty years for ordination. Other requirements for ordination are that one needs to be free from debts, free from government service, and free of major diseases such as epilepsy, HIV, cancer, etc. If you have ever had serious psychological problems before, such as depression or psychotic episodes, or serious drug addictions, please be so kind to speak openly with the abbot about them, so we can realistically discuss whether or not the monastic lifestyle will really be helpful.
We ask people to be careful not to cut off their financial life-line before coming here, because even though the monks freely share their almsfood and the monastery infrastructure with everyone, all guests and pa-kows still need to take responsibility for their private needs and business, such as medical care, visas, return airfare, and personal items such as toiletries, before becoming ordained. Especially the cost of visas over a long period can be significant. The visa situation normally requires making several trips to Laos or Malaysia. A trip costs about $150 (US). Alternatively you can make many trips to the nearby Laotian border to acquire a new one-month transit visa. These visas are issued free of charge, but you will have to pay for a Laotian visa $30 (US) before you can re-enter Thailand and request the one-month transit visa.
Until you take the novice precepts, we are not able to assist you in visa matters, other than arranging a non-immigrant visa the last time you leave the country before your Going Forth. Once you are a novice, though, we will take care of your visa applications without you having to arrange for any payment. Before you come to Thailand we suggest that you get a two-month tourist visa at any Thai embassy (or a multiple entry tourist visa if possible).
One last little note on something that seems to be more of an issue these days: although everybody who comes here is surely generally inspired by the idea of ‚leaving it all behind‘, many visitors who come with the wish to ordain carry a variety of electronic gadgets with them (telephones, i-pods, cameras, laptops, etc). To maintain the spirit of a forest monastery, living in a simple, natural environment, we encourage all our newcomers to give up such items, and generally we have decided not to use e-mail and internet in our monastery.
Hopefully we have not overwhelmed you with these practical details, and we look forward to seeing you soon in the midst of our Sangha.