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Ajahn Chah

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Venerable Ajahn Chah (Pra Bhodinyana Thera) was born into a typical farming family in Bahn Gor village, in the province of Ubol Rachathani, N.E.Thailand, in 1917. He lived the first part of his life as any other youngster in rural Thailand, and, following the custom, took ordination as a novice in the local village Wat for a number of years, where he learned to read and write, in addition to some basic Buddhist teachings. After a number of years he returned to the lay life to help his parents, but, feeling an attraction to the monastic life, at the age of twenty he again entered a Wat, this time for higher ordination as a bhikkhu, or Buddhist monk.

He spent the first few years of his bhikkhu life studying scriptures and learning Pali, but the death of his father awakened him to the transience of life and instilled in him a desire to find the real essence of the Buddhas teaching. He began to travel to other monasteries, studying the monastic discipline in detail and spending a very brief but significant time with Venerable Ajahn Mun, the most out-standing meditation Master of the ascetic, forest-dwelling
tradition. Following his time with Venerable Ajahn Mun, he spent a number of years traveling around Thailand, spending his time in forests and charnel grounds, ideal places for developing meditation practice.

At length he came within the vicinity of the village of his birth, and when word got around that he was in the area, he was invited to set up a monastery at the Pa Pong forest, a place at that time reputed to be the habitat of wild animals and ghosts. Venerable Ajahn Chahs impeccable approach to meditation, or Dhamma practice, and his simple, direct style of teaching, with the emphasis on practical application and a balanced attitude, began to attract a large following of monks and laypeople.

In 1966 the first westerner came to stay at Wat Pa Pong, Venerable Sumedho Bhikkhu. From that time on, the number of foreign people who came to Ajahn Chah began to steadily increase, until in 1975, the first branch monastery for western and other non-Thai nationals, Wat Pa Nanachat, was set up with Venerable Ajahn Sumedho as the abbot.

In 1976 Venerable Ajahn Chah was invited to England together with Ajahn Sumedho, the outcome of which was eventually the establishment of the first branch monastery of Wat Pa Pong outside of Thailand. Since then, further branch monasteries have been established in England,Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Italy.

In 1980 Venerable Ajahn Chah began to feel more acutely the symptoms of dizziness and memory lapse which he had been feeling for some years. This led to an operation in 1981, which, however, failed to reverse the onset of the paralysis which eventually rendered him completely bed-ridden and unable to speak.However this did not stop thegrowth of monks and laypeople who came to practice at his monastery, for whom the teachings of Ajahn Chah are a constant guide and inspiration.