“Those who read books cannot understand the teachings and, what’s more, may even go astray. But those who try to observe the things going on in the mind, and always take that which is true in their own minds as their standard, never get muddled. They are able to comprehend suffering, and ultimately will understand Dharma. Then, they will understand the books they read.”
― Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (Slave of the Buddha) went forth as a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) in 1926 at the age of twenty. After a few years of study in Bangkok, he was inspired to live close with nature in order to investigate the Buddha-Dhamma as the Buddha had done. Thus, he established Suan Mokkhabalarama (The Grove of the Power of Liberation) in 1932, near his hometown in Southern Thailand. At that time, it was the only forest Dhamma center in the region, and one of the few places dedicated to vipassana (mental cultivation leading to “seeing clearly” into reality). Word of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Suan Mokkh has spread over the years, and Buddhadasa Bhikkhu’s life and work are considered to be among the most influential events in the Buddhist history of Siam. Here, we can only mention some of the more memorable services he has rendered to Buddhism.
Ajahn Buddhadasa worked painstakingly to establish and explain the correct and essential principles of pristine Buddhism. That work was based on extensive research of the Pali texts (canon and commentary), especially of the Buddha’s Discourses (sutta-pitaka), followed by personal experiment and practice with these teachings. From this, he uncovered the Dhamma that truly quenches dukkha, which he in turn shared with anyone interested. His goal was to produce a complete set of references for present and future research and practice. His approach was always scientific, straightforward, and practical.
Although his formal education was limited to seven years, in addition to some beginning Pali studies, during his lifetime he was given seven honorary doctorates by Thai universities. Numerous doctoral theses have been written about his work. His books, both written and transcribed from talks, fill a room at the National Library and influence all serious Thai Buddhists.
Progressive elements in Thai society, especially the young, have been inspired by his wide-ranging thought, teachings, and selfless example. Since the 1960s, activists and thinkers in such areas as education, social welfare, and rural development have drawn upon his teaching, advice, and friendship. His work helped inspire a new generation of socially concerned monks.
He studied all schools of Buddhism and all the major religious traditions. This interest was practical rather than scholarly. He sought to unite all genuinely religious people, meaning those working to overcome selfishness, in order to work together for world peace. This broad-mindedness won him friends and students from around the world, including Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.
Watch Below: LIFE & WORK OF BUDDHADASA BHIKKHU
Not long before his passing, he established an International Dhamma Hermitage, where courses introducing foreigners to a correct understanding of Buddhist principles and practice are held in English at the beginning of every month. Retreats in Thai are organized for the latter part of each month. Further, he hoped that meetings would be organized for Buddhists from around the world to identify and agree upon the “heart of Buddhism.” Finally, he wanted to bring together all the religions to cooperate in helping humanity.
In his last few years, he established some new projects for carrying on the work of serving Lord Buddha and humanity. One is Suan Atammayatarama, a small training center for foreign monks in a quiet grove near the International Dhamma Hermitage. The guidelines he laid down for this center aim to develop “Dhamma missionaries” who are well versed in the Buddha’s teaching, have solid experience of vipassana, and can adapt the Buddha-Dhamma to the problems of the modern world.
Another sister project is Dhamma Mata (Dhamma Mothers). Society is suffering from a lack of qualified; they exist but are not given adequate recognition. Dhamma Mata aims to raise the status of women by providing them better opportunities and support in Buddhist monastic life and meditation practice. The hope is that there will be more women who can “give birth to others through Dhamma.”
Ajahn Buddhadasa died at Suan Mokkh on 8 July 1993. The work of Suan Mokkh continues as before, according to the law of nature.
Discover Buddhadasa Bhikkhu’s teachings here: wisdompubs.org/author/ajahn-
Book to Hang Out With: Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree: The Buddha’s Teaching on Voidness
Clear and simple teachings on voidness and living an ethical life.
In Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu presents in simple language the philosophy of voidness, or sunnata, that lies at the heart of the Buddhism. By carefully tying voidness to ethical discipline, Buddhadasa provides us clear and open grounds to reflect on the place of the philosophy in our lives. With his ecumenical, stimulating, and enthusiastically engaged approach to reading the Buddha’s teaching in full flourish, Ajahn Buddhadasa transforms the jungle of philosophy into a glade as inviting as the one in which he famously taught.
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