April  1992   2535   Number 20 

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

Ajahn Chah Passes Away

Venerable Thitapanno sent us an account of the events at Wat Pah Pong immediately following Luang Por Chah's death.

On the morning of 16th January, the Sangha in Britain received a brief message from Wat Pah Nanachat to inform us of the death of Luang Por Chah. The Venerable Ajahn had been critically ill, paralysed and rendered completely incapacitated by brain damage and numerous strokes over the past ten years. Our winter retreat offered us an ideal opportunity to pay honour to his example, reflect upon his teachings and further our practice in the way that he made clear. Venerable Ajahn Sumedho, who was in Thailand at the time, will be leading the formal commemoration for Luang Por Chah in Britain at Amaravati on April 25th. It is an event that we hope all of Luang Por Chah's disciples in the West can attend.

It was during a retreat at Wat Keuan that Ajahn Sumedho, and the Western Sangha who had gathered there, heard that Luang Par Chah had been admitted into Ubon Hospital. Malfunctioning kidneys and heart complications had proved to be beyond the medical skills of the monks nursing him. During the ten years of his illness Luang Por had entered hospital many times, yet on each occasion he had recovered miraculously. However, reports soon began to reach us that his body was refusing to take food and the general state of his health was deteriorating.

Early on the evening of the 15th January the doctors at the ICU realised that Luang Por's condition had deteriorated to the extent that he was beyond medical assistance. At 10 pm Luang Por was taken by ambulance to his nursing kuti at Wat Pah Pong in compliance with his previous request that he might pass away in his own monastery. It was at 5.20 am on the 16th January that the body of Luang Par Chah breathed its last, and in an atmosphere of peace the life of a great Buddhist master came to its end.

But really this mind of ours is already unmoving and peaceful - really peaceful! Just like a leaf which is still as long as no wind blows.
The attendant monks chanted the reflections that death is the natural consequence of birth and in the cessation of conditions is peace, then prepared Luang Por's body for the funeral services. As the news of his death spread, people began to arrive to pay their respects. Soon government officials, as representatives of the King, came to perform the initial ceremonies necessary for a royal funeral.

Within hours the corpse was moved to the main sala, where it was laid in an ornately decorated coffin. The coffin was then sealed, and a picture of Luang Por was placed to the left along with different requisites such as his bowl and robes. Wreaths from the King, the Queen and other members of the royal family were placed to the right. In front of the coffin, extensive flower arrangements created the finishing touches.

As the news of Luang Por's death spread, his disciples rushed to the Wat to pay their respects and to offer their support with the preparations to receive visitors to the monastery. It was decided that for the 15 days following Luang Por's death a Dhamma practice session would be held, as an offering of remembrance and as a focal point for the many incoming lay and monastic disciples to collect themselves around. The Sangha from Wat Pah Nanachat would come over every day at around 5 pm and stay until midnight. During this period of 15 days, about four hundred monks, seventy nuns and five hundred lay people resided at Wat Pah Pong, practising meditation until midnight, listening to talks on Dhamma themes and participating in various funeral ceremonies. Most of the Sangha were living out under the trees of the forest, using their grotes (mosquito net umbrellas) as protection from the elements and insects. The monastery became a grote village.

Soon a huge open-air restaurant complex sprung up at the entrance to the monastery, serving free food and drink to the enormous numbers of people that began to make their way there from all over Thailand. As the days passed, I began to feel a sense of awe as people streamed into the monastery, from early morning to late at night: people of all ages - families, school groups and individuals. In those first few days over 50,000 books were distributed, which gives some indication of the numbers coming. By the 14th and 15th day, the number of people coming was steadily increasing to over 10,000 people per day.

As the people entered the monastery they filed quietly down the road leading to the sala, waited for an opportunity to enter and bow in respect, then to sit for a short while before making way for the next group. Meanwhile the monks, nuns and resident lay people would be sitting in meditation, chanting or listening to a talk. Luang Por Jun led the funeral chanting and various senior monks gave talks. Ajahn Maha Boowa, the renowned forest meditation master, came over from his own monastery near Udorn to give a Dhamma talk and commented on the quiet, harmonious atmosphere of the Wat in contrast to the confusion and noise he had experienced at similar funerals.

A visit from the King's sister at this time seemed to presage the arrival of the King for the 50th day ceremonies on the 6th of March. As always in Buddhism however, especially in Thailand, nothing is certain. The 100th day after the death of Luang Pot will also be a day of considerable importance.

Because of the arrangements for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend the actual burning of Luang Por's body (at similar funerals for famous teachers, up to a million people have attended), and also to find a day suitable for the King, it was decided to hold the funeral early in 1993.

For each of us Luang Por Chah has a personal meaning depending on our contact with him. Yet, for me, I will always wonder and be inspired at the sight of tens of thousands of people coming to Wat Pah Pong, to pay respects to a person who had not spoken for ten years and with whom most had never had the opportunity to speak. They came to bow before the body of a being whom they recognised as personifying our highest aspiration - a life free from the blindness of self-centred action. Freed of this delusion, the goal of the Buddhist path is fulfilled. For me, the whole occasion demonstrated the breadth and power of the influence of such a being.

o o o 0 o o o
But really this mind of ours is already unmoving and peaceful - really peaceful! Just like a leaf which is still as long as no wind blows. If a wind comes up, the leaf flutters. The fluttering is due to the wind - the 'fluttering' (of the mind) is due to those sense impressions; the mind follows them. If it doesn't follow them, it doesn't 'flutter If we know fully the true nature of sense impressions, we are unconcerned.
Ajahn Chah