Teachers are listed below in roughly chronological order. For some notes on the names and titles of Thai monks, see the endnotes.
— Adapted from A Heart Released.
A newly revised biography of Ajaan Mun, written by Ajaan Maha Boowa, is available from Wat Pah Baan Taad. For more about Ajaan Mun and the history of the Kammatthana tradition, see the essay "The Customs of the Noble Ones," by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
— From Gifts He Left Behind.
Ajaan Khamdee was born into a farming family in Khon Kaen province in northeastern Thailand. At the age of 22 he ordained at the local temple in line with Thai custom, but was dissatisfied with the type of practice customary at village temples. As a result, in 1928 he reordained in the Dhammayut sect, and in the following year became a student of Ajaan Singh Khantiyagamo, a senior disciple of Ajaan Mun. Taking up the life of a wandering monk, he sought out quiet places in various parts of northeastern Thailand until coming to Tham Phaa Puu (Grandfather Cliff Cave) in Loei province, near the Laotian border, in 1955. Finding it an ideal place to practice, he stayed there for most of the remainder of his life, moving down to the foot of the hill below the cave when he became too old to negotiate the climb.
Well-known as a teacher of strong character and gentle temperament, he attracted a large following of students, both lay and ordained. By the time of his death, a sizable monastery had grown up around him at the foot of Grandfather Cliff.
— From Making the Dhamma Your Own.
In later years he was the Abbot of a number of monasteries in various parts of Thailand and was given the ecclesiastical title of Phra Khroo Santivaranana in 1959. In 1967 he established a monastery in the remote mountains of Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai province that remained his residence until his death in 1992.
— Adapted from Simply So.
After finishing his Grade Three Pali studies he therefore left the study monastery and followed Ven. Ajaan Mun into the forests of N.E. Thailand. When he caught up with Ven. Ajaan Mun, he was told to put his academic knowledge to one side and concentrate on meditation. And that was what he did. He often went into solitary retreat in the mountains and jungle but always returned for help and advice from Ven. Ajaan Mun. He stayed with Ven. Ajaan Mun for seven years, right until the Ven. Ajaan's passing away.
The vigor and uncompromising determination of his Dhamma practice attracted other monks dedicated to meditation and this eventually resulted in the founding of Wat Pa Bahn Tahd, in some forest near the village where he was born. This enabled his mother to come and live as a nun at the monastery.
Ven. Ajaan Maha Boowa is well known for the fluency and skill of his Dhamma talks, and their direct and dynamic approach. They obviously reflect his own attitude and the way he personally practiced Dhamma. This is best exemplified in the Dhamma talks he gives to those who go to meditate at Wat Pa Bahn Tahd. Such talks usually take place in the cool of the evening, with lamps lit and the only sound being the insects and cicadas in the surrounding jungle. He often begins the Dhamma talk with a few moments of stillness — this is the most preparation he needs — and then quietly begins the Dhamma exposition. As the theme naturally develops, the pace quickens and those listening increasingly feel its strength and depth.
The formal Dhamma talk might last from thirty-five to sixty minutes. Then, after a more general talk, the listeners would all go back to their solitary huts in the jungle to continue the practice, to try to find the Dhamma they had been listening about — inside themselves.
— From To the Last Breath.
— Adapted from Awareness Itself.
Ajaan Chah was born in 1918 in a village in the northeastern part of Thailand. He became a novice at a young age and received higher ordination at the age of twenty. He followed the austere Forest Tradition for years, living in forests and begging for almsfood as he wandered about on mendicant pilgrimage. He practiced meditation under a number of masters, including Ajaan Mun, who had an indelible influence on Ajaan Chah, giving his meditation the direction and clarity that it lacked. Ajaan Chah later became an accomplished meditation teacher in his own right, sharing his realization of the Dhamma with those who sought it. The essence of the teaching was rather simple: be mindful, don't hang on to anything, let go and surrender to the way things are.
Ajaan Chah's simple yet profound teaching style had a special appeal to Westerners, and in 1975 he established Wat Pah Nanachat, a special training monastery for the growing number of Westerners who sought to practice with him. In 1979 the first of several branch monasteries in Europe was established in Sussex, England by his senior Western disciples (among them Ajaan Sumedho, who is presently senior incumbent at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, England). Today there are ten branch monasteries in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Ajaan Chah passed away in January, 1992 following a long illness.
— Adapted from A Tree in a Forest (Chungli, Taiwan: Dhamma Garden, 1994) and Bodhinyana.
— From An Iridescence on the Water.
The long names and titles of Buddhist monks sometimes bewilder Westerners who are new to these teachings. Once the basic principles and customs are understood, however, the names of Thai monks are easily grasped.
If the title "Mahathera" is applied to a monk's name, then the terminal vowel in his name changes. For example: Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto or Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera; Ajaan Sao Kantasilo or Ajaan Sao Kantasila Mahathera; etc.
For more on the use of personal titles in Thailand, see "Glossary, Part I: Personal Titles" in The Autobiography of Phra Ajaan Lee.
For an introduction to the history of the Kammatthana tradition, see the essay "The Customs of the Noble Ones," by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
See also: "Legends of Somdet Toh," by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.