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Chah Subhaddo

By Devik Balami at
Chah Subhaddo

Chah Subhaddo was an influential teacher of the Buddhadhamma and a founder of two major monasteries in the Thai Forest Tradition. He was one of the important figures for establishing Theravada Buddhism in the West. The spread of Buddhism was initiated along with the establishment of Cittaviveka, also known as Chithurst Buddhist Monastery in the United Kingdom in 1979. Hence after the Buddhism has spread throughout Europe, the United States, and the British Commonwealth. He is also well known for the dhamma talks that have been delivered in the west and these are recorded, transcribed and translated into several languages.

Life history of Chah Subhaddo

Early Life

Alternatively, Chah Subhaddo is popularly known as Achaan Chah and Phra Bodhinanathera. He was born on 17th June 1918 near Ubon Ratchathani in the Isan region of northeast Thailand. He entered the monastery at the age of nine as per their tradition. During his time in the monastery, he learned to read and write. After his three years stay in the monastery, he returned to his family with the intention to help his family. But later he again returned to monastic life in 1939.

As mentioned in the book, Food for the Heart: The Collected Writings of Ajahn Chah, he later leaves the monastic life and became a wandering ascetic. After he leaves the monastic life, he walked across Thailand, taking teachings at various monasteries. One of the teacher that he learned from was Ajahn Mun. He was renowned meditation master in the Forest Tradition. When he was wandering, he lived in caves and forest and learned from various meditation monks of the Forest Tradition.

The website dedicated to Ajahn Chah also mentions that he wandered for approximately seven years in the austere Forest Tradition. He was more focus on finding the quiet and secluded place for developing meditation. It is recorded that he lived in tiger and cobra infested jungles, using reflections of death to penetrate to the true meaning of life.

Establishment of Monasteries

After years of wandering, in 1954, he established Wat Nong Pah Pong monastery near his birthplace. He then taught his simple practice-based form of meditation to the interested candidates. He attracts a wide variety of disciples and one of them was the first westerner, venerable Ajahn Sumedho. The monastery also opened its branches at various locations throughout Thailand. The branches not only limited to Thailand, over 15 associated monasteries and 10 lay practice centers were established around the world.

In 1975, with Ajahn Sumedho as an abbot, Wat Pah Nanachat was established. This monastery was also called as International Forest Monastery. This monastery was the first one in Thailand which has western origin abbot.

In 1977, English Sangha Trust invited both Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho to visit the United Kingdom. The main purpose of the invitation was to form a residential Sangha. Hence, in 1979 Cittaviveka was founded and Ajahn Sumedho became the head. With the establishment of this monastery, Ajahn Chah gained other western students and established other monasteries throughout the world.

Later life

Ajahn Chah got diabetes and by the early 1980s, his health was deteriorated. He also had a paralysis due to diabetes and to cure the paralysis, he was taken to Bangkok for the surgery. But the surgery was not effective for him. Hence, he used his ill health as a teaching point. Later, he was unable to speak for ten years, and at the age of 73, he died on January 16th, 1992.

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