Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro
Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro was the abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen who was popularly known as Phramongkolthepmuni and also Luang Pu Wat Paknam. His childhood name was Sodh Mikaewnoi and was born on 10th October 1884. He founded the Thai Dhammakaya meditation school in the early 20th century.
Early LIfe of Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro
It has been documented that Luang Pu Sodh was born to the well-off family in Amphoe Song Phi Nong, Suphan Buri. His father was Ngen and his mother was Soodjai. His Uncle was a Buddhist monk, and an abbot of the temple where Luang Pu Sodh received his schooling. When his uncle moved to Wat Hua Bho, he took Sodh with him where he received further education. Later, his uncle left monkhood which made Sodh's education little mismanaged but somehow his father managed to send Sodh to study under Luang Por Sub, the abbot of Wat Bangpla.
Sodh then learned the Khmer language. He completed his studies at the age of thirteen and then returned home to help his father with his business. Later at the age of eighteen, he desired to be ordained as a monk. But he had to take care of his family so he saved money. He wished to give the money to his family when he would become a monk. It is recorded that he managed to gather the sufficient amount of money only after four years.
Therefore, at the age of twenty-two, he was ordained at Wat Songpinong and was given Candasaro as a monastic name. He was then referred as Phra Candasaro and studied under the masters of oral meditation tradition as well as experts in the scriptural analysis. It was documented that he practiced meditation every day from the very first day following his ordination. At first, he responded that he had difficulty obtaining food through traditional alms rounds. Hence he wished to build a kitchen for monastics which will help them to enjoy convenience in the spiritual life.
After the third year of ordination, Phra Candasaro traveled throughout Thailand to study scriptures and meditation practice with different teachers from established traditions. He studied scriptures at Wat Pho and learned about meditation at eight centers, one of them was Wat Ratchasittharam.
The attainment of the Dhammakaya
As it has seen that Phra Candasaro had studied with many different teachers. Even though he had learned many important Pali texts, he was not satisfied with them. He would seek more peaceful areas near his hometown, as some suggest he also set off to jungles to meditate more but none worked well. Since he didn't understand the essential knowledge which the Buddha had taught. On the full moon day in the tenth lunar month in 1916, he was meditating in the main shrine hall in front of the Buddha statue of Wat Botbon. That night he experienced something in meditation which later was known as the attainment of the Dhammakaya. Therefore it was marked as the start of Dhammakaya meditation as a tradition.
It was believed that Phra Candasaro attained to the core of the Buddha's teaching. He then started to devote the rest of his life to teaching and furthering the depth of knowledge of Dhammakaya meditation. It was then believed by the temples based on the tradition of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen that the Dhammakaya meditation was the method that the Buddha originally used to attain Enlightenment which was lost five hundred years after the Buddha attained nirvana.
Life of Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro as an abbot
It is known that Phra Candasaro spent much time in teaching the Buddhism. When he was young, he taught Pali language in his own hut to other monks and novices as well. He also restored an abandoned temple, Song Phi Nong and then set up a school for Dhamma studies for lay people in Suphanburi. Due to the works and activities, he was noticed by leading monks in the Sangha as well. Therefore, he was appointed as caretaker abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen in 1916 by Somdet Phuean, the monastic governer of Phasi Charoen. From this time onwards, he was referred to as Luang Por Sodh or Luang Pu Sodh.
As an abbot, Phra Candasaro promoted and enforced strict monastic discipline. He was able to involve hundreds of monks with Wat Paknam Bhascharoen which was neglected and vacant before. He also established the school for Buddhist studies along with government approved primary school with mundane curriculum and also a kitchen to provide food for all the visitors of the temple. With these initiations, Wat Paknam was popularized as a center of meditation and teaching. Besides these improvements, he also set up the community for nuns with the separate hut and meditation rooms. For his work and achievement, he was honored through the names, Phrakhru Samanadham-samathan in 1921, Phrabhavanakosolthera in 1949, Phramongkolatmuni in 1955, and finally Phramongkolthepmuni in 1957.
Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro announced that he would die soon in 1954. Therefore he instructed his students to continue the works and duties especially to propagate Dhammakaya meditation. After this announcement, two years later, he was diagnosed with hypertension and died in 1959. His body was mummified so that people would visit Wat Paknarm and support even in his absence.
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