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Relevance of the Forest Tradition — 3 Comments

  1. What’s interesting about the Thai Forest Tradition is how much it has lost. The stand-out practice of Ajahn Man according to his biography and Ajahn Boowa’s Patipada was the utilization of fear. You spent long periods alone in the most dangerous places in the mountains, in caves frequented by tigers and evil spirits, and you tamed your citta through fear.

    Even tudong is a walk in the park these days, the tigers are almost all gone, and I suspect the devas and yakkhas too.

    Tudong and living close to death were the hallmarks of the Ajahn Man’s Forest Tradition until around the 60s (before foreigners came on the scene), but you don’t hear about it much now and Ajahn Chah replaced the suffering of jungle tudong and sleeping in charnel grounds with the suffering of “long and seemingly boring work projects.”

    Ah, well, nothing lasts forever…

  2. I asked Ajahn Pasanno about this last night – was the hardship of the 70’s Isarn area a benefit to the practise? One suspects that it probably was, but still not many (least of all the monks) would want to creat it artificially.

    • In one of the books on Ajahn Chah (possibly “Venerable Father”) it’s mentioned that as soon as Ajahn Sumedho was made abbot of Wat Pa Nanachat he changed the regime to more meditation and less work projects because he felt it was more appropriate for Westerners (whatever that means). 🙂

      But Ajahn Man and his students back in the 20s and 30s come across as tough as nails and ready – as they often said – “to die for the Dhamma.” I wonder how important that attitude is in attaining arahantship? The risks of the jungle must have been very similar in the time of the Buddha.

      The same kind of dicing with death is present in Lama Govinda’s description of practising in Tibet in the 1930s (“Way of the White Clouds”) – one wrong turn in the mountains and you could freeze to death in an hour.

      BTW, good talk last night. Ajahn Amaro’s MP3 talk on anatta is one of the best explanations out there.