The Basics

  • Buddhism in a Nutshell, by Narada Mahathera
  • What is Buddhism? The Buddhist Society of Western Australia
  • Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training, by Leonard Bullen
    A very basic beginner's outline of the Four Noble Truths.
  • Recognizing the Dhamma, A Study Guide Prepared by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    Fortunately for us, the Buddha left behind clear guidelines by which we can judge the validity of any interpretation of Dhamma or Vinaya. These eight principles, sometimes called the "Constitution of Buddhism," show us that any teaching must finally be judged by the results that come from putting it into practice.
  • The Four Noble Truths
    An introduction to the Four Noble Truths, the basic framework on which all the Buddha's teachings are built.
  • Refuge: an Introduction to the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    This short book provides an excellent introduction to the most basic principles of Buddhism: the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha, collectively known as the Triple Gem or Triple Refuge. The material is divided into three parts: (I) an introductory essay on the meaning of refuge and the act of going for refuge; (II) a series of readings drawn from the earliest Buddhist texts illustrating the essential qualities of the Triple Gem; and (III) a set of essays explaining aspects of the Triple Gem that often provoke questions in those who are new to the Buddha's teachings.

Thai Forest Traditions

Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo Mahathera (1861-1941)
Ajaan Sao and his student Ajaan Mun established the Kammatthana tradition. A true forest-dweller, Ajaan Sao left no written records of his teachings. Fortunately for us, another of his students -- Phra Ajaan Phut Thaniyo -- recorded Ajaan Sao's Teaching: A Reminiscence of Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo, which offers us a glimpse of Ajaan Sao's terse but powerful teaching style.

Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto (1870-1949)
Ajaan Mun was born in 1870 in Baan Kham Bong, a farming village in Ubon Ratchathani province, northeastern Thailand. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1893, he spent the remainder of his life wandering through Thailand, Burma, and Laos, dwelling for the most part in the forest, engaged in the practice of meditation. He attracted an enormous following of students and, together with his teacher, Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo Mahathera (1861-1941), established the forest meditation tradition (the Kammatthana tradition) that subsequently spread throughout Thailand and to several countries abroad. He passed away in 1949 at Wat Suddhavasa, Sakon Nakhorn province. [Adapted from the Introduction to A Heart Released.]

For more about Ajaan Mun and the history of the Kammatthana tradition, see the essay "The Customs of the Noble Ones," by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

A newly revised biography of Ajaan Mun, written by Ajaan Maha Boowa, is available from Wat Pah Baan Taad.

  • The Ballad of Liberation from the Khandhas, by Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera
    This poem, composed sometime in the 1930's, is one of the few known written teachings left to us by Ajaan Mun.
  • The Ever-present Truth: Teachings of Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera, by Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera
    Eight short fragments drawn from Ajaan Mun's sermons given during the last two years of his life. These fragments were originally appended to the book A Heart Released as part of a commemorative volume distributed at Phra Ajaan Mun's cremation in 1950. The selections included here comprise all of the passages dealing directly with the practice of virtue and meditation.
  • A Heart Released: The Teachings of Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera, by Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera
    Seventeen excerpts from Dhamma teachings delivered by Ajaan Mun in 1944-45.

    Phra Ajaan Dune Atulo (1888-1983)
    Ajaan Dune Atulo was born on October 4, 1888 in Praasaat Village in Muang District, Surin province. At the age of 22 he ordained in the provincial capital. Six years later, disillusioned with his life as an uneducated town monk, he left to study in Ubon Ratchathani, where he befriended Ajaan Singh Khanityagamo and reordained in the Dhammayut sect. Shortly thereafter, he and Ajaan Singh met Ajaan Mun, who had just returned to the Northeast after many years of wandering. Impressed with Ajaan Mun's teachings and with his deportment, both monks abandoned their studies and took up the wandering meditation life under his guidance. They were thus his first two disciples. After wandering for 19 years through the forests and mountains of Thailand and Cambodia, Ajaan Dune received an order from his ecclesiastical superiors to head a combined study and practice monastery in Surin. It was thus that he took over the abbotship of Wat Burapha, in the middle of the town, in 1934. There he remained until his death in 1983.

  • Gifts He Left Behind: The Dhamma Legacy of Ajaan Dune Atulo (Phra Rajavuddhacariya), compiled by Phra Bodhinandamuni
    A collection of short anecdotes and quotations from Ajaan Dune, as recalled by one of his long-time monastic comrades. Ajaan Dune's straightforward words are rich with deceptively simple insights that reflect a profound grasp of Dhamma. His unique presentation of the four noble truths, which echoes through these pages, is breathtakingly clear: "The mind sent outside is the origination of suffering; the result of the mind sent outside is suffering; the mind seeing the mind is the path; and the result of the mind seeing the mind is the cessation of suffering."

Phra Ajaan Thate Desaransi (1902-1994)
Ajaan Thate was one of the most highly respected Buddhist monks of the Theravada school in Thailand and was internationally recognized as a master of meditation. In addition to his large following in Thailand, Ajaan Thate has trained many western disciples.

  • Buddho, by Ajaan Thate
    A simple and practical guide to the use of the meditation phrase, buddho, which is used to settle the mind to the point at which discernment can begin to arise.
  • Steps Along the Path, by Ajaan Thate
    A short handbook on the practice of meditation, with tips and recommendations for new and experienced meditators. Of particular interest is Ajaan Thate's discussion of how best to respond when visions and signs arise during the course of meditation practice.

    Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (1902-1984)
    Ajaan Lee was one of the foremost teachers in the Thai forest ascetic tradition of meditation founded at the turn of the century by his teacher, Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta. His life was short but eventful. Known for his skill as a teacher and his mastery of supranatural powers, he was the first to bring the ascetic tradition out of the forests of the Mekhong basin and into the mainstream of Thai society in central Thailand.

  • Keeping the Breath in Mind and Lessons in Samadhi, by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
    A complete handbook for breath meditators, full of detailed practical instructions for the development of concentration and insight.

Phra Ajaan Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno (1913-   )
Venerable Ajaan Maha Boowa was born in Udorn-thani, North-east Thailand in 1913. He became a monk in the customary way at a local monastery and went on to study the Pali language and texts. At this time he also started to meditate but had not yet found a suitable Teacher. Then he caught sight of the Ven. Ajaan Mun and immediately felt that this was someone really special, someone who obviously had achieved something from his Dhamma practice.
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 the Introduction to To the Last Breath.]

Many of Ajaan Maha Boowa's books are available free of charge, in both print and electronic form, from Wat Pah Baan Taad, his forest monastery in Thailand.

Phra Ajaan Suwat Suvaco (1919-2002)
Born on August 29, 1919, Ajaan Suwat ordained at the age of 20 and became a student of Ajaan Funn Acaro two or three years later. He also studied briefly with Ajaan Mun. Following Ajaan Funn's death in 1977, Ajaan Suwat stayed on at the monastery to supervise his teacher's royal funeral and the construction of a monument and museum in Ajaan Funn's honor. In the 1980's Ajaan Suwat came to the United States, where he established four monasteries: one near Seattle, Washington; two near Los Angeles; and one in the hills of San Diego County (Metta Forest Monastery). He returned to Thailand in 1996, and died in Buriram on April 5, 2002 after a long illness.

  • Blatantly Clear in the Heart, by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco
    A short talk on the development of virtue, concentration, and discernment. Keep practicing until these qualities become clear in your own heart!
  • To Comprehend Suffering, by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco
    Meditation isn't about "getting" things; it's about letting go. We can't let go of the darkness and delusion in our minds; it has to be dispersed by light -- the light of clear-seeing discernment that we cultivate through meditation.
  • Disenchantment, by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco
    A talk given at the start of a meditation session, in which Ajaan Suwat explains how to strenghten mindfulness and develop the disenchantment needed for discernment to arise. An excellent introduction to the contemplation of the 32 parts of the body.
  • A Fistful of Sand, by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco
    These Dhamma talks and question-and-answer sessions were recorded during a two-week meditation retreat he taught at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts in 1990. This event marked a rare opportunity for an elder Thai ajaan to speak directly to Westerners in their home environment. With a disarming ease and clarity, Ajaan Suwat here illuminates a number of vital points of Dhamma that will help the reader develop the proper attitude towards the practice of meditation.
  • The Strategy of a Peaceful Mind, by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco
    Viewing peace of mind as a skillful strategy helps the meditator settle the mind down into concentration. But its uses also extend to more advanced stages of meditation, by helping one disengage from all involvement with the aggregates, thereby bringing the meditator to the threshold of Awakening. In this remarkable talk Ajaan Suwat weaves together teachings for beginning and advanced meditators, alike.

    Phra Ajaan Boonpeng Kappago

  • The Development of Tranquillity and Insight Knowledge through Meditation (Samatha Kammatthana and Vipassana Kammatthana), by Phra Ajaan Boonpeng Kappago

    Phra Ajaan Paññavaddho (1925-2004)
    Venerable Ajaan Paññavaddho was for 41 years the senior-most Western bhikkhu following Ajaan Mun’s path of practice. Ajaan Panya, as he was called, was a man of intellectual brilliance who, through his own efforts in meditation, was able to establish a strong spiritual foundation in his heart. While showing a selfless devotion to the task of presenting Ajaan Mun’s Dhamma to his many disciples, his calm and purposeful presence touched the lives of so many people. He became a pioneer of the Western Sangha whose leadership influenced countless monks and laypeople to practice Ajaan Mun’s teachings; and whose translations and interpretations of Ajaan Maha Boowa’s teachings introduced generations of Buddhists to the Thai forest tradition.

  • Ajaan Paññavaddho's biography, Dhamma talks and photo album.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff; 1949-   )
Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff) is an American Buddhist monk of the Thai forest kammathana tradition. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1971 with a degree in European Intellectual History, he traveled to Thailand, where he studied meditation under Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, himself a student of the late Ajaan Lee. He ordained in 1976 and lived at Wat Dhammasathit, where he remained following his teacher's death in 1986. In 1991 he traveled to the hills of San Diego County, USA, where he helped Ajaan Suwat Suwaco establish Wat Mettavanaram ("Metta Forest Monastery"). He was made abbot of the monastery in 1993. His long list of publications includes translations from Thai of Ajaan Lee's meditation manuals; Handful of Leaves, a four-volume anthology of sutta translations; The Buddhist Monastic Code, a two-volume reference handbook for monks; Wings to Awakening; and (as co-author) the college-level textbook Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction.

  • A Guided Meditation, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    Basic instructions in the practice of breath meditation.
  • Life Isn't Just Suffering, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    Did the Buddha focus on suffering because he was a pessimist? Did he really say that life is suffering? Or was he a realist with something much more useful to say?
  • The Meaning of the Buddha's Awakening, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    Although the Buddha's Awakening took place long ago in ancient India, the fact of his Awakening is very much alive today and has profound implications for how we approach Buddhist practice. In this essay the author explores both the What and the How of the Buddha's Awakening: what he awakened to and how he did it.
  • Nibbana, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    This short essay sketches the use of fire imagery in early Buddhism to describe Nibbana, the goal of Buddhist practice.
  • The Weight of Mountains, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    Why do we keep creating suffering for ourselves? How do we bring it to an end? The key is to learn some better feeding habits for the mind.
  • Jhana Not by the Numbers, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    The author recalls how Ajaan Fuang taught meditation to his students: he would give them just enough instruction to stay on-track, but would rarely "certify" them as having attained this or that level of jhana, thereby motivating them to develop self-reliance and ingenuity in their meditation. In the words of Ajaan Fuang: "If I have to explain everything, you'll get used to having things handed to you on a platter. And then what will you do when problems come up in your meditation and you don't have any experience in figuring things out on your own?"

    Upasika Kee Nanayon (K. Khao-suan-luang) (1901-1979)
    Upasika Kee Nanayon, who wrote under the penname, K. Khao-suan-luang, was one of the foremost woman teachers of Dhamma in modern Thailand. Born in 1901, she started a practice center for women in 1945 on a hill in the province of Rajburi, to the west of Bangkok, where she lived until her death in 1979. Known for the simplicity of her way of life, and for the direct, uncompromising style of her teaching, she had a way with words evident not only in her talks, which attracted listeners from all over Thailand, but also in her poetry, which was widely published.

  • Stop, Look, and Let Go, by Upasika Kee Nanayon, translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    A talk covering a variety of topics, all concerning the need for being observant in watching over the mind. Memorable quote: "People who are intelligent and discerning prefer criticism to praise. Stupid people prefer praise to criticism."

From the Pali Canon

  • Anuradha Sutta (SN XXII.86) -- To Anuradha {S iii 116; CDB i 936} [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, trans.]. Ven. Anuradha finds himself obsessing over questions about the fate of an arahant after death. The Buddha pulls him out of his confused thinking, and suggests that the only thing truly worth contemplating is suffering and its cessation.
  • Kaccayanagotta Sutta (SN XII.15) -- To Kaccayana Gotta (on Right View) {S ii 16; CDB i 544} [Thanissaro]
    The Buddha explains to Ven. Kaccayana Gotta how dependent co-arising applies in the development of right view.

Miscellaneous Titles

  • A Chanting Guide: Pali Passages with English Translations, by The Dhammayut Order in the United States of America
    The complete text, in both Pali and English, of the chants used by laypeople and monastics alike at Buddhist monasteries of the Thai forest tradition (Dhammayut sect). This extensive collection includes: a guide to pronunciation; the daily (morning and evening) devotional chants; reflections; blessings; verses and discourses from the Pali canon (usually chanted on special occasions); the standard Pali formulas for requesting precepts, blessings, and forgiveness from the Sangha, and those that accompany the offering of gifts to the Sangha; and much more.

    Printed copies are sometimes available. You can contact Buddhist Temple of America and inquire about getting a copy. Audio files of certain chants can be found in the Audio Files section.
Last updated: Thursday, February 21, 2008 8:54 AM

Copyright © 2008 Jason Chang unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved.

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