100 years: A letter from Thailand by L.P. Viradhammo
Subject: 100 years
I am at Dhammaram in Bangkok, room 5, LP Sumedho is downstairs talking with Ajahn Amaro and the sangha from Amaravati, Ajhn Kongrit is packing a box with Yom Meechai for sending to the UK and Ajahn Panyasaro is crocheting a cover for my watch. We were all on the same flight from Ubon this afternoon and so it’s a good time to reflect on the Wat Pah Pong gatherings, our monastic legacy and our close friendships with each other. It has been a warm and heartfelt gathering of our community.
I am sure you have seen pictures from the great gatherings at Wat Pah Pong. The numbers are impressive: 6500 lay people in tents on the grounds of Wat Pah Pong, 1050 monks registered with over 100 western monks and the siladharas from Amaravati, on the final day one estimate was that a total of 2000 monks(?) and 30,000(?) lay people took part in the circumambulation around LP Chah’s stupa.
More than the numbers is the the sense of dignity and reverence that flowed throughout this beautiful gathering. Just before the circumambulation LP Sumedho gave a talk in the big sala to the laity while LP Pitoon spoke at the uposatha hall to the assembly of monks. I was told that during LP Sumedho’s talk the road from the Ajahn Chah memorial museum all the way to the Dhamma hall was packed with people seated and listening to LP Sumdho.
After the circumambulation we went back to Wat Nanachat for a break and in the evening returned again to Wat Pah Pong. We visited with LP Liem and he was radiant. He has been asking a question of various people, on the 100th year of LP Chah’s birth, what does all of this mean to you. My own answer was one of faith. Because LP Chah drew out of me a deep faith and trust in him and also that he had enough faith in me to offer me encouragement, I was able to hear his teachings. Because his teachings encouraged diligence, contentment with little, sense restraint and self-reflection, I was able to pick up these themes and begin to develop them in my own character. The gift of the teacher is not just his words but the inspiration to put his words into action. Such is the beauty and strength of faith.
I couldn’t last through the all night sittings and by 11pm my knees and legs were begging leave to rest. Before returning to Wat Nanachat we circumambulated and then sat at the stupa. The Dhamma talks were amplified at the stupa and many people were sitting quietly, contemplating the words of various ajahns. You would have loved the floral decorations that seemed to flow like streams and ponds all around the stupa. LP Liem’s sunflowers surrounded the base of the stupa and all the plants were in full bloom. LP Liem thinks of everything.
My journey to Asia will soon end with a flight to Canada in a couple of days. The Tisarana community is on retreat and I will quietly plug into the routine and join in the last two months of the retreat. They say we have been experiencing a polar vortex but I don’t even know what that means. I guest it means very cold. No matter I have good boots.
Well, it is time to close this longish letter. May mindfulness and compassion be your constant companions.
Very best wishes,