Roots (Portal to the Thai Forest Tradition)

Portal to the Thai Forest Tradition


Thai Forest Monks

Buddhism is estimated to be some 2500 years old. As it spread, different schools arose. There are now essentially at least three Buddhisms based on different scriptural canons. There is Theravāda Buddhism based on the Pāli Canon, the East Asian tradition, centered on the Chinese Canon, and Tibetan tradition centered on the Tibetan Canon [ref. Buddhist Religions, a Historical Introduction, Robinson, Johnson, and Thanissaro (eds.), Fifth Edition, pg. xxi].

For general background reference material on Buddhism, see:

The oldest complete set of scriptures is the Pali Canon. The Thai Forest Tradition arose at the end of the 19th century as a deliberate attempt to focus on the practice of meditation as described in these early suttas. It is relatively new and, perhaps, also very old indeed.

There are numerous discussions of this tradition online. A great place to start is The Customs of the Noble Ones by Thanissaro Bikkhu (from Access to Insight). Here are a few more favorites:

An excellent biographical account of an exemplary Thudong monk is Bhikkhu Khantipalo—With Robes and Bowl, Glimpses of the Thudong Bhikkhu Life. It can be read online or downloaded:

  • HTML (via Access to Insight),  
  • PDF (via's Buddhist eLibrary )

    As much as can easily be written of the thudong bhikkhu's life is contained in these sketches. [However] Just as the flavor of soup is not to be told even in one thousand pages, so the real flavor of this Ancient Way cannot be conveyed by words. Soup is to be tasted: the thudong life is to be lived.

Ajahn Sao Kantasilo Mahathera (1861-1941) established this Kammatthana tradition at the beginning of the twentieth century. Many of the most significant teachers of the tradition were disciples of his student, Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta (1870-1949) as listed in the following table:

Disciple Life Span Associated Monastery Location
Ajahn Maha Boowa Ñāṇasampaṇṇo 8/12/1913 - 1/30/2011 Wat Pā Bān Tāt
Wat Pah Ban That
Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani 41000, Thailand
Ajahn Chah Subhaddo 6/17/1918 - 1/16/1992 Wat Pā Pong
Wat Nong Pah Pong
10 Tambon Non Phueng, Amphoe Warin Chamrap, Chang Wat Ubon Ratchathani 34190, Thailand
Ajahn Funn Acaro Wat Baan Na Huang Chang Sakon Nakhon Province
Ajahn Suwat Suvaco 8/27/1919 - 4/5/2001 Metta Forest Monastery 13560 Muutama Lane Valley Center, CA 92082
Ajahn Pen Wat Doi Thammachedi [Dhamma Chedi] Sakon Nakhon 3008 Rural Rd., Tambon Tong Khop, Amphoe Khok Si Suphan, Chang Wat Sakon Nakhon 47280, Thailand
Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo 1/31/1907 - 4/26/1961 Wat Prachanikom Roiet Province
Ajahn Thet [Thate] Desarangsi 4/25/1902 - 12/17/1994 Wat Hinmākpengg [Hin Maak Peng] Phra Phutthabat, Si Chiang Mai District, Nong Khai 43130, Thailand
Ajahn Khao Anālayo 12/28/1888 - 5/14/1983 Wat Tham Klongplane
Wat Tham Klong Pane
Ajahn On Udon Province?
Ajahn Kamdee Pabhaso 1902 - 1984 Wat Tham Phā Puu
(Grandfather Cliff Cave)
about 7 km N of Loei city
Ajahn Chawp Loei?
Ajahn Sing Tong Wat Pan Kāeowit Sakon Nakhnon Province
Lūang Pū Wāen Suciṇṇo 2/16/1887 - 7/2/1985 Wat Doi Mae Pang Tambon Mae Pang, Amphoe Phrao, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50190, Thailand
Looang Boo Sim Buddhacaro 11/26/1909 - 1992 Chieng Mai Province
Ajahn Dune Atulo 10/4/1888 - 1983 Wat Buraphapiram 559 Chai Mongkhon Road, Tambon Nai Mueang, Amphoe Mueang Roi Et, Province Roi Et 45000, Thailand

These data are based, in part, on a table in Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah's book, The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets, Cambridge University Press, 1984, pg. 133.

Ajahn Maha Bua Ñāṇasampaṇṇo, one of Ajahn Mun's most influential students, was the author of numerous books, including his extraordinary biography of Ajahn Mun — Venerable Phra Acharn Mun Bhuridatta Thera, A Spiritual Biography. An iconic text, it is a wonderful testimony to a life deeply committed to a path leading to the ultimate liberation and freedom of Nibbāna. [For an excellent discussion of Nibbāna, consider The Island, a remarkable book by Ajahn Passano and Ajahn Amaro.]

In addition to information about Shakyamuni Buddha's original disciples, our Biographies section includes material on the lives of several significant Forest Tradition pioneers.

Ajahn Chah was extremely influential as the teacher of many Western monks—see Wikipedia's Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Jayasaro, Ajahn Chah's biographer, has numerous videos discussing his the life of this remarkable meditation master—see our Web page,  Ajahn Chah YouTube links.

For more extensive biographical and teaching materials, an excellent place to start is The Thai Forest Traditions webpage located on the Northern Kentucky University website (where Access to Insight material is formatted a bit differently from AtI's legacy website). It provides access to numerous books and articles by (and about) the following Thai Forest Tradition teachers:

From the Kammatthana tradition:

From other Thai forest traditions:

Ajahn Hāsapañño's website, Wide Angle Lens - on the Thai Wilderness Tradition of Buddhism is well worth a visit.

This site focuses on the richness of the Thai Wilderness Tradition of Buddhism, with the aim of presenting some of the foundational influences of the tradition, along with lesser known dimensions of the characters, teachings, stories and lives of some of the greatest saints of modern times.

 It includes the following Ajahn Hāsapañño translations:

Additionally, translated from the Thai by Sāmaṇerī Viveka, there is:

Finally, to put the Forest Tradition into a broader context, consult, where we are told:

After examining several websites attempting to address the topic of Buddhism in Thailand, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University contacted us for assistance. This website was developed to meet the needs of students and teachers of various levels with a growing curiosity about Thai Buddhism. When you try and make sense out of what you have read and what is actually practiced, the subject of Buddhism can seem pretty daunting. We hope to help present some of the dimensions of Buddhist spirituality in Thailand and offer links and information on other resources to assist people with more serious studies. It is our hope that as you explore this site, novices as well as seasoned scholars may find something of interest.

At the very least, check out their Aspects page; it answers many questions about Thai Buddhism.

Deep Roots

For those who wish to explore the very 'Deep Roots' of Early Buddhism, we provide the following two Web pages: