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Venerable Ajahn Chah (1918-1992)

Venerable Ajahn Chah (Bodhiñana Thera) was born in 1918 in a farming village in Ubon Rachathani province, Northeastern Thailand. He ordained as a novice monk for a brief period in his youth, and at the age of 20, still deeply attracted to monastic life, took full ordination. After following the traditional curriculum of Buddhist studies customary in Thailand at that time, he eventually grew disenchanted. In 1946 he abandoned his studies and took up the austere life of a wandering forest monk. Desiring to find the real essence of the Buddha's teachings, he spent the next eight years roaming throughout the country, staying in desolate jungles, caves and cremation grounds, ideal places for developing mediation.

After many arduous years of travel and practice, Ajahn Chah was invited to settle in a thick forest grove near the village of his birth, known as a place of cobras, tigers and ghosts. The monastery that eventually grew up there came to be known as Wat Nong Pah Pong. The conditions were difficult and the basic living requisites scarce, but Ajahn Chah's simple, direct style of teaching began to attract a large following of monks and laypeople. Despite the myriad hardships, they were willing to endure out of great loyalty for their teacher.

In 1966, Ajahn Sumedho, an American intrigued by the strict monastic discipline and way of life, came to study under Ajahn Chah. From this time on the number of Western disciples grew, and the first overseas branch monastery of Wat Nong Pah Pong was established in England in 1979. Today, Ajahn Chah's teachings and disciples are dotted across the globe, with additional monasteries in Switzerland, Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.A.

In 1981 Ajahn Chah's health began to fail, eventually resulting in the need for an operation on his brain. His condition became progressively worse, and he spent the last ten years of his life bedridden and unable to speak. Throughout this time he was carefully tended by his faithful disciples. On the 16th of January, 1992, Venerable Ajahn Chah passed away at the age of 74, leaving behind a lineage that is still growing today. Headed by the King and Queen of Thailand, his funeral was attended by nearly a million people, paying their last respects to a man who truly embodied the Buddha's teachings.

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