I think of myself primarily as a monk who occasionally teaches, who strives to convey the spirit and the letter of Buddhism through my lifestyle, through explanation, and through the imagery of storytelling in order to bring Buddhism to life for people who are seeking truth and freedom.
As co-abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery, I am deeply involved with forming a monastic community that can serve as a guiding spirit for Buddhist practice in the world. The traditional, renunciate form of the practice is the embodiment of simplicity, strength and resiliency for anyone who seeks classical training in the monastic life. It is also a hand extended to the lay community that says: come, experience the life of the forest, the chanting, the bowing, the serenity of meditation, the robes, the peacefulness of celibacy. Draw from our well and bring this spiritual nourishment back into your everyday life.
The outward structure of traditional Buddhism supports a form of spiritual living that is grounded in honesty, non-violence, and living in truth-all the qualities of inner freedom that are precious to me. Buddhist practice turns the current of attention toward an inner life, irrigating the arid internal landscapes created by the external priorities of our Western world.
Buddhist practice also reconstructs our relationship to time and space. Our fragmented world is suffering from a continually diminishing attention span as we become overwhelmed with so much to do, with so little time and so many options. The practice allows us to visit our interior landscape, slow down, pay attention to the qualities of time and spirit, to explore who we are, instead of focusing on what we do. Buddhism trains the heart to recognize happiness, not by racing onto the next thing, but by paying attention and ending suffering.
Ajahn Candasiri was born in Scotland in 1947 and was brought up as a Christian. After university she trained and worked as an occupational therapist, mainly in the field of mental illness. In 1977, an interest in meditation led her to meet Ajahn Sumedho, shortly after his arrival from Thailand. Inspired by his teachings and example, she began her monastic training at Chithurst as one of the first four anagārikās.
Within the monastic community she has been actively involved in the evolution of the nuns’ Vinaya training. She has guided many meditation retreats for lay people, and particularly enjoys teaching young people and participating in Christian/Buddhist dialogue.
Ajahn Candasiri recently established Milntuim Hermitage in Scotland, where she now normally resides.
Ajahn Chah's simple yet profound style of teaching has a special appeal to Westerners. In 1966 the first westerner (Venerable Sumedho) came to stay with him in Northeast Thailand. The training there was quite harsh and forbidding. Ajahn Chah often pushed his monks to their limits, to test their powers of endurance so that they would develop patience and resolution. The emphasis was always on surrender to the way things are, and great stress was placed upon strict observance of the vinaya, the Buddha's code of ethics.
Born in Boston in 1967, Ajahn Jayanto grew up in Newton and attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, during which time a period of world travel kindled a great interest in the spiritual life. A meditation class at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center led him to live for a while at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, where he made plans to join the monastic community of Ajahn Sumedho as a postulant at Amaravati Monastery in England in 1989. Taking bhikkhu (monk) ordination at the related Cittaviveka Monastery in 1991, he trained there and at Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery until 1997, at which point he embarked on a period of practice in Thailand and other Asian Buddhist countries. He returned to the UK in 2006, where he lived at Amaravati until moving to Temple in 2014. Since 2009 Ajahn Jayanto has helped to lead the efforts to establish a branch monastery in New England, and he now serves as abbot of Temple Forest Monastery.
Ajahn Jumnien* is a Thai forest monk who was born in the southern part of Thailand on May 1, 1936. His earliest experience in meditation was at age five. He was also schooled at an early age in traditional healing and shamanistic practices. At age 20, he ordained as a monk, fulfilling his aspiration for lifelong practice in Buddhist meditation.
Over the years, he studied and became adept in a broad range of meditation practices, including concentration practice. Now, he focuses his attention, commitment and all of his energies on teaching Vipassana Meditation (Insight Meditation) to both monastic and lay persons. * Also spelled "Jamnian" or "Jumnean".
Ven. Ajahn Karunadhammo was born in North Carolina in 1955. He was trained as a nurse and moved to Seattle in his early twenties where he came in contact with the Theravada tradition. In 1992 he helped out with a monastic visit to the Bay Area and spent another two months helping on a winter retreat at Amaravati. He decided to "Go Forth" while in Thailand in December 1995 and asked if he could be part of the prospective California monastery. He arrived in San Francisco in May of 1996, took the Eight Precepts on the thirty-first of that month (Vesakha Puja Day) and was part of the original group arriving at Abhayagiri on June 1, 1996. After a little over a year in white, Anagarika Tom became Samanera Karunadhammo on the Full Moon Day of July 1997 under the preceptorship of Ajahn Pasanno. In May 1998 Samanera Karunadhammo took full bhikkhu ordination, and became the first American-born bhikkhu at the first American branch monastery of the Thai lineage of Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho.
Ajahn Liem Thitadhammo, a highly respected and revered Buddhist monk in the classical Thai Forest Tradition, is Ajahn Chah’s chosen successor. He was born in Sri Saket Province, in Northeastern Thailand, in 1941 and took full bhikkhu ordination at the age of 20. In 1969 he began training under Ajahn Chah, one of Thailand’s most beloved and renowned monks. Even today Ajahn Chah’s reputation and influence continues to grow and spread throughout the world.
Living at Wat Nong Pah Pong (Ajahn Chah’s monastery) under Ajahn Chah’s direct guidance, Ajahn Liem soon became one of his closest disciples. In 1982 when Ajahn Chah became too ill to carry on with his duties, he entrusted Ajahn Liem with full authority and responsibility to run the monastery. Shortly thereafter, as Ajahn Chah’s illness progressed and he was no longer able to speak, the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong appointed Ajahn Liem to take over the abbotship. He continues to fulfill that duty up to the present day and has maintained the heritage of Ajahn Chah’s Dhamma and characteristic way of monastic training for bhikkhus, nuns and lay disciples.
For the Sangha at Wat Pah Nanachat (Ajahn Chah’s International Forest Monastery for training monks using English as the language of instruction), Ajahn Liem is a dearly respected teacher and guide in the monastic life. He has conducted every monastic ordination ceremony at Wat Nanachat for over a decade and serves there as the ordination preceptor or upajjhaya to all of the newly ordained monks at Nanachat. His Majesty the King of Thailand has twice bestowed honorary monastic titles on Ajahn Liem.
Ajahn Metta was born 1953 in Germany. She became an Anagārikā in ‘93 at Amaravati and took higher ordination as a Sīladhāra in ‘96. During her monastic life she has been involved in many areas of the community. She is one of the group of senior nuns leading the Sīladhārā community. For the past few years she has been teaching meditation workshops and retreats. Prior to monastic life she worked as a secretary and office assistant. She is a mother of a grown-up son and was living a family life before entering the monastic path. She has been practising meditation since ‘84 and has experience of living in other spiritual communities in Europe and Thailand (Wat Suan Mokkh).
Ajahn Pasanno took ordination in Thailand in 1974 with Venerable Phra Khru Nanasirivatana as preceptor. During his first year as a monk he was taken by his teacher to meet Ajahn Chah, with whom he asked to be allowed to stay and train. One of the early residents of Wat Pah Nanachat, Ajahn Pasanno became its abbot in his ninth year. During his incumbency Wat Pah Nanachat developed considerably, both in physical size and in reputation. Ajahn Pasanno became a well-known and highly respected monk and Dhamma teacher in Thailand.
Ajahn Pasanno moved to California on New Year's Eve of 1997 to share the abbotship of Abhayagiri with Ajahn Amaro. In 2010, Ajahn Amaro accepted an invitation to serve as abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England. Ajahn Pasanno is now sole abbot of Abhayagiri.