Thai Forest Tradition

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Thai Forest Tradition
Kammatthana Yantra.png
Type Dharma Lineage
School Theravada Buddhism
Formation c. 1900 ; Isan, Thailand
Founders Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta, Ajahn Sao Kantasilo
Leader Ajahn Maha Bua (d. 2011, de-facto incumbent)
Founding Maxims

The customs of the noble ones (ariyavamsa)

The Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma (dhammanudhammapatipatti)

The Kammaṭṭhāna Forest Tradition of Thailand (from Thai: พระกรรมฐาน – Phra Kammatthaan [pra kəmːəʈːʰaːn], see #Etymology for details), commonly known in the West as the Thai Forest Tradition, is a lineage of Theravada Buddhist monasticism, as well as the lineage's associated heritage of Buddhist praxis. In the tradition, practitioners take on one or more objective supports (Pali: kammaṭṭhāna) — meditation subjects which are held in mind during meditation practice.[1] These supports are used both to get the mind into samadhi (states of concentration or absorption) and for investigation which cultivates paññā (wisdom or discernment: a major division of the Noble Eightfold Path that represents the insight which arises from Buddhist practice). Additionally, monks in the tradition usually adopt a certain number of optional ascetic practices, known in Pali as dhutanga (Thai: ธุดงค์ – thudong). Orthopraxy with regard to the earliest extant Buddhist texts is emphasized in the tradition,[2] and the tradition has a reputation for strict adherence to the Buddhist monastic code, known as the Vinaya.[3]

The tradition teaches that the goal of Buddhist practice is an awakening to the deathless dimension of the mind,[3] which is related to what the Forest Ajahns refer to as the Original Mind (Thai: จิตเดิม – Cit Deim; see also: Luminous mind).[4] According to Ajahn Maha Bua, the deathless can be realized by reaching and examining the Original Mind, which Maha Bua says is a feature of the minds of ordinary beings. This deathless awareness is described as one which transcends the Buddhist characterization of the mind's functions of sentience, known as the five aggregates, and is also distinct from mental stillness, emptiness, or notions of an annihilation of awareness. Kammaṭṭhāna teachers assert that awareness of the deathless can be realized not simply through contentment or letting go, but rather through intense mental exertion (sometimes described as a "battle" or "struggle") to "cut" or "clear the path" through the defilements of an ordinary person's mind, known as kilesas.[3][5]

The Kammaṭṭhāna tradition began circa 1900,[6] as a grassroots movement led by Ajahns Mun Bhuridatta and Sao Kantasīlo — two Thai monks from the predominantly Lao–speaking cultural region of Thailand known as Isan. They were ordained in a 19th-century reform movement known as Dhammayut (Pali: Dhammayutika, meaning In accordance with the dhamma), the eponymous reform movement for which the modern monastic order is named, founded by Mongkut (Rama IV of Siam) while he was ordained as a Theravada monk. Disillusioned with an increasingly scholastic culture beginning to be imposed on the Thai clergy by state religious authorities under Mongkut's son Chulalongkorn (Rama V of Siam) in the late 19th Century, Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Sao both took to the rural frontier of Northeast Thailand, with Ajahn Mun traveling abroad to neighboring regions for a time.[7] According to Mun, the primary motivation for their departure from the clerical mainstream was a rejection of the popular notion held by their contemporaries that the path to nibbana was lost to mankind.[8] They eventually attracted their own following, and began their own tradition from within the newly formed modern Dhammayut order at the beginning of the 20th Century, in spite of a second wave of clerical reform measures in Thailand being implemented from Bangkok by the Dhammayut monk–prince and half-brother to Chulalongkorn named Vajirañāṇa (Thai: Wachirayan), which were intended to thwart western imperialism.[7]

In the early 20th century the tradition struggled to maintain its niche in Thailand among attempts to domesticate its following. Beginning in the 1950s though, the tradition would gain respect among the urbanities in Bangkok, and receive widespread acceptance among the Thai Sangha. Many of the Ajahns were nationally venerated by Thai Buddhists, who regarded them as arahants — living Buddhist saints in Theravada Buddhism.[2] Because of their reputations, the Ajahns have become the subject of a cultural fixation on sacralized objects believed among lay followers to offer supernatural protection. This cultural fixation was referred to by social anthropologist Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah as a cult of amulets, which he described during a field study in the 1970s as "a traditional preoccupation now reaching the pitch of fetishistic obsession".[9] During this time, the tradition found a significant following in the West; particularly among the students of Ajahn Chah Subhatto, a forest teacher who studied among a group of monks in the Mahanikai (Pali: Mahanikaya, meaning Great Collection) — the other of Thailand's two monastic orders alongside the Dhammayut — many of whom remained loyal to their Mahanikai pedigree in spite of their interest in Ajahn Mun's teachings.[10] However, in the final decades of the 20th century the tradition experienced a crisis when the majority of Thailand's rainforests were clear cut. In spite of this deforestation in Thailand, the Kammaṭṭhāna tradition continues presently in sparsely populated areas on the outskirts of cities, in Thailand and around the World.[11]


The Thai word kammatthaan originates from the Pali kammatthana. This reflects a tendency of Thai words to have Pali and Sanskrit roots. The Pali kammatthana is a compound word which is constructed from the bases kamma (Sanskrit: karma), meaning "action" or "work"; and thana, meaning a "place" or "abode". The monks are interchangeably referred to as Dhutanga Kammatthana monks,[12] due to their tendency for practicing the dhutanga ascetic practices.

The word kammatthana began to be attributed to Ajahn Mun's lineage because of the tradition's custom of handing down rudimentary meditation instructions from preceptor to ordinand during a new monk's full ordination, known as upasampada. The practice came to be known as the kammatthana, or the basic occupation of a monk (also translated as the place of work), and the monks were referred to as kammatthana monks to distinguish them from forest-dwelling monks who belonged to other meditation lineages.[13]


The Thammayut Reform Movement[edit]

Prince Mongkut — 20 years old at the time — ordained as a bhikkhu or monk (ordination name Vajirañāṇo, pronounced in Thai Wachirayan), following a longstanding Thai custom that young men should become monks for a time. The year of his ordination, his father, Rama II of Siam, passed away. Although Mongkut had hereditary rights to the throne, the peers in his dynasty instead supported his influential half brother — Prince Jessadabodindra (later, Nangklao, Rama III) — in spite of his illegitimacy.[14]

Vajirañāṇo Bhikkhu, later King Mongkut of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, founder of the Dhammayuttika Nikaya

Giving up aspirations to the throne, Mongkut devoted his life to religion. In his travels around Siam as a monk, he became dissatisfied upon seeing low caliber of monastic practice around him. Mongkut saw discrepancies between the conduct of the monks and the Vinaya, the Buddhist monastic code.[citation needed]

Mongkut also disapproved of certain quasi-tantric and animistic practices known as khatha akhom or wicha akhom, meaning "incantation knowledge" or "magical knowledge",[15] taught by these monks.[7] "Magical knowledge was highly valued in environments where spirit worship was prominent."[15]

Because these practices were heavily influenced by Thai folk beliefs, they were seen by Mongkut as an adulteration of canonical Buddhist doctrine.[13] For these reasons, Mongkut was concerned about the validity of the ordination lines as well as the capacity of the Thai sangha to act as the field by which merit is made.[16]

Mongkut eventually found a higher caliber of monastic practice among the Mon people in the region, where he studied Vinaya and traditional ascetic practices or dhutanga.[7] In particular, he met a monk named Buddhawangso, a monk who he admired for his discipline and praxis with respect to the Pāli Canon. After reordaining with this group in 1833, he began the Dhammayuttika Nikaya (in accordance with the Dhamma, Thai Thammayut).[14]

In the founding of the Thammayut, Mongkut made an effort to remove what he understood as non-Buddhist, folk, and superstitious elements which over the years had become part of Thai Buddhism. Thammayut bhikkhus were expected to eat only one meal a day instead of the two permitted by the Vinaya and the meal was to be gathered during a traditional alms round.[citation needed]

Jessadabodindra complained about Mongkut's involvement with the Mons — considering it improper for a member of the royal family to associate with an ethnic minority — and built a monastery on the outskirts of Bangkok. In 1836, Mongkut became the first abbot of Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, which would become the administrative center of the Thammayut order until the present day.[17][18]

In the following years Mongkut was visited by Western missionaries and sailors, and would learn Latin, English, and astronomy. He would have a close friendship with Vicar Pallegoix of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bangkok. Pallegoix visited Wat Bowonniwet regularly to preach Christian sermons. Though Mongkut admired the vicar's presentation of Christian moral ideals, he rejected Christian doctrine, saying: "What you teach people to do is admirable, but what you teach them to believe is foolish."[14]

Establishment of the Thammayut Order[edit]

While abbot of Wat Bowonniwet Mongkut had other monks who were close to him reordain among this lineage of Mon bhikkhus. Among these monks were Vajirañāṇavarorasa, Mongkut's son; and Somdet Phra Wannarat "Thap", a grade Nine Pali scholar.[19]

According to Vajirañāṇa's autobiography, dissention in the movement caused the Thammayut movement to split into four competing factions, in part because Thap had irreconcilable differences with some of the more "worldly" monks affiliated with Wat Bowonniwet. In the mid-nineteenth century these branches became so estranged from each other that each of the branches developed their own styles for chanting, interpretations and translations of Pali texts, and differed on issues related to the monastic code.[20]

It wasn't until Vajirañāṇa took control of a new phase of sangha reforms in 1892 that the administrative Thammayut hierarchy would begin to form a cohesive vision. While he was not the official sangharaja, the holder was a figurehead.[21] During this period, power was consolidated in Bangkok and an emphasis on institutionalized modern education escalated. This reached a culmination when the Ecclesiastical Polity Act of 1902 was passed, officially recognizing the Thammayut movement as a monastic order. Freedom of monks to exercise the dhutanga practices and wander the Thai wilderness was restricted, and Mongkut's Vinaya reforms were replaced with a watered down state recognized code — a compromise between the Pali Vinaya and the lax discipline of the regional traditions, which were now united as the Maha Nikaya (Thai: Mahanikai).[citation needed]

According to Thanissaro, this second wave of reforms that centralized the Thammayut ecclesia rectified the Thammayut order into two distinct groups: The central Thammayut administration led by Prince Vajirañāṇa's reforms under Rama V, and Ajahn Sao and Ajahn Mun's Kammaṭṭhāna lineage.[citation needed]

Beginning of the Kammaṭṭhāna Lineage[edit]

Mun Bhuridatta's first involvement with the Sangha was ordination as a sāmaṇera (novitiate monk) when he was 15 years old. After two years, his father asked him to leave his sāmaṇera status to help out with the family. Having fulfilled his obligations, his parents provided him with his requisites for upasampada and he ordained as a bhikkhu at 22 years old with his parents blessing in 1893.[22] Ajahn Mun left the wat of his preceptor and went to study with the meditation monk Sao Kantasīlo in a small monastery just outside of the town.

Postcards of thudong bhikkhus in the early 20th century

Sao trained Mun in monastic discipline and the meditation practices from the Thammayut's Pali translations. According to the Forest Tradition, Sao wasn't sure that these practices would lead to arahantship, but he was convinced that they "headed in the right direction".[7] Sao wandered as a thudong (dhutanga-practicing bhikkhu) with Mun for several years before stating Mun should go out on his own. Mun left on his own in search of any teacher who may have found the noble attainments, travelling to Laos, Burma and Central Thailand.[7] Ajahn Mun would later talk about the lack of interest among Thais in the dhutanga lifestyle. Tambiah writes:

Such monks apparently provoked feelings of fear and apprehension among the rural folk. Their strictly controlled behaviour and avoidance of unneccessary contact with laymen; their wearing of yellowish-brown robes dyed with gum extracted from the wood of the Jackfruit tree; their carrying a large umbrella (klot) slung over their shoulder, the almsbowl in the other, and a water kettle hanging on the side; and their custom of walking single file — all these features inspired awe as much as respect.[23]

Thai Forest Ajahns Seated.jpg

The Forest tradition maintains that Ajahn Mun attained anāgāmi (non-returner) status in 1915.[13] The next year, he came back to Isan to instruct his old teacher, Sao; and in the years following, he attracted a following of monks desiring a more disciplined approach to Buddhist practice.[7]

At this time, a new state religion was in development that was a compromise between traditional practices and Thammayut standards. The Thammayut monks, being the best educated, were drafted to teach a new Bangkok curriculum based on "Victorian notions of reason and utility" in outlying areas.[7]

Respect Among the Mainstream[edit]

Tension between the forest tradition and the Thammayut administrative hierarchy escalated in 1926, when Somdet Mahawirawong (Tisso Uan) ordered Ajahn Sing Khantiyagamo and his following of 50 monks and 100 nuns and laypeople to leave a forest under Tisso Uan's jusrisdiction. Thanissaro mentions that this tension would remain for two decades, and Tisso Uan would maintain even after Ajahn Mun's death in 1949 that Ajahn Mun was unqualified to teach.[24]

According to Ajahn Lee's autobiography, the relationship between the Thammayut ecclesia and the Kammaṭṭhāna monks changed in the 1950s, when Tisso Uan had become ill. When Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro had come to visit him one day, he simply walked in and sat quietly in a corner of the room. When asked by Tisso Uan what he was doing, he said 'giving you a gift of stillness'. Tisso Uan was moved by the example that Ajahn Lee had set, and began to study meditation with him.[25]

Tisso Uan eventually recovered, and a friendship between Tisso Uan and Ajahn Lee began that would cause Tisso Uan to completely reverse his opinion of the Kammaṭṭhāna tradition, and Tisso Uan grew to become an accomplished meditator. Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro writes about what Tisso Uan said to him: "People who study and practice the Dhamma get caught up on nothing more than their own opinions, which is why they never get anywhere. If everyone understood things correctly, there wouldn’t be anything impossible about practicing the Dhamma." Tisso Uan would then invite Ajahn Lee to teach in the city: "The monks and novices — and the laypeople as well — haven’t benefited enough from having you here. If you can, I’d like you to find the time to teach them too."[26] Thanissaro claims it was this relationship between Tisso Uan and Ajahn Lee and the subsequent invitation that would bring the teachings of the forest tradition into mainstream society.[13]

All sources agree that from this point the Forest tradition would have respect among the Thammayut ecclesia,[citation needed] however the dynamics and causes of tensions between the Thammayut and forest monks — and the eventual reconciliation — are not agreed on among scholars. Kamala Tiyavanich cites cynical motives for the Thammayut's acceptance of Kammaṭṭhāna practice, saying that the Thammayut was experiencing tensions with Maha Nikaya monks, and that the Thammayut began to associate themselves with forest monks because of an incline in the forest monks popularity.[27] however Thanissaro criticizes this thesis, saying it "simply does not accord with the facts".[28] According to Thanissaro's thesis, the Thammayut support was based on respect for the Forest Tradition's ideals and their role in converting a significant number of communists in Isan.[29]

Cold War Period[edit]

Tensions arose between the dictatorial Thai government and a newly formed communist party in Thailand. During this period, several if not all of the major figures in the Kammaṭṭhāna tradition alive at the time were accused of communist sympathies.[citation needed]


Thailand's borders with Laos and Cambodia are reflected by the brown on the Thai side in this true-colour satellite image, which shows the effects of heavy deforestation in the country.

In the last half of the 20th century, the vast majority of Thailand's rainforest were lost. Millions of villagers in the forest were (sometimes violently) driven from their homes as villages were bulldozed over to make room for eucalyptus plantations.

The final closure of the forest began after devastating floods occurred in southern Thailand. In November 1988 floods and landslides, triggered by rain falling on denuded hillsides, wiped out several southern villages and killed hundreds of people. For the first time the Bangkok government was forced to face the consequences of uncontrolled exploitation of the forest. Responding to an intense public outcry, the government suspended and later banned all logging activities in the country. It is no surprise that such ecological disasters have struck Thailand. Three decades of rapacious land clearing had wiped out 82 percent of Thailand’s forests, and in places the countryside had become a dust bowl. In this context, many wandering monks decided that they had to hold their ground when they found a suitable forest. They knew that if they retreated, they risked losing it forever.

— Kamala Tiyanavich[30]

In the 1990s, Members of the Forestry Bureau deeded tracts of land to forest monasteries in an effort to preserve wilderness. These monasteries along with the land surrounding them, have turned into sort of "forested islands".[13][31]

According to Thanissaro, with the accreditation of their education system to administer graduate programs, Dhammayut authorities in Bangkok began to feel that its ties with the Forest tradition were no longer necessary, and the Dhammayut hierarchy would align itself with the economic interests of the Mahanikai hierarchy.


In 1997, Ajahn Maha Bua began a program to underwrite the Thai Currency with gold bars donated by Thai citizens, raising some 12 tonnes of gold bars and 10 million in currency.[1] The government under Chuan Leekpai tried to thwart Ajahn Maha Bua's efforts, and the political fallout from Ajahn Maha Bua's successful campaign would influence the 2001 general election in Thailand, when Ajahn Maha Bua endorsed Thaksin Shinawatra.[13]

Ajahn Maha Bua would appear to have reversed his support in 2005, when portions of a sermon from Ajahn Maha Bua were published in Manager Daily, a thai newspaper, accusing Prime Minister Thaksin of aiming for a Thai Presidency calling his administration a "savage and atrocious power". According to Taylor, Ajahn Maha Bua was incited by an anti-Thaksin group that runs Manager Daily, who presented his words out of context to attack Thaksin's political party in order to posture themselves for a coup d'état in 2006.[32]

Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah[edit]

The Early Mahanikai Forest Tradition[edit]

Ajahn Thongrat[edit]

Ajahn Jayasaro relates that while many Mahanikai monks would reordain in the Dhammayut order as an act of devotion to Ajahn Mun, Luang Por Thongrat, along with a handful of other followers of Ajahn Mun, would choose to stay a Mahanikai monks, and Luang Por Thongrat would be the de facto leader of this Mahanikai group of forest monks.[2]

Ajahn Chah's Early Training[edit]

Ajahn Kinnari[edit]

Ajahn Chah met Ajahn Kinnari while wandering dhutanga. Ajahn Jayasaro talks about how when dhutanga monks encounter each other, they will sometimes relate information about good spots to meditate, or good monasteries or meditation teachers.[3]

Establishment of Wat Pah Pong[edit]

Prior to establishing monasteries, Ajahn Chah wandered dhutanga for 7 years, practicing in wilderness areas, caves and cremation grounds. After that period, he settled in a "fever ridden, haunted forest" known as "Pah Pong", and drew a following from there. A monastery was formed in the area, known today as Wat Pah Pong, in spite of poor living conditions and sparse food.[4]

In 1967, Venerable Sumedho came to stay with Ajahn Chah at Wat Pah Pong. He found out about the monastery from one of Ajahn Chah's existing monks who happened to speak "a little bit of english".[33]

Taking root in the west[edit]


The first Thai monastery run by and for English-speaking monks was Wat Pah Nanachat, founded in 1975.[34]


Chithurst Buddhist Monastery was the first English monastery. In 1976, Ajahn Sumedho met George Sharp, Chairman of the English Sangha Trust. The Trust had been established in 1956 for the purpose of establishing a suitable residence for the training of Buddhist monks in England. By the 1970s, the Trust possessed a property in Hampstead that was not yet deemed suitable for what was desired. During a brief stay in London in 1978, Ajahn Sumedho, while undertaking the traditional alms round of Theravada monks (on Hampstead Heath), encountered a lone jogger who was struck by the Bhikkhu's outlandish attire. The jogger had, by chance, just acquired a piece of overgrown woodland in West Sussex. After expressing an interest in Buddhism, the gentleman attended a ten-day retreat at the Oaken Holt Buddhist Center near Oxford after which he offered the forest as a gift to the Sangha. In 1979 George Sharp purchased Chithurst House (a property adjacent to the wood) on behalf of The English Sangha Trust. Chithurst House gained legal recognition as a monastery in 1981. The monastery was named Cittaviveka, a Pali word meaning "the mind of non-attachment".[5]

Harnham Buddhist Monastery, Aruna Ratanagiri was founded in June of the same year. Amaravati Buddhist Monastery (now the main headquarters of the U.K. monasteries) was established in 1984 and formally opened in 1985. A fourth location is The Forest Hermitage (Santidhamma & Bhavanadhamma) (founded by Ajahn Khemadhammo).[6]

United States[edit]

About 13 miles (21 km) north of Ukiah, California, In the 1980s Ajahn Sumedho started getting requests to teach in California. Visits by either himself or one of his senior monks or nuns resulted in the Sanghapala Foundation being set up in 1988. A plot of 120 acres (0.49 km2) about 13 miles (21 km) north of Ukiah, California was given directly to Ajahn Sumedho by Chan Master Hsuan Hua, founder of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, California, before he died in 1995, would become Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery. Currently, the monastery rests on 280 acres (1.1 km2) of mountainous forest land.[35]

Other western countries[edit]

The Thai Forest Tradition also exists in:[36]

The Order of Siladhara[edit]


A siladhara is a Theravada Buddhist female monastic established by Ajahn Sumedho at Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, England.[37] In 1983, he obtained permission from the Sangha in Thailand, to give a ten-precept pabbajja to the women, making them officially recognized female renunciants trained in the Ajahn Chah lineage. The reasons for its establishment are due to the historical loss of the bhikkhuni (nun's) ordination in Theravada Buddhism.

The female monastic community began in 1979, when Chithurst Monastery admitted four Western women as anagārikās. From 1979-1983 the women lived in a cottage a short walk from the main house, on the edge of Chithurst forest. In 1983, Ajahn Sumedho ordained the nuns as 10 Precept sīladhārā nuns at Chithurst. In 1984 the order outgrew the cottage, and the nuns community moved to Amaravati. According to the Forest Sangha newsletter: "Some years later a small group of nuns returned to Chithurst Monastery to establish a second sīladhārā community there."[7]

Milntuim House[edit]

In 2012, another center for the Siladharas was purchased in Perthshire, Scotland, known as the Milntuim House. Ajahn Candasiri writes:

The intention is for Milntuim eventually to be a place where sīladharā and anagārikās can live in community for periods of time following a monastic routine, hope - fully, without some of the complexities of the larger double communities. There would also be facilities for individual sīladharā to spend up to several months in solitary retreat. In addition I would hope that it can sup - port the practice of lay friends near and far and – as far as our monastic discipline permits – integrate with the local community.[8][9]

2009 Ordination at Bodhinyana[edit]

On 22 October 2009 Brahm facilitated an ordination ceremony for bhikkhunis where four female Buddhists, Venerable Ajahn Vayama, and Venerables Nirodha, Seri and Hasapanna, were ordained into the Western Theravada bhikkhuni sangha. The ordination ceremony took place at Ajahn Brahm's Bodhinyana Monastery at Serpentine (near Perth, WA), Australia. For his actions of 22 October 2009, on 1 November 2009, at a meeting of senior members of the Thai monastic sangha, held at Wat Pah Pong, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, Brahm was removed from the Ajahn Chah Forest Sangha lineage and is no longer associated with the main monastery in Thailand, Wat Pah Pong, nor with any of the other Western Forest Sangha branch monasteries of the Ajahn Chah tradition.[38][39][40][41][42]


Daily Routine[edit]

Morning and Evening Chanting[edit]

All Thai monasteries will generally have a morning and evening chant, which usually takes an hour long for each, and each morning and evening chant may be followed by a meditation session, usually around an hour as well.[10]

Morning Alms Round[edit]

At Thai monasteries the monks will go for alms early in the morning, sometimes around 6:00 AM,[11] although monasteries such as Wat Pah Nanachat and Wat Mettavanaram start around 8:00 AM and 8:30 AM, respectively.[12][13] At Dhammayut monasteries (and some Mahanikai forest monasteries, including Wat Pah Nanachat),[14] monks will eat just one meal per day. For young children it is customary for the parent to help them scoop food into monks bowls.[43]


In the Forest Tradition, Anumodana (Pali, rejoicing together) is a chant performed by the monks after a meal to recognize the mornings offerings, as well as the monks' approval for the lay people's choice of generating merit (Pali: puñña) by their generosity towards the Sangha. Among the thirteen verses to the Anumodana chant, three stanzas are chanted as part of every Anumodana, as follows:

1. (LEADER):

2. (ALL):



Novices meditating under crot umbrella tents.

Dhutanga (meaning austere practice Thai: Tudong) is a word generally used in the commentaries to refer to the thirteen ascetic practices. In Thai Buddhism it has been adapted to refer to extended periods of wandering in the countryside, where monks will take one or more of these ascetic practices.[16] During these periods monks will live off of whatever is given to them by laypersons they encounter during the trip, and sleep wherever they can. Sometimes monks will bring a large umbrella-tent with attached mosquito netting known as a crot (also spelled krot, clot, or klod). The crot will usually have a hook on the top so it may be hanged on a line tied between two trees.[17]

Vassa (Rains Retreat)[edit]

Vassa (in Thai, phansa), is a period of retreat for monastics during the rainy season (from July to October in Thailand). Many young Thai men traditionally ordain for this period, before disrobing and returning to lay life.[citation needed]

Precepts and Ordination[edit]

Main article: patimokkha

There are several precept levels: Five Precepts, Eight Precepts, Ten Precepts and the patimokkha. The Five Precepts (Pañcaśīla in Sanskrit and Pañcasīla in Pāli) are practiced by laypeople, either for a given period of time or for a lifetime. The Eight Precepts are a more rigorous practice for laypeople. Ten Precepts are the training-rules for sāmaṇeras and sāmaṇerīs (novitiate monks and nuns). The Patimokkha is the basic Theravada code of monastic discipline, consisting of 227 rules for bhikkhus and 311 for nuns bhikkhunis (nuns).[18]

Temporary or short-term ordination is so common in Thailand that men who have never been ordained are sometimes referred to as "unfinished."[citation needed] Long-term or lifetime ordination is deeply respected. The ordination process usually begins as an anagarika, in white robes.[19]


Monks in the tradition are typically addressed as "Venerable", alternatively with the Thai Ayya or Taan (for men). Any monk may be addressed as "bhante" regardless of seniority. For Sangha elders who have made a significant contribution to their tradition or order, the title Luang Por (Thai: Venerable Father) may be used.[20]

According to THE ISAAN - Life in a Thai-Lao Village: "In Thai culture, it is considered impolite to point the feet toward a monk or a statue in the shrine room of a monastery."[21] In Thailand monks are usually greeted by lay people with the anjali gesture, though, according to Thai custom, monks are not supposed to wai laypeople.[22] When making offerings to the monks, it is best not to stand while offering something to a monk who is sitting down.[23]




A - C[edit]

D - I[edit]

K - P[edit]

R - S[edit]



  • Zhi Yun Cai (Fall 2014), Doctrinal Analysis of the Origin and Evolution of the Thai Kammatthana Tradition with a Special Reference to the Present Kammatthana Ajahns, University of the West 

External links[edit]


About the Tradition

Dhamma Resources