Wat Pa Ban Tat
|Wat Pa Ban Tat Buddhist Monastery|
|Affiliation||Thai Forest Tradition|
|Location||Wat Pa Ban Tat, Ban Tat, Amphoe Mueang, Udon Thani, 41000 Thailand|
|Founder||Venerable Ajahn Maha Bua Mahathera|
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Wat Pa Ban Tat (alternative spelling: Wat Pa Baan Taad; Thai วัดป่าบ้านตาด) is theravada buddhist monastery (Wat) in Udon Thani Province of Thailand. Wat Pa Ban Tat was set up by a famous Thai meditation bhikkhu called Venerable Ajahn Maha Bua.
History of Ban Tat Monastery
In 1950 Ajahn Maha Bua looked for a quiet, secluded place, and so he went to stay at Huey Sai village, in what is now Mukdahan Province. During his stay here he was very strict and serious in teaching the monks and novices, both in the subject of the austere dhutanga practices as well as in meditation. He pursued this method of teaching until these same principles of practice became increasingly established within his followers.
He then learned that his mother was ill and so returned to his village near Udon Thani so that he might look after her. Back at home, villagers and relatives requested that he settle in the forested area south of the village. They also asked him to make his residence permanent, as a favor to them, and to no longer wander in the manner of a forest monk. Through the donation of a piece of land of approximately 64 acres (260,000 m2), he would be able to establish a monastery. Considering that his mother was very old and that it was appropriate for him to look after her, he accepted the offer and began to build this monastery in November 1955. It was named Wat Pa Ban Tat.
"This monastery has always been a place for meditation. Since the beginning it has been a place solely for developing the mind. I haven‘t let any other work disturb the place. If there are things which must be done, I‘ve made it a rule that they take up no more time than is absolutely necessary. The reason for this is that, in the eyes of the world and the Dhamma, this is a meditation temple. We‘re meditation monks. The work of the meditation monk was handed over to him on the day of his ordination by his Preceptor - in all its completeness. This is his real work, and it was taught in a form suitable for the small amount of time available during the ordination ceremony - five meditation objects to be memorized in forward and reverse order - and after that it‘s up to each individual to expand on them and develop them to whatever degree of breadth or subtlety he is able to. In the beginning the work of a monk is given simply as: Kesa - hair of the head, Loma - hair of the body, Nakha - nails, Danta - teeth, Taco - the skin which enwraps the body. This is the true work for those monks who practice according to the principles of Dhamma as were taught by the Lord Buddha.“
The Wat and tigers
Along the Khon Kaen - Udon Thani highway, at kilometer-post 555, 7 kilometers from the town of Udon Thani, is an intersection in front of Kum Gling village. Here is a sign and an arrow pointing out the tarmac road to Ban Tat village. Eight kilometers further down the road from Ban Tat village is a piece of land cool, shady and quiet. It is covered with forest well looked after, and protected by a concrete wall that encircles the area. Since this monastery was established 30 years ago, the general condition of the forest remains as it originally was, lush in vegetation of many types and home to many types of forest animals. The overall view is that of forest hilltop surrounded by rice fields. This is probably the only unspoiled piece of forest left in Mueng district, Udon Thani Province.
"There were three tigers and about three leopards that came and went. The leopards walked around the dwellings but weren‘t interested in human beings, only the dogs. They‘re used to eating animals, like dogs, which are dependent on man, and so whenever they hear a human voice anywhere, they‘ll sneak right in and peep around, looking here and there. If there are no dogs, they won‘t stick around long and will slip away. But if they find a dog, they‘ll keep after it until they catch it. They‘ll sneak around it and lie in wait, and as soon as the dog is off its guard, they‘ll immediately pounce on it. This is the way leopards are. So they were in this monastery around every dwelling area. How did we know? Well, isn‘t this place swept so that it‘s spotless? Even if a mouse runs by, don‘t we know about it? And these were big cats, so how could we help but see their tracks?“
The wilderness surrounding the monastery has disappeared since the area has been cleared for cultivation. The forest that remains inside the domain of the monastery is only a remnant of what the forest once was. Wat Pa Ban Tat has tried to conserve its remnant of the forest in its original, natural condition, so that monks, novices, and lay people can make use of its tranquility for the practice of the Dhamma taught by the Lord Buddha. As the Venerable Acariya has taught repeatedly:
"From a desire to make this teaching a reality, and not just a ceremony, comes a model for a lifestyle devoted towards serious practice. As a consequence, life goes on here with the utmost simplicity - making do with what little one has - and with great contentment."
The Relics of Saints
In the display case stand urns containing the relics of Venerable Ajahn Sao Kantasilo Mahathera, Venerable Ajahn Mun, and Venerable Acariya Sing Khatayakhamo of Wat Pa Salawan. There also are pictures of the Elder Meditation Masters who followed them in the forest meditation tradition. These include: Venerable Acariya Waen Suchinno, Venerable Acariya Khao Analayo, Venerable Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo of Wat Asokaram, and Venerable Ajahn Fun Ajaro.
To these images, pictures and relics, the monks and novices pay their respects every morning and evening. From the sala are many paths running off towards the areas assigned as dwelling places for the monks and novices. The dwelling structures themselves - called kutis - are single units scattered throughout the dense forest. They stand fairly far apart and are separated from each other by strips of forest dense enough so that the inhabitants can't see one another. The whole area is tranquil and quiet, more so than the front area of the monastery which we have just mentioned. A monk will stay alone at his kuti without interactions with others. He spends all his time concentrating on his own practice - exerting himself in the practice of sitting and walking meditation in the area of his own kuti as if he were the only person around. He doesn't stop to chat with others, but follows in full detail the methods and forest practices taught by the Lord Buddha.