Monday, May 2, 2011
Luangta Maha Boowa 100th day observance and some words from a friend
Here are some thoughts from a friend who is a monk at Wayt Pa Baan Tad
This is the 1st of what will be a number of installments
Wat Pa Baan Taad
Udon Thani, 41000
I've been sending out the below account of Luangta Maha Boowa, our
teacher's, passing away to a few acquaintances whom I thought might be interested, and hoped you might be
Luangta Maha Boowa being a positive giant in contemporary Thai consciousness, for several issues.
Firstly, being the last remaining disciple of the famous Ajaan Munn, the
popularisor of the Thai forest lineage [in the North East, the Isaan], his teacher being Ajaan Sao. Secondly his biography of Ajaan Munn did much to bring the Thai forest lineage to the attention of the general Thai public,as also did his collection of bio's, in a separate volume, of the disciples who helped him in this project.Thirdly, what could be thought of as his biggest achievement, the Tui
Chai - Helping the Nation -project.
... "As I grew older, my exposure in Thai public life continued to expand
with each passing year. When the economic crisis hit in 1997, [the handover of Hong Kong to China] I
stepped in to help lift the nation from the depths of darkness: that is, from greediness on one level of society
and from poverty on the other. I wanted Thais to focus on the causes of the crisis so that, by knowing the causes,
they could change their behaviour to prevent such an event from recurring. So I used the Help the Nation
campaign not to raise gold for the national treasury, but more importantly as a means to spread the Buddha's teaching
to a broader section of Thai society in an age when many Thai people are losing touch with Buddhist principles."
From "Samana", the Cremation Volume for Luang Ta Maha Boowa.Composed and compiled by TanAjaan Dick Siilaratano.
From page 41 of .pdf version.May be downloaded from www.forestdhamma.org ...
In this he raised the moral of the nation by declaring himself an Arahantwhilst inviting all those who had faith in this
declaration to donate, from personal possessions and savings, ten tons of gold together with ten million US dollars [well
before the current crisis] to go to the Thaicentral bank. After the economy reestablished itself, the TCB then passed this
on to the IMF so as to be of benefit to developing countries around the world in need of such help. This must have
contributed to the reputation of the Thai economy as being "buoyant": whichin it's turn, could well have had a knock on -
domino - effect in the recovery of the entire Pacific Rim. Myself being privileged to have been present at the blessings for
the ninth ton in Bangkok.
But the biggest single factor of his quite remarkable reputation is in his spiritual attainment as a fully accomplished
Arahant. This, for me, becomes abundantly clear from the
account of his cremation as I've tried to give expression to below.
... Below being brief notes on Luang Ta's passing into Parri Nibbana: at the
dissolution of the body.
30/1/2011 Luang Ta finally passed away this morning at 03:53am. TanAjaan Dick
Siilaratano [my principle teacher and benefactor] explained to me that his blood pressure was about
half the normal level, when at this time it suddenly fell to half of that value, and over the next hour steadily
diminished to nothing.
Her Royal Highness, the Princes Chulaporn [WatPa Baan Taad's principle
benefactor and protector],was in attendance, together with the senior Bhikkhu Sangha. There wasn't
any chanting, neither the Sattipathana Sutta nor the Akusala Dhamma. Luang Ta asserting that this was not
necessary and his request was duly honoured.
Her Royal Highness has taken over responsibility for all funeral
arrangements, to be held provisionally on 5th March 2011/2554. Though this schedule is more likely to
be deferred rather than broughtforward.
Chanting this evening held in the main sala, TanAjaan Dick giving me permission to skip it.Tomorrow, the coffin/casket is to
be moved to the larger sala in the new grounds.
Much earth moving activity in this area, contractor plant vehicles working in very close synchronisation. At a guess this
may be the beginning of a super crematorium; or perhaps even a reliquary, though such things are traditionally planned some
ten years ahead, so as to give an arahants ashes time to crystallize, [normal ashes don't].
The casket move does not look likely to happen today. The big sala still looking very much like a tent city, supporters
seemingly reluctant to shift.
The earth moving activity is just that. The plant moving it from an adjacent field, where it had been originally placed so
as to raise cattle to a higher level during the annual flooding of these fields; the cattle since being moved to a fare more
spacious grazing area, similarly raised, just across the road. The whole operation, plant so incredibly synchronised,
looking like something out of a
pre-fifties sci/fi movie.
The decision was taken to not move the casket. The big sala has become an established tent city, at least until the day of
the funeral, which will be when the casket is finally moved.
The earth moving project is quite literally taking shape. The mound beginsto look convincingly like the base for both a
future reliquary and, the more immediately required, crematorium. ...
With the following resumption there is less denial of the subjective impact of this event. We are fast approaching the zero
day of Luang Ta's funeral - 5th - and as you can no doubt imagine the monastery has been absolute mayhem. We are planning on
the basis of a million people turning up, though I suspect the numbers could be very much higher, maybe as many as three odd
megs, say five percent of the Thai population. The entire monastery and surrounding - requisitioned - farm lands have been
converted into a working and catering community; tent cities and clusters of cooking
boutiques every where. Bottled drinking water is shuttled in on a daily basis, whilst sanitation water is provided
by huge lakes excavated specially for the project. Though no doubt these will serve as irrigation lakes when things
return to normal: it's the timing of their creation that impresses me, calling it coincidence rather over uses
the word. This isn't just the biggest day in WatPaBaanTaad's history, it is a national event and a large one even in that
league, an early proposal being to stage it in one of Bangkok's largest stadiums. He has become a national treasure in his own lifetime, from any one of several issues, though the big one is undoubtedly his TuiChai - see above - project. I reckon the entire Pacific rim benefited from that one. TanAjaan Dick has put together an excellent cremation volume for Luang Ta -
see above - for all of us ferrungs. He tells me that a consignment has been earmarked for Amaravati
Reflections on the eve of the cremation.
According to the Patimokha formula, 3.6K Bhikkhus were declared as present at the recital this morning [monastic confession and discipline]: though many think the count was too low, marshal Bhikkhus were giving out a match stick to each of us as an attempted reckoning! A better estimate would be closer to something like 4K in and around the old main Saala. This evenings chanting had all of these housed under enormous frame marquees around the newer big Saala in the outer area. I'm dreading
tomorrow when numbers will be even higher. Pindapaat is literally "every Bhikkhu for himself", each of us
going separately through the boutiques, our bowls rapidly getting overloaded and then emptying out into all kinds of
sacks and large bowls, so as to circulate the offered food back into the community. It may seem like a strange procedure, but after seven years of this, it finally grows on one and the resulting joy becomes integrated into
the practice and the rest of ones life here. The area around my Kuti - my area - has been kept clear of camping Thai
Bhikkhus so as to beavailable to our own Ferrungs. A group of whom arrived from WatPa Nanachat [international, i.e. ferrungs].
The meal was quite chummy, almost like a picnic. Tomorrows will no doubt be similar, after which I get my place all back to myself again.I expect the noise and confusion will continue for a while after the event,
as all these structures are dismantled and taken out, with things returning to an, as yet, unknown normality, at the dawn of a new era for the Thai Forest Tradition.
It is just after midnight at the time of writing and an hour or two after the entry above. Have just been out for a stroll around the preparation activities. The finishing touches seem to consist mostly of brilliantly sculptured floral monuments and structures. There also seemed to be firework parties going on too. Hot air paper balloons were drifting across the sky in enormous numbers, like star except they were all red and moving in the night breeze. I took a walk towards where they were coming from and eventually got to see how they were started off. An object rather like a doughnut of soap was suspended on cross wires at the open base of the paper bags [approx cylindrical 1x4ft]. These would be ignited and the bag/balloon
then had to be held until the air in it was hot enough to carry it up. The fun is all in the operator not having
the patience to hold it long enough with the thing then drifting unpredictably. As I walked along someone recognised
me, who was holding onto a balloon just as it was coming up to readiness. He bade me to hold it and release it
so as to see it's splendid rise. I got quite a sense of exhilaration and some kind of communion with the deities,
which could be how it all started and would explain the gleeful delight when they went awry.
Pindapaat this morning was very interesting indeed. I don't ever expect tosee so many people so closely packed and so cool and happy with it, anywhere again in this lifetime. It was such a joy to be given all this super food, just to give it away again immediately after. I got so carried away with it, that I completely forgot the need to get back quick, the rapid build up of the crowd, my propensity for getting disoriented and loosing bearings. When I eventually regained my sense of direction, the temporary bridges across the so called "river" [draining what was swampland in the rainy season] were completelyimpassible. Those that were opposite the main Stupa were excellent vantage points and people were - quite literally -squatting them, mats spread out and all. It took some of the extra duty police to persuade them to lean their
backs just so as to allow us to trickle through. Even then my return trip was rather circuitous, the police guiding
me though all kinds of secret short cuts that required the occasional lifting of barriers, pulling back of razor
wire and just appealing to the crowd for a minimal channel for the Pra Ferrung.Right now am awaiting the main events for this afternoon. It is off to a brilliant start, in that one rumour says we should be ready for 13:00hr, whilst another says that the actual firing will be at 18:00hr. If Luang Pow Punya's [my original teacher and benefactor here, died 2004]
funeral is anything to go by and scaling that up at least ten fold, the various procedures of robe offerings;
incense, candle and flowers; plain cloth, plusanything else they may think of; it all could take five hours given the - by
now - very much greater number of Bhikkhus, perhaps 5K, still arriving.
This next piece is written two days retrospectively.
I missed the main events, all of which turned around the Queen her self. I was getting rather overwhelmed with heat, whilst noticing that the marque was abundantly ventilated, the sun screening being something like twenty feet above our heads, and a not particularly hot day -old age? - so I slipped away for a rest and shower. By the time I got back, in the last light, all of her procedures had been completed, though I was just in time to see the Princess come up to the funeral pyre for ignition,
followed be a [traditional] triplecircumambulation. Having been to the funerals of both my parents as well as
Ajaan Punya's I could easily relate to the release of grief that was then clearly evident. I will have to catch
up on this part as soon as the DVD's come along: Ajaan Martin [a more junior teacher and enormously helpful to
me] beavering away at this.A few aerial shots showed the size of the crowd. Using what I recollect of
our own Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebration in 2002 as a kind of a 'yard stick', a carpet of
people from the gates of Buckingham Palace right down the Mall to Admiralty Arch and reported in the press as a
million strong; I was guessing that there must have been something like 3 or 4 million people present on this
occasion; some 5% of the Thai population encircling the big Sala and Chedi mount. A further unknown
number - hidden from view - would have been on the bridges and fields behind them, watching on giant screens;
so if anyone were to tell me that the final count was nearer to 5megs, I wouldn't be at all surprised.
TanAjaan Dick told me this morning - of the time of writing - that the
Prime Minister and his wife, as also the chief Cabinet ministers with their wives too, had come. I did not
know of this at the time, but did see some very VIP looking people seated within the Royal enclosure. As is usual
in any Thai special occasion men and women are seated separately, but the monitor screen - and thus the
cameras - where very much focused on the wives, who showed very much grief. Luang Ta was clearly much more than
just a friend to them, very much more like a father. For those of us that new him, it is easy to think that
he was just special to oneself. It is only on occasions such as this that it becomes abundantly clear that he was held
as such by so many others. This in itself is not too surprising, it is just the magnitude of this energy so displayed, that staggers belief. The rest of the night, for yours truly, was spent in a kind of vigil. The
coffin was blazing away within an incredibly decorated casing that just required a minimal spraying to keep
it from charring or melting. This meant that we could not see the coffin directly, but the incredible
decoration was very inspiring itself, not so much the subject matter, but the intricate handwork that went into it, it was all floral. They had been working on this for the last couple of days and were beavering away at it quite late on the
night that I took a walk around. The entire Chedi construction was encircled by some very 'special' looking
troops. Our own local border police weren't considered quite up to it, so what we had instead were
what looked like highly trained combat troops. But they were very impressive. I reckoned that they must
have been on exercise right up to thelast moment in order to look that fit. Their alertness was very evident,
but what I noticed was their ability torelease any heightened readiness and return to a "standby" posture so
fluently: it looked very much as though they were able to direct mindfulness to their hearts, just as Luang Ta would
have taught. The reasons for all this battle readiness was easily seen. Razor wire
barriers would not have held back the crowd, had a surge got underway. People were very obsessed with
collecting relics, absolutely anything relating to the cremation was a source of highly competitive collecting,
near obsessive: though they did show a lotof restraint and cooperation, as though they could sense Luang Ta watching
them, as the troops were most certainly doing.
By around 4:00am we called it a day and went back to our Kuties [hut accommodation]so as to prepare for the following days meal etc