Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Phra Ajaan Geoff)
Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff) is an American Buddhist monk of the Kammatthana (Thai Forest) Tradition. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1971 with a degree in European Intellectual History, he traveled to Thailand, where he studied meditation under Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, himself a student of the late Ajaan Lee. He ordained in 1976 and lived at Wat Dhammasathit, where he remained following his teacher's death in 1986. In 1991 he traveled to the hills of San Diego County, USA, where he helped Ajaan Suwat Suvaco establish Metta Forest Monastery (Wat Mettavanaram). He was made abbot of the Monastery in 1993.
Kammatthana: Literally, “basis of work” or “place of work.” The term is most often used specifically to identify the Thai Forest Tradition, i.e., the forest tradition lineage founded by Phra Ajaans Mun and Sao. For an introduction to the history of the Kammatthana Tradition, see the essay “The Customs of the Noble Ones,” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto (1870-1949)
Ajaan Mun was born in 1870 in Baan Kham Bong, a farming village in Ubon Ratchathani province, northeastern Thailand. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1893, he spent the remainder of his life wandering through Thailand, Burma, and Laos, dwelling for the most part in the forest, engaged in the practice of meditation. He attracted an enormous following of students and, together with his teacher, Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo Mahathera (1861-1941), established the Kammatthana Tradition that subsequently spread throughout Thailand and to several countries abroad. He passed away in 1949 at Wat Suddhavasa, Sakon Nakhorn province.
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (1907-1961)
Ajaan Lee was one of the foremost teachers in the Thai forest ascetic tradition of meditation founded at the turn of the century by his teacher, Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto. His life was short but eventful. Known for his skill as a teacher and his mastery of supranatural powers, he was the first to bring the ascetic tradition out of the forests of the Mekhong basin and into the mainstream of Thai society in central Thailand.
Phra Ajaan Fuang Jotiko (1915-1986)
Ajaan Fuang was one of Ajaan Lee’s most devoted students, spending some 24 rains retreats in the company of his renowned teacher. After Ajaan Lee’s death, Ajaan Fuang continued on at Wat Asokaram, Ajaan Lee’s bustling monastery near Bangkok. A true forest monk at heart, Ajaan Fuang left Wat Asokaram in 1965 in search of greater solitude more conducive to meditation, and ultimately ended up at Wat Dhammasathit in Rayong province, where he lived as abbot until his death in 1986.
Phra Ajaan Suwat Suvaco (1919-2002)
Born on August 29, 1919, Ajaan Suwat ordained at the age of 20 and became a student of Ajaan Funn Acaro two or three years later. He also studied briefly with Ajaan Mun. Following Ajaan Funn’s death in 1977, Ajaan Suwat stayed on at the monastery to supervise his teacher’s royal funeral and the construction of a monument and museum in Ajaan Funn’s honor. In the 1980’s Ajaan Suwat came to the United States, where he established four monasteries: one near Seattle, Washington; two near Los Angeles; and one in the hills of San Diego County (Metta Forest Monastery). He returned to Thailand in 1996, and died in Buriram on April 5, 2002 after a long illness.