Part III

ALTOGETHER I spent 14 rainy seasons in Chanthaburi, to the point where I almost came to regard it as my home. At present there are eleven monasteries that I founded in the province:

1) Wat Paa Khlawng Kung (Shrimp Canal Forest Monastery), Chanthaburi district;

2) Wat Sai Ngam (Beautiful Banyan Monastery), Baan Nawng Bua, Chanthaburi district;

3) Wat Khao Kaew (Chinese Boxwood Mountain Monastery), Chanthaburi district;

4) Wat Khao Noi (Little Mountain Monastery), Thaa Chalaeb;

5) Wat Yang Rahong (Stately Rubber Tree Monastery), Thaa Mai district;

6) Wat Khao Noi (Little Mountain Monastery), Thaa Mai district;

7) Wat Khao Jam Han, Laem Singh district;

8) Wat Laem Yang (Rubber Tree Point Monastery), Laem Singh district;

9) Wat Mai Damrong Tham, Khlung district;

10) Wat Baan Imang, Khlung district; and

11) Samnak Song Saam Yaek at the Agriculture Experimental Station near the waterfall on Sra Baab Mountain.

All of these places have monks living on a regular basis. Some of them are full-fledged monasteries, while the others are officially still just monks’ residences.

In 1941 the war with the French and the Second World War broke out. During the war and after, I wandered about in various provinces until 1949. With the war finally over, I thought of going back to India again. So in November of that year I got ready to apply for a new passport.

Going to India this time turned out to be complicated by the fact that the war was newly over. When I got ready to apply for my passport, I asked the person who looked after my funds, Khun Amnaad, how much money there was. His answer: ‘70 baht.’ But just the application fee for a new passport was 120 baht. This being the case, the laypeople who knew of my plans came to dissuade me from going, but I told them, ‘I have to go.’

‘But 70 baht isn’t enough for the trip!’

‘The money isn’t taking the trip,’ I told them. ‘I am.’

With this, my followers understood that I really did have to go, and one by one they began to gather funds for my travel expenses. One day Phraya Latphli Thamprakhan, along with Nai Chamnaan Lyyprasoed, came to stay at the monastery. When they learned I was going to India, we had the following exchange: Phraya Latphli put two questions to me: ‘1) Why go? Each of us already has the Dhamma inside. 2) Do you know their language?’

I answered, ‘Burmese and Indians are people, just like me. Are there any people in the world who don’t know the language of people?’

Phraya Latphli: ‘How are you going to go? Do you have enough money?’

‘Always enough.’

Phraya Latphli: ‘What will you do if your money gives out?’

‘It’ll probably give out the way cloth gives out: a little bit at a time. Don’t you think I’ll know in advance before it’s all gone?’

Phraya Latphli: ‘Do you know any English?’

‘I’m 40 years old. If I studied English or Hindi, I bet I could do better than English or Hindi children.’

We didn’t have the chance to talk further, so Phraya Latphli added, ‘I was just testing you.’

‘No offense taken,’ I told him, ‘but I just had to speak that way.’

Not long after that, when the laypeople, monks, and novices had canvassed among themselves and come up with a little more than 10,000 baht to help with my travel expenses, I left Chanthaburi for Bangkok, where I stayed at Wat Boromnivasa. With the assistance of a number of my followers who were policemen—headed by Police Colonel Sudsa-nguan Tansathit—I started to apply for my passport and visas.

Getting my money exchanged took a lot of running around and almost didn’t succeed because at that time the price of the British pound on the black market had risen to 50 baht, while the official exchange rate was 35. We were sent from one place to another, and as things got more and more complicated we began to give up hope. So I made a vow: ‘I’m going to visit friends and the spots where the Buddha once dwelled. On my last trip things still weren’t clear, so I want to go once more. If I’m really going to get to go this time, may someone come and help get my money exchanged.’

Four days after I had made my vow, Nai Bunchuay Suphasi (now a lieutenant with the Mounted Police) showed up and asked me, ‘Than Phaw, have you been able to exchange your money yet?’

‘No, not yet.’

‘Then I’ll take care of it for you.’

For a week after that he went around making contacts with the Treasury Ministry, the Education Ministry, and the Interior Ministry. He received letters of recommendation from his friends and a letter of guarantee from the Assistant Minister of the Interior, Lieng Chayakaan, now a member of the Lower House, representing Ubon Ratchathani province. He then went to the National Bank, where at first he was told that my case ‘didn’t qualify for permission to exchange at the official rate.’ So he went to consult Nai Jarat Taengnoi and Nai Sompong Janthrakun, who worked in the National Bank. Finally I was given permission to exchange at the official rate on the recommendation of Nai Jarat, who supported my request on the grounds that my trip was for the purpose of spreading Buddhism abroad, which was in the interest both of the nation and of the religion. I thus exchanged my money for, altogether, 980 pounds sterling.

Then, with my money exchanged, I applied for my passport and visas. In the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Nai Prachaa Osathanon, head of the Passport Office, took care of everything for me, including contacting his friends in the Thai embassies in Burma and India. I then applied for my visas at the British Embassy. Everything was now ready for me to go.

So in February, 1950, I left Thailand by plane. Nang Praphaa, a follower of mine who worked with Thai Airways, helped me get a ticket at a reduced rate, almost 50 percent off the full fare. The plane left Don Muang Airport at 8 a.m. I was accompanied on this trip by a monk named Phra Samut and a layman, Nai Thammanun. At about 11 a.m. the plane reached the Rangoon Airport, where I was met by officials from the Thai embassy: M.L. Piikthip Malakun, Nai Supan Sawedmaan and Nai Sanan. They took me to stay in a sanctuary attached to the Schwe Dagon Pagoda. I stayed in Burma about 15 days, going around to see the sights in Rangoon—although there was little to see but bombed-out ruins. The Karen war was flaring up near Mandalay.

One day we went to Pegu to pay our respects to a large reclining Buddha image in a township near there. We met Burmese troops keeping a watch over the area. They were very helpful: Wherever we went, a contingent of twelve soldiers went along. When we stopped for the night, they stayed as our bodyguard. We spent the night on Mutao Chedi, whose spire had broken off. All night long we heard nothing but the boom of the big guns, so I asked one of the soldiers with us, ‘What are they shooting?’

‘They’re shooting to frighten off the Communists,’ he answered.

Early the next morning two Burmese women came to talk with us, and then invited us to eat at their home.

After I had finished seeing the sights in Rangoon, I got ready to go on to India.

While I was in Rangoon I met a Thai, named Saiyut, who had been ordained as a monk in Burma. He took me to an old palace to meet a Burmese princess, 77 years old, the daughter of King Thibaw of Mandalay. We sat talking for a while. I described Thai customs to the princess, and she described Burmese customs to me. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned to me, ‘I’m Thai, you know,’ and then asked me in Thai, ‘Do you like khanom tom?’ but didn’t want to say much more than that. From what she said, I gathered that her ancestors had been carried off from Thailand when the Burmese sacked Ayutthaya. Her name was Sudanta Chandadevi.

She then asked a favor of me. ‘At the moment I have no more income,’ she said. This was because a new government had just come into power and cut the stipends of the old nobility. ‘Please take pity on me. You and I are both Thai. It would be good if you could put in a word for me at the Thai embassy.’

‘Don’t worry,’ I told her. ‘I’ll help.’

So I took the princess’ case to M.L. Piikthip Malakun. Both he and his wife were good-hearted people. M.L. Piikthip took me to see Phra Mahiddha, the Ambassador to Burma at the time. Meeting him was like meeting an old relative. The entire embassy staff was very helpful. Before I left for India I recommended that they help the princess both on an official and on a personal basis.

In March, 1950, I left Rangoon by plane, reaching Calcutta Airport at about four in the afternoon. The captain of the flight turned out to be an old friend—he has since died in an airplane crash in Hong Kong. When we took off he boasted that he could fly the plane any way I liked—high, low, reckless. He said that he’d take me up to 10,000 feet. We ran into a lot of turbulence near the Himalayan mountains, and the air got so cold I had to leave the cockpit, return to my seat, and wrap myself up in a blanket.

When we landed we parted ways because airline personnel had special rights, unlike ordinary passengers. As for me, I had to have my things inspected, my health certificates inspected—but when it came to the ‘darkroom,’ they made a special exception in my case. Inside the darkroom the light was blinding. Everyone who went inside had to strip naked so that the officials could inspect him. But luckily there was a Sikh who, when he saw me stick my head into the room, smiled at me as a sign that he would help me out. As a result, I didn’t have to be inspected.

We waited there at the airport until sunset, when a Westerner came and politely told us that a company car was about to come and pick us up. A moment or so later we piled our things into the car. We traveled a good many miles into Calcutta and went to stay at the Maha Bodhi Society. When we arrived we found that the executive secretary, an old friend of mine, wasn’t there. He had taken some of the Buddha’s relics to a celebration in New Delhi and then gone on to Kashmir. The monks who were staying at the Society, though, were very helpful in every way because I had been a member of the Society for many years. They fixed us a place to stay on the third floor of the building.

While there we spent many days contacting the immigration authorities before our visa papers could be straightened out. I stayed at the Maha Bodhi Society until it neared time for the rains, when I made plans to go on to Ceylon. I took my draft to the bank but there learned that the bank that had sold me the draft had no branches in India. The bank therefore wouldn’t accept the draft. They went on to tell me that to exchange the draft I would have to go all the way to London. This is when things started looking bad. I checked our funds—Nai Thammanun had about 100 rupees left. It was going to be hard to get around. Yet, at the same time, we had more than 800 pounds sterling with us that the Indian banks wouldn’t accept because there was a lot of anti-British feeling at the time. They didn’t want to use the British pound, and didn’t want to speak English unless they really had to. So as a result, we were caught out in the rain along with the British.

Finally I made up my mind to chant, meditate, and make a vow: May I receive some help in my monetary problems. And then one day, at about five in the evening, Nai Thanat Nawanukhraw, a commercial attaché with the Thai consulate, came to visit me and asked, ‘Than Ajaan, do you have money to use?’

‘Yes,’ I answered him, ‘but not enough.’

So he pulled out his wallet and made a donation of 2,000 rupees. Later that evening my friend who was the executive secretary of the Maha Bodhi Society returned and invited me up to his room for a chat. He gave me a warm welcome and then we talked in Pali. ‘Do you have enough money?’ he asked. ‘Don’t be bashful. You can ask for whatever you need at any time.’

‘Thank you very much,’ I answered in English, and he smiled in response. From that day on I was put at my ease in every way.

Just as the rains were about to begin, a monk who was a very good friend of mine—an official at Sarnath named Sangharatana—invited us to go spend the rains there, and so I accepted his invitation. The following morning he went on ahead, and then two days before the beginning of the Rains Retreat we followed along. At about noon the next day we reached his temple. My friends there had fixed places for us to stay, one to a room, in a large 40-room dormitory. Thus I spent the Rains Retreat there in Sarnath.

Things were made very convenient for us during the rains. The friends I had made during my first trip were still there. Eating arrangements were also convenient. Every day, early in the morning, they’d bring Ovaltine and three or four chappatties to your room, and just that was enough to fill you up. But then a little later in the morning they’d serve a regular meal with bean and sesame curries and rice—but no meat. We ate vegetarian-style, although some days there would be fish.

There was chanting every evening during the Rains Retreat. They chanted just like we do in Thailand, only very fast. When the chanting was over I’d go to pay my respects to the great ruined chedi to the north of the sanctuary. Some days I’d go into Benares to look at the temples of the Hindus, Tibetans, Burmese, Singhalese, etc. One night, toward the end of the rains, when the moon was bright, I went to sit alone in front of the sanctuary after we had finished our chants. I sat there in meditation in the middle of the bright, moonlit night, focusing on the top of the chedi, thinking of King Asoka, who had done so much for the religion. After I had focused on the chedi a long while, a brilliant light began to flicker and flash around the trees and the chedi. I thought to myself: ‘Relics of the Lord Buddha probably really do exist.’

One day, when the rains were almost over, the officials of the Maha Bodhi Society invited us to go to the airport to meet a plane carrying relics of Phra Moggallana and Phra Sariputta that were on their way back from a celebration organized by the Indian government in New Delhi. So we all went along to the airport. When the plane landed, a little after 11 a.m., they had us get on the plane to receive the small bronze chedi containing the relics. We then took the chedi to the Sarnath Maha Bodhi Society. I didn’t ask for a chance to look at the relics because I wasn’t really interested. Afterwards they sent the relics for safe keeping to the Calcutta office, and so I never got to see them.

After the rains were over I began receiving letters—some by special delivery, others by ordinary mail—from Thailand and Burma. The gist of them all was that they wanted me to return right away to Rangoon because Princess Sudanta Chandadevi was now receiving a stipend and was overjoyed. Her children had gotten their friends together and were planning to build a temple in Rangoon, so would I please come right away and help with the arrangements.

Learning this, I hurried back to Calcutta, got my travel papers in order, and flew to Rangoon. There I was met at the airport by members of the temple committee. They took me straight to the princess’ palace, where a committee of 30 or so people were in the midst of holding a meeting. The committee—composed of old nobility, government officials, merchants, and householders—was discussing plans to buy land for the temple: seven acres on a tall hill. The owner was willing to sell the land for around 30,000 rupees. When I had learned the general outlines of their proposal, I returned to stay, as before, at Schwe Dagon.

I then took the matter to the Thai embassy to seek their advice. By that time Phra Mahiddha had been transferred to another country, leaving M.L. Piikthip Malakun acting in his place. He told me that it would be good to handle the matter through official channels so that the embassy would be in a position to give its full cooperation. As for the temple committee, they were looking for help from Thailand because their objective was to build a temple Thai in every way. The chairman of the committee was an old man of about 70, a former politician who in the old days had commanded great respect. He was the mentor of U Nu, the prime minister of Burma. It seemed to me that the matter was sure to come through. I was put in contact with scores of Thai people in Rangoon, and everyone seemed enthusiastic about the project.

Not long afterwards, though, I started receiving frequent letters from Bangkok containing news that didn’t sound very good, some of it having to do with Nai Bunchuay Suphasi, so I decided to return to Thailand in order to contact the Thai government and Sangha and inform them of the proposal on my own.

In December, 1950, I took a plane from Rangoon to Bangkok—the monk who had gone with me to India had already returned a good many days before. In Bangkok I stayed with Somdet Phra Mahawirawong (Uan) at Wat Boromnivasa. I informed the Somdet of the plans to build a temple in Rangoon. He thought the matter over several days, and just as he was about to give me permission to fly back to Burma, I ran into interference. A number of monks, having heard the news that a temple was going to be built in Rangoon, started getting into the act, saying that Ajaan Lee wouldn’t be able to succeed without them. They had received letters to that effect from Rangoon, they said. How they were able to know that, I have no idea. These monks were all titled, high-ranking ecclesiastical officials right here in Bangkok.

When I learned this, I dropped the whole matter and was no longer involved. I sent a letter to the Thai embassy in Burma, asking to withdraw from the proposal. That finished it off. To this day I have yet to see anyone build the temple.

This being the way things were, I left Wat Boromnivasa and returned to visit my supporters in Chanthaburi. During this period there were all sorts of people, jealous and angry with me, who tried to smear my name in every conceivable way, but I’d rather not name their names because I believe they helped me by making me more and more determined.

WITH THE APPROACH of the rainy season I left Chanthaburi to return to Wat Boromnivasa, and then went to teach meditation to the laypeople at Wat Sanehaa, Nakhorn Pathom province. From there I went to stay at Wat Prachumnari, Ratchaburi province, at the request of Chao Jawm Sapwattana, head of the temple committee. I stayed at this temple several days, and during that time there were a lot of very strange events.

One morning a woman of about 20 came and sat in front of the sermon seat. A moment later she went into convulsions. So I made some lustral water and sprinkled her with it. I started questioning her and learned that there was a spirit of a man who had died a violent death dwelling in the area, and that it would possess people, causing them to be covered with hives, each swelling about the size of your thumb. When I learned this I had no medicine to give her, but I was chewing betel nut, so I took the chewed-up remains, threw them down next to her, and had her eat them. The swellings disappeared. This happened altogether three different times, and there were a good number of witnesses each time.

Several days later, just as I was getting ready to leave, a woman named Nang Samawn, a niece of Nang Ngek in Bangkok, came to see me. She had once been ordained as a nun, but had later returned to lay life and married a former justice of the peace in Ratchaburi. She was about 40, and had a son aged 15. She held me in great esteem: Whenever I came to the Bangkok area, she would always come to seek me out. That day, at about five in the evening, she came with an offering of flowers, candles, and incense, so I asked her, ‘What can I do for you, Mother Samawn?’

She answered, ‘I’ve come to ask you for a child.’

As soon as I heard this, I started feeling uneasy because there were only a few people present, and on top of that she was speaking in a whisper. So I said out loud, ‘Wait until more people come.’ I was thinking of the future—if she really did give birth to another child, I’d be in a spot. So I wanted the whole affair to be out in the open to make sure that everyone knew the facts of the case.

That evening, a little after 7 p.m., about 100 people came and congregated in the main meeting hall. Nang Samawn sat right nearby, to one side of the sermon seat. After I had given the precepts and delivered a sermon to the people, teaching them to meditate so that they could develop merit and perfect their character, Mother Samawn spoke up in a loud voice, ‘I don’t want any of that. I want a child. Please give me a child, Luang Phaw.’

‘All right,’ I told her, ‘I’ll give you a child.’ I answered her this way because I remembered a number of events in the scriptures. I then said, as if in jest, ‘Set your mind on meditating well tonight. I’m going to ask the deva-sons and deva-daughters to bring you a child.’

After she had finished meditating, she came and told me, ‘I feel really content and relaxed. I’ve meditated many times before, but it’s never been like this.’

‘There you are,’ I told her. ‘You’ll have your wish.’

The next morning, I left Ratchaburi, taking the train as far as Prajuab Khirikhan. Khun Thatsanawiphaag went along as my follower. We spent the night in a cemetery near the station in Pranburi. The next morning, Khun That went to buy our tickets, with 120 baht in his pockets. This was right after the war, when they were using bank notes printed in America. The 100 baht bill and the 20 baht bill looked just alike. Khun That came back with the tickets, but without the 100 baht bill. He had mistaken it for the 20 baht bill and so had given it to the ticket agent. He was all ready to return to the station to ask for the money back, but I stopped him. ‘I’d be too embarrassed to have you go,’ I said. He then got so upset that he was going to go back home, so I had to console him.

The cemetery where we were staying was on a tall, forested slope. They had told us that no one could sleep there because the spirits were fierce, but we spent the night without incident.

From there we took the train to Surat Thani and went to stay on the slope of a tall hill near the train station. As night fell, people came to talk with us. I got to meet two characters named Nai Phuang and Nai Phaad. They came together, and Nai Phuang let me in on their secret. ‘My home is in Nakhorn Pathom province,’ he said. ‘I used to be a big-time gangster, and killed a lot of people in my time. The last person was an old grandmother who died on the spot. Someone had told me that she kept 4,000 baht in cash under her pillow, so I snuck up to her room and stabbed her in the neck. But when I looked under her pillow, there was only 40 baht. From that day on, I felt so awful that I decided to give up crime. But even so, I still feel jumpy every time I hear a gunshot. Luang Phaw, could you help find me something to protect me from bullets?’

I told him, ‘If you really have sworn off crime, I’ll give you something that’ll make sure you don’t die from a bullet.’

He swore, ‘I’ve given it up for good,’ so I wrote down a gatha for him to repeat over and over to himself.

The next day, he came back and told me that his younger brother, along with a group of nine others, were in the process of fighting off the police in one of the outlying districts. Some of the group the police had already captured, but his brother was still on the loose. He was afraid that his name might get dragged into the affair, so what should he do? I told him to go straight to the police and lead them to his brother. He did everything as I told him to, and a few days later the entire group of bandits turned themselves in. Nai Phuang was able to get his brother out on bail. Eventully, when the case reached the courts, the entire group pleaded guilty. The court sentenced them to prison but, because they had admitted their guilt, cut their sentences in half.

I didn’t feel very comfortable staying there in Surat because there were always shady characters coming to see me. I was doing nothing but good, but I was afraid that other people might start thinking I was aiding and abetting criminals, so I left, heading for Thung Song and then on to pay my respects to the Buddha’s relics in Nakhorn Sri Thammarat. At this point Khun That took his leave to return home to Bangkok. He bought my ticket, got me on the train, and I then traveled on alone.

That evening I reached the great chedi at Nakhorn Sri Thammarat and stayed at the monastery connected with it. A number of people there—including a monk who was a friend of mine living at the monastery—were interested in meditation, so I stayed on, teaching meditation for a while. I then left, heading for Songkhla province. Reaching Haad Yai, I went to stay in Pak Kim cemetery, which was all overgrown and very quiet. A few days later my friend, Phra MahaKaew, came looking for me and found me there in the cemetery. We stayed on for a while and then went out wandering by ourselves from township to township.

THAT YEAR I spent the rains at Wat Khuan Miid—KnifeMountain Monastery. I gave sermons and taught meditation to the monks, novices, and laypeople practically every night. After the rains were over and we had received the kathina, I headed back and stayed at Khuan Jong mountain, by a small village near Rien Canal.

One day I started seeing people pouring past in huge numbers. This went on for several days running, so I finally asked what was up. They told me that they were going to see the giant snake that had trapped a woman in its coils on Khuan Jong mountain. The word had gotten around that a giant snake with a red hood had trapped a woman in its coils at the very top of the mountain, and that until the allotted time came it wouldn’t let her go. On hearing this bizarre story, people had become all excited and started coming out in huge numbers to see, swarming all over the area near where we were staying. But in Khuan Jong village itself, no one appeared to have heard the story at all. The whole thing was ridiculous.

After we had stayed there for a while, we went on to stay at Baan Thung Pha, Talaat Khlawng Ngae, and Sadao district. At that time the police chief in Sadao had been shot and killed in a skirmish with the Chinese communist terrorists. While we were there, a lot of people came to see us during the day, but as evening fell they hurried back home, saying they were afraid the communists would attack. So I told them, ‘I want you all to come for a sermon tonight. I promise there’ll be no attack.’ Just after nightfall—at about 8 p.m.—people came and filled the ordination hall of the temple where we were staying, so I gave a sermon and taught them meditation.

A few days afterwards we returned to Pak Kim cemetery in Haad Yai. This time a lot of Haad Yai people came out every night to receive the precepts, listen to sermons, and practice meditation.

From there we returned to Nakhorn Sri Thammarat, stopping off at a meditation monastery in Rawn Phibun district, and then going on to stay in Thung Song. Nai Sangwed, a clerk in the Education Office, followed along as my student. We stayed at Tham Thalu (The Cave That Goes All the Way Through) for a while, and then went on to Chumphorn. From Chumphorn we caught the train to Phetburi. This was when I learned that Somdet Mahawirawong had been sending letters after me, asking me to return to Bangkok, so I went on to Ratchaburi and stayed at Wat Prachumnari. Luang Att, the governor of Ratchaburi province, and the district official of Ratchaburi City came looking for me, asking me to return to Bangkok because the Somdet at Wat Borom wanted to see me.

While I was staying at Wat Prachumnari, a monk at Khao Kaen Jan (Sandalwood Mountain) was captured by the authorities. I learned that four or five nuns from Baan Pong who were his followers wanted to come see me, but didn’t dare because of the uproar over the monk. Although the story doesn’t involve me, it’s worth telling: It seems that the monk had told the nuns that his legs hurt from sitting in meditation and delivering sermons so much, so would they please massage his legs—and they actually started giving him massages. That’s when the uproar started. The authorities looked into the matter and discovered that the monk had no identification papers, so they forced him to disrobe.

During my stay at Ratchaburi, Mae Samawn came out to see me. ‘I’m over two months pregnant,’ she said, and then went on, ‘I’d like to dedicate the child to you right now, because it’s your child, and not my husband’s.’ She seemed dead serious about what she was saying. I didn’t respond in any way, but I did feel surprised. She hadn’t had a child in 15 years, so how had it come about?

From there I returned to Bangkok and stayed at Wat Boromnivasa. I happened to arrive just as the Somdet fell ill, so I helped look after him.

WHILE I WAS AT WAT BOROMNIVASA, this time, a large number of people from Bangkok, Thonburi, and Lopburi came to practice meditation. One day there was a strange event. A woman named Mae Khawm, a native of Lopburi, came and presented me with three relics of the Buddha.

‘Where did you get them?’ I asked her.

‘I asked for them from the Buddha image right over your pillow,’ she told me. This Buddha image belonged to Nai Udom, who had brought it down from Keng Tung during World War II. From what he had told me, there seem to have been a lot of strange events connected with this image.

Here I’d like to back up to tell the history of the image. Originally Nai Udom was a person who never felt much respect for monks. He was a government official working with the Radio Division of the Mass Communications Department. During World War II he went along with the Thai Army, headed by General Praphan, to Keng Tung. One day he went to set up quarters in an old temple with a group of enlisted men. That evening, after lying down but before going to sleep, he saw a bright light shooting out from the shelf over his pillow, so he sprang up to see what was there. At the time he was the sort of person who, even though he was staying right next to sacred objects, never showed them any respect. But that day he became curious. He craned his neck up to see what was on the shelf, and there he found a gold-alloy Buddha image, about eight inches tall and three inches across at the base, black and glistening as if it had been polished every day. Seeing it, he grabbed it and put it in his suitcase. From that day on, his fortunes improved greatly. People started helping him, and he began to have more than enough money to spend. He got the money from people native to that area.

When the war was over he headed back to Thailand. On the way back, he spent a night on the bank of the Mae Jan river. That night the Buddha image entered his dreams and said, ‘Dom, you bastard, you’re going to take me across the river, but I’m not going to stand for it.’

Nai Udom didn’t pay any attention to the dream. ‘What power could a metal Buddha have?’ he thought. In the end, he brought the image back to Chanthaburi, retired from government service, and set himself up in business as a merchant. During this period, he started looking wan and unhealthy. Life was becoming more and more of a hardship.

After a while his wife and children started falling ill, one after another. Nothing seemed to cure them. ‘Luang Phaw’ entered his dreams again. ‘I’m staying here with you against my will,’ he said. ‘You’re going to have to take me back to my home!’

That year it so happened that I had gone out wandering in Prajinburi province, staying at YoungSavage Mountain. Around April I crossed the wilderness and returned to Chanthaburi. When Nai Udom learned that I had returned, he came running to see. ‘I’m really in a mess, Than Phaw. My children are sick, my wife is sick, I don’t have any money, and now this Buddha image enters my dreams and tells me to take him back to Keng Tung where I found him. What should I do?’

‘“Luang Phaw” is a forest Buddha,’ I answered him. ‘He likes staying where it’s peaceful and quiet. If you want, have him come stay here with me.’

So Nai Udom brought the image and left it with me—whether he actually gave it to me or simply left it with me for safe keeping, I couldn’t tell for sure. I kept it and showed it respect as a matter of course. From that day on, all the illnesses in his family disappeared, and in 1952 he moved to Bangkok. There are a good many more strange things connected with this Buddha image, but this is all I want to say about it for now.

After the event with Mae Khawm I became curious about the Buddha’s relics and how they came about. Never during my life as a monk had I ever been interested in them at all, but I did accept the relics from Mae Khawm and treated them with respect. Later I learned that she had received more relics, but by then I had put the Buddha image away in the Raam Khae quarters at Wat Boromnivasa. And as for myself, I had taken my leave of the Somdet and gone to Lopburi province.

That year I celebrated Visakha Puja at Wat Manichalakhan in Lopburi. On that day I said to myself, ‘If I don’t see the Buddha’s relics appear with my own eyes, I won’t believe in them because I have no idea whether or not they’re for real.’ I made a vow to sit in meditation until dawn. I set out four receptacles and made the following invitations: ‘1) May sacred relics of the Buddha—from his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth, which were the sources of his splendor—if they really exist, come to this altar tonight. 2) May relics of Phra Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s important disciples, also come. 3) May relics of Phra Moggallana, whose powers were equal to those of the Buddha, also come. 4) May relics of Phra Sivali, a monk of good will who was safe at all times wherever he went, also come. If these relics really exist, may they come and appear. If I don’t see anything appear tonight, I’ll give away all the relics that people have presented to me.’

That night I went without sleep and sat in meditation until dawn. At about 4 a.m. I had a feeling that there was a bright red light flashing right where I had placed the receptacles. At daybreak I discovered relics in each of the receptacles. The room where they were placed had been locked up tight from sunset to dawn—no one would have been able to enter, and I myself hadn’t gone in. I felt really taken aback: This was the first time anything like this had happened in my life. Quickly I wrapped the relics in cotton wool, placed them in a pouch, and kept them with me. Altogether I received three relics of Phra Sariputta, three of Phra Sivali, two of Phra Moggallana, and seven of the Buddha. Some were the color of milky quartz, some were black, some a dark yellowish grey. The ones Mae Khawm had given me, though, were the color of pearls. I took them with me as I headed north. As time passed, a number of other things occurred that I’d rather keep to myself for the time being.

AS THE RAINS APPROACHED I went to stay in Mae Rim district, Chieng Mai province. I had made up my mind to go deep into the forest, and so, leaving Mae Rim, I went to Baan Paa Tyng, which took a day of walking. From there I went deep into the wilderness, up the mountains and down, reaching my destination at what must have been no later than four in the afternoon. This was a spot where a student of mine had once spent a Rains Retreat, and that year I spent the rains there.

It was a village of Karen and Yang hilltribesmen, with about six or seven households. There was no level ground at all—nothing but mountains and hills. The place where I stayed was at the foot of a hill, a little less than a kilometer from the village, near a flowing stream. The weather was bitter cold both day and night. I arrived there the day before Asalha Puja, and on the day we took our vows to spend the rains, I started coming down with a fever.

This was a really primitive place. The people were all hilltribesmen, and my basic diet that rainy season consisted of salt, peppers, and rice—that was all. No fish or meat. During the latter half of July, I became seriously ill. Some days I almost lost consciousness.

One morning, at dawn, I tried to get up to go out for alms but couldn’t. I felt dizzy and faint, and was shivering so violently that my hut started shaking. I was all by myself—the monks with me had all gone out for alms. So I went to warm myself by a fire and began to feel a bit better.

I suffered like this all through the rains. I could hardly eat at all. During the entire three months, I was able to eat no more than ten mouthfuls of food a day. Some days I couldn’t eat anything at all. But my body and mind felt light, and my heart was at ease—not the least perturbed by my illness.

My symptoms got more serious on July 29. I started running a high fever and felt really faint—numb all over my body. This made me begin to have doubts about my survival. So I got up and took out my pouch of relics, wrapped it in an old worn-out shoulder cloth, and placed it up high on a shelf. Then I made a resolution: ‘If you really are sacred, give me a sign. If I’m going to die here, I want you all to disappear.’ I then entered my umbrella tent and stilled my mind.

At dawn the next day I found the pouch and shoulder cloth in opposite sides of the room, but none of the relics were missing. They were still there, scattered all over the shelf where I had placed them. It looked as if I probably wouldn’t die that year but would still be sick for a while longer.

One day I was thinking over events in the past and started feeling disgusted. So I made a resolution: ‘I’d like some good resources to have at my disposal in the future. If I don’t acquire them, I don’t want to leave the forest. 1) I want to attain supranatural powers. If I can’t, may I go all the way in seven days. Even if my life is to end during those seven days, I’m willing to give it up as an offering. 2) Wherever there are any good, quiet, restful spots, may the forest spirits lead me there.’ After making my resolution I sat in meditation. A vision appeared: a bright light and a cave reaching clear through a mountain. It occurred to me, ‘If I enter this cave, I’ll probably go all the way through.’ But just as I decided to go right then and there, I started feeling so faint that my body swayed. I had to grab hold of one of the posts in the hut—so that was as far as I got.

After that, my illness slowly began to recede. One day I took one of my followers out looking for wood to make into charcoal so that I could have a fire to keep myself warm at night. The next day a boy from the village told me, ‘It’s not good for a sick person to go looking for firewood. There’s an old saying that a sick person looking for firewood is looking for wood for his funeral pyre.’ The boy’s name was Teng and he was a little deranged. He went on to say, ‘I really have it hard. Every night spirits come and pull my legs and won’t let me get any sleep.’ I didn’t pay him any attention.

Late one night, when it was quiet and I was feeling really ill, I set some charcoal stoves all around myself. After I had dozed off for a moment, a woman dressed in white, followed by two girls and carrying a white flag covered with a long string of Chinese characters, came toward me and said, ‘I’m queen of the devas. If you live here, you have to bow down to me.’ I wasn’t willing to bow down, seeing as I was a monk. Still, she insisted. We had a long argument, but I stood firm. Finally she left the hut, climbed the hill, and disappeared. I meditated in comfort for the rest of the night.

Another day a while later—September 16—I had a dizzy spell early in the morning. Afterwards I didn’t have the strength even to come down from the hut and couldn’t eat any food. At about one in the afternoon I got up and sat by the window. The hut was at the foot of the hill, and the stream flowed right past the window. All around the hut the ground was cleared and clean—it was swept every day.

A lot of things happened that day: 1) There was a foul stench unlike anything I had ever smelled before. 2) A big green foul-smelling fly came and landed right on my face. It looked to me as if I were going to die. I sat in meditation until the fly flew away and the stench vanished. I began to have doubts about my survival, so I made a vow: ‘If I’m going to die, I want a clear sign. If I have the potential to live on and be of use, I also want a sign.’

After I had made my vow, I sat facing west, looking out through the window with my mind under control. After a moment, two doves came flying to the window. First a male dove came from the south, made a sharp cry, and landed on the sill. A moment later a female dove came from the north. They fluttered their wings and cooed to each other. They seemed cheerful and confident. And then, after another moment, the clouds that had been covering the sky parted and bright sunlight came pouring through. Not since the beginning of the rainy season had there been even as much as 30 minutes of sunlight in a single day. The entire three months the sky had been dull, always covered by clouds and fog. But now the sun shone down all bright and dazzling. The calls of the birds echoed clearly through the forest. My heart felt refreshed. I came to the conclusion: ‘I’m not going to die.’

One night afterwards, toward the end of the rains, I went down to do walking meditation to the south of my hut and a vision appeared to me. I saw myself and an elephant tumbling around in the water. Sometimes I’d be on top of the elephant; sometimes he’d be on top of me. A moment later, in the same vision, a sermon seat came floating through the air, about six meters off the ground. It was painted a dull red and covered with cloth from India interwoven with gold. The vision seemed to say, ‘Please climb onto the sermon seat. All your aspirations will be fulfilled.’ But there was no one in the vision. ‘This is no time for lies,’ I thought, and the vision disappeared.

Right at the very end of the rains I practiced walking around the foot of the hill but I’d get tired and faint. My ears would start ringing and I’d almost pass out. If this was the way things were, I wouldn’t be able to leave the mountains after the rains were over. So I made a resolution: If I’m going to live on and be involved with humanity, may I be able to get out of the mountains. But if my involvement is over, I’ll write a letter bidding farewell.

By the day after the end of the Rains Retreat, my illness seemed to be over. My symptoms weren’t even twenty percent of what they had been before. The next day, the hilltribesmen accompanied us out of the forest, carrying our things and at the same time crying in a way that was really heartrending.

That had been a damp, chilly place to stay. Even salt, if you didn’t keep it shut tight in a container, would dissolve away. We ate hilltribe food all throughout the rains. They’d take bamboo shoots, calledium leaves, and tubers, stew them until they were mushy, then add salt, rice, and pounded chili peppers—leaves, stems, and all— and boil it all down together in a pot. This was the sort of fare we had to eat. In all the years since my ordination, this rainy season was the ultimate in primitiveness as far as food was concerned. Even their peppers were strange: When you swallowed one, it would be hot all the way down to your intestines. And yet the hilltribes people themselves were all large and stocky. I had thought that they would be dark and sickly, but they turned out to be fair and plump. They had an admirable culture. There was no quarreling, and none of the people in the village ever raised their voices. They refused to use things bought in the market. Mostly they used things they had made themselves. Their crops were vegetables and wild rice because there was no level land for growing white rice.

After the rains, I returned to Mae Rim and then went down to the city of Chieng Mai. The only symptom remaining from my illness was an irregular heartbeat. The laypeople who had been most concerned about my condition and had from time to time sent supplies from Chieng Mai to where I was staying in the forest—Khun Nai Chusri and Mae Kaew Run—brought me spice medicine for my dizzy spells. After staying in Chieng Mai at Wat Santidham for a while, I went down to stay at Phra Sabai Cave in Lampang, where a student of mine had spent the rains.

While there I began to have the feeling that I would have to return to Bangkok. The Somdet was seriously ill and I’d have to stay with him. But something inside me didn’t want to go. One night I vowed to have an answer to the question of whether or not I should go to Bangkok. I sat in meditation until dawn. At about 4 a.m. I felt as if my head had been cut off, but my heart was bright and not afraid. After that my illness was virtually all gone. I returned to Bangkok and stayed at Wat Boromnivasa. At the time, the Somdet was very ill and gave me an order: ‘You’ll have to stay with me until I die. As long as I’m still alive, I don’t want you to leave. I don’t care whether or not you come to look after me. I just want to know that you’re around.’ So I promised to stay. Sometimes I’d wonder about what karma I had done that had me cooped up like this, but then I’d remember the caged dove I had dreamed about in Chanthaburi. That being the case, I’d have to stay.

ONCE I HAD MADE UP MY MIND to stay, the Somdet asked me to come and teach him meditation every day. I had him practice anapanasati—keeping the breath in mind. We talked about a number of things while he sat in meditation.

One day he said, ‘I never dreamed that sitting in samadhi would be so beneficial, but there’s one thing that has me bothered. To make the mind still and bring it down to its basic resting level (bhavanga): Isn’t this the essence of becoming and birth?’

‘That’s what samadhi is,’ I told him, ‘becoming and birth.’

‘But the Dhamma we’re taught to practice is for the sake of doing away with becoming and birth. So what are we doing giving rise to more becoming and birth?’

‘If you don’t make the mind take on becoming, it won’t give rise to knowledge, because knowledge has to come from becoming if it’s going to do away with becoming. This is becoming on a small scale—uppatika bhava—which lasts for a single mental moment. The same holds true with birth. To make the mind still so that samadhi arises for a long mental moment is birth. Say we sit in concentration for a long time until the mind gives rise to the five factors of jhana: That’s birth. If you don’t do this with your mind, it won’t give rise to any knowledge of its own. And when knowledge can’t arise, how will you be able to let go of ignorance? It’d be very hard.

‘As I see it,’ I went on, ‘most students of the Dhamma really misconstrue things. Whatever comes springing up, they try to cut it down and wipe it out. To me, this seems wrong. It’s like people who eat eggs. Some people don’t know what a chicken is like: This is ignorance. As soon as they get hold of an egg, they crack it open and eat it. But say they know how to incubate eggs. They get ten eggs, eat five of them, and incubate the rest. While the eggs are incubating, that’s “becoming.” When the baby chicks come out of their shells, that’s “birth.” If all five chicks survive, then as the years pass it seems to me that the person who once had to buy eggs will start benefiting from his chickens. He’ll have eggs to eat without having to pay for them. And if he has more than he can eat, he can set himself up in business, selling them. In the end he’ll be able to release himself from poverty.

‘So it is with practicing samadhi: If you’re going to release yourself from becoming, you first have to go live in becoming. If you’re going to release yourself from birth, you’ll have to know all about your own birth.’

As soon as I said this, he understood and began to beam. He seemed both pleased and impressed. ‘The way you say things,’ he said, ‘is really different from the way other meditation monks talk. Even though I still can’t put what you say into practice, I can understand you clearly and have no doubts that what you’re saying is true. I used to live near Ajaan Mun and Ajaan Sao, but I never benefited from them the way I’ve benefited from having you stay with me. There seem to be a lot of surprising things that occur when I sit in meditation.’

After that he seemed to be interested in meditating for long periods of time—sometimes two hours at a stretch. While he was meditating, he’d have me speak Dhamma to go along with his meditation. As soon as his mind would be quiet and steady, I’d start speaking—and his mind seemed to behave right in line with what I’d be saying. One day he said, ‘I’ve been ordained for a long time, but I’ve never felt anything like this.’

From then on I never had to give him any more long talks. As soon as I’d say two or three words, he’d understand what I was referring to. As for me, I was pleased. One day he said, ‘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.’

As I spent the rains there with the Somdet, my mind was at ease as far as having to explain things to him was concerned. He told me, ‘In the past I never thought that practicing samadhi was in any way necessary.’ Then he added, ‘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.’

He then informed the senior monks in the temple of his intention, and this was how the meditation-training sessions at Uruphong Hall came about. The first year, 1953, a number of laypeople, monks, and novices from other temples came and joined in the sessions. Thao Satyanurak came to stay at Nekkhamma House, the home for nuns at the temple, and practiced meditation with good results. Her mind gave rise to such unusual realizations that she decided to stay on at Wat Boromnivasa until her death.

At the end of the rainy season I took leave of the Somdet to go out wandering in the provinces. His illness by that time had abated somewhat. That year I returned to Wat Boromnivasa in time for Visakha Puja.

That night I went to sit in meditation in the ordination hall, and there was another event: I saw relics of the Buddha come and appear. Earlier in the evening the thought had occurred to me, ‘My eyes are small. I’d like to have great big eyes, able to see for miles and miles. My ears are small. I’d like to have great big ears, able to hear all around the world. My mouth is small. I’d like to have it wide, able to give a sermon that would echo for five days and nights.’ With this in mind, I decided to adopt three practices: 1) For a wide mouth, don’t eat a lot or speak a lot on important days. 2) For big ears, don’t listen to matters that aren’t worth your while. ‘Cut off your mouth,’ i.e., go without food. ‘Cut off your ears,’ i.e., don’t pay attention to anything at all. 3) For big eyes, go without sleep.

So with this in mind, I decided to go without sleep on Visakha Puja. A little after 5 a.m. a lot of the Buddha’s relics came to me there in the ordination hall.

I spent the rains with the Somdet again. That year laypeople came out for the meditation sessions in even larger numbers than the year before. A number of bad events, though, began to interfere because some of the monks had become envious and started looking for ways to spoil things. I’d rather not name names, though. Whoever wants to learn the details can go ask Thao Satyanurak or the Somdet.*

One evening at about seven, a monk named Phra Khru Palat Thien came to my quarters and said in a low voice, ‘I hope you aren’t upset, Ajaan. I’m on your side all the way.’

‘Well, I’m glad to hear it, but I don’t know of anything that would make me upset. Tell me what’s up.’

So he gave me the details and then added, ‘The rumor has already reached the Somdet. If he has any doubts about you, he’ll probably call you to his quarters for questioning. If and when he calls you, let me know. I’ll stand up for you.’ As it turned out, though, the Somdet never said a word about the matter, and never asked me even a single question. We simply kept on discussing the Dhamma as always.

An anonymous letter appeared and made the rounds:

Writing texts is Phra Khru Dhammasaan’s daily habit.

Ajaan Lee’s is instructing his young ladyfriend.

Old gray-haired MahaPrem would like to be abbot,

While Luang Ta Paan babbles on without end.

Phra Khru Dhammasaan was given a thorough grilling as a result of the letter—people believed he had written it as an attack on me. I had no idea of what was going on. There seemed to be a lot of things unworthy of monks going on, but I didn’t pay them any attention.

The day after the rainy season was over, MahaNarong came to see the Somdet and then came down and asked permission to copy down the information in my identification papers. When he had finished, he returned to the Somdet and told him that the Director’s Office at Mahamakut Buddhist University had sent for the information so that they could arrange for me to be given the title of Phra Khru. The Somdet sent for me. ‘This is what they have to say,’ he told me. ‘What do you have to say?’

‘I’m the sort of monk who, if it’s not necessary, has never wanted to have anything to do with this sort of thing. Whatever good I’ve done has been for the sake of the group as a whole.’

So he told me, ‘I’ll answer them myself.’ And then he added, ‘I’ll tell them, “Phra Ajaan Lee came to stay here because I asked him to, and he has stayed on out of respect for me. For you to arrange a title for him will, as I see it, drive him away from me.”’ That, he said, was how he would answer them.

‘Good,’ was my reply. As a result, the whole idea was abandoned for the time being.

AS TIME PASSED, the Somdet’s health improved, so I took my leave of him to go off and find some seclusion as was my custom.

That year was the 100th anniversary of the founding of Wat Supatwanaram, the first Dhammayut monastery in the Northeast. The Somdet told me, ‘I want you to go help in the celebration. I’m going to give them the relics you’ve presented to me as a souvenir from Wat Boromnivasa.’ Saying this, he went to look at the relics he had placed on the altar over his pillow, and discovered that more than 40 had come on their own into the glass bell. I said I would present them all to him. ‘This is really strange,’ he said. ‘Never in my life as a monk has anything like this ever happened before.’ He said he would send them all to Wat Supat, and had me choose which ones to send in his name, and which ones in mine. When he said this, I decided to go help in the celebration as a token of my appreciation for his kindness.

The celebration at Wat Supat turned out to be a major event. The government donated a large sum of money to help and announced that all those in Bangkok who were going in an official capacity would leave the city together on March 18. The notice announcing this was signed by Field Marshal Phin Chunhawan, Minister of Agriculture, and General Luang Sawat, Minister of Culture.

One day, when I was in Lopburi, I learned that there had been a change in plans so I hurried down to Bangkok. When I arrived, the Somdet called for me. ‘They’ve changed the schedule,’ he told me. ‘I want you to go with them. I’ll give you the relics. They’ll be your responsibility.’

I didn’t say anything one way or the other, but after I had returned to my quarters and thought things over, I realized that I couldn’t follow the Somdet’s orders. I went to see him.

‘I can’t go,’ I told him. ‘The notice published with the government seal says that on the 17th the relics will be set out for public viewing here at Wat Boromnivasa. Now the plans have fallen through. I’ve already distributed the notice, and on the 17th large numbers of people will be coming. If I leave beforehand, I’ll be in for a lot of criticism. That’s why I can’t go.’

None of the senior monks, it turned out, were going. The problem was caused by Nai Chao. It seems that Field Marshal Phin had mentioned that he’d like to leave a day early and stop off for the night in Nakhorn Ratchasima, giving the soldiers, policemen, government officials, and people in general there the chance to pay their respects to the relics. Nai Chao hadn’t informed the ecclesiastical authorities, and this is why there had been a mistake in the printed schedule.

As a result I didn’t go with the first train, because the Somdet had told me, ‘Stay here. If anyone comes, take the relics and display them in the main hall.’ I agreed to do as he said. That night I placed three relics, larger than lettuce seeds and the color of pearls, on a glass tray and took them to display in Uruphong Hall. This person and that person wanted to look because they had never seen any relics before. When I opened the cotton wool and they saw the three relics, this person poked at them, that person picked them up—and so two of them disappeared, leaving only one.

The next day I took the express train to Ubon along with a group of others, 14 in all. Reaching Ubon, we went to help in the anniversary celebration, which included the laying of the cornerstone for the Mahathera building to be constructed there in Wat Supat.

One night there was an incident at a little after 10 p.m. A group of about 50 of us were sitting in meditation in the ordination hall when a light appeared, flashing on and off like a fluorescent bulb. We all opened our eyes and two or three people found relics in front of them. As it got later, more and more relics appeared. People both inside and outside the ordination hall were puzzled and one by one began to suspect a fraud. When it got fairly late we stopped for the night.

The next day rumors spread through town. A man who had never before set foot in a monastery came to tell me that the night before, he had dreamed that loads and loads of falling stars had dropped into Wat Supat. I thought to myself, ‘If there really are sacred objects connected with Buddhism, I want them to show themselves.’

That evening Nai Phit, of the Provincial Fisheries Bureau, brought a friend, a lady teacher, to come and see me. The teacher started asking me a lot of bizarre questions and in the end announced that she was going to leave her husband and come follow me, because the Dhamma I taught was so amazing. Her husband, Nai Prasong, worked in the Ubon branch of the Government Savings Bank and was a Christian. Thinking that his wife had become mentally unbalanced, he had made a habit of following along wherever she went. People would ask him, ‘If you’re Christian, what are you doing in a Buddhist ordination hall?’

The teacher became even more reckless and bold, and came to sit just a meter away from me. I was sitting on a chair, and her husband was sitting about three meters off to one side. Altogether there were about 50 people in the hall. So I made a vow: ‘Today may the power of sacred objects come and help me because there’s a rumor going around, concerning the relics of the Buddha, that I’m tricking and deceiving the people. With news like this, there’s no one I can turn to unless the deva and sacred objects can help me. Otherwise Buddhism is in for derision and contempt.’ At the time, Chao Khun Ariyagunadhara was sitting in front of the major Buddha image. All the other monks had left, because it was so late.

I then had everyone sit in meditation and added, ‘Whoever doesn’t believe, just sit still and watch.’ After a moment or so, I had the feeling that sacred objects had come and were circling all around, so I ordered everyone to open their eyes, and told Nai Prasong. ‘Open your eyes and look at me. I’m going to stand up.’ I then stood up and shook out my robes and sitting cloth for him to see, at the same time thinking, ‘May the devas help me so that he won’t be able to hold our religion in contempt.’ Then I said in a loud voice, ‘Relics of the Buddha have come. People sitting right in front of me will receive them. But when you open your eyes, don’t move a muscle. I myself won’t move.’

As soon as I had finished speaking there was the ping of something small falling on the floor of the hall. A woman got up to pounce on it, but it sprang from her grasp and came near to where I was sitting. Another person came running after it, but I ordered him to stop. Finally the object came to rest in front of the teacher, so I told her, ‘It’s yours. Nai Prasong, watch carefully.’ The teacher picked it up: It was a setting from a ring, very finely done—an object that had once been offered in worship to the Buddha’s relics.

As time passed, the teacher would sit there, sometimes with her eyes closed, sometimes with them open, but she’d say, ‘Luang Phaw, you’ve taken me up to sit on top of a mountain.’ ‘All I can see is my own skeleton, but how can that be if I’m still alive?’ ‘Even though I have a salary of 500 baht a month, I’ve never known the happiness I feel sitting here right now.’ The things she’d say got wilder and wilder all the time.

In the end, no fewer than ten people received relics of the Buddha that night. All the people there had their eyes wide open and the place was well lit. Just before daybreak, Nai Phae came to me, clutching in his fist a set of relics that he then gave to me, saying he had received them the night before. I turned them all over to Wat Supat.

The celebration lasted five days and five nights. One day they arranged a raffle for donating sets of robes to monks who had come to join in the celebration. There were a lot of people in Ubon who still mistrusted me, but none of them were open about it. One person who was open about it was Mae Thawngmuan Siasakun. She made a vow: ‘If this ajaan is really honest and sincere, may he draw my set of robes in the raffle.’ When we drew the raffle tickets, it turned out that I actually did draw her set of robes.

WITH THE CELEBRATION OVER, I returned to Bangkok and then went to wander around from place to place. When the time came to stop for the rains, I returned as always to be with the Somdet. That rainy season his illness was much worse. He didn’t sit in meditation much at all. Most of the time he’d meditate lying down. After the rains he passed away.

During the rains he was very sick. His asthma flared up and he couldn’t get any sleep. One night at about 2 a.m., a monk came running for me. All the monks and novices were in an uproar because the Somdet had told them to go for the doctor, but here it was late in the middle of the night—how could they go for the doctor? Chao Khun Sumedhi had had the monk go for me instead so that I could reason with the Somdet, for the Somdet wouldn’t listen to anyone else.

So I went up to the Somdet and asked him, ‘What medicine did you take today? How many tablets? How many times?’

‘I can’t breathe,’ was his answer.

I felt his body. He was fiery hot. I learned that he had taken one tablet too many. The doctor had told him to take one tablet twice daily, but he hadn’t felt like going to all that trouble, and so had taken two tablets at once. Now he had a bad case of heartburn and could hardly breathe. I told him, ‘I’ve seen this sort of thing before. It’s not serious. In about 15 minutes it’ll pass.’

A moment later he closed his eyes and entered samadhi. Monks and novices were sitting around on all sides. After a while he said, ‘I’m fine now. You don’t have to go for the doctor.’

During the cold season his asthma flared up again. One morning he sent a novice to fetch me. At the time I had visitors, so the novice simply spoke to me and left. The Somdet then asked him, ‘Is Ajaan Lee here in the temple?’


‘In that case he doesn’t have to come. My mind is at rest. If he leaves the temple, though, go after him and have him come back.’

At about five in the evening he sent the novice to look in on me. The novice didn’t say anything to me because I was sitting in meditation. He returned to the Somdet and said, ‘Ajaan Lee is in.’ A little later, at about six, he came for me again. This time I hurried up to see the Somdet. He made a number of directives concerning the temple and then lay still. I went downstairs for a moment.

Suddenly there was a commotion upstairs, so I hurried up again. Along with the Somdet in the room were the monk who was nursing him and Chao Khun Dhammapitok. Looking at the Somdet’s condition, I knew he wouldn’t last. Monks and novices were running around in confusion, and the doctors were all upset. One of them had stuck his finger down the Somdet’s windpipe to remove some phlegm, but to no avail. When I could see that there was no hope, I ordered the doctor to stop: ‘Don’t touch him.’ And a moment later, the Somdet breathed his last.

When we had finished washing the body, we met for consultation, and the following day arranged for the ceremonial bathing of the corpse.

The temple committee then began the merit-making ceremonies. They asked me to be in charge of the kitchen, which I agreed to do. Khun Nai Tun Kosalyawit was my assistant. The first seven days we didn’t have to draw on the temple funds at all because so many people came and made voluntary contributions. Altogether the merit-making lasted 50 days. During this period we drew on temple funds from time to time. After the 50 days were over, I decided I’d have to go off for a rest.

On the 10th of April I left for Lampang to help with the ceremonial marking of the boundaries of the ordination hall at Wat Samraan Nivasa, which lasted for several days. When the ceremonies were over, I went to stay in Phra Sabai Cave. My old stomach problems began to flare up: I had a bad case of diarrhea and fierce pains in my stomach. Word reached the city of Lampang that I was in bad shape.

One day I went to rest in the inner cave. I saw a rock stuck in the mouth of the cave, 20 meters off the ground. The thought occurred to me that I’d like to build a chedi there in the cave. I called to the laypeople staying with me to help push the rock out of the cave, which they were able to do. We then dug a hole and cut away at the rock floor until about 1 p.m., when a car arrived. The people in the car said that they had come to take me to the hospital, but I had already recovered from my illness without realizing it. I told them that we were going to build a chedi. Before leaving the cave, I stood at its mouth and looked out to the southwest, to a range of deep green, forested mountains. Seeing the fresh green of the trees, I thought of the Bodhi tree and that it would be good to plant three Bodhi trees there at the mouth of the cave. I mentioned this to the monks and novices, and then returned to Lampang.

From there I went on to Uttaradit because a layperson had come up looking for me, asking me to return to Uttaradit because an old woman—a student of mine—had started babbling incoherently for several days. I went to stay in Uttaradit a fair while, helping the woman, and then went on to Phitsanuloke, where I stayed at Wat Raadburana, near the home of a woman who was an ‘adopted child’ of mine. The story of this adopted child is worth telling, although it dates back to the year I spent the rains with the hilltribes people at Baan Phaa Daen Saen Kandaan (The Cliff Village in the Land of Really Primitive Hardship) in Chieng Mai.

The woman’s name was Fyyn; her husband’s, MahaNawm. One day I had gone to teach meditation at Wat Aranyik, located in a forest six kilometers outside of Phitsanuloke. A lot of government officials, shopkeepers, and people in general had come to practice samadhi, including the chief of police, Luang Samrit; Luang Chyyn, Khun Kasem, Captain Phaew—all of them people really earnest about practicing meditation. We were sitting, discussing the Dhamma, when someone came and said to me, ‘Please come and visit a sick person in my home.’ I agreed to go. The chief of police then drove us there in his car.

When we arrived, they told me that a dhutanga monk had come down from the north, made some lustral water for them, and then told them, ‘I’m afraid I can’t cure you, but a monk who can will be coming soon.’ He had then left and continued on his wanderings. As soon as MahaNawm had heard that I was in the area, he had come looking for me. Talking with him, I learned that his wife, Mae Fyyn, had been ill for three years now, ever since she had lain by the fire after childbirth. They had spent more than 8,000 baht on injections, but nothing had cured her. All she could do for the last three years was simply lie there. She couldn’t get up at all. For the past year she hadn’t been able to speak. She couldn’t even move. Hearing this, I told MahaNawm that I’d go have a look

As soon as I set foot in the door, I saw the woman raise her hands feebly in a wai. I didn’t give a thought to her condition, but simply sat in samadhi. Mae Fyyn said two or three words, moved herself a little, raised her hands in another wai, sat up, and then kneeled down by her pillow. ‘Get well,’ I told her. ‘Be done with your old karma.’

That day I ordered her to pick up a match and light me a cigarette, and she was able to do it. I told the people in the house not to feed her the following day, simply to place some rice and curry down next to her. She’d be able to feed herself.

The next day, her husband came to the temple to present food to me. When he returned home, he found that she had finished her breakfast, washed the dishes, and was able to get up and crawl around. I went to see her that afternoon, but found that the neighbors had all brought jugs and pots to get some of ‘that fantastic lustral water.’ Seeing this, I felt ill at ease, and so hurried back to Bangkok.

We kept in touch by letter, though. A month afterwards, Mae Fyyn was able to get up and walk. The second year she was able to go to the nearby temple and donate food to the monks. The third year she came down to stay at Wat Boromnivasa—walking all the way from HuaLampong train station to Wat Borom, and walking every day from where she was staying to hear sermons at the meditation hall, perfectly normal in every way. Altogether, it was an amazing affair.