In 1965, soon after the death of her uncle, Upāsikā Kee wrote a long poem on the first 20 years at Khao Suan Luang. What follows is a prose paraphrase of some of its passages:
On June 26, 1945, the three of us—my aunt, uncle, and myself—first came to stay in the old meeting hall on Khao Suan Luang. Uncle Plien Raksae handled the repairs. He used to be a farmer living on the other side of the hill, but now he had left the worries of home to practice the Dhamma.
The place was an old monastic retreat that several monks had set up and then abandoned many years before. Next to the meeting hall was an octagonal cement tank to collect rain water from the roof of the hall—enough to last all year. Old meditation huts at distant intervals lined the path up the hill to the hall. Local lay people had dug a large pond at the foot of the hill to collect rain water, but it would dry up in the hot season. An old ox-cart track at the edge of the pond circled the hill, marking off an area of 30 acres that we decided to make our retreat.
When we first arrived, the place was all overgrown with bushes and weeds, so we had to clear paths through the forest and up the hill to the cave under the cliff face—a cave we called UttamaSanti, HighestPeace Cave. It was a lot of fun, clearing the forest day after day, and soon another woman joined us. In those days there were no visitors, so the place was very quiet.
When I first came I was afraid of ghosts and of people, but my resolve was firm, and my belief in kamma gradually lessened my worries and fears. I had never before lived in the forest. I hadn’t seen any purpose in it before, and thought that it would be better to stay in the town, running a store and having enough money to last me the rest of my life. But coming to the forest and living very simply, I came to feel light-hearted and free. Seeing nature all around me inspired me to explore inside my own mind.
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.
For food, we lived off the delicious bamboo shoots growing in the bamboo clusters at the top of the hill. The bitter fruits and berries that the trees produced during the rainy season provided our medicine. As for utensils, we used whatever we could find in the forest. Coconut shells, for instance, made excellent bowls: You didn’t have to worry about their getting broken. We kept patching our old clothes and slept on old mats and wooden pillows in the meeting hall. Up in the cave I kept another wooden pillow to use when I rested there. Wooden pillows are ideal for meditators. If you use soft ones, you have to worry about putting them away safely.
All sorts of animals lived around the hill: wildcats, rabbits, moles, lizards, snakes, wildfowl. Bands of monkeys would pester us from time to time when they came to eat the fruit off the trees. The calls of owls and mourning doves filled the air. Throngs of bats lived in the cave, flying out at night and returning just before dawn. As for the ants and termites, they couldn’t fly, so they walked, so intent—going where? And what were they carrying with such active cooperation?
Coming here, we cut off all thoughts of the past and thought only of making progress in our search for release from suffering. Visitors came and went. More people came to stay with us, intent on instruction in strategies for training the mind, and their burdens of suffering would lessen. Never trained to teach, I now often found myself discussing the practice and skillful means for contemplating the five aggregates. All of those who came to practice had frequented monasteries before, so they were already well-educated in the Dhamma and approached the practice in a clear-eyed manner. We met frequently to discuss the many techniques to use in training the heart to explore the body and mind skillfully.
Now, after 20 years, the forest is no longer wild, and the place has been improved in numerous ways to make it more conducive to the practice for going beyond the cycle of suffering and stress. If we continue progressing in the path, following the example of the Noble Disciples—with sincerity, truth, and endurance in our efforts to explore the five aggregates intelligently—we are sure to see the results we hope for.
Please help keep this forest fragrant
till earth and sky are no more,
the forest of RoyalPark Hill,
still garden of calm
where the Dhamma resounds:
is a nature devoid
of all suffering.