Thursday, May 19, 2016

Luang Phor Dhammajayo, a most refined Dhamma Teacher

Photograph of the Most Venerable Dhammajayo (royal title: Phrathepyanmahamuni), Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Thailand

The Most Venerable Dhammajayo (known formally by his royal title as Phrathepyanmahamuni), the Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand, has been guiding millions of practitioners in developing the virtuous path to nirvana through the practice of dana (generosity), sila (ethical conduct) and samadhi (concentration). I would like to share a succinct appreciation.

Luang Phor, as is reverently addressed (as are other senior monks), has been a really keen meditator since the early 1960s, when he realized that it was the means to answer once and for all key questions about life (and death). It prompted him to ordain for life as a bhikkhu and practise intensively under the the guidance of Khun Yay Chandra, the founder of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Since then over the decades Luang Phor has encouraged visitors to the temple to sit and bring the mind to a standstill to attain clarity, purity, brightness, leading to true happiness and knowledge. He normally teaches in Thai, so for overseas guests there is usually an interpreter service broadcast through FM radio and we can listen through headphones. However, a few recordings have been made in English, including the following Meditation Guide for Beginners.

(a variant is available at:

For the sitting practice itself, you just need the audio, so you can turn down the brightness of the monitor and gently close your eyes.

Refined Cultivation of Virtue

I observe that Luang Phor has an exceedingly refined mind, and the Wat's organisation is very orderly; there's a lot of geometry and symmetry in the site's architecture, which is pleasing to mathematicians. :-) Internally, the refinement that Luang Phor has developed covers many aspects. In order to support practice in large numbers in a sustainable way, much has been standardised — such as the Wat’s objects of devotion, where there is a single Buddha image style; mats and seats for meditation are of specific dimensions — and processes have been made efficient, even down to the way plastic bags are folded into compact triangles, all of which saves space and allows greater re-use.

Routines for Buddhist practitioners have traditionally included chanting the refuge in the Triple Gem. The Wat continues with this practice and under Luang Phor's direction has extended a particular Thai tradition called Sarapannya with the use of multimedia, culminating in a song of devotion to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha:

I find it beautiful in its rhythm and imagery, but it’s in Thai, so I have translated it into English (with the video included).

I have met Luang Phor several times, only briefly. The first time was 1 January 2000, just after a ceremony at Wat Phra Dhammakaya to welcome the new millennium, when Luang Phor came to personally greet and thank participants. He was radiant, very happy, and dignified.

I was sponsored partly by the University of Derby and the International Interfaith Centre in Oxford to join this special gathering, conducted in association with the United Nations as an occasion for everyone to make a resolution for World Peace. I believe that resolution still lies in the heart of many people at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, especially its Abbot, the Most Venerable Dhammajayo, who always reminds us of the motto: "world peace through inner peace."