Contents  

Mục Lục  

Foreword  

Since the time of the Buddha, more than two thousand five hundred years ago, monks have retreated into the depths of the forests, mountains and caves, seeking physical isolation to aid them in the development of meditation and realization of Dhamma, the truth of the Buddha's Teaching. Whether in solitude or in small groups, such monks live a life of simplicity, austerity and determined effort and have included some of the greatest meditation masters since the Buddha himself. Far from cities and towns, willing to put up with the rigours and hardships of living in the wild for the opportunity to learn from nature, and uninterested in worldly fame or recognition, these forest monks often remain unknown, their life stories lost among the jungle thickets and mountain tops.

This book is the autobiography of one such monk. Venerable Ajahn Thate recorded his own life story — it was first published for his seventy-second birthday celebration — so that it might be of benefit to those monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen following him. He recounts his life from his boyhood encounter with forest monks to his final status as one of the great masters of the modern era. Venerable Ajahn Thate passed away in 1994 aged ninety-two.

In his Autobiography, the author also takes the opportunity to record his gratitude to all those people — whether monks or lay — who had helped him over those years. Much of this is directed towards the ordinary rural villagers of the Northeast of Thailand who are Ven. Ajahn Thate's own stock. Although it is the poorest and most underdeveloped region, the people there are particularly devout Buddhists and it is from them that most of the Thai meditation masters have arisen. In later years, this Northeast-based Forest Kammatthana (Tudong) Tradition started to attract the interest of sophisticated city folk and he also describes and acknowledges this trend.

This book is not intended only a description of Ven. Ajahn Thate's experiences but is a narrative of a personal spiritual quest and contains advice and reflections on Buddhist meditation and practice. It also, incidentally, offers a unique, grassroots perspective on rural life spanning a period of unprecedented change in Thai culture. However, Ven. Ajahn Thate did not just stay in his native region, for he wandered through the forests to all corners of Thailand and even across its borders. He gives us therefore also glimpses of Laos and the Shan States, and notes that would be interesting even to the anthropologist. The descriptions of his journeys to Singapore, Indonesia and Australia are mainly for his Thai readers but even so they give a new reflection on 'developed countries'.

Lay disciples have sometimes written biographies of deceased meditation masters not knowing all the influential events in their teachers' lives. Some biographies have been idealized out of respect for the teacher. Ven. Ajahn Thate, however, writes with straightforward frankness, honestly relating the events that affected him most deeply and were instrumental in shaping his life. Ven. Ajahn Thate lived into his nineties and in the later years of his long life he was considered the most senior disciple of the 'fathers' of the contemporary forest tradition of Northeast Thailand, Ven. Ajahn Bhuuridatta and Ven. Ajahn Sao Kantasiilo. During his early years of practice he had enjoyed a privileged intimacy with these great teachers.

In writing his autobiography, Ven. Ajahn Thate assumes a familiarity with the Thai forest tradition and its ways of practice, so the following brief explanation of the lifestyle and its purpose may be helpful.

In former times, the monasteries in the villages and towns of Thailand were usually the principal centers of learning. The village monastery provided a spiritual center for the village, where rites and ceremonies could be performed and where local boys could become monks, learn to read and perhaps start to study the Buddhist scriptures. (Traditionally, all the boys in a family were expected to become novices or monks for at least one three-month Rains Retreat period.) In the more isolated rural areas, however, knowledge of the Vinaya (the monks' training rules laid down by the Buddha) was often only rudimentary and therefore standards were not very strict. Young monks who were interested in furthering their Buddhist studies could transfer to a monastery in a local market town, provincial center or even Bangkok. The programme there, however, would more usually be dedicated to scholastic study than strict observance of the monk's rules or meditation.

The revival of the forest tradition in Thailand during the last century was a grassroots movement to return to the lifestyle and training that was practiced in the time of the Buddha. Some monks abandoned the busy village and town monasteries for the peace and quiet of the forest. They followed the Vinaya Rule more strictly, emphasizing the importance of every detail. Such monks lived without money, living frugally on whatever was offered and patiently enduring when necessities were scarce. They integrated the extra austere practices (tudong) recommended by the Buddha into their lifestyle. For example, eating only one meal a day from their alms bowl, wearing robes made from discarded cloth, and living in the forest or in cemeteries — often using a krot (a 'tent-umbrella' with mosquito net) for shelter. These forest monks would often wander barefoot through the sparsely settled regions — Thailand's previously small population was scattered over quite a large country — seeking places conducive to meditation.

The very heart of the forest tradition is the development of meditation. By cultivating deep states of tranquillity and systematically investigating the body and mind, insight can arise into the true nature of existence. The forest masters were noted for their creativity in overcoming the problems, hindrances and defilements of the mind, and for their daring determination to realize Nibbana, enlightenment, the fulfillment of the spiritual path taught by the Buddha.

The reader is asked to remember that this work was written by a Thai for a Thai audience, with no thought of its being translated into English. It depicts and represents the lifestyle, social values and gender roles of a rural Asian culture at the beginning of this century. The experience of ultimate reality must necessarily be expressed through the conventional modes of a particular time and place. Furthermore, the author often wrote specifically for young monks, giving advice and warnings. Nonetheless, the timeless truths of Ven. Ajahn Thate's wisdom shine forth, bound neither by era nor culture.

Nearly all the tropical forest Ven. Ajahn Thate walked through and described had been destroyed during his lifetime. In an attempt to slow this destruction and save such forest as remains, forest monks have often been in the forefront of raising social awareness of environmental issues. In many areas the only patches of forest left are those protected behind forest monastery walls.

This book also includes two other examples of Ven. Ajahn Thate's Dhamma teachings, for those who want a practical guide on the path to serenity and insight: Steps Along the Path and The Meaning of Anatta, both translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. (Other English translations available are: Only the World Ends (translated by Jayasaro Bhikkhu) and Buddho (translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.)

Ven. Ajahn Thate dedicated his life to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and from great compassion he taught and trained his followers in the practices leading to Nibbana. It is our sincere wish that the readers of his autobiography find it to be a source of inspiration and that they experience the deep peace, joy and wisdom that are the fruits of the Buddha's path.

Translators

Lời Nói Đầu  

Kể từ thời Đức Phật, hơn hai ngàn năm trăm năm trước, các nhà sư đã sống cuộc sống ẩn cư trong rừng sâu, núi thẳm và các hang động, sống cuộc đời ẩn cư để giúp họ phát triển thiền định và tu tập giáo Pháp của Đức Phật, các chân đế của Phật Pháp. Cho dù sống ẩn cư một mình hay trong các nhóm nhỏ, các nhà sư sống một cuộc sống đơn giản, thắt lưng buộc bụng và nỗ lực quyết tâm, trong đó số đó bao gồm một số bậc thầy về thiền định vĩ đại nhất kể từ chính Đức Phật. Xa các thành phố và thị trấn, sẵn sàng chịu đựng sự khắc nghiệt và khó khăn khi sống trong thiên nhiên để có cơ hội học hỏi từ thiên nhiên, và không quan tâm đến danh tiếng hoặc sự công nhận của thế gian, những nhà sư lâm tăng này thường vẫn chưa được biết đến, những câu chuyện cuộc sống của họ bị biết mất giữa những bụi cây rừng thẳm và núi non.

Cuốn sách này là cuốn tự truyện của một vị Lâm Tăng. Hòa thượng Ajahn Thate đã ghi lại câu chuyện cuộc đời của chính mình — lần đầu tiên được xuất bản cho lễ kỷ niệm sinh nhật lần thứ bảy mươi hai của Ngài — để nó có thể mang lại lợi ích cho những nhà sư, nữ tu, nam cư sĩ và nữ cư sĩ của Ngài. Ngài kể lại cuộc đời mình từ cuộc gặp gỡ thời niên thiếu với các vị Lâm Tăng đến cuộc sống cuối đời của Ngài là một trong những bậc thầy vĩ đại của thời hiện đại. Hòa thượng Ajahn Thate qua đời năm 1994 ở tuổi 92.

Trong cuốn tự truyện của mình, tác giả cũng nhân cơ hội ghi lại lòng biết ơn của mình đối với tất cả những người đó - dù là tỳ khưu hay cư sĩ - những người đã giúp đỡ Ngài trong những năm qua. Phần lớn trong số này là dân làng dân quê bình thường của vùng Đông Bắc Thái Lan là những thí chủ của Ngài Ven. Ajahn Thate. Mặc dù nơi đây là khu vực nghèo và kém phát triển nhất, những người ở đó đặc biệt sùng đạo Phật tử và chính từ họ mà hầu hết các bậc thầy thiền định Thái Lan đã phát sinh. Trong những năm sau đó, truyền thống Lâm Tăng Kammatthana (Tudong) có trụ sở tại Đông Bắc này bắt đầu thu hút sự quan tâm của người dân giàu có của thành phố và Ngài cũng nói lên và thừa nhận xu hướng này.

Cuốn sách này không chỉ nói lên những trải nghiệm của Ngài Ven. Ajahn Thate mà còn là câu chuyện về tâm linh cá nhân và chứa đựng lời khuyên về thiền định và ttu tập giáo Pháp. Nó cũng, tình cờ, cung cấp một cái nhìn độc đáo, về cuộc sống nông thôn kéo dài trong giai đoạn thay đổi chưa từng có trong văn hóa Thái Lan. Tuy nhiên, Ngài Ven. Ajahn Thate không chỉ ở quê hương của mình, mà Ngài du phương qua các khu rừng đến tất cả các nơi của Thái Lan và thậm chí đi qua các vùng ở biên giới. Do đó, Ngài cũng cho chúng ta những cái nhìn thoáng qua về Lào và các bang Shan, và điều đó sẽ thú vị ngay cả đối với nhà nhân chủng học. Các mô tả về hành trình của ông đến Singapore, Indonesia và Úc chủ yếu dành cho độc giả Thái Lan nhưng ngay cả như vậy chúng cũng đưa ra một phản ánh mới về 'các nước phát triển'.

Các cư sĩ đệ tử đôi khi viết tiểu sử của các bậc thiền sư đã qua đời mà không biết tất cả các sự kiện có ảnh hưởng trong cuộc sống của vị đó. Một số tiểu sử đã được lý tưởng hóa vì sự tôn trọng đối với thầy. Tuy nhiên, Ven. Ajahn Thate viết với sự chân thật thẳng thắn liên quan đến các sự kiện ảnh hưởng sâu sắc nhất đến Ngài và là công cụ trong việc định hình cuộc sống của Ngài. Ven. Ajahn Thate sống ở tuổi chín mươi và trong những năm cuối đời, Ngài được coi là đệ tử cao cấp nhất của 'những người sản sinh ra' truyền thống rừng đương đại ở Đông Bắc Thái Lan, Ven. Ajahn Bhuuridatta và Ven. Ajahn Sao Kantasiilo. Trong những năm đầu tu tập, Ngài đã tận hưởng đặc quyền với những vị Thầy vĩ đại này.

Trong cuốn tự truyện Ngài Ven. Ajahn Thate cho thấy một sự quen thuộc với truyền thống Lâm Tăng Thái Lan và sự tu tập, vì vậy lời giải thích ngắn gọn sau đây về lối sống và mục đích của nó có thể hữu ích.

Trong thời gian trước đây, các tu viện trong các làng và các thị trấn của Thái Lan thường là trung tâm học tập chính. Tu viện làng cung cấp một trung tâm tâm linh cho ngôi làng, nơi các nghi lễ và các buổi lễ được thực hiện và nơi các chàng trai địa phương có thể trở thành nhà sư, học kinh và nghiên cứu kinh điển Phật giáo. (Theo truyền thống, tất cả các chàng trai trong một gia đình dự kiến sẽ trở thành sadi hoặc nhà sư trong ít nhất ba tháng trời mưa mùa an cư kiết hạ. Tuy nhiên, ở các vùng nông thôn bị cô lập hơn, kiến thức về đạo đức (các quy tắc đào tạo của các nhà sư do Đức Phật đặt ra) thường chỉ thô sơ và do đó các tiêu chuẩn không nghiêm ngặt lắm. Các nhà sư trẻ quan tâm đến việc nghiên cứu kinh điển Phật giáo có thể chuyển đến một tu viện ở một thị trấn địa phương, hay ở trung tâm tỉnh hoặc thậm chí Bangkok. Tuy nhiên, chương trình ở đó thường được dành riêng cho việc nghiên cứu học thuật hơn là tuân thủ nghiêm ngặt các quy tắc luật lệ của thiền định.


Sự phục hưng của truyền thống Lâm Tăng ở Thái Lan trong thế kỷ vừa qua là một phong trào cơ sở để trở lại lối sống và đào tạo đã được tu tập trong thời kỳ đức Phật. Một số nhà sư đã từ bỏ các tu viện làng và thị trấn bận rộn tìm về sự yên bình và tĩnh lặng của rừng thẳm. Họ tuân thủ quy tắc đạo đức chặt chẽ hơn, nhấn mạnh tầm quan trọng của từng chi tiết. Những nhà sư không giữ tiền, sống tiết kiệm trên bất cứ gì được cung cấp và kiên nhẫn chịu đựng khi nhu cầu thiết yếu khan hiếm. Họ đã tích hợp các thực hành khắc khổ thêm (tudong) được Đức Phật đưa vào lối sống của họ. Ví dụ, chỉ ăn một bữa mỗi ngày từ bình bát của họ được đàn tín dâng cúng, mặc áo làm từ vải bỏ đi, và sống trong rừng hoặc trong nghĩa trang - thường sử dụng lều với lưới chống muỗi)để trú ẩn. Những nhà sư Lâm Tăng này thường đi chân trần qua các khu vực định cư thưa thớt của Thái Lan nằm rải rác trên một quốc gia khá lớn - tìm kiếm những nơi thuận lợi cho sự tu tập thiền định.

Trọng điểm của truyền thống Lâm Tăng là sự phát triển của thiền định. Bằng cách trau dồi trạng thái tĩnh lặng sâu sắc và quán niệmthân và tâm một cách có phương pháp, với cái nhìn sâu sắc có thể phát sinh vào bản chất thực sự của sự hiện hữu. Các bậc thầy Lâm Tăng được ghi nhận vì sự sáng tạo của họ trong việc khắc phục các vấn đề, trở ngại và ô nhiễm của tâm, và vì quyết tâm của họ để nhận ra Niết Bàn, giác ngộ, hoàn thành con đường tâm linh do Đức Phật dạy.

Đọc giả nên nhớ rằng tác phẩm này được viết bởi một người Thái cho các đọc giả Thái Lan, không nghĩ rằng nó được dịch sang tiếng Anh. Nó mô tả và đại diện cho lối sống, giá trị xã hội và vai trò giới tính của một nền văn hóa nông thôn châu Á vào đầu thế kỷ này. Kinh nghiệm về thực tế cuối cùng nhất thiết phải được thể hiện thông qua các phương thức thông thường của một thời gian và địa điểm cụ thể. Hơn nữa, tác giả thường viết riêng cho các nhà sư trẻ, đưa ra lời khuyên và cảnh báo. Tuy nhiên, những sự thật vượt thời gian của sự khôn ngoan của Ven. Ajahn Thate tỏa sáng, không bị ràng buộc bởi thời đại cũng như văn hóa.

Gần như các khu rừng nhiệt đới Ngài Ven. Ajahn Thate đi qua và đã chứng kiến chúng bị phá hủy. Trong nỗ lực để làm chậm sự tàn phá này và cứu khu rừng như một tàn tích, các nhà sư Lâm Tăng thường đi đầu trong việc nâng cao nhận thức xã hội về các vấn đề môi sinh. Ở nhiều khu vực, những mảng rừng duy nhất còn lại là những mảng được bảo vệ sau những bức tường tu viện Lâm Tăng.

Cuốn sách này cũng bao gồm hai ví dụ khác về giáo pháp của Ven. Ajahn Thate dành cho những người muốn có sự hướng dẫn thực tế trên con đường thanh thản và hiểu biết: Những bước dọc theo con đường và ý nghĩa của Vô Ngã, cả hai đều được dịch bởi Thanissaro Bhikkhu. (Các bản dịch tiếng Anh khác có sẵn là: Only the World Ends (dịch bởi Jayasaro Bhikkhu) và Buddho (dịch bởi Thanissaro Bhikkhu.)

Ven. Ajahn Thate đã cống hiến cuộc đời mình cho Phật, Pháp, Tăng, với tấm lòng từ bi, Ngài đã dạy cho các Phật tử của mình trong các thực hành dẫn đến Niết-bàn. Sự mong muốn chân thành của chúng tôi rằng độc giả của cuốn tự truyện của Ngài thấy nó là một nguồn cảm hứng và trải nghiệm sự bình an, niềm vui và trí tuệ sâu sắc là thành quả của con đường tu tập của Đức Phật.

Translators

Translator's Note  

Due to this memoir's uniqueness and importance, I have aimed for an accurate translation even at the cost of losing some of the original's spirit and inspiration. However, in some places with a wholly Thai context, material has been condensed and this is shown by ellipses (...).

Ghi Chú của Dịch Giả  

Do tính độc đáo và tầm quan trọng của cuốn hồi ký này, tôi đã nghĩ đến một bản dịch chính xác ngay cả khi phải trả giá bằng việc mất đi một số tinh thần và cảm hứng của bản gốc. Tuy nhiên, ở một số nơi có bối cảnh hoàn toàn thuộc Thái Lan, dữ liệu đã được cô đọng và điều này được thể hiện bằng hiện tượng tĩnh dược

All (parentheses) are from the original, [brackets] and footnotes have been added by the translators. The author had brought the book up to date with additions and the translation has kept to that structure, the section numbering therefore comes from the original. ???

Tất cả các đoạn trong (dấu ngoặc đơn) đều là từ bản gốc, [dấu ngoặc] và chú thích đã được dịch giả thêm vào. Tác giả đã cập nhật cuốn sách với các bổ sung và bản dịch đã giữ y cấu trúc đó, do đó phần đánh số đến từ bản gốc.

Please see the Glossary for an explanation of many words and terms. (Note that there is a separate glossary for Steps Along The Path.)

Vui lòng xem Từ Vựng ở đây giải thích nhiều từ và thuật ngữ. (Lưu ý rằng có một bản từ vựng riêng cho Các tiến trình dọc theo con đường tu tập.)

??? Transliteration of Thai names and terms into the meager twenty-six letters of the English alphabet must always involve a compromise between consistency and readability. Pali names and terms are problematic because of type and diacritical restrictions in this electronic format. We have at least tried to show some long Pali vowels by following the convention of doubling up the English vowel, e.g., "Paatimokkha". The 'n tilde' is shown by an "ny". The glossary has extra indications where a 'period' indicates that there is a dot under\over the following letter, e.g., "Kamma.t.thaana". ???

Sự chuyển chữ các danh từ và các ngôn ngữ Thái thành hai mươi sáu chữ cái ít ỏi của bảng chữ cái tiếng Anh phải luôn liên quan đến sự thỏa hiệp giữa tính nhất quán và khả năng đọc. Các danh từ và ngôn ngữ pali có vấn đề vì các hạn chế về thể loại và dấu phụ ở định dạng điện tử này. Ít nhất chúng tôi đã cố gắng thể hiện một số nguyên âm Pali dài bằng cách tuân theo quy ước tăng gấp đôi nguyên âm tiếng Anh, ví dụ: "Paatimokkha". 'n có dấu ' được hiển thị bởi một "ny". Bảng thuật ngữ có thêm các dấu hiệu trong đó một 'khoảng thời gian' chỉ ra rằng có một dấu chấm bên dưới trên chữ cái sau đây, ví dụ: "Kamma.t.thaana".

Dates in the original are always given according to the (Thai) Buddhist Era (B.E.). We have converted them to the Common Era which began 543 years later; e.g., B.E. 2539 is C.E. 1996.

Ngày tháng trong bản gốc luôn được dựa theo Kỷ nguyên Phật giáo (B.E.). Chúng tôi đã chuyển đổi chúng thành Kỷ nguyên chung bắt đầu 543 năm sau; Ví dụ: B.E. 2539 là C.E. 1996.

Titles and honorifics are important in Thai social interaction. I have tried to follow this convention, remaining faithful to the original, and hope that it does not prove too unwieldy.

Những tước vị và sự kính ngữ rất quan trọng trong sự tương tác xã hội Thái Lan. Tôi đã cố gắng tuân theo quy ước này, vẫn trung thành với bản gốc, và hy vọng rằng nó không chứng minh quá khó sử dụng.

Many people have helped in the realization of this completely new translation. (Mr. Siri Buddhasukh produced an early translation in 1978, which he entitled My Life.) This more thorough translation originated through the energy of Upasika Tan Bee Chun. Ven. Bhikkhu Ñaanadhammo put a great deal of work into assisting with the translation and then Jane B. and Steve G. in Cornwall, England, Barry (now Bhikkhu Santidhammo) in Australia, Khun V. and Khunying Suripan in Thailand, all helped to complete the task.

Với sự giúp đở của nhiều người đã thực hiện bản dịch hoàn toàn mới này. (Ông Siri Buddhasukh đã tạo ra một bản dịch đầu tiên vào năm 1978, mà ông đặt tựa đề là Cuộc sống của tôi.) Bản dịch kỹ lưỡng hơn này bắt nguồn từ năng lượng của Ngài Ven Upasika Tan Bee Chun. Ngài Ven. Bhikkhu Ñaanadhammo đã bỏ rất nhiều công sức để hỗ trợ dịch thuật và sau đó Jane B. và Steve G. ở Cornwall, Anh, Barry (nay là Bhikkhu Santidhammo) ở Úc, Khun V. và Khunying Suripan ở Thái Lan, tất cả đều giúp hoàn thành nhiệm vụ.

We ask forgiveness from the venerable author and our readers for any inadequacies or mistakes in the actual translation. Any translation must inevitably fall short of the original and in the end it rests with you, the reader, to complete the translation within yourself. Whether monk, nun or lay person, from East or West, may this 'life of Dhamma' inspire you to enrich your own life through the practice of Dhamma.

A. Bhikkhu
September 1996

Chúng tôi xin sự tha thứ từ tác giả đáng kính và độc giả của chúng tôi vì bất kỳ sự sơ xuất hoặc sai lầm nào trong bản dịch. Trong bất kỳ bản dịch nào chắc chắn phải có sự thiếu sót và cuối cùng nó thuộc về bạn, người đọc, để hoàn thành bản dịch trong chính bạn. Cho dù là nhà sư, ni cô hay cư sĩ, từ Đông hay Tây, có thể "đời sống của Pháp" này có thể truyền cảm hứng cho bạn để làm phong phú thêm cuộc sống của chính bạn thông qua việc thực hành Pháp.

A. Bhikkhu
September 1996

Preface to the First Edition  

Most biographies are written by someone else, or when the person in question is already dead. There is the tendency to follow conventional writing sensibilities by eulogising the subject, in a way similar to what one hears at the funeral rites. Though one might know that the person had also committed some dark deeds, etiquette and decorum dictate what can be recorded. Good manners are exhibited in four ways:

1. A person is bad in many ways. When asked about him or her one should not reply or only say a little.

2. A person is good in few ways. When asked about him or her one describes them all.

3. One's own bad traits are few. When asked about them one describes them all.

4. Though one's good traits are many, if nobody asks, one says nothing, and when asked, one says little.

Lời mở đầu của Phiên bản thứ Nhất  

Hầu hết tiểu sử được viết bởi người khác, hoặc khi người được đề cập đã chết. Ở đó có khuynh hướng đi theo sự xúc động thông thường chủ đề điếu văn, theo cách tương tự như những gì thấy tại các nghi thức tang lễ. Mặc dù người ta có thể biết rằng người đó cũng đã làm một số hành vi không rõ ràng, quy ước mặc nhận và sự trân trọng được đưa ra cho những gì có thể đã được ghi lại. Cách tốt là thể hiện theo bốn cách:

1. Một người xấu theo nhiều cách. Khi được hỏi về anh ấy hoặc cô ấy, người ta không nên trả lời hoặc chỉ nói một chút.

2. Một người là tốt theo nhiều cách. Khi được hỏi về anh ấy hoặc cô ấy, người ta mô tả tất cả chúng.

3. Những đặc điểm xấu của một người là rất ít. Khi được hỏi về họ, người ta mô tả tất cả.

4. Mặc dù những đặc điểm tốt của một người là rất nhiều, nhưng nếu không ai hỏi, người ta không nói gì, và khi được hỏi, người ta nói rất ít..

I am someone who goes directly for the truth, and therefore I don't want anyone to write this sort of biography after I am dead. I know about myself so it is better that I do the job. After my death they can then write as they like about me. If they dislike me, this will influence what they relate, perhaps they will inflate the trifling cause of their displeasure beyond the truth. On the other hand, if they love me, they will magnify my good points out of all proportion.

Tôi là một người có sao nói vậy, và do đó tôi không muốn bất cứ ai viết loại tiểu sử này sau khi tôi chết. Tôi biết rõ về bản thân mình, nên tốt hơn là tôi nên làm công việc này. Sau khi tôi chết, họ có thể viết như họ thích về tôi. Nếu họ không thích tôi, điều này sẽ ảnh hưởng đến những gì họ liên quan, có lẽ họ sẽ thổi phồng nguyên nhân vặt vãnh của sự không hài lòng của họ vượt ra ngoài sự thật. Mặt khác, nếu họ yêu tôi, họ sẽ phóng đại những điểm tốt của tôi quá mức.

In truth, I first wrote this Autobiography only for myself, to show my appreciation of a life wearing the saffron robe. There was no thought of publication because I would have felt rather ashamed at the idea, for an autobiography is self-promoting. Even when people asked to have it printed for me, I still wasn't happy with the idea.

Trên thực tế, lần đầu khi tôi viết Cuốn tự truyện này chỉ cho bản thân mình, để thể hiện sự đánh giá cao của tôi về một cuộc sống xuất gia với chiếc y casa. Không có ý nghĩ xuất bản vì tôi sẽ cảm thấy khá xấu hổ về ý tưởng này, vì một cuốn tự truyện là quảng bá cho riêng mình. Ngay cả khi có người yêu cầu xuất bản, tôi vẫn không hài lòng với ý tưởng này.

When lay devotees arranged my sixth cycle [seventy-second] birthday celebrations on the twenty-sixth of April 1974, they also asked to print and to distribute my Autobiography at that time. I realized that if I didn't agree it would get written after I was dead anyway. I therefore quickly finished off the Autobiography that I had been writing so that it was ready for the celebration...

Khi những cư sĩ sắp xếp chu kỳ thứ sáu, sinh nhật của tôi vào ngày 26 tháng 4 năm 1974, họ cũng yêu cầu được xuất bản và phân phối Cuốn tự truyện của tôi vào thời điểm đó. Tôi nhận ra rằng nếu tôi không đồng ý, nó cũng sẽ được một ai đó viết ra sau khi tôi chết. Do đó, tôi nghĩ tôi nên nhanh chóng hoàn thành cuốn tự truyện mà tôi đã viết, để nó sẵn sàng cho lễ kỷ niệm.

May readers forgive me if my Autobiography sometimes seems too self-congratulatory, and therefore offends against good taste. But if one doesn't write about what really happened what else can one include?

Phra Desarangsee
(Ven. Ajahn Thate)
Wat Hin Mark Peng
31 March 1974

Mong qúi độc giả tha thứ cho tôi nếu cuốn Tự Truyện của tôi đôi khi có vẻ quá tự khen minh, và do đó ảnh hưởng đến danh tiếng tốt. Nhưng nếu người ta không viết về những gì thực sự đã xảy ra, người ta có thể nghĩ đến những gì khác?

Phra Desarangsee
(Ven. Ajahn Thate)
Wat Hin Mark Peng
31 March 1974

Preface to the Twelfth Edition  

... Although I have brought this Autobiography up-to-date, please understand that the essential core has not been changed because the real subject of the book is still here...

Phra Rajanirodharangsee
(Ven. Ajahn Thate)
26 April 1991

Lời mở đầu của Phiên bản thứ mười hai   

... Mặc dù tôi đã cập nhật cuốn Tự Truyện này, xin vui lòng hiểu rằng cốt lõi thiết yếu đã không thay đổi bởi vì chủ đề thực sự của cuốn sách vẫn còn ở đây. ...

Phra Rajanirodharangsee
(Ven. Ajahn Thate)
26 April 1991

The Autobiography of a Forest Monk  

My first name is Thate and I had the family name of Ree-o rahng. I was born at about nine o'clock, on a Saturday morning, 26 April 1902 (B.E. 2445). It was the fourth day of the waning moon[1] in the year of the tiger. My birth place was the village of Nah Seedah, in the subdistrict of Glahng Yai, Bahn Peur District, Udorn-thani Province.

Tự Truyện của Vị Lâm Tăng  

Tôi tên là Thate và họ là Ree-o rahng. Vào một buổi sáng thứ bảy, ngày 26 tháng 4 năm 1902 (B.E. 2445) tôi đã được sinh ra khoảng chín giờ. Đó là ngày thứ tư của ngày trăng khuyết [1] năm Dần. Sinh tại làng no Seedah, thuộc tiểu khu Glahng Yai, huyện Bahn Peur, tỉnh Udorn-thani.

My father's name was Usah, and my mother's Krang. They were ordinary rice-farmers and both had grown up as fatherless orphans. After migrating from different regions they had met and married at the village of Nah Seedah. My father originally came from Darn Sai in Loei Province, while my mother was from Muang-fahng, (now a subdistrict) in the district of Lup-laer, Uttaradit Province. They established themselves in Nah Seedah Village and continued living there, producing ten children in all:

Mr. Kumdee Ree-o rahng (now deceased)
Mrs. Ahn Prahp-phahn (now deceased)
Kaen (boy) (died as a child)
Krai (girl) (died as a child)
Mrs. Naen Chiang-tong (now deceased)
Mr. Plian Ree-o rahng (now deceased)
Mrs. Noo-an Glah Kaeng (now deceased)
Ven. Phra Gate Khantiko (now deceased)
Ven. Phra Thate Desarangsee[2] (myself)
Mrs. Thoop Dee-man (now deceased)

Cha tôi tên là Usah, và Krang là tên của mẹ tôi. Họ là những người nông dân trồng lúa bình thường và cả hai đều lớn lên như những đứa trẻ mồ côi không cha. Sau khi di chuyển từ các khu vực khác nhau, họ đã gặp và kết hôn tại ngôi làng không seedah. Cha tôi đến từ Darn Sai ở tỉnh Loei, trong khi mẹ tôi đến từ Muang-fahng, (nay là một tiểu khu) ở huyện Lup-laer, tỉnh Uttaradit. Họ sinh sống làm lụng tại Làng Seedah và tiếp tục sống ở đó, sinh ra tất cả là mười đứa con sau đây:

Mr. Kumdee Ree-o rahng (bây giờ đã chết)
Mrs. Ahn Prahp-phahn (bây giờ đã chết)
Kaen (con trai) (chết khi còn là đứa trẻ)
Krai (con gái) (chết khi còn là đứa trẻ)
Mrs. Naen Chiang-tong (bây giờ đã chết)
Mr. Plian Ree-o rahng (bây giờ đã chết)
Mrs. Noo-an Glah Kaeng (bây giờ đã chết)
Ven. Phra Gate Khantiko (bây giờ đã chết)
Ven. Phra Thate Desarangsee[2] (myself)
Mrs. Thoop Dee-man (bây giờ đã chết)

When I was nine, I went with all my friends to the village monastery for schooling, studying central Thai and the indigenous and traditional Dhamm' and Korm[3] alphabets and scripts. There were many monks and novices at the local village monastery of Nah See-dah, and my eldest brother — who had ordained as a monk — was our teacher. He taught following the Mullabot Bapakit, the old fashioned reading primer and I studied there for three years. However, I was not very good at my lessons for I preferred to play rather than study.

Khi lên chín, tôi đã cùng với những người bạn đến tu viện làng để học, học tập trung tâm Thái Lan và chữ bản xứ và truyền thống Phật Pháp và tiếng bản địa Korm[3]. Có rất nhiều nhà sư và các chú tiểu tại tu viện làng địa phương Nah see-dah, và kể cả người anh cả của tôi - người đã xuất gia - là giáo thọ viên của chúng tôi. Ông dạy theo Mullabot Bapakit, cách đọc kiểu cổ điển và tôi đã học ở đó trong ba năm. Tuy nhiên, tôi không giỏi học bài của mình vì tôi thích chơi hơn là học.

In those days, the establishment of government schools had not yet spread throughout the country side. So while my eldest brother was a monk he had taken the opportunity to go out and travel and gain some wider experience. He also had a good retentive memory and was able to learn central Thai[4] quickly and on returning could teach us. There were many of us studying under him — monks and novices as well as children. The numbers became so large that some people on seeing the situation, asked him whether it had already become an official school. We not only studied Thai script but also learned some religious chanting and how to read the texts written in the Dhamm' and Korm scripts. These lessons lasted for three years and then I had to leave the monastery because my elder brother withdrew from the monkhood. Most of my classmates also left because no one could take over the job of teaching.

Trong thời gian đó, việc thành lập các trường công lập vẫn chưa mở rộng khắp đất nước. Vì vậy, trong khi anh cả của tôi là một nhà sư, anh ấy đã tận dụng cơ hội để đi ra ngoài và đi du lịch và có được một số kinh nghiệm rộng lớn hơn. Ông cũng có một trí nhớ tốt và có thể học phong tục văn hóa của trung tâm Thái Lan[4] một cách nhanh chóng và khi trở về có thể dạy chúng tôi. Có rất nhiều người trong chúng tôi học tập dưới sự chỉ đạo của ngài - các nhà sư và các chú tiểu cũng như trẻ em. Con số trở nên lớn đến nỗi một số người khi nhìn thấy tình hình, hỏi Ngài liệu đã trở thành một trường học chính thức chưa. Chúng tôi không chỉ nghiên cứu chữ Viết Thái mà còn học một số tụng kinh tụng và cách đọc các văn bản được viết trong Phật Pháp Korm. Những bài học này kéo dài trong ba năm và sau đó tôi phải rời khỏi tu viện vì anh trai tôi đã rời khỏi tu viện. Hầu hết các bạn cùng lớp của tôi cũng rời đi vì không ai có thể đảm nhận công việc giảng dạy.

Although I had left the monastery, my life continued to be involved mainly with the monks and novices. When my brother left the monkhood, no monk remained to take on the responsibilities of abbot. Occasionally, visiting monks would pass through and it was my job to act as liaison between these monks and the villagers. I regularly offered my services: in the morning, I went to present them with their food; in the evening, it was the fetching and filtering of their water; and then gathering flowers for the monks to use in their devotional offerings [puuja]. It was my job quickly to inform the village about how many monks had come and make sure that there was enough food to go round.

Mặc dù tôi đã rời khỏi tu viện, cuộc sống của tôi vẫn tiếp tục giao tiếp với các nhà sư và sadi. Khi anh trai tôi rời khỏi tu viện, không có nhà sư nào ở lại để đảm nhận trách nhiệm của trụ trì. Thỉnh thoảng, các nhà sư đi qua ghé thăm và công việc của tôi là đóng vai trò liên lạc giữa các nhà sư này và dân làng. Tôi thường xuyên cung cấp dịch vụ của mình: vào buổi sáng, tôi đã đến để dâng cúng thức ăn của họ; vào buổi tối, đó là việc lọc nước cho họ; và sau đó thu thập hoa cho các nhà sư sử dụng trong các nghi lễ sùng kính của họ [puuja]. Công việc của tôi là nhanh chóng thông báo cho làng về việc có bao nhiêu nhà sư đã đến và đảm bảo rằng có đủ thức ăn để các nhà Sư thọ dụng.

I conscientiously and unfailing took on these duties for a full six years. My parents gave me their full support and encouragement, and urged me on in my services to the monks. My undertaking of these duties caused my parents to show me even more love and affection. Nevertheless, whenever I was slow or tardy they would always make sure that I was put right. It was not just my parents who considered that I was successfully serving the monks, for all the villagers seemed to have a special affection and warmth for me. This was evident whenever business affecting the monks or the monastery came up, for then they would always seek me out.

Tôi đã nhận những trách nhiệm này một cách tận tâm và vô tư trong suốt sáu năm. Cha mẹ tôi đã hỗ trợ đầy đủ, khuyến khích và thúc giục tôi phục vụ các nhà sư. Việc thực hiện những nhiệm vụ này đã khiến cha mẹ tôi thể hiện tình yêu và tình cảm hơn nữa. Tuy nhiên, bất cứ khi nào tôi chậm chạp hoặc chậm trễ, họ sẽ luôn đảm bảo rằng tôi đã được đặt đúng. Không chỉ cha mẹ tôi nghĩ rằng tôi đã phục vụ thành công các nhà sư, vì tất cả dân làng dường như có một tình cảm và sự ấm áp đặc biệt đối với tôi. Điều này được thể hiện rõ ràng bất cứ khi nào cần đến công việc ảnh hưởng đến các nhà sư hoặc tu viện, họ sẽ luôn tìm kiếm tôi.

About this time, I began thinking with increasing interest about good and evil, about virtuous and base deeds. Whenever any doubts or questions came up, I would always make sure to ask my father. Consequently, he started to take more interest in me. At night, when he was free, he liked to explain about things — about the ways of the world and about Dhamma. I can still remember some of his instructions. He taught me: "Having been born a son, don't be the son of a family cremated in the same cemetery". This means that a son should go and seek experience and knowledge away from his home village. One has to die, but one shouldn't lie down and die in one's birth place. This advice really appealed to me because my character already inclined in this direction.

Khoảng thời gian này, tôi bắt đầu suy nghĩ với sự quan tâm ngày càng tăng về thiện và ác, về những hành động đạo đức và cơ bản. Bất cứ khi nào có bất kỳ nghi ngờ hoặc câu hỏi nào xuất hiện, tôi luôn hỏi cha tôi. Do đó, cha tôi bắt đầu quan tâm nhiều hơn đến tôi. Vào ban đêm, khi được tự do, ông thích giải thích về mọi thứ - về cuộc sống của thế giới và về Giáo Pháp. Tôi vẫn còn nhớ một số giảng dạy của cha. Ông dạy tôi: "Sinh ra là con trai, đừng là con trai của một gia đình được hỏa táng trong cùng một nghĩa trang". Điều này có nghĩa là một đứa con trai nên đi tìm kiếm kinh nghiệm và kiến thức xa quê hương của mình. Người ta phải chết, nhưng người ta không nên nằm xuống và chết ở nơi sinh của mình. Lời khuyên này thực sự hấp dẫn tôi bởi vì bản tính của tôi đã nghiêng về hướng này.

I asked him: "If two people go and make merit through good deeds and generosity, and one is ordained as a monk while the other isn't, which one of them would gain the greater merit?". He replied that, "if a monk does this much merit," and he exhibited his thumb, "he will gain this much result" — lifting up two fistfuls in emphasis. "Whereas," he continued, "the non-ordained person might make this much — two fistful's — merit, but he would only receive one thumb's worth."

Tôi hỏi cha: "Nếu hai người đi và làm công đức thông qua những việc làm thiện và bố thí, một nhà sư đã được truyền giới trong khi người kia thì không, người nào trong số họ sẽ đạt được công đức lớn hơn?" Cha tôi trả lời rằng, "nếu một nhà sư làm nhiều công đức như thế này," và cha tôi thể hiện bằng cách đưa ngón tay cái của mình lên, "nhà sư sẽ đạt được kết quả nhiều như vậy" - cha tôi đưa lên cả hai bàn tay. "Trong khi," cha tôi tiếp tục, "người không phải là nhà sư có thể làm nhiều như vầy - cha lại đưa hai bàn tay - công đức, nhưng anh ta sẽ chỉ nhận được giá trị của một ngón tay cái."

Although I probably didn't then fully understand his explanation, I still felt completely satisfied after hearing and seeing it through. This might have been because my character already naturally inclined towards the monastic life. I still remembered an occasion from my early days in the monastery, when I went with my elder brother to visit another monastery. There was a novice there whose demeanour and behavior were exemplary. He made such a strong impression on me, he was so inspiring and admirable, that I felt a special sympathy towards him. I found myself following his every movement, whether he was walking or sitting or going about his various duties. The more I gazed after him the stronger my faith and feeling grew. On returning to our monastery, I couldn't get his image out of my mind. I could think of only one thing: 'Oh, when can I ordain and become a novice like him?'. This was my continual preoccupation.

Mặc dù lúc đó có thể tôi không hiểu hết lời giải thích của cha, tôi vẫn cảm thấy hoàn toàn hài lòng sau khi nghe và nhìn thấy những điều đó. Điều này có thể là do con người của tôi đã tự nhiên nghiêng về cuộc sống tu viện. Tôi nhớ một lần trong thời gian mới ở tu viện, khi tôi đi cùng anh trai đến thăm một tu viện khác. Có một sadi ở đó có thái độ và cử chỉ mẫu mực. Người này đã gây ấn tượng mạnh mẽ với tôi, anh ta đã truyền cảm hứng và đáng ngưỡng mộ, đến nỗi tôi cảm thấy một sự đồng cảm đặc biệt đối với anh ấy. Tôi thấy mình theo dõi mọi chuyển động của anh ấy, cho dù anh ấy đang đi bộ hay ngồi hoặc thực hiện các nhiệm vụ khác nhau của mình. Tôi càng nhìn chằm chằm vào anh ta, niềm tin và cảm giác của tôi càng lớn mạnh mẽ. Khi trở về tu viện của chúng tôi, tôi không thể lấy hình ảnh của anh ấy ra khỏi tâm trí của tôi. Tôi chỉ có thể nghĩ đến một điều: 'Ồ, khi nào tôi có thể xuất gia và trở thành một sadi như anh ấy?'. Đây là mối bận tâm liên tục của tôi."

Parents' Life Story  

At this point, there is something that I feel must relate. It concerns the life story of my parents. This is something very special for me because I recall their love and kindness towards me with such immense gratitude. Particularly so concerning the time they spent teaching me about various things — especially about morality and religious values. It really seems as if they had a special love and concern for me. They also used to tell me about their younger days in quite some detail, so much so that listening to their trials and tribulations aroused sadness and a feeling of great pity and compassion for them both.

Cuộc đời cha mẹ  

Tại thời điểm này, có một cái gì đó mà tôi cảm thấy phải kể lại. Nó liên quan đến cuộc sống của cha mẹ tôi. Đây là một điều rất đặc biệt đối với tôi bởi vì tôi nhớ lại tình yêu và lòng tốt của họ đối với tôi với lòng biết ơn to lớn như vậy. Đặc biệt là liên quan đến thời gian họ dạy tôi về nhiều thứ khác nhau - đặc biệt là về đạo đức và các giá trị tôn giáo. Có vẻ như họ có một tình yêu và sự quan tâm đặc biệt dành cho tôi. Họ cũng thường kể cho tôi nghe về những ngày còn trẻ của họ một cách khá chi tiết, đến nỗi lắng nghe những thử thách và đau khổ của họ khơi dậy nỗi buồn và cảm giác thương hại và lòng trắc ẩn lớn cho cả hai.

As I have mentioned before, both my father and mother were refugees and fatherless orphans. My father originally lived in the highlands of Darn Sai District, in Loei Province. He migrated from there to escape the privations of its hand-to-mouth existence and came down to the more fertile lowlands. People had told him that the region around the town of Nongkhai was fertile and abundant in rice and food. This was in stark contrast to his home region where, even though their occupation was the growing of rice, they never seemed able to produce enough rice to eat. The countryside there was mostly mountainous with little land available for normal paddy fields so planting supplementary fields up on the mountain slopes was necessary. This called for the cultivation of large areas to produce sufficient rice.

Như tôi đã đề cập trước đây, cả cha và mẹ tôi đều là những người tị nạn và trẻ mồ côi không cha. Cha tôi ban đầu sống ở vùng cao nguyên của huyện Darn Sai, tỉnh Loei. Ông di cư từ đó để thoát khỏi sự thiếu thốn của sự làm lụng vất vả mà sống túng thiếu của mình và đi xuống vùng đất thấp màu mỡ hơn. Mọi người đã nói với ông rằng khu vực xung quanh thị trấn Nongkhai có giàu có và dồi dào gạo và thực phẩm. Điều này trái ngược hoàn toàn với vùng quê hương của ông, mặc dầu quê hương ông nghề nghiệp của họ là trồng lúa, nhưng không bao giờ có thể sản xuất đủ gạo để ăn. Vùng nông thôn ở đó chủ yếu là miền núi với ít đất có sẵn cho các cánh đồng lúa bình thường vì vậy việc trồng các cánh đồng bổ sung trên sườn núi là cần thiết. Điều này đòi hỏi việc trồng trọt các khu vực rộng lớn để sản xuất đủ lúa.

My father told me that because his father was already dead, the responsibility for supporting his four brothers and sisters together with his mother had fallen on him. Their fields had extended as far as the eye could see. When they paused in their work to have a meal, they would not bother putting up any shelter but would eat out under the open sky. This was done because my father was concerned that his younger brothers and sisters after eating their fill would become lazy and want to rest rather than getting on with the work. Despite all such effort, in years of inadequate rainfall there would not be enough to eat. Some families had no rice at all and so were reduced to consuming ma-gor[5] fruits as a substitute. This might have had to keep people going for as long as a month at a time.

Cha tôi nói với tôi rằng vì cha ông đã chết, ông có trách nhiệm giúp đỡ bốn anh chị em của ông cùng với mẹ ông. Cánh đồng của họ đã khai phá đến mức mắt có thể nhìn thấy. Khi họ tạm dừng công việc để có một bữa ăn, họ sẽ không bận tâm đến việc đặt bất kỳ nơi trú ẩn nào mà sẽ ăn ở ngoài dưới bầu trời. Điều này được thực hiện bởi vì cha tôi lo ngại rằng các em trai và em gái của ông sau khi ăn no họ sẽ trở nên lười biếng và muốn nghỉ ngơi hơn là tiếp tục công việc. Bất chấp tất cả những nỗ lực như vậy, trong những năm mưa không đủ, sẽ không đủ để ăn. Một số gia đình không có gạo gì cả và do đó đã phải tiêu thụ trái cây ma-gor [5] thay thế. Điều này có thể giúp cho mọi người tồn tại một tháng tại một thời điểm.

He trekked down to the lowlands with his four younger brothers and sisters and their mother. There was sister Boonmah, brothers Gunhah and Chiang-In, and sister Dtaeng-orn. The party expanded when many relatives and other people also elected to go. Their migration involved crossing several high mountain ranges — the Poo Fah and Poo Luang, for instance — and dense jungle tracts. People owning elephants or pack animals could more easily convey their belongings and so had an advantage over those who were forced to carry everything on their shoulders. Their own strength had to serve as their vehicle.

Ông di tản xuống vùng đất thấp với mẹ và bốn em trai và chị gái của mình. Có chị Boonmah, anh em Gunhah và Chiang-In, và chị Dtaeng-orn. Nhóm người di tản lan rộnf thêm nhiều khi nhiều người thân và những người khác cũng chọn đi theo. Cuộc di cư của họ bao gồm đến việc vượt qua một số dãy núi cao - ví dụ như Poo Fah và Poo Luang - và những vùng rừng rậm rạp. Những người mang theo voi hoặc động vật có thể dễ dàng di chuyển đồ đạc của họ và do đó có lợi thế hơn những người phải mang mọi thứ trên vai. Sức mạnh của chính họ phải phục vụ như là phương tiện của họ.

It took more than a week to reach the village of Nah Ngiew. On arrival, they established a temporary camp on the edge of a large lake, Nong Pla or Fish Lake, in Nong Dtao. Later, they moved on and made a permanent settlement in the village of Nah Ngiew, which is still there to this day.

Phải mất hơn một tuần để đến được ngôi làng No Ngiew. Khi đến nơi, họ thành lập một trại tạm thời ở rìa của một hồ nước lớn, Nong Pla hoặc Fish Lake, ở Nong Dtao. Sau đó, họ tiếp tục và thực hiện một khu định cư vĩnh viễn ở làng No Ngiew, nơi vẫn còn đó cho đến ngày nay.

My mother's side of the family was of the Lao Puan tribe. They had been forced out of Laos by the Thai army in the reign of King Rama III and were released in the region of Uttaradit. They later settled down in (the modern subdistrict of) Muang Fahng, Lup Laer District, Uttaradit Province. My mother told me that her mother had related the events of the migration down from the town of Chiang Kwahng to her. My grandmother was still too young to walk so the adults put her in a woven bamboo basket that they then suspended from one end of a bamboo carrying pole, the other end being balanced with their belongings. In this way they blazed a trail — penetrating dense jungles, fording streams and traversing mountain ranges until they reached Muang Fahng. When my grandmother grew up, she married and had two children and these were my mother and her younger brother.

Về phía gia đình mẹ tôi thuộc bộ lạc Lào Puan. Họ đã bị quân đội Thái Lan buộc phải rời khỏi Lào dưới triều đại của vua Rama III và được thả ra ở khu vực Uttaradit. Sau đó, họ định cư ở (tiểu khu hiện đại của) Muang Fahng, huyện Lup Laer, tỉnh Uttaradit. Mẹ tôi nói với tôi rằng mẹ của bà đã di cư trong sự kiện di cư từ thị trấn Chiang Kwahng . Bà tôi vẫn còn quá nhỏ để đi bộ nên người lớn đặt bà vào một cái giỏ tre dệt và buộc vào đầu cây tre, đầu kia được cân bằng với đồ đạc của họ. Họ đi như vậy, họ đốt cháy một con đường mòn - xuyên qua những khu rừng rậm rạp, suối chảy và đi qua các dãy núi cho đến khi họ đến Muang Fahng. Khi bà tôi lớn lên, bà kết hôn và có hai đứa con và đó là mẹ tôi và em trai của mẹ.

Afterwards, her husband died and my grandmother was left alone with two children. At that time the surrounding regions had become infested with bandits and thieves, and the authorities seemed powerless and unable to deal with them. Under such conditions even ordinarily honest people were corrupted and became criminals. An example of such a person was the man Chiang Tong who had been a member of their migrant group. He joined the bandits and was constantly leaving home and going out to cause mischief. In the end, he had to flee from the threat of arrest by hiding out around Glahng Yai in Bahn Peur District. While there, he witnessed the good-naturedness of the local inhabitants and saw their peaceful ways with their abundant and prosperous life. He decided to go back to Muang Fahng and report, and try to persuade his relatives and friends to move on to Glahng Yai.

Sau đó, chồng bà qua đời và bà tôi một mình nuôi hai đứa con. Vào thời điểm đó, các khu vực xung quanh đã bị hỗn tạp với những tên cướp và kẻ trộm, và chính quyền dường như bất lực và không thể đối phó với chúng. Trong những điều kiện như vậy, ngay cả những người trung thực bình thường cũng bị hư hỏng và trở thành tội phạm. Một ví dụ về một người như vậy là người đàn ông Chiang Tong, người đã từng là thành viên của nhóm di cư của họ. Anh ta tham gia vào bọn cướp và liên tục rời khỏi nhà và đi ra ngoài để gây ra sự phá phách. Cuối cùng, anh ta đã phải chạy trốn để khỏi bị bắt giữ bằng cách trốn quanh Glahng Yai ở quận Bahn Peur. Trong khi ở đó, ông đã chứng kiến sự tốt bụng của cư dân địa phương và nhìn thấy con đường hòa bình của họ với cuộc sống phong phú và thịnh vượng của họ. Ông ta quyết định quay trở lại Muang Fahng và báo cáo, và cố gắng thuyết phục người thân và bạn bè của mình chuyển sang Glahng Yai.

My mother told me that scores of people decided to join the party that was to journey on. They traveled on foot down through Phetchaboon, continuing to Loei Province and stopping to rest at the monastery in Hooay Port Village. It was there that people came down with smallpox and many died. The inhabitants of Hooay Port Village showed such good will and kindness in their help towards the needy at this time, that several of the party decided to stay on and settle down right there.

Mẹ tôi nói với tôi rằng rất nhiều người đã quyết định tham gia vào nhóm di cư để tiếp tục. Họ đi bộ qua Phetchaboon, tiếp tục đến tỉnh Loei và dừng lại nghỉ ngơi tại tu viện ở Làng Cảng Hooay. Chính tại đó, người dân bị bệnh đậu mùa và nhiều người đã chết. Cư dân của Làng Cảng Hooay đã thể hiện thiện chí và lòng tốt trong sự giúp đỡ của họ đối với người nghèo vào thời điểm này, đến nỗi một số người trong nhóm quyết định ở lại và ổn định ngay tại đó.

Those remaining in Chiang Tong's group struggled on down and eventually arrived at Glahng Yai Village. My grandmother with her younger brother and her two children — this was my mother and her younger brother, my uncle — had to remain dependent on older and senior friends in the group. When the time arrives for us to experience suffering, then odd things can occur. It happened that my grandmother's younger brother met a group of traveling Burmese traders and abruptly decided to go off with them. There had never been any argument or disagreement between them throughout the long journey, he simply left and was never heard from again.

Những người còn lại trong nhóm của Chiang Tong đã chật vật và cuối cùng đến làng Glahng Yai. Bà tôi với em trai và hai đứa con của bà - đây là mẹ tôi và em trai của bà, chú tôi - phải phụ thuộc vào những người bạn lớn tuổi và cao cấp trong nhóm. Khi thời gian đến để chúng ta trải nghiệm đau khổ, thì những điều kỳ lạ có thể xảy ra. Chuyện xảy ra khi em trai của bà tôi gặp một nhóm thương nhân Miến Điện đi du lịch và đột ngột quyết định đi cùng họ. Chưa bao giờ có bất kỳ tranh cãi hay bất đồng nào giữa họ trong suốt hành trình dài, ông chỉ đơn giản là rời đi và không bao giờ được nghe thấy nữa.

On arrival at Glahng Yai Village, a group separated from the main party and moved on to settle in the village of Nah Bong Poo Pet, in the district of Pon-pisai. One of my mother's uncles on her father's side went away with this group, leaving my grandmother and her two fatherless children to depend on her elder companions.

Khi đến làng Glahng Yai, một nhóm tách khỏi nhóm chính và di chuyển đến định cư tại làng No Bong Poo Pet, ở huyện Pon-pisai. Một trong những người chú của mẹ tôi thuộc cánh bên ba của mẹ đã đi với nhóm này, để lại bà ngoại và hai đứa con không cha của bà phụ thuộc vào những người bạn lớn tuổi của bà.

Afterwards, when my mother had grown up she met my father and fell in love. They were married and settled down to live together in the village of Nah Seedah and produced ten children — as has been mentioned earlier.

Sau đó, khi mẹ tôi lớn lên, bà gặp cha tôi và yêu nhau. Họ đã kết hôn và định cư để sống cùng nhau trong ngôi làng Hah Seedah và sinh ra mười đứa con và — như đã đề cập trước đó.

My grandmother eventually married again, this time to the same Chiang Tong who had been their leader on the journey. They lived out their later years together until misfortune struck: a tree branch fell on my grandmother's head and fatally injured her. Chiang Tong was a person guilty of many wrong doings and kammic retribution soon caught up with him. After my grandmother's death, he again married a woman of the same migrant party, but this time his new wife committed suicide by hanging herself. He realized that he had much evil kamma and so decided to enter a monastery.

Bà tôi cuối cùng đã kết hôn một lần nữa, lần này là với ông Chiang Tông, người đã là thủ lĩnh của nhóm trong cuộc hành trình. Họ sống những năm cuối đời bên nhau cho đến khi bất hạnh xảy ra: một cành cây rơi vào đầu bà tôi và làm bà bị thương nặng đó là do ông Chiang Tông là một người tội lỗi đã làm nhiều điều sai và do sự cộng nghiệp đã trổ quả bắt ông trả nghiệp. Sau cái chết của bà tôi, ông ta lại kết hôn với một phụ nữ cũng là người đi cùng nhóm di cư, nhưng lần này người vợ mới của ông đã chết vì bà treo cổ tự tử. Ông nhận ra rằng ông có nhiều nghiệp ác và vì vậy quyết định vào một tu viện.

Chiang Tong wore white robes and kept the Eight Precepts[6] of a Buddhist devotee and lived into old age, reaching almost a hundred years. Yet he didn't stay in the monastery, preferring to live with his grandchildren in their house in the village. However, when he chanted his daily devotions to the Lord Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, his grandchildren would become annoyed at the disturbance and would scold him. He was very old and had nowhere else to go, and he was also becoming senile, forgetting things such as whether he had eaten or not. His grandchildren became more frustrated and cursed and abused him, and not a day passed without them saying they wished he were dead. He returned the abuse and cursed them in endless ways, saying he hoped they turned out like him.

Ông Chiang Tông mặc áo trắng và trì Bát Giới [6] của một cư sĩ Phật giáo và sống đến tuổi già, đạt gần một trăm tuổi. Nhưng, ông không ở lại tu viện, mà thích sống với các cháu của mình trong nhà của họ trong làng. Tuy nhiên, khi ông tụng kinh hàng ngày của mình cho Đức Phật, Pháp và Tăng, các cháu của ông khó chịu trước sự ồn ào và mắng ông. Ông đã rất già và không còn nơi nào khác để đi, và ông cũng bị bịnh lãng quên của tuổi già nua, quên đi những thứ như liệu ông có ăn hay không. Các cháu của ông trở nên thất vọng hơn và la mắng và tàn nhẫn với ông, và không một ngày nào trôi qua mà họ không nói rằng họ ước ông chết. Ông ta liên tục chống lại sự lăng mạ và la mắng họ , nói rằng ông hy vọng khi họ về già họ cũng sẽ bị đối xử giống như ông đang bị.

It was a pitiful state of affairs. Those people who have done evil will find that the consequences are liable to catch up with them before they die. Living amongst base people — those who are unprincipled and lacking in virtue and morality — tends to pass on such evil so that it corrupts most of the people involved.

Đó là một tình trạng đáng thương. Những người đã làm điều ác sẽ nhận quả ngay trong đời sống này trước khi họ chết. Sống giữa những người hèn hạ — những người vô kỷ luật và thiếu đức hạnh thiếu đạo đức — có xu hướng truyền lại cái ác như vậy làm hư hỏng hầu hết những người chung quanh.

This suffering of ours has no limits. We let go of one thing and grasp hold of something else. It goes on and on and on in this way, throughout our life. This is why the wise person becomes weary and tired of the suffering inherent in this world and seeks for a way to go beyond it.

Sự đau khổ này của chúng ta không có giới hạn. Chúng ta buông bỏ một điều và nắm bắt một cái gì đó khác. Nó cứ tiếp tục và tiếp tục theo cách này, trong suốt cuộc đời của chúng ta. Đây là lý do tại sao người trí trở nên chán và mệt mỏi với những đau khổ vốn có trong thế giới này và tìm cách vượt qua nó.

After her mother passed away, my mother was able to find support from her husband and children, for their livelihood was now enough to get by on. Although they might only have as little as six baht[7] to their name, they were not too concerned. Food and rice were abundant and money wasn't so necessary in those days. Rice farming alone produced enough food to last through the whole year, while the cultivation of too large an area meant there would be nowhere — no space left in the granary — to store the extra grain. Even farming a modest area still produced a large surplus of paddy rice.

Sau khi bà qua đời, mẹ tôi đã tìm được sự hỗ trợ từ chồng và các con, vì sinh kế của họ bây giờ đã được đầy đủ. Mặc dù họ có thể chỉ có ít nhất sáu đồng baht [7] cho mỗi người, nhưng họ không quá quan tâm. Thực phẩm và gạo rất dồi dào còn tiền bạc không quá cần thiết trong những ngày đó. Chỉ riêng canh tác lúa đã sản xuất đủ lương thực để tồn tại suốt cả năm, trong khi việc trồng một khu vực quá lớn có nghĩa là sẽ không còn chỗ chứa - không còn chỗ trong kho thóc - để lưu trữ thêm ngũ cốc. Ngay cả canh tác một diện tích khiêm tốn vẫn tạo ra dư thừa lớn lúa.

After a time their third son died. My father had had a particular love for this son and he became so distraught with the loss that he almost went out of his mind. The child had been so loveable and intelligent; so well-spoken and articulate; so easy to teach. He had been obedient, had loved his parents and always listened to their instructions. Although there remained six children, besides his wife, it seemed to my father as if he had lost everything. He could see only as far as that lone dead child, while his despair enveloped everything else in darkness. With time, the dark clouds of sorrow gradually dissipated and the light of Dhamma — as found in the Buddhist teachings — began to illuminate his heart, allowing him dimly to see the way out. He thought that if he could distance himself from all concerns — by becoming a monk — it might somewhat assuage his grief. One consideration was that he could share the merit gained from such ordination with his dead son and that would certainly enable the son to take rebirth in a happy realm (Sugati). My father consequently took leave of his wife and children to be ordained, and stayed a monk for two Rains Retreats.

Sau khi đứa con trai thứ ba của họ qua đời. Cha tôi đã có một tình yêu đặc biệt dành cho đứa con trai này và ông trở nên quẫn trí với sự mất mát đến nỗi ông gần như mất trí. Đứa trẻ rất đáng yêu và thông minh; nói chuyện lịch sự và pháp âm rõ ràng; Rất dễ dạy. Anh đã ngoan ngoãn, yêu thương cha mẹ và luôn lắng nghe hướng dẫn của họ. Mặc dù vẫn còn sáu đứa con, nhưng ngoài vợ, dường như với cha tôi như thể ông đã mất tất cả. Ông chỉ có thể nhìn thấy mọi thứ liên quan đến đứa trẻ đã chết đơn độc đó, sự tuyệt vọng của ông bao trùm mọi thứ khác trong bóng tối. Theo thời gian, những đám mây đen của nỗi buồn dần tan biến và ánh sáng của Pháp — như được tìm thấy trong giáo lý Phật giáo —bắt đầu làm sáng tỏ trái tim của mình, cho phép ông nhìn thấy lối thoát. Ông nghĩ rằng nếu ông có thể tránh xa mọi sự phiền não— bằng cách trở thành một nhà sư — nó có thể phần nào làm dịu nỗi đau của ông. Với một suy nghĩ là ông có thể chia sẻ hồi hướng công đức từ việc thọ giới như vậy với đứa con trai đã chết của mình và điều đó chắc chắn sẽ cho phép con trai tái sinh trong một cõi hạnh phúc (Sugati). Do đó, cha tôi đã xin phép vợ con để được xuất gia, và ở lại như một nhà sư cho hai khóa tu an cư mùa mưa.

This going forth as a monk into the Buddha's religion does not automatically end any of the distress that a person might be feeling. Such suffering arises dependent on internal defilements and we have been accumulating these worldly defilements from the time of our birth. This is something that has been going on for innumerable lives and births so don't even try to disclose and count all those defilements. Someone lacking in wisdom can't possibly unearth those layers of defilements — laid down and accumulated already beyond counting — and spread them out to see. For that reason, they can't bring about their final elimination. (However, ordination is still helpful in that it at least enables one to begin to see something of the way to go.)

Sự xuất gia trở thành một nhà sư trong giáo pháp của Đức Phật không chấm dứt bất kỳ sự đau khổ nào mà một người có thể làm được. Sự đau khổ như vậy nảy sinh phụ thuộc vào những phiền não bên trong con người ta mà chúng ta đã tích lũy những phiền não của thế gian này từ khi chúng ta sinh ra. Đây là điều đã xảy ra từ xưa đến giờ cho vô số đòi sống và sự tái sinh, như vậy đừng bao giờ cố gắng nói ra tất cả những phiền não đó. Một người thiếu trí tuệ không thể thấy được những lớp phiền não đó - được trải bày và đã tích lũy vượt quá số lượng - và trải chúng ra để xem. Vì lý do đó, họ không thể mang lại sự loại bỏ cuối cùng của họ. (Tuy nhiên, việc thọ giới vẫn hữu ích ở chỗ ít nhất nó cho phép người ta bắt đầu nhìn thấy một cái gì đó của con đường tu tập.)

As the clouds of his sorrow gradually lifted, my father realized that he missed his six innocent children and his abandoned wife. They were fatherless, without friends or relatives and this moved him to leave the monkhood and become a householder again.[8] This was good fortune for those of us who still had to take birth. My young sister and I were subsequently born into my parent's home, born to people who had founded their lives in goodness, (that is, they were filled with the refinement and grace of morality and virtue). I am proud to say that this birth place compares favorably with any other in this world, because from birth onwards I was always in contact with virtue and Dhamma. I was able to grow up and mature in the cool shade of the yellow robe of Buddhism, right until today.

Khi những đám mây đau buồn của ông dần dần vơi đi, cha tôi nhận ra rằng ông nhớ sáu đứa con vô tội và người vợ bị bỏ rơi của mình. Họ không có cha, không có bạn bè hoặc người thân và điều này khiến cha tôi rời khỏi tu viện và trở thành chủ gia đình một lần nữa. [8] Đây là may mắn cho chúng tôi những người sau đó được sinh ra. Em gái tôi và tôi sau đó được sinh ra trong nhà của cha mẹ tôi, được sinh ra bởi những người đã có nền tảng đạo đức trong cuộc sống của họ, (nghĩa là họ được hấp thụ với sự tinh tế và ân sủng của đạo đức và đức hạnh). Tôi tự hào nói rằng nơi sinh nở này có lợi ích so sánh với bất kỳ nơi nào khác trên thế giới này, bởi vì từ khi sinh ra trở đi tôi luôn tiếp xúc với đức hạnh và Pháp. Tôi đã có thể lớn lên và trưởng thành trong bóng mát của chiếc áo cà sa màu vàng của Phật giáo, cho đến ngày hôm nay.

The thing that I rejoice in most is that although I didn't support my parents in the normal lay manner, I could still sustain and foster their goodwill and kindheartedness. This was achieved by my following the holy life as a monk and by being able to help train their hearts in stages right up to the last days of their lives. Both my parents seemed well pleased with how I had turned out and were not disappointed in having brought me up. This was because I had fulfilled a son's filial obligations. That is to say, I had given them teachings and instruction concerning the practice of morality and virtue, which enabled what they already knew to develop progressively higher and higher. I am especially happy that I was able to help my father with advice and suggestions about his meditation practice, right until his last day. He was delighted and more than willing to receive my training methods and to put them into practice, until he was able clearly to see the results in his own heart. Eventually, he was able to exclaim that throughout all his seventy-five years he had never known such peace and happiness.

Điều mà tôi hạnh phúc nhất là mặc dù tôi không ủng hộ cha mẹ tôi theo cách dậy bình thường, tôi vẫn có thể chấp nhậnì và yêu qúi tầm lòng từ ái và sự ấm áp của họ. Điều này đã đạt được bởi cuộc sống thánh thiện của tôi với tư cách là một nhà sư và bằng cách giúp rèn luyện tâm của họ theo từng giai đoạn cho đến những ngày cuối cùng của cuộc đời họ. Cả hai cha mẹ tôi đều có vẻ hài lòng với cách tôi đã thể hiện và không thất vọng vì đã nuôi dạy tôi. Đó là bởi vì tôi đã hoàn thành nghĩa vụ hiếu thảo của một đứa con trai. Điều đó có nghĩa là, tôi đã cho họ những lời dạy và hướng dẫn liên quan đến việc thực hành đạo đức và đức hạnh, cho phép những gì họ đã biết để phát triển dần dần ngày càng cao hơn. Tôi đặc biệt hạnh phúc vì tôi đã có thể giúp cha tôi với những lời khuyên và gợi ý về thực hành thiền định của ông, cho đến ngày cuối cùng của ông. Cha tôi rất vui và sẵn sàng tiếp nhận các phương pháp hướng dẫn của tôi và đưa chúng vào thực tế, cho đến khi ông có thể nhìn thấy rõ ràng kết quả trong tâm mình. Cuối cùng, ông đã có thể thốt lên rằng trong suốt bảy mươi lăm năm của mình, ông chưa bao giờ biết đến sự thanh thản và hạnh phúc như vậy.

It gives me enormous joy to have taught my mother right through to her final day. When she was breathing her last, I was present caring for her, helping her to remember Dhamma. She was consciously aware and willingly took my counsel to heart, so that in her last moments her face became bright and radiant. There is a stanza of the Lord Buddha — if I remember it correctly — where he outlined how a son of good family, intent on repaying the kindness and virtue of his father and mother should act:

Điều đó mang lại cho tôi niềm vui to lớn khi đã hướng dẫn mẹ tôi cho đến ngày cuối cùng của bà. Khi mẹ tôi trút hơi thở cuối cùng, tôi đã có mặt chăm sóc, giúp bà nhớ đến Phật Pháp. Mẹ tôi có ý thức và sẵn sàng đón nhận lời khuyên của tôi vào tâm trong những giây phút cuối cùng của bà, khuôn mặt bà tươi sáng và rạng rỡ. Có một bài kinh của Đức Phật - nếu tôi nhớ không lầm - Ngài đã nói lên tánh cách của một người con trong gia đình tốt, nên hành động để trả ơn lòng tốt và đức hạnh của cha mẹ:

'If he were to administer to their every need in the best possible way, to a degree difficult to find in the world; even if he were to provide them with the treasure of a World Ruling Monarch (Cakravartin). as an offering — all this would still fall short. It still could not be considered full recompense for the kindness and excellence of one's parents. This is because all those things can only offer pleasure and happiness during their lifetime. Once they have died, there is no way they can take such things with them. However, if the son of good family instructs his mother and father, who are deficient in morality and virtue, to establish themselves in these wholesome and fine qualities; or if they are already established therein, he encourages and supports their further development, then that son can be considered one who has truly repaid his debt'.

"Nếu người con có thể chăm nom mọi nhu cầu của cha mẹ theo cách tốt nhất, ở một mức độ khó tìm thấy trên thế giới; ngay cả khi người con dâng cho cha mẹ kho báu của một vị Tứ thiên vương (Cakravartin). như một sự hiến dâng- tất cả điều này vẫn không đủ. Nó vẫn không thể được coi là sự đền bù đầy đủ cho lòng tốt và công lao của cha mẹ đối với mình. Điều này là tất cả những thứ đó chỉ có thể mang lại niềm vui và hạnh phúc trong suốt cuộc đời của họ. Một khi họ chết, không có cách nào có thể mang theo những thứ như vậy. Tuy nhiên, nếu người con trong gia đình tốt có sự hướng dẫn cha mẹ, những người thiếu đạo đức và đức hạnh, để tu tập bản thân cha mẹ trong những phẩm chất lành mạnh và tốt đẹp này; hoặc nếu họ đã được tu tập, người con nên khuyến khích và hỗ trợ sự tu tập hơn nữa của cha mẹ, thì người con đó có thể được coi là người đã thực sự trả ơn sanh thành nuôi dưỡng của cha mẹ.
(Kinh Phật thuyết Đại báo Phụ mẫu Trọ̣ng ân kinh)

The wealth of the Noble Treasure is priceless and can go with the individual wherever he or she may go. Therefore, saying that I have managed to practice following all the Lord Buddha's instructions is not incorrect. It is the complete fulfillment of one's obligations, even though a proper and formal contract may never have been made.

Sự cao qúi của Thánh Sản là vô giá và có thể đi theo con người bất cứ nơi nào anh ta hoặc cô ta có thể đi. Do đó, nói rằng tôi đã hướng dẫn để tu tập theo tất cả các chỉ dạy của Đức Phật không phải là không chính xác. Đó là việc hoàn thành đầy đủ các nghĩa vụ của một người, mặc dù một giao ước thích hợp và chính thức có thể không bao giờ có.

An Auspicious 'Dream' and A True Perception of my Youth  

About this time in my life — perhaps it was because I was entering my teens or for another reason, I don't know — my father showed an extra special interest in me. After the evening meal, around seven o'clock, he was liable to bring up some topic and illustrate it with examples. He regularly taught me in this way, no matter whether it was concerned with spiritual or worldly matters.

An Auspicious 'Dream' and A True Perception of my Youth  

About this time in my life — perhaps it was because I was entering my teens or for another reason, I don't know — my father showed an extra special interest in me. After the evening meal, around seven o'clock, he was liable to bring up some topic and illustrate it with examples. He regularly taught me in this way, no matter whether it was concerned with spiritual or worldly matters.

Sometimes he would question me or ask my opinion. For example, he would enquire: "Do you like girls? And when you marry, what sort of girl will you marry?". This is how it proceeded. I can still remember my answer: "I like girls with a fair and light complexion, without blemish, courteous and well mannered in thought, speech and behavior. Her family background wouldn't pose any problem. However, if she came from a good, respectable family, all the better".

While asleep one night, I had a visionary dream:

^^^^^^

There I was with a large group of friends, setting out from the house to go and play in the fields. This was typical boyish behavior for us in those days. Just then, two forest monks[9] appeared, walking towards us with alms bowl and 'krot' over their shoulders. On seeing me, one of the monks rushed at me and I was so afraid that I fled for my life. Yet all my friends just stood there unconcerned, as if nothing untoward was taking place. The circumstances were such that I had to take the final resort, by seeking refuge at home with my parents. Yet it wasn't to be, for when I ran into the house yelling to mother and father for help, both remained impassive and unconcerned as if nothing unusual was going on. Meanwhile, the forest monk hadn't stopped chasing after me and was close on my heels. I ran into the bedroom and dived under the mosquito net. The monk burst in after me and yanked up the mosquito net. Then, using a whip, he lashed at me with all his strength. I was terrified and so startled that it woke me up.

^^^^^^

When I came to my senses, I found I was still trembling and was soaked in perspiration from head to toe. My heart throbbed violently and where I had been whipped still stung. I really thought that it had all actually happened and even gingerly felt with my hand to check. It was so vivid that it seemed real. I then pulled myself together and mindfully went over what had happened. After careful consideration the mind eventually calmed down and my fear went away.

^^^^^

This episode gradually faded from my memory and was forgotten for a long time. It was only when I was out wandering in the jungle as a forest novice-monk with my meditation teacher that it all came back to me. That visionary dream from the distant past did truly seem to point out future events and to have been correct in every respect.

^^^^^

About this time another incident happened to me — but this was no dream or vision. I had been unable to get to sleep until late at night for I was taken up with recalling and reflecting on the great kindness and goodness of my parents. I allowed my thoughts to wander and pondered about them, seeing how they had raised and nurtured us ten children with great sacrifice and grinding toil until we reached maturity. Soon, their children would be grown up and married and have families of their own. They would all then disperse, going their separate ways. I reached that thought and felt compelled to consider what my parent's situation would then be like. Who was going to provide for and take care of my mother and father? I was considering all this according to the sensibility of a child, without real thought for the future. This made me feel very sad and despondent, grieving for the future destitute condition of my parents. It moved me so much that I began to sob and the tears soaked my pillow. I was in this state for a long time and the more I thought about them, the greater my despondency. I made the decision that when I was grown up I would not get married like everyone else. When everyone else left home I would take over the responsibility of caring for mother and father all by myself, and do it to the best of my ability. My heart was gladdened and contented after arriving at this resolution and as it was already very late into the night I fell asleep.

^^^^^

All dhammas exist here, within each of us and the one that knows Dhamma is the heart or mind. Whether it knows much or little, whether it knows in a course or more refined way, depends on one's present competence, one's aptitude and maturity (boon-paramii) and the training each person has received.

^^^^^

The resolution that I made then came from gratitude and appreciation of the goodness and virtue of my parents.

^^^^

Another night a similar thing happened. I lay there reflecting on the condition of the ordinary village farmer and their routine working year:

^^^^

The annual cycle begins during the months of March and April when forest needs to be cleared for new fields. The area is burned off, the remaining stumps and roots dug out and fences erected. When the monsoon rains arrive, the various crops have to be prepared and planted out, according to whatever is planned. Those families with few or insufficient members would have to decide how to divide their time between the various tasks.

^^^^

There is the general plowing to do, and the sowing and preparation of the nursery-rice seedlings. This entails working and laboring continuously until the rice seedlings are ready for transplanting.[10] There is then the replanting of each young rice plant into the plowed and ready fields. Of course, I am speaking here of a year with good and timely rain. A dry year means wasted time and effort with deprivation and loss.

^^^^

It is mainly the housewife's task to have previously organized adequate supplies. This would include, for example, rice, chili-peppers, salt, pickled fish,[11] and tobacco. Then when everyone gets down to work in the fields there is no need to be concerned about finding provisions. Normally, with favorable rainfall they will complete the rice planting by August or it might extend into September. With that done everyone turns to gathering food reserves to be put away ready for harvest time. Besides this, there is fishing gear to be repaired and readied for use in the coming dry season.

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As the monks come to the end of their Rains Retreat, the villagers will usually begin harvesting the paddy rice. However, prior to this, they must first harvest any hill rice.[12] Throughout the harvesting season there is still the added labor of picking the other crops and vegetables as they ripen in their fields. There may be chili-peppers, cotton and beans. In those days when the paddy crop was abundant the harvesting might not be completely finished much before late January. Then came the job of transporting the threshed rice to the storage granaries that might go on into February.

^^^^

Even when harvesting was taking place during the day, at night the bamboo strips[13] to bind the rice sheaves had to be fashioned. With the harvest over, there would then be firewood to find for boiling up the sugar cane to obtain the syrup.

About the boiling up of the sugar cane:

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The daily process began in the early afternoon with entry into the sugar cane plantation. Sufficient cane had to be cut ready for the next morning's boiling. The cut cane was carried out of the fields and carted off — if one owned a cart[14] — and stacked at the boiling shed. Getting up at first light one had to go and press the juice out of the cane and this would go on late into the morning. Inadequate help would bring delay so that someone would have to go off and prepare the meal. With the sugar cane all pressed, everyone could come together for a communal meal. After that, they would all separate and go about their respective duties leaving one person to watch over the cauldron of boiling sugar cane juice. Some farmers had so much sugar cane that they didn't finish processing it until March. By then it was time to start clearing the forest to make fields once more.

^^^^

Well then. What was it on that night that led me to go over all this in such detail? All the different phases of the adult's working year. What was I after? It saddened me so, feeling for and sympathizing with the sort of life we are born into, deficient in opportunity or free time. After our birth there seems only to be actions and deeds to be done. Individual distinctions only appear because of disparate duties and difference in rank or status. The future leads on into a continuing doing, unless, that is, one is asleep or dead.

^^^^

This way of thinking went directly against my juvenile views and perception of reality. I was intoxicated with the idea that 'this world is so much fun'. Remember, in those days children didn't have to go to school nor did they have any responsibilities to worry about. After having eaten there was only playing around and looking for fun with my friends. If sometimes we had to go and take the cattle or buffalos out to graze, we could also turn that into fun.

^^^^

On that night, I clearly perceived all the suffering involved in being born into this world as a human being. I saw it for myself, right there in my own heart, previously never having given it any consideration at all. This time, however, my perception was only about seeing the suffering inherent in the struggle to fill one's stomach, with seeing that each day offered no free time, no break in the process. I could not see what I had to do to surmount and go beyond such suffering. That lack of understanding shows that it cannot be considered the Noble Truth of Suffering[15] for it is only concerned with the ordinary, mundane truth of suffering.

^^^

1. Oppressive Times and Its Effect on People  

It was during this period, that our part of the country became infested with brigands and cattle rustlers. These gangsters took over the whole region and even ten-year-old children and women engaged in the thieving. The authorities were impotent and so the villagers had to look after themselves. Each household kept a whole pack of guard dogs and at night everyone had to take it in turns to stand guard. Whenever cattle were stolen, the owner would have to go and pay an absurdly overpriced ransom for their return.

1. Oppressive Times and Its Effect on People  

It was during this period, that our part of the country became infested with brigands and cattle rustlers. These gangsters took over the whole region and even ten-year-old children and women engaged in the thieving. The authorities were impotent and so the villagers had to look after themselves. Each household kept a whole pack of guard dogs and at night everyone had to take it in turns to stand guard. Whenever cattle were stolen, the owner would have to go and pay an absurdly overpriced ransom for their return.

The stouthearted would go out after the thieves and hunt them down like wild animals. There would then be some peace and respite. The authorities seemed to approve and even actively encourage such retaliation.

^^^^

I was still only small but I also had some big ideas about being famous. I did not want to become renowned as thief or robber but rather as the hero who conquered them, so I set my mind on one thing: 'What can I do to make myself invulnerable[16] to all weapons?'. I could then go out and crush these hordes of brigands, wiping them all out.

^^^^

At this time I was also helping to look after a very talkative and boastful monk — excuse me, but that is the description he deserves. His place of origin was the village of Muang Kai which is where the district of Varnorn-nivart borders on Bueng Kahn District. He shrewdly must have guessed my innermost thoughts because before long he was suggesting: "After the Rains Retreat, why don't you come back with me to my home village. I have there every sort of thing. If you want charms, arcane herbs, the whole range of accessories that give invulnerability, I have them all."

^^^^

I was delighted with this. So as soon as the Rains Retreat ended, three older youths — my elder brother and two of his friends — with myself as a much younger fourth accompanied this monk back to his home village. We discovered on reaching our destination that the monk had really duped us into escorting him back home. None of the villagers in that area had any respect for him, because he had already ordained and disrobed numerous times. The last news I heard of him was that he had disrobed yet again, had got married and that both husband and wife were smoking opium. The two bigger youths who had gone with us still pleaded with him to learn about and obtain the various special things.[17] But he was always evasive and beat around the bush and looked for excuses to extricate himself. We discovered the truth when we spoke to the other monks in that monastery, for really he didn't have anything remarkable or rare, his only accomplishment being that of bragging and talking big.

^^^^

Our group stayed with him for about ten days before taking leave to return home with our hopes all unrealized. Every day while we had been staying with him, he had urged us to go out to find eels for him to eat.[18] He really loved eels, although he didn't like any other type of fish.

^^^^

It took us three days to walk home. I felt particularly humiliated and ashamed. On leaving home I had resolved to seek out and learn the occult knowledge of 'invulnerability' so that by my return I would be secure against any weapon belonging to anyone. When I reached home, my friends found every possible opportunity to make fun of me and this made me feel even more humiliated. However the experience did have its positive side for I became disillusioned with the whole thing and lost my foolish credulity in charms and magical powers. From that day forward, right up to the present, whenever anyone comes in and talks of their wondrous properties my mind remains wholly indifferent. When I later became a novice, my friends had tried to persuade me to go and study about such things. They were even willing to pay the customary 'teacher's fee' and sponsor the whole venture but I would not change my mind.

^^^^

I consider myself particularly fortunate on this account: I had been born into a family of good moral conduct and virtuous behavior; I had been taught and prepared through living in a monastery with monks — who could be truly regarded as good monks. Whenever external conditions and surroundings coerced and pressured my mind, forcing it to turn towards what was low and base, it seemed that things never turned out as my base desires would have it. If they had, who knows what might have happened to me. Perhaps one can say that my good kamma and past merit guided and protected me.

^^^^

That long journey was the first time in my life that I had gone away from home. We were all staying at Muang Kai Village when the news first came through about the outbreak of World War I. It was all anyone ever spoke about when they came to visit the monastery.[19] I became so homesick that I cried every day. Some days I couldn't get to sleep until late into the night because of my constant pining for my parents.

^^^^

When I arrived home again, I resumed my practice of serving the monks in the monastery as I had always done. However, I didn't always sleep at the monastery and had the duty of bursar or steward (Veyyavaccakorn) to the monks, being the intermediary and liaison between them and the villagers. This worked out very well. All the villagers seemed increasingly to appreciate my efforts because I had become adept and competent. Another consideration in their growing interest in me might have been that I was also entering adolescence. They would give me jobs to do and simultaneously tease me.

^^^^

I had been going regularly to the monastery throughout an extended period of about six years and had become closely acquainted with the monks and novices. However, on no occasion did any of the monks teach me about keeping the Five or Eight Precepts. Strange as it may seem, this is quite understandable because the Sangha or Community of monks of that time was seriously deficient in learning.

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2. Meeting Venerable Ajahn Singh Khantayaagamo  

In 1916, Ven. Ajahn Singh Khantayaagamo (the future Phra Ñaa.navisit'samiddhiviiraacaarn) and Ven. Ajahn Kham — disciples of the Venerable Meditation Master Ajahn Mun Bhuuridatta Thera[20] — were out walking tudong.[21] They were the first forest monks to reach the village of Nah Seedah. Although there were monks resident in the local monastery, they still came and asked to stay with us. It almost seemed to me as if they had aimed specifically at coming to see my father and me. We attended on them with deep reverence and faith because we saw that their way of practice was different from other groups of meditation monks. (My father had previously attended on Ajahn Seetut.)

2. Meeting Venerable Ajahn Singh Khantayaagamo  

In 1916, Ven. Ajahn Singh Khantayaagamo (the future Phra Ñaa.navisit'samiddhiviiraacaarn) and Ven. Ajahn Kham — disciples of the Venerable Meditation Master Ajahn Mun Bhuuridatta Thera[20] — were out walking tudong.[21] They were the first forest monks to reach the village of Nah Seedah. Although there were monks resident in the local monastery, they still came and asked to stay with us. It almost seemed to me as if they had aimed specifically at coming to see my father and me. We attended on them with deep reverence and faith because we saw that their way of practice was different from other groups of meditation monks. (My father had previously attended on Ajahn Seetut.)

In particular, the visiting monks taught me about their various obligations and duties. For example, I learned the 'do's and don'ts' in offering[22] things to a monk and about meditation using the mantra- word 'Buddho' as an object of preliminary recitation. My mind was able to converge in samadhi[23] to the point where I lost all desire to speak with anyone. This was where I first experienced the flavor of meditation's peace and stillness. It's something I've never forgotten. Later, when I was a novice studying with many others, I would slip out — unknown to anyone — into the cool and quiet of the night to meditate alone.

^^^^

The venerable monks stayed with us for a little more than two months. At first they were also intending to spend the Rains Retreat but a previous malarial infection flared up again. Therefore, just before the start of the Rains Retreat, they left to stay at an abandoned monastery in the village of Nah Bong, Nahm Mong Subdistrict in the district of Tah Bor and I was able to go with them.

^^^^

The monks were ill with malaria throughout the three months of the Rains Retreat. In spite of his illness, Ven. Ajahn Singh would still kindly use some of his free time to teach me reading and writing, with occasional training in religious matters. Towards the end of the Rains Retreat something came up in his mind — I don't know quite what — for he said that after the Retreat he would have to return to his home village and asked if I would go with him. "The journey will be long and tough," he added. My answer was an immediate, "Venerable Sir, I will go with you".

^^^^

A few days before the end of the Rains Retreat, I asked his permission to go home to take leave of my parents. Both of the monks seemed pleased with the idea that I would be going with them and they quickly organized some flowers, incense and candles for me to go and offer to my parents. This is the traditional way of asking forgiveness and blessing. (They gave me excellent teaching about this custom. In fact even the first time I had fled from home, I had followed this practice.)

^^^^

On the evening of that night, after seeking forgiveness and a blessing from my parents, I continued around and asked the same of all the family elders and the older people in the village. Whomever I went to see would weep with sorrow, as if I were going off to my death. I became a bit sentimental and could not hold back my own tears. At daybreak, my mother and aunt set out with me to where the Venerable Ajahn was staying and we all spent the night there. It was Pavarana, the last day of the Rains Retreat, and early the following morning, after the meal, the Venerable Ajahn led us off on our journey. Once again, my aunt and the villagers gathered there and shed some tears together.

^^^^

3. Leaving Home for a Second Time Following after Ven. Ajahn Singh  

It was perhaps unprecedented for a boy of that region and my age to venture away from home on such a long journey. It also meant being cut off from my relatives and friends who would have offered comfort and warmth. Not only that, it seems that I may well have been the first boy to venture off — without any worries or regrets — following after forest meditation monks. We set off walking from Tah Bor wading through water and mud, steadily pressing on through the forest and passing across the rice fields.[24] Whenever one of the monks became feverish with malaria, he would climb up to rest in a field shelter[25] or else under a tree that was shady and dry, out of the mud. At day break the venerable monks would still make the effort to go out on alms round and they were able to feed me too.

3. Leaving Home for a Second Time Following after Ven. Ajahn Singh  

It was perhaps unprecedented for a boy of that region and my age to venture away from home on such a long journey. It also meant being cut off from my relatives and friends who would have offered comfort and warmth. Not only that, it seems that I may well have been the first boy to venture off — without any worries or regrets — following after forest meditation monks. We set off walking from Tah Bor wading through water and mud, steadily pressing on through the forest and passing across the rice fields.[24] Whenever one of the monks became feverish with malaria, he would climb up to rest in a field shelter[25] or else under a tree that was shady and dry, out of the mud. At day break the venerable monks would still make the effort to go out on alms round and they were able to feed me too.

We walked for three days before reaching the provincial town of Udorn-thani, staying at Wat[26] Majjhima-vat for ten nights before setting off again on our journey. We took the road to Khon Kaen Province and passed through the present provinces of Mahasarakam, Roi-et and Yaso-torn. This journey of ours — the two of us with the Venerable Ajahn — took just over a month before reaching Nong Korn Village of Hua Dtaphan Subdistrict, in the district of Amnart Charoen. This was the village where the Venerable Ajahn's mother lived. He stayed there for about three months so that he could teach and help her in spiritual matters

We walked for three days before reaching the provincial town of Udorn-thani, staying at Wat[26] Majjhima-vat for ten nights before setting off again on our journey. We took the road to Khon Kaen Province and passed through the present provinces of Mahasarakam, Roi-et and Yaso-torn. This journey of ours — the two of us with the Venerable Ajahn — took just over a month before reaching Nong Korn Village of Hua Dtaphan Subdistrict, in the district of Amnart Charoen. This was the village where the Venerable Ajahn's mother lived. He stayed there for about three months so that he could teach and help her in spiritual matters

4. Receiving the Going Forth as a Novice (Further Studies)  

While staying in Nong Korn Village, Ven. Ajahn Singh sent me to ask for novice ordination[27] with the Venerable Upajjhaaya Loo-ee from the monastery in Keng Yai Village who would act as my Preceptor. I was about to enter my eighteenth year.

4. Receiving the Going Forth as a Novice (Further Studies)  

While staying in Nong Korn Village, Ven. Ajahn Singh sent me to ask for novice ordination[27] with the Venerable Upajjhaaya Loo-ee from the monastery in Keng Yai Village who would act as my Preceptor. I was about to enter my eighteenth year.

At this time, I was becoming somewhat more proficient in my reading and had been going through the Trai-lokavithan.[28] This book describes the future degeneration and destruction of the world of the satthantara kappa time. Reading this moved me to deep sadness and my eyes were filled with tears for many a day. At meal times I had no appetite because my heart was lost in thoughts of the approaching degeneration and the calamity awaiting human beings and all creatures. It was as if all this would be unfolding before my eyes within just a few days.

^^^^

Venerable Ajahn Singh took me to stay at Wat Sutat-narahm in Ubon town. It was a monastery where he himself had once lived. I now entered the monastery school at Wat See-tong to continue with my Thai Language studies. Having settled me there and with the Rains Retreat being over, Ven. Ajahn Singh turned back to his forest wandering. He returned by way of Sakhon Nakorn Province because a group of monks led by the Venerable Ajahn Mun was wandering in that region. The night before Ven. Ajahn Singh set out, he called a meeting of the monks and novices and informed us of his intentions. On hearing this news, I felt such an enormous reluctance to be parted from him that I began to sob — right there in the middle of that large gathering. Feeling self-conscious and embarrassed in front of my friends, I beat a hasty retreat and hurried outside to reestablish some mindfulness and try to compose myself. I remembered the occasion in the time of the Lord Buddha, when the Venerable Ananda wept on learning that the Lord Buddha was soon finally to pass away. By reflecting on this, it somewhat assuaged my own heart's grief and I could go back into the meeting. The Venerable Ajahn had meanwhile been teaching on various themes.

^^^^

At the same time as learning Thai, I had to allocate time for memorizing Pali chanting and studying the General Dhamma Studies Course.[29] I was very conscious that in spite of being so much older than the other students keeping up with them would be difficult. I was going through the third grade of the course but couldn't sit the final examination because the Ecclesiastical Head Monk of that Region (Chao Kana Monton) had made a rule that one had to be more than twenty years old. It therefore wasn't until my third year there that I could take the examination and was able to pass it that same year.

^^^^

My memorizing of the Pali texts continued and I was learning by heart the Paatimokkha Rule.[30] I applied myself to this because of my regard and admiration for the monastic discipline. My Thai language studies only extended to the completion of the primary education course (because government schools then only taught the three elementary grades).

^^^^

On leaving the Thai language school I turned my full attention to studying Pali. However, in that year of my studies it so happened that Ven. Mahaa Pin Paññaabalo — who was the younger brother of Ven. Ajahn Singh — came back from Bangkok. He initiated a course in Nak Dhamm' Toh, Grade Two, which was the first of its kind in that administrative region of the Northeast. I therefore also enrolled for that course but I was never able to finish it, nor indeed the Pali, because Ven. Ajahn Singh returned to spend the Rains Retreat at Wat Sutat-narahm. After the Rains Retreat — and before I could take my examinations — he led Ven. Ajahn Mahaa Pin and me off on tudong.

^^^^

5. A Novice Becomes Government Millionaire  

It was the novice Thate who became the millionaire. Here, I am talking about the time when the government thought up the idea of creating one new 'millionaire' every year in Thailand. They thus brought out an annual lottery with a first prize of fifty or sixty thousand baht. In those days, this was considered a fortune large enough for a Thai millionaire. It was all done so that we Thais would not feel humiliated before other richer countries.

5. A Novice Becomes Government Millionaire  

It was the novice Thate who became the millionaire. Here, I am talking about the time when the government thought up the idea of creating one new 'millionaire' every year in Thailand. They thus brought out an annual lottery with a first prize of fifty or sixty thousand baht. In those days, this was considered a fortune large enough for a Thai millionaire. It was all done so that we Thais would not feel humiliated before other richer countries.

One night it so happened that Novice Thate was unable to sleep because he had just won first prize in the lottery. It was time to set about finding the site to build himself a grand and extensive three story mansion. This residence would be furnished to the most modern designs and be in the center of the commercial district. The employees and assistants would have to fill the shelves with every imaginable kind of merchandise. He would be at ease in body and mind without a worry in the world and spend his time lounging on a sofa, making eyes at the attractive young women who would come in to shop. Whoever chanced a glance in his direction and smiled, would receive a happy smile back. Throughout his life of eighteen to nineteen years, he had never known greater happiness.

^^^^

He had indeed attained the rank of millionaire — just as the government had wished. Yet then, within the blink of an eye, with all the things still fresh and new, aniccaa or impermanence intrudes. Ah, impermanence! All abruptly breaks down and disappears from his heart and that's something he regrets so much.

^^^^

>Novice Thate comes to his senses and he realizes that it is already late into the night: 'It should already be time for sleep — Hey, what is this? Not only has the lottery yet to take place but I haven't even bought a ticket! How come I've already become a millionaire? I must be going crazy!'. That night he felt an unspeakable degree of mortification and shame. If any knowledgeable persons were to know about these fantasies what would they say? He finally fell asleep and awoke at dawn with guilty feelings from the night before and never told anyone about this occurrence.

^^^^

Anyone can become this sort of 'millionaire' — not just Novice Thate. I described him as a millionaire only in the sense that in his mind's eye he could imagine possession of an abundance of property and wealth. Still, at least he was content with the amount that his imagination produced. This is much better than those people already possessing material wealth who fantasize about getting even more. They are forever dissatisfied with what they already have and thereby are always discontented and troubled. Of what benefit is all that wealth to such people? Wealthy or poor, the real question lies with whether one is happy or not. It is certainly not the case that the more one possesses the better it is. The Lord Buddha thus taught that contentment with what one actually has is a resource and wealth of great value.

^^^^

I went forth as a monk through my faith in the Lord Buddha's Teaching — the Dhamma and the Vinaya Discipline. Then I sincerely followed the way of practice, clearly seeing the truth that he had indicated.

^^^^

The Lord Buddha once pointed out a money bag to Venerable Ananda and explained that it was something poisonous. He added that it was not only poisonous to monks and nuns who involve themselves with it, but also to lay people who do not know how to handle it correctly. For lay people however it is a necessity, something that has to be used, for their condition and way of life is quite different from that of a monk or nun. Taking this further, anyone in possession of great wealth but unable to deal with it properly is in the same position as someone holding a firebrand. The fire will inevitably burn down from the ignited end to scorch the hand that grasps it.

^^^^

I was a novice for five years before becoming a monk and having spent such a long time in a monastery gave me a considerable advantage over the other newly ordained monks. I was on old hand, so to speak, and knew very well how the monastery worked. It gave me a head start over those who were given bhikkhu ordination with me. For instance, I already knew the chanting and could recite the Patimokkha.

^^^^

6. Ordination at Wat Sutat-narahm  

On the 16th of May 1923,[31] at 11.48 ???A.M., I went forth as a monk in the ordination boundary[32] of Wat Sutat'. I was approaching twenty-two years of age. My Preceptor[33] was the Venerable Phra Maharat with Venerable Maha Pin Paññaabalo acting as the Announcing Ajahn.[34]

6. Ordination at Wat Sutat-narahm  

On the 16th of May 1923,[31] at 11.48 ???A.M., I went forth as a monk in the ordination boundary[32] of Wat Sutat'. I was approaching twenty-two years of age. My Preceptor[33] was the Venerable Phra Maharat with Venerable Maha Pin Paññaabalo acting as the Announcing Ajahn.[34]

This was the year that my teacher, the Venerable Ajahn Singh Khantayaagamo, led a party of six — four monks and two novices — to spend the Rains Retreat at Wat Sutat'. It was the first time that a community of forest meditation monks stayed the Rains Retreat in the provincial town of Ubon.

^^^^

Venerable Ajahn Singh came back to spend the Rains Retreat in Ubon because he learned that his younger brother, Venerable Maha Pin, had arrived back there from Bangkok. Ven. Ajahn Singh's plan was to take his brother out wandering for meditation in the jungle. Before Ven. Maha Pin had gone to Bangkok, he had promised Ven. Ajahn Mun that he would first go and study and then come back to take up the way of practice. Ven. Ajahn Singh had been delighted to hear that his younger brother had returned and thus came to spend the Rains Retreat at Wat Sutat-narahm.

^^^^

Following the end of the Rains Retreat and the Ka.thina season,[35] Ven. Ajahn Singh led a large group of us walking on tudong. Those of us new to tudong, apart from Ven. Maha Pin and myself, were Ven. Kam Phoo-ay, Ven. Torn and two novices. There were twelve of us all together.

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(Ven. Mahaa Pin Paññaabalo had completed his fifth grade Pali studies. He can therefore be considered the first scholastic monk of Mahaa grade[36] in Thailand at that time, to go off on tudong. Most of the academic monks considered the going off on tudong a disgraceful thing to do.[37] It was due to Ven. Ajahn Singh being our leader that I was allowed to go along on tudong because without my presence my Preceptor was obliged to recite the Patimokkha Rule himself.)

^^^^

7. First Taste of Yearning  

I had been living at Wat Sutat' in Ubon, separated from family and close friends, for a full six years. While I was living there various people left their sons and grandsons under my care. Four boys lived with me as my 'disciples',[38] of whom two were ordained as novices. They had been with me ever since my own novice days, right through to my ordination as a monk. We had developed a father-son relationship and so when it came time to separate, they all began to weep thinking how much they were going to miss me. I too was almost unable to hold back my tears. However, being their teacher it would have looked bad if I cried in front of them so I gritted my teeth and suppressed my sorrow, not letting my true feelings show. Even so, I found my voice hoarse with emotion.

7. First Taste of Yearning  

I had been living at Wat Sutat' in Ubon, separated from family and close friends, for a full six years. While I was living there various people left their sons and grandsons under my care. Four boys lived with me as my 'disciples',[38] of whom two were ordained as novices. They had been with me ever since my own novice days, right through to my ordination as a monk. We had developed a father-son relationship and so when it came time to separate, they all began to weep thinking how much they were going to miss me. I too was almost unable to hold back my tears. However, being their teacher it would have looked bad if I cried in front of them so I gritted my teeth and suppressed my sorrow, not letting my true feelings show. Even so, I found my voice hoarse with emotion.

At the time those feelings hadn't seemed too overpowering but later, after we had left, they seeped in and made me feel dull and listless for a remarkably long time. Whether I was walking, standing, sitting or lying down, even while talking or eating, my heart was preoccupied in gloom and sadness, longing for my 'disciples'. How will they manage? What will they eat? Will they have enough to eat or have to go without? Who will teach them? Or perhaps someone would come along to bully and boss them about. This was the first time in my life that I had ever experienced such depression.

^^^^

I therefore had to think through and reflect on my situation: 'These boys are neither my children nor my grandchildren; they aren't blood relatives; they only came to rely and depend on me. I guided and instructed them to the best of my ability. Why is it that I miss and pine about them so much?' At this point, I pondered what it must be like for people with a wife and children of their own. There! If these 'disciples' had been my own sons, my own flesh and blood, how much greater would have been my grief. I now perceived the drawback and danger in such longing and yearning and this realization permeated right through to my heart. This understanding has never been lost.

^^^^

Human beings are really no different from young monkeys that cannot live alone, separated from their mother. This caused me to become overwhelming fearful of sentimental attachment. Such yearning and longing lead to suffering both when one is united and when separated. What can we do to gain freedom?

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8. A Group of Tudong Monks Leaves Ubon  

Our party of twelve — eight monks and four novices — with Ven. Ajahn Singh leading, made our way out of Ubon town during November.[39] We walked steadily on, never staying anywhere along the way for more than a single night until we arrived at the village of Hua Dtaphan. We rested there for quite some time before moving on to stay at Hua Ngoo Village where we readied our requisites[40] before continuing our wanderings through the forest.

8. A Group of Tudong Monks Leaves Ubon  

Our party of twelve — eight monks and four novices — with Ven. Ajahn Singh leading, made our way out of Ubon town during November.[39] We walked steadily on, never staying anywhere along the way for more than a single night until we arrived at the village of Hua Dtaphan. We rested there for quite some time before moving on to stay at Hua Ngoo Village where we readied our requisites[40] before continuing our wanderings through the forest.

Our walking on tudong this time did not offer much solitude and seclusion because of the large number in our party. Nevertheless, it did give a fair taste of the experience of walking and wandering through forests and jungle. For instance, one night we arranged our resting places with krot umbrellas and mosquito nets in place. After we had chanted our evening puja,[41] a storm broke on us with gale force winds and pouring rain. To lie down or even to sit became impossible as the area started to flood. We quickly gathered up our gear and fled, thinking to ask for shelter in the nearby village monastery. Besides everything else, we couldn't find the right path into the village,[42] which meant we had to circle back and forth close to the village perimeter for many hours.

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When we eventually reached the village monastery, we found that it was already occupied by sleeping lay people. These were the six traveling salesmen who had been walking with us for part of the journey. When they had previously spotted the mass of dark storm clouds building up on the horizon, they had announced that they were going to stay in the village rather than sleeping out. They now helped to arrange whatever sleeping places could be found for us. With the sleeping places arranged, we hurried back to escort the Ven. Ajahn in, with those seven or eight of our companions who had remained outside with him. Reaching the monastery and sorting out our things, we could then lie down and try to get some sleep. The hut[43] though was absolutely soaked through and there were no mats or pillows available because it was an abandoned monastery. Yet our exhaustion enabled us to gain some brief sleep, even if everything was wet through. At daybreak, we went out on alms round to the village and received nothing more than plain cooked rice and a banana each.

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After the meal we continued our journey. The Ven. Ajahn led us straight through dense jungles towards the provincial towns of Roi-et and Kalasin. We passed through Dong Ling and emerged in the district of Sahassakan, near Koomphavapee District of Udorn-thani Province. However, we didn't actually enter the main town but stayed to the west in the village of Chiang Pin. We went there to await the arrival from Bangkok of the Ecclesiastical Head [Monk] of that Region or Chao Kana Monton.

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The Chao Kana Monton instructed our party to come and wait upon him in Udorn at this time with the aim of bringing Ven. Maha Pin to take up residence in Udorn. This was because Udorn town didn't yet have any monks of the Dhammayut' Community.[44] However, things didn't turn out that way. When the Chao Kana Monton arrived from Bangkok, it was learned that Phraya Rachanukoon (later to receive the title Phraya Mukhamontri) had requested Ven. Mahaa Joom Bandhulo (later to become Ven. Phra Dhammachedi) to accompany him to Udorn, so that he could take up residence at Wat Bodhisomphorn there.

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>We all went to pay our respects to the Chao Kana Monton as soon as he arrived and found that there had been another change of plans. He now wanted to send Ven. Maha Pin to stay in the province of Sakhon Nakorn and to have me stay with Ven. Maha Joom in Udorn. His reasons being that there weren't any suitable monks in Udorn. Also, he thought that as I was a local and already had some academic training, I should stay and help see to the administrative business of the monks.

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I instead requested that he allow me to go off to practice meditation to honor his authority and dignity. For meditation monks were few and far between, whereas scholastic and administrative monks were numerous and wouldn't be difficult to find. He gave his permission and recommended that I should stay and assist Ven. Maha Pin.

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9. Meeting the Venerable Ajahn Mun for the First Time  

After these matters had all been settled, Ven. Ajahn Singh led our group off to pay respects to Venerable Ajahn Mun who was staying at Kor Village, in the district of Bahn Peur. Venerable Ajahn Sao[45] also happened to be there at that time. So it came about that I was able to meet both Venerable Ajahns and pay my respects to them for the first time in my life. That evening Ven. Ajahn Mun wholeheartedly bestowed on us a Dhamma talk to mark the occasion of seeing us for the first time. This was especially so when he saw Ven. Maha Pin. It was Ven. Maha Pin who had previously committed himself — after listening to Dhamma talks by Ven. Ajahn Mun and Ven. Ajahn Singh while in Ubon — to return and practice after studying academically in Bangkok. As for me, Ven. Ajahn Mun probably only knew as much about me as Ven. Ajahn Singh had passed on to him.

9. Meeting the Venerable Ajahn Mun for the First Time  

After these matters had all been settled, Ven. Ajahn Singh led our group off to pay respects to Venerable Ajahn Mun who was staying at Kor Village, in the district of Bahn Peur. Venerable Ajahn Sao[45] also happened to be there at that time. So it came about that I was able to meet both Venerable Ajahns and pay my respects to them for the first time in my life. That evening Ven. Ajahn Mun wholeheartedly bestowed on us a Dhamma talk to mark the occasion of seeing us for the first time. This was especially so when he saw Ven. Maha Pin. It was Ven. Maha Pin who had previously committed himself — after listening to Dhamma talks by Ven. Ajahn Mun and Ven. Ajahn Singh while in Ubon — to return and practice after studying academically in Bangkok. As for me, Ven. Ajahn Mun probably only knew as much about me as Ven. Ajahn Singh had passed on to him.

That night, after the Dhamma talk was over, Ven. Ajahn Mun spoke more informally with us about Dhamma. He concluded the discussion by forecasting something about the various abilities and qualities of Ven. Maha Pin and myself. This made me feel extremely uncomfortable and abashed, for I was right there in the midst of the monks and was not only newly ordained but I couldn't see in myself anything special enough to interest the Ven. Ajahn Mun.

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In fact, I had begun to feel very self-conscious from the moment we entered the monastery area in the early part of the evening — although I don't know how the others felt about it. I had looked over the place and noted the way the monks lived, similarly with the novices and right through to the lay people in the monastery. How could they all be so well mannered and orderly? Each seemed to be going about their personal duties and routine tasks. Then came the predictions about Ven. Maha Pin, and when he moved on to me it doubled my embarrassment. Venerable Maha Pin himself probably didn't feel much at all, apart from some introspective checking of his abilities with what Ven. Ajahn Mun had predicted.

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The next morning after the meal, Ven. Ajahn Singh led our party off again on the trail to the village of Nah Seedah. We stayed there for four nights before retracing our steps back to spend another night with Ven. Ajahn Mun. Then we walked back to Udorn and carried on to Sakhon Nakorn, in line with what we had agreed with the Chao Kana Monton. However, subsequent events didn't work out as the Chao Kana Monton had planned because Ven. Maha Pin became ill and couldn't take up the duties entrusted to him. Therefore, for that year's Rains Retreat, the Ven. Ajahn Singh took our group of monks off to stay at the forest monastery of Nong Laht Village. This action made the Chao Kana Monton highly displeased with us, so we had to send Ven. Boon, who had completed the General Dhamma Studies Course, to stay in Sakhon Nakorn.

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10. Second Rains Retreat, 1924 at Nong Laht  

Before entering the Rains Retreat, I found an excellent Dhamma companion in a monk by the name of Venerable Glom, from Loei Province. We had twice gone up to the cave Tam Puang, on Poo Lek mountain, to develop meditation together. The first time we went up for four nights and the second time for six nights. The village headman named Orn-see — (later he became the Subdistrict Official Khun Prajak, and then he ordained and continued as a monk until his death) — arranged for someone to climb up to offer us food on a regular basis. I will always remember his kindness and goodwill. Ven. Ajahn Mun had remarked that this particular village headman was intelligent and astute about everything — from his quick-witted speech, to his work and social involvements in the community. He always seemed able to keep abreast of affairs. When it came to monks, his talents were remarkable for he was immediately and competently able to arrange whatever a monk might need, with nothing more than the barest hint by the monk.

10. Second Rains Retreat, 1924 at Nong Laht  

Before entering the Rains Retreat, I found an excellent Dhamma companion in a monk by the name of Venerable Glom, from Loei Province. We had twice gone up to the cave Tam Puang, on Poo Lek mountain, to develop meditation together. The first time we went up for four nights and the second time for six nights. The village headman named Orn-see — (later he became the Subdistrict Official Khun Prajak, and then he ordained and continued as a monk until his death) — arranged for someone to climb up to offer us food on a regular basis. I will always remember his kindness and goodwill. Ven. Ajahn Mun had remarked that this particular village headman was intelligent and astute about everything — from his quick-witted speech, to his work and social involvements in the community. He always seemed able to keep abreast of affairs. When it came to monks, his talents were remarkable for he was immediately and competently able to arrange whatever a monk might need, with nothing more than the barest hint by the monk.

The two of us were thus supplied with all four suitable things supportive of meditation practice[46] and so were able to push strongly forward. The more we meditated, the more we felt grateful to the headman and the villagers for all their goodwill. Our daily meal consisted of one ball of glutinous rice about the size of a bael-fruit[47] with some dried chili powder. This was enough to sustain us in our meditation practice without any harmful effects. Reducing food intake while increasing meditation exertion brings lightness to the body, clarity to the mindfulness and makes samadhi less difficult. I meditated with great diligence and my mindfulness improved and became more firmly established. While living in the cave, I trained my mindfulness to give it a constancy throughout the day and night. I refused to allow any lapse when my mind might heedlessly wander away following after external objects. Mindfulness became steadily and exclusively established in the body and mind. I even made sure that however my mind had been established before going to sleep, it would return to the same state on awakening. Although sometimes there was still a bit of absentmindedness during the meal.

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Increasing my exertion also raised my appreciation for the villagers' goodwill — it seemed to follow like the shadow its subject. I was very much aware that being a monk my existence rested in the hands of the villagers and I therefore continued my meditation practice to repay my debt to them. I became certain that my meditation efforts during this time completely fulfilled the obligations of my indebtedness.

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As the Rains Retreat approached, we went down to stay with Ven. Ajahn Singh in the monastery of Nong Lart Village. As I was still a newly ordained monk during this Rains Retreat, I didn't have to take on any responsibilities. Apart, that is, from attending to the needs of the senior monk[48] and applying myself to the meditation practice. The Venerable Ajahn gave us special consideration in this.

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Throughout the Rains Retreat I further developed my meditation practice following the scheme that I had observed while out on the mountain. On top of that, I added some yoga techniques as an experiment. By this I mean progressively reducing my daily food intake from seventy small lumps of sticky rice down to three mouthfuls. Then I gradually increased again to thirty mouthfuls before cutting back down to five mouthfuls. Each sequence of this would take some three or four days and I continued like this throughout the Rains Retreat. Although the longest period was when I ate only fifteen mouthfuls of food a day and then it was only vegetarian food. My build is naturally quite slim and so when that became quite emaciated the villagers started to notice. Everyone who saw me, asked what was wrong but I had the will power and the spirit to carry on as normal with my duties and meditation practice.

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As soon as the Rains Retreat was over, I resumed eating some meat and fish again. But Oh! How foul they now smelled. We human beings consume their meat and make it into our own flesh. It's just as if we snatch away and steal something foul and then eat it. This is why the devas and other heavenly beings won't come close to humans — it's our offensive smell. Yet human beings themselves seem to find no difficulty in embracing and admiring these corpses of ours.

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After the Rains Retreat I went up onto the mountain once more, but this time accompanied by Ven. Ajahn Singh himself. We had stayed up there for nine days when he became ill and asked me to go down and bring back the rest of our party of monks. When we saw that taking care of him there wouldn't be convenient, we all moved down to nurse him in the forest area of Nong Boo-a. (This is now a village.)

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Ven. Ajahn Mun sent a message at that time requesting that I go and meet him in the district of Tah Bor. I complied with those instructions and took my leave of Ven. Ajahn Singh and, as it happened, met up with Ven. Ajahn Mun and Ven. Ajahn Sao along the way. They had received an invitation from Wat Bodhisomphorn, in the town of Udorn-thani. It was at this time that 'Grandmother'[49] Noi (who was the mother of Phraya Rajanukoon) came to take part in the consecration ceremony for the laying down of the boundary stones (siima) of Wat Bodhisomphorn. This was her first meeting with Ven. Ajahn Mun. She had been able to listen to one of his sermons and her faith in him began. I was able to stay there with Ven. Ajahn Mun for many days before we both set out for Tah Bor.

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11. Third Rains Retreat, 1925 at Nah Chang Nam  

During this Rains Retreat I resided near the village of Nah Chang Nam and not far from Tah Bor where Ven. Ajahn Mun was staying. Venerable Ajahn Oon and I conscientiously made the effort to go regularly to see him and listen to his Dhamma talks. This Rains Retreat I was again without any responsibilities except continuing with my own meditation practice. All other tasks, such as receiving any guests, I had handed over to Ven. Ajahn Oon. Previously he had been a teacher in the Mahaa-nikaya and a monk there for nine years, having only recently transferred to the Dhammayut' Nikaya.[50]

11. Third Rains Retreat, 1925 at Nah Chang Nam  

During this Rains Retreat I resided near the village of Nah Chang Nam and not far from Tah Bor where Ven. Ajahn Mun was staying. Venerable Ajahn Oon and I conscientiously made the effort to go regularly to see him and listen to his Dhamma talks. This Rains Retreat I was again without any responsibilities except continuing with my own meditation practice. All other tasks, such as receiving any guests, I had handed over to Ven. Ajahn Oon. Previously he had been a teacher in the Mahaa-nikaya and a monk there for nine years, having only recently transferred to the Dhammayut' Nikaya.[50]

During this Rains Retreat a sad event concerning Ven. Ajahn Tah took place. He was one of the more senior monks and, I think I am right in saying, he was also Ven. Ajahn Mun's very first disciple. I think he had been a monk for about sixteen or seventeen years. Originally he had gone to undertake studies in Bangkok but was unable to complete them. He had heard of Ven. Ajahn Mun's good reputation from the frequent extolling by Ven. Chao Khun Phra Upali (Chan Siricando) and therefore left Bangkok to follow Ven. Ajahn Mun.

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This year, Ven. Ajahn Tah had gone with Ven. Ajahn Khan to spend the Rains Retreat in the Pah Bing Cave in Loei Province. While there he had become unbalanced[51] and had fled in the middle of the Retreat to see Venerable Ajahn Mun. Ven. Ajahn Tah said that he had committed the worst possible breach of the Monastic Discipline[52] and that his distress was so intense that it felt as if his yellow robes were on fire. When a thorough inquiry into the circumstances and events in question was made, there was evidently no truth in the matter at all. It was just his own exaggerated doubts and anxieties over some trivial incidents that had thrown him into turmoil.

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One of Ven. Ajahn Tah's tribulations concerned what had occurred some time previously, when he had gone to develop his meditation near the village of Pone Sawang. His samadhi had become strong and this had brought great brightness to the mind. Any Dhamma issue that he brought up for investigation seemed to be totally cleared up and then the heart would converge to one-pointedness. This made him believe that: "I have come to the end of the Holy Life".[53] He later announced this claim in the midst of the community of monks. Afterwards, when that bright condition of mind faded, he began to suspect that he was guilty of boasting about obtaining supernormal states and had thus broken the monk's discipline in the worst possible way.

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Although people explained to him that there was definitely no offence because he had made his claim through mistaken assumptions and misinterpretations, he wouldn't believe them. In fact, this guilt-ridden anxiety had already caused him many years of distress but he had previously endured it. However, with the arrival of this Rains Retreat it had become unbearable and he thought the only way left for him was to disrobe. Ven. Ajahn Mun was unable to cure him and so had to let him go, sending him to stay with Ven. Ajahn Sao. Unfortunately, the following year Ven. Ajahn Sao could no longer restrain him and the final result was that he did indeed disrobe. After that he completely vanished as if into thin air and no one has heard news of him right up to the present.

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Witnessing all this really made my heart sink and I felt downhearted and saddened. I reflected that if such a senior, long-practiced monk could still become mentally unstable, what about me? What could I do to avoid such unbalance? These thoughts made me so apprehensive and fearful for my own well-being that I revealed my anxieties to Ven. Ajahn Mun. He told me: "That's right! You have to be careful of yourself. Don't stay too far away from a competent and knowledgeable teacher. When something comes up, then hurry to confer and consult with him."

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After the Rains Retreat had ended, Ven. Ajahn Mun and his party set out to walk down towards Sakhon Nakorn.

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11.1 Returning Home to Assist my Mother, Uncle and Brother  

I had been thinking of my mother and so I returned home in order to assist her. I think I was successful in this respect, for I recommended that she observe the Eight Precepts and dress in white. On this occasion, my aunt, uncle and my elder brother were also all inspired with faith and determined to keep the Eight Precepts and wear white. This was especially so with my elder brother, for he left his wife and a newly born son of only a few months to ordain as a monk. I had them leave their village and follow the senior monks so that they could become better acquainted with Dhamma companions and receive training from many different meditation teachers. I followed along later with my brother and uncle, catching up with them at the village of Plah Lo, Phannah Nikom District, where Ven. Ajahn Singh had spent the Rains Retreat. He led our group on to establish a temporary base near the village of Ahgaht Amnoy. Not long after our arrival there, Ven. Ajahn Mun came to join us and he had me go on with him to set up a base near the village of Sahm Pong.

11.1 Returning Home to Assist my Mother, Uncle and Brother  

I had been thinking of my mother and so I returned home in order to assist her. I think I was successful in this respect, for I recommended that she observe the Eight Precepts and dress in white. On this occasion, my aunt, uncle and my elder brother were also all inspired with faith and determined to keep the Eight Precepts and wear white. This was especially so with my elder brother, for he left his wife and a newly born son of only a few months to ordain as a monk. I had them leave their village and follow the senior monks so that they could become better acquainted with Dhamma companions and receive training from many different meditation teachers. I followed along later with my brother and uncle, catching up with them at the village of Plah Lo, Phannah Nikom District, where Ven. Ajahn Singh had spent the Rains Retreat. He led our group on to establish a temporary base near the village of Ahgaht Amnoy. Not long after our arrival there, Ven. Ajahn Mun came to join us and he had me go on with him to set up a base near the village of Sahm Pong.

Living in close association with such senior monks was very good for me. It forces one to be mindful and alert at all times. One day, the novice who regularly attended on Ven. Ajahn Mun was absent so I took over his duties (acariya-vat'). One of these included going to sleep on the veranda of Ven. Ajahn Mun's hut. Venerable Ajahn Mun was usually awake and starting to meditate at three o'clock every morning. On waking he would immediately reach for a box of matches to light a candle and they would make a slight rattling noise. I felt obliged to be up before him each morning so that I could be quick enough to go into his room and attend to his needs. After sleeping there and doing this for many nights, Ven. Ajahn Mun obviously began to think that it was unusual because he asked me: "Venerable Thate, don't you ever sleep?". I replied that I certainly did.

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The climate[54] in Sahm Pong did not seem to agree with my health and constitution. Although I still had quite a good appetite I seemed to lack energy and my body continually ached and was stiff and sore all over. My meditation exertion, however, never faltered. After the meal, I would go into the jungle to find a secluded spot to develop calm in solitude throughout the day. During the night time I would walk in meditation and then go up to listen to Ven. Ajahn Mun's Dhamma talk that lasted from eight until ten o'clock. If a large gathering of monks was present, his Dhamma talk might not finish until midnight or two o'clock in the morning. Ven. Ajahn Mun always made sure that he kept up this way of teaching and training, and it continually inspired his circle of dedicated disciples to be zealous in their meditation practice.

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After Venerable Ajahn Mun left that place, Ven. Ajahn Sao took over for three years. I learned later that many monks who stayed on there had died. One was Ven. Ajahn Bhoo-mee who 'died' there only to recover.[55]

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Cập nhập ngày: Thứ Sáu 08-11-2006

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