Buddhism: Theravada: Teachers & Teachings
Theravāda Buddhism: Teachers & Teachings
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On this page you can find the best resources for exploring scholarly and popular perspectives on important teachers and teachings in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. Each book listed below is linked to WorldCat, where you can discover library holdings for that item in your region. Resources within the gallery box are arranged from the newest to the oldest publications, left to right.
Above: A Theravada monk walks across a platform inside the old train station in Bangkok, Thailand.
Image source: Unsplash.com. Image author: Ryan Tang. Image license: Unsplash license. Image has been cropped without altering content.
Buddhaghosa (5th c. CE)
A 5th-century Indian Theravada Buddhist commentator, translator and philosopher. He worked in the Great Monastery (Mahāvihāra) at Anurādhapura, Sri Lanka and saw himself as being part of the Vibhajjavāda school and in the lineage of the Sinhalese Mahāvihāra. His best-known work is the Visuddhimagga ("Path of Purification"), a comprehensive summary of older Sinhalese commentaries on Theravada teachings and practices. The interpretations provided by Buddhaghosa have generally constituted the orthodox understanding of Theravada scriptures since at least the 12th century CE. He is recognized by both Western scholars and Theravadins as the most important philosopher and commentator of the Theravada, but is also criticised for his departures from the canonical texts. Limited reliable information is available about the life of Buddhaghosa. The Mahavamsa records that Buddhaghosa was born into a Brahmin family in the kingdom of Magadha. He is said to have been born near Bodh Gaya, and to have been a master of the Vedas, traveling through India engaging in philosophical debates. Only upon encountering a Buddhist monk named Revata was Buddhaghosa bested in debate, first being defeated in a dispute over the meaning of a Vedic doctrine and then being confounded by the presentation of a teaching from the Abhidhamma. Impressed, Buddhaghosa became a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) and undertook the study of the Tipiṭaka and its commentaries. In Sri Lanka, Buddhaghosa began to study what was apparently a very large volume of Sinhala commentarial texts that had been assembled and preserved by the monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya. Buddhaghosa sought permission to synthesize the assembled Sinhalese-language commentaries into a comprehensive single commentary composed in Pali. Traditional accounts hold that the elder monks sought to first test Buddhaghosa's knowledge by assigning him the task of elaborating the doctrine regarding two verses of the suttas; Buddhaghosa replied by composing the Visuddhimagga. His abilities were further tested when deities intervened and hid the text of his book, twice forcing him to recreate it from scratch. When the three texts were found to completely summarize all of the Tipiṭaka and match in every respect, the monks acceded to his request and provided Buddhaghosa with the full body of their commentaries. The details of this traditional account cannot readily be verified; while it is generally regarded by Western scholars as having been embellished with legendary events, in the absence of contradictory evidence it is assumed to be generally accurate.
Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Buddhaghosa unless otherwise noted.
Ledi Sayadaw (1846 – 1923)
An influential Theravada Buddhist monk and teacher. Sayadaw began his studies at age 20 in Mandalay at Thanjaun. While there he was considered to be a bright and ambitious young monk, but his work remained academic; there is no evidence that Sayadaw engaged in a serious meditation practice during his years in Mandalay. After a great fire in 1883 caused the loss of his home and his writings, Sayadaw returned to the village of his youth. Soon afterward, he founded a forest monastery in the "Ledi forest" and began practicing and teaching intensive meditation there. It was from this monastery that he would take his name, Ledi Sayadaw, meaning "respected teacher of the Ledi forest." In 1885, Ledi Sayadaw wrote the Nwa-myitta-sa (နွားမေတ္တာစာ), a poetic prose letter that argued that Burmese Buddhists should not kill cattle and eat beef and that the marketing of beef for human consumption threatened the extinction of buffalo and cattle. He subsequently led successful beef boycotts during the colonial era, despite the presence of beef eating among locals and influenced a generation of Burmese nationalists in adopting this stance. In 1900, Sayadaw gave up control of the monastery and pursued more focused meditation in the mountain caves near the banks of the Chindwin River. At other times he traveled throughout Burma. Because of his knowledge of pariyatti (theoretical doctrine), he was able to write many books on Dhamma in both Pali and Burmese languages such as, Paramattha-dipani (Manual of Ultimate Truth), Nirutta-dipani, a book on Pali grammar and The Manuals of Dhamma. At the same time he kept alive the pure tradition of patipatti (practice) by teaching the technique of Vipassana to a few people. Ledi Sayadaw was one of the foremost Burmese Buddhist figures of his age. He was instrumental in reviving the traditional practice of Vipassana, making it more available for renunciates and lay people alike.
Left: An early portrait of Ledi Sayadaw. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Unknown. Image license: Public domain. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Sayadaw unless otherwise noted.
Nyanatiloka Mahathera (1878 – 1957)
One of the first westerners in modern times to become a bhikkhu, a fully ordained Buddhist monk. Born in Wiesbaden, Germany as Anton Walther Florus Gueth, and trained as a classical musician and composer, the young Nyanatiloka had a great love of nature, of solitude in the forest, and of religious philosophical thought. He was brought up as a Catholic and as a child and adolescent he was quite devout, absorbing himself in The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. From the age of seventeen he was a vegetarian and abstained from drinking and smoking. Around the same time he conceived a great love for philosophy, studying Plato, Descartes, Kant, von Hartmann, and especially Schopenhauer. While visiting a vegetarian restaurant, he heard Theosophical lecturer Edwin Böhme give a talk on Buddhism, which made him immediately an enthusiastic Buddhist. The following day his violin teacher gave him The Buddhist Catechism by Subhadra Bhikshu and another book on Buddhism that gave him the desire to become a Buddhist monk in Asia. After studying composition with Charles-Marie Widor in Paris, he gradually traveled east, earning money on the way by playing the violin. In 1903, at the age of 25, Nyanatiloka briefly visited Sri Lanka and then proceeded to Burma, where he met the English Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya and was ordained as a Theravada Buddhist novice. In January or February 1904 he received full acceptance into the Sangha (upasampada) and became a bhikkhu with the name of Ñāṇatiloka. In 1906, Nyanatiloka published his first Buddhist work in German, Das Wort des Buddha, a short anthology of the Buddha's discourses arranged by way of the framework of the Four Noble Truths. In English translation, it became one of the most popular modern Buddhist works. After several unsuccessful attempts to found a Theravada monastery in Europe, Nyanatiloka eventually founded the Island Hermitage in Sri Lanka in 1911.
Left: A portrait of Nyanatiloka Thera. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Unknown. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Nyanatiloka unless otherwise noted.
Nyanaponika Thera (1901 – 1994)
A German-born Theravada Buddhist monk, ordained in Sri Lanka, co-founder of the Buddhist Publication Society, contemporary author of numerous seminal Theravada books, and teacher of contemporary Western Buddhist leaders such as Bhikkhu Bodhi. He was born in Hanau, Germany on 21 July 1901 as Siegmund Feniger, the only child of a Jewish family. In 1921, he moved with his parents to Berlin, where he met German Buddhists and also had access to German-language Buddhist literature. He first came across the writings of Nyanatiloka Thera, which had recently been published in Germany, and subsequently learned that Nyanatiloka had established a monastery for Western monks, named Island Hermitage, on an island lagoon in Sri Lanka. This news stirred his conscience to go to Asia and become a Buddhist monk. When Hitler came to power in Germany, he and his mother left Germany in November 1935 and moved to Vienna, where they had relatives. Having arranged for his mother to stay in Vienna, in early 1936 he finally was able to leave Europe for Sri Lanka, where he joined Nyanatiloka at the Island Hermitage. After several months of studies, in June 1936 he was ordained as a novice and was given the name Nyanaponika. In 1937 he received upasampada (higher ordination) under the tutelage of Nyanatiloka. In 1939, after the Nazis invaded Poland, Nyanaponika arranged for his mother and other relatives to move to Sri Lanka. When World War II broke out in 1939, the British Government had all German males resident in their colonies consigned to internment camps, suspecting them to be German spies. Nyanaponika's and Nyanatiloka's internment was first at Diyatalawa Army Cantonment in Sri Lanka, and later at Dehra Dun in northern India. Despite traumatic experiences as a prisoner of war, during this period Nyanaponika Thera completed German translations of the Sutta Nipata, the Dhammasangani, and the latter's commentary. He also compiled an anthology of texts on Satipatthana Meditation. This work was begun at Diyatalawa, and it was finished while he was interned at Dehra Dun. With the cessation of war, the two bhikkhus were released from internment at Dehra Dun. They returned to Sri Lanka in 1946 and resided at the Island Hermitage, Dodanduwa. In early 1951 Sri Lanka granted citizenship to both of them. In 1947, Nyanaponika joined Nyanatiloka at the new Kandy Hermitage. In 1952, both Venerable Nyanatiloka Thera and Nyanaponika Thera were invited by the Burmese (Myanmar) Government to be consultants to the Sixth Buddhist Council, to be convened in 1954 to re-edit and reprint the entire Pali Canon and its commentaries. After their work with the Council was completed, Nyanaponika stayed in Burma for a period of training in vipassana (insight meditation) under the renowned meditation teacher Mahasi Sayadaw Thera. This experience motivated him to write his best-known work, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, which has been reprinted in many editions and translated into many languages.
Left: A portrait of Nyanaponika Thera. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Unknown. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Nyanaponika Thera unless otherwise noted.
Above: Five immense statues of the Buddha dominate the skyline at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, a temple in Khao Kor, Phetchabun Province, in north-central Thailand.
Image source: Unsplash.com. Image author: Céline Haeberly. Image license: Unsplash license.
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (1906 – 1993)
A famous and influential Thai Buddhist monk and ascetic-philosopher of the 20th century. Known as an innovative reinterpreter of Buddhist doctrine and Thai folk beliefs, Buddhadasa fostered a reformation in conventional religious perceptions in his home country, Thailand, as well as abroad. Buddhadasa developed a personal view that those who have penetrated the essential nature of religions consider "all religions to be inwardly the same", while those who have the highest understanding of dhamma feel "there is no religion". He was born Nguam Phanit in 1906 in Ban Phumriang, Chaiya District, southern Thailand. His father, Sieng Phānit, was a shopkeeper of second generation Thai Chinese (Hokkien) ancestry, while his mother, Klaun, was Thai. Buddhadasa renounced civilian life in 1926. Typical of young monks during the time, he traveled to the capital, Bangkok, for doctrinal training but found the wats there to be dirty and crowded, as well as - what was most troubling to him - the monastic order to be corrupt, "preoccupied with prestige, position, and comfort with little interest in the highest ideals of Buddhism." As a result, he returned to his native rural district and occupied a forest tract near to his village, founding Suan Mokkh in 1932. In later years, Buddhadasa's teachings attracted many international seekers to his hermitage. His aim in these discussions was to probe the similarities at the heart of each of the major world religions. Before his death in 1993, he established an International Dhamma Hermitage Center across the highway from his own retreat to aid in the teaching of Buddhism and other yogic practices to international students. However, Buddhadasa was skeptical of his fame; when reflecting on the busloads of visitors to Suan Mokkh he would say, "sometimes I think many of these people just stop here because they have to visit the bathroom."
Left: A portrait of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, pictured at Wat Suan Mokkh in southern Thailand. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Unknown. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu unless otherwise noted.
Ajahn Chah (1918 – 1992)
A Thai Buddhist monk, influential Buddhist teacher, and founder of two major monasteries in the Thai Forest Tradition. Respected and loved in his own country as a man of great wisdom, he was also instrumental in establishing Theravada Buddhism in the West. More than one million people attended Ajahn Chah's funeral in January 1993, held a year after his death due to the crowds. He left behind a significant legacy of dhamma talks, students, and monasteries. Chah was born into a family of subsistence farmers near Ubon Ratchathani in the Isan region of northeast Thailand. Following tradition, Ajahn Chah entered the monastery as a novice at the age of nine, where, during a three-year stay, he learned to read and write. Chah chose to leave the settled monastic life in 1946 and became a wandering ascetic after the death of his father. He walked across Thailand, taking teachings at various monasteries. Among his teachers at this time was Ajahn Mun, a renowned meditation master in the Forest Tradition. Ajahn Chah lived in caves and forests while learning from the monks of the austere and rigorous Forest Tradition. After years of wandering, Ajahn Chah established Wat Nong Pah Pong monastery near his birthplace in 1954, where he would teach his simple form of meditation. He attracted a wide variety of disciples, which included the first Westerner, Venerable Ajahn Sumedho, in 1966. Wat Nong Pah Pong now includes over 250 branches throughout Thailand, as well as over 15 associated monasteries and ten lay practice centers around the world. In 1975, Wat Pah Nanachat (International Forest Monastery) was founded with Ajahn Sumedho as the abbot, the first monastery in Thailand specifically geared towards training English-speaking Westerners in the monastic Vinaya as well as the first run by a Westerner. Several of Ajahn Chah's Western students have since established monasteries worldwide.
Left: A portrait of Ajahn Chah. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: 淳和. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Ajahn Chah unless otherwise noted.
Nanavira Thera (1920 – 1965)
An English-born Theravada Buddhist monk, ordained in 1950 in Sri Lanka. He is known as the author of Notes on Dhamma, which were later published by Path Press together with his letters in one volume titled Clearing the Path. He was born Harold Edward Musson at a military barracks at Aldershot in England. His father, Edward Lionel Musson, was Captain in the 1st Manchester Regiment. He spent his youth in the environs of Alton, a small town in the Hampshire Downs, and was equally influenced by the nearby town of Aldershot. It is also very likely that the young Musson spent some time in India or Southeast Asia while his father was on his military assignments. Musson went to Wellington College, Berkshire, followed by Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1938, and spent that summer learning Italian in Perugia, Italy. In June 1939, he sat for Mathematics, and, in 1940, for Modern Languages, in which he earned a "Class One". Immediately after the outbreak of war, in 1939, he enlisted in the Territorial Royal Artillery. In July 1941, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Intelligence Corps, where his work as an interrogator made his knowledge of modern languages an important asset. In October 1942, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and in April 1944, to Temporary Captain. His overseas service with the British Eighth Army was spent primarily in Italy, from 1943 to 1946. Despite his military background, a family acquaintance spoke of him as having "completely resented warfare", a sentiment borne out in one of his letters, written in 1964 in Ceylon. Included in the letter were some sardonic comments to the effect that he had much enjoyed travel before his wartime service, and that he agreed with the classification of intelligence into three classes; "human, animal, and military". He received a B.A. degree in Modern and Medieval Languages from Cambridge University for six terms of university study together with three terms allowed for military service. When the war ended Musson was, according to his own account, in no special need of money and very dissatisfied with his life. In 1948 he was living in London, sharing a flat with a good friend and onetime fellow-officer, Osbert Moore, who felt similarly dissatisfied. They decided to settle their affairs in England, put society behind them, and go to Ceylon to become Buddhist monks. In 1949 they received Novice Ordination from Nyanatiloka Thera at the Island Hermitage, and in 1950 the higher ordination as bhikkhus in Colombo. Osbert Moore was given the monastic name of Ñāṇamoli, and Harold Musson that of Ñāṇavīra. Ñāṇavīra Thera inclined to solitary life and after a few years at the Island Hermitage, he went to a remote section of southeast Ceylon, where he lived alone for the rest of his life in a one-room, brick-and-plaster hut with a tile roof, not far from the village of Bundala, on the edge of a large bird sanctuary. Not long after arriving in Ceylon, he contracted a severe case of amoebiasis which continued to plague him for the next fifteen years. The tropical climate and the local food must have been taxing for the physically ailing Westerner. Bhikkhus only accept food which is offered to them by laypeople, and this custom often leaves them with few options concerning their diet. Ñāṇavīra wrote extensively and carefully on the question of suicide, which arose for him because of the severity of his health problems. He took his own life on 5 July 1965.
Left: A portrait of Nanavira Thera. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Path Press. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Nanavira Thera unless otherwise noted.
Ayya Khema (1923 – 1997)
A Buddhist bhikkhuni (nun) and teacher, who was very active in providing opportunities for women to practice Buddhism and founded several centers around the world. Over two dozen books of her transcribed Dhamma talks in English and German have been published. In the last year of her life, she also published her autobiography: I Give You My Life. She was born as Ilse Kussel in Berlin, Germany in 1923 to Jewish parents. In 1938, her parents escaped from Germany and traveled to China while plans were made for Khema to join two hundred other children emigrating to Glasgow, Scotland. After two years in Scotland, Khema joined her parents in Shanghai. With the outbreak of the war, Japan conquered Shanghai and the family was moved into the Shanghai Ghetto in Hongkew where her father died five days before the war ended. As the People's Liberation Army were on the cusp of taking Shanghai, Khema and her family fled for San Francisco, California, United States. Extensive travel with her husband and children led her to Mexico, South America, New Zealand, and Pakistan, after which she finally settled in Sydney, Australia, where she began to study with Phra Khantipalo. To further her studies, Khema traveled to San Francisco to study Zen at the San Francisco Zen Center. She then spent three weeks in Burma where she studied meditation with students of U Ba Khin. Khema's desire to become a Buddhist nun led her to Thailand, then Sri Lanka, where she met Nyanaponika Thera who introduced her to Narada Maha Thera, who subsequently gave her the name Ayya Khema. A 1983 return trip to Sri Lanka inspired her to teach jhana meditation. As it was not possible at the time to organize an ordination ceremony for bhikkhunis in the Theravada tradition, Ayya Khema then received complete monastic ordination at the newly built Hsi Lai Temple, a Chinese Mahayana temple, in 1988. Khema was one of the organizers of the first International Conference on Buddhist Women in 1987 which led to the foundation of the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women.
Left: Ayya Khema receives a lotus flower for her birthday in 1993. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: nyana_ponika. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Ayya Khema unless otherwise noted.
Above: Traditional monastic alms bowls await their users before an ordination ceremony at a Theravada monastery.
Image source: Pixabay. Image author: truthseeker08. Image license: Pixabay license.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana (born 1927)
A Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk, often affectionately referred to as Bhante G. Henepola Gunaratana was born Ekanayaka Mudiyanselage Ukkubanda in the small Sri Lankan village of Henepola. He was ordained as a monk at the age of 12 in a temple in Malandeniya Village, Kurunegala District. He received upasampada (higher ordination) in 1947, at the age of 20, in Kandy. He was first educated at Vidyasekhara Pirivena Junior College, a monastic school in Gampaha, then received his higher education in Sri Lanka at Vidyalankara College in Kelaniya and the Buddhist Missionary College, an affiliate of the Maha Bodhi Society, in Colombo. After completing his education, he was sent to India for missionary work as a representative of the Maha Bodhi Society, where he primarily served the dalit (so-called "untouchable") population in Sanchi, Delhi, and Bombay. He was invited to the United States by the Sasana Sevaka Society in 1968 in order to serve as the General Secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society of Washington, D.C., and was elected president of the Society twelve years later. While serving in this office, he has conducted many meditation retreats and taught many courses in Buddhist Studies. Gunaratana earned a bachelor's, master's, and doctorate in philosophy at American University, and has gone on to teach graduate-level courses on Buddhism at multiple significant American institutions of higher learning. He is the author of the bestselling book Mindfulness in Plain English and currently serves as the abbot of the Bhavana Society, a monastery and meditation retreat center that he founded in High View, West Virginia.
Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana unless otherwise noted.
Joseph Goldstein (born 1944)
One of the first American vipassana teachers; co-founder, with Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg, of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS); contemporary author of numerous popular books on Buddhism; resident guiding teacher at IMS; and leader of retreats worldwide on insight (vipassana) and lovingkindness (metta) meditation. While the majority of Goldstein's publications introduce Westerners to primarily Theravada concepts, practices and values, his 2002 work, One Dharma, explored the creation of an integrated framework for the Theravada, Tibetan and Zen traditions. Born and raised in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, Goldstein graduated from Columbia University in 1965 with a degree in philosophy. That same year, he joined the Peace Corps and served in Thailand, where he first became interested in Buddhism. After his time in the Peace Corps, he spent most of the next seven years in India studying and practicing Buddhist meditation. In 1974, he began teaching at Chögyam Trungpa's Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and has been leading vipassana and metta retreats worldwide since that time. In 1975, he co-founded IMS in Barre, Massachusetts, where he later co-founded the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in 1991. He also co-founded the IMS Forest Refuge for long-term personal retreats in 1998.
Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Joseph Goldstein unless otherwise noted.
Jack Kornfield (born 1945)
A bestselling American author and teacher in the vipassana movement in American Theravada Buddhism. He has taught meditation worldwide since 1974 and is one of the key teachers behind the introduction of Buddhist mindfulness practice in the West. Born to Jewish parents, Kornfield is one of four brothers, and a fraternal twin. After graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in Asian Studies in 1967, Kornfield joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Thailand. There he met and became a monk under the renowned forest master Ajahn Chah, and later practiced with Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma and Dipa Ma. Kornfield returned to the United States in 1972 and, in the summer of 1974, participated in the founding session of Naropa Buddhist University. From the associations of this period came the Insight Meditation Society, which he co-founded in 1975 with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein in Barre, Massachusetts. In 1987, he co-founded Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. Kornfield has organized teacher training for many of the vipassana teachers in America and led international gatherings of Buddhist teachers, including the Dalai Lama, and has worked as a peacemaker and activist. Trained with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Saybrook Institute, Kornfield has written extensively on the bridge between Eastern and Western psychology.
Left: A portrait of Jack Kornfield. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Marcy Harbut. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Jack Kornfield unless otherwise noted.
Thānissaro Bhikkhu (born 1949)
Also known as Ajahn Geoff, Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu is an American Buddhist monk in the Thai Forest Tradition. Since 1993 he has served as abbot of the Metta Forest Monastery in San Diego County, California, the first monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition in the US, which he cofounded with Ajahn Suwat Suvaco. Ṭhānissaro was born Geoffrey DeGraff in 1949 and was introduced to the Buddha's teaching on the Four Noble Truths as a high schooler, during a plane ride from the Philippines. At Oberlin College in the early 1970s, Ṭhānissaro took a religious studies class when he found out there was meditation involved. Ṭhānissaro writes: "I saw it as a skill I could master, whereas Christianity only had prayer, which was pretty hit-or-miss." After graduating in 1971 with a degree in European Intellectual History, he traveled on a university fellowship to Thailand. After a two-year search, Ṭhānissaro found a forest teacher, Ajahn Fuang Jotiko, who insisted that his scholarly American student put his books aside. After a brief stay with the teacher was cut short by malaria, he returned to the U.S. to weigh the merits of academia and monasticism. Ṭhānissaro states that when he returned to Thailand he originally planned on becoming a monk tentatively for five years. When he said that he wanted to be ordained, Ajahn Fuang made him promise to either "succeed in the meditation or die in Thailand. There was to be no equivocating." Upon hearing this, certainty arose in Ṭhānissaro's mind, and he ended up studying with Ajahn Fuang for 22 years. Instead of taking the position of abbot after Ajahn Fuang's death, he travelled to San Diego in 1991 upon the request of Ajahn Suwat Suvaco, where he helped start Metta Forest Monastery and became abbot there in 1993. In 1995, Ṭhānissaro became the first American-born, non-Thai bhikkhu to be given the title, authority, and responsibility of Preceptor (Upajjhaya) in the Dhammayut Order. He also serves as Treasurer of that order in the United States. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu is perhaps best known for his translations of the Dhammapada and the Sutta Pitaka – almost 1000 suttas in all – providing the majority of the sutta translations for the reference website Access to Insight, as well as for his translations from the dhamma talks of the Thai forest ajahns. He has also authored many dhamma-related works of his own, and has compiled study-guides of his Pali translations.
Left: Thanissaro Bhikkhu on alms-round. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Sakula (Mary Reinard). Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Image has been cropped without altering its content. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, and all those in the following gallery are edited and/or translated by him.
Ajahn Brahm (born 1951)
Phra Visuddhisamvarathera AM, known as Ajahn Brahmavaṃso, or simply Ajahn Brahm, is a British-Australian Theravada Buddhist monk. Currently Ajahn Brahm is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia. Born Peter Betts in London, Brahm came from a working-class background. He won a scholarship to study theoretical physics at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge in the late 1960s. After graduating from Cambridge, he taught in high school for one year before traveling to Thailand to become a monk and train with Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Brahm was ordained in Bangkok at the age of 23, and subsequently spent nine years studying and training in the Thai Forest meditation tradition. After practicing for nine years as a monk, Ajahn Brahm was sent to Perth by Ajahn Chah in 1983, where he eventually co-founded Bodhinyana Monastery. This was to become the first dedicated Buddhist monastery of the Thai Theravada lineage in the Southern Hemisphere, and is today the largest community of Buddhist monks in Australia. Initially there were no buildings on the land, and as there were only a few Buddhists in Perth at this time, and little funding, the monks themselves began building to save money. Ajahn Brahm learnt plumbing and bricklaying and built many of the current buildings himself. On 22 October 2009, Ajahn Brahm, along with Bhante Sujato, facilitated an ordination ceremony in Perth for four bhikkhunis (nuns): Ajahn Vayama and Vens. Nirodha, Seri, and Hasapañña, were ordained into the Western Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha. Although there had been bhikkhuni ordination in California and Sri Lanka, this was the first in the Thai Forest Tradition and proved highly controversial in Thailand. There is no consensus in the wider tradition that bhikkhuni ordinations could be valid, having last been performed in Thailand over 1,000 years ago, though the matter has been under active discussion for some time. Brahm claims that there is no valid historical basis for denying ordination to bhikkunis. Brahm has also openly spoken about his support for same-sex marriages; at a conference in Singapore in 2014, he said he was very proud to have been able to perform a same-sex marriage blessing for a couple in Norway, and stressed that Buddhist teachings don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Left: A portrait of Ajahn Brahm. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Goh. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Ajahn Brahm unless otherwise noted.
Above: A row of stupas at Kuthodaw Pagoda, Mandalay, Myanmar.
Image source: Unsplash.com. Image author: Camille San Vicente. Image license: Unsplash license.
Bhikkhu Anālayo (born 1962)
A Theravada Buddhist monk, scholar, and meditation teacher. He was born in Germany in 1962 and is best known for his comparative studies of Early Buddhist texts as preserved by the various early Buddhist traditions. In 1994 he went to Sri Lanka, looking to meet Nyanaponika Thera after having read his book The Heart of Buddhist Meditation. Sadly, Nyanaponika passed away just days before Analayo's arrival, but the latter stayed on and studied with Bhikkhu Bodhi. In 1995 he entered monastic life, and received hisupasampada (full ordination) in 2007 in the Sri Lankan Shwegyin Nikaya. Bhikkhu Bodhi has been Bhikkhu Anālayo's main teacher. Bhikkhu Anālayo completed a Ph.D. thesis on the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta at the University of Peradeniya in 2000, which was later published as Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization. During the course of that study, he had come to notice the interesting differences between the Pāli and Chinese Buddhist canon versions of this early Buddhist discourse. This led to his undertaking habilitation research at the University of Marburg, completed in 2007, in which he compared the Majjhima Nikāya discourses with their Chinese, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist canon counterparts. In 2013 Anālayo then published Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna, where he builds on his earlier work by comparing the parallel versions of the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta and exploring the meditative perspective that emerges when emphasis is given to those instructions that are common ground among the extant canonical versions and thus arguably represent their earliest root. The textual study of early Buddhist discourses in comparative perspective forms the basis of his ongoing research. At present he is the chief editor and one of the translators of the first English translation of the Chinese Madhyama-āgama, and has undertaken an integral English translation of the Chinese Saṃyukta-āgama, parallel to the Pali Saṃyutta Nikāya collection. The theoretical and practical aspects of meditation remain central to Anālayo’s academic activity. He has published several articles on insight and absorption meditation and related contemporary meditation traditions to their textual sources. Having researched attitudes towards bhikkhunis (female monastics) in early Buddhist texts as well as the history of the foundation of the bhikkhuni order has allowed him to be a supporter of bhikkhuni ordination, which is a matter of controversy in several traditions.
Left: A portrait of Bhikkhu Anālayo. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Bhikkhu Anālayo. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All books in the gallery immediately below are by Bhikkhu Anālayo unless otherwise noted.
Above: The distinctive, monumental smiling portraits of gods and bodhisattvas that can be found across the towers of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are generally believed to be portraits of Jayavarman VII, the Khmer emperor and ambitious builder who expanded and completed the Angkor Wat complex begun by his predecessor, Suryavarman II.
Image source: Pixabay. Image author: Simon. Image license: Pixabay license.