Luang Ta Maha Bua

Luang Ta Maha Bua

by Jun Wei

Luang Ta Maha Bua (12th August BE 2456 - 30th January BE 2554) was a Thai Buddhist monk. He was thought by many of his followers to be an Arahant (monk that has attained enlightenment). He was a disciple of Ajarn Mun Bhuridatta and was also considered a master in the Thai Forest Tradition. Following the death of Ajarn Thate in BE 2537, Luang Ta Maha Bua was considered to be the Ajarn Yai (head monk) of the Thai Forest Tradition lineage until he passed on in 30th January BE 2554. 

In fact , Luang Ta Maha Bua was born in Baan Taad village in the northeastern province of Udon Thani. He was part of the 16 siblings of a rich rice farmer’s family. However, when he was at the age of 21, his parents asked him to enter the monkhood for a season as it is a Thai tradition to show gratitude towards one's parents. He entered Yothanimit monastery and was ordained on 12th May BE 2477 with CK Dhammachedi as his preceptor. His preceptor gave him the Pali name “Ñāṇasampanno” , meaning 'one endowed with wisdom'. At the time, Luang Ta Maha Bua had no intention of remaining as a monk for the rest of his life.

As Phra Ñāṇasampanno, he studied the incarnations of the Buddha and his Arahant disciples. He has said he was so impressed that he decided to seek the same enlightenment as Buddha's original disciples. He tried to understand the ways of practicing the Dharma which would eventually lead to Nirvana.

He studied Pali, the language of the Theravada Buddhist scriptures, as well as the Vinaya (the monastic rules of correct conduct). After 7 years, he passed the third level of Pali studies, and achieved the highest level in Dharma and Vinaya studies. He then concentrated entirely on the practice of Dharma in hopes of studying with Ajarn Mun who is known as one of the most renowned meditation monks of his time.  

Luang Ta Maha Bua then went in search of Ajarn Mun. When he finally met Ajarn Mun, he was pleased with his efforts, since it seemed as if Ajarn Mun already knew his desires, intentions, and doubts. Ajarn Mun then clarified the questions in his mind and showed him the paths leading to Nibbana still exist. Luang Ta Maha Bua then said to himself:

"Now, I have come to the real thing. He has made everything clear and I no longer have doubts. It is now up to me to be true or otherwise. I am determined to be true."

He learned the meditation methods followed by Ajarn Mun, based on the principles of Buddhism and the code of Buddhist discipline. He continued to follow these methods in his own teaching of monks and novices. Due to his deep respect and admiration for Ajarn Mun, whom he likens to a father and mother to his students, he was inspired to write a biography of Ajarn Mun to disseminate his methods of practice and document his character for coming generations. He has also written 'Wisdom develops samadhi' and "Patipada' His transcribed talks he gave to laypeople and monks have formed several hundred books in Thai language, but only a few of his talks have been translated into English. He solely focuses on the practice of Buddhist meditation and has only one aim for his disciples: Reaching the end of dukkha. Several hundred of talks given to his disciples were recorded and several thousand of talks given to laypeople, normally after the meal or in the evening were also recorded. He allowed them to be recorded, so that his fellow practitioners may have a guide in the practice of meditation.

In BE 2493, after Ajarn Mun passed on, Luang Ta Maha Bua sought a secluded place. He went to Huey Sai village in Mukdahan Province. He was very strict and serious in teaching the monks and novices, both in the austere dhutanga practices and in meditation. He continued his teaching until these same principles became established amongst his followers.

Learning that his mother was ill, he returned home to look after her. Villagers and relatives requested that he settle permanently in the forest south of the village and no longer wander in the manner of a forest monk. As his mother was very old and that it was appropriate for him to look after her, he accepted the offer. With a donation of 64 acres of land, he began to build his monastery in November BE 2498. The monastery was named Wat Pa Baan Taad.

Luang Ta Maha Bua said:

"This monastery has always been a place for meditation. Since the beginning it has been a place solely for developing the mind. I have not let any other work disturb the place. If there are things which must be done, I've made it a rule that they take up no more time than is absolutely necessary. The reason for this is that, in the eyes of the world and the Dharma, this is a meditation temple. We are meditation monks. The work of the meditation monk was handed over to him on the day of his ordination by his preceptor — in all its completeness. This is his real work, and it was taught in a form suitable for the small amount of time available during the ordination ceremony — five meditation objects to be memorized in forward and reverse order — and after that it's up to each individual to expand on them and develop them to whatever degree of breadth or subtlety he is able to. In the beginning the work of a monk is given simply as: Kesa — hair of the head, Loma — hair of the body, Nakha — nails, Danta — teeth, Taco — the skin which enwraps the body. This is the true work for those monks who practice according to the principles of Dharma as were taught by Buddha."

The wilderness surrounding the monastery has vanished, as it has now been cleared for cultivation. The forest inside the monastery is all that remains. Wat Pa Baan Taad preserves this remnant in its original condition, so that monks, novices, and lay people can use its tranquility for the practice of the Dharma as taught by Buddha.

Luang Ta Maha Bua even traveled to London to give lectures. He also founded the Help Thai Nation Project, a charitable effort dedicated to helping the Thai economy. He has been visited and supported by the King and Queen of Thailand.

His biographer wrote:

"Luang Ta Maha Bua is well known for the fluency and skill of his Dharma talks, and their direct and dynamic approach. They obviously reflect his own attitude and the way he personally practiced Dharma. This is best exemplified in the Dhamma talks he gives to those who go to meditate at Wat Pa Baan Taad. Such talks usually take place in the cool of the evening, with lamps lit and the only sound being the insects and cicadas in the surrounding jungle. He often begins the Dharma talk with a few moments of stillness — this is the most preparation he needs — and then quietly begins the Dhamma exposition. As the theme naturally develops, the pace quickens and those listening increasingly feel its strength and depth."

Luang Ta Maha Bua observes the essential enduring truth of the sentient being as constituted of the indestructible reality of the citta (heart/mind), which is characterized by the attribute of Awareness or Knowingness. This citta, which is intrinsically bright, clear, and Aware, gets superficially tangled up in samsara but ultimately cannot be destroyed by any samsaric phenomenon. Although Luang Ta Maha Bua is often at pains to emphasise the need for meditation upon the non-Self (anatta), he also points out that the citta, while getting caught up in the vortex of conditioned phenomena, is not subject to destruction as are those things which are impermanent, suffering, and non-Self (anicca, dukkha, anatta). The citta is ultimately not beholden to these laws of conditioned existence. The citta is bright, radiant, and deathless, and is its own independent reality.

The fundamental problem that besets human beings, according to him, it is that they have taken fake and false things as their true self and lack the necessary power to be their 'own true self'; they allow the wiles and deceits of the mental defilements to generate fear and anxiety in their minds. Fear and anxiety are not inherent within the citta; in fact, the citta is ultimately beyond all such things and indeed is beyond time and space. But it needs to be cleansed of its inner defilements (the kilesas) before that truth can be realised.

Luang Ta Maha Bua goes on to attempt to describe the inner stages and experience of the cleansed citta. When its purgation of defilements is complete, it itself does not disappear – only the impermanent, suffering, and the non-Self disappear. The citta remains, experientially abiding in its own firm foundation, yet ultimately indescribable.






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