I’m an English Buddhist monk of the Theravadin Thai Forest Tradition living and practising at the Forest Hermitage near Warwick.
(In Thailand with Luangpor Khemadhammo, my preceptor, and Chao Khun Dhammabhojo, my chanting ajahn.)
My life began in the village library. I was eighteen years old at the time, and I had just picked up an unassuming little white book called ‘How to Meditate’. I had certainly never been religious (far from it: I couldn’t stand religion) but I had always had questions: What is this life? What’s the point? Why am I here? Was I anything before I was born? Who am I? I had also been all too aware of a pervasive discontentment within myself from very early on. This twin conundrum is what eventually led me to pick up that book. I didn’t know it at that moment, but I had found what I was looking for.
After quickly leaving the library, I sailed home on my skateboard, kicked off my shoes at the door, sat down, and then opened the book – skipping straight to the instructions on mindfulness of breathing. I then focused my mind and my life was never the same again.
A month or so later my mother was flicking through a local newspaper when she came across an advert: ‘Meditation at The Forest Hermitage’. “Why don’t you give them a call?” she said, having seen a dramatic change come over her once troubled son. So, I went along and was soon attending almost every Monday and Friday open evening. I also tried to meditate at least twice a day at home as well as on the bus, in the library at college, and at every other available opportunity. I was excited. I was onto something
Then, one evening at the Hermitage, several months later, during the tea after the meditation session, Luangpor asked a young man who had been intending to become a novice when he was going to take the plunge. Hardly had that young chap answered when my mouth burst open: “How do you become a novice?”
Once everyone had left I stayed behind to ask Luangpor if I could become one. A few months later I was in robes. It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made! In May 2001 I received full ordination as a bhikkhu under Luangpor Khemadhammo and I’ve been training at the Forest Hermitage ever since, with a spell of sixteen months spent in Thailand from the end of 2011.
I’m often asked, especially at the schools, why I became a monk. For two reasons, I say: because I want to be free from suffering, and I want to know.
And I realise I don’t have much time.
I know my life would be very different if it wasn’t for Buddhism. And I realize that having access to Ajahn Chah’s teachings is a great privilege. When reading his words I feel like a weary man who has been stumbling through the desert and finds an oasis: he drinks and is refreshed; every sip is precious.
I’m deeply indebted to Luangpor at the Hermitage as well. He is a tremendous role model in many ways: his determination, sincerity, integrity, and strength of mind are second to none. I bow to the Buddha, Ajahn Chah and Luangpor.