I usually only go to Thailand once a year, in January. That’s my normal habit. But every year in June there is a big Sangha meeting at Wat Nong Pah Pong and I know I really ought to try and go to that sometimes. The trouble is not only the expense but the fact that I love the long, light, summer evenings here and I’m reluctant to be away and miss them.
This year I heard that there was something to be discussed at that annual meeting that I felt I should lend my support to and I was encouraged to go, so I went. It was only a short trip. I flew out from London on the midday flight on Tuesday, June 14th and I returned the following Monday, arriving back at the Forest Hermitage in the evening.
Having left here on Tuesday, it meant I arrived in Thailand early Wednesday morning. I was met and taken immediately to Yod’s place to eat and from there on to Don Meuang Airport for the domestic flight to Ubon. At Ubon I was taken first to Wat Pah Pong to join a meeting of the Maradoc Dhamm, the organisation that looks after Ajahn Chah’s books and image. I didn’t stay too long. Then I went over to check in at Wat Pah Nanachat where I had a quick shower and rest before going back again to Wat Pah Pong for a preliminary meeting in preparation for the big meeting the next day.
Thursday morning I went for alms in Bahn Bungwy and then later on, shortly before midday, we went over to Wat Pah Pong for the big meeting. The opening chanting was already under way when we got there so we had to quickly find our places and join in. It all went as well as could be expected and after about four and a half hours of sitting there without a break, all the time hot and sticky, it was over.
The next day, Friday, June 17th, was Luang Por Chah’s official birthday. We’ve worked out that he was probably born on May 17th, 1918, so I suppose June 17th was when his birth was registered. Anyway, the Friday was his official birthday so a few of us went over to Bahn Gawr to have a look at the huge stone pillar that’s been set up on the site of the home in which he was born. The idea for this pillar originated with the stone pillars that the Emperor Ashoka set up in various places in India that were closely associated with the Buddha. Like those this one is one solid piece of sandstone and something like 45 feet high. They’re still busy working on it, sculpting it and so on and the whole thing with the area around it surrounded with Ashokan style stone railings and murals is supposed to be ready in two year’s time, which will be Luang Por Chah’s centenary.
From there we went up the road to Wat Pah Pong and to the Ajahn Chah chedi to pay our respects at his relics.
That evening I flew down to Bangkok and from there I was driven to Cha’am for a couple of days quiet by the sea. And that was very nice with on both the days I was there some very welcome visitors. Then on the Monday it was an early morning drive to Bangkok, where I had a meal, got ready and then it was off to the airport for a very comfortable flight back to England.