Life Story of  Venerable Acharn Thawee Bhaladhammo

 

 

Born in 1914 in Samut Prakaan Province, Thailand, into a deepsea fishing family with a large number of children, Acharn Thawee developed an interest in meditation when he was still a boy. He did not feel a strong connection to monks or temples, but when he was still in school he often slipped away to the forest to contemplate nature.

 

While practicing absorption on one of these excursions, he realized the truth of the Buddha’s teachings. Still, he did not become a religious man in the common sense of the term.

 

After serving in the Royal Thai Navy during World War II, he had to take over the family fishing business since all his brothers and sisters, who had been lucky enough to study abroad, were already involved in other jobs. He took care of the business and sent his nieces and nephews to study overseas. He never wished to have a family of his own, instead, he took every opportunity to go to the forest and meditate.

 

Once when Acharn Thawee was out with the crew on a deep-sea fishing expedition, they caught a dolphin and he saw tears in its eyes. After that the business began to seem like a burden, so he handed it over to relatives. At the age of 45 he went into the forest to stay. It is customary for Thai people to support serious meditators with what they need even if they are not monks, but Acharn Thawee preferred to look after himself, living on fruits and roots that he had foraged.

 

Once he became very sick. Through the power of his absorption he could suppress the fever and pain, but he grew very weak. Laypeople who sometimes visited him took him to see a physician. The doctor recommended that he become a monk in order to be supplied with the necessities of a spiritual life.

 

As a result Acharn Thawee decided to become a monk of the Dhammayut Sangha when he was 49 years old. Because he did not have a teacher he continued to stay alone in the forest. After a while he visited several famous teachers. Venerable Acharn Maha Bua invited him to stay at his temple and be his assistant teacher, but Acharn Thawee did not want to do Samatha practice only.

 

In 1965 he heard about Vivekasom Temple where the method of the Burmese teacher Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw was taught. Acharn Thawee practiced there, and soon they realized his high level of development and asked him to teach there.

 

Because Acharn Thawee found the technique of noting the present object and concentrating on the rising and falling of the abdomen very useful for the development of Insight knowledge, he agreed to stay at Vivekasom. Having developed Absorption power through Anapanasati  himself, Acharn Thawee thought that it is very difficult to go this way nowadays, because there are too many distractions in the world. Even if someone can build up Absorption, he still has to develop Insight knowledge. Consequently, he felt it would be much more useful to immediately develop Insight Meditation.

 

Acharn Thawee stayed at Vivekasom until 1981. He was known as an understanding, compassionate, and reliable Vipassana teacher. Because he spoke English fluently his particular responsibility was to supervise the Westerners, but he also had many faithful supporters among the Thai people.

 

One of them, Nai Sorn, offered him a piece of land in Chachoengsao Province, so in 1982 Sorn-Thawee Meditation Center was founded. In the following years a rapidly growing, modern center was built. About 100 people--monks, nuns, and laypeople-– stayed there permanently. Many of the Westerners who stayed at Sorn-Thawee in fact became monks or nuns and remained there for many years.

 

In 1994 Acharn Thawee was diagnosed with cancer, and had to go through three Operations in the following twelve months. He continued leading the Center for another two years. On the 5th of June, 1996, Acharn Thawee passed away.

 

“Who is dying? No one is dying. People say, ‘Oh, it’s Acharn Thawee. A good man!’

I know there is no Acharn Thawee…”