Buddhadasa Bhikkhu or "Servant of the Buddha" is a controversial Thai monk of the forest tradition who was born in 1906 and died in 1993.

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu entered a monastery in 1926, moving to Bangkok from his southern Thai home and beginning the study of Buddhism and Pali. After six years studying, however, he grew disgusted with the noise and filth of the city, and decided that in order to really understand the dhamma he would need to live in harmony with nature. He moved back to the south and established a Buddhist community and centre for the study of the dhamma which he named Suan Mokkhabalarama, "The Grove of the Powers of Liberation", though it is more commonly known as Suan Mokkh. There he set about extensive research into the Pali canon, especially the Sutta Pitaka, working to establish what he called "pristine Buddhism" unpolluted by commentary, ritual, or politics. He also undertook intensive practice of vipassana (insight) meditation. His modest goal was to produce a complete set of references for present and future research and practice.

At the heart of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's teachings is the simple Buddhist message that one much give up the "I" and "mine" that produce attachment and suffering. But he also adopted a pro-environmentalist, anti-materialist stance that did not endear him to the leaders of the Thai state, though it did attract those disaffected with the rapidly modernizing kingdom to him.

In the 1970s Thailand faced some rough times. Two student-led revolts in Bangkok led to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people being shot, and many more fleeing to the jungle to join the outlawed Communist Party. Official hysteria over communism reached a peak at this time, and Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's unashamed promulgation of what he called Dhammic Socialism led to his being denounced as a communist.

All through his life he was a figure of controversy, celebrated by some, reviled by others.

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu became better known outside Thailand when he began to champion inter-religious cooperation, and argued for the acceptance of farang - foreigners - into his community to be taught the dhamma. He supported teaching and ordination of women, though there is no extant order of bhikkhuni in any Theravada Buddhist country.

Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu wrote many books and received five honorary doctorates from Thai universities, even though his formal education only went as far as ninth grade and beginning Pali studies.

If you want to know more about Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu and Suan Mokkh, visit
http://www.suanmokkh.org/tanaj1.htm

There's a copy of one of his books, Handbook for Mankind, online at
http://www.buddhanet.net/budasa2.htm

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