He Gave Me My Life
On the evening of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Ajahn Chah’s death, Ajahn Pasanno and the Abhayagiri community watched The Great Peace, an Italian television documentary of the state funeral of Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Pasanno helped extensively with preparations for the funeral, but it had been well over a decade since he saw this documentary. Amid discussion of the details of the funeral, a layperson asked Ajahn Pasanno about his feelings:
Q: Did you have tears?
AP: Uh… No.
Q: I figure you were so busy.
AP: I had no time. I was functioning on a couple hours sleep a night. I had a lot on my plate. My grieving took place way before, because Ajahn Chah was ill for so long. I had a long time to digest that, to come to grips with that.
Q: Did the process of grief ever hit emotionally at any one point?
AP: What hit was the grief of loss, and that happened in the early years of Ajahn Chah’s illness, realizing that he wasn’t ever going to be there in the same way that he was. But it was never really strong in the sense that in my own mind it was always, “Well, this is what he kept teaching you, mynae, that sense of ‘OK, this is uncertain.’ This has to be understood.” There was a sense of loss, but that was very personal. But then what also came up was a sense of tremendous gratitude, because he had given me my life: the ability to live a human life in the best way possible. Grief never really overshadowed that gratitude.
Q: Because I think you stayed with Ajahn Chah the longest. He never sent you out to a different country or any other place.
AP: Uh… right, right. Well, also just before he went down to Bangkok to go to the hospital for his treatment, when he ended up having a brain operation and a shunt put in, I was out at Wat Keun, one of the branch monasteries, and he sent word out to there to come back and prepare to take over Wat Pah Nanachat. So he appoints me abbot and then he goes and gets sick, so I had nobody else to consult with. So I stayed, and I was happy to do it.
Q: I know it’s probably not your personality, but when you were younger, when you were training with him, were you ever attached to him?
AP: Attached?… Well, no, not really…
Q: Like the way we are with you?
AP: No, not really. I mean I loved being around him, but I was also careful. I knew him well enough…. If you hang around him too much, you are going to be berated and scolded and get your butt kicked out of there. So I would have time with him in increments.
Q: I know that Ajahn Ñanadhammo said that Luang Por kind of kicked him. Did that ever happen [to you]?
AP: No. There was only one time where Ajahn Chah… well, no, there were several times he treated me roughly. But I didn’t have a problem with it.
This reflection by one of the monks of Abhayagiri was offered in memory of the 99th Anniversary of Luang Por Chah’s birth.