This year, four of our western monasteries had the good fortune to host Luang Por Liem during a one month trip to America. With him was Luang Por Jundee, Ajahn Sek, Ajahn Moshe and Ajahn Thaniyo. They went to Tisarana Monastery in Ottawa, Canada, then Temple Forest Monastery in New Hampshire, Pacific Hermitage, and Abhayagiri.
For those who have never before heard the names of these monks: Luang Por Jundee has been ordained for 40 years and is the abbot of Wat Ampawan, a monastery located in a beautiful mountain wilderness in Chonburi Province. Ajahn Sek has been ordained for 17 years, and heads up a small jungle hermitage in the Sayoke National Park region, Kanchanaburi Province, near the Burmese border. Ajahn Moshe has been ordained for 15 years and lives in a monastery in Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand. Ajahn Thaniyo is an Australian monk who has been ordained for 10 years and came to translate for and attend to Luang Por Liem.
Luang Por Liem is a very humble monk and an extraordinary example of what can be achieved in the practice. When you first meet him, he appears to be simply a happy old monk who likes to look at plants. Its unlikely that you would figure out that he’s the abbot of Wat Pah Pong and looks after the physical and spiritual well-being of over 350 Wat Pah Pong branch monasteries. Below are some highlights of his visit to Abhayagiri.
The group arrived on the evening of Monday, July 6th, after their tour of Portland and Pacific Hermitage. Each day he gave a Dhamma reflection before the meal, and during evening tea answered questions and offered further reflections. Some of these teachings were recorded and are posted on our audio page. He also spent time each day strolling around the Reception Hall construction site, finally commenting that “you’ll be able to use it for 100-200 years.” On Tuesday, the group visited the giant coastal redwoods west of Abhayagiri, and Luang Por Liem commented that if you were willing to go without food for a week, you could walk on tudong to those redwoods and meditate there for a few days.
On Wednesday, the lunar observance day, Luang Por Jundee had the opportunity to walk the alms round in Ukiah, and gave the evening Dhamma talk. The next day the group was invited to take the meal in Sebastopol, and many of the supporters of Abhayagiri took the opportunity to join in. Luang Por Liem gave some reflections in conjunction with the meal. Afterwards they went for a walk on the Mendocino coast.
On Saturday, July 11th, we decided to have both the meal and the evening puja and Dhamma talk in the new Reception Hall. Luang Por Liem gave a talk before the mealtime. The Abhayagiri community spent the day preparing the meditation hall section of the new building, covering sections of the walls with monk’s robes and temporarily closing off some of the window openings with tarps and plexi glass. For the evening, Luang Por Liem led us in some lengthy paritta chanting (protective verses chanted in pali), to generate blessings for the new building. We meditated for a while, and the atmosphere was very peaceful, it was wonderful.
After the meditation, the Abhayagiri community took formal leave of Luang Por Liem, as he was to leave the next morning. The traditional candles, flowers, and incense were offered, and we chanted the verses of asking for forgiveness. Then Luang Por gave the talk, with a brilliant translation by Ajahn Thaniyo.
On Sunday the group left Abhayagiri early in the morning and had the meal at Wat Buddhanusorn in Fremont. After the meal, Luang Por Liem gave a talk, with another surprisingly good translation by Ajahn Thaniyo.
As the group was not returning until the 16th, there was some time to do some sightseeing. That included spending two days in and around Yosemite, and visiting the marine mammal center near the Golden Gate bridge. Then, the group departed for Thailand to prepare for the entering of the annual Rains Retreat.
Many thanks to all the people who made it possible to properly host and look after our great Ajahns! These kind of visits wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the immense amount of support that Abhayagiri receives from the wider community.
“If Luang Por Chah were still alive, he’d be happy with what’s happening at Abhayagiri” - Luang Por Jundee