Question: What single thing most impressed you about Luang Por Chah? With examples according to your experiences.
Answer: Well, it depends on what angle I look at it from. There’s not really any single thing that I can say is most important, there were many things that impressed me. Certainly, Luang Por Chah set an example for us in the sense that when he taught he didn’t just teach from theory, he was always present as an example of what was skilful and beautiful.
Images that come up in my mind are of Luang Por himself being a great teacher and everybody respecting him so much, but I remember a senior monk coming to visit Wat Pah Pong and Luang Por being very solicitous, paying respect and looking after this monk. So, that really impressed me, seeing the teaching put into action without him puffing himself up as “the Teacher”. It was a very direct teaching on not-self. It gave us a living example of the ease and freedom that comes from penetrating not-self, which is neither a theory, nor a Buddhist philosophy. So something like that is him living the example that he has set, rather than just giving us the philosophy. He had a great ability to teach and draw people to the Dhamma by using ordinary life situations.
An example? One time we were coming back from bindabat. I was walking along behind him, my Thai was not so good, so I was just being respectful and walking close by him. We came in from the back of the monastery and went towards the central path, and as we were walking through the forest, two lizards fell from a tree. Luang Por looked, then turned and said, “See those lizards, they were mating. If they weren’t caught in sensuality they wouldn’t have fallen and hurt themselves like this!” Very simple, and for a new monk a very funny and direct teaching.
These are very real situations, very ordinary, and very to the point. Luang Por’s ability to give examples and point to the things around us empowered us to see Dhamma ourselves, rather than looking to scripture or looking to him to see that dhamma is all around us and is something we can see for ourselves. So that was very empowering, both direct and human.
I think his humanness is really quite striking. One time I was looking after Luang Por Chah when he had some skin problems. I would go and help him put medicine on his skin - all around his bottom, back and legs there was this inflammation, so I would apply medicine and, of course, I would have to take off his sabong (under-robe) to do that. He asked, “Look at my bottom, does it look beautiful?” “It is not beautiful,” I would say. “Nobody would want it like this! Everybody who gets old, they all look like this.” Again, taking the ordinary and making it something that allows us to relinquish, to let go.
There’s also his extraordinary generosity, his willingness to give of himself, to give to people, his compassion, that was always very touching. He never really put himself first. There was one year I was living at Wat Pah Pong and upatthaking him (acting as his attendant). I had been a monk for many years by then and my Thai was very good, so I could understand what he was doing and what he was teaching. I used to spent quite a lot of time with him and stay with him until night time, and then put him to bed and massage him. It would be very rare for him to go to bed before midnight, and sometimes he would be up until 1am or 2am. Yet he was always willing to give to people who were interested in Dhamma, to give, to teach, to train, and was never looking to keep anything for himself. So that was complete relinquishment, complete renunciation. That was very powerful.
But it was very difficult to be his upatthak (attendant)! It was really hard work because he never had a schedule, he was just responding to situations in an appropriate way. His flexibility came from generosity and compassion, not from any logical sequence of how things should be. That was always very impressive. So there’s many different aspects of Luang Por Chah, its difficult to pin it down to just one. If you ask me again tomorrow different things will come up in my mind.