Male Monastic Community
The bhikkhu community at Amaravati was founded by Luang Por Sumedho in 1984. Its first members came from Cittaviveka Monastery. Many had spent some time training in Thailand at Wat Pah Pong.
There are usually between fifteen and twenty-five bhikkhus and sāmaneras in residence at Amaravati, living a contemplative, celibate, mendicant life according to the Vinaya and Dhamma. They provide a living link with the Order founded by the Buddha over two thousand years ago. The community also includes anagārikas, white-robed postulants observing the Eight Precepts, who after a year or two may be given sāmanera ordination.
The community is not static as there are close links with the other branch monasteries in England and abroad; bhikkhus and sāmaneras move between the monasteries.
In November 2010 Luang Por Sumedho handed over the duties of Abbot of Amaravati to Ajahn Amaro and is now based in Thailand, where his monastic life began in 1966.
Monks – (bhikkhus)
Luang Por Sumedho
Luang Por Sumedho (Ajahn Sumedho) was born in Seattle, Washington in 1934. After serving four years in the US Navy as a medic, he completed a BA in Far Eastern Studies and a MA in South Asian Studies.
In 1966, he went to Thailand to practise meditation at Wat Mahathat in Bangkok. Not long afterwards he went forth as a novice monk in a remote part of the country, Nong Khai, and a year of solitary practice followed; he received full admission into the Sangha in 1967.
Although fruitful, the solitary practice showed him the need for a teacher who could more actively guide him. A fortuitous encounter with a visiting monk led him to Ubon province to practise with Venerable Ajahn Chah. He took dependence from Ajahn Chah and remained under his close guidance for ten years. In 1975, Luang Por Sumedho established Wat Pah Nanachat (International Forest Monastery) where Westerners could be trained in English.
In 1977, he accompanied Ajahn Chah to England and took up residence at the Hampstead Vihara with three other monks.
Luang Por Sumedho has inducted more than a hundred aspirants of many nationalities into the samaṇa life, and has established four monasteries in England, as well as branch monasteries overseas. In late 2010 he retired as abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire. Since then he has been living in Thailand, and continues to share the Dhamma both there and in other countries.
Born in England in 1956, Ven. Amaro Bhikkhu received a BSc. in Psychology and Physiology from the University of London. Spiritual searching led him to Thailand, where he went to Wat Pah Nanachat, a Forest Tradition monastery established for Western disciples of Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah, who ordained him as a bhikkhu in 1979. Soon afterwards he returned to England and joined Ajahn Sumedho at the newly established Chithurst Monastery. He resided for many years at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, making trips to California every year during the 1990s.
In June 1996 he established Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, where he was co-Abbot with Ajahn Pasanno until 2010. He then returned to Amaravati to become Abbot of this large monastic community.
Ajahn Amaro has written a number of books, including an account of an 830-mile trek from Chithurst to Harnham Vihara called Tudong - the Long Road North, republished in the expanded book Silent Rain. His other publications include Small Boat, Great Mountain (2003), Rain on the Nile (2009) and The Island - An Anthology of the Buddha's Teachings on Nibbana (2009) co-written with Ajahn Pasanno, a guide to meditation called Finding the Missing Peace and other works dealing with various aspects of Buddhism.
In December 2015, along with Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Amaro was honoured by the King of Thailand with the ecclesiastical title ‘Chao Khun’. Together with this honour he was given the name ‘Videsabuddhiguna’.
Ajahn Nyanarato (Shigehito Nakao) was born in 1958, in Nara, Japan. His profound interest in the meaning of life began when he was being trained as a doctor in Kyoto University.
After graduation, he decided to go to India on a spiritual quest instead of becoming a doctor. He spent one year there and then moved on to Thailand, where he visited various monasteries including Wat Pak Nam and Wat Suan Mokkh.
After another year of exploring in Thailand he came to Wat Pah Nanachat. Impressed by the serene presence of the Sangha there, he finally found a place to settle. In 1986 he was ordained as a sāmanera and he received upasampadā the following year.
Later, Ajahn Nyanarato started to live under the guidance of Ajahn Gavesako, a senior Japanese disciple of Luang Por Chah. In 1989, they walked together on pilgrimage from Tokyo International Airport to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (around 1,000 kilometres). This took 72 days and was supported by the words of Ajahn Gavesako, “every single step of ours is a peace march.”
When Ajahn Gavesako set up Wat Sunandavanaram in Kanchanaburi in 1990, Ajahn Nyanarato joined that community and lived there for ten years. He also worked for Maya Gotami Foundation, a charity for poor youth in Thailand established by Ajahn Gavesako.
In 2000, Ajahn Nyanarato went to Nepal, intending subsequently to spend a few years in Sri Lanka, but the political situation there at that time did not allow him to do so. As he was also interested in learning how to live in the Sangha in the West, he came to England instead and spent the Vassa at Chithurst. He moved to Amaravati in 2001. Deeply inspired by Luang Por Sumedho and his teaching, he has resided there ever since.
Ajahn Dhammanando grew up in Carshalton, Surrey, a fairly typical South London suburb. He attended Mitcham Grammar School and went on to study English and History at Keele University in Staffordshire, at a time when the curriculum there was broad and multi-disciplinary.
He was aware internally of certain deep, barely articulated questions, but did not pursue a spiritual quest to find answers to them because to him the religions which he encountered in the UK appeared only marginally relevant. He was forced to the conclusion that other people must have similar questions but that everyone suppressed them. It was after graduation, on going to Thailand as a volunteer teacher for Voluntary Service Overseas that he found some initial signposts, although at that time he had almost no understanding of Buddhism. The Thai people lived in a different way and different values were in evidence; he found this inspiring.
The culture shock on his return to the UK was far worse than the initial shock in Thailand. He did his best to take up a career and do the conventional things, but that shock of return to the West only served to deepen his questionings. But when he first heard the Dhamma from Ajahn Sumedho at Hampstead in January 1982, having been invited to a ceremony there by a Thai student, he began to feel a resonance. A month later the Thai friend took him to visit Chithurst Monastery and at Easter that year he took part in a ten-day retreat during which both the teaching and the practice succeeded in unlocking doors and opening windows. For the first time ever, those deeper questions had begun to be addressed.
He continued his career as a lecturer in Industrial Language Training, but began to spend more time with the Sangha, usually going on brief retreats or giving lifts to monks. In 1984 he helped to establish a meditation group in Northampton, and he hosted those senior monks who came there to teach. In 1985 he took a year off work to spend time as an anagārika at Amaravati and Chithurst. This experiment finally extended to twenty months, and although he eventually returned to the lay life it was to a different job, teaching in a secondary school in Croydon.
During the next four and a half years he studied for an MA at Essex University, among other things. The realization gradually dawned that being ordained was what he really needed to do, and that his more worldly interests were of lesser importance. In 1991 he returned to Amaravati to re-ordain as an anagārika and was happy to spend two years in that role there and in two other monasteries.
In July 1993 he took upasampadā with Luang Por Sumedho at Chithurst and trained initially with Ajahn Sucitto as his acariya (instructor). Between 1997 and 2004 he went on to train in Switzerland, then Italy, followed by a return to Amaravati and then to Chithurst again, before going overseas to Australia and New Zealand. He spent time in different monasteries in Australia, before living for two years at Bodhinyanarama Monastery in Wellington.
He returned to the UK in May 2007 to be nearer his parents, and, since then, has been resident at Amaravati, but he has also made occasional trips abroad to teach in France, Slovenia and Hungary. He currently makes regular teaching visits to a local prison and assists in receiving school groups at the monastery. He often offers basic instruction in meditation at Amaravati on Saturday afternoons.
Bhikkhu Vinīta was born in Embilipitiya, Sri Lanka, in January 1977, and joined the Sangha there as a Sāmanera (novice) in 1994. His first meditation teacher, Venerable Inguruwatte Piyananda Mahanāyaka Thera, was the mentor who gave him the Sāmanera ‘going forth’.
In 1995 Bhikkhu Vinīta met Ajahn Vimalo, one of the Western disciples of Ajahn Sumedho who was living in Sri Lanka at that time. This meeting finally brought Bhikkhu Vinīta for his first visit to Amaravati in 2003.
In 2005 he returned to Amaravati to stay and practise the monastic life with Ajahn Sumedho as his teacher. In 2006 he received full acceptance into the Bhikkhu Sangha (Upasampadā) in the Temple at Amaravati, with Ajahn Sumedho as his Upajjhāya (preceptor).
Since then Bhikkhu Vinīta has spent time in other Forest Sangha associated monasteries in the UK. Currently he is back at Amaravati practising monastic life under Ajahn Amaro.
Ajahn Kaccāna was born in 1976 in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. While he was in high school, his parents introduced him to the practice of meditation as taught by Śri Ecknath Easwaran. After graduating from Harvey Mudd College in Southern California, he moved north to Berkeley to pursue graduate study in physics. In Berkeley, he continued daily meditation practice, went on retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and participated in the Abhayagiri Upāsaka program. Realizing that monastic practice might be of great benefit to himself and others, Ajahn Kaccāna came to Abhayagiri a month after completing his PhD. Ajahn Amaro, co-abbot of Abhayagiri at the time, gave him the anagārika going forth on October 7, 2006. After training as an anagārika and sāmaṇera, Ajahn Kaccāna received the higher ordination on October 26, 2008, with Ajahn Pasanno as his preceptor.
In June 2011, Ajahn Kaccāna moved to Wat Pah Nanachat to begin a year of practice in Thailand. While in Thailand, he also spent time in the remote jungle monasteries of Dtao Dum and Poo Jom Gom. He deeply appreciated the opportunity to connect with the physical roots of the Thai Forest Tradition and be with teachers like Luang Por Liem.
Shortly after returning from Thailand, Ajahn Kaccāna suffered a knee injury which prevented him from sitting on the floor or returning to Thailand. After spending six consecutive years at Abhayagiri, he suggested to Ajahn Pasanno that a change of scene would be helpful. "Go to Amaravati and spend time with Ajahn Amaro," was the reply. The English Sangha Trust supported him with a two-year visa, and Ajahn Kaccana arrived to a warm welcome in June 2019.
Ven. Santamano was born in Wallasey in 1980. He and his parents moved to India for a few years before returning to England in 1993. His initial interest in Buddhism came through reading the works of D T Suzuki and started going to meditation classes at the Buddhist Society in London. There he learned of Amaravati and started listening to Dhamma Talks on the Internet.
Ven. Santamano began visiting Amaravati as a guest and coming to retreats. He took the anagarika precepts in December 2008 and received the pabbajja (novice 'going forth') on 27 July, 2010, with Luang Por Sumedho as preceptor. On 10 July, 2011 Ven. Santamano received the upasampadā, or full admission into the bhikkhu sangha, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Venerable Dīpako was born in Rennes, France, of Chinese-Cambodian parents. At university he studied civil engineering and graduated with a master’s degree. During his annual holidays he made several trips to South-East Asia. In 2006, while travelling in Thailand, he was fortunate to meet a Thai student who took him to Wat Pah Nanachat, the International Forest Monastery. It was there that he developed a great interest in Buddhism, particularly in the tradition of Ajahn Chah. He spent one year at Amaravati as an anagārika, after which he formally requested the Sāmanera Pabbajja (novice going forth) at a ceremony held on 26 October 2013. His upasampadā, or full admission into the bhikkhu sangha, was held at Amaravati on 21 December 2014, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Venerable Supañño was born in France in 1978. After obtaining a degree in physics he moved to England, where he discovered Buddhism and meditation. His interest in meditation grew and the scientific aspect of Theravada Buddhism attracted him. He decided to leave the lay life after spending some time in a Theravada monastery. His anagārika precept ceremony was held in 2011 at Chithurst, and received the Sāmanera Pabbajja, or novice 'going forth', at Amaravati in October 2014. His upasampadā, or full admission into the bhikkhu sangha, was held at Amaravati on 29 November 2015, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Venerable Anejo was born in Sweden in 1982. He always had an interest in the big questions in life, and the Buddha’s path seemed to offer a meaningful and most worthwhile way of living. Inspired by the great Thai Forest teachers, he took up practice in the Theravada tradition. After visiting several monasteries and training for one year in Thailand, he decided to continue his training in the West. His anagārika ‘going forth’ ceremony was held in December 2013. He formally requested the Sāmanera Pabbajja (novice going forth) at Amaravati in December 2014. His upasampadā, or full admission into the bhikkhu sangha, was held at Amaravati on 29 November 2015, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Venerable Balado (Walter Meusburger) was born in 1960 in Goetzis, Austria into a family with a roman catholic background. After commercial school and army service he worked in accounting for some years. Then studied social work in Bregenz, most of the time working in the field of addiction therapy.
In 1992 he attended a zen sesshin (retreat) led by a jesuit priest, where he learned the practice of sitting in stillness and appreciated the simple structure of the formal meditation and the focus on the body-mind. Two years later he turned his interest to the teachings of the Buddha and joined sesshins in the soto-zen tradition with Fumon Nakagawa Roshi.
In 2006, he took a 4-month-sabbatical in Thailand and attended several retreats at Wat Kow Tahm. He was particularly affected by the teachings on the five hindrances which brought a new understanding to the practice of meditation with regard to experiences of distress in daily life. The teachings on Anapanasati at Wat Suan Mokkh also became a substantial support as a way of coping with distress and developing an anchor for the body-mind. It was at this time, that the vision of a simple life as a monk first crossed his mind, but the household life seemed still be bearable and gratifying enough.
In 2014, after another time-limited work contract, he decided to take up the ‘homeless life’ and become an anagārika. His Anagārika Precept Ceremony was held at Amaravati on 2 May 2015. He then received the Pabbajjā or novice 'going forth' on 20 May 2016, and full acceptance into the Bhikkhu-Sangha on 2 July 2017, with Ajahn Amaro acting as preceptor.
Bhikkhu Pasādo was born in Bletchley, England in 1970. His first contact with Buddhism happened through a number of inspiring events of good fortune and acts of kindness from people he met while travelling through India. It was at this time that the idea of becoming a Buddhist monk first arose in his mind.
Later Bhikkhu Pasādo encountered the Thai Forest Tradition through attending meditation classes at a Samatha Meditation Centre, while he was studying in Manchester. He was inspired by a book he received about the life of Ajahn Tate, who practised meditation in the seclusion of the forests of Thailand.
After completing his degree course, his interests in hydrogeology took him to Kent where he lived and worked for many years. Bhikkhu Pasādo started attending a local Buddhist group in Maidstone, Kent, which greatly helped to support and deepen his practice. It was during this time that Bhikkhu Pasādo first heard the teachings of Ajahn Chah and was inspired by his simple, direct style of teaching.
Bhikkhu Pasādo began attending meditation retreats at a number of centres around England including Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. His confidence grew in the Buddhist path and with it came a firm aspiration to enter into monastic training. Eventually, through good fortune, the right conditions came about for him to leave the household life and enter into homelessness, and his Anagārika Precept Ceremony was held on the full moon observance day on 2 May 2015. He received the Pabbajjā or novice 'going forth' in a ceremony held at Amaravati on 20 May 2016, and Full Acceptance into the Bhikkhu-Sangha on 2 July 2017, with Ajahn Amaro acting as preceptor.
Bhikkhu Pasādo would like to express his heartfelt gratitude for all of the kindness and wisdom he has received from those practising Dhamma across the world.
Venerable Issaro was born in Stalowa Wola, south-east Poland, in 1985. His search for true happiness brought him to the Buddha’s teachings. Initially he did not want to meditate, until he read the life story of an extraordinary female meditation master, Dipa Ma, which marked a turning-point in his life. In 2009 he attended his first 10-day Vipassana Meditation course, taught by SN Goenka. While his interest in the Dhamma was increasing, he discovered the teachings of Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho and other great Thai Forest Tradition masters. He decided to request to undertake the anagārika training at Amaravati, and his Anagārika Precept Ceremony was held on 17 November 2013. Venerable Issaro received the pabbajja or novice 'going forth' in a ceremony held at Amaravati on 2 May 2015. On 27 July 2018, he received full acceptance as a Bhikkhu with Ajahn Amaro as preceptor.
Ven. Manuñño (Didier Linares) grew up in the South of France. As a teenager, a brief description of Buddhism in a book led to a Eureka moment and an ongoing fascination with Buddhism. He went on study chemistry, but just before completing his engineer’s degree, he moved to London in the late 90s, where he ended up working as a night editor in a media monitoring company. In 2004, the obsessive reading of Dhamma books resumed and the search for ‘the perfect teacher’ began. The journey started with Tibetan Buddhism before discovering the teaching of Dogen Zenji and Soto Zen. In 2006, while looking online for longer meditation retreats near London, he found Amaravati. Numerous retreats at Amaravati Retreat Centre led to a growing appreciation for the teaching of Luang Por Chah and the Thai Forest Tradition, and culminated in Ven. Manuñño joining the community as the Retreat Centre Household Manager, a role he remained in for three years. In 2016, Ven. Manuñño finally decided to jump in the deep end by requesting the Anagārika training. On 27 July 2018, he received full acceptance as a Bhikkhu with Ajahn Amaro as preceptor.
Bhikkhu Jayadhammo was born in Doncaster, England in 1979. He joined the community at Harnham Buddhist Monastery in 2013, where he stayed for three years, initially as a lay-resident and then going on to train as an Anagarika. He continued his training at Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, where he received Pabbajja as a Samanera ('Going Forth' as a novice monk), before joining the community at Amaravati in 2018.
Before joining the monastic life, Dīghadassī (Jeroen Akershoek) was living and working in the Netherlands as a System Developer and Administrator. He had a good job, but felt uncomfortable about being part of an economic society that is based on greed and competition, while the negative impact this has on people and the environment is so obvious. It seemed to him that living this way had no meaningful purpose, but he could not see an alternative. Subsequently, he became interested in meditation but eventually grew weary because it only seemed to offer temporary relief from the stress of modern society. It did not give him the answers he was looking for.
In 2013 he came in contact with the Buddha's Teachings through a 10 day Goenka Vipassana course, which had a big impact on him. It gave him the confidence and trust that there actually is a complete teaching for living a wholesome and purposeful life. One year later, after reading the book 'The Buddha and his Teachings' by Ven. Narada, he seriously started thinking about entering the monastic life. He discovered the Thai Forest Tradition and was drawn by Ajahn Chah's simple and direct teachings. He started living at Amaravati in 2016. His upasampadā or full acceptance into the Bhikkhu Sangha was in December of 2018.
Sāmanera Jalito was born in Latvia in 1986. His first contact with Buddhism came during his studies in high school. At the age of 21, when going through a difficult time in his life, he came upon a transcript of a talk given by Ajahn Sumedho. It deeply resonated with Sāmanera Jalito, and for the first time he visited one of the monasteries established by Ajahn Sumedho. After years of trying to settle in the worldly life, he returned to a monastery at the age of 28. Two years later he took on the training and white robes as an anagārika, and received the pabbajja or novice 'going forth' in a ceremony on the 3 June 2018, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Novice Monks – Sāmanera
Sāmanera Khemadassī was born in OC California in 1988. Most of his childhood he spent in Southern Austria, where his mother is from. There he completed an apprenticeship in the franchise catering trade. Late 2008 he returned to the US to study Horticulture at LBCC and continued working in this field until the spring of 2015.
His first contact with Buddhism was at the age of sixteen, reading “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse. Shortly after returning to the US, he benefitted from the teachings of various Vipassana Teachers including Gil Fronsdal and Victor Byrd. Soon he joined a 10 day Vipassana Retreat and continued practising in the Tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. The strong wish for a more dedicated Dharma lifestyle arose. A couple of years later, he came across talks by Luang Por Sucitto whose teachings resonated with him a lot.
The following three years, he spent his time travelling to different monasteries in Europe and SE Asia looking for a community to live and practice with. Eventually, in November 2017 he became a white-robed renunciate at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery under the guidance of Ajahn Amaro. After having spent the summer at the branch monastery Dhammapala in Switzerland, he returned to his home monastery and formally received permission to ordain as a novice monk (Sāmanera).