Words of wisdom
Ajahn Brahm 1951 – present
Is a British born Australian Buddhist monk from the Thai forest tradition and tutored under the auspicious Ajahn Chah. Born Peter Betts in London, England to a working class family, he was to have a normal upbringing for the time but whilst at school he showed exceptional abilities and won a scholarship to Cambridge university to study theoretical physics. It was at Cambridge university that a love affaire with Buddhism, eastern mysticism and meditation began and after graduation and a brief one year stint as a teacher he followed the hippy trail overland from England to the east finally finding his way to Thailand. At the age of 23 peter was ordained as a Buddhist monk in Bangkok. It was a chance encounter with Ajahn Sumedho that led him to the Thai forest tradition, where he settled and under the guidance of Ajahn Chah he would stay and study for 9 years. It was Ajahn Chah who asked him to help with teaching duties in Australia and together with Ajahn Jagaro they set up Bodhinyana monastery in Perth, Western Australia. This was the first Buddhist monastery in the Thai Theravada linage in the Southern Hemisphere, and still the largest today. In 1995 Ajahn Brahm took over as Abbott of Bodhinyana Monastery which is where he still resides today.
An amazing public speaker selling out concert venues across Singapore and Malaysia, author of two excellent books and credited with translating the Vinaya, the monastic code, into the English language. His easy going nature has earn’t him a large following and his down to earth style and approach make him one of the greatest living teachers of today.
Elkhart Tolle 1948 – present
Is a German Canadian spiritual teacher and author, best known for his work “the power of now”. He has been heralded as one of the most influential people living today. Born in a small town just outside of Dortmund, Germany, Tolle himself describes his childhood as depressing. His parents would fight a lot which led to them finally splitting up. He also grew up in a war torn Germany and experienced the devastation left, not just on the surface of bombed out buildings but deep scares it leaves within a nation. He suffered from depression, fear and anxiety from as early as he can remember, that is until the age 29 when living and studying in London, he was to experience an inner transformation that left him with an ever lasting inner peace and tranquility. He describes the experience as a discovery and dissolution of the self. After this awakening he spent a few years wandering in total bliss around London and was at this point he changed his name to Eckhart. He started to write “the power of now” and soon became a spiritual teacher with people seeking out his advice and wisdom. He moved to Canada in 1995 where he still spends most of his time teaching and living a simple life. Eckhart Tolle is not associated with any religion but has been influenced by Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism and the bible.
Baba Ram Dass 1931 – present
An American born spiritual teacher, author, charity founder and clinical psychologist. He wasn’t know as Ram Dass until later in life and was born as one Richard Alpert into a Jewish family from Massachusetts. Studying hard as a child would see the young Ram Dass complete his education with a Bachelor of Arts, Master and doctorate all specialising in psychology. He took a professorship at Harvard university where he was to write and publish his first book. It was also at Harvard he was to research the potential therapeutic effects of hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD and Psilocybin. The young Ram Dass was dismissed from Harvard just over a year later where he then moved to New York setting up a commune still experimenting with hallucinogenics searching for a route to the higher consciousness. It wasn’t until a trip to India in 1967 where he would meet his spiritual guru Neem Karoli Baba. He was given the name Ram Dass by his guru which means ‘servant of god’. Ram Dass learnt and studied with Neem Karoli Baba until his return to the untied states where he stayed at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico. It was hear that Tolle presented his manuscript entitled ‘From Bindu to Ojas’ to the foundation who would edit, illustrate and lay out the text to what would ultimately become the internationally best selling “The Power Of Now” a personal spiritual journey from psychedelics to enlightenment.
During the 70’s, 80’s and some of the 90’s Ram Dass focused on teaching, writing and founding numerous charitable non profit educational foundations ranging in diversity but all for the welfare of humanity. After a stroke in 1997 he has spent most of his time in residence on the island of Maui in Hawaii, where he still teaches and regularly gives a podcast. In summing up his life he is quoted as saying “I help people as a way to work on myself, and I work on myself to help other people”
Alan Watts 1915 – 1973
British born American philosopher, teacher, author and commentator he was to popularise eastern culture, philosophy and mysticism with a western audience. Born into a middle class family in Kent, England, where growing up he is said to of always been fascinated with the east, its mysticism and enchantment. From an early age he discovered Buddhism and meditation and at the age of 16 became the London Buddhist lodge’s secretary, at the time the Buddhist Lodge was run by Christmas Humphrey considered to be one of the forefathers of bringing Buddhism to the west. After his marriage to Eleanor and successful publication of his first book “Spirit of Zen” Alan moved to America where he had an eventful and fulfilling life, spending time as an episcopal priest, training in the ways of Zen Buddhism, had 3 marriages and seven children, he produced numerous works on the human conciseness and its experience all relating themselves through Zen, Buddhism and Hinduism. His later life was spent teaching and public speaking touring America and Europe he captivated audiences wherever he went with his philosophical and mystical insights which would have a great lasting impact on the audiences. Still today you can find Alan Watts talks on YouTube, and his talks still resonate truth in today’s world.
Ajahn Chah 1918 – 1992
Was a Buddhist monk of the Thai forest tradition, respected and well loved in his own country as a man of great wisdom, it wasn’t until the arrival of the hippies of the 1960’s that the west finally got to hear of this great spiritual master.
He was born into poverty in the northeast region of Thailand, his parents were rice farmers surviving from day to day. With no real education to be had in the region the young Ajahn would start his monastic training a the age of nine. He spent three years in the monastery where he learnt to read and write. He returned to work on the land of his parents but returned to monastic life at the age of 17. He was ordained at a local monastery where he stayed and practiced meditation until 1946 when he decided to become a wandering ascetic monk, a practice called dutong. He wandered learning from teachers of the time, by far his biggest influence was Ajahn Mun a renowned enlightened meditation master. He spent this time of his life meditating in caves and forests until finally establishing a monastery near his home town where he taught his simple meditation techniques and started to gain a large following of disciples and lay people alike. The arrival of the first western disciple, Ajahn Sumedho saw the development of a new monastery focused purely for the western mind filled with knowledge, the first of its kind in Thailand. A few years later Ajahn Chah was invited to give talks in England where he was to form the very first monastery in the Thai forest linage, called Chittaviveka. Ajahn Chah’s health was in decline by the early 1980’s and he was to suffer a massive stroke leaving him bedridden and unable to speak for ten years. Still in this condition he transmitted the teachings of the Buddha using his own body as evidence enough of impermanence and the importance of seeking refuge within ourselves. Ajahn Chah’s legacy of students continues today with Ajahn Brahm, Jack Kornfield, Ajahn Summadho and Ajahn Amaro to name just a few.
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