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Forest monks

Thudong monks believe that the practice of wandering went back to the Buddha's time. They think that the value of the Dharma is not to be found in reading and studying but in training the mind. The best place to study the Buddha's teaching is not in a confortable Buddhist temple but inside a deep and remote forest.

Thudong monks (พระธุดงค์) valued wandering as an ascetic practise, as a mean of training the mind to face hardship and the unpredictable.
Buddha statue
Buddha statue
Mosquito net
When sleeping outdoor, wandering monks use a mosquito net called "KLOT" (กลด).
Mosquito net

The "KLOT" is a large umbrella equipped with an insect screen and a wooden pole that could be pitched and set up like a small round tent to protect monks from dew and insects.

In earlier times, meditation teachers lives with nature and did not try to build anything. Being an abbot was a burden and an obstacle to practising meditation for those masters. Nowadays, offering buildings is the Buddhist religious activity that most interests lay people.
Buddha statue
Buddha statue

The awarding honorific titles given to abbots are in conflict with the Buddhist core fundamentals that urged monks to turn away from wordly distinctions of authority, status and wealth.

Buddha statue
Local Buddhist traditions, which emphasized meditation, were associated with mysticism. Meditation fell from favor among the urban elites.
Buddha statue

There was a wide gap between Thammayut administrators, who favored the ideal of a settled monastic life and Thammayut thudong monks, who favored the wandering ascetic ideal. This cultural gap was between the Lao Thudong monks and the Bangkok trained monks.

Thudong monks had their own tradition, i.e. wandering between rain retreats and training monks and novices in meditation.
Buddha statue
Buddha statue

In Thai Buddhism, original Pali language is still used. In China traductions have been done for Chinese Buddhism.

Buddhist temple
Thammayut abbots forbade monks from doing major construction and maintenance work activities that they considered secular.
Buddhist temple

Thammayut authorities recruited the wandering monks to teach the Dharma to villagers and to build forests permanent temples. The military coups d'etat of years 1957 and 1958 signified a major change for Thudong monks. Under martial law, any unconformist monk was at risk to be labeled as insurgents and communist sympathizers. Many Thudong monks have no choice but to settle and establish their own permanent forest temple.

Thudong monks practises include wearing patched-up robes, possessing only three robes, going out for alms and not omitting any houses on the almsround, having only one meal a day, wandering in forest areas, sleeping in the sitting position, being content with whatever shelter is provided.
Buddha statue
Buddha statue

In the Northeast, vast parts of forests have been turned into single crop plantations producing food for exports. In 1961 the forests represented 42% of Northeast region but only 14% in 1988.

Novice
Monks can no longer find remote forests inhabited by tigers or isolated caves where they can stay for long periods undisturbed. The few wild remaining forests have been declared national parks and are so off-limits for forest monks.
Novice

Many big temples in Isan have community radio stations. Most DJ are the monks.

In 1970s, socially engaged monks have helped villagers create producers' cooperatives, credit unions, child care centers, buffalo banks and forest conservation measures.
Buddhist temple
Buddhist temple


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