Joining us on this episode is a humble, yet trail-blazing monk from the forest tradition lineage of Ajahn Chah who is now the senior most bhikkhu at Abhayagiri Forest Monastery in California. I’m speaking of course of the Venerable Ajahn Pasanno. Ajahn Pasanno took ordination in Thailand in 1974 with Venerable Phra Khru Ñāṇasirivatana as preceptor. During his first year as a monk he was taken by his teacher to meet Ajahn Chah, with whom he asked to be allowed to stay and train. One of the early residents of Wat Pah Nanachat, Ajahn Pasanno became its abbot in his ninth year. During his incumbency, Wat Pah Nanachat developed considerably, both in physical size and reputation. Spending 24 years living in Thailand, Ajahn Pasanno became a well-known and highly respected monk and Dhamma teacher. He moved to California on New Year’s Eve of 1997 to share the abbotship of Abhayagiri with Ajahn Amaro. In 2010 Ajahn Amaro accepted an invitation to serve as abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England, leaving Ajahn Pasanno to serve as sole abbot of Abhayagiri for the next eight years. In spring of 2018, Ajahn Pasanno stepped back from the role of abbot and now serves as a guiding elder for the community. A quick note to listeners: I had a lot of problems with delayed echos across the original recording. I did a lot of editing to remove that echo, and I believe I’ve removed all of that which can be removed without changing the flow of the interview. I think it’s turned out quite well, but there are a few points at which we have echo or less than optimal audio. In any case, I think it’s a really interesting interview in which one of the most senior Western disciples of Ajahn Chah reflects upon life and the changing times as Buddhism comes to the West. I hope you all enjoy this interview with Ajahn Pasanno. Further information regarding to topic of this episode: Abhayagiri Forest Monastery Treasure Mountain Podcast links: Treasure Mountain Podcast Treasure Mountain on Facebook Everyday Dhamma Network Thank you for listening to the Treasure Mountain Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode please share it with you friends. If you'd like to support me to produce this type of content in future, you can support my work by offering a tip via the Ko-fi payment applet or via my Patreon.
AjahnPasanno interview – Following the path of a forest monk
Mon, Jul 03, 2023 1:31PM •
Ajahn Pasanno, Sol Hanna
Sol Hanna 00:01
Ajahn Pasanno, welcome to the podcast. And thank you so much for taking the time to join us. How are you today?
Ajahn Pasanno 00:08
Very good. Thank you. Good to be here.
Sol Hanna 00:11
Look, I'd like to get stuck into understanding your early life, I believe you grew up in Manitoba in Canada, up in the air up in the north of Manitoba indeed. And I was wondering what it was like growing up in such an isolated place. And whether this influenced you towards a spiritual theorist philosophical inquiry from a young age.
Ajahn Pasanno 00:33
I don't know that it influenced me other than drove me to it and
Ajahn Pasanno 00:43
you know, Northern, I was about, say, about 600 miles north of the American border. Small Town. Pretty rough. As really, and not much as spiritual kind of examples really. So that into, so it just, I think it ignited certainly in me, it ignited a kind of a yearning.
Sol Hanna 01:17
So you felt like you just wanted to get away and maybe see the world? Or did you feel like there must be something something different?
Ajahn Pasanno 01:24
Yeah, exactly. I say there's got to be something more than this.
Sol Hanna 01:28
Yeah. Okay. After you grew up, and you went to college, in Winnipeg, you traveled around the world and ended up in Thailand, what sets you off on this journey around the world?
Ajahn Pasanno 01:44
Well, it was both. It was a really yearning for something other than, than what I grew up with. And even what I was, was found at university just sort of looking for something. And, but then, even when I was at university, I did get introduced to Buddhism, I did. I mean, I took courses in, in, in religion, a couple courses, and that that really stimulated my interest and Eastern religion. But what really stood out to me was Buddhism. And then I started reading, I there was no, I really never ever found a place to learn meditation, or anybody who was meditating. It was it was really just from the books. And so I did. Mostly books. And in those days, most of the books were about Japanese. And so I had formulated an idea in my mind that I would like to go to Japan, and study Buddhism, because that was the main thing that I came across. In my readings, although I did read both Tera Vaada Buddhism, I did read about Tibetan Buddhism. But the, you know, the most popular thing in those days, because that was late 60s, was the and into early 70s. Most popular thing was was was in and it did have an express inclination to meditation. And that seemed intuitively I was drawn to the meditation element. But of course, I mean, if I really wanted to go really quickly, I was really for a really motivated I could have gone from Vancouver or to Japan, but I didn't I went I went the long way around and started in in Europe and traveled through Europe, Middle East, India, Nepal, Overland.
Sol Hanna 04:10
And he never did. He never did make it to Japan. You stopped at Thailand.
Ajahn Pasanno 04:15
I still haven't made it.
Sol Hanna 04:20
So why, why Thailand? What? What was it that attracted you to Thailand?
Ajahn Pasanno 04:26
One you just had to pass through Thailand. I didn't really know anything about Thailand. I didn't really know that it was a Buddhist country even and, but then you get there and it's it's obvious that Buddhism is everywhere. And then the elements of the society and culture that I found really attractive and the just the kind of warmth of the people and easygoing nature of the of the culture is just that Well, you know the major conditioning influenced in in there, here is the is Buddhism. So I should study Buddhism. And you know, there is there were monasteries everywhere and I started checking and asking and there was opportunities to learn about meditation
Sol Hanna 05:28
did you go on a retreat there? Or because you ended up ordaining in Bangkok? How did that all come about?
Ajahn Pasanno 05:35
did what I did go on a retreat My, my, the first, my introduction to meditation was a one month long, Mahasi Sayadaw intensive sort of, in a room by myself for, you know, for Yeah, it was, and, but I loved it. So I felt really drawn, I felt Oh, this is something I really can explore and, and really have to explore. So then I went, I had to where I did this, this retreat was up in the north of Thailand, and I had to go back down to, to Bangkok, because of some embassy business for a passport and I had to renew my passport. So I was there, I'd heard about a monastery in the outskirts of Bangkok that had a very good English Library, as well as a meditation section as a part of the monastery. So I went there, and yes, studying meditating. And then the monks, after a while seeing me sort of practicing and staying there that, that I, they kind of said, well, why why not ordain? Are you gonna ordain? And and no, I couldn't order, you know, I can't live like, couldn't live like this for the rest of my life. And which was my assumption from say, like, from Kathy tradition. But then they say, oh, no, in Thailand, you don't need to ordain for the you know, for your whole life, you can just do it for a short period of time of, of a few months, if you'd like, that's ordinary for time time men to do that. So then, a few months, I can do that. And that was the extent of my, my, my commitment. And so then I, I took that ordination. And, you know, they didn't really give me any training. But then I started hearing about the forest monasteries, in, especially in the northeast of Thailand, and then heard about Ajahn Chah. And it was that that really piqued my interest.
Sol Hanna 08:14
So, how did it come to be that you ended up with Ajahn Chah? What was it like that first time that you met Ajahn Chah?
Ajahn Pasanno 08:22
Well, the first time I met Ajahn Chah was really intimidating. Because I did, I was really newly ordained. My teacher at where I took ordination encouraged me to go up. He says Ajahn Chah is a very good teacher, go up and pay respects and spend a bit of time. So then I did, I took his suggestion went up there. And I arrived, and it's your pay respects, to this senior month, a teacher when you, you arrive, so I did that. And then Jen charges kind of looked at me, you know, with no real expression. And then he just said, if you want to stay here, you have to get at least five years.
Sol Hanna 09:21
What was your reaction to that to be intimidating?
Ajahn Pasanno 09:24
Oh, yeah, that was intimidating. Yeah, exactly. Five years, five years. You know, I'm in my early 20s. I mean, yours is the rest of your life.
Sol Hanna 09:36
For sure, yeah.
Ajahn Pasanno 09:38
And so I just couldn't quite get my mind around that. Even though I did love the monastery and the him as a teacher and the common community and the example of the of the Lake community as well. I mean, there's just seemed to be such sincerity. that I was really drawn to it. But just that idea of, of, of a long term commitment was just too much. So I left after a month. And then and then I went and stayed in a hose, a small meditation monastery in central Thailand. And the teacher there was he taught a particular method, he was quite well known at the time, he had a few Western disciples. So it wasn't too strange. And he did have a monk who could do some translation and Indian monk was, could translate his teachings. So I, I stayed there and practiced, although at that early few months of that, then he was, he wasn't there so much he was he was back and forth, he was in the process of kind of winding down a monastery that he had lived at as a teacher for a while, and he was building his own place. So I was in this new, quite small place. So it was very quiet. And so in the countryside, and I was able to do a lot of practice, and I really enjoyed it. And then I was there for longer and longer than I just kept thinking of Ajahn Chah that we've got to go about. I've got to go back and get myself in Cha know, five years. You've got to do it.
Sol Hanna 11:42
Wow. Yeah. That's a big decision for such a young man as well. And I think Westerners we don't necessarily like the idea of committing certainly not for life, you know,
Ajahn Pasanno 11:53
commitment is anathema. You know,
Sol Hanna 11:57
we want to go and have a good time. And yeah.
Ajahn Pasanno 12:00
And that's quite natural that that that age. That's what that's what one you know, it's about that's the one who's drawn to, but the pole to the example of Ajahn Cha and the example of the monastics in the monastery. It that was really, really pulled me.
Sol Hanna 12:24
So you went back to agencia and what Bapaume what was were there any many memories from that period of training with Ajahn Shah that really stand out in your mind?
Ajahn Pasanno 12:38
Well, I was just how difficult it was.
Sol Hanna 12:43
Yeah, right. The way in what way some people who are listening may not know what ways did you find it? Well, I mean,
Ajahn Pasanno 12:51
that was the early 70s. So that what conditions were very austere, the northeast of Thailand is extremely it's the poorest part of Thailand. And and so that yuck conditions were very austere. There just wasn't like we oftentimes you wouldn't have flashlights for your battery to to you know, go back and forth from you your dwelling your your dwelling place in the forest. You have to at night, it's dark and it's tropical nights, they get really dark it's in the forest and and sometimes there would be batteries and sometimes they wouldn't sometimes there'd be candles and sometimes there wouldn't. So just basic things where sometimes you'd get your you go to the store to get say something like a bar soap for for bathing and and and the stores monk would be cutting bars of soap in half so that each month could get some conditions where we're quite simple the food in the northeast of Thailand is is is not an odor but especially in those days. Over time, then there was much more of a gardens and and more so far more vegetables being grown and a lot more of the Yep, just some basics were more more available in time the economy was was being developed. Yeah. And also besides the the, the kind of the physical conditions so Like, I never saw such a thing as as awful until, you know, like a cushion to sit meditation on. For years and years. Yeah. You know, you just sit on the floor, all of the northeasterners you know, they grew up, they grew up on the floor, so they're comfortable sitting sitting on the floor. And yeah, it was was that as a Westerner with a body that, you know, not very flexible, had to just just that physical hardship. And then there was a, there was a rigor, rigorous schedule a time. So that was, but it was, the thing is this, you know, you're young and it's, it's all a challenge. So it was was, yes, it was difficult, but it's also very satisfying. It felt like really exactly what I wanted to be doing and should be doing.
Sol Hanna 16:03
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. Because it was many, quite a few Westerners that went to train with Thailand at the time. Not all of them made it what, what got you through that period of time, what kept you going?
Ajahn Pasanno 16:23
Well, I think probably certainly at a trust in at Ajahn Cha. But then also an increasing trust and confidence in the, in the efficacy of the of the teachings, that this was a really true teaching that that really pointed to a way of peace and and freedom. So it was it was a confidence in the both in the teacher as well as the as well as the the teachings themselves being firmly grounded in in truth.
Sol Hanna 17:11
I'd like to move forward to when, in early 80s, you became the abbot of Nanachat, which for those who don't know, was a branch Monastery of adventures was Wat Pah Pong, which catered to Western bhikkhus. How did you come to be evitable?
Ajahn Pasanno 17:35
Oh, what is it a series of unfortunate, unfortunate circumstances you I wasn't Yeah, it was. It was very, very young at the time, although in those days, you know, we just we were all reasonably when our Ajahn Sumedo became the, the the but I mean, he was just in his going into his ninth year as well. So, but it was more. I mean, in those days, there were a few more senior monks around but then it was when Ajahn Cha, and that's when when it was right at the time when Ajahn Jocko was leaving to go to he'd gotten permission from agencia but the group in Perth, Western Australia had had gotten Ajahn's blessing to that he would send say like a jock roll with one other month to go. And so that first monk who went was a monk called Puriso who went for a year and then Ajahn Brahm went after that. So but anyway, Ajahn Jagaro was leaving and he had been in the habit of, of what Ajahn Chah and so then Ajahn Cha, I was out at a kind of a remote branch monastery along the the border of Laos. I'd spent the rains retreat there and I absolutely loved it. There was a huge forest about 1000 acre forest that still had plenty of wild animals and it was on it was in a reservoir from a power down so it's very beautiful conditions. And and I found it very conducive to meditation. So I was making plans to stay. Which you should never make too many plans. And then the letter came to the abbot telling me to this after the rains retreat, telling me to go back to what Nana chaat to prepare to take all the duties of of Abbot of Wat Nana Cha because a Ajahn Jagaro was going to be leaving. So that was Ajahn chars initiative and Amin it wasn't a request, it was it was sort of he let me know that's what I was going to be doing.
Sol Hanna 20:45
Because that's a huge change. And I think, coming from our Western culture, we're not used to that idea that you're gonna get ordered. More or less to do something. How did you feel it? How do you feel about it?
Ajahn Pasanno 21:01
Well, I felt terrified. You know, the idea of, of taking on that responsibility and having that duty and, and, you know, I felt I felt that agenda. I also felt that if adventure, I felt I couldn't do it, he wouldn't ask me to do it. So, because I had a lot of trust in Him, and felt that that, you know, he really understood human nature and, and understood. Yeah, us as human beings. So I, I had that. I had the confidence that he knew what he was doing. I didn't have the confidence and I knew what I was doing. I felt okay, I think I can I can I can just have to make this work.
Sol Hanna 22:04
It worked out really well done. In the sense that you and your leadership at the what Nana chat grew in size. There was more monks coming to practice there.
Ajahn Pasanno 22:17
Yeah, yeah, I think I did. Okay.
Sol Hanna 22:22
It's very modest, very modest. Did you want to say anything else. But that
Ajahn Pasanno 22:31
was just just the, that sense of of right at the timing was also when John Chow was was, was becoming quite ill. So it was a period when he was getting more sick. And so on a certain level. You know, it couldn't it wasn't a negotiable situation, because he was, it was a you know, don't want to bother him or, or put too much onto his plate, because he was, you know, his health was really falling apart at the top. Right, right. So I feel like okay, I just got to, I got to do it.
Sol Hanna 23:26
Yeah, and when agencia did pass away, you were quite involved in the funeral as well. So that's quite a big position of trust, because I believe, you know, I heard a million times people came and visited during the funeral period. 10
Ajahn Pasanno 23:47
Yes. I mean, the funeral period was quite long. And but yeah, so we're, you know, yeah, just on the actual day of the funeral, there was about a beach somewhere between three and 400,000 people. Incredible. And, and over that period of the of the funeral. Yeah, people were streaming in from all over the country. And, and, but, um, you know, we did, one of the things that, that we did, it started probably four or five years before John Shaw passed away was we, you know, we, you know, agencia is not going to get better. And there's going to be a funeral and it's going to be huge. We've got to start figuring out how to make this work. So there was a lot of a lot of planning that went into developing the infrastructure to receive that situation. Although I think None of us none of us could have conceived of how big it was going to be. But one of the things I did do and I I, I talked with a couple of the senior monks and said, you know, we should really take a group of this of senior monks up there was a very senior disciple of at John Martin, who passed away very respected. And his funeral was taking place. I said, we should go up and observe that to see what we can learn from that. And what we learned was that we had to be organized because it was chaos everywhere and then everybody came back with a real strong consensus that, okay, we've we've got to do something that would honor Agim Cha, and, and having a chaotic funeral ceremony happen is not a dedication to all of us goodness.
Sol Hanna 26:19
And how did how do you feel a wind?
Ajahn Pasanno 26:23
I would, you know, I mean, of course, I know all the things that went wrong, but you can't see. But but in terms of, of overall, it was absolutely magical. And, you know, it really was able to provide an atmosphere of peace and faith and, and introducing teachings and practice to, to so many people. I mean, just the right around the time of the actual cremation there were about, I think it was about five to 6000 monks living in what proportion but 1000 nuns. And then a little over 10,000, laypeople actually camped out in the monastery. And we were able, we were able to provide toilets and showers and food for everybody. As soon as you want in the monastery, there was no monetary exchange for anything. And we had, that's just incredible books for free distribution for everybody who wanted them we had. Yeah, so. And I remember, I remember we had it was it was like, it was just, it wasn't quite open yet. And and I think it was about 4540 45 kitchens that were volunteer people had only to different groups and communities volunteered to have free kitchens, and they would serve different things and make it available to everybody. And, and we, a bunch of us who were the organizers, we came up with the idea that it'd be really good for everybody to keep the eight precepts and and then make it easier on the kitchens. They just need to provide food in the morning. And then there just need to be some drinks in the afternoon. And we we sort of let let people know. That's what we're thinking. And then we had By that evening, we had a pro step protest march coming down from all the kitchens coming up to meet us and no way are we are we not going to read there's going to be people coming day and night and they should be receiving food. They should be looked at Yeah, we had to give in sort of this. That wasn't that wasn't negotiable.
Sol Hanna 29:17
That's incredible. I'd like to move on and just ask a little bit more about your time as Abbot of what pan on a chart. One of the things you were involved in was a model reforestation project. How did this come about and what motivated you to promote reforestation in Thailand?
Ajahn Pasanno 29:40
Well, I mean, I mean, I was a forest monk living in a forest and so and it's and you go around to different monasteries, branch monasteries, and you and, and that was at a time of really rapid transition and even on the end of a quite a rapid transition of, of Thailand turning from a very rural agrarian economy to a more of an intern trying to get an international economy going that had something that so that that that but part of that was built on, on agriculture and that was cash crops and a lot of forests were were completely cut down just for the cash crops of say of sugarcane or tapioca or jute products and, and so that and especially the northeast of Thailand has very poor soil, so that the soil be depleted and the forest to be gone. So it was a real loss for everything. So wanting to try to reestablish areas of of nature and and look after the places and as well as expanding the just the monastery itself, so that it's a bit more of a refuge for people because that's in Thailand and and for those people who are safe in Western Australia and familiar with with what Bojan means the refuge for so many people just a peaceful refuge. And having these so that that extending the boundaries of the monastery planting forests and like I probably quadrupled the size of, of the monastery and did all sorts of planting and then got involved with other areas of land and, and forests that were, were being protected as well as also because the thing is, it's not just, it's not just forests that you want to pay attention to. It's also you know, the villagers, the villagers need to make a living and, and you want to, especially when you live in the say live in a forest living, you're dependent on the village, very close contact with the local community and you really get to know the problems that they face. And and you know, part of it is is just sometimes a lack of, of knowledge or education or so simple resources. So that trying to introduce livelihoods that would help supplement the income, their their income. And that creates a stability in the village culture that is good for everybody. And so you're trying to get them in and also like taking taking them out to different development projects and get them thinking what would work in our village what would work in our area? And so yeah, I am when they're doing that, then they they're able to look after the forest, so a lot more because especially in the northeast of Thailand, the traditionally the forests were really that that was their kind of their that was their market though is there you go, they would have a traditional diet or way of life in northeast of Thailand is they would plant a single rice crop. And then they would have a small gardens close to their houses with just you know, garlic and chilies and spices and whatnot. And, and and the rest of the food was gathered from the forest. And, and so that's, that's, that's gone now. So then trying to introduce ways of of that the villagers could be planting things in areas that would give them either supplemental income or Supplemental Nutrition.
Sol Hanna 35:10
Yeah. That's a really interesting, like the holistic way of thinking about how everything is connected and yeah, it's like everyone wins.
Ajahn Pasanno 35:22
Everyone wins. Everyone wins. Yeah. And
Sol Hanna 35:26
Ajahn Pasanno 35:28
Yeah. Yeah. And I have good, good people helping me out. It wasn't just me.
Sol Hanna 35:34
Of course. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'd like to turn next to a time when you're invited to join John Amaroo. As co abbot of the newly established abbia Giri monastery in California. How did that come about?
Ajahn Pasanno 35:52
Well, the, in America, they were the group in in the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area, had the commitment to establish a branch monastery and, and they knew adjuncts tomato. Because of of his connection to California, his parents were in California, he'd go back about once a year to visit them, he was they were elderly. And so then he was in that was in Southern California, where he come up, Jack Kornfield, when invited him up and to, to teach and so that a group of people started to gather who wanted to have a branch Monastery of, of Amravati. In, in, in the in Northern California. And John semedo, felt he couldn't really take it on. So he designated as an admiral to, to do that. So I John amaro would come boat about once a year and visit and visit the Bay Area, but visit other areas of Buddhist groups in America trying to get a feel for what this strange thing called America was. And so people there started to be a groups of people and then but they and then it gets into say, like early 90s. And say, our communities in in Europe where they went through a whole period of upheaval, and, and and, and everybody said, it's not commit at all to the place in America, it's just too much. We've gotten enough on our plate already, we need to consolidate what we have and make sure our communities are stable, which is the right thing to do. And so one of the things one of the conditions was that they wouldn't start anything until they had a a group of monks at least for to start the this new venture in America around that time in the beginning in the early 90s. And some of the group from the Bay Area were also coming to Thailand. And I was getting to know them and then which was an ICER good they're very sincere, solid practitioners. So that was amusing, inspiring to see this and then there was a period where I went on retreat and ended up in and stayed in England for a year in in chitters forests for a year yeah.
Ajahn Pasanno 39:25
And and I had already started to conceive think in terms of in long term of my life, I don't know that maybe I should be trying to be somewhere else and help in some other way. And but it wasn't really clear in my mind. And then after being in retreat for almost a year, then agile Lamoreaux came back from it. his one of his trips to, he just spent the winter with a group in, in California, and he was relating the, what was happening and how it was going. And, and, and also one of the senior monks from chitters where I was was, he had spent the time there. So they were saying what they're doing and then saying how it'd be, you know, it's just kind of when are we ever going to be able to get enough monks to, to help and, and, and then then it sort of football, you know, maybe I can help with that. And so then I approached Ajahn, Admiral and, and said, Would you like me to help out? And an admiral? When he relates the story, he said, it's it was I was talking with him, but I was very hesitant and sort of wasn't quite direct. And he said, what's going on with as impossible is usually really straightforward. And, and, and then what I said was broach the subject of maybe helping him out. He said, he was, he said, he just about leaped up and kiss me. And that was, but I said, The only thing is, is I don't have permission, I haven't got I've got to go back to Thailand. I've got to get permission from the elders at what Paul I've got to make sure that I can pass on the abbot ship of what Nana chat, so it's not a done deal. And you just you can't say anything, until that happens. So that and he always he felt a lot of confidence as he went forward. And developing plans to keep going because he always felt he had this ace in the back pocket of gym class and ready to help out. So. So yeah, it ended up a wonderful collaboration between the two of us, because I know now John amaro since basically since the day he wandered into what's known as as a hippie off the beach.
Sol Hanna 42:52
I'd like to ask about what is it like establishing a forest monastery with strict veneer of the forest tradition in the rather war libertarian if not libertine California in the 1990s
Ajahn Pasanno 43:07
Yeah, some interesting juxtaposition. But but, you know, the thing is, is I just say it's strict, but it's not unreasonable. And and and there is there's an integrity and clarity there that I think inspires the trust in people because that's you know, that's also at a time when and of course continuing into you know, just how many spiritual communities had been just torn apart by by by fundamental lack of precepts and integrity so yeah, we were the new guys on the block but but there was a certain pull there that that that was was it was was trusted. They might not even like it at some times, but at least it could be okay they're doing something here that's special that's different.
Sol Hanna 44:29
Even though Abby Giri monastery is not near a major city, there has been plenty of interest from both lay people and from those wishing to ordain What do you credit for the successful establishment phase of avea Giri monastery Well,
Ajahn Pasanno 44:48
you know, I just think the, you know, the clarity of of the teachings clarity of the lifestyle it's you know, It's, it's clear. We're, we're, we are what we say we are. That helps. And, you know, we can't really be more than that. But but it's really good to not be less than that. And, and that, you know, I think it engenders a certain trust and, and interest and, and, and there is a there is a fidelity to the tie for if there's, there's obviously because we're in the west and we're in America, there are certain adaptations that one needs to make in the same way that that, say, the podium Now Jim Brown in the community there, there's adaptations that are made, but there's a there's, there's a fidelity to the, to the, to the tradition from Thailand is and the greater Buddhist tradition from the time of the Buddha. So it's founded on venia. And, and the teachings are, are not, hopefully not straying from, from the Buddha's word too far.
Sol Hanna 46:24
Yeah. Out of interest. How many monastics are there at a girI right now?
Ajahn Pasanno 46:31
Right now, we've just had a little bit of an exodus of, of monks starting a movement, but there's about there's 15 But 15, and then there's three pasturelands in training and a lot of us continuing the training,
Sol Hanna 46:55
it's going very well. During your time in the United States, how do you think the knowledge and practice of Buddhism has changed?
Ajahn Pasanno 47:06
Personally, I think it's really maturing a lot. Of course, it's America, you can't say one thing about America. I mean, it's it's just everyday it's a real mishmash. But the people that are drawn to a by Gary are the people that I come into contact with. minute, there's a maturity that I see and a sincerity that is, is really, really quite wonderful. And, and, and people are getting into like, like, right, like, say today in the monastery. It was theirs. I think I'm not 100% Sure there's a brother and sister came to spend a few days in the monastery, which I mean, there's always people coming to stay and coming and going. And, and I think she's maybe 18 and the brother is 1617. And they're already practicing Buddhism and want to come up here and it's just this to me, that's amazing. And so there's a range of of people, the range of ethnicities, range of ages, people coming to, to practice and they, I mean, we don't we don't advertise when people show up because they've heard of us or They've tracked us down through our website through or through YouTube channel. And, and and then they they show up here
Sol Hanna 49:05
in 2018, you stepped away from the role of Abu Dhabi to carry us in the roll on to Ajahn, Karina, Damo and Generico. Both of these monks are American and mostly trained in the United States and indeed, mostly at abbia. Giri. I wanted to ask you how you feel about this milestone and what do you think it signifies for Buddhism in the US in general, that you can now be transferring leadership to monks who have trained mostly in the US.
Ajahn Pasanno 49:42
I mean, I'm really happy about that. I think it's a real sign of the Yeah, the maturing of of, of dhamma here in and Buddhism here in In America, that that such a thing is taking place and, and, you know, I think it bodes well for for, for the future so that yeah, just having having the home grown and that's kind of being, you know, a by Gary has has you were so far away from everything that you know we have had some Thai monks come but but but not so many and not and it's not so easy for them and we have had some monks from time to time say from England who come and spend some time but the vast majority have all been monks who have begun their training here and, and have continued and, and we tried to send people out as part of their training to have the experience of being in other monasteries, whether it's in Europe or oriental Thailand and and and it's very heartening that most of them want to come back and help out here.
Sol Hanna 51:28
Coming out to the end of the interview, you've lived a life dedicated to the spiritual quest of a Buddhist monk. What advice would you give to someone who's starting out on the Eightfold Path? And who may have an interest in ordaining as a monk or nun?
Ajahn Pasanno 51:46
Well, I mean, if you've got an interest, go for
Sol Hanna 51:51
simple advice, simple advice. Simple advice.
Ajahn Pasanno 51:53
I mean, just just don't, don't think about it too much. Don't try to don't want it don't try to find the perfect monastery. Don't try to find the perfect teacher. Just try this out, try that out. Try that plays out try and see what what feels like a fit. And, and. But as I said, don't, don't think that there's going to be some perfect place somewhere with a perfect teacher where all you need to do is go there and then you'll awaken full awakening will be bestowed on you that doesn't hurt. It's not how it's like agian chars are saying yes, people looking for the perfect place. It's like, a turtle with a mustache.
Sol Hanna 52:47
He's never gonna find it.
Ajahn Pasanno 52:49
Never going to find where you're looking for a turtle with a mustache and never going to find it. But you have to keep putting the attention on the practice and the training the inner reflection, the inner contemplation and, and, and then and also, I think one of the things that's really important cuz you know, especially in Western culture, we're so we're such a success oriented, what success and failure oriented culture that that the but more measuring one's development, not in terms of some idea or ideal of success, but just how does it feel? Do I feel more comfortable? Do I feel more happy in myself? Do I for feel more peaceful? Are there more skillful and beneficial qualities arising in me? That's, that's, that's what one wants to be cultivating. And, and sometimes that's difficult and sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's quick, sometimes it's slow. One really has to be patient with the process.
Sol Hanna 54:11
That's very wise advice. Thank you, John, for taking the time to join us on the podcast. I really appreciate it. And best wishes.
Ajahn Pasanno 54:20
Wonderful talking with you. Yes, and best wishes to you