Ajahn Maha Boowa

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Venerable Ajahn Maha Boowa (1914-2011), commonly known in Thai as หลวงตามหาบัว, Luang Ta Maha Bua;​ alternate writing Ajahn Maha Bua; is the common name of Pra Dharma Visuthimongkol (Thai: พระธรรมวิสุทธิมงคล​), a Buddhist monk from Thailand. "Ajahn" or "Acharn," meaning "teacher," is the common honorific for Thai monks, a rough parallel to "Bhikkhu" or "Rishi" in other Buddhist traditions. Ajahn Maha Bua is amongst the most well known Thai Buddhist monks of the late Twentieth Century, and is regarded by some to be an Arahant, a living Buddhist saint. He was a disciple of the highly-esteemed forest master Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta, and is now himself considered a master in the Thai Forest Tradition.

He was an expert in meditation and a leading figure on social issues, so much so, that he was able to raise millions during Thailand’s 1997 economic meltdown.

Phra Dharmawisuthimongkol, better known as ‘Luang Ta Maha Bua Yan-na Sumpanno’, was born into a rich family of farmers, in the northeastern province of Udon Thani. After he was ordained monk on 12 May 1934 at the age of 20, he thought he would spend a short period living with other monks to meet his family’s expectations.

Instead, in Sakhon Nakorn province, he met someone who changed his life, Phra Arjarn Mun Puritatto, a monk who introduced him to the teachings of the Buddha and showed him the path towards peace of mind. When the master died, after sharing eight years with his young pupil, Luang Ta Maha Bua Yan-na Sumpanno went back to Pabaantad Temple, Muang district (Udorn Thani province), where he spent the rest of his life.

In addition to his fame as practitioner of meditation, Luang Ta Maha Bua was known for his involvement in social issues. When the country was struck by a major economic crisis in 1997, he urged fellow Thais to donate money, gold and other precious items to the bank of Thailand to help the recovery.

Thanks to his appeal, more than US$ 10 million and 12 tonnes of gold were raised, and placed in the bank’s reserves. The initiative was inspired by values such love for country, sacrifice and the unity of all Thai citizens.

In his will, written on 7 May 2010, he said, “It is my intention to give all the money donated to me by the faithful to the Bank of Thailand as a reserve fund.” In it, the monk also emphasised the importance of harmony to his followers.

If anything, his importance can be measured by his followers’ loyalty. In just ten days after his death, some 35,000,000 bahts (US$ 1.2 million) were raised in cash, and that is on top of cheques, gold and US dollars. The money will eventually go to buy gold, be deposited in the National Bank.