June 21, 2022

Bringing Early Buddhism to Life in Modern America - Ajahn Kovilo & Bhante Nisabho

Bringing Early Buddhism to Life in Modern America - Ajahn Kovilo & Bhante Nisabho

On this episode of Treasure Mountain we have Ajahn Kovilo and Venerable Nisabho who are both American monks that have trained in the Thai Forest Tradition in Asia and the United States. Together Ajahn Kovilo and Venerable Nisabho have the shared aspirati...


On this episode of Treasure Mountain we have Ajahn Kovilo and Venerable Nisabho who are both American monks that have trained in the Thai Forest Tradition in Asia and the United States. Together Ajahn Kovilo and Venerable Nisabho have the shared aspiration of establishing Clear Mountain Monastery in the vicinity of Seattle in the north-west United States. They have also set up a top quality online teaching presence through their Clear Mountain Dhamma youtube channel and podcast, and we’re going to find out about how they hope to take their experience of authentic Buddhist communities based around the principles of Early Buddhism and apply them in modern America.

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May you be happy!

Sol

Transcript

Robot generated transcript - expect errors!

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00:00.00
sol_hanna
I want to thank all of our listeners for tuning in to treasure mountain podcast and remember if you like this podcast to subscribe via your favorite podcast player and to tell your friends about this new podcast in which we speak to buddhist teachers and community leaders from around the world. It's time to talk to our guests a ajahn kovilo and venerable nisabho. How are you venerables?

00:22.93
Ajahn Kovilo
I'm doing Well I'm doing Well I'm really glad to be here with you So and it's good to see you too tenness about how are you doing.

00:28.86
Tan Nisabho
I'm well thank you a John yeah, it was a very nice to have you reach out to us sola bit ago and just I a pleasure to get to speak today.

01:10.42
sol_hanna
I really appreciate that you're both taking the time to share your experience and wisdom with with our listeners but our none question for today I'd like to ask you about how you came to be in ah the life of a buddhist monk because the life of a biko. Is one which is wholly dedicated to study practice and realization of the dharma. So I'm interested to know what circumstances led you both to making that commitment to the life of a buddhist monk.

01:47.75
Ajahn Kovilo
Yeah, maybe I can jump in there first. So yeah, when I was about 20 years old a friend in university recommended that I tend one of these 10 day galinka meditation retreats. And um, actually let me go back about nine months before I attended that first goenko retreat I would I had started reading some spiritual books from eastern religions and was finding them fascinating Bhagavad Gita um perhaps yeah, the the tao de ching I really loved um and being a american hippie-ish type. Um I was doing the things which american hippie type people do and yeah actually took mushrooms which um. Yeah, gave me this very profound experience. A life transformative experience. Um, and it was not psychedelic and it was not short-lived basically um, it was totally anxiolytic meaning that it reduced all of my anxiety for about a month and a half

04:40.44
sol_hanna
Move. Well.

04:22.17
Ajahn Kovilo
Just basically yeah, ate these mushrooms and was hanging out with friends and then within an hour it's like all of the background anxiety both social anxiety and um and existential anxiety being by myself just totally mute it out and I was able to just. Ah, interact in a very non-ego absorbed way very open to the to the world around me and I was like this is amazing and and I was like of course you know I'm like okay I found it. You know this is what life should be like basically relating to people in a way which is not ego none um. And it is very open and I'm like this is amazing and but I didn't know how I did it? Basically I what I do I took some mushrooms and um, but that wasn't the magic step because I tried mushrooms again and had horrible experiences. Um, and I didn't know how to get basically after that month and a half it gradually started fading away and I'm like I got to get back to this and you know kept kept reading spiritual books and then yeah about nine months later. My friend got me to do this goinka course and that really transformed my life because it it really taught me that you know it didn't feel like that. Mushroom trip but it it did give me an insight that it's possible to train the mind. It gave me some insight on how crazy the thinking mind is and how painful it can be when one is trying not to just follow the whims of of whatever. Want to crave next. That's really painful but then experiencing moments in that retreat where yeah, just by following this method coming back to the breath coming back to the body watching the mind in a certain way which I had never tried to do for any extended, very extended. Periods of time before. Um yeah, that the mind can settle and can know this type of peace this type of happiness really which was of a categorically different nature than the pleasure-seeking and excitement seeking I was just totally obsessed with and so that really changed the the course of my life and. Um, got me inclining towards and meditating Basically after that 10 day retreat started keeping the None precepts kept meditating hour in the morning hour in the evening and kept reading eventually came across access to insight which is an early buddhist portal and through there came across the poly canon. And grew more and more in my faith of polyterabvada buddhism which is kind of the basis for that goenka approach and then on access to insight also came across the teachings of the thai forest tradition and was very inspired by those and.

10:07.89
Ajahn Kovilo
Learned also that there were monasteries in America where non-asian people could go and actually ordain and I'm like okay from that first meditation retreat I was like okay I want to do this for the rest of my life. This is a very different type of education than I'm getting in in school and um, it's it's one which I really need to learn I need to learn how to how to train the mind and how to look at that to just look at the mind be with the mind and um, yeah, ended up finding.

11:26.84
sol_hanna
Move.

11:22.71
Ajahn Kovilo
These monasteries in America in 2006 very inspired moved to the monastery had given away all my stuff and I had been giving away stuff for years but gave away the rest of my stuff and just had a backpack and walked into the monastery in 2006 and um, yeah, basically took on the training and then 2010 ended up ordaining at a bay gary monastery with lampurpaana so.

12:31.66
sol_hanna
Wow, That's a fantastic story and I really just comes through to me the importance of meditation in changing your heart. This isn't just an idea or being inspired by ideas. It's being inspired by changed experience is as sounds like to me.

12:42.49
Ajahn Kovilo
Yeah, very much. So yeah.

13:13.24
sol_hanna
Vera muisibbo. How did you manage to end up on the monastic path.

12:53.62
Tan Nisabho
My ah, parents were were somewhat what I refer to as buddhist light or buddhist sympathizers in a certain way I don't know if they would have classified themselves as buddhist but they listened to Jack Cornfield and meditated on occasion. And when I was so I sort of grew up with it around me and then when I was 15 I read saddartha and that was my none image or strong image of a buddhist monk in the figure of the buddha. And it it was one of I think christians refer to him as ah, a moment of Grace. Um, just where you feel as if you've stepped into a footprint that was made for you and I just had that intuition when I sort of saw that figure in the book. That there was something really interesting and worthy and and more than more than that. Um, in that life path I just had not realized it was even a ah possibility to dedicate yourself at that level to awakening and these high ideals. So that got me meditating about ah half an hour a day which steadily increased through college to um, you know an hour or more occasionally and it just became the most important part of my life until I almost dropped out of university my. Junior year wiser minds perhaps than my own made me stick it out one more year I'm not sure if they're wiser or not but I did and then after I graduated I um I was looking into grad schools but just. This sense of vague discontent had been growing in me for years of feeling I was doing something worthwhile in some ways but nothing worthy of of my death is how I would put it. Um.

17:36.58
sol_hanna
In.

17:13.80
Tan Nisabho
And it just came to a ah climax driving down the one on None looking into grad schools um listening to top 40 radio the whole time reading the new hunger games distracting myself as I had been for. Years at that point and then I stepped into a biogiri monastery for None inutes and it became very clear to me that I needed a container like that if I wasn't going to ah dilute my life. Um, to the point where I wouldn't it would be half of what I would it was meant to be so. That really changed things and then I went to Svasti Abbey and did a brief retreat called exploring monastic life and ended up but the thai forest tradition was calling to me. Um, and you know the teachings of. Longor cha the polycanon. So I headed off to Thailand and ordained at a monastery there and in what mopjon the tradition's simplicity. Its power. Um, its strictness of viia with not handling money. Um, really important aspects to me and just the fact that there's. And like quite a lot of teachers westerners included within the tradition who I feel have encountered some level of awakening was very heartening so since then it just um, it kind of felt like falling in. Love you know like I ordained and. Stayed in Thailand for a few years I've traveled around to Australia a bit I lived it up by a geary for a year and a half but the pacific northwest kept calling to me and near my native Spokane is Seattle and so about a year ago. Um, actually two years ago or a year and a half we I came back to the us on election night actually and since then just um, moved to Seattle and we're sort of seeing if there's the potential for a community to grow here. Um, and that's that's kind of where I am at the moment.

21:54.92
sol_hanna
Ah, that really leads us into our next question because um, especially your mention of stepping into Aba Agiri monastery for None inutes and feeling as though there was something very special about this place. It does speak to the important role of a monastery whether. It's a place where you want to go and live the rest of your life or whether you just need some time out from from a busy life. It does have this really valuable role as a place of peace. So I think that's leads us into talking about clear mountain monastery. So where.

22:39.67
Ajahn Kovilo
Where where is this project now.

23:05.74
sol_hanna
Where is this project at now and we'll perhaps start off by asking what is the aspiration None of all for clear mountain monastery.

22:53.46
Tan Nisabho
Um, well the project itself people keep asking if they can come visit the monastery and in the on the website we intentionally have quotes around the word monastery because it's basically you know me in a little. Hut behind some wonderful lay supporters house and you know we're just it's online and we're sort of forming a community and until land gets offered at which point we will have a physical location but the goal Um, the aspiration is.

24:11.54
sol_hanna
E.

24:07.62
Tan Nisabho
To have a to eventually get a piece of land somewhere near Seattle um, close enough to a population center to have alms to go for alms every day. Um, that's something we've been doing since day one here is. You know in the morning I go down to pike place market and wait for on the street and if people come and give us food then they do and if they don't then they don't but they do usually and you know the buddha set that down those rules so that you know monastics would really maintain these strong. Ah, the strong contact with society and um, it's just been beautiful to see to sort of touch base with with you know society every every day in the morning in this really beautiful way. Um, so I really hope we can continue with that and. It also does mean the monastery will have to be probably somewhat near um, a population center and I like that because I would like it to be quite accessible davidsteindlrast ah, a christian monastic was saying that in the christian tradition they're getting a lot less young men ordaining these days. Which ah isn't the case with us. But but he was even saying that with them the lay people are more interested than ever in coming to a monastery and so in some ways it's as relevant as it's ever been. So I also see so many practitioners who it feels like they have one foot in a monastery and in the words of Ainsona one foot on a banana peel you know and it's very very uncomfortable place to be and honestly the missing puzzle piece really does seem to be a monastery It's it's so helpful to have a physical location.

27:56.80
sol_hanna
It's not.

27:52.88
Tan Nisabho
Ah, with sanga of people who really understand this path where you can come and stay in our tradition for free. Um, it's a refuge and so currently the hope is to establish something of that nature where people um, it's a home for monastics. The intention is to have monks live there and then to have ah else the ability of laypeople to come and stay for as long or short as they want ah for free long-term lay stewards and then hopefully to buy property nearby. Um. And be able to you know, have people who come in the morning and evening and participate in chanting and meditation and then go about their lives which is how it is in Thailand I mean this is just this is the traditional model and it's going to take some work to get it to the Us. But there's a real I feel a real need for it and.

29:46.28
sol_hanna
Earth.

29:41.44
Tan Nisabho
You know just I know there's a long answer but there's also something worth saying in Buddhism came to the west a while ago, but it's been missing some key element I feel. Um. You have a lot of sort of drier more secularized versions of things and you know there's this perennial debate about how much do we keep the old adjust to the new and you know logic would say you know drop all that. Old baggage. Um, just really try to make things as accessible as you can drop the ritual The the props the clothes, the robe and it's just ironically or strangely it. It doesn't seem to be people really are hungry for. For this path as a whole embodied life path including the acknowledgements of the sacred of the transcendent of ritual. There's a real hunger for the religious and interestingly enough you know our the project has been sort of um, drawing a lot of the people that. Think the more secularized Vipassana movements haven't been um, a lot of young people quite a lot of diversity and that's not intuitive. Um, but it's fascinating and heartening So That's a long answer.

32:51.80
sol_hanna
No well I think it's an excellent answer and it also jells with my experience and also the recent interviews which I've been doing is ah it agrees with everything you've just said that there is a real hunger for it and I I just want to say hang in there because. Ah, really feel that the results will come um I just did an interview with um Dennis Shepard who's been involved with the buddhist society of western australia for a long time and hearing his story about actually how difficult things were and in the beginning the monks when they came from Thailand almost a bit. Unexpectedly. Were in a house in suburbia and that lasted for a couple of years and there was really a need to get the monks into a monastery and not just for the monks. But also the laypeople needed that place away from the city and of course once that happened. It just grew from there and I so I really have a lot of confidence but I do want to ask a quick follow-up. Question is this is um, you know so establishing a monastery in the west or in the United States is no easy feat there year you're in for quite a bit of um. Yeah, ah quite a few challenges. You know whether it's the bureaucracy of government and permits and dealing with committees and there's and fundraising. There's a lot involved what what has made you decide that this is worth it. Mean you could you could hang out with ajan a nu and or in Thailand and go on to be a maha terrorra a senior monk and not have to do a whole lot. You've chosen ah a more difficult path.

35:46.40
Tan Nisabho
Part of it's just intuition like with what Ajan you know you referenced that stepping into a monastery a bi gearian feeling within 15 minutes that was what I needed to do and there's a similar draw back to the pacific northwest um. And just seeing the real interest in hunger and need for something like this in the west I feel was moving and I felt like we could do um, something really worthwhile here and. Although in certain ways living in Thailand might be easier in in some sense. Um, you know we're not in this for something that's that's easy you know the the goal is really to see where our lives could be best used and. To be servants of the dom in that and so yes, like there is bureaucracy. We're having to navigate board structures and all that. But also you know we're able to maintain space for practice. Um, and we're also ah, we're walking you know the the. Underlay of Goodwill and interest and faith is as present here as um, anywhere I've ever been. You know it's ah, there's no lack of ah this sort of Sata and meta. Um. The people were meeting whether you know Caucasian Thai and anything so it's it's been great and honestly having ajiin kovilo has been a part as a part of it has been essential as well in terms of keeping our monastic roots because we are trying to balance on an interesting line of. Doing something a bit new but um, really trying to remain very true to roots that we respect deeply and which are invaluable to us. So it's helpful to have a bit of a um you know someone to be with on that path a bit.

40:36.66
sol_hanna
Um, and I also I read just before I did the interview I saw an article by you ven and winisibbo about going navigating arms round. It was a lovely article I really appreciated it and if ah, I'll put a link to it below in the description below this podcast. I noticed you went to arms round even when there's three feet of snow which I just can't even imagine so that clearly there is a lot of support and faith. Um there in the Seattle area.

40:55.96
Tan Nisabho
Um.

41:17.79
Ajahn Kovilo
Yeah I think I can earlier answer.

41:14.26
Tan Nisabho
Definitely and I think that was actually auging Kobe low on that one but ah, that's all right? So I was also getting long and.

41:49.74
sol_hanna
Ah, okay, sorry I must admit.

41:33.49
Ajahn Kovilo
Yeah, and I think that the three feet must have been when visiting pacific hermitage which is in Southern Washington I don't think there ever gets to be three feet of snow in Seattle but there was yeah I mean this past December there was quite a bit but or at least it was extremely cold.

42:18.76
sol_hanna
E.

42:32.78
sol_hanna
Well, it does speak to the the level of dedication of you both yourselves and also the laypeople who come out and offer armss as well. Um I wanted to change tack a little bit because I noticed on your website.

42:13.49
Ajahn Kovilo
Um, yeah, yeah.

43:08.70
sol_hanna
And from some recent episodes of your podcast that you've got an interest in early buddhism and this is something which has come up in a couple of the interviews I've done as well. Um, it's it. But if you go back ten years ago you didn't really hear much mention of it. But now. Um, hearing ah teachers such as yourself start to refer refer to early buddhism. So what does early buddhism mean to you and how do you put that understanding into practice in Twenty First century america

43:52.89
Ajahn Kovilo
Um, yeah, it's ah it's a great question and and actually a fairly new question for myself, but None which I find quite fascinating and very rich to look into I mean when I did my goinkka retreat the first goenka retreat and he teach in such an ecumenical way. You know you you don't even know that you're learning buddhism like I literally didn't know for about a year until I sat this satip patana course which is basically the name of a a suita. It's you know the 4 foundations of mindfulness based on that you know None texts in the polycanon and um I think if I had. Known that it was buddhism or an organized religion I wouldn't have been interested at that point in my life but then coming across the meditation technique then encountering that particular suita and then on access to insight. It's quite skillful. At that time and I think still, there's not the whole polycanon is not translated on access to insight. Um I'm not sure what percentage but at the time it wasn't much but mini suitas um, mostly translated by Tasa Obbiku um and he chose I mean he's um. You know from America and his choosing texts which are also I think quite approachable for people who didn't grow up in a buddhist context so he doesn't throw you in the deep end of either deep philosophy which you might find in dgonekaah One you know the brama Jala Suita or these very very very philosophical texts or especially like. Mystical texts like others you would find in the degannikaya or especially like hard to believeve texts like you know, emphasizing daas like the mahasamay yauta or or whatnot. So basically I was introduced to polyterabatta texts. Which seemed very reasonable I wasn't I didn't yet see some of the sutus which might seem unreasonable for someone coming new to it. So my faith just kept growing and growing in the polycanon and at that time you know access to insight wasn't really interested in early buddhist texts I don't know if the the phrase existed yet. Um, well it wasn't interested in them per se like it wasn't doing the comparative studies of the agamas in chinese or the tibetan manuscripts and sanskrit texts and and whatnot it was just trans from the polycanon and for me that was enough and. My faith kept growing like there's more and more of a body of texts that I can have faith in because they're very rational and aren't at all mystical. Um, and so I'm like okay and then I start being introduced to text which.

49:17.77
Ajahn Kovilo
Maybe do mention other realms or do mention rebirth and I'm like okay these other texts seem very reliable in terms of my meditative experience. Maybe there's some truth or at least I could you know suspend my disbelief in rebirth for a while saying okay these texts seem to be saying something. Um. And it wasn't probably wasn't until maybe three or four years ago maybe five years ago when Bante Analio's books probably Sathi Patana being the none um and his follow-up book on the perspectives on sati patana which really introduce. Um. Yeah, this early buddhist text approach like looking at chinese versions of of texts and um, yeah I do find it quite interesting, especially just being able I think from there. From very early outset being inspired by polytexts I didn't want to come into it and didn't come into it with a very like supercritical you know fault-finding mind like this suit is definitely fake this one's real that one's fake fake fake fake real real real real fake. Um I was basically like okay. This one is applicable applicable applicable, not yet applicable ah suspect applicable applicable suspect suspect applicable, whatever um, and that's kind of you know how I've held the the polycanon and there are books in it which.

52:12.92
sol_hanna
Yeah.

52:22.23
Ajahn Kovilo
You know Ajam Bramali ajan Sujato certainly avante andalio biobohi to some extent um really being quite scholarly and picking out and being quite explicit about which texts they feel are are earlier based on these comparative studies and their work is fascinating. Their insights are very deep. Ah, you might know the name of it sal or maybe tanesssabo this an essay which was written in the last six months bait by Bante Sujato called comparing theravada and early buddhist texts on suus central discuss. Um.

53:52.70
sol_hanna
M.

53:37.57
Ajahn Kovilo
But fascinating article comparing classical theravada that is commentarial Poly literatureture um and early buddhist text insights.

53:46.40
Tan Nisabho
Were we thinking how early buddhism differs from Theravada that one.

53:59.91
Ajahn Kovilo
Yeah, thank you.

54:29.48
sol_hanna
Okay, that's and and how do you Ah so explains your understanding of early buddhism. But how do you think this is going to translate into lived reality. Ah in the United States today or does it have no particular bearing on. Um. How one would practice today. What? what are your thoughts I'm just trying to work out. Is there a relationship between these ideas and practice.

55:04.21
Ajahn Kovilo
Ah, well I feel that I mean certainly westerners are more interested in comparative studies like if you get a text which is replicated in multiple traditions in multiple languages. Westerners who generally tend to be more skeptical about a religion that they weren't born into um you know, might you know give more credence to a text which you know appears in multiple sources, multiple countries, etc in terms of practice I mean the people who are doing. A lot of this research the monks who I've already named bunte nao bandeujato ajam bramali they're not just scholars but they're also meditators. Um, and I think there are insights certainly the ones you see in Bante Nao's books on Sati Patana I mean the whole suita is about. Meditation and um, the insights that he has there basically pulling from it's like None or None different versions of this foundations of Mindfulness Suita in different languages kind of cull out what are the common elements of of these different suitas. And it presents like a very a much more simplified and streamlined version of the whole discourse and of meditation which I think some people might find easier to adopt than the more complicated and elaborate version which you might find in any None particular discourse.

58:29.62
sol_hanna
That is also an interesting point because I think sometimes especially for laypeople. But even I think for monastics looking at the suitors, especially those related to meditation practice. It can seem like if you're just looking just at the translations.

58:08.15
Ajahn Kovilo
That's just 1 example of.

59:06.52
sol_hanna
Of the suitors. It can seem a little bit hard to relate to in some respects. Are you suggesting that there are accretions of these texts which perhaps have added in a little bit and made it a little bit more complicated than it. Actually was originally intended to be.

59:22.91
Ajahn Kovilo
Um, um I think it gives each individual person a a wider choice of um, yeah, you know some people appreciate the elaboration like the poly version of the sati patananasuta.

01:00:14.12
sol_hanna
Me.

59:59.59
Ajahn Kovilo
Just because that's our example right now presents you know quite a few more practices it presents the most number of practices of these different recensions and for people who like choice and like all these different um options that can be an interesting avenue which certainly has been the living tradition in. Theravada countries for the last you know 2500 years um other but there are other texts which are problematic in in poly you know there might be a term which you don't find in the other recensions or there might be um, yeah, a description of meditation which doesn't make sense. You know, but you look at a different a different version of that that text a cognate text and you might find oh actually they define this term differently um, like None version of a sati patana presents. You know, visualizing or light you know the perception of light is None aspect of meditation on the body. Which is kind of fascinating and as to whether which which one of these versions is the real one or which one is the oldest or if they're all you know there's some like ur text or some like proto text which is preceded all of them and there are partially partially true. Um, for me, it doesn't really matter that much. Just gives me more of a range to to choose from. And yeah, some of these things are you might never know which one's the oldest or what's what's the case there but having options for practice and they're all very very similar which actually does increase faith for me.

01:03:26.40
sol_hanna
I Um wanted to change tack a little bit and talk about the Thai forest tradition. But I do feel like there's a connection between these two things because the current movement to try and understand early buddhist texts and trying to understand that.

01:03:08.23
Ajahn Kovilo
Okay.

01:04:05.30
sol_hanna
Original Buddhist context is in some ways got some parallels between the founders of the modern Thai forest tradition who the way I understand it was. We're trying to get back to the roots of well what is a biku supposed to do um. And and to get back to Well what is the goal of the monastic life and just to just focus on that. Um, but do you think that the Thai forest tradition. Do you feel like from a point of view of looking at. Early Buddhism Do you feel like it is a really good expression of early buddhism or is there some sort of distinction between the Thai forest tradition and early buddhism um a bit of a controversial question but maybe get you thinking. You know is it really good expression or is there. Some distinction is there something that's been added on there.

01:05:32.80
Tan Nisabho
I think the. Of the traditions I know of well I don't want to compare. Um I feel like thai forestrest um is a pretty impressive um expression of. The early buddhist ethic and in a lot of ways. Um, even things which you know ah None problem with this movement towards ebts and early buddhist texts I think is it's a bit of a carte blanche for you know, modern secular buddhists to really. Sort of dismiss so much as later interpolation and um, you know you can you can make the buddha into a lot of different things if you're liberal enough with what you consider later interpolation and um, what Ajan Kovilo is saying around.

01:07:45.52
sol_hanna
Um.

01:07:34.54
Tan Nisabho
Giving choice to individuals is it is a really ah I think healthy way to look at it in some ways and obviously there's um, dangers in that as well. So one of the aspects that is so i. Tempting to dismiss in the modern milieu is aspects to do with hierarchy with rigidity of form with formality with ritual which are all very like essential aspects of the thai forest tradition. You know you bow to the. Monk that's senior to you if you're less than 3 if you're 3 years junior to that monastic I believe you should request to sit on a bench next to them. Um, and just the practice of upa talking or assisting a senior monastic. It's ah in the thai forest tradition. It's spelled out. In a level of detail which you know coming as a layperson um into that environment would just seem absurd like exactly where do you put the um you know water kettle that you're going to wash the senior monastics hands with and have you folded the kleenex tip.

01:10:34.80
sol_hanna
No.

01:10:08.40
Tan Nisabho
You know things like this um so'd be very tempting to dismiss those aspects as just later accumulation because people love the Dhamma but the vinea you know because of our puritan roots gets kind of classified as this sort of ah. Outdated. You know, um, puritanical system overlaid over this beautiful dama that's beyond convention. But the Buddha taught the Dama Viia he taught both because you need the form to hold as a container that you know those deeper wisdom truths and. Um, to see how a monastic who has attained some level of purity of heart embodies that form that quite detailed form. Um, like you know of the vinea like long pork cha. Um, you realize the freedom that's hidden within it and.

01:12:22.88
sol_hanna
Yeah.

01:11:59.76
Tan Nisabho
Um, so all to say that the thai forest traditions focus on those aspects which so easily get dismissed. Actually I think is very true to the original so spirit of Buddhism but in a way that's not apparent unless you've actually really read the original. You know, like the vibangga the commentaries on the vinea and seeing how detailed those early monastics were and exactly how they prepared a dwelling for a visiting monastic or you know, clean their dwellings or how they were you know told to care for these. Um, you know someone they were looking after or a sick monk like it's just um, all to say that I think the ebt movement has to be held carefully the early buddhist text movement so that it's not used as a ah sort of weapon to. Alter the buddha into what we want them to be um, including kind of ah you know or the form and I think thai forest tradition. A lot of the elements of it which aren't don't easily mesh with western society. Actually are very much true to the original spirit. Um, and and there are certain aspects where it does also defer I believe or change or diverge from the original or from some of the things you find in the. Early buddhist texts as well and and some of those are quite significant divergences in points of vinea and some other areas as well.

01:15:49.20
sol_hanna
I have to say that's an excellent answer. It's far better than I expected. it's it's a really really good answer. Um you only have to go search for buddhism for None nutes on the internet and you'll find every kind of interpretation and nonsense under the sun and a lot of people. In the west a lot of buddhists in the west kind of when they think of the vinea they think well this is all too much and it's too difficult and why are we doing it anyway. Ah, but my experience has been um, quite the opposite as ah, when you have a monk or a nun who is. Really carefully keeping the vineneyer and I'm just thinking of we had a monk here in the southwest. Um, who who is very very dedicated, not just to the vineyer but to the thai forest tradition in that he wanted to go on arms round every day and he had to walk for an hour to get into the town. From where he was staying and then walk an hour back but the impact that had on the lay community was really really inspired them both the simplicity of where he was staying in the in the forest as well as the arms around and just everything the yeah the care and attention as you've mentioned venerable. Um, is that what? um, you're finding as well. Do you find that? um lay people are drawn to support monastics who are paying attention to keeping the vinea very carefully and and you mentioned not handling money earlier on which is a major.

01:18:30.72
Tan Nisabho
My man yours.

01:19:00.76
sol_hanna
Hassle as you know in terms of trying to get things done. Um, what's your experience been so far.

01:18:43.48
Tan Nisabho
Great question.

01:19:00.95
Ajahn Kovilo
Sorry I just and a something popped up that said I ran out of disc space has that popped up on anyone else or is that just me.

01:19:39.24
sol_hanna
Hang on Twenty Thirty nine not for me that could be a problem hang on. Let me just check. Um, just say something venerable cover below.

01:19:24.80
Tan Nisabho
It's not for me is thatch cobbleler for.

01:19:34.19
Ajahn Kovilo
Okay.

01:19:48.71
Ajahn Kovilo
Test test test.

01:20:18.40
sol_hanna
Okay, I'm seeing I can see at my end that they've you've got some sound coming across So I'm gonna just continue and I'll edit that out later on. Um, yeah, ven did you remember my question or.

01:20:04.10
Ajahn Kovilo
Okay, yeah, okay, okay, great. Okay.

01:20:16.16
Tan Nisabho
Yes, yes, um I'll pause for 5 seconds and then I can start into it if that would be helpful.

01:20:37.36
Tan Nisabho
Yeah that's a great question. Um, there's an archtiple power to what the Buddha laid down with the figure of the renunciant. Um I feel like you know the reformation in Europe. You know the Catholic Church had to be reformed in some way but what it did Rob us of in America I think was the figure of the renunciant and I feel like our culture has been scrambling to fill up that gap for the last many centuries and projecting that role onto its artists. Um. And other figures and Bukowski is just a terrible role model for you know, spiritual guidance. Um, you know so people seem to be really ah hungry for um, you know a certain for that figure and. The buddha just really described and created a form which embodies it beautifully and some of those rules can seem a little much these days. Um. You know some? For example, we have a rule around not being able to intentionally be in private with a woman. Um, then again, you look at what he was trying to protect and and you look at the bloodbath that is sexual scandal in spiritual circles over the past fifty years and

01:23:55.40
sol_hanna
And.

01:23:32.36
Tan Nisabho
You know there's justification for a high fence for the delicacy of that garden that you're guarding and the danger of its being compromised. So the more I've lived this life the more I've appreciated those those really clear boundaries of the Buddha and. The rules such as ah, you know, not handling money. Um, ah, not being able to store food ask for anything besides water you know I mean they seem completely. Um, impractical and when you live them. It causes you to surrender completely and. Something magical happens where the world rises in answer to you and it it shouldn't work and it absolutely does. Um you know and it it leads to this ah pretty adventurous life like we do this thing where we walk too long which is where you wander on faith and just. Sleep on the side of the road except what's given to you audin Kovi low and I have gone before together. It was great. But I you know I remember greyhound dropped me off at the wrong stop? Um, when I was going to begin one from la and they were sort of like oh don't worry. It's just a $5 bus ticket to where you need to go and I was like I don't.

01:26:25.16
sol_hanna
This is him.

01:25:56.40
Tan Nisabho
I can't I don't love $5 so it was a two day walk and it was an amazing two days you know like I talked to None people who were you know these beautiful interactions out of nowhere and the the Buddha intentionally put these rules down for a reason and. What it creates is is amazing. It's I and it and it is very easy to say it shouldn't work and to just to give up those rules but the stubbornness of this tradition doesn't let us do that and thank goodness because the beauty of what it creates is astounding.

01:27:37.26
sol_hanna
Oh S saddo I couldn't agree more and I'd Also add to that that it seems to me that when you have good monastics ad who adherent to the vineya over a period of time this conduct of the laypeople also comes up as well. Not necessarily because it has to. Or because they're being told to but because they just observe it and it just kind of absorb. It is is my observation over a period of time. Um.

01:28:01.46
Tan Nisabho
No I advantage and I'd love to hear a kovi those take on that one too if we could actually I because he's been very much involved here.

01:28:42.52
sol_hanna
Sure. Absolutely.

01:28:25.79
Ajahn Kovilo
Yeah I mean just briefly I mean yeah, you see in regards to what you just said saul you know you really see that you know walking I did a None don pilgrimage walk in Thailand and yeah, some of these forest monasteries like this monastery up in the hills in Gangnchinaburi and yeah. When you get when you approach when you get close to the the monastery and you walk through the village you just start noticing that everybody's houses are much more clean and like everything around the house is just much more. You know well organized the whole village. You know seems more quiet than the the previous villages and then you get and you go. Okay, this is right. Close to the monastery and you realize it's a great monastery where everything is similarly well-positioned has its place and really does emphasize meditation. And yeah I mean certainly I think that's tannisibona's like personal experience and probably the experience of most all western monks I mean all. Western monks have come to the monastery as lay people and um, yeah, you come to a good monastery and your your actions change your way of speaking changes and your your way of being changes your way of sitting changes and walking and just because you see beautiful examples I mean being at aba gary with. Um, pour paseno I mean he's just the most upright but not rigid fluid and totally concrete example of just a ah, great and beautiful practitioner. The buddhist path that you want to emulate it and you you naturally. Try to even unconsciously. So yeah, it's very much case.

01:32:05.14
sol_hanna
Um, absolutely fantastic. Um I want to um again I'm trying to cover a lot of ground ah in this particular interview because there's so much I wanted to ask you about but I did want to talk about your um online presence because that was one of the things that really. Got me curious about what you were doing is that you've really put a lot of effort into the clear mountain monastery webpage but especially the clear Mountain Dumber Youtube channel and the podcast. Um i'm. Curious to know what has motivated you to set up these online resources and what are you hoping to achieve through these channels.

01:33:03.92
Tan Nisabho
The yeah they I didn't expect as a forced monk to be you know learning how to build websites and yet. Um the buddha recommended speaking the vernacular of the land you're in you know. And I think this is our vernacular now these platforms are so much of how people are receiving the Dhamma and they can be done beautifully It takes a certain amount of restraint and we've had to figure out a balance which we're still understanding. Um. For example, the distinction between having a Facebook page labeled clear mountain monastery and having one labeled friends of clear mountain monastery. That's stewarded by a layperson. Um, that's what we've moved towards because it is beautiful to have a degree of separation. And this danger of ego. Um, making its way it's just something you have to cut off whenever and wherever you're able to um because monastics are you know vulnerable in exactly the same way and the buddha had a whole book of the samute to nikayah dedicated to the towards the dangers of um fame.

01:36:00.20
sol_hanna
And.

01:35:34.62
Tan Nisabho
And you know ah reputation. So It's a tension that I think most forced monasteries are approaching now. But I think most teachers have come down at least on the side of we need to be putting Out. Um. The dama in some way that people of this generation can access and if we're going to do that I think um, the beauty 1 of the beautiful parts about the monastic ethic is is you just really try to do it as beautifully as you can. So um. Yeah, we've been walking that line a bit as well and but it's a new generation and they deserve the dom as much as anyone. So.

01:37:27.60
sol_hanna
Well, it certainly does have a huge impact. Um, as you said there there is that hunger for the dharma and someone's you've got to find it somewhere and I think many of the people who are westerners who came across. Dharma perhaps from the 1970 s onwards to the up to 99 even they had to it was an effort and it's it's nice now that you can have the dharma on your phone in your pocket. Um and take it with you and that's I think really something pretty amazing. Um. I would like to just ask for the benefit of our audience. What kind of teachings and resources are you making available on your clear mountain dharma channel.

01:38:31.32
Tan Nisabho
So we ah are live streaming. Um most of our gatherings. So every Saturday we have a morning meditation and we live stream that so people can access it. Um, we have a Wednesday Evening Youtube livestream q and a and a follow-up zoom session for kind of a more intimate atmosphere as well and and helping build community that way we have a Discord channel that's something new. We've been experimenting with but on it. We have a channel for upassicas which. Are people committing to take the None precepts and keep the daily meditation practice and basically um, where we run through a curriculum with them and they meet every two weeks on video chat to kind of discuss dom in that way and it's a good It's a helpful means that we're just kind of experimenting with to help people support themselves and keeping this higher standard of practice and there's a real I think people want to be held accountable in that way. I mean it's it's helpful to have ah so we've been doing that. Um, we ah gosh. Anything else Oji Kovi oh we've been doing quite a bit of interviews with senior monastics on the Youtube channel as we're able nuns and monks as well and that's been a real ah blessing. Um, just talking to these amazing and and some quite possibly enlightened beings from all over the world. And also what the internet's allowed us to do a bit more is ah supplement retreats. We held in person in Seattle um, we usually try to have a bicuni zoom into our retreats if possible and things like. Of that sort. So it's been really a boon on a lot of different levels to have the online presence and means.

01:43:00.16
sol_hanna
Do you find? Also um that you've got a little bit of a network happening um on the West coast with other monks and nuns from the from the forest tradition.

01:42:58.58
Tan Nisabho
Yeah, yeah, certainly, um, we have several advisors ah the nuns at kuna Buddha Vihara are two of our monastic advisors as is bikcu bodi um, and and then we have so lots of informal advisors ajin Kovilo and I speak often with. Abbots of monasteries up and down the west coast um long prepassano ajin sudantto we are in somewhat regular contact with Ajin Jaisaro and ainsona as well. So that's a real um, that's a real help because you know we are young monks. We don't really know what we're doing so it's. Ah, good. It's very good to have a bit of a bit of help with that.

01:44:54.46
sol_hanna
It's and it's a I think it's fantastic and it's something that didn't really exist if you think about the likes of Ajan Passeno Aja Brahm and others in the west arched tomato when they went to the west they weren't really. Much more senior than where you are at now I think and they really I think it was a bit of a struggle. So. It's really great that you've got that um support and also the ability to seek advice because you don't always know what to do in certain situations.

01:45:36.93
Ajahn Kovilo
Yeah, and I mean the technology enables that to a large degree as well. I mean we've got Tanisibo and I both have individual you know planned you know face time or some kind of other video chat call with ajan sudanto every month we've got a planned one with. Ahjangjayisaro every other month is Tan Nisbo mentioned and yeah, the technology enables that I mean we're not in the same city. So you know often not not in the same state but still be able to contact our teachers not in the same country in the case of some of our other teachers and. Yeah, the technology really enables that and um monasteries in the west I mean that's another broader issue it's not you know um the issue of you know technology but when this early generation ajam pasano aja Bram Lapore Somato there was no option you didn't have a mon you know ah certainly not a ta of auto monastic option in in America you know when they're going to to Thailand and Burma and Sri Lanka in the 60 s and seventy s and so it's it's a huge thing to I mean I ordained I was already able to ordain in America and that's that's huge and um, yet to have practice centers and monasteries where. People can come in the country in person. You know that's that's huge as well. In addition to the the digital presence that we have today.

01:48:39.56
sol_hanna
Well look It's been really fantastic talking to you I've got actually so many more questions I'd love to ask? Um I might have to hit you up again? Maybe yeah, a few months or down the track or maybe next year um but I do have None more quick question which is um, this is a very inspiring project. Is there a way that listeners could offer some support or make a donation to the clear mountain monastery project.

01:49:05.46
Tan Nisabho
That's a kind of you to ask? Um, you know if people want to go to our website. Um, they'll find ways to tune into different events sign up for our newsletter. To be honest that the most powerful way people can contribute is just by by practicing these teachings and tuning in as they're able if people do feel inspired to um, give a donation of another kind then there's the usual donate button on the website we are. Hoping to raise funds eventually for a piece of land and and a dharma refuge here. Um at the same time I want to hold up very clearly that this is a um, everything is given really free of charge with no expectation. It's um, a. You know it's one of the real beauties of this form is I feel like we can say honestly that um people may give if they're inspired and that's wonderful, but we never want this to be an ethic of exchange at All. It's a mutual field of giving and. Um, So yeah, if people want to tune in go to the website. You'll see what's available and we'd love if they ever come to the Us then come in for a visit.

01:52:07.18
sol_hanna
Ah, so on are we making sure that in the description below. You have got a linked if you wish to donate and make some merit but also just support this really really valuable project clear mountain monastery and of course as van muisabo has just said if you are. In the Seattle area and you want to visit? you are most welcome to visit and pay respects and participate in their programs venerables I really really appreciate that you've come on treasure mountain today. Um, it's been really great talking to you and I wish you all the very best for the clear mountain monastery project and your online efforts as well.

01:52:56.23
Ajahn Kovilo
Thank you so much. So yeah, this has been fun.

01:53:20.54
sol_hanna
Thank you very much.

 

Ajahn Kovilo Profile Photo

Ajahn Kovilo

Ajahn

Ajahn Kovilo is an Ohio-born monk who, having been introduced to meditation through the Goenka tradition, first entered the monastery in 2006. After receiving full ordination from Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California in 2010, Ajahn Kovilo spent the next decade training at monasteries in the Ajahn Chah tradition in America and Thailand. In 2020, after a year practicing at a Pa Auk Sayadaw monastery, Ajahn Kovilo enrolled at the Dharma Realm Buddhist University in Ukiah, California where he is currently studying Pali and Sanskrit among other courses. Until the end of his formal studies, Ajahn Kovilo will be participating in the growing Clear Mountain Monastery community remotely and during Winter and Summer breaks. After finishing his studies, Ajahn Kovilo will join the community in person on a more regular basis.

Nisabho Bhikkhu Profile Photo

Nisabho Bhikkhu

Monk

After finishing college in 2012, Ven. Nisabho (addressed as “Tan Nisabho” in the Thai custom) left his native Washington to go forth as a Buddhist monk in Thailand. He received full ordination the following spring under Ajahn Anan, a senior disciple of renowned meditation master, Ajahn Chah, and spent the following years training in forest monasteries throughout Thailand, Australia, and the US. While staying with some of the lineage’s most respected teachers, he grew to believe the Thai Forest Tradition’s balance of communal life with solitary forest dwelling, careful adherence to the monastic precepts, and focus on meditation represented a faithful embodiment of the original Buddhist path. Moreover, his time with contemporary masters such as Ajahn Anan, Ajahn Pasanno, and Ajahn Jayasaro, convinced him that such a path could yield great fruit in the heart even amidst the complexities of modern life. He currently resides in Seattle as part of Clear Mountain Monastery’s aspiration.