forest feature 71 winter 1998In late 1947, the great meditation master Ajaan Chah (1918-1992) arrived at Khrong Forest Monastery. He found that if he wanted to stay at this wat, he would have to follow the traditional thudong (dhutanga) practice of dwelling in a cemetery. He forced himself to try.

If I tried to reason with myself I’d never go, so I grabbed a pha-khaw [white-robed novice] and just went…The pha-khaw wanted to camp right next to me but I wouldn’t have it…I made him move away, otherwise I’d have counted on him for support. Well, just as it was getting dark…in they came carrying a corpse. I couldn’t even feel my feet touch the ground, I wanted to get out of there so badly…they had buried the corpse right next to my spot, making the bamboo used for carrying it into a bed for me to stay on.

Chah survived the first night, having gotten his initial fear under control. Then, later in the afternoon, villagers brought another corpse and cremated it about twenty meters from Chah’s spot.

I don’t know what it was, but there came a sound of shuffling from the fire behind me. Had the coffin just collapsed?…It sounded more like a buffalo walking steadily around…then it started walking towards me, like a person!…It must have been about half an hour later…when the footsteps started coming back.

Chah did not know what it was, but this fear and his belief in the existence of local spirits made him think of many possibilities…

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