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Our Teachers: Forest Sangha Bhikkhus

Unfortunately, Luang Por Chah passed away many years before our center was founded. Through his disciples and their students, his teachings live on. Below is a list of senior monastics who have visited and taught at Portland Friends of the Dhamma, most on multiple occasions. Most all of these monastics are of the Thai Forest Tradition and of the Ajahn Chah lineage. The exceptions are; Bhante Gunaratana is from Sri Lanka, Ajahn Thanisarro is of the Ajaan Suwat Suvaco lineage and Ajahn Ritthi is of the Buddhadasa lineage.


monk with microphone clipped to robe

Luang Por Chah 1918-1992

‘Everything Is Teaching Us’ summarizes Ajahn Chah’s approach quite neatly. Showing us the immediacy of the Dhamma, he demystified the concepts of Buddhism so that almost anyone who listened could get the point, be they barely literate farmers or highly educated city people, Thais or Westerners. Yet nothing was compromised, and through his unmatched skill, people usually got more than they bargained for. “He could start a discourse by expounding the most basic Buddhist ideas and seamlessly move on to talking about ultimate reality.” – Paul Breiter  Luang Por Chah was the Western Worlds link to the Forest tradition now exemplified via the likes of Amaravati and Abhayagiri monasteries. For more about Luang Por Chah visit: Forest Sangha and Venerable Ajahn Chah.

head shot of a monkBhante Gunaratana

Bhanta Henepola Gunaratana was born December 7, 1927 in the small Sri Lankan village of Henepola. He was ordained as a monk at the age of 12, and received his education at Vidyasekhara Pirivena, a monk’s school at Gampaha. He received upasampada when he was 20, in Kandy. Bhante came to the United States at the invitation of the Sasana Sevaka Society in 1968 in order to serve as the General Secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society of Washington, D.C. He is currently the abbot of the Bhavana Society, a monastery and meditation retreat center. For more about Bhante Gunaratana visit his monastery at: Bhavana Society, books and video.     

Monk with view of river in background

Luang Por Liem Thitadhammo

Luang Por Liem Ṭhitadhammo, a Buddhist monk in the Thai Forest Tradition, was born in Sri Saket Province in the Northeast of Thailand in 1941. After higher ordination at twenty years of age, Luang Por practiced in several village monasteries throughout the Northeast until he joined the Forest Tradition in 1969, the same year he first arrived at Luang Por Chah’s monastery, wat Nong Pah Pong. In 1982 Luang Por Chah entrusted Venerable Liem as acting abbot of Wat Nong Pah Pong. He fulfills this duty to this day, keeping the heritage of Luang Por Chah’s Dhamma and monastic training available for monks, nuns and lay disciples. Luang Por Liem has twice been given an  honorary  monastic  title by  His Majesty the King of  Thailand. He is presently   known  as  “Tan Chao  Khun   Phra   Rachapavanavikrom”.  Recently LP has also been engaged in teaching abroad, supporting especially the international branch monasteries of  Luang Por Chah’s tradition.For more about Luang Por Liem Thitadhammo visit:  Dhamma recordings and Dhamma Books

Theravada monk

Luang Por Sumedho

Ajahn Sumedho was born in Seattle, Washington. He spent four years in the US Navy as a medic, completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Far Eastern Studies and a master’s in South Asian Studies. In 1966, he went to Thailand to practice meditation at Wat Maha That in Bangkok and received full ordination in 1967. A year of solitary practice followed. Although fruitful, it showed him the need for a teacher who could actively guide him. A fortuitous encounter with a visiting monk led him to Ubon province to practice with Luang Por Chah. He took dependence from Luang Por Chah and remained under his close guidance for ten years. In 1975, Ajahn Sumedho, established Wat Pah Nanachat, also known as the International Forest Monastery, where Westerners could receive training in English. In 1977, he accompanied Luang Por Chah to England and took up residence at the Hampstead Vihara, with three other monks For more about Luang Por Sumedho visit: Dharma Seed and Amaravati Monastery.

1-Wat Buddhanusorn Ajahn Mahaprasert






Phra Videsdhammakavi-Ajahn Maha Prasert 

Ajahn Maha Prasert, a Buddhist monk in the Thai Forest Tradition, was born in 1946, in Thailand. He took novice ordination in 1957, at age 11, and full ordination in 1968. Studying in India from 1972 to 1976, he completed his master’s degree at Magadh University. Among other eminent teachers, he studied under Luang Por Buddhadasa, and Luang Por Chah. In July 1983, he founded Wat Buddhanusorn in Fremont, CA and is the abbot. He also serves as assistant abbot to Wat Rajburana in Bangkok, Thailand. He has been recognized by the Thai Sangha as a Venerable with the esteemed title of Phra Rajagana or Tan Chao Khun, and is the Vice President of the Council of Thai Bhikkhus in the United States. He has encouraged and assisted the establishment of other Dhamma organizations in the United States, including Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastary and Dhammadharini.

head shot of monk

Luang Por Pasanno

Luang Por Pasanno took ordination in Thailand in 1974 with Venerable Phra Khru Nanasirivatana 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. Luang Por became a well-known and highly respected monk and Dhamma teacher in Thailand. For more about Luang Por Pasanno visit:  Dharma Seed and  Abhayagiri Monastery


head shot of a monk

Ajahn Thanissaro (Geoffrey DeGraff)

Ajahn Geoff is a senior monk in the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism. He is the Abbot of the Metta Forest Monastery in Valley Center, CA. The Metta Forest Monastery is a meditation monastery in the lineage of the Thai Forest Tradition, founded in 1990 by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco. Ajahn Geoff has also translated into English many books by masters of the Thai forest traditions, including Upasika Kee Nanayon and Ajaans Lee, Fuang and Maha Boowa. An anthology of his sutta translations is available in a four-volume series of books entitled Handful of Leaves, distributed by the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. He has also prepared a number of Study Guides on various topics of interest to Buddhist practitioners. For more about Ajahn Geoff visit his monastery at: Wat Metta and Dhamma Talks and Books.


Smiling monk

Ajahn Sucitto

Ajahn Sucitto is a British-born Theravada Buddhist monk. He is, since 1992, the abbot of Chithurst Buddhist Monastery (Cittaviveka). He was born in London, and was ordained in Thailand in March 1976. He moved to Britain in 1978 and took up training under Ajahn Sumedho at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. In 1979 he was one of the small group of monks, led by Ajahn Sumedho, who established Cittaviveka in West Sussex. In 1981 he was sent up to Northumberland to set up a small monastery in Harnham, which subsequently became Aruna Ratanagiri. In 1984 he accompanied Ajahn Sumedho in establishing the Amaravati Monastery in Hertfordshire, eventually being appointed abbot of Cittaviveka. For more about Ajahn Sucitto visit his monastery at:Cittaviveka and Everything Ajahn Sucitto


Head shot of a monk

Ajahn Amaro

Ajahn Amaro was born in England in 1956. He received his BSc. in Psychology and Physiology from the University of London. Spiritual searching led him to Thailand, where he went to Wat Pah Nanachat, a Forest Tradition monastery established for Western disciples of Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah, who ordained him as a bhikkhu in 1979. He returned to England and joined Ajahn Sumedho at the newly established Chithurst Monastery. He resided for many years at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, making trips to California every year during the 1990s. In June of 1996 he established Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, CA, where he was co-abbot with Ajahn Pasanno until July, 2010. At the invitation of Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Amaro returned to Amaravati in July, 2010 to assume the duties of abbot of Amaravati. For more about Ajahn Amaro visit his monastery at: Amaravati, Books and Video


Ajahn Jayasaro 2009

Ajahn Jayasaro

Ajahn Jayasaro was born on the Isle of Wight in 1958. He joined Ajahn Sumedho’s community for the Rains Retreat as an anagarika in 1978. In November of that year he left for Wat Pah Pong in Northeast Thailand where he ordained as a novice in the following year, and as a bhikkhu in 1980 with Venerable Ajahn Cha as his preceptor. From 1997 until 2002, Ajahn Jayasaro was the abbot of Wat Pa Nanachat. He is now living alone in a hermitage at the foot of Kow Yai mountains. For more about Ajahn Jayasaro visit: Dhamma on Video


smiling monk

Ajahn Chandako

Ajahn Chandako was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1990 in the Thai Forest Tradition in the lineage of Ajahn Chah. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, his interest in the teachings of the Buddha grew as he studied towards a BA degree in Religious Studies from Carleton College (1984). After practicing intensive meditation in various monasteries in Thailand and traveling in Tibet, Nepal and India, he settled in Wat Pah Nanachat, the International Forest Monastery, Thailand. Ajahn Chandako is now the Abbot of Vimutti Forest Monastery, near Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author and translator of several books. For more about Ajahn Chandako visit his monastery at:Vimutti and Dhamma on Video


head shot of a monk smiling

Ajahn Sona

Ajahn Sona’s encounter with Buddhist teachings as a young man initiated a spiritual journey, which led him to renounce his worldly life as a classical musician to become a lay hermit for several years. In 1988, he ordained as a Theravada monk under Ven. Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, and began his training. He trained and practiced for more than three years at Ajahn Chah’s forest monasteries in northeastern Thailand, particularly Wat Pah Nanachat. Upon his return to his country of birth in 1994, Ajahn Sona founded the first Birken Forest Monastery, a primitive shack monastery near Pemberton, B.C.  As the community of monastics and visiting lay practitioners grew, the monastery moved several times until arriving at its current location, near Kamloops, B.C., in 2001. For more about Ajahn Sona visit his monastery at: Birken and Dhamma on Video


head shot of a monk

Ajahn Ritthi

Ajahn Ritthi, abbot of Atammayatarama Buddhist Monastery in Woodinville, Washington, is a monk and Dhamma teacher of the Theravada Buddhist tradition. For the past eight years, Ajahn Ritthi, a native of southern Thailand, has lived in the United States where he ministers to the spiritual needs of the Thai immigrant community, and works to promote the understanding and practice of Buddhism among English-speaking Americans. Ajahn Ritthi is a proponent of the reformist ideas of his mentor, the great Theravada teacher Buddhadasa, who labored tirelessly to promote authentic understanding and practice of Dhamma, especially focusing on meditation practice in the forest. Ajahn Ritthi’s formal teacher, Panyananda, now 92 and living in Bangkok, is the last living colleague of Buddhadasa’s group of reformers. For more about Ajahn Ritthi visit his monastery at: Wat Atammayatarama


head shot of a monk

Ajahn Sudanto

Born in Portland, Oregon in Ajahn Sudanto became interested in Buddhism and Indian spiritual traditions while completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon. After a year of traveling, he proceeded to Thailand to begin a period of intensive study and meditation, which drew him to Wat Pah Nanachat in the Northeast of Thailand. There he met Ajahn Pasanno (then the abbot) and requested to ordain and train with the resident community, taking full ordination as a bhikkhu in 1994. After training for five years at Wat Pah Nanachat and various branch monasteries in the Ajahn Chah tradition, he came to Abhayagiri to live and train with the emerging sangha in America. Ajahn spent the summer of 2007 together with Ajahn Karunadhammo (below) in the Columbia River Gorge on retreat in a temporary forest hermitage supported by the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. Later he was asked by the Abhayagiri community to lead the effort to establish the Pacific Hermitage in 2010.


head shot of a monk

Ajahn Karunadhammo

Ajahn Karuṇadhammo was born in North Carolina. He was trained as a nurse and moved to Seattle in his early twenties where he came in contact with the Theravada tradition. In 1992 he helped out with a monastic visit to the Bay Area and spent two months serving a winter retreat at Amarāvati. Ajahn Karuṇadhammo made the decision to ordain while visiting Thailand in 1995. He asked if he could be part of the prospective California monastery (the then unnamed Abhayagiri) and was part of the original group arriving at Abhayagiri on June 1, 1996. After training for two years as an Anāgārika and Sāmaṇera, he took full Bhikkhu ordination in May 1998 with Ajahn Pasanno as his preceptor. For more about Ajahn Karunadhammo visit Dhamma talks


head shot of a monk

Ajahn Jotipalo

Ajahn Jotipālo was born in Indiana. He received a B.A. from Wabash College and worked for six years in technical sales. He became interested in Theravada Buddhism after sitting several Goenka retreats. While on staff at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, he met Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Punnadhammo. After leaving IMS, he spent three months with Ajahn Punnadhammo at the Arrow River Forest Hermitage in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Ajahn Jotipālo came to live at Abhayagiri in 1998, and subsequently spent two years training as an Anāgārika and Sāmaṇera. He ordained as a Bhikkhu with Ajahn Pasanno as preceptor on Ajahn Chah’s birthday, June 17, 2000. Since that time, Ajahn Jotipālo has lived at Abhayagiri, but also stayed in Thailand for a year, spent several years at Arrow River Forest Hermitage, lived at Vimutti Monastery in New Zealand for a couple of years and traveled to several other monasteries. He has returned to Abhayagiri and as of summer of 2013 continues in residence. For more about Ajahn Jotipalo visit Dhamma talks