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Biography – Luang Pu Doo (Wat Sakae)

Luang Pu Doo Phromapanyo – Wat Sakae (Ayudthaya)

About Luang Pu Doo Phromapanyo – Wat Sakae (Ayudthaya)

Luangpu Doo Phromapanyo (originally known by the name of “Doo”) was born on Friday, May 10th 1904 in Ban Khaomao in the U-Thai district of the Ayudthaya province. His birthday coincides with Visakah Puja Day (Vesak), the day of Buddha’s birth and the most important Buddhist holiday, in the 6th moon of the year of the dragon, or rather year of the “large snake” according to the Thai zodiac. Du was born into a farmer family of four consisting of his father “Phud”, his mother “Phuang” and two older sisters. Each year when the rice harvesting season was over, his parents made and sold Thai desserts, to supplement the family income. A remarkable occurrence is recounted about Doo’s babyhood. One day when his parents where preparing “Khanom Khai Mongkhol” (a Thai dessert), his mother placed him onto a mattress on the terrace outside the house. This was during the rainy season when the surroundings of the house, the fields, the lower lying houses, barns, and animal pens were all flooded, as it often happens during the monsoon season in Ayudthaya. While the parents were busily working in the kitchen, the family’s dog suddenly started to act strange. It barked outside on the terrace, ran into the kitchen, and then ran back outside still barking. Since the dog normally didn’t act in such a way, the parents went outside to investigate. They were in for a shock to find that their baby boy had fallen into the water below the terrace which had no fence. However, instead of drowning immediately, the baby was floating on the mattress. Doo’s father jumped into the water to rescue the child. The parents could not help wondering about the incident. How did the boy fall into the water? He was still too young to move around and the wind didn’t blow hard enough to have carried the mattress over the edge of the terrace. And how did he manage to stay afloat on his mattress? Why didn’t the mattress get soaked and drown or turn over? There were too many questions and doubts, so the parents believed that their son possessed special powers which protected him from harm.
Soon after the incident, when he was still a baby, Doo’s mother died. At the age of four he lost his father too. Being orphaned as a young child, he was then raised by his grandmother and his older sister Sum. After having faced tragedy and bereavement very early in his life, Doo received his education at the temple school of Wat Klangkhlongsabna, Wat Pradusongthom, and Wat Niwedthammapawad. It was then when he decided to devote his life to Buddhism and to live as a monk under the Buddhist rule. The following years Doo spent as a novice at the temple.

Ordination And Monastic Life

Doo was properly ordained when he was 21 years old. His ordination ceremony took place at Wat Sakae in Ayudthaya on Sunday, the 10th of May 1925. It was the 4th day of the waning moon in the sixth month. The preceptor of the ceremony was Luang Pu Glan, the abbot of Wat Prayaatikararm. The first ordination teacher was Luang Pu Dae, the abbot of Wat Sakae, and Luang Pu Chaai of Wat Glaangklong Sabua functioned as the ordination-proclaiming teacher (second ordination teacher). Luang Pu Doo was given the monastic name of “Phromapanyo Bikkhu”. In his first Buddhist lent, he studied the dharma scriptures at Wat Pra Doo Song Dharma which was called Wat Phra Doo Rong Dharma at the time. His instructor was Chao Khun Nuang. The title “Than Chao Khun” is a title unofficially used when speaking to or of a monk of a higher rank; it means “The Right Venerable”. His two other teachers were Phra Khru Chom and Luang Pu Rod (also known as Suea). The title “Phra Khru” means “Venerable Teacher” (which is lower than Chao Khun in the monastic order). His meditation teachers were Luang Pu Glan, his ordination preceptor, and Luang Pu Pao. The latter was not only one of Luang Pu Glan’s master students, but he was also Luang Pu Doo’s uncle. In addition to these venerable teachers, Luang Pu Doo studied and practiced meditation with a variety of accomplished masters in different places, for example in the Suphan Buri and Saraburi provinces. In his third lent, he started to adhere to (the thirteen) austere practices, which constitute a Buddhist ascetic practice targeted at removing the defilements.

Luang Pu Doo abided by a strict moral code for all of his life, so he ate just one meal per day. It wasn’t until 1982 when his students and followers asked him to eat two meals per day instead, because his health was weakening as he was getting older. This new practice gave him more flexibility in receiving worshippers who came to offer him food. When his students asked his opinion about having two meals, he replied that its only advantage is giving Buddhist followers who live far away a second chance to make merit by offering a second meal.

The Dharma Dream

One night around 1957 after his evening chanting routine, Luang Pu Doo had gone to bed. In that night he dreamt that he ate three bright shining stars. While he was chewing on the three stars, he felt that they were crisp and cracking and he suddenly woke up in surprise. He wondered about his strange dream and came to the conclusion that the three bright stars represented the Triple Gem (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). Realising this, he began to recite the prayer of the refuge in the Triple Gem. He was extremely delighted by the experience and simultaneously reached complete confidence about holding onto the Triple Gem as the right method that leads the core of Buddhism. Henceforth, he determined to make meditation on the the Triple Gem (and the threefold refuge) a center piece of his meditation practice.

Loving Kindness

Luang Pu Doo has always welcomed any visitor regardless of class and background and he treated everybody equally. He never allowed his helpers to hold back guests or deny them entry. Luang Pu Doo was aware that many of his guests came a long way to see him to pay respect to him and to ask Dharma questions. If visitors were kept from meeting him at their convenience, they would be very disappointed. Luang Pu Doo showed loving kindness to his visitors and students. If they showed interest in mediation practice he would be delighted to give them support and advice. He never grew tired of giving Dharma talks to his followers.

Luang Pu Doo was not only a very patient man, but he also embodied the complete absence of arrogance. He was well-mannered all of his life and never treated anyone haughtily. Once Somdet Phra Buddhajarn (Seng) of Wat Suthat Thepwararam came to see him, one of the highest dignitaries in Thai Sangha, second only to the Supreme Patriarch, who is also perhaps better known as “Than Chao Khun Sangiam ”. He was one lent older than Luang Pu Doo and came to pay veneration to him. He also praised him as his teacher. When Chao Khun Sangiam finished paying respect to Luang Pu Doo he returned the gesture, and so they were paying respect to each other. It was a rare occurrence in a world that is dominated by power struggles, stubbornness, and arrogance. Most people tend to present themselves as clever and superior, but are unaware that in reality they are obsessed with and lead by their own defilements.

Luang Pu never criticized the Dharma practice of any institution in insulting terms. His point of view was that “a good person doesn’t beat other people”, not even with words and his students took this as an example of good conduct. Generally, he was a quiet but outspoken man who did not make a lot of words, but always meant what he said. He emphasized steady Dharma practice and reminded people not to be negligent. Some of his sayings were: “The good is with you, just continue practising”, “ never stop watching your mind and thought”, “don’t forget that everyone is going to die”, and “consider impermanence, suffering, and non-self.”

Luangpu Thuad

Luang Pu Doo taught his students to hold Luang Pu Thuad of Wat Chang Hai in great esteem. He always praised Luang Pu Thuad saying that he has fully realized the ten perfections (i.e. the stages of spiritual perfection achieved by a bodhisattva on his path to Buddhahood ). He suggested that Luang Pu Thuad is a bodhisattva who will be fully enlightened in the future. He guided all of his students and followers to put their faith in Luang Pu Thuad and to keep him always in mind, especially in times of difficulty during meditation or when facing obstacles in life. Luang Pu Doo used to say that “Luang Pu Thuad is already waiting to give help to everyone. Just don’t give up or abandon your dharma practice.”

Amulet Making

Luang Pu Doo had made different types of amulets although he did not intend to make it a profession. He produced small Buddha images, because he realized that there were many people who needed something material to remind them of the Buddhist teachings. There were students who sought only the pure Dharma and there were others who relied on talismans and amulets. He used to say that “being attached to a good talisman is better than being attached to a bad talisman”. Although Luang Pu Doo confirmed that all of his amulets received his blessings, there was one thing which clearly stands above amulets, namely meditation practice. He always told people who came to him to ask him for a talisman that the very best talisman they could think of was in their own body.

Late Period

Around 1984 Luang Pu Doo’s health started to decline and he fell ill frequently because he allowed himself too little resting time. He welcomed guests and students from different parts of the country all the time. Even when he was seriously ill, he insisted on continuing this as usual. The monk who took care of Luang Pu Doo said that there were occasions when he was shivering and had to be carried to welcome visitors. Yet, he never complained and he never made anyone worry about him; he never even talked about his pain. Later in life he was examined by a physician who found that he suffered from heart disease and ordered him to rest and to seek treatment at the hospital. He refused it. At the end of 1989 he proclaimed several times that he would soon leave his physical body. Although he suffered intensely he maintained outward composure through patient meditation. His mind was unaffected and serene, so people did not notice that there was anything wrong with him.

On Tuesday, 16th January 1990 in the afternoon he talked to one of his students who was a Thai air force officer. During conversation his face glowed and he said: “I will no longer feel pain.” In the night of that day many followers came to visit him. Luang Pu Doo said: “There are no parts of my body that don’t feel pain,” and he confirmed “I am leaving.” In his last words to his followers, he warned them not to be careless and not to neglect the dharma. He compared meditation practice to boxing: “Dharma practise is like a boxer in the ring. You have to start punching right away and don’t fool around.” After that he retired to his Kuti where he died peacefully on Wednesday, 17th January 1990 at the age of 85. On 20th April 1991 royal a funeral service was arranged in his honor. Luang Pu Doo spent 65 years of his life in robes. Though he is gone, his teaching lives on in the hearts and minds of his students.

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