Luangta Maha Boowa, the abbot of Wan Pa Baan Taad in Udon Thani’s Muang district, came into the limelight when he initiated a fund-raising campaign to help the country recover from the effects of the 1997 financial crisis.
As of Jan 9 last year, he had handed over 967 gold bars weighing 12 tonnes and US$10.2mil in cash to the Bank of Thailand. “When the economic crisis hit in 1997, I stepped in to help lift the nation from the depths of darkness, that is, from greed on one level of society and from poverty on the other. I wanted Thais to focus on the causes of the crisis so that, by knowing the causes, they could change their behaviour to prevent such an event from recurring. So I used the Help the Nation campaign not only to raise gold for the national treasury, but more importantly as a means to spread Buddha’s teachings to a broader section of Thai society in an age when many Thai people are losing touch with Buddhist principles,” said Luangta Maha Boowa in the booklet, Samana – Maha Boowa Memorial Book, which was distributed after his death.
Luangta Maha Boowa was born on Aug 12, 1913, as Bua Lohitdee to a wealthy farming family. He said he was told by his mother that of the 16 babies she had carried in her womb, he was the one who gave her the most to worry about. “I was either so still in her womb that she thought I must have died, or I was kicking so hard she thought I must have been on the verge of death.
The closer to my birth, the worse those extremes became. Just before I was born, my mother and my father each had an auspicious dream. My father dreamt that he had received a very sharp knife, pointed at the tip with an elephant tusk handle and encased in a silver sheath. My father felt very pleased.
“My mother, on the other hand, dreamed that she had received a pair of gold earrings which were so lovely that she couldn’t resist the temptation to put them on and admire herself in the mirror. The more she looked, the more they impressed her.”
He said his grandfather interpreted the two dreams to mean that the course of his life would follow one of two extremes. “If I chose the way of evil, I would be the most feared criminal of my time. My character would be so fearsome that I was bound to end up being an infamous crime boss who’d never allow himself to be captured alive and imprisoned, but would hide in the jungle and fight the authorities to the death.
“At the other extreme, if I chose the way of virtue, my goodness would be unequalled,” he said in the memorial book. He became a monk at the age of 21 and was a student of Luangpu Man Phurithatto, one of the most renowned Buddhist meditation masters in Thailand’s Buddhism of the Forest Tradition. His followers believe that he was an arahant, a living Buddhist saint.
It is well-known that Luangta Maha Boowa would always go without food as he said it helped with his meditation.
In the memorial book, Luanga Maha Boowa said he had tried his utmost to help society: “Within my heart, I have no sense of courage and no sense of fear; no such thing as gain or loss, victory or defeat. My attempts to assist people stem entirely from loving compassion. I sacrificed everything to attain the Supreme Dhamma that I now teach. I nearly lost my life in search of Dhamma, crossing the threshold of death before I could proclaim to the world the Dhamma that I realised. Sometimes I talk boldly, as if I were a conquering hero. But the Supreme Dhamma in my heart is neither bold nor fearful. It has neither gain nor loss, neither victory nor defeat. Consequently, my teaching emanates from the purest form of compassion.”
Luangta Maha Boowa forbade his followers from spending extravagantly at his funeral. In the interview with Nanfa – The Tiger Temple Magazine (produced by Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi Province) in 2009, he said he did not want gifts donated to him for merit while his body was in a casket.
To read the full article, please go to The Star Online> Thai monk revered in life, remembered in death by Foong Thim Leng