Two Legs Monastery

From The Buddha In The Jungle by Kamala Tiyavanich.

Throughout his years of wandering Ajan Butda was often invited to villagers' houses to perform Buddhist ceremonies and give sermons. One day, as he was approaching a village, a man ran up to him and asked the monk, "Which is your wat?" (wat = temple-monastery) Ajan Butda replied, "Wat Song Kha [= Two Legs Monastery]. Wherever my two legs stand, that is my wat." In the context of the Dhamma, the two legs symbolize wisdom and compassion.

Like his village teachers, who studied local religious literature, including the Jataka stories, Ajan Butda believed that Gotama Buddha practiced paramis over many successive lives as a bodhisat before he was able to attain enlightenment. By the turn of the twentieth century the Bangkok elite of his day no longer believed that the Jataka stories had been narrated by the Buddha. Ajan Butda, however, was convinced that the Buddha had been a bodhisat in his former lives.

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On another occasion Ajan Butda was invited to give a sermon at a wedding in rural Thailand. Unlike Protestant ministers, Catholic priests, and Jewish rabbis, Buddhist monks do not normally perform wedding ceremonies. Customarily a marriage was performed by a layman versed in traditional rituals or by a respected elder. On their wedding day the bride and groom made merit by offering food to monks and inviting the most senior monk to give a sermon and offer blessings for the couple's happiness. Sometimes nine monks were invited, as nine was considered an auspicious number. These nine, together with the Buddha image, made ten, an even number considered auspicious for a wedding. On this day four couples were getting married at the same time, and Ajan Butda was invited to give a sermon.

Instead of the usual sermon about how a husband should minister to his wife and how she should reciprocate, Ajan Butda talked about supramundane happiness, the pure happiness of liberation from greed, delusion, and aversion. As Ajan Butda went on describing the joys of renunciation, the brides and the bridegrooms began to have doubts about embarking upon the married life. By the time he finished his sermon the couples-to-be had made up their minds not to enter the householder's life.

Instead of offering blessings at the wedding ceremony, the monk was asked to perform ordinations for the grooms and brides who now wished to become bhikkhus and mae chi (white-robed renunciants). Some of the grandfathers and grandmothers of the brides and grooms were so moved by Ajan Butda's teaching that they also wished to ordain along with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, since Bangkok authorities did not recognize Ajan Butda as a preceptor, he could not ordain them.
(also see Forest Recollections Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand by Kamala Tiyavanich)


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