Male Monastic Community
The bhikkhu community at Amaravati was founded by Luang Por Sumedho in 1984. Its first members came from Cittaviveka Monastery. Many had spent some time training in Thailand at Wat Pah Pong.
There are usually between fifteen and twenty-five monks (bhikkhū) and novice monks (sāmaṇerā) in residence at Amaravati, living a contemplative, celibate, mendicant life according to the Vinaya and Dhamma. They provide a living link with the Order founded by the Buddha over two thousand years ago. The community also includes anagārikas, white-robed postulants observing the Eight Precepts, who after a year or two may be given sāmanera ordination.
The community is not static as there are close links with the other branch monasteries in England and abroad; bhikkhū (monks) and sāmanerā (novice monks) move between the monasteries.
In November 2010 Luang Por Sumedho handed over the duties of Abbot of Amaravati to Ajahn Amaro and is now based in Thailand, where his monastic life began in 1966.
Monks – bhikkhū
Luang Por Sumedho – Founding Abbot
Luang Por Sumedho (Ajahn Sumedho) was born in Seattle, Washington in 1934. After serving four years in the US Navy as a medic, he completed a BA in Far Eastern Studies and a MA in South Asian Studies.
In 1966, he went to Thailand to practise meditation at Wat Mahathat in Bangkok. Not long afterwards he went forth as a novice monk in a remote part of the country, Nong Khai, and a year of solitary practice followed; he received full admission into the Sangha in 1967.
Although fruitful, the solitary practice showed him the need for a teacher who could more actively guide him. A fortuitous encounter with a visiting monk led him to Ubon province to practise with Venerable Ajahn Chah. He took dependence from Ajahn Chah and remained under his close guidance for ten years. In 1975, Luang Por Sumedho established Wat Pah Nanachat (International Forest Monastery) where Westerners could be trained in English.
In 1977, he accompanied Ajahn Chah to England and took up residence at the Hampstead Vihara with three other monks.
Luang Por Sumedho has inducted more than a hundred aspirants of many nationalities into the samaṇa life, and has established four monasteries in England, as well as branch monasteries overseas. In late 2010 he retired as abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire. Since then he has been living in Thailand, and continues to share the Dhamma both there and in other countries.
Ajahn Amaro – Abbot
Born in England in 1956, Ven. Amaro Bhikkhu received a 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. Soon afterwards 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 1996 he established Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, where he was co-Abbot with Ajahn Pasanno until 2010. He then returned to Amaravati to become Abbot of this large monastic community.
Ajahn Amaro has written a number of books, including an account of an 830-mile trek from Chithurst to Harnham Vihara called Tudong - the Long Road North, republished in the expanded book Silent Rain. His other publications include Small Boat, Great Mountain (2003), Rain on the Nile (2009) and The Island - An Anthology of the Buddha's Teachings on Nibbana (2009) co-written with Ajahn Pasanno, a guide to meditation called Finding the Missing Peace and other works dealing with various aspects of Buddhism.
In December 2015, along with Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Amaro was honoured by the King of Thailand with the ecclesiastical title ‘Chao Khun’. Together with this honour he was given the name ‘Videsabuddhiguna’.
Ajahn Ñāṇarato (Nyanarato, Shigehito Nakao) was born in 1958, in Nara, Japan. His profound interest in the meaning of life began when he was being trained as a doctor in Kyoto University.
After graduation, he decided to go to India on a spiritual quest instead of becoming a doctor. He spent one year there and then moved on to Thailand, where he visited various monasteries including Wat Pak Nam and Wat Suan Mokkh.
After another year of exploring in Thailand he came to Wat Pah Nanachat. Impressed by the serene presence of the Sangha there, he finally found a place to settle. In 1986 he was ordained as a sāmanera and he received upasampadā the following year.
Later, Ajahn Ñāṇarato started to live under the guidance of Ajahn Gavesako, a senior Japanese disciple of Luang Por Chah. In 1989, they walked together on pilgrimage from Tokyo International Airport to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (around 1,000 kilometres). This took 72 days and was supported by the words of Ajahn Gavesako, “every single step of ours is a peace march.”
When Ajahn Gavesako set up Wat Sunandavanaram in Kanchanaburi in 1990, Ajahn Nyanarato joined that community and lived there for ten years. He also worked for Maya Gotami Foundation, a charity for poor youth in Thailand established by Ajahn Gavesako.
In 2000, Ajahn Ñāṇarato went to Nepal, intending subsequently to spend a few years in Sri Lanka, but the political situation there at that time did not allow him to do so. As he was also interested in learning how to live in the Sangha in the West, he came to England instead and spent the Vassa at Chithurst. He moved to Amaravati in 2001. Deeply inspired by Luang Por Sumedho and his teaching, he has resided there ever since.
Ajahn Ratanavaṇṇo was born in Korat, north-east Thailand, on 10 February 1971. After finishing high school he worked in an industrial concern for a year, and then, as he had not been called up for military service, he decided to become a monk for three months. Those three months have extended indefinitely. In his fifth year as a monk Ajahn Ratanavaṇṇo moved to Wat Pah Nanachat, where he acted as the monastery secretary. In 1999 he spent a year at Abhayagiri Monastery, before moving to Amaravati in 2001. Ajahn Ratanavaṇṇo returned to Amaravati in late November 2012, after spending the three previous years back in Thailand.
Ajahn Dhammanando grew up in Carshalton, Surrey, a fairly typical South London suburb. He attended Mitcham Grammar School and went on to study English and History at Keele University in Staffordshire, at a time when the curriculum there was broad and multi-disciplinary.
He was aware internally of certain deep, barely articulated questions, but did not pursue a spiritual quest to find answers to them because to him the religions which he encountered in the UK appeared only marginally relevant. He was forced to the conclusion that other people must have similar questions but that everyone suppressed them. It was after graduation, on going to Thailand as a volunteer teacher for Voluntary Service Overseas that he found some initial signposts, although at that time he had almost no understanding of Buddhism. The Thai people lived in a different way and different values were in evidence; he found this inspiring.
The culture shock on his return to the UK was far worse than the initial shock in Thailand. He did his best to take up a career and do the conventional things, but that shock of return to the West only served to deepen his questionings. But when he first heard the Dhamma from Ajahn Sumedho at Hampstead in January 1982, having been invited to a ceremony there by a Thai student, he began to feel a resonance. A month later the Thai friend took him to visit Chithurst Monastery and at Easter that year he took part in a ten-day retreat during which both the teaching and the practice succeeded in unlocking doors and opening windows. For the first time ever, those deeper questions had begun to be addressed.
He continued his career as a lecturer in Industrial Language Training, but began to spend more time with the Sangha, usually going on brief retreats or giving lifts to monks. In 1984 he helped to establish a meditation group in Northampton, and he hosted those senior monks who came there to teach. In 1985 he took a year off work to spend time as an anagārika at Amaravati and Chithurst. This experiment finally extended to twenty months, and although he eventually returned to the lay life it was to a different job, teaching in a secondary school in Croydon.
During the next four and a half years he studied for an MA at Essex University, among other things. The realization gradually dawned that being ordained was what he really needed to do, and that his more worldly interests were of lesser importance. In 1991 he returned to Amaravati to re-ordain as an anagārika and was happy to spend two years in that role there and in two other monasteries.
In July 1993 he took upasampadā with Luang Por Sumedho at Chithurst and trained initially with Ajahn Sucitto as his acariya (instructor). Between 1997 and 2004 he went on to train in Switzerland, then Italy, followed by a return to Amaravati and then to Chithurst again, before going overseas to Australia and New Zealand. He spent time in different monasteries in Australia, before living for two years at Bodhinyanarama Monastery in Wellington.
He returned to the UK in May 2007 to be nearer his parents, and, since then, has been resident at Amaravati, but he has also made occasional trips abroad to teach in France, Slovenia and Hungary. He currently makes regular teaching visits to a local prison and assists in receiving school groups at the monastery. He often offers basic instruction in meditation at Amaravati on Saturday afternoons.
Ajahn Ñāṇadassano (Nyanadassano) is of Czech origin, although he grew up with his Russian father in Latvia. He came to Amaravati in the autumn of 1999, with the interest to become a monk. Ajahn Nyanadassano received the Full Acceptance (Upasampada) as a bhikkhu on 21 July 2002 and spent the following year at Chithurst Buddhist Monastery. After another period of time living at Amaravati, Ajahn Nyanadassano spent a year in Thailand, living mostly at Wat Pah Nanachat. He also spent some time in Wat Pah Pong and Dtao Dum before returning to Amaravati in 2006. Over the past several years, Ajahn Nyanadassano has lived at monasteries in Italy, New Zealand, Thailand and Portugal. In November 2015 he returned to Amaravati.
Ajahn Asoko grew up in a village near Geneva in Switzerland. His mother brought Buddhism into the family life. As a teenager, he visited Amaravati Monastery, where he first met Ajahn Sumedho and was fortuitously able to attend a ten day retreat with Ajahn Sucitto. At 19 years old, he decided to take a sabbatical year off and spend it at Wat Nanachat, Ajahn Chah's branch monastery for Westerners in Thailand, under the guidance of Ajahn Pasanno.
After 9 years back in lay life, it seemed time to return to Thailand, and was ordained as a bhikkhu by Luang Por Liem. He spent 18 years in Thailand, the last 8 years as Luang Por Sumedho's attendant and secretary. He came to stay at Amaravati Monastery in January 2021 as Luang Por Sumedho returned to live there.
Ajahn Vinīta was born in 1977, in Embilipitiya, Sri Lanka. There he became a Samanera (novice) in 1994. He first visited Amaravati in 2003, and came back to join the community in 2005. In summer 2006, he received the Upasampadā from Ajahn Sumedho in the Amaravati temple Sīmā.
Ven. Santamano was born in Wallasey in 1980. He and his parents moved to India for a few years before returning to England in 1993. His initial interest in Buddhism came through reading the works of D T Suzuki and started going to meditation classes at the Buddhist Society in London. There he learned of Amaravati and started listening to Dhamma Talks on the Internet.
Ven. Santamano began visiting Amaravati as a guest and coming to retreats. He took the anagarika precepts in December 2008 and received the pabbajja (novice 'going forth') on 27 July, 2010, with Luang Por Sumedho as preceptor. On 10 July, 2011 Ven. Santamano received the upasampadā, or full admission into the bhikkhu sangha, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Venerable Ṭhānavaro was born in Budapest, Hungary, where he studied and practised Buddhism before coming to Amaravati for the first time in 2007. He took the anagārika precepts in July 2009 and received pabbajja (novice ordination) on 27 July 2010, with Luang Por Sumedho as preceptor. On 10 July 2011 Ven. Ṭhānavaro received full ordination as a bhikkhu, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Bhikkhu Narindo was born to Chinese-Malaysian parents in the Netherlands in the winter of 1981. In addition to pursuing his studies he helped with his parents' restaurant business. In 2005 he completed his studies at the Rotterdam school of Management, and started working in international sales and marketing for a Dutch multinational.
His interest in people of various cultures led him to travel to different countries. In 2004, during a study exchange in Singapore, he came across a well-informed Buddhist who introduced him to many different traditions of Buddhism, but especially the Ajahn Chah lineage. To his amazement, the Buddhist teaching revealed itself as something he had partly incorporated in his life, without knowing it was “Buddhist.” The emphasis in the Buddhist teachings on personal morality and on sharing goodness in body, speech and mind was very inspiring. His strong aspirations resulted in serious commitment to the Three Refuges and Five Precepts.
From 2004 he spent his holidays mostly in Asia (Thailand, Burma, Tibet, Malaysia, Singapore) to visit Buddhist places with his Dhamma friends. After some years he felt a need for more guidance in his meditation practice, and looked for meditation classes connected with the Ajahn Chah lineage. In 2009 he found the Amaravati Retreat Centre on the internet, and in June of that year during a ten-day retreat; he surprised himself: there was a sudden urge to renounce his lay-life. In the winter of 2010 he arrived at Amaravati and found the monastery supportive for the practice. Venerable Narindo was ordained as a bhikkhu on 29 July, 2012, with Ajahn Amaro as preceptor.
Venerable Ruciro was born in Croydon, South London in 1978. He studied at university and achieved two degrees, one in Sports Science and the other in Physiotherapy. For eight years Venerable Ruciro worked for the National Health Service (NHS) as a physiotherapist, specializing in the field of neurology during the last three years. He first became interested in Buddhist meditation as a way of coping with ‘stress’ when he was twenty-five years old. He started visiting Wat Buddhapadipa in Wimbledon, London on a regular basis, and later began coming to Amaravati. He attended retreats in Thailand (Wat Suan Mokkh and Wat Umong), and also spent ten days at a monastery in Sri Lanka.Venerable Ruciro was extremely inspired by Luang Por Sumedho and his teachings, and similarly by Ajahn Amaro. This culminated in his decision to ‘go forth’ as an anagārika at a ceremony held at Amaravati on 25 August 2012.Venerable Ruciro requested the sāmanera pabbajjā on 10 August 2013, at a ceremony held in the Amaravati Temple.
Ven. Dhammavicayo was born in 1972 in Würzburg, Germany.
He started early in life with the development of computer software and worked professionally in that field for 18 years. When he was 30 years old he moved from the area of Frankfurt to Switzerland where he lived for 9 years and worked the last 4 years for a Swiss bank. During that time he studied at a university in Bern and completed a BSc. in Business Administration.
These last years were especially demanding and added to a general feeling of discontent with life. During his search for new ideas, he signed up for a meditation class without really knowing what it was all about.
After taking up a regular meditation practice, he could see the positive effects of the Buddha's teachings for himself. He subsequently joined a meditation group in Bern, also spending his annual leave on Vipassana meditation retreats in Switzerland and the USA.
Through the meditation group, he heard about Dhammapala Monastery in Kandersteg where he became a regular guest. For him, there was a stark contrast between the peaceful environment of the monastery and the dissatisfying work life in the bank. One day, rather suddenly, the idea came up to leave lay-life behind and to ordain as a monk.
While not really doubting this was the right way, he nevertheless decided to participate in a 2-month retreat in the USA to see if his mind changed. As it didn't, he made enquiries for a suitable monastery and decided to ask for the training at Aruna Ratanagiri near Newcastle in the UK.
At Aruna Ratanagiri, he took up the Anagārika training in February 2012 with Ajahn Munindo and received the pabbajja (novice 'going forth') in March 2013, again with Ajahn Munindo who gave him the name Dhammavicayo.
In June 2014 he moved to Amaravati and received the upasampadā, the full ordination as a Bhikkhu, on 21 December 2014 with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Venerable Balado (Walter Meusburger) was born in 1960 in Goetzis, Austria into a family with a roman catholic background. After commercial school and army service he worked in accounting for some years. Then studied social work in Bregenz, most of the time working in the field of addiction therapy.
In 1992 he attended a zen sesshin (retreat) led by a jesuit priest, where he learned the practice of sitting in stillness and appreciated the simple structure of the formal meditation and the focus on the body-mind. Two years later he turned his interest to the teachings of the Buddha and joined sesshins in the soto-zen tradition with Fumon Nakagawa Roshi.
In 2006, he took a 4-month-sabbatical in Thailand and attended several retreats at Wat Kow Tahm. He was particularly affected by the teachings on the five hindrances which brought a new understanding to the practice of meditation with regard to experiences of distress in daily life. The teachings on Anapanasati at Wat Suan Mokkh also became a substantial support as a way of coping with distress and developing an anchor for the body-mind. It was at this time, that the vision of a simple life as a monk first crossed his mind, but the household life seemed still be bearable and gratifying enough.
In 2014, after another time-limited work contract, he decided to take up the ‘homeless life’ and become an anagārika. His Anagārika Precept Ceremony was held at Amaravati on 2 May 2015. He then received the Pabbajjā or novice 'going forth' on 20 May 2016, and full acceptance into the Bhikkhu-Sangha on 2 July 2017, with Ajahn Amaro acting as preceptor.
Bhikkhu Jayadhammo was born in Doncaster, England in 1979. He joined the community at Harnham Buddhist Monastery in 2013, where he stayed for three years, initially as a lay-resident and then going on to train as an Anagarika. He continued his training at Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, where he received Pabbajja as a Samanera ('Going Forth' as a novice monk), before joining the community at Amaravati in 2018.
Jalito was born in Latvia in 1986. His first contact with Buddhism came during his studies in high school. At the age of 21, when going through a difficult time in his life, he came upon a transcript of a talk given by Ajahn Sumedho. It deeply resonated with Jalito Bhikkhu, and for the first time he visited one of the monasteries established by Ajahn Sumedho. After years of trying to settle in the worldly life, he returned to a monastery at the age of 28. Two years later he took on the training and white robes as an anagārika, and received the pabbajja or novice 'going forth' in a ceremony on the 3 June 2018, with Ajahn Amaro as his preceptor.
Tan Khemadassī's interest in Buddhism started when he was 16, reading the book Siddhartha. After trying out different spiritual approaches in California, he resonated mostly with the simple, clear and direct instructions he received from various Vipassana teachers. The opportunity to join 10 day retreats at no cost other than sincere commitment, naturally formed a bond to the Theravada lineage.
On the search for a like-minded community and a simpler lifestyle he got curious about visiting a Buddhist monastery. The first visit to such a training place was in 2014. Reflecting on the blessings of this two week stay in this sobering atmosphere which the monastery offered, Tan Khemadassī felt drawn to come back.
Taking his time to visit different monasteries in east and west, in 2017 he settled at Amaravati, UK for the one-year Anagarika training. As the monastic form proved to be mostly beneficial, he decided to become a fully ordained monk (bhikkhu) under the guidance of the current abbot Phra Ajaan Raj Buddhivaraguṇa (Ajahn Amaro) on 29th December 2019.
As a layman, Tan Cittasamvaro used to have recurring dreams about missing trains due to having so much baggage to lug about. He doesn't have those dreams anymore.
When he first read about the four noble truths a spark was ignited. He started by practising on his own. After a year or so he decided that it would be beneficial to find the support of a group, this led him to Hartridge Buddhist Monastery. He felt he could trust the monks as they were walking the walk. He felt very welcomed by the Abbot, Ajahn Jutindharo, and the rest of the community. After a period of participating in the Sunday evening pujas he stayed for a weekend. During this weekend, in addition to finding the community life very appealing, he attended a talk given by Ajahn Khemmanando. The Ajahn said something along the lines of "...if one gets the opportunity, then the most worthwhile way to live life is as a Bhikkhu......" Tan Cittasamvaro totally believed the sincerity of his utterance and for the first time he realised that he too could be a Bhikkhu once my personal circumstances were favourable. It took a while to get the ducks in a row.
Tan Cittasamvaro went forth as a novice in Hartridge with Ajahn Sucitto as preceptor and had his bhikkhu ordination on 27th December 2020 with Ajahn Amaro as preceptor. He very much enjoys living in a mixed community with his brothers and sisters in the holy life.