Luang Por Sumedho’s birthday (and other updates)

Adicco BhikkhuNews, Newsletters

It has now been a month since we held our combined celebrations for Visākha and Luang Por Sumedho’s 90th birthday. By many accounts, this event was felt as having been truly special – it was certainly unprecedented for Amaravati in terms of both lay and monastic attendance – and went remarkably smoothly. Some photos are already available on the gallery section of our website.

We opened the weekend’s proceedings on the evening of Friday 17 May, with the community gathering in the Temple for an initial puja together. After chanting paritta, two senior members of the community offered the first Dhamma talks.

Luang Por Anek, abbot of Wat Pah Sai Ngam, and a widely respected senior disciple of Ajahn Chah, offered the first talk of the weekend. It was particularly moving to witness Luang Por Anek give a Dhamma talk, as he suffered a stroke several years ago which left him physically dependent on his attendants. 

Luang Por Pasanno, former abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat and Abhayagiri, and third most senior Western disciple of Ajahn Chah – who is also widely respected in Thailand – offered the second talk, entitled “Just the Right Dhamma”.

The next morning, the sangha gathered in the Temple for a formal ceremony. First, Luang Por Sumedho, as well as the rest of the sangha, asked for forgiveness from Luang Por Liem, the most senior monk in attendance, and the abbot of Wat Nong Pah Pong (the main monastery in the Ajahn Chah lineage.) Then, as the main part of acariya puja, the assembly asked for forgiveness from Luang Por Sumedho. After concluding the ceremony, a photo of the whole sangha was taken, which can be seen in high resolution here.

The day had been designated as “Dhamma day”, and so in the afternoon four Dhamma Talks were offered: by Luang Por Damrong, Ajahn Jayasaro, Ajahn Candasiri and Luang Por Sophon. In the evening, Luang Por Jundee and Ajahn Amaro offered Dhamma reflections as well.

Finally, the main event, on Sunday 19 May was attended by about 1,500 lay participants and 150 monastics. Regarding the latter, we are grateful that Bhante Seelawimala, the abbot of the London Buddhist Vihara, and Tan Chao Khun Maha Laow, the abbot of Buddhapadipa Temple, were both in attendance.

The traditional outdoor alms-giving that took place in the morning was likely the largest one held at Amaravati since its inception. The community then gathered in the Temple in the early afternoon to formally celebrate Luang Por Sumedho’s 90th year. We began the ceremony by chanting parittas, and followed by once again asking for forgiveness from Luang Por, this time with the entire assembly, both lay and monastic. After that, Luang Por Sumedho shared a few words of appreciation, and Luang Por Liem offered reflections as a way to bring the weekend to a close.

The Temple was completely packed, so attendees either followed the live stream of the proceedings in the marquee set up for the occasion, or did so on their personal devices. Many lingered afterwards to say hello, make offerings or express gratitude to Luang Por for his life of relentless Dhamma teaching.

Luang Por shared afterwards that he had been deeply touched by so many people making the effort to attend. He also expressed his gratitude for all the work involved in the preparations for this event. The Amaravati community would also like to express gratitude and thanks to all the volunteers – including those working behind the scenes: cooking, cleaning, driving, organising logistics, preparing the flower arrangements, etc. – who made this event possible. To be repeated, perhaps, for Luang Por’s 100th birthday?

The monastery emptied relatively quickly after the big celebration, and the resident community has been thinner than usual, with many monastics travelling before the beginning of the rains retreat. In particular, Ajahn Amaro departed for Thailand at the end of May, and will continue onwards to Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the US. Ajahn Amaro is expected to return to Amaravati on 16 July.

Luang Por Sumedho departed for Portugal in early June, accompanied by his long-term attendant, Ajahn Asoko. They are presently staying at Sumedharama monastery, and are expected to return to Amaravati on 24 June. As such, Luang Por’s weekly Dhamma reflections at 3pm have been put on hold until his return, and we have updated our calendar accordingly.

The retreat centre has been running in a limited capacity for a few years, offering mostly online retreats. However, just like last year, the retreat centre is able to host a few residential retreats, from early June to mid July. Ajahn Nyanarato led the first one on the weekend of June 7–9, which was well attended. Although all the in-person retreats are presently full, you can still sign up for online ones on the retreat centre’s booking website.

Significant progress has been made on the new sala, and the main building, with its central part and two wings, is now fully visible. All going well, we hope to be able to start using the new sala by the end of this year. The retreat centre should return to its full operational capacity in the spring 2025. Recent aerial photos can be found in this album.

This year, Theravada monastics will enter vassa on Sunday 21 July. On the prior evening, we will observe our usual programme for Asalha Puja, about which we will give more information in due course.

May all beings be at ease,
The resident community at Amaravati