A Heart of Gratitude

Updated: Feb 13

Luang Pu Suwan Suciṇṇo was a first-generation disciple of Luang Pu Mun Bhūridatto and Luang Pu Sao Kantasīlo. He was born in Khaw village, Phiboon Mungsahaan district, Ubon Ratchathani province, sometime before the turn of the 20th century. His mother died when he was only six months old. This caused a great problem as there were no other women in the village who were in a position to become his wet-nurse. As a last resort, he was suckled for quite some time at the teats of the village dogs. As he grew up, this earned him his nickname – 'Dog'.

Having ordained in the Mahā-Nikāya, he had the incredible good fortune of encountering Luang Pu Sao and Luang Pu Mun. He first spent a rains' retreat with both of them in 1917 in the province of Sakorn Nakhorn, with another early disciple, Luang Pu Singh Khantayāgamo.

For the next several years, Luang Pu Suwan followed both Luang Pu Sao and Luang Pu Mun on tudong throughout the north of Isaan. One rains' retreat in Khaw village, Udon Thani province, another disciple with the monastic name 'Suciṇṇo' joined them for the first time – Luang Pu Waen Suciṇṇo. Throughout this time, Luang Pu Suwan was able to receive Dhamma teachings and advice from both great teachers, and made quick progress in his practise.

The general standard for forest monasteries in the line of Luang Pu Sao and Luang Pu Mun at that time consisted in fairly rough bamboo kuṭis that were really only temporary shelters, lasting for 2 or three seasons at the most. Luang Pu Suwan was unusual for a disciple at that time in that he liked to build monasteries – more permanent dwellings and buildings. The rest of the wilderness tradition soon followed along as massive deforestation began in Thailand and a forest monastery changed from being a small clearing in a vast forest to being a small forest in a vast clearing. In many areas today, the permanent forest monasteries are the only places where forest can be found – the only place where the forests have been conserved.

Luang Pu Suwan built many monasteries all over Udon Thani and Nong Khai provinces, setting them up as good practise monasteries, in the Mahā-Nikāya ordination lineage, that still exist to this day. His monasteries are easy to recognise. Whenever he built a Sālā or a 'Bote' (an Uposatha Hall), he would always have a large statue erected in front. The statue would not be of a Buddha, or a deva or nāga (traditional 'guardian' images), but of a dog. Dogs are held in the lowest esteem in Thailand, so to have a statue of a dog memorialised in front of a monastery would be quite shocking for some people. And although having the nickname 'Dog', and having suckled dogs as a baby would have been felt as shameful for many people, Luang Pu Suwan was adamant in proclaiming his gratitude to them. They had given him life, and not only would he not forget it, he wanted everyone to know the goodness he had received from them. The lowly dog was the symbol and talisman for all his monasteries. Rather than feeling lowered by the status of dogs, he raised them up, through the power of a true heart of gratitude.

Late in life, Luang Pu Suwan returned to his home village in Ubon Ratchathani, and passed away in 1958 or 1959.