Luang Pu Kinaree

Updated: Feb 13

Recollections From Ajahn Chah

– translated by Mudito Bhikkhu (slightly edited)

“Staying with Luang Pu Kinaree was not like staying with anyone else because his behaviour wasn’t like anyone else’s. He just looked at me – I didn’t ask. If my robes ripped again, I took a piece of cloth and patched it. He didn’t tell me to stay with him and I didn’t ask to stay either, but I stayed with him and went on practising. We wouldn’t speak to each other, as if we were competing to see who was better in being silent. When it was almost time to enter the rains retreat, I think he told someone from his family that there was a monk whose robes were all torn and that they should sew some new ones and offer them to him. I say this because a person came and offered me some robes. They were made with homespun cloth, very, very thick. They took the same kind of thread used in funeral ceremonies and used it to sew both robes by hand, and the nuns also helped.

“I was very happy – I used that robe for four or five years and it never ripped. But the first time I used it, it looked like an earthen pot because the cloth was still stiff (from the dyeing); it hadn’t softened up yet. When I walked it made a loud noise ‘flop, flop’. Especially when I wore my outer robe along with it, I looked even fatter. But I never complained. Only after one or two years of use the cloth finally softened. So I used that robe and always remembered Ajahn Kinaree with gratitude because he helped me and I didn’t have to ask him. I was very blessed. Ever since I got that robe I felt happy and at ease.

“When I looked at my actions, from the past to the present day and to the future, it made me think that whatever action that when done is not wrong, doesn’t create worries, generates only well-being: that is a good action. I thought like that, I really saw it like that and felt I had hit the spot, so I went full blast in my practise. I practised without stopping.

“Now, I tell you, if I were to wear that robe and go up into the mountains to meet a tiger, I think it wouldn’t dare attack me – if it tried, as soon as it saw that robe the tiger would be paralyzed and then leave trembling!”

During that period, Luang Por Chah studied with Luang Pu Kinaree and became close to him. He could see his different ways of practise and felt a lot of respect and inspiration towards him. Luang Pu Kinaree was a disciple of Luang Pu Sao but very few people knew of him because he was a person who liked living quietly. He was an ajahn who had a way of practise very simple and worthy of respect: he lived alone, he was firm in his practise, he was frugal – all his belongings were old and worn-out, most of them made by himself. Even though they were not good looking, he made a point of using them until they were completely worn-out and fell apart. One special characteristic of Luang Pu Kinaree was that he was very diligent in all kinds of work a monk can do. He never stayed still, except when sitting in meditation. Even in old age Luang Pu Kinaree kept this behaviour.

Ajahn Chah once said that during that rains retreat he spent with Luang Pu Kinaree, he himself was practising with full force – he practised walking meditation even under the hot sun or as it rained; he practiced so much his meditation path sunk in. But when he looked at Luang Pu Kinaree, he saw that he almost never did any of this. Sometimes he walked only two or three rounds on the meditation path, stopped and left to patch a piece of cloth. If not that, he would be doing something or other.

“I looked at him with disdain and thought ‘Where does this ajahn think he’s going to get? He doesn’t practise walking or sitting meditation, he just keeps busy all day doing this and that! I practise without stop and even practising like this haven’t gained any True Knowledge yet; how can Luang Pu know anything if he practises so little?’ In reality, my way of thinking was wrong; Luang Pu knew a lot more than I did. He would give very short warnings and very rarely, but they were deep and sharp in wisdom. The thinking of the ajahns are much wider and reach much further than ours. The real practise is the effort to eliminate the compulsions of defilement from our hearts; one shouldn’t take the external appearance of the ajahn as a sole point of reference.”

One day Ajahn Chah was sewing in haste – he wouldn’t rest because he wanted it to be done quickly so he could go back to practise. Luang Pu Kinaree walked by and woke him up with a brief saying: “Practise is to have mindfulness at all times, no matter what we’re doing. To practise moved by greed is already wrong from the beginning.”

Ajahn Chah only spent one rains retreat with Luang Pu Kinaree but during his travels, whenever he went by that area, he stopped by to visit and pay respects to Luang Pu and to listen to his short teachings and warnings. When Ajahn Chah talked about Luang Pu Kinaree’s habit of giving short teachings he always made fun of himself, because in those days his practice wasn’t yet well developed and he didn’t fully understand Luang Pu’s Dhamma sayings. As he once related:

“‘Buddho, Buddho – if Buddho is three meters away, bring it to one meter, bring it to arm’s length, bring it to a hand span, bring it closer still, put it in your heart right here. That’s it.’ Luang Pu said just this – I didn’t know what he was talking about, he said to bring it closer as if one were leading a buffalo...”

On another occasion, Luang Pu Kinaree taught about finding balance in one’s mind, about the middle path, with a short saying that took a long time for Luang Por Chah to understand: “Maddi [1] wasn’t tall or short, black or white, fat or thin. Everything in her was just right, just enough to be pretty.”

After Luang Por Chah was well established in Wat Nong Pah Pong and Luang Pu Kinaree was already advanced in age, due to his great gratitude for Luang Pu Kinaree, Ajahn Chah would send his disciples from Wat Nong Pah Pong to attend on him in his monastery. He also sent material support and whatever medicines he might be needing. In the end, when Luang Pu Kinaree passed away, Luang Por Chah also took care of all the arrangements for his funeral.

Luang Por stayed to practise and serve Luang Pu Kinaree until the dry season of 1948, when he took leave of his teacher to continue his tudong life. Before leaving, Luang Pu Kinaree gave him a short warning, as was his custom to do: “Venerable Chah, everything in your practise is fine, but I want you to be careful with teaching others.”

[1] The wife of Prince Vessantara, a past life of Buddha Gotama.