Biography of Samana Bhodirak
Samana Bhodirak (Mongkol Rakphongs) was born on June 5, 1934 in Srisaket, Thailand. His father died when he was still a child. His mother moved to Ubonratchathani, her ancestral hometown to start up her own business and later remarried. She was successful in her trade and became prosperous but later encountered deceptive dealings from others and became ill. Her economic situation deteriorated but she received financial help from Mongkol’s uncle who was a medical doctor. As for Mongkol himself he was a very hard working and enduring boy who had helped his mother in the family shop all along.
After finishing his secondary education in Bangkok, he entered Poh Chang Art College in the Faculty of Fine Arts and changed his name to Rak Rakphongs while studying at this college.
After graduation he started working for Thai TV Co. Ltd. in year 1958, producing children’s programmes as well as educational and academic programmes and became well known for these programmes. He also worked part-time teaching art classes in different schools. At that time he was earning a monthly salary of 20,000 baht (while the monthly salary of the Thai prime minister was 12,000 baht). When his mother died he took on the responsibility of financing the education of his younger siblings up to the levels each of them had desired to pursue.
Rak Rakphongs was a talented writer, poet and song writer. He wrote short stories, documentary articles, poetry and composed songs while he was still studying at Poh Chang College of Art. One of the songs he wrote during his student years, and while also doing extra work as a newspaper delivery boy, was Phoo Phae (The Loser) which became the biggest hit on the chart during 1994 and 1995. Other songs he wrote for the film ‘Tone’ such as ‘Fah Tam Phaendin Soong’ (Heaven within Reach as Earth may Rise), Chuen Rak (So in Love) and Kratai Phue (the Rabbit who yearns for the Moon) also gained much popularity.
For a while Rak Rakphongs was engaged in performing occult practices as this interested him and he gained considerable popularity with it. But later he started to seriously study Buddhism and became very inspired by Buddha’s invaluable teachings. He devotedly studied and practised Buddha’s teachings step by step by becoming a vegetarian, renouncing apàyamukha (six vices of conduct that lead to low life), renouncing lokadhamma (worldly conditions) and kamaguna (sensual pleasures) and eating one meal per day until he felt natural with this way of life and was certain of the path he wanted to pursue in life. On November 7, 1970 he was ordained monk by Phra Rajaworakhun in the Dhammayutika Nikaya at Wat Asokaram Temple and received the name Bhodirakkhito.
Having been ordained as a Buddhist monk he continued to devotedly practise the dhamma and strictly observed the precepts and practised full awareness in all his actions to such an extent that he gained much respect from laypersons as well as monks from both Maha Nikaya order and Dhammayutika Nikaya order.
However, Phra Rajaworakhun, his ordinator, later refused to allow monks from Maha Nikaya order to come and study together with monks in his temple. So on May 2, 1973 Phra Bhodirak went to enroll himself again as monk in the Maha Nikaya order at Nong Krathum Temple in Nakhon Pathom without ever having given up his monkhood from Dhammayutika Nikaya order. This time his ordinator was PhraKrue Sathit Wutthikhun. The reason for this second ordination was because Phra Bhodirak was less concerned with the different orders but more concerned with the essence of the dhamma. So monks from both orders who practised Samansangwasa (common sanghakamma and common practice) came to study and practise the dhamma with him because they put the focus on the DhammaVinaya itself .This, however displeased his Dhammyuttikka Nikaya’s ordinator. So on May 25, 1973 he returned the Dhammayutika Nikaya’s monk certificate to his ordinator. He only retained the monk certificate from Maha Nikaya order. Inpursuing his goal to carry out his religious duties for the sake of mankind, strictly in keeping with the Vinaya, he continued to welcome monks from both orders to study and practise the dhamma with him.
The strict way of practice that he and his followers adopt such as eating one meal per day which consist of only vegetarian food, renouncing the use of money, wearing brown robes, living simple life, not asking for donations, not blessing by sprinkling holy water, not worshipping with candles and incense and not performing occult activities among other things. These practices differ from those of monks in the mainstream monks in Thailand who lead a life of comfort and abundance. For this reason Samana Bhodirak was often criticized for deviating from Buddha’s teachings.
Having constantly encountered various obstacles all along in propagating the dhamma he finally resigned from being governed by Maha TheraSamagama (The Council of Elders) on August 6, 1975. This action is called Nana Sangwasa and the person who choses to do so has the right to be protected by clause 25 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand.
However, Phra Bhodirak and his ordained followers received the court verdict as guilty of violation of the Sangha Laws and could no longer be called Phra. Thus he called himself and his male ordained followers as “Samana” and continued to practise the dhamma strictly as before.
That things turned out this way was not his intention to make a split but things took on their own natural courses, starting from when Rak Rakphongs began to practise the dhamma according to the Vinaya until he attained Ariyasajjadhamma. He then ordained as monk with both orders. But his practice has, in its own natural way developed in a way that the only way for him to continue to do his religious work for the good of mankind is to be Nana Sangwasa as it is today.
Today, as leader of the Asokan Group he has founded the “Boonniyom Community” in accordance with the Buddhist philosophy that believes that Sammaditthi (Right Perception) is the vital essence in man and society. The Boonniyom Community has been so successful in advocating the philosophy of simple living, self-reliance, creativeness, productiveness, hardworking, endurance, non-exploitation and selflessly giving of oneself in the service of others that has become known as the “PhorPhiang Community” or the “Community of Contented People”.
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