How Santi Asoke Buddhist Temple was established

       “The Asokans” or “the Asoke people” derived their name from the fact that Samana Bhodirak, their spiritual leader was ordained monk at Asokaram Temple and was frequently giving Dhamma talks in the area known as “Laan Asoke” at Mahathat Temple until he became widely known as “the Cutting Edge Axe.” The name the Asokans refers to a group of devoted followers consisting of monks, nuns and laypersons who practice and help propagate the Dhamma.

        The early Asokan laypersons came together to build and donate a centre for the Dhamma practice. The site, situated at Bang Yai, Nonthaburi province had a gardenlike character so it was given the name “Suan Asoke” (Asoke garden). It was the Asokans’ very first place of Dhamma practice. However because of the inconvenience regarding the means of transportation and other factors, the place of Dhamma practice was moved to Dhamma Sathan Daen Asoke, tambon Toong Look Nok, Amphoe Kamphaeng Saen, Nakhon Pathom province on February 22, 1973. It was at this place that the Asokans had been practising the Dhamma until the occurance of an incident that compelled Samana Bhodhirak and the sangha under his leadership to declare independence from the rule of the Sangha of Thailand’s administration on August 6, 1975 at Wat Nong Kratum. After that, in August 1976, Samana Bhodhirak led his followers to settle at a new place for Dhamma practice in Bangkok called Santi Asoke.

        Prior to this move, in year 1972 Khun Kittiya Veeraphand had already donated to Samana Bhodhirak a big Thai style house which is where the present Santi Asoke is located. And since it was in Bangkok it automatically became Asoke Headquarters. At that time the Asokans already had two existing centres as follows. Srisa Asoke Bhuddhist Temple, located at Tambon Grachaeng, Amphoe Kantharalak, Sisaket was established on January 23, 1976. Sali Asoke Buddhist Temple, Tambon Koke Dua, Amphoe Phaisali, Nakhon Sawan was established on June 6, 1976

        Dan Asoke Dhammasathan was integrated with Pathom Asoke Buddhist Temple, located at Tambon Phraprathone, Amphoe Muang, Nakhon Pathom in 1979 and on July 23, the following year i.e 1980 Pathom Asoke Buddhist Temple was established.

        When Samana Bhodhirak led his followers to settle down at this new site in Bangkok, he decided to give it the name “Santi Asoke Buddhist Temple” because the name Dhammasathan had already been used for Daen Asoke Dhammasathan. So the name Buddhist Temple was appropriate. The term ‘Santi’ means peace and the word “Asoke” is still used as it is the originating name of this group of Buddhist practitioners.

        Khun Kittiya Veraphand, the person who offered the plot of land to Samana Bhodhirak was renamed “Santiya”. This big Thai style house was therefore the origin of the present “Santi Asoke Buddhist Temple” and “The Thousand Years Vihara and The Buddha Relics Chedi”. 

        Lets us look at the reasons why Khun Santiya Veraphand offered the plot of land together with the Thai style house to Samana Bhodirak. Khun Santiya has said that during one of those most emotionally difficult times in her life she has read in one of the newspapers about the Dhamma talks given by Samana Bhodhirak. So she went to listen to him at Awuth Temple and became a devoted follower. Since she was having a Thai style house built at that time, she decided to offer this very much loved house to Samana Bhodhirak to be used for the greater benefits of others than just for her and her family which only consisted of a few persons. Khun Santiya and her family lived in the ordinary house which was built to be a temporary place to stay for the workers who were building the Thai style house.

        At the beginning most of the land were still ponds especially in front of the temple there was marshland with overgrown grass. The Thai style house itself was not yet finished and every time it rained, rainwater would spray all over in the interior. Over the years there had been several ongoing improvements which extended from the filling of the land, the building of the kuthis, for the monks to sleep in to the restoration and renovation of the Thai style house itself for an improved use of space. Upstairs was used as ubosoth, office and centre for propagating the Dhamma which included the production and distribution of Dhamma material such as Dhamma books and tape cassettes while downstairs was used for the dhamma talks, meals, books’ pages folding  and putting together etc. This was where the Asokans daily activities were routinely carried out.  This came into being on August 7, 1976 and from then on Asokans’ five main organizations were formed. 

Asokans’ five main organizations are as follows.

1.Dhamma Santi Foundation was founded in 1977 and is responsible for the ordained members of the Asokan community and laypersons living in the Santi Asoke Buddhist Temple. The Foundation has following objectives.

        The foundation consists of 15 members and administrators who are in office for 5 years.   Everyone are vegetarian Dhamma practitioners most of whom observe 5 or 8 precepts in Buddhism  and refrain from Apaya mukha or the vices that lead to lower spiritual life. They hold a meeting once a month and they receive no salary.

        The foundation’s activities are in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings that promote efforts towards one’s own as well as others’ benefits.  Such activities include education and public healthcare promotion. The foundation’s work is carried out in the following areas.

         Santi Asoke Bhuddhist Temple – Santi Asoke Community, Khet Bueng Kum, Bangkok.
        Srisa Asoke Bhuddhist TempleSrisa Asoke Community, Amphoe Kantharalak, SiSaKet.
        Sali Asoke Buddhist Temple – Sali Asoke Community, Amphoe Phaisali, Nakhon Sawan.
        Pathom Asoke Buddhist Temple – Pathom Asoke Community, Amphoe Mueang, Nakhon Pathom.
        Sima Asoke Buddhist Temple – Sima Asoke Community, Amphoe Mueang, Nakhon Ratchasima.
        Phupha Fah Nam Budhhist Temple

       Important activities.

        1. Print and publish Dhamma books for circulation.

        2. Education  -  Samma Sikkha Schools are private charity schools giving tuition from the beginning to the end of secondary level education. It is a boarding school and students pay no fees for tuition, boarding, study materials or extra curricular activities such as educational outings. Teachers and administrators are volunteers and receive no salary for their work. The philosophy of the school is “Prominent in Sila, Proficient in Work and Skillful in Knowledge” Following are the names of existing schools.
       2.1 Samma Sikkha Santi Asoke School (S.S.A.S.) General Discipline
       2.2 Samma Sikkha Pathom Asoke School (S.P.A.S), General Programme.
       2.3 Samma Sikkha Pathom Asoke Occupational School (S.P.A.O.S), Occupational Programme.
       2.4 Samma Sikha Sisa Asoke School (S.S.S.S ), General Programme with 3 branches as follows.
            2.4.1 At Sali Asoke Community, Amphor Phaisali, Nakhon Sawan.
           2.4.2 At Sima Asoke Community, Amphoe Muang, Nakhon Ratchasima.
           2.4.3 At Ratchathani Asoke Community, Amphoe Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani.
        2.5 Samma Sikkha Sisa Asoke Occupational School (S.S.A.O.S.), Occupation Programme.

        3. "The three national recovery professions project" (waste management science, organic fertilization and organic farming) has these objectives.
           3.1To create awareness among individuals in making use of global resources most efficiently.
           3.2 To practice the lifestyle of living in harmony with nature.
           3.3 To uphold the value of those professions that involve waste disposal and agriculture, especially organic farming.
           3.4 To spread the knowledge and encourage discipline among  the general public of appropriate waste disposal and recycling according to the nature of the waste and location for disposal.
           3.5 To create ideal goals for protecting the environment of the community.
           3.6 To maintain good physical and mental health of the people in the community.             

             4. Pathom Asoke community project located at 66/1 Moo 5, Tambon Phra Pratone, Amphoe Mueang, Nakhon Pathom 73000 was established in 1974 with the following objectives.
          4.1 To group together the Dhamma practitioners who wish to live near Pathom Asoke Buddhist Temple.
          4.2 To practise leading a simple and modest life, using resources in the most economic way and reducing the need for the luxuries of life. The practice is within the framework of the five precepts or eight precepts and higher precepts, according to each individual.
          4.3 To pursue personal spiritual development with these qualities as goals : diligence, creativity, productivity, generosity, kindness, compassion, self sacrifice, harmony with each other and mankind .
          4.4 To group people to live together in a good social and natural environment, among good companions and environment. It is a community where everyone is interdependent. Each community member is supported by other members of the community in health, in sickness and even to death. Everyone in the community is related by Dhamma.
          4.5 So that the community can be self sufficient in the production of the four Basic needs in life for the use within its own community.                                      
          4.6 To establish a Central Administrative Body, responsible for the production of the four basic needs in life.
          4.7 So that everyone in the community can contribute labour as " Boonniyom " (the practice to upgrade personal spiritual development) to produce the four basic needs of life for use in the community and if in surplus to the community’s need then that can be sold or distributed to other communities at low cost or even free of charge with compassionate sacrifice.         
          4.8 To develop the community for the balance of nature and balance of life.
          4.9 To propagate religious teachings in tangible forms through various media and other materials and in an abstract form through spiritual knowledge that can be experienced in the form of Ariya community, which is the community of brotherhood and compassion.
          4.10 For the advancement to the highest spiritual development as is befitting a human being, the highest being in the animal kingdom.     

           5. The Community’s Environmental Health Restoration Projects have following objectives.
          5.1 To promote the simple and modest way of life in harmony with nature.
          5.2 To create good values ​​in the protection of the community environment.
          5.3 To create people awareness in efficient use of global resources.
          5.4 To promote good public health.
          5.5 create a balanced ecosystem in the community.
          Important activities
           • Planting trees in the community, including various types of perennial plants, big trees, garden vegetables, herbs, starting from ground preparation at first.
           • Activities promoting  recycling from waste and sorting waste types such as live plants, seeds, paper, plastic, glass, metal scraps, infectious or hazardous waste.
           • Clean fertilizers production using the communities’ fresh vegetable scraps, fruit scraps and fallen leaves in the composting process with the help of microorganisms as catalysts. The obtained clean, good quality fertilizer which has the appearance of black soil is then used for farming.
           • Microorganisms production for odour and wastewater treatment. Indigenous Microorganism (IMO), Effective Microorganism or (EM) are developed from local wisdom and knowledge.
           • Production of cleaning products using microorganisms.
           • Sales of organic vegetables and fruits such as Goo Fah Din Store and Vegetarian Food Centre.
           • Sales of health and the environment products in stores such as Boonniyom Co. Ltd., Dae Cheevit Co.Ltd. and Khobkhun Co. Ltd.
           • To use natural products for various basic needs such as wood or bamboo to build houses, coconut shells or bamboo to make utensils or baskets and herbal medicine for treatment of illnesses etc.
           • Building small and modest sized village (community) in a natural way and planting trees in the common grounds.
           • Back to nature activities including building natural waterfalls, streams, beaches within the community creating a balanced ecosystem.
           • Preservation of local knowledge and wisdom and to use such knowledge in real life and also preservation of the Thai culture such as.
           • Cotton weaving activity for use in the community, using herbs for medical treatment, toothpaste production, group harvesting, rice milling by using locally made milling machines.
           • Sugar production from sugar cane, etc.
           • Energy saving activities by using communal instead of personal electrical appliances such as television, refrigerator, electric water kettle, iron and not using luxury appliances such as washing machines and water heater in bathrooms.
           • Animal conservation activities. Residents are vegetarians, they do not kill animals Nor use animal products such as ivory, antlers, silk. And by not killing animals also helps to maintain a natural ecological balance.

               6. Buddhism and charitable activities. Important events in the year include.
          • The ultimate miraculous Buddha Pisek ceremony, a 7 days annual event in February at Sali Asoke Buddhist Temple. Participants must, among other things, observe the 8 precepts, eat one meal per day which consists of strict vegetarian food.
          • The real Buddhist Plooksek ceremony, a 7 days annual event in April at Sisa Asoke Buddhist Temple. Participants must, among other things, observe the 8 precepts, eat one meal per day which consists of strict vegetarian food.
          • The Maha Pawarana and Devo Food Offering to monks at the beginning of November at Pathom Asoka Buddhist Temple.
          • The Free Vegetarian Food Festival throughout the country on 5th December as a charity activity to commemorate his Majesty the King’s birthday without asking for any donations.
          • The New Year Ariya Market where necessary consumers products are sold at the below the cost price. There are no animal products on sales. All the vendors must observe the 5 precepts and are vegetarians. During the festival there are Dhamma talks every morning. There is the traditional practice of offering food to monks on their morning rounds of receiving food from the lay community. There are guest speakers and lecturers giving talks on interesting topics throughout the day and there are local performers offering free entertainment on stage to preserve the Thai culture every evening till 9 p.m..
          • Regular donations of publications to school libraries, government and private agencies and the general public.

           For those who are interested in the Foundation's publications please contact Dhamma Santi Foundation 67/1 Soi Prasartsin, Thanon Nawamin, Khwaeng Khlong Kum, Bangkok 10240 Tel. 0-2374-5230.