Monk in Thailand begins ‘death by meditation’?

Thailand meditation

As reported in the Bangkok Post, Luang Pu Pim, the abbot of Wat Weruwan in Thailand has laid in  a coffin, announcing that he will meditate until he dies. He is reported to have informed his followers that he was not committing suicide but that through mindfulness (sati) one could achieve ‘wisdom’ (paññā).

To state that this is ‘death by meditation’ is somewhat misleading. As one of the ten so-called recollections ‘mindfulness of death of death’ (maranassati) is a standard Buddhist meditation technique. It is of some interest to see such forms of meditation in modern Thailand.

Luang Pu Pim’s action has stirred debate on whether he has violated the Buddhism rule of “not showing off” in predicting the future, such as his own death. However his layman followers reject this saying that Luang Pu has never been a show-off, not since he built the temple in 1998. They say Luang Pu and the temple have never even made any Buddhist objects for sale.They were quite upset with the negative reports in the media about Luang Pu’s decision to end his life though meditation.

Controversy about Luang Pu Pim’s actions could be countered by suggesting the traditional nature of this form of meditation. Though not common these practices are given much textual authenticity. For example the Maranassati-sutta has the Buddha announcing:

Monks, mindfulness of death — when developed & pursued — is of great fruit & great benefit. It gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its final end.

Further details have emerged here.

‘The National Office of Buddhism is now closely monitoring a temple in Chaiyaphum province after its 65-year-old abbot has announced to leave his body in three days and told his followers to cremate his dead body tomorrow.

The abbot is now lying in a coffin guarded by followers.Announcement by the abbot of Wat Weruwan temple in Chaiyaphum, Phra Kru Weruwn Chantharang-see, or Luang Por Pim, Tuesday night drew hundreds of followers and Buddhists to the temple to practise Dhamma and follow up the movement of the abbot.The Medical Council of Thailand also described the announcement is a blatant act to commit suicide.His announcement came as the World Health Organisation has declared the September 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day, in an awareness campaign to gain worldwide commitment and action to prevent the tragedy of suicide.

After preaching hundreds of followers and Buddhists flocking to the temple Tuesday night following  his announcement to leave his body (die) in three days was spread, Luang Por Pim gave his last words to followers that after his death on Thursday, they cremated his body in simple way on the same day with no ceremony.

He also said after cremation  his bones and ashes  must be buried on a slope ground beneath a tree and beside the mortuary.

Before he left the body, he ordered that nobody be allowed to go close to the mortuary where a coffin is placed and his body will lie there.

Then he entered the mortuary while his followers sealing the area with ropes and guarding the entrance barring any people to go in.

Announcement by the abbot alarmed both local government authorities and the National Office of Buddhism which was interpreting his announcement could regarded “excessive boast” or not.

If it was considered a boast, then the abbot could violate the Buddhism law  which prohibits Buddhist monks to boast of having capability to perform superstitious act.

Meanwhile local authorities are also worried if such announcement was an attempt to commit suicide.

If it is a suicide, then people surrounding him would be found guilty if they didn’t try to stop such attempt.

Authorities were sent to the temple to watch  the activities but they were not allowed to go near the mortuary where the abbot is lying in the 80×100 centimetres teak wood coffin.

Authorities said the abbot had earlier announced to leave his body in three days but he did not achieve.’