Jordan Baskerville


An Ordinary Monk

Phra Paisan Wisalo is a highly regarded, prestigious and exalted monk. Therefore, when various universities bestow honorary doctorate degrees to him, it is a good, correct thing to do. When organizations offer him awards, it is also good. He simply receives these honors without clinging to these fortunate titles. When one organization offered a cash award of one million baht, Phra Paisan gave 500,000 baht of it to the Komol Keemthong foundation to fund youth activities. He gave the rest of the 500,000 baht from the award to a group of citizens who had been the victims of various disasters. He did so in order to help people redeem their lives, and if they recognize and understand this act, they may change themselves and possibly become better people. This should be regarded as a skillful act of an ordinary monk.

A pronouncement by Phra Paisan resembled the words of the Dalai Lama in his famous saying: “I am a simple monk” – even though His Holiness’s cultural status is the highest position among all of the schools of the Tibetan sangha (including Mongolia and Bhutan). In addition to this he was the ruler of Tibet, but he resigned his position. The Dalai Lama believes he should only regulate culture, therefore becoming like an ordinary, common monk yet still holding great significance as the sangha still reveres him immensely. Also, by honoring him, monks feel shame and do not misbehave or violate the Tripitika and become a group of dangerous, immoral monks. Even though the Dalai Lama holds monastic titles, he is a very ordinary, kind and simple monk yet is also supremely important.

Phra Paisan is an ordinary monk who seriously respects and venerates his teachers, even if he does not study with them directly. If he is influenced by them in the path of Dhamma, he will honor them. No matter if it is Ajahn Buddhadasa bhikkhu or Ajahn Payutto bhikkhu. Yet, he directly supplicates those teachers such as Luang Po Tien Jit Ta Supo, and Luang Po Kien Suanno. Phra Paisan follows this group of teachers’ Dhamma path very earnestly. He has gone to open the rains retreat (Jampannsa) at the famous Amarawati Monastery in England under the guidance of Ajhan Sumedho who is a main student of Ajahn Cha Subhado and others. Furthermore, Phra Paisan has never forgotten the kindness of Phra Ubachana Ajahn from Wat Tong Nappakun where he first entered the monkhood.

With gratefulness for our teachers, consider that merit is important for humans regardless of whether or not they are a monk or layperson. Veneration for a person that should be revered is filled with auspiciousness for both types of people. Phra Paisan conducts himself like this always and if people follow in his footsteps, it will be very beneficial for them.

Accordingly, Phra Paisan is not ungenerous with his wealth, regardless of whether he only offers gifts of the four fold blessings. He goes out and shares what he has with various people and animals, even in neighboring countries like Burma. He has been a leader in collecting offerings in order to help with matters of public significance.
A forest monk like Phra Paisan naturally sees the benefits of nature but also sees frequent destruction of it from natural disasters and from the greed of people in this era of globalization. He enjoins kindred people to come plant trees with him as it is an important activity that is regarded with serious gratitude.

Being a forest monk like Phra Paisan who follows the path of Ajahn Buddhadasa does not entail the rejection of reading and writing. Phra Paisan chooses to read books from across the globe that diverge from the mainstream. They help him understand the unjust aspects of society and see the concrete, contemporary roots of evil such as greed manifesting as capitalism and consumerism, hatred arising as militarism at various levels, and delusion driving mainstream education and the mass media.

In addition to his words and writings that have value for society and the environment, Phra Paisan also gives a lot of his time to people preparing to die and to those who are close to death. Phra Paisan writes, translates and travels to teach people including many who are in the dying process – something that often takes much of his time, even though Phra Paisan himself does not have the strongest health (even though it is better than Phra Payutto Bhikkhu). Regardless, there are people who like to bother Phra Paisan, but, like Phra Payutto Bhikkhu, he does not hide from them. He has humility and ethics that follows in the footsteps of the Buddha, yet also maintains a great sense of humor and laughs often.

Another important aspect of Phra Paisan’s life is his kalayanamitra (good friends): both monks and lay people brave enough to advise and speak with him frequently. At the same time, he also has lesser friends who disrupt him but, he does not take offence or become angry with them. Instead, regardless of whether they are monks or lay people, he offers compassion.

Phra Paisan considers being a monk a great honor. Because the life of a Bramhacharaya is a superb, precious way of living, it helps monks reach the stage of righteousness that lasts until the final remnants of suffering ends.
Phra Paisal is younger than me by two full cycles (24 years). We were in the same school of Roman Catholic Brothers that helped give him a broad, impressive mind that is well versed in other religions and that happily follows precepts from other sects of the Buddha.

Even now, Phra Paisan is still ordained from the Wat where I was once a novice. Consider then that I am the younger brother of Phra Paisal, who walks in front of me in the path of Dhamma, and in the path of the supreme way of life. Consider as an example that I try to proceed down the same path (as him) as much as a layperson can. At the very least, I continually respect and revere Phra Paisan with great faithfulness.

Sulak Sivaraksa, หกทศวรรษ พระไพศาล วิสาโล ในสายตามวลมิตร
จัดทำโดย เครือข่ายพุทธิกา มูลนิธิโกมลคีมทอง และมูลนิธิสุขภาพไทย
พิมพ์ครั้งที่ ๑ พฤษภาคม ๒๕๖๐