Biography – Luang Phor Kasem (Wat Susahn Dtrailak)
Luang Phor Kasem – Wat Susahn Dtrailak (Lampang)
Luang Phor Kasem was born on Wednesday, 28th November B.E.2455 (1912) in Jangwat Lampang. He was a descendant of Lampang’s King from Lanna Period.
He became a novice monk in B.E.2468 (1925) after the death of his uncle, the abbot of Wat Bunyeun. In B.E.2470 (1927), he went to Wat Setuwan in Bangkok to study the Pali language. He then returned to Lampang to further his Pali studies in Wat Seelom and Wat Bunyawaht.
In B.E.2475 (1932), he passed his Pali examination with disctinction and came in first in class at Wat Setuwan. In B.E.2476 (1933), he was ordained as a monk at Wat Bunyeun at the age of 21. His preceptor was Dhan Chao Kun Tammajindah. His ordained name was Kemagoh Pikkhu.
After he entered monkhood, Luang Phor Kasem went to Jangwat Chiangrai to further his Pali studies. He met Luang Phor Krubah Gaen, a very famous monk in North Thailand. He was a Tudong monk (forest monk) and was very good in Sammadhi (deep meditation). Luang Phor Kasem became a disciple of Phra Krubah Gaen and went for Tudong with his teacher in forests and cemeteries.
When the abbot of Wat Bunyeun passed away, Phra Dtomkum became the new abbot. After some time, Phra Dtomkum left the temple and the post of abbot due to boredom. The villagers invited Luang Phor Kasem to return to Lampang to be the new abbot of Wat Bunyeun.
Luang Phor Kasem continue his learning in Dhamma and Sammadhi practise even when he was the abbot. The more he trained, the more realised that life is uncertain. His duties as the abbot kept him rather busy and in B.E.2492 (194), he left Wat Bunyeun to stay at Sasahn Sahlahwangthan (a cementry at another place in Lampang). Luang Phor Kasem was determined to reach the highest levels of Sammadhi at the cemetery. He would sit in front of burial grounds and watch the burning of corpses. Whether in the hot sun or pouring rain, Luang Phor would sit quietly and watch the corpses being burned to ashes.
Luang Phor Kasem once sat in Sammadhi for as long as 3 months, without any shelter under the hot sun and rain. Even when his robes were soaking wet in the cold rainy season, Luang Phor Kasem would just sit quietly in meditation without any complaints and never asking for anything. He was able to free himself from all attachments in pursuit of the Dhamma and Sammadhi. He once went without food for 49 days.
Since B.E.2514 (1971), Luang Phor Kasem only bathed once a year but there was never any stench or foul odour from his body even when he sweated heavily under the hot sun. More surprisingly, though he went without shelter and a mosquito net, Luang Phor Kasem never suffered a single mosquito bite in the cemetery.
Luang Phor Kasem carried nothing with him. His only possession was an alm bowl, his robe which he was wearing and a piece of human bone for his Sammadhi practice. He did not even have any footwear.
Luang Phor Kasem said that he is a forest monk and does not require any possessions. He was content with a piece of robe covering his body. Anything given to him by laymen, Luang Phor Kasem would give away to other monks.
Luang Phor Kasem never used a pillow to sleep, because to him, a pillow is a luxury. Luang Phor Kasem would sleep with his body in full protrate position and the same spot where he sat in Sammadhi.
He was relentness in his pursuit for the truth. He asked for nothing in life though he could have enjoyed every luxury as a royal descendant in Lampang. Luang Phor Kasem passed away in BE2538 (1995) at the age of 83.
Luang Phor Kasem Kemagoh as we Thais call him resided at Trailak, Lampang province, has been known to be a highly devout and well disciplined member of the Buddhist Order, whose faith and practice have been respected by people from all walks of life. He is directly related to the aristocratic Na-Lampang family. His father was Prince Noinu of Na-Lampang and his mother is Princess Buajon, niece of Prince Boonvat Wongmanit, the last ruler of Lampang. Luang Phor Kasem entered the monkhood in 1920 for the first time just for seven days and his devout faith remained with him. A couple of year laters he was re-ordained as a novice at Wat Boonyun, Lampang. In 1931, the young novice passed the ecclesiastical exam. He took interest in the Khmer language, dialects and Pali, the Latin of Buddhism, so he could study the religion more fully. He was then under the mentorship of Phrakru Pichaimongkol, abbot of Wat Pichaimongkol, and practiced meditation in different cemeteries to the extent that he could develop his understanding and realization of the world and the path towards peace and compassion. In 1932, Luang Phor Kasem was ordained as a monk and has been known by his religious name “Kemangku” meaning person of happiness and well contented in Dharma. Four years later, he passed another high level ecclesiastical exam where he learnt the Buddhist language more thoroughly. With firm belief in the law of evanescence and impermanence, whether it is praise, honor, glory, blame or whatsoever, he practiced meditation to be delivered from the worldly concerns. When the abbot of the monastery passed away, the monks and the people unanimously voted that he should be the abbot. He finally accepted it as a good successor of Buddhist teachings though he would have preferred to be delivered from worldly preoccupations.
In 1951, he decided to resign from being an abbot but was held back by senior monks. Eventually he left away quietly leaving the following message:
“Everything I taught is fine. But please don’t accompany me since I have renounced the worldly pleasures. Being an abbot may be compared to being chief of the household who is responsible for several things though not appropriate for me. I would go towards peace and serenity and I shall never return.” Luang Phor Kasem had practiced meditation in several cemeteries until finally he decided to settle down at Trailak in Lampang. His conduct and practice had drawn attention from several disciples. Phra Bhavanavisuthajarn of Wat Trimit commented: “Luang Phor Kasem has always been highly devout. Even his monk’s robe has not been changed indiscriminately nor his bowl which accepts food without considering that he should simply part of it in order to survive and not be carried away by its taste and flavor. His shelter is simple and just good enough to avoid sunburn and mosquitoes. Even medication is dealt with in the sense that he can separate mind from body, another path of deliverance from worldly suffering and woes.”
“Another aspect is when Luang Phor Kasem finds paper scattered here and there he would collect and hang it on trees. When asked why he did it that way he answered that alphabets and letters may lead people to Arahatship, the highest stage of deliverance.” “So we should not contempt the paper which could be used to teach Dharma. His teaching is compared to Buddhist riddles which do not give direct answers not solutions. One requires mind and wisdom to reinterpret the meaning in order to discover a more profound path.”
Phra Bhavanavisuthajarn also observed: “The Dharma-hood as realized by monks is not known by outsides except by the monks themselves, otherwise it should be devoid of meaning once it is explained as having reached the high stage of development. However, it may be classified according to four levels; namely, Sodaban or person has attained enlightenment; Sakitaka, person of great enlightenment; Anakami, person who has renounced worldly pleasures and Arahat or person who has completely realized the four noble truths as discovered by Lord Buddha. Once he mentioned that Buddhadassa is the monk who has renounced worldly pleasures. It, therefore, is known far and wide that he realized that Buddhadassa is an Anakami. He himself, therefore, should be at least an Anakamo.”
Once Their Majesties the King and Queen visited him and graciously supported and patronized him as well. Luang Phor Kasem has been a source of faith and a great follower of Buddha’s teachings, whose conduct has been incomparable and well respected by people all over the country.