Ajahn Martin Piyadhammo

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Phra Ajahn Martin Piyadhammo
Other namesAjahn Martin,
Than Martin
Stuttgart, Germany
SchoolTheravada, Dhammayuttika Nikaya
LineageThai Forest Tradition
EducationElectrical engineering (Germany) Computer engineering (USA, Fulbright scholar)
Other namesAjahn Martin,
Than Martin
OccupationBuddhist monk
Senior posting
TeacherVen. Ajahn Maha Bua
PredecessorVen. Ajahn Maha Bua
Websitewww.forestdhammatalks.org [1]

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Ajahn Martin Piyadhammo

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Note: This article requires more triangulation type references, that is, 'secondary sources independent of the subject' in order to support the autobiographical sketch of the subject.

Phra Ajahn Martin Piyadhammo (where the word ajahn, Thai: อาจารย์, rtgs: achan, is a Thai language term, derived from the Pali word ācariya, translates as a "teacher." According to the Vinaya.[1], a monk who has passed ten vassa becomes ajahn. (Piyadhammo in Pali means 'One who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma'), commonly known as Than Martin or Ajahn Martin is a Buddhist monk in the Thai Forest Tradition. Ajahn Martin ordained as a Buddhist monk at Wat Pah Baan Taad founded by Luangphu Mun Bhuridatta (1870-1949) in December 1995. Since then he has spent 22 years practicing and teaching in the jungles of Thailand[2]. He was trained under the guidance of Ajahn Maha Bua or in Thai Luang Ta Maha Bua (Thai: พระอาจารย์มหาบัว, หลวงตามหาบัว;) (August 12, 1913 – January 30, 2011) at Wat Pa Baan Taad. Ajahn Maha Bua was widely regarded as an Arahant[3] and was a successor of Luang Pu Mun Bhuridatta who was himself recognized as an esteemed master in the Thai Forest Tradition[4].

Ajahn Martin is currently vice abbot at Wat Phu Khong Tong, a branch monastery located in the Nong Bua LamPhu province, Thailand. Since 2006, at the request of the western lay community, the Dhamma teachings of Ajahn Martin given in English, German, French and Thai language have been regularly recorded and transcribed.[5]

Early life[edit]

Ajahn Martin was born in Stuttgart in 1957[2]. With a knack of tinkering with gadgets from early on, he subsequently studied electrical engineering in Germany and then moved to the US with a Fulbright scholarship for studying computer engineering[2]. After graduation, he chose to join academia and worked in a research lab in Hamburg in the field of image processing and artificial intelligence. Even though he was living a happy life, had a girlfriend and a job with a handsome salary, he always felt a sense of dissatisfaction in the worldly pleasures that probed him to discover meditation[2].

At the end of the 1980s and in the summer of 1990, while meditating with his first meditation teacher - Vimalo Kulbarz, he had two 'breakthrough' experiences of inner stillness and rapture (Pīti )[6]. These experiences of absolute silence were so powerful that they caused an 'uplift of heart' within him. The later experience lasted for three whole days and catalyzed a dramatic change in his life. In March 1991, leaving his research lab and giving away all his belongings, he decided to go into homelessness[2].

From 1991 to 1994, Martin spent four years living in various Theravada monasteries in England and with Ayya Khema in Germany before he moved to Thailand[2]. In Europe, he was neither satisfied with the teachings, as they didn't show him the path to be free from greed and hatred, nor could he find enough time and opportunity to practice, being constantly busy with the daily chores of the monastery[7]. This triggered his decision to travel to the east as it became clear that his goals could not be reached in the West. While reading the book, 'Straight from the Heart' from Than Ajahn Mahā Bua he instinctively realized that the author of the book, Ajahn Mahā Bua, knew the whole Truth, and thus, decided to make Ajahn Mahā Bua his teacher in order to discover the truth for himself[2]. At that time, Than Ajahn Mahā Bua, a very strict teacher, was the abbot of Wat Pa Baan Taad, which was known as one of the toughest places in Thailand to practice meditation[3].

Arrival in Thailand[edit]

In 1995, Martin arrived at Wat Pa Baan Taad in Thailand and learned that Than Ajahn Mahā Bua had not accepted any new Western students for more than a decade. Making an exception for Martin, Than Ajahn Mahā Bua became his teacher[2]. Ajahn Martin has been a monk ever since, practicing and teaching in the jungles of Thailand[5].

Than Martin spent the first five years of his monk-hood within the monastery walls, under the constant supervision of his teacher, going out of the monastery only for alms around every morning[2]. As time progressed, he went deeper and deeper into meditation practice, overcoming the various obstacles that surfaced, reflecting upon his past experiences of dissatisfaction with the worldly life. Once his apprenticeship was over, he went on journeying alone into the wilderness, a practice known as 'thudong' in Thai. He spent two to five months every year on thudong, practicing for about 12-16 hours a day, thereafter, returning to his teacher at Wat Pa Baan Taad[2].

After 2002, as the number of German people visiting Wat Pa Baan Taad escalated, Ajahn Paññavaddho asked Ajahn Martin to take on the responsibility of teaching Dhamma to these German visitors. In 2004, Ajahn Paññavaddho passed away and the responsibility was shared between Ajaan Dick Sīlaratano and Ajahn Martin. In 2007, Ajahn Dick moved to the US in order to establish a branch monastery of the Thai forest tradition in Virginia[8]. Until he left Wat Pa Baan Taad in 2017, Ajahn Martin had sole responsibility of instructing the western visitors who wished to learn more about Dhamma and meditation[2].

At present, Ajahn Martin is vice abbot at Wat Phu Khong Tong in the Nong Bua LamPhu province of Thailand. There he continues to teach western and Thai visitors and monks at the monastery on a daily basis[2].


In line with the teachers of Dhammayuttika Nikaya (Dhammayut), Ajahn Martin emphasizes three crucial practices on the path to realizing the profound freedom: 'sati' (awareness)[7][9], 'samadhi' (calming and concentrating the heart—citta)[9] and 'asubha' (seeing the loathsomeness of the body)[10]

Explaining the former two, Ajahn Martin writes:[7]

"Wisdom has to be developed, and it doesn't arise by thinking about this or that in the usual worldly way. Our thinking does not lead to insight; it remains stuck in the ordinary world, the world of ideas and concepts. Rather, we have to reach the heart (citta). A person who does not see through his worries, fears and troubles remains a prisoner of the darkness, for these are veils which cover and obscure our minds and hearts – and in darkness no realization is possible. In this darkness, we do not, in fact, rule our own lives, but are ruled by the defilements (kilesas) in our hearts. As long as we have not gained any clarity of mind, we will always be deceived by the false promises of the deceitful mind. We know that it does not make us happy when we give in to its enticements and promises, yet we follow them again and again. Maybe I would be happier in a new job? Maybe it would be easier not to tell the truth? Maybe today I should skip meditation and rest instead? With questions like these, we should ask ourselves, 'who is the one who suggests these things?' and 'where do these impulses come from?'. If we continue to ask such things persistently, always going back and anchoring ourselves on the meditation object, usually the breath as it comes in and out, then we will arrive suddenly at a point of certainty. We will reach the 'observer' who knows. Once we become one with this 'knowingness' in the state of deep samādhi, in absolute one-pointedness, then everything around us, including the world, disappears. If everything collapses into one point, duality ceases to exist".[7]

While Samadhi is a well-known practice, Asubha is relatively less emphasized[10]. As Ajahn Martin explained in one of his talks: "I practiced meditation for 6 years in Europe and when I came here, I had to start anew. Because nobody was really teaching asubha in the West".[2] Asubha is one of the key practices in the forest tradition used to overcome sexual craving and greed and hatred[10]. Regarding Asubha practice Ajahn Martin writes:

"... Body investigation is necessary in order to understand that the body is the pot in which the plant of greed and hate is rooted... Normally, we view the body as a fine thing – the hair on the head, the hair on the body, the teeth, the nails and the skin. These things make us think there is something beautiful and desirable, but the moment we cut into the skin we see that there is absolutely nothing desirable. If we cut open the skin of our friends or lovers, we have no desire to hug them since all we see is a bloody mess with the greasy yellow fat hanging down, the flesh, the tendons and a soft, watery mess inside. Do you really want to hug someone like that? Do you feel like kissing them? Would you dream about having intercourse with someone with no skin? The moment you see the loathsomeness of the body without skin, thoughts of desire just disappear. The kilesas need to paint pictures full of desirable skin and beautiful forms; these are what they want, but the moment we show the kilesas the loathsomeness of the body – phut! All of a sudden they get disgusted. The kilesas that become excited are the same kilesas that get disgusted, and that’s why we do investigation of the body, that’s why we have to destroy the illusion that the body is something beautiful.[11]


On the request of the western lay community, the Dhamma talks of Ajahn Martin have been regularly recorded since 2006[2]. All these talks and the transcribed material is available on forestdhammatalks.org. The talks from 2006 to 2017 were given mostly to lay meditation practitioners and western monks at Wat Pa Baan Taad and those from 2017 onwards at Wat Phu Khong Tong.[5]

Dhammayut tradition in the West[edit]

In 1963, Ajahn Paññavaddho came to live with Ajahn Mahā Bua and became the first western disciple to be ordained in Thailand in the Thai forest tradition..[12] Thereafter several western disciples ordained in this tradition. Yet, little is known about the western disciples from the Dhammayut lineage of Lungphu Mun and Luangta Maha Bua in the West[12]. The primary reason can be attributed to the fact that Lungphu Mun's tradition highly emphasized the 'dhutanga' practices that involved a very austere way of living, including solitary practice in the forest (thudong). Rather than publicizing the teaching, the teachers give more importance to the spiritual development of the disciples.[12] Currently, a few western disciples of this tradition, for example, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (abbot of the Metta Forest Monastery in San Diego County, California), Ajahn Dick (abbot of the Forest Dhamma monastery in Lexington, Virginia)[13], are endeavoring to disseminate the teaching of the tradition in the West. Ajahn Martin mainly teaches in Thailand but he frequently travels to Europe and Malaysia on the request of western laypeople who wish to learn more about Dhamma and meditation practice[2]


  1. Pruden, Leo M (1995). The essentials of the Vinaya tradition. Berkeley Calif: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research: Gyōnen. ISBN 0962561894. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 "Biography - Ajahn Martin Piyadhammo". www.forestdhammatalks.org. Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  3. 3.0 3.1 The forest monastery of Baan Taad (2013). "A short Biography of Venerable Acharn Maha Bua Nanasampanno". Lungta.ecu. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  4. Acharn Maha Bua Nanasampanno (2004). Venerable Acariya Mun Bhuridatta Thera, A Spiritual Biography. Thailand: Dhamma, First Edition edition (2004). pp. iii. ISBN 974-92007-4-8. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Home - Forest Dhamma Talks". forestdhammatalks.org. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  6. Ajahn Martin (28 February 2018). ""Where it all begun ..."". YouTube. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Lieber, Andrea (2012). "Meine schwäbische Sturheit hat mir bei der Meditation geholfen! [My Swabian stubbornness helped me with meditation!]" (PDF). Tibet und Buddhismus. 101 (2): 31-34(English translation available at http://www.forestdhammatalks.org/en/ajahn_martin/interviews_TibetUndBuddhismus.php)
  8. "Ajaan Dick Sīlaratano « forestdhamma.org". www.forestdhamma.org. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ajahn Martin (8 December 2016). "Samãdhi is Not an Option" (PDF). ForestDhammaTalks.org. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ajahn Martin (14 February 2016). "How to practice body contemplation" (PDF). ForestDhammaTalk.org. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  11. Ajahn Martin (February 2016). "How to practice body contemplation" (PDF). Transcribed Talks of Ajahn Martin: 1–8.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "About the Thai Forest Tradition". www.forestdhammatalks.org. November 2, 2017.
  13. Ajaan Dick (2015). "Ajaan Dick Sīlaratano".

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