In the Pali suttas, whenever the Buddha relays a teaching or discusses a subject with Venerable Ananda, Venerable Ananda often replies with the inspired utterance, "It is wonderful, it is marvellous Lord", in praise of the Buddhas great wisdom. Now with regards to the biography that details the life and practice of Mae Chee Kaew, I am sure that all sincere Buddhist practitioners will respond in such a way, because the life and practice of Mae Chee Kaew truly was wonderful and marvellous. Many contemporary Buddhist practitioners have come to feel grateful that Bhikkhu Silaratano made the considerable effort to collate and translate this work, as it gives a rare glimpse into the life of a truly gifted female practitioner from more recent history, a life that is truly inspiring to both men and women alike.
Mae Chee Kaew's name in childhood was Tapai. Tapai's father was very religious and devout, going with the monks on almsround and helping carry the food back to the temple each day. Twice a month on lunar observance days he would spend the entire day at the Wat. When Tapai's beloved mother died suddenly when she was still only five years old, she had a brutal lesson in the laws of impermanence and unsatisfactoriness. Fortunately her father and elder brothers cared for her very well and tried to cheer her up and to heal from this terrible trauma. From this early age onwards Tapai joined her father at the Wat on the lunar observance days, she soon became so appreciative of the quiet atmosphere there that she would sneak in and sit quietly under the mango trees whenever she could find time free from household chores.
Even as a teenager, the young women who would later in life go forth as an 8 precept nun had the immense good fortune (read good kamma) to meet Luang Por Mun, considered by most to be the greatest meditation master of the last century in Thailand. Luang Por Mun, obviously seeing Tapai's special potential, gave her considerable personalised instructions and encouragement and took a keen interest in her development. Indeed she developed in her meditation to quite an extraordinary degree very quickly. These incidents do not only allude strongly to the past wholesome accumulations of generosity, virtue and meditation of Tapai, they also shed light upon the extraordinary abilities and kindness of Venerable Luang Por Mun.
Life continued to throw many challenges at Tapai, even once she had realised her dream of going forth as a nun. Thailand was at that time affected by war, insurgency and scarcity. The determined yet humble spirit of the nuns, led by Mae Chee Kaew, kept them practicing diligently and inspiringly throughout the difficult times. Now that is truly wonderful! Yet some of Mae chee Kaew's most difficult challenges were with regards to maintaining her focus where it needed to be maintained in order to ensure liberation, rather than becoming lost in her extraordinary, fascinating and special abilities which truly were very marvellous.
Many years earlier Lunag Por Mun had seen that he could not teach this woman everything she needed to know, but he did foresee that another gifted teacher would appear later on to help, at a time where she would be more receptive. It took the 'tough love' of Ajahn maha Boowa who scolded Mae Chee Kaew quite fiercely, to humble and sober her mind from its refined fascinations and take a closer look at the ties that bind. Mae Chee Kaew is reputed to have destroyed all of the latent greed, hatred and delusion in her mind and became one of the Arahants. When her body was cremated there were many relics found later among the ashes. Today there is a beautiful Stupa/Cetiya dedicated to her that contains some of these relics where people can pay their respects.
This book is not only educative and inspiring, it is also a very good read.
I hope that you find something here useful.
Ajahn Achalo Bhikkhu
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