Phra Ratsamee, abbot
Phra Ratsamee started Buddhangkura Buddhist Temple in Olympia 17 years ago. Prior to that, he was assistant abbot at an Australian temple for four years, then went to California and North Carolina. Phra Ratsamee was born in Surin Province in Thailand in 1962, and was ordained there in 1988 by Luong Phu Dilok. He stayed at the branches for five years. His reason to ordain, he says, was to pay back the goodness of his parents, and to learn how to be free from suffering. Phra Ratsamee’s specialty is training novices, but he does much more than that. He is always busy. He leads all the traditional Thai ceremonies, sprinkling them heavily with the dhamma. He trains the resident monks in chanting, conveys the vinaya, oversees work around the monastery, and has taken on two large projects: the Annual Meeting in June, and construction of the Big Buddha at his home village in Thailand.
Ajahn Manop was born near Bangkok in 1957, and ordained in 1988 in Sakornnakhon Province in NE Thailand. He attended university, and eventually went south to Hat Chai to teach at the Southern University of Thailand, all the while planning to ordain in ten years. He accomplished this with Ajahn Ban as his teacher, and then stayed in his teacher’s center and branches for 25 years. Ajahn Manop then came to the US, staying in Colorado, Arizona, and Kansas for one year each before landing in Olympia. Ajahn Manop practices walking meditation in the neighborhood morning and evening, sometimes for 2 hours at a time. His smile is engaging. During the past year the neighbors have gotten to know him; sometimes a driver turns the car around after passing him, to come back and talk. Ajahn Manop says it’s good to understand the society around the temple, that one must understand another culture to teach its members.
Born in 1980 in Chaiyaphum province in NE Thailand, Venerable Phumijitto was given that name at ordination in 2002, meaning unshakeable/strong mind. He uses the nickname Venerable Lord. As a novice at Kanjanaburi Temple, he met Phra Ratsamee who was also staying there, and who contacted him in 2008 to join the monastery in Olympia. Venerable Phumijitto had trained in the Missionary Abroad program for 3 months. He came straight here, and has been here ever since. Phra Phumijitto likes Buddhangkura Temple because of the extensive grounds and the trees. He has only been back home twice in all this time, able to live away from home for a long period, thus living up to his name, strong mind. He is the go-to monk for assistance with audio-visual equipment, and is the monastery’s secretary.
Phra Yuenong Khaokham
Phra Yuenyong Khaokham was born in 1969 in Chang Mai, Thailand. His life until 3 years ago was one of wishing to ordain, but not yet doing it. While still a teenager, he, his brother, and a friend went on a 6 year tudong, meeting many ajahns and staying in many temples. Then he went south to stay at Buddhadasa’s temple. Eventually, Phra Young, as we call him, was given robes and an alms bowl, and he carried them around for 20 years. Finally, after working for 15 years in Massachusetts he felt the years catching up to him. He wanted to ordain while he was still healthy and strong enough to contribute something to a temple. He’d known Phra Ratsamee when the abbot ordained. Now, fully ordained himself in 2015, he puts his work experience to good use, helping with jobs at the temple such as painting and repairs. He teaches the dhamma occasionally in the Thai language.
Pattago Bhikkhu was born in Boston in 1973. He became interested in ordaining while studying every day in 2000-2004 with Ajahn Fa Thai at a temple in Portland, Oregon. There were set meditation times from 6-8:00 PM every weekday. The teacher also gave talks, but it was the vipassana meditation that got Pattago Bhikkhu to spend every evening at the temple after long days of working. He had felt dissatisfied when 8 years old, and wondered at that time, what is the way out of this? This started a lifelong quest. In 2016 Ajahn Fa Thai introduced Pattago Bhikkhu to Phra Ratsamee. Pattago Bhikkhu ordained in Thailand in May 2017. He lives at Buddhangkura, teaching the meditation classes and leading the sutta study at the temple.
Note: Some of the Thai monks spend winter in Thailand, so call ahead if you wish to see a particular monk during that time.