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Throughout the history of Buddhism, there have been monks and nuns who have chosen to retreat into the forests, mountains, and caves and the Forest Tradition exists today in Theravada Buddhism.

In contemporary times, Theravada Buddhism is well established in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and has also been imported to Western countries.

Buddhists of the Forest Traditions have found isolation to be an aid to meditation, helping them to come to the undistorted truth that was taught by the Buddha, and to live up to the concepts of dhamma. In small groups, or in solitude, they lived lives of austerity and simplicity, living far from the cities and the towns, finding value in nature, and in the hardships of living in the wild.

In present times, there are two major Theravadan Forest Traditions, the Thai Forest Tradition and the Sri Lankan Forest Tradition, although related traditions are found in other Asian countries, such as the Taungpulu Forest Tradition of Myanmar, and the Lao Forest Tradition in Laos, some of which have spread to other countries

Although physical isolation remains part of the Forest Traditions, practitioners are not necessarily restricted to forests and mountains, and they rarely live in caves.

The Kammaṭṭhāna Forest Tradition of Thailand, generally known as the Thai Forest Tradition, was founded around 1900 by two Thai-speaking monks from northeastern Thailand. Seeking to practices monasticism according to the standards of early Buddhism, they began wandering the Thai countryside.

Busy village monasteries were abandoned by monks adopting the Forest Traditions, who preferred the peace and solitude of nature. The Vinaya was followed rigidly, and monks lived without money, accepting whatever was offered and living without that which wasn't. Monks would wanter through the rural areas, taking little with them, and seeking only places that were conducive to meditation.

In Sri Lanka, the oldest Theravada Buddhist country in the world, several forest traditions have developed, faded away, and reappeared throughout the years. The current Sri Lankan Forest Monk's Tradition, known as the Sri Lankan Forest Tradition, was influenced by the Thai and Burmese traditions, which themselves had their origins in the earlier Indian and Sri Lankan traditions.

There are forest monasteries throughout Sri Lanka, including various sects of the forest traditions, some of which inhabit caves yet today.

The Myanmar Forest Tradition is generally associated with Taungpulu Sayadaw, a monk who practiced the traditional meditation methods in Upper Burma for many years. In 1978, at the age of eighty, he left Burma for the first time in his life, traveling to the United States on the first of what was to be four visits, helping to establish a forest monastery in Boulder Creek, California.

In Laos, it is believed that a forest tradition remains, although little information seems to be available. Although a harmonious relationship between Buddhism and the communist government of Laos exists, Buddhists are careful not to offend the government, and this may be achieved through silence.

Topics related to Theravada Buddhist forest traditions are the focus of topics in this category, regardless of their country of origin or sect.



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