Who are we?
The ideological inspirer of the center for the study of consciousness is the Buddhist teacher Ajahn Nyanadasano, who is a monk for more than 20 years. Having grown up in Soviet Latvia and studied for a long time in Buddhist monasteries in Europe and Asia, Ajahn has a good understanding of the peculiarities of the mentality of people living in the post-Soviet space, and a confident knowledge of Buddhist theory and practice. The founders of the center included Russian practitioners and followers of various Buddhist traditions who have been actively engaged in the spread of Buddhism over the past decade: they organized training programs, were involved in the process of translating and publishing important literature, held regular sessions of meditation practice.
The project of the Dhammavichaya Center arose thanks to the Thai Forest Tradition, which is followed by Ajahn Nyanadassano, it has inspired and continues to inspire thousands of people around the world. The founder of this tradition was Ajahn Chah, a famous teacher who made a huge contribution to the spread of Buddhist teachings. His direct disciple Ajahn Sumedho is a teacher, as well as the founder of the English monastery of Amaravati. Followers of the Thai Forest tradition are known for their commitment to practice and strict moral discipline, and they supplement their book and conceptual knowledge with the experience gained through meditation. It is this view of practice that we want to maintain and develop at the Dhammavichaya Center.
Ajahn Chah
Venerable Ajahn Chah was born on June 17, 1918 in a small village near the town of Ubon Ratchathani, North-East Thailand. After finishing his basic schooling, he spent three years as a novice before returning to lay life to help his parents on the farm. At the age of twenty, however, he decided to resume monastic life, and on April 26, 1939 he received upasampadā (bhikkhu ordination). Ajahn Chah's early monastic life followed a traditional pattern, of studying Buddhist teachings and the Pali scriptural language. In his fifth year his father fell seriously ill and died, a blunt reminder of the frailty and precariousness of human life. It caused him to think deeply about life's real purpose, for although he had studied extensively and gained some proficiency in Pali, he seemed no nearer to a personal understanding of the end of suffering. Feelings of disenchantment set in, and finally, in 1946 he abandoned his studies and set off on mendicant pilgrimage.

He walked some 400 km to Central Thailand, sleeping in forests and gathering almsfood in the villages on the way. He took up residence in a monastery where the vinaya, (monastic discipline), was carefully studied and practised. While there he was told about Venerable Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta, a most highly respected meditation master. Keen to meet such an accomplished teacher, Ajahn Chah set off on foot for the Northeast in search of him.

At this time Ajahn Chah was wrestling with a crucial problem. He had studied the teachings on morality, meditation and wisdom, which the texts presented in minute and refined detail, but he could not see how they could actually be put into practice. Ajahn Mun told him that although the teachings are indeed extensive, at their heart they are very simple. With mindfulness established, if it is seen that everything arises in the heart-mind, right there is the true path of practice. This succinct and direct teaching was a revelation for Ajahn Chah, and transformed his approach to practice. The Way was clear.

For the next seven years Ajahn Chah practiced in the style of the austere Forest Tradition, wandering through the countryside in quest of quiet and secluded places for developing meditation. He lived in tiger and cobra infested jungles, using reflections on death to penetrate to the true meaning of life. On one occasion he practised in a cremation ground, to challenge and eventually overcome his fear of death. While he was in the cremation ground, a rainstorm left him cold and drenched, and he faced the utter desolation and loneliness of a wandering homeless monk.

In 1954, after years of wandering, he was invited back to his home village. He settled close by, in a fever ridden, haunted forest called 'Pah Pong'. Despite the hardships of malaria, poor shelter and sparse food, disciples gathered around him in increasing numbers. This was the beginning of the first monastery in the Ajahn Chah tradition, Wat Pah Pong. With time branch monasteries were established at other locations.

In 1967 an American monk came to stay at Wat Pah Pong. The newly ordained Venerable Sumedho had just spent his first Vassa ('Rains' retreat) practicing intensive meditation at a monastery near the Laotian border. Although his efforts had borne some fruit, Venerable Sumedho realized that he needed a teacher who could train him in all aspects of monastic life. By chance, one of Ajahn Chah's monks, one who happened to speak a little English, visited the monastery where Venerable Sumedho was staying. Upon hearing about Ajahn Chah, he asked to take leave of his preceptor, and went back to Wat Pah Pong with the monk. Ajahn Chah willingly accepted the new disciple, but insisted that he receive no special allowances for being a Westerner. He would have to eat the same simple almsfood and practice in the same way as any other monk at Wat Pah Pong. The training there was quite harsh and forbidding. Ajahn Chah often pushed his monks to their limits, to test their powers of endurance so that they would develop patience and resolution. He sometimes initiated long and seemingly pointless work projects, in order to frustrate their attachment to tranquility. The emphasis was always on surrendering to the way things are, and great stress was placed upon strict observance of the vinaya.

In the course of events, other Westerners came through Wat Pah Pong. By the time Venerable Sumedho was a bhikkhu of five vassas, and Ajahn Chah considered him competent enough to teach, some of these new monks had also decided to stay on and train there. In the hot season of 1975, Venerable Sumedho and a handful of Western bhikkhus spent some time living in a forest not far from Wat Pah Pong. The local villagers there asked them to stay on, and Ajahn Chah consented. The Wat Pah Nanachat ('International Forest Monastery') came into being, and Venerable Sumedho became the abbot of the first monastery in Thailand to be run by and for English-speaking monks.

In 1977, Ajahn Chah was invited to visit Britain by the English Sangha Trust, a charity with the aim of establishing a locally-resident Buddhist Sangha. He took Venerable Sumedho and Venerable Khemadhammo along to England. Seeing the serious interest there, he left them in London at the Hampstead Vihara, with two of his other Western disciples who were then visiting Europe. He returned to Britain in 1979, at which time the monks were leaving London to begin Chithurst Buddhist Monastery in Sussex. He then went on to America and Canada to visit and teach. After this trip, and again in 1981, Ajahn Chah spent the 'Rains' away from Wat Pah Pong, since his health was failing due to the debilitating effects of diabetes. As his illness worsened, he would use his body as a teaching, a living example of the impermanence of all things. He constantly reminded people to endeavor to find a true refuge within themselves, since he would not be able to teach for very much longer. Before the end of the 'Rains' of 1981, he was taken to Bangkok for an operation. However, the procedure did little to improve his condition.

Within a few months he stopped talking, and gradually he lost control of his limbs until he was virtually paralyzed and bedridden. From then on, he was diligently and lovingly nursed and attended by devoted disciples, grateful for the occasion to offer service to the teacher who so patiently and compassionately showed the Way to so many.

Ajahn Sumedho
Luang Por Sumedho was born as Robert Jackman on the 27 July 1934 in Seattle, Washington state.

During the Korean war, at the age of 18 he joined the US Navy and for four years was serving on a supply ship. Several times he crossed the Pacific ocean, going from California to Japan and back. He became a keen reader and took interest in Asian thinking and culture. Upon leaving the Navy Robert completed the BA in Far Eastern studies and MA in South Asian studies at the University of California in Berkley. He volunteered for the Red Cross as a social worker and then served with the Peace Corps in Borneo as an English teacher. Having finished his contract, he moved to Thailand and was living in Bangkok in 1966, teaching English and studying meditation at Wat Mahathat. Not long after his arrival Robert left the capital and became a novice monk in Nong Khai, a remote town on the border with Laos. He spent a year in solitude, applying himself to meditation and contemplating teachings of the Buddha, as they are recorded in the Pali Canon.

That year has transformed him profoundly, but also revealed the need to commit oneself to the guidance of more detailed structure of monastic discipline and of an experienced teacher.

In May 1967 he arrived to Wat Pah Pong and remained under the guidance of Ajahn Chah for the next ten years. Although he was the only foreigner and didn't speak much Thai, there was no special treatment for him. Venerable Sumedho gave himself full-heartedly to the life of a forest monk and soon became much loved and respected member of the community. He was helping the ever increasing stream of Westerners, who were coming to Wat Pah Pong drawn by Luang Por Chah's reputation.

In summer of 1975, at the invitation from the villagers of Bahn Bung Wai and with the blessing of Luang Por Chah, he established Wat Pah Nanachat, becoming the abbot of the first monastery for Westerners in Thailand. In 1977 Ajahn Sumedho and a group of monks, headed by Luang Por Chah, travelled to England. He was left in London in charge of the newly established monastic community and in 1979 Chithurst Buddhist Monastery in West Sussex became established.

Ajahn Sumedho was given the authority to ordain monks and initiated the foundation of the Order of Siladhara, thus supporting the training of women, wishing to live a Buddhist mendicant life. Over the years he became an Uppajjaya, or a Preceptor, for about 200 monks and nuns, and the Teacher and guide for countless others. Until his retirement in 2010, Ajahn Sumedho was the abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England, which he established in 1984. Amaravati is part of the network of monasteries and Buddhist centres in the lineage of Ajahn Chah, which now extends across the world, from Thailand, New Zealand and Australia, to Europe, Canada, and the United States. Ajahn Sumedho played an instrumental role in building this international monastic community.

On his return to Thailand in 2010 he lived in Wat Ratanavan, offering teachings to monks and lay people both in Thai and English languages, frequenting Wat Pah Pong and Wat Pah Nanachat, travelling globally to teach meditation retreats and to support the monasteries he helped to establish.

Luang Por Sumedho returned to Amaravati in England in 2021, where he is a treasured member of the community and still offers regular teachings.
Ajahn Nyanadassano
Ajahn Nyanadassano (Alexandr Kirillov) is a son of a Russian soldier, who completed his obligatory military service in Czechoslovakia. He then married a Czech woman, and on the 6 July 1971 Alexandr was born. A few years later his farther had to return to the Soviet Union and from the age of 3 Alexandr lived with his father in Riga. He has finished his schooling there, worked in different jobs and then returned to the Czech Republic in 1993, at the age of 22.

In search of spiritual life, in the summer of 1999, Alexandr arrived to Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, where Ajahn Sumedho was the Abbot. In the first days of the year 2000 he became an Anagarika there, a postulant with 8 precepts. A year later, in January 2001, he was ordained as a novice and in July 2002 was accepted into the Sangha as a Bhikkhu.

Ajahn Nyanadassano has lived and practised in many Buddhist monasteries in Europe, Asia and even in New Zealand, where he started sharing his knowledge of Dhamma for the first time. He teaches in English and Russian languages and led his first 7 day meditation retreat in the spring of 2011 near Moscow.

In 2015, after spending about 5 years in Thailand, Ajahn Nyanadassano returned to England, to Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. Occasionally he travels to other monasteries in Europe and Asia, giving retreats, supporting monastic communities, or simply taking time to be in solitude.