Revered monks celebrates birthday with opening of Willpower Institute meditation center

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The revered abbot of Thummamongkhon Temple celebrated his 95th birthday by finally opening the long-planned expansion of his Willpower Institute.

The Diana Group, which has spearheaded construction of the Nongket Yai meditation center, hosted the Jan. 14 merit-making ceremony and birthday celebration for Dhammamongkolyarn, also known as Luang Pho Viriyang Sirintharo, at the Diana Garden Resort.

Diana Group Managing Director Sopin Thappajug and Pattaya Mail Publishing Managing Director Peter Malhotra congratulated the monk, who has been practicing for 80 years and has opened Willpower Institutes around the kingdom to inspire world peace.

Luang Pho Viriyang Sirintharo celebrates his 95th birthday by opening the long-planned expansion of his Willpower Institute in Pattaya.Luang Pho Viriyang Sirintharo celebrates his 95th birthday by opening the long-planned expansion of his Willpower Institute in Pattaya.

The event included a Thai dance performance by students from Pattaya School No. 3, presentation of a “phum ngern” silver cone containing 10,000 baht, a parade and donation of flowers and necessities.

The day also heralded the opening of the 57th Willpower Institute on Sukhumvit Soi 57 near the Mityon center. It was built to replace an existing center on the grounds of Banglamung Vocational Center. One rai of land was donated to build a larger center and the Diana Group has raised funds, including a 960,000 baht donation in January last year.

The hall was filled with people opening their hearts to the revered monk and his new Willpower Institute meditation center.The hall was filled with people opening their hearts to the revered monk and his new Willpower Institute meditation center.

The center was originally slated to open last February, but was delayed by permit and construction problems. The total cost ballooned from the initial 4.5 million baht to 7.1 million baht, offset by additional donations throughout last year.

The facility consists of three buildings with restroom, kitchen and a building used as a teaching center. There’s an area for walking meditation, a break room for teachers, and a control room.

Suttajan, abbot of Khao Sraichonburi Temple, Woraprot Punyajan, abbot of Aranyikanwas and Vimol, abbot of Chonglom Temple, joined Dhammamongkolyarn in religious ceremonies to open the facility.

Viriyang, originally named Viriyang Buncheekul, was born on Jan. 7, 1919 at Pakpriew rail station in Saraburi. His family later moved to Nakhon Ratchasima.

Sopin Thappajug presents a “phum ngern” silver cone containing funds raised for the new Willpower Institute to Luang Pho Viriyang Sirintharo.Sopin Thappajug presents a “phum ngern” silver cone containing funds raised for the new Willpower Institute to Luang Pho Viriyang Sirintharo.

When he was 13, a female friend invited him to a temple, but he became bored while waiting for friends to finish praying. Thinking at first he’d never return, Viriyang soon felt peaceful and light. He felt himself walk out of his body and his soul walk down to the pavilion to stand in the middle of the temple.

Luang Pho Viriyang Sirintharo makes his auspicious marks on the sign for his new Willpower Institute in Pattaya.Luang Pho Viriyang Sirintharo makes his auspicious marks on the sign for his new Willpower Institute in Pattaya.

He felt a cool breeze blow through his mind. He felt calm, happy and uttered, out of amazement, that this must be the grace of religion. He had regaled the story to Phra Ajarn Kongma, who replied that he had never even taught this child about meditation, why did he see his soul so early.

One day, he dropped from exhaustion from overworking in the rice paddies. He remained unconscious for about an hour, but when he eventually came to, he was shocked to find himself unable to move a single muscle. He was totally paralyzed.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome lights candles during the auspicious ceremony.Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome lights candles during the auspicious ceremony.

For about one month, Viriyang lay stricken while his parents tried in vain to find someone with the ability to restore his health. Secretly, the boy made a vow to devote the rest of his life to Buddhism should he be completely cured of his paralysis.

Seven days later, a stranger appeared in the village; a white-robed ascetic who went directly to Viriyang’s house and told his father that he had come to cure his son. The man whispered in the boy’s ear, saying that he knew of his secret promise of eternal devotion and, told him to repeat the vow aloud. The old man chewed plai, a Thai medicinal herb, and spat it over Viriyang until he was yellow. Viriyang awoke the next morning healed.

Kind hearted folks line up to present donations for the new center.Kind hearted folks line up to present donations for the new center.

The boy entered the monkhood as a novice in 1932 and had become a junior monk at 16 on May 12, 1933 at Suth Jinda Temple in Nakhon Ratchasima. Ten days later, he made a pilgrimage with Phra Ajarn Kongma Jirapunyo to the Khao Lamnaophrai jungle to search for seclusion. He was fully ordained in May 1941 at the age of 21 in Chantaburi. He continued to follow Phra Ajarn Kongma for the next eight years.

Guests receive blessings during the ceremony.Guests receive blessings during the ceremony.

One day, Phra Ajarn Kongma led him out of Chanthaburi into Sakon Nakhon to leave him as a disciple of Phra Ajarn Luang Pu Man Phurithatto.

From 1986 to 1991, Viriyang rested at Kamphaeng Saen Monks College, Namtok Mae Klang branch, Chiang Mai, in the woods to reflect what he had learnt from Phra Ajarn. He then wrote a book on meditation to be used in teaching. In the five years waiting for the book to be published, he built the first Willpower Institute of Meditation in 1999 and launched a meditation course in 2000.

Even those who couldn’t make it inside, showed their faith just outside.Even those who couldn’t make it inside, showed their faith just outside.

The 57th Willpower Institute is located on Sukhumvit Soi 57 near the Mityon center.The 57th Willpower Institute is located on Sukhumvit Soi 57 near the Mityon center.