One of the first teachers at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Bhikkhu Sopako Bodhi (Achan Sobin Namto) was born in Wangplado, Thailand, in 1932. While still young he moved to Bangkok to ordain as a monk and study the Buddhist teachings.
At just nineteen he undertook a seven-month intensive meditation retreat with the great vipassana master Chao Khun Bhavanapirama Thera, who introduced him to a meticulous step-by-step method for developing mindfulness.
For some time afterward he lived as a solitary forest monk confronting all the dangers of the Asian jungle, including tigers and poisonous snakes.
In Thailand and Burma, Ven. Sopako studied vipassana with the most renowned teachers of the age, including Mahasi Sayadaw. At just twenty-four, Ven. Sopako himself became a recognized vipassana and abhidhamma teacher ("abhidhamma" means Buddhist metaphysics). He taught for many years at the famous Section Five of Wat Maha Dhatu monastery in Bangkok, as well as in many other temples. He later established and ran a meditation center in southern Thailand.
In 1972, he became Abbot of the first Thai Buddhist Temple ever built in the United States, in North Hollywood, California. Four years later he organized the founding of Wat Buddhawararam of Denver, a Buddhist temple that he envisioned would promote the spread of insight meditation.
Among many commendations, Ven. Sopako has been recognized by the Mayor of Los Angeles and the King of Thailand for his work in spreading the teachings of Buddhism to the west.
Ven. Sopako now resides in his home village of Wangplado, Thailand, where he is working to build a meditation center and a stupa to house the relics of the Buddha. The stupa, or "pagoda," will replicate the famous Buddhist shrine in Bodhgaya, India, which marks the place of the Buddha's enlightenment.
Ven. Sopako's students and friends remark on his warmth, compassion and humor, but also his uncompromising adherence to the original teachings of the Buddha. He is regarded by many as one of the world's leading authorities on vipassana meditation and abhidhamma. His tireless efforts to share this knowledge have benefited the world beyond measure.