Phramongkolthepmuni (Sodh Candasaro; 1884 - 1959), the late abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, was the founder of the Thai Dhammakaya meditation school in 1914.
Phramongkolthepmuni was born Sodh Mikaewnoi on 10 October 1884 to the family of a rice merchant in Amphoe Song Phi Nong, Suphanburi, a province 100 km to the west of Bangkok. At the beginning of July 1906, aged twenty-two, he was ordained at Wat Songpinong in his hometown and was given the Pāli name Candasaro.
He later moved to Bangkok to study the Scriptures. He practice in each school but was not satisfied. In the eleventh year of his ordination, he stayed at Wat Bangkuvieng, Nonthaburi Province, during the rainy season. There, he began to practice meditation by himself using the Visuddhimagga.
He reflected to himself that he had been practising meditation for eleven long years and had still not understood the core of knowledge which the Lord Buddha had taught. Thus, on the full-moon day of September 1918, he sat himself down in the main shrine hall of Wat Bangkuvieng, resolving not to waver in his practice of sitting meditation, whatever might seek to disturb his single-mindedness. It is claimed that while meditating far into the night, he allowed his mind to go deeper and deeper through the pathway at centre of the sphere, until he discovered the dhammakāya (dharmakaya), the most refined of the inner bodies, which is eternal and free from defilement.
Phramongkolthepmuni devoted the rest of his life to teaching and furthering the depth of knowledge of this meditation technique. It is this technique which has come to be known as 'Dhammakaya meditation' (i.e., meditation for attaining the dhammakāya). In 1916, Phramongkolthepmuni was appointed abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, and there he devoted his time to researching the insights of Dhammakāya meditation and refined the technique, to make it more systematic, through experimenting with the ways the meditation could best be applied for the common good. During an exceptionally long ministry of over half-a-century, Phramongkolthepmuni was unflagging in teaching all comers the way to attain to dhammakaya, with activities nearly every day of the week. He recognised the need to open up and redevelop the oral tradition of meditation teaching, which was becoming disorganised and rare in Thai Buddhism.
He provided the opportunity, with the technique, for meditators to verify for themselves, in their firsthand experience, the success of the technique. Indeed, Phramongkolthepmuni would challenge others to meditate in order that they might verify for themselves the claims which he made about the technique. It was the response to this need which led to the innovative building at Wat Paknam of the 'meditation workshop'. Phramongkolthepmuni declared that this workshop should be kept in use by meditators for twenty-four hours a day, day and night, and selected from amongst his followers the most gifted of the meditators. Their 'brief' was to devote their lives to meditation research for the common good of society.