Originally published by the
World Fellowship of Buddhists
33 Sukhumvit Road (between Soi One and Soi Three)
Bangkok 10110, THAILAND
Tel. 251-1188, -1189, -1190
Contact The World Fellowship of Buddhists for distribution information and for reprinting rights.
First Edition: by Sunno Bhikkhu (Jack Kornfield);
published by the World Fellowship of Buddhists in 1978.
Second Edition: by a committee of the National Identity Board
(Prime Minister's Office); published by the National Identity Board
WFB Book Series -- No. 44
In publishing this new revised booklet, we have been able to include updated information on monasteries and meditation centres in this country through the painstaking efforts of Mr. Bill Weir. He spent several months in Thailand travelling to various parts of the country visiting monasteries and meditation centres, seeking information on their current meditation practices and instructions. Apart from collecting information on good places for meditation, Mr. Weir has also made some observations in his introduction on the practices in those monasteries which will be of interest and use to foreigners.
We are very grateful to Mr. Weir and, as mentioned in his preface in this booklet, "to the abbots, vice abbots, and teachers who so patiently supplied the many details" and have rendered assistance and courtesy to Mr. Weir.
-- The Secretariat
World Fellowship of Buddhists
A committee of the National Identity Board (Prime Minister's Office) authored a second edition of the book in the 1980s with the title, A Brief Guide to Buddhist Meditation Centres in Thailand. Much has changed since publication of that guide too. Now it's time for yet another edition.
Many people have helped in the research of this third edition. The author is indebted to the abbots, vice abbots, and teachers who so patiently supplied the many details. And, of course, you'll find good information retained from the earlier editions. The World Fellowship of Buddhists provided computer time and arranged the publication. Horatanachai Press, also of Bangkok, printed this guide.
The World Fellowship of Buddhists and the author hope that this little volume will be as useful to those on the "spiritual path" as the previous editions! The author has visited every monastery and meditation centre detailed within. Still, mistakes can happen -- and changing conditions are guaranteed! So use this book just as a "pointer of the way." Opinions and viewpoints are the responsibility of the author. (Except that references to Thai Buddhist sects have been deleted at the W.F.B.'s request.) Please write a note if you have suggestions, corrections, or new information that you'd like to pass on to other readers:
c/o World Fellowship of Buddhists
33 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok 10110
The Buddha invited all to come and investigate his teachings. For the Buddha not only found a way to the end of suffering, but he actually taught a way which we can choose to follow. He observed how all human beings sought happiness and how nearly all failed to find lasting contentment. So, out of compassion, the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths -- of the way things are and how we can develop the mind toward Nibbana, the highest happiness, the most perfect peace. To do this, we need to obtain instructions through teachers and books, then apply the teachings to our lives. The Buddha presented different methods of practice to suit the varied personalities of his students. All methods, however, involve a foundation of virtuous conduct, application of mindfulness, development of concentration to focus the mind, and growth of wisdom through investigation and reflection. The key point to remember is that the Buddha could only point the way; we must do the practice in order to progress toward realization of Nibbana.
To visit Thailand is to experience Thai Buddhism -- for the culture and religion cannot be separated. Thais have followed and supported the Buddha's teachings for more than a thousand years. Much of Thai life centers around the local wat (temple or monastery) where people come for worship, sermons, advice on family matters, meditation, schooling for children, and traditional medicine. Many boys and men take on robes as novices or monks for short periods in order to fully immerse themselves in the Buddha's way of life. Men who choose to spend all their lives in robes receive great respect. Thais also welcome foreigners to come and practice the Buddha's teachings. The extremely supportive environment of a good Thai wat or meditation centre provides inspiration and opportunity for spiritual development that's rare in the world today.
Thais believe the Buddha's teachings to be priceless; no money is asked or expected in return for meditation instruction. In nearly all cases, such things as accommodations and food are free too. Generosity of the laypeople enables the wats and meditation centres to function in this remarkable manner. Some meditation centres do charge a fee for room and board, but this is miniscule compared to charges at retreats in western countries. For stays of a few months or more, one can have the benefit of practice in Thailand for less cost than a retreat in one's home country, even after paying airfare. But of the thousands of wats and meditation centres in Thailand, which one to choose? This book was written to help you get started and to assist in an enjoyable stay. The wats and centres described in these pages represent some of Thailand's best meditation traditions. All welcome foreigners; usually some English is spoken or a translator can be found. Many more excellent teachers and places to practice exist too. You'll hear about some of these during your stay.
Because different Thai wats and meditation centres offer so many practices and environments, one may wish to carefully consider which place will be most suitable. At most wats, monks devote the majority of their time to ceremonies and to study of Buddhist scriptures. Noise, many people coming and going, and lack of a suitable teacher can make meditation practice difficult at these places. A small percentage of wats, however, do offer very supportive conditions for meditation. These wats typically have a peaceful environment, teachers who can help with difficulties, and freedom for one to choose the meditation technique that works best. Some of Thailand's forest wats follow a "Way of Life" in which the monastic discipline and daily routine receive equal emphasis with formal meditation techniques. Meditation centres specialize in practice -- either a particular meditation system or one of the meditator's choosing, depending on the centre. These centres have minimal or no chanting and ceremony so that maximum time can be devoted to formal practice.
If you're new to Buddhist meditation, consider the 10-day retreats offered at Suan Mokkh and Wat Kow Tham in southern Thailand; western teachers conduct the retreats, so you don't have to worry about language or cultural misunderstandings. Frequent talks and interviews allow one to get a good basic understanding of practice and to clear up any doubts about the meditation techniques.
Because Thais traditionally do temporary ordinations during the 3-month Rains Retreat, from mid- or late July to October, expect more crowded conditions at some places then. This can be an especially good time to stay, however, as many wats place extra emphasis on practice. Monks take up residence in their chosen monastery, so there's much less coming and going. Meditators would be wise to check in by early June to make arrangements to stay for the Rains Retreat.
Whether one is new to meditation or has done many years of practice, a teacher or "good friend" can be of great help. The teacher also sets an example for the wat or centre and determines the discipline. Monks traditionally devote 5 years to their first teacher.
Some wats and centres expect laypeople to participate in group activities. Other places let them make and follow their own schedule. A few meditation centres offer only intensive individual practice -- sitting, walking, meals, and other activities take place in or near one's room in solitude. Residents of most wats begin the day early, typically 3-4 a.m. in forest monasteries and 5 a.m. in towns, with meditation and chanting. Meditation centres expect early rising too, with sleep limited to 4 to 6 hours. Monks and novices go on pindabat (alms round) at daybreak, then eat once or twice in the morning, depending on the custom of the wat or centre. You may also see maechees (8-precept nuns) on pindabat in central and northern Thailand and pakows (anagarikas, 8-precept laymen) in the northeast. Most wats have another period of meditation and chanting in late afternoon or evening. The rest of the day is used for meditation, work projects, and personal needs. At some intensive meditation centres you will be encouraged to practice 20 hours a day.
A typical daily routine has been listed for many places; expect changes at many wats, however, on wan phra, the Buddhist holy day that falls on the full, new, and half moon (every 7 or 8 days). Many laypeople come to make special offerings, hear sermons, chant the refuges and precepts, and practice meditation. Some visitors may stay at the wat all day and night, sleeping as little as possible. Additionally, monks gather on the full and new moon for a recitation of the Patimokkha, the 227 rules of discipline for the order.
Thai wat etiquette, which stems largely from the monk's code of discipline, forms the national ideal of polite behavior in many ways. By following Thai customs, foreigners can show appreciation to the Thai people and ensure a welcome reception for future visitors. Gestures of respect also help to develop kindness and sensitivity to others. The anjali (wai or pranom) of raising hands to the chest with palms together is used for (1) Greeting other people; (2) When speaking with a monk; (3) After offering something to an ordained person; and (4) Before receiving something from an ordained person. (Laypeople return the anjali but ordained people are not supposed to return one from a layperson.) Thais address senior monks as Ajahn, other monks as Tahn, novices as Nayn. The title can be used by itself or preceding the Pali name; it's impolite to use the Pali name without a title.
Thais place great importance on body posture when around monks, especially if the monks are teaching Dhamma. Laypeople stoop slightly when walking past a seated monk. If walking with a monk, they try to walk a little behind. Laypeople never talk or listen to monks from a higher position; they sit or at least squat down before addressing a seated monk. When listening to a sermon or talking with a monk, women usually sit in a "mermaid" posture; men more often sit with one leg crossed in front and the other tucked behind; the kneeling position is polite for both sexes. Cross-legged positions are less polite and they're normally just used in meditation. Avoid sitting with arms clasped around the raised knees (impolite). In a chair, sit erect and attentive. Laypeople never sit on the asana (raised seat for monks and novices), same seat or mat as a monk, or on a monk's robes.
Thais have many variations on the kraap (bowing), but it's always done 3 times in respect for the "Triple Gem" of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. Follow the example of Thai laypeople around you as to when to bow; usually one bows before being seated in a hall with a Buddha image or when meeting with a monk and again before getting up and leaving. Bowing can be done as a meditation and reflection on each part of the Triple Gem. Bow slowly and mindfully, bringing the forehead all the way to the floor, keep buttocks on the heels, elbows near the knees, and thumbs near the eyebrows.
Giving of the monks' requisites develops respect and generosity. Thais traditionally bring flowers, candles, and incense when they visit a wat, though any small gift is appreciated by the monastic community. Come up with head bowed in a kneeling or squatting position to within arms' reach of the monk, then use both hands to place an offering into the monk's hands. Women must place items on a cloth laid in front by the monk or have a layman pass them; similarly, men should respect women with shaved heads who may not want to receive or hand anything directly. Both men and women place food directly into the monk's bowl during pindabat. After presenting an offering, make the anjali. Offerings of money should be placed in a donation book or given to a designated layperson.
(1) Women need to understand the monks' discipline of not touching or being alone in a closed room with a woman. Women should try to avoid entering a library or other room where this could happen. (2) Men and women sometimes sit in separate areas during group meetings; you can observe and follow the Thais of the same gender. (3) Thais use feet for walking and standing, then tuck them away at other times; be especially careful never to point out or stretch out one's feet in the direction of a Buddha image or monk. (4) Shoes are generally taken off before entering a room with a Buddha image or in any residence. (5) Sleeping pillows should only be used to rest the head -- considered sacred by the Thais -- and never for sitting on. (6) Food and drink are consumed in a seated or squatting position. (7) A bathing cloth must be worn when using outdoor bathing areas, common in rural areas (Thais are extremely modest).
Thai food may take a bit of getting used to, as some dishes are highly spiced. Generally you'll find the cuisine tasty and varied with plenty of both spicy and nonspicy dishes to choose from. Meals have white rice (sticky rice in the northeast) with meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and sweets. Food offered in remote forest monasteries tends to be simpler and less varied, though is usually quite good. A few wats and centres (mentioned in the individual descriptions) offer vegetarian food. Like the monks and nuns, lay visitors normally eat only between sunrise and mid-day. This rule of the Buddha's makes the monastic community easy to support and contributes to moderation in eating. (If needed for medical reasons, food can also be taken after mid-day at most places.)
Thais always wear modest clothing that's clean and neat to a wat or meditation centre. They avoid tight-fitting or bright-colored clothing that might be distracting to others. Shirts and blouses have sleeves. Men wear long pants; women use skirts that come below the knees. Some wats and centres ask that men wear white clothing and that women wear either all white or a white blouse and black skirt. Clothing can occasionally be borrowed or you can outfit yourself in a local shop at low cost. Even when not required, the wearing of white serves as a reminder that one is undertaking a spiritual life.
Thailand has 3 seasons, the cool from Nov. through Feb., hot from March through June, and the rainy from July through October. (The rainy season in the south lasts through January.) Pronounced variations can occur from region to region and year to year. The northeast has the most distinct seasons; lows can get down to 0-15 degrees C (32-59 degrees F) in the cool months; hot-season highs can exceed 40 degrees C (104 degrees F). The north has a similar climate, but doesn't get as hot. Central Thailand stays warm to hot year-round. The south has a tropical climate; the region rarely sees extremes of heat or cold. South and central Thailand have high humidity, which decreases as one moves inland to the northern and northeastern regions. Any season can be fine for a visit to Thailand -- just be prepared with warm clothes for the cool season in the north and northeast, umbrella or poncho for the rainy season, and light-weight cotton clothing for the hot season. People from cool climates will have an easier time adjusting to the climate if they arrive in the cool or rainy seasons.
You're likely to stay healthy in Thailand, thanks to high standards of hygiene and medical care. Malaria does exist in some outlying areas; current advice urges people to use netting and repellent from dusk to dawn, when disease-carrying mosquitos bite, rather than rely on preventative pills. The pills can have bad side effects; also, they don't protect against all malaria strains. If you get an unexplained fever, especially a recurrent one, obtain a blood test right away; a doctor can then determine the most effective treatment.
You can reach Thailand easily by air from most major cities in the world and by land from Malaysia and possibly from Laos. Sorting through all the fares and restrictions of airlines can be difficult, so let a good travel agent do the work for you. The best deals can often be found in cities with large Asian populations; check ads in the Sunday travel section of newspapers of these cities. Discounted fares from agents specializing in Asia can be hundreds of dollars less than the cheapest fare the airline will quote directly. Carefully check restrictions -- cheap (and some not so cheap) tickets won't be refundable and generally don't allow route changes. Some roundtrip tickets allow only short visits of 45 days to 6 months; shop around for a one-year fare or just buy a one-way ticket if you might want to stay longer. Bangkok travel agencies have great deals on international flights, though be sure to stick to well-established agencies.
Thailand has a well-developed public transport system of train, bus, and air routes. Getting around is easier, more efficient, and less expensive than in most western and Asian countries. Taxis offer good value too, though one often has to bargain. A little Thai helps a lot with local transport. The Lonely Planet book Thailand; a travel survival kit by Joe Cummings has good information on getting to and around the country, as well as details on the sights and culture.
Check visa requirements before you come. Most people obtain a Tourist Visa (good for 2 months and extendable one month more). Longer-term visitors can try for a Non-Immigrant visa (good for at least 3 months and possibly extendable); a stay of more than 3 months can get complicated with various sponsorship letters required; ask advice in Thailand. Often it's easiest to zip down to the Thai Consulate in Penang, Malaysia, for a new visa, then return for another 3 months; this consulate issues Non-Immigrant visas more easily than most if you have a good reason (such as meditation practice).
Ability to speak Thai will allow you to communicate directly with all of the teachers in Thailand, most of whom speak little or no English. You'll also benefit from the many Dhamma talks in Thai available on cassette recordings. The language has very simple grammar, so most of the effort in speaking Thai goes into learning vocabulary and the all- important 5 tones. The written alphabet can be learned along with the vocabulary or studied later. One or 2 months of intensive language study will enable you to understand basic meditation instructions and much of the material presented in Dhamma talks. Bangkok has some good language schools.
The Buddha taught many ways of investigating the nature of mind and body. A look through the monastery and meditation centre descriptions will give you an idea of the meditation systems practiced in Thailand. Ideally, meditation should begin from the first moment of awakening in the morning until the last moment before sleep at night. Besides the classic postures of sitting, walking, standing, and lying down used in meditation, one can also perform such activities as eating, talking, washing clothes, taking a bath, and using the toilet with equal care and mindfulness. An experienced teacher or "good friend" will be valuable for any student. Meditation techniques fall into the broad categories of either samatha (calm) or vipassana (insight), though some of one will generally be present with the other.
Development of samatha techniques can lead to increasingly focused states of mind until the mind becomes one-pointed or absorbed in jhana states. Concentration can be developed from anapanasati (mindfulness with breathing), from visual objects, and from mantras (repetition of phrases). The traditional list contains 40 objects of meditation; you can read about them in The Path of Purification (Visuddhi Magga) translated by Nanamoli Bhikkhu and in other books. The Buddha recommended mindfulness with breathing as being suitable for everyone to establish and develop concentration. Other objects of meditation can be useful in our lives too. Metta (loving kindness) generates feelings of goodwill and happiness toward ourselves and other beings; metta practice serves as an antidote to ill-will and fear. Meditation on the parts of the body -- none of which is attractive in itself -- results in a lessening of attachment to our own bodies and those of others; a reduction of sensual desires occurs; another benefit is that unpleasant sensations can be more easily endured. Meditation on death, when properly done, brings to mind the body's impermanence and lack of ownership; a person who practices this will always be watchful and, at life's end, die without fear or confusion.
Once some concentration has been developed, the mind can be turned to observation of the physical and mental factors that rise and fall in one's consciousness. Through continued practice, the Three Characteristics of anicca (transitory nature of all conditioned phenomena), dukkha (inherent unsatisfactoriness of all conditioned phenomena), and anatta (no permanent, abiding self can be found in any conditioned phenomena) will become deeply known. As the mind directly experiences these truths, the desires and attachments that cause so much suffering begin to drop away. Even a little vipassana practice can bring greater wisdom and peace to our lives.
We can experience these truths, which lie at the heart of the Buddha's teachings, through direct experience. They can be viewed as (1) Diagnosis of an illness; (2) Prognosis; (3) Recovery; and (4) Medicine to cure the disease. The first 2 truths deal with the way things are; the last 2 point the way to freedom from suffering.
1. The Noble Truth of Suffering
Besides "suffering," other translations of the Pali word dukkha include unsatisfactoriness, dis-ease, and instability. All these words point to the fact that no conditioned phenomenon can provide true (lasting) happiness in our lives. The first step in a spiritual life is to look very closely and honestly at our experience of life and see that there is suffering. We tend to overlook or ignore or just blindly react to the unpleasant, so it continually haunts us. Yet although physical suffering is a natural aspect of our lives, we can learn to transcend mental suffering.
2. The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering
Through a lack of understanding of how things truely exist, we create and recreate an independent self entity called "me." The whole of our experience in life can be viewed through this sense of self. In consequence, various cravings govern our actions. Cravings arise for sense experiences, for "being" or "becoming" (e.g. rich, famous, loved, respected, immortal), and to avoid the unpleasant. These cravings are the root cause of suffering.
3. The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
The mind can be purified of all the mental defilements that cause suffering. Nibbana, the ultimate peace, has been compared to the extinction of a three-fold fire of lust, ill-will, and delusion. One who has realised cessation has great purity of heart, ocean-like compassion, and penetrating wisdom.
4. The Noble Truth of the Way to the Cessation of Suffering
The Way leading to cessation contains a thorough and profound training of body, speech, and mind. Traditionally it's outlined as the Noble Eightfold Path: (1) Right Understanding; (2) Right Intention; (3) Right Speech; (4) Right Action; (5) Right Livelihood; (6) Right Effort; (7) Right Mindfulness; and (8) Right Concentration. On the level of morality (sila), the Path entails restraint and care in speech, action, and livelihood. The concentration (samadhi) level requires constant effort to abandon the unwholesome and develop the wholesome, to increase mindfulness and clear comprehension of the mind-body process, and to develop mental calm and stability. The wisdom (panna) level entails the abandonment of thoughts of sensuality, ill-will, and cruelty; ultimately it penetrates the true nature of phenomena to see impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and impersonality. When all 8 factors of the Path come together in harmony to the point of maturity, suffering is transcended.
In summary, the Four Noble Truths can be thought of as that which is to be (1) comprehended, (2) abandoned, (3) realized, and (4) developed.
While visiting or living at a Thai wat, you'll soon become familiar with the Pali intonation of the Three Refuges.
Buddham saranam gacchami (I go to the Buddha for refuge)
Dhammam saranam gacchami (I go to the Dhamma for refuge)
Sangham saranam gacchami (I go to the Sangha for refuge)
In going for refuge, we seek safety and stability in a changing and unpredictable world. We can reflect on the meanings of each phrase, then use them to guide our lives. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we have faith both in the historical Gotama Buddha's enlightenment and in his qualities of supreme wisdom and compassion that we can aspire to. Refuge in the Dhamma, the ultimate truth or reality, invites us to turn the mind to experience the here and now, the way things are. Refuge in the Sangha refers to a group of people which lives with high standards of conduct in bodily action and speech; the group can refer to the "Awakened Ones," the order of Buddhist monks, or all the people who are following the Buddha's path to liberation. We take refuge in the virtues of generosity, kindness, compassion, goodness, and let go of those thoughts which lead to harm.
The Buddha's path to liberation begins from a foundation of moral discipline (sila). Taking care of our actions through restraint allows the mind to readily develop concentration and wisdom. A basic moral discipline also brings happiness, self-confidence, and self- respect.
Five precepts -- guidelines to good conduct -- can be undertaken by everyone: (1) Refraining from taking life; (2) Refraining from taking what is not given; (3) Refraining from sexual misconduct; (4) Refraining from false or harmful speech; and (5) Refraining from intoxicants. As with other teachings of the Buddha, the precepts invite reflection, wisdom, and compassion in their application. The precepts provide a standard of behavior that has great power. Standing by the precepts prevents the harmful actions and speech that might otherwise occur when strong feelings of hate, greed, or sexual desire beset the mind.
Laypeople visiting a wat on wan phra (full-, new-, and half-moon days) or anytime for meditation may choose to observe 8 precepts; these include the 5 precepts (#3 changes to refraining from any sexual activity) with (6) Refraining from eating solid food after mid-day; (7) Refraining from dancing, singing, music and shows, garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, and adornments; and (8) Refraining from luxurious and high seats and beds. The 8 precepts may at first appear difficult, but in a monastic environment they help direct one's mind toward spiritual development.
Names and addresses have been written in Thai script as well as English for this edition. [NOTE: the Thai script is not available in the online edition] The Thai will help convey your destination to bus, songtaew, and taxi drivers. Many characters of the Thai alphabet have no precise English equivalent; if you can read or have someone pronounce the names in Thai, you'll know how to say them correctly.
Thailand has 74 provinces (jangwat), which are divided into districts (amper or amphoe), and subdivided into precincts (tambon or tambol). The word ban means "village." If you see amper muang in an address, that means it's in the capital district of that province (provinces take the same name as their capital).
Many wats and meditation centres in Thailand have telephones, but you're not likely to get someone who speaks English; try to have a Thai friend call for you if you don't speak Thai. Telephone area codes, in parentheses, are used only if calling from another area code.
Some wats and centres, as noted in the "Write in Advance?" section, prefer that you write ahead with your plans to visit; but even if not required, an advance letter will always be appreciated.
Thailand's capital has many famous wats and some highly respected teachers. Meditation practice can be difficult, however, due to crowded conditions, noise, air pollution, and lack of English. The city may best serve as a place for information before one heads out to the countryside. Unless you're a resident of Bangkok, there's no reason to stay here since wats and meditation centres in other parts of Thailand can be reached in as little as an hour's bus ride away; even most distant provinces lie only an overnight bus or train ride away.
The W.F.B. works to bring Buddhists of the world closer together by helping to exchange news and views of groups in different countries and by promoting ways to bring greater peace and happiness to the world. Since the W.F.B.'s founding in 1950, more than 100 organizations in 37 countries around the world have joined as regional centres. The headquarters in Bangkok offers a free talk and meditation class in English from 2 to 5:30 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month, provides information on places to learn and practice meditation in Thailand, and distributes some English and Thai books. The headquarters publishes a quarterly journal, the "W.F.B. Review," which has wide-ranging articles on Buddhist topics. A library has many English books on Buddhism, including some hard-to-find titles. The office is open Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. at 33 Sukhumvit Rd. (between Soi 1 and Soi 3), Bangkok 10110; tel. 251-1188, 251-1189, or 251-1190.
Vorasak and Helen Jandamit founded this organization in association with high-ranking monks of Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University to provide information on Buddhism and Buddhist meditation for English-speaking people. A "Buddhism and Philosophy Discussion Group" meets on Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Dharma Vicaya Hall; it's led in English by Miss Seonai (Sona) Gordon and is very popular. Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University conducts Budddhist study courses; register at the Dhamma Vicaya Hall. Current information about places to learn and practice meditation is available too. This is probably the best source of information for finding out about good teachers in the Bangkok area. The I.B.M.C. publishes and distributes books about Buddhism, has a list of meditation centres, and puts out a newsletter. Contact Vorasak and Helen c/o T.E.L.S., 26/9 Chompol Lane, Lardprao Lane 15, Bangkok 10900; tel. 511-0439 or 511-3549.
WAT MAHA THAT MEANING OF NAME: "Temple of the great element" (refers to a famous copper pagoda) ALSO SPELLED: Wat Mahadhatu ADDRESS: Tha-Phrachan, Bangkok 10200 DIRECTIONS: Located west of Sanam Luang (parade grounds) and south of the National Museum and Thammasat University. Main entrances are on the west side from Maharaj Road. Many city buses pass by. TELEPHONE: (02) 222-6011 (Section 5) (02) 222-4981 (Section 5 secretary) (02) 222-2835 (Dhamma Vicaya Hall) MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana using techniques similar to those taught by Mahasi Sayadaw. Based on Four Foundations of Mindfulness described in the Maha Satipatthana Sutta. Concentration is developed on the rise and fall of the abdomen, then awareness is directed to physical and mental sensations. TEACHING METHOD: Individual daily interviews. Weekly lectures in Thai (usually on Sundays). Most meditation instruction and practice takes place in Section 5. TEACHERS: Ajahn Maha Sawai Nanaviro (Thai; age 35) Ajahn Phramaha Boonchit (Nanasangvaro) (Thai; age 34). Other experienced monks and laypeople assist. Ajahn Phramaha Suphap Khemarangsi (Thai; age 45) is head of Section 5. LANGUAGE: Teachers and some assistants in Section 5 can speak a little English, though instruction is normally given in Thai. If no one speaks English when you visit, ask at the Dhamma Vicaya Hall. DESCRIPTION: Large, busy temple of 50 rai (20 acres). Founded in the 18th century, Wat Maha That serves as an important center for Thai Buddhism. Many of the monks attend Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University here. Crowds of worshippers visit the various viharns, shrines, chedis, and Buddha images on the grounds. Monks in the Dhamma Vicaya Hall sometimes speak English and can answer questions; scheduled talks are given here. Meditation takes place in Section 5; you're welcome to join in on the group sitting and walking sessions. SIZE: Monks: 300-400 (one of the largest populations in Thailand during the Rains Retreat) (30-50 monks in Section 5) Novices: 50-70 (about 10 in Section 5) Nuns: 10-12 (about 8 in Section 5) Laypeople: about 500 (30-40 in Section 5) DAILY ROUTINE: In Section 5: 6:30 a.m. breakfast; 7-11 a.m. morning chanting (about 30 min.) and sitting and walking group meditation; 11:30 a.m. lunch; 1-4 p.m. sitting and walking group meditation; 4 p.m. drinks; 6-8 or 9 p.m. evening chanting (about one hour) and sitting and walking group meditation. FOOD: Good quality and variety. A simple breakfast in early morning, then the main meal in late morning; drinks are served in the afternoon. Meditators can also arrange for food, including vegetarian, to be delivered from shops. ACCOMMODATIONS: Laypeople usually stay in dormitories, separate for men and women; conditions tend to be crowded. Monks, novices, and some laymen have individual rooms. Electricity and running water. Bathing is from jars or showers; Asian-style toilets. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary. ORDINATION: Possible as monk, novice, or maechee. First ask chief of Section 5, who will inform the abbot. One then has an interview with the abbot. Longer ordinations of 1-2 years or more are preferred. OTHER INFORMATION: Laypeople follow 8 precepts and normally wear white clothing. Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University Bookstore, facing the street on the north side of the wat, has some English books on Buddhism; other Buddhist bookstores are on the same street. WAT BOVORNIVES VIHARA MEANING OF NAME: "Temple of excellent abode" ALSO SPELLED: Wat Bovoranives, Wat Bovorn, Wat Bowonniwet, Wat Bowon. ADDRESS: 248 Phra Sumen Rd., Banglampoo, Bangkok 10200 DIRECTIONS: On Phra Sumen in Banglampoo district, 2 blocks north of the Democracy Monument. Many city buses pass through the area. TELEPHONE: (02) 280-0869 or 281-2831-3 MEDITATION SYSTEM: No formal teachings or meditation instructions are currently offered. The teacher is very busy with duties. This temple is mentioned because it's an important center for Thai Buddhism. Usually a few foreign monks are in residence who can answer questions. TEACHERS: His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyansamvara, the Supreme Patriarch (sangharaja) of Thailand (Thai; age 78). DESCRIPTION: Thirty-one rai (12.5 acres) in an urban setting with some trees and a few open spaces. Small canals criss- cross the grounds. Some of the buildings have notable Thai or European architecture. The Great Chedi, glittering with gold-colored tiles, towers more than 50 meters; relics of the Buddha lie inside within a small metal chedi. If you're here on a Sunday afternoon, you can visit the Dhamma Museum in the tall building near the street; exhibits include Buddha images, temple paraphernalia, skeletons and other meditation objects, and "cremation books" (given out on cremation occasions). Resident monks engage primarily in Dhamma studies; Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya Buddhist University is on the east end of the grounds. SIZE: monks: 100-160 novices: 20-25 nuns: 0 laypeople: (just schoolboys and workmen) DAILY ROUTINE: Not generally available or recommended for meditators. ORDINATION: Foreigners occasionally ordain here but few stay; contact the secretary for details. OTHER INFORMATION: A small English library is available at Gana Soong (International Section). Mahamakut Bookstore, on Phra Sumen across from the wat, has many Buddhist books in English; publishers represented include Buddhist Publication Society, Pali Text Society, and Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya Press; closed Sunday. The temple has had a long and glorious history. In 1836, King Rama III, in a boat procession, invited Prince Bhikku Mongkut to become abbot of Wat Bovornives Vihara. Prince Mongkut was a scholar of Pali Buddhism and the first Asian king to speak English fluently. On the death of Prince Mongkut's half brother King Rama III, he left the Order to become king, being known in the West as King Rama IV. In 1956, King Mongkut's great grandson, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the present king of Thailand, was ordained and resided at Wat Bovornives for a period. The royal history continues with the ordination of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and several of his children who, after ordination, resided here. WAT PAK NAM MEANING OF NAME: "Monastery at the mouth of the river" ADDRESS: Therdthai Rd., Amper Phasicharoen, Bangkok 10160 DIRECTIONS: Located west across the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, part of metropolitan Bangkok. Easily reached by city buses #4, 9, or 103. If you don't mind some spray (the water isn't too clean), you can take a long-tailed boat to the wat from Rajinee (Rachini) and Saphan Phut jetties north of the Memorial Bridge on the east side of the Chao Phraya. TELEPHONE: (02) 467-0811 MEDITATION SYSTEM: The technique begins by concentrating on a point inside the body in the center of the abdomen, 2 finger- widths above the navel. This point is said to be the place where consciousness has its seat. The words "Samma Araham" can be repeated mentally to aid initial development of concentration. A luminous nucleus appears at the center point, then develops into a still and translucent sphere about 2 cm in diameter. Within the sphere appears another nucleus which emerges into a sphere. The process continues with increasingly refined spheres or forms appearing in succession. The high levels of concentration achieved are used in vipassana to develop penetrating insight. A qualified teacher is important in this practice. The late abbot Ven. Chao Khun Mongkol-Thepmuni (1884-1959) popularized this meditation system. The wat has a book in English, "Samma Samadhi" by T. Magness, that explains the technique in detail. TEACHING METHOD: Individual interviews as needed. Talks in Thai by a monk or a tape recording of Ven. Chao Khun Mongkol- Thepmuni are given 2 or 3 times a day at group sittings in the meditation hall. TEACHERS: Chao Khun Bhawana Kosol Thera (Thai; age 72); he speaks English and Japanese. Ven. P.K. Bhavananuwat (Thai; age 77); he speaks a little English. LANGUAGE: Teachers speak some English and people are usually around who can translate. Easiest for one who can speak Thai. DESCRIPTION: The "bot" and many large, multi-story buildings are tightly packed on the 17-rai (7-acre) grounds. Urban setting. Large crowds of worshippers come on weekends and Buddhist holidays. The wat dates back to the early 18th century in the Ayuthaya Period. SIZE: monks: 200-400 (one of the largest populations in Thailand during the Rains Retreat) novices: 80-90 nuns: 200-300 laypeople: about 100 (half practice meditation) DAILY ROUTINE: Meditators can practice individually or attend group sessions. FOOD: Good quality and variety; offered in the temple at daybreak and at 11 a.m. Monks and novices can go on pindabat if they wish. Laypeople eat after monks and novices. ACCOMMODATIONS: Monks and novices usually stay in individual rooms, some with attached Thai- or western-style bathrooms. Nuns have shared rooms. Laypeople may be able to stay except during the Rains Retreat. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary. ORDINATION: Men spend a minimum of one month as a layman, then 3 months as a novice before full ordination as a monk. Women can request maechee ordination, though no westerners have done so. OTHER INFORMATION: Ven. Chao Khun Mongkol-Thepmuni revived this system of meditation, sometimes called "Dhammakaya." He's very highly venerated by the Thais. A shrine room in the wat contains his coffin and a life-like wax statue. Laypeople practicing meditation normally follow 8 precepts and wear white clothing; visitors staying a week or two can follow 5 precepts and wear regular clothing.
WAT PHRA DHAMMAKAYA MEANING OF NAME: "Temple of the respected body of the Dhamma" ADDRESS: Khlong Sam, Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani 12120 DIRECTIONS: Located 40 km north of Bangkok in neighboring Pathum Thani Province. On Sundays and major Buddhist holidays, the best times to visit, free chartered buses to the temple depart from near the Victory Monument in Bangkok between 7 and 8 a.m.; the buses won't likely have English signs, so look for passengers dressed in white clothing. Temple buses depart for the return to the Victory Monument between 3:30 to 5 or 6 p.m. By public bus, go to Rangsit (buses include air- conditioned #3, 4, 10, 13, 29, and 39; non-air include #29, 34, 39, 59, and 95). From the market area in Rangsit (one block south of the main bus stop), take a bus #1008 to the temple. TELEPHONE: (02) 516-9003 to 516-9009 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Dhammakaya meditation in the tradition taught at Wat Pak Nam. The system is said to be an efficient way to purify the mind. One begins by bringing the attention to a point in the center of the body. A crystal ball or Buddha image is visualized as a //nimitta// (mental image); a mantra such as "Samma Araham" or "Buddho" can be used to further reduce mental chatter. As the mind becomes clearer, the wisdom inherent in the mind will manifest itself. It is this wisdom that's called "Dhammakaya." TEACHING METHOD: Teachers give instruction in Thai during meditation periods. Some monks can also give instruction in English. A cassette tape sold at the Information Centre has fairly complete instructions in English; literature is available too. Meditators write down their experiences daily for the abbot, who makes comments for progress. TEACHERS: Ven. Dhammajayo Bhikkhu, abbot (Thai; age 47) Ven. Dattajeevo Bhikkhu, vice abbot (Thai; age 50) LANGUAGE: The vice abbot speaks some English. Some teaching monks speak good English and one speaks Mandarin Chinese. DESCRIPTION: The central area has beautifully landscaped parklands of lakes, trees, and grass; the //bot//, Information Centre, and monks' residences are here. Group meetings take place in large pavilions or in the open air. Vast areas to the west host major gatherings. Total area is 2,500 rai (1,000 acres). SIZE: monks: 130-200 novices: about 200 resident laymen: about 90 resident nuns and laywomen: about 160 visiting laypeople during week: about 150 visiting laypeople on regular Sundays: about 2000 visiting laypeople on first Sun. of month: about 8000 visiting laypeople on major Buddhist holidays (Magha Puja, Vesaka Puja, and Kathina): about 40,000 DAILY ROUTINE: 4:30 a.m. begin day; 5-6:30 a.m. morning chanting and meditation session 1; 6:30 a.m. give alms to monks or help clean temple grounds; 7 a.m. breakfast; 9-11 a.m. meditation session 2; 11 a.m. main meal; 1-4 p.m. Dhamma talk and meditation session 3; 4:30 p.m. drinks; 6:30 p.m. evening chanting; 9 p.m. meditation session 4; 9:30 p.m. sleep. FOOD: Good quality and variety supplied by temple. Meditators and laypeople eat twice a day in morning. Monks and novices go on pindabat within the temple; laypeople can bring food or purchase it in the temple to offer. Drinks are supplied in the afternoon. ACCOMMODATIONS: Very simple. Meditators stay in palm-thatch housing or sleep in the open in the //dhutanga// tradition with a //klod// (special umbrella with mosquito net). Men and women live in separate areas. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended. Best is to make a day trip on a Sunday. You can talk with people and determine if you'd like to apply to join a retreat group. ORDINATION: Can be requested. One must speak fluent Thai. OTHER INFORMATION: The Information Centre has a series of short English videos, shown on request, that introduce the aims and way of life at Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Books (also one in Chinese), a meditation tape, videos, and the newsletter "The Light of Peace" are available in English. Many Thai publications have been produced. A small library has some English books. The very dynamic and outgoing style of Buddhism practiced here makes the temple unique in Thailand. (The emphasis on fund-raising and attracting large numbers of followers resembles the style of evangelical Christian churches.) Sundays are "open days" at the temple, the best time to visit; members make a special effort to attend on the first Sunday of the month. Most major cities in Thailand have a branch meditation centre; Chiang Mai and Phitsanulok also have retreat centres. Only group practice is offered here -- you cannot come and do an individual retreat. Visit (best) or write ahead for information on suitable dates that you can join a group. Laypeople follow 8 precepts and wear white clothing. WAT ASOKARAM MEANING OF NAME: "Monastery of no sorrow" ADDRESS: Sukumvit Road, Samut Prakan 10280 DIRECTIONS: Located 32 km south of Bangkok off Hwy. 3. Many city buses in Bangkok (including air-conditioned #7 and 8, and non-air #25, 142, 145) go to Samut Prakan; from here you can take either of 2 local buses or a taxi 6 km farther to the temple. Some buses between Bangkok's Eastern (Ekamai) Bus Terminal and Chonburi go via Samut Prakan; ask to be let off at Wat Asokaram (between KM 31 and 32 posts on Hwy. 3), then walk or take a samlor about 1 km south. You can see the spires and multi-tiered roof of the viharn from the highway. (People often use the name "Pak Nam" for Samut Prakan.) TELEPHONE: (02) 395-0003 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati is the main technique taught, though meditators are free to choose their own techniques. TEACHING METHOD: Discourses are given each evening. (Meditation practice receives much emphasis in the Dhamma talks.) Teachers are available for questions. TEACHERS: Ajahn Tong (Phra Khru Suvandhammachote), abbot (Thai; age 58) Other senior monks assist. Phra Ajahn Bunku Anuvathano (Thai; age 62) speaks good English. LANGUAGE: A few monks and nuns can speak English; the abbot does not. DESCRIPTION: Rural setting on the coast; 120 rai (50 acres). Many species of birds, some nesting, inhabit the trees on shore and on the tidal flats. Lots of crabs, mud skippers, snakes, and mosquitos live here too. Fairly quiet (except for the birds). Main buildings, such as the //viharn// (main hall), //chedi// (stupa), //bot// (uposatha hall), women's chanting hall, and kitchen are on the shore; most //kutis// (huts) sit atop pilings out over the tidal flats. The magnificent viharn contains a large Buddha image, paintings, and carved wooden doors; large group meetings and monks' chanting take place in the main (upper) hall, smaller meetings are held on the middle level, and the monks' eating area is on the lower level. SIZE: monks: 90-140 novices: 10-15 nuns: about 130 laymen: about 15 laywomen: about 60 DAILY ROUTINE: About 7:15 a.m. pindabat; 8 a.m. the meal; 9:15 a.m. morning chanting; 4 p.m. afternoon chanting; 8-10 p.m. evening chanting, discourse, and meditation. On //wan phra// and day before and after, meditation is also held 3-5 p.m. FOOD: Good quality and variety. Monks and novices have one meal in morning; nuns and laypeople eat once or twice in the morning. Monks and novices can go on pindabat inside or outside the temple; the kitchen and supporters supply most food. ACCOMMODATIONS: Monks, novices, and laymen stay in kutis on the west side; nuns and laywomen have kutis on the east side. Most kutis have screens and a bathroom with running water (some western-, some Thai-style); all have electricity. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary. It's good to have a letter of recommendation, however. ORDINATION: Men can request ordination, learn chanting and rules, then ordain as a monk. Women can similarly request ordination as a maechee. OTHER INFORMATION: A temple built in ancient India by Emporer Asoka inspired the name of Wat Asokaram. Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo (1906-1961), a disciple of Ajahn Mun, founded the temple in 1955. At the request of lay followers, the uncremated remains of Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo have been kept in a coffin in the glassed-in shrine area upstairs in the viharn. A ceremony dedicated to the former abbot attracts many people to the wat on 24-26 April; teachers present discourses on mind training in the Ajahn Mun tradition. Some of Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo's talks have been published in English and are available here by free distribution. A small library has some English books. Two new books in English present wisdom from great teachers of the forest tradition: //The Autobiography of Phra Ajahn Lee// contains incidents from his life that provide both good reading and good lessons; 1992, 190 pages. //Awareness Itself: The Teachings of Ajaan Fuang Jotiko// contains short, to-the-point advice to guide students past the pitfalls of meditation practice; (Ajaan Fuang helped establish Wat Asokaram and was expected to become abbot after Ajaan Lee's death. Instead, he left and spend the last 15 years of his life at Wat Dhammasathit, a small, out-of-the-way place in the hills near Rayong); 1993, 77 pages. Phra Geoffrey Thanissaro translated and edited both books; they're available for free distribution. Eight precepts and white clothing are recommended for long-term meditators. WIWEK ASOM VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTRE MEANING OF NAME: "Quiet dwelling place" ALSO SPELLED: Vivekasrom Vipassana Meditation Center ADDRESS: Tambon Ban Suan, Ampher Muang, Chonburi 20000 DIRECTIONS: Located just outside Chonburi on the road to Ban Bung. Buses leave frequently from Bangkok's Eastern (Ekamai) Bus Terminal for the one-hour trip. Get off at Ban Bung intersection in Chonburi, then walk or take a samlor to the meditation centre. TELEPHONE: (038) 283-766 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness as described in the Buddha's satipatthana suttas. The techniques of Mahasi Sayadaw are used. The meditator establishes concentration on the rise and fall of the abdomen; mental noting helps focus attention on bodily sensations and mind objects as they come into consciousness. Sitting periods alternate with walking. TEACHING METHOD: Daily interviews with the teacher TEACHERS: Phra Ajahn Asabha (Dhamma Chariya) (Burmese; age 79) Phra Ajahn Charlee Jaruvanno (Thai; age 54) Phra Ajahn Pramuan (Thai; age 60) LANGUAGE: Phra Ajahn Asabha speaks only Thai and Burmese, but a translator can be arranged. The other teaching monks speak some English. DESCRIPTION: Shaded, fairly quiet location on the edge of Chonburi. Simple, modern architecture. Kutis are fairly close together. Separate living and practice areas for men and women. SIZE: monks: 30-60 novices: 3-7 nuns: 20-30 laypeople: 20-30 DAILY ROUTINE: Meditators practice in meditation halls or in rooms according to their own schedule. Continuity of practice is stressed. Everyone is encouraged to meditate 20 hours a day. One should avoid socializing, reading, and leaving the centre during one's stay. FOOD: Very good quality and variety. Monks and novices go on pindabat, then eat mindfully in their kutis. Laypeople can eat in the kitchen or take food to their rooms. A simple breakfast is served early morning, then the main meal in late morning. Laypeople can arrange for food, including vegetarian, to be ordered from shops and delivered to the centre. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual rooms or kutis with screens, electricity, and Thai-style bathrooms with running water. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended. All rooms may be occupied during the Rains Retreat and some other periods. ORDINATION: Not available OTHER INFORMATION: One should come with the intention of staying at least 2 weeks. Meditators follow the 8 precepts but may, if needed for health reasons, take food after mid-day. Phra Ajahn Asabha came to Thailand in 1953, after the Thai government extended an invitation to the Burmese government to send vipassana teachers. SORN-THAWEE MEDITATION CENTRE MEANING OF NAME: "Sorn" is the person who donated the land; "Thawee" is the founder and head teacher at the centre. ALSO SPELLED: Samnak Vipassana Sorn-Thawee ADDRESS: Bangkla, Chachoengsao 24110 DIRECTIONS: From Bangkok, take a bus to Chachoengsao from either Northern (Moh Chit) or Eastern (Ekamai) bus terminals. Then take a bus toward Bangkla; get off after about 25 min. (just past KM post 17) where the bus turns left at Bangkla Crossing; walk across the highway and follow the intersecting road south 300 meters, then turn right another 300 meters at the sign. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana, practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Techniques using the tool of mental noting are similar to those taught by Mahasi Sayadaw. Formal sitting and walking meditation is done 8-12 hours a day. Mindfulness is applied to all of one's daily activities. One must practice systematically through waking hours in order to develop the concentration needed for effective insight meditation. TEACHING METHOD: Daily individual interviews are considered essential. Meditators report previous day's experiences, then receive instruction and guidance. TEACHERS: Phra Ajahn Thawee, abbot (Thai; age 76) and a Western nun (Austrian) teach foreigners. LANGUAGE: English and German are always available. DESCRIPTION: Attractively landscaped grounds of 24 rai (10 acres) with ponds, trees, and colorful shrubs. Rice fields surround the centre. SIZE: monks: 15-22 novices: usually 0 nuns: 20-30 laypeople: 40-50 A new Dhamma Hall has 70 rooms for meditators. DAILY ROUTINE: 4 a.m. wakeup; 6:30 a.m. breakfast; 7:30 a.m. individual interviews begin; 11 a.m. lunch. Day is spent in or near one's kuti doing intensive individual practice. Meditators should not sleep more than 6 hours. No group practice is offered. FOOD: Good quality and variety; vegetarian is available on request. Two meals are served in the morning. Meditators eat mindfully in their kutis. The community eats as a group on special occasions. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis with screens, fans, electricity, and attached bathrooms with running water. Older kutis have Thai-style bathrooms; newer kutis have western-style facilities. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Yes, necessary to arrange accommodations. ORDINATION: Not available OTHER INFORMATION: Only individual (solitary) practice is offered at present; this isn't for everyone as some people feel the need for the support of group practice. A Dhamma hall under construction is expected to open in 1993; check with the centre then to find out if group practice will be offered. The usual retreat duration is 50 days; 20 days is the minimum recommended stay. Visits of less than 2 weeks don't allow enough time to develop insight and won't be allowed. Meditators observe 8 precepts, keep noble silence (especially not to talk about one's meditation experiences with others), wear loose-fitting, modest clothing, and abstain from reading, writing, or listening to radios. A blanket or light sleeping bag is needed in the cool season. A 50 baht (US $2) daily fee covers running expenses. BOONKANJANARAM MEDITATION CENTER MEANING OF NAME: "Boon" Charoenchai and his wife "Kanjana" donated the land in 1963 for an //aram// (wat). ADDRESS: Pattaya, Chonburi 20260 DIRECTIONS: Located in Jomtien Beach, 5 km south of Pattaya. From Bangkok, take a bus from the Eastern (Ekamai) Bus Terminal to Sattahip and get off at Wat Boonkanjanaram, just past KM post 150, then walk down Wat Boon Road alongside the wat; entrance to the meditation center is a short way beyond the wat grounds. If you take a bus to Pattaya, hire a songtaew to the center. TELEPHONE: (038) 231-865 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana, based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness using techniques taught by Ajahn Naeb. Unlike other vipassana systems that begin with mindfulness of breathing, the method taught here proceeds directly to mindfulness of the Four Foundations (//satipatthana//): body (//kaya//), feeling (//vedana//), mind (//citta//), or mind object (//dhamma//). The body (//kaya//) makes the best object to start with for nearly all people because of its gross, easily observed qualities. The meditator applies steady mindfulness to his body in the 4 basic positions of sitting, standing, walking, and lying and in the minor positions. The purpose of the meditation is to destroy wrong views about self, eliminate liking and disliking, realize the Four Noble Truths, and end suffering. When pain is noticed, the position is changed and the pain is followed into the next position. As practice becomes more proficient, the Three Characteristics of impermanence (//anicca//), suffering (//dukkha//), and not self (//anatta//) will become more evident. //Rupa// and //nama// (material and mental factors) are seen as impermanent because they cannot stay the same. Rupa and nama are seen as suffering because the position is suffering. Rupa and nama are seen as not self, because whatever is impermanent and suffering is without self. As practice deepens it is seen with insight that rupa and nama are not self, not "me." This wisdom can have a very strong effect. When the Three Characteristics are seen in rupa and nama, wisdom is going to feel disenchantment with rupa and nama. This is the path to realize nibbana according to the meditation system. Before one begins practice, one must understand some theory. This requires more study than most meditation techniques. The meditation system taught here also has a reputation for being more difficult than breathing-based systems. TEACHING METHOD: Interviews with teacher. A single beginning student would be taught alone; if more than one beginner is at the center, they would be grouped together. Beginners usually have daily interviews at first, then less often as determined by the teacher. Although instructions are in book form, it is considered valuable to have a "good friend" or teacher. TEACHERS: Mr. Chua Jantrupon (Thai; age 86) assisted by Miss Vitoon Voravises (translator) and Frank Tullius (a long- time American practitioner at the center). LANGUAGE: English translation is available (the teacher does not speak much English). Frank Tullius also can provide instruction and advice. The book //Vipassana Bhavana//, published by the center, has detailed information on theory, practice, and result of the meditation system used here; the book is sold at the center (by mail order too) and at some bookstores in Bangkok and Chiang Mai; a French edition is available at the center. DESCRIPTION: The meditation center covers 22 rai (8.5 acres) in an old coconut grove with grass, bamboo, and a variety of trees. Facilities include 51 kutis, a small temple, a dining area for monks, and a kitchen. The center operates independently from nearby Wat Boonkanjanaram for the most part. SIZE: monks: 5-15 novices: occasionally a few nuns: 5-15 laypeople: 4-8 DAILY ROUTINE: None, except for meals and interviews. Practice schedule is left up to meditator. FOOD: Good quality and variety; vegetarian is available on request. Food is brought to kutis at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5 p.m. (people on 8 or more precepts just take the morning meals); an afternoon drink is offered too. Monks and novices go on pindabat. Normally everyone eats mindfully at their kuti; monks and novices sometimes eat as a group when food is specially offered. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis with screens, fans, electricity, porches, and Thai-style bathrooms (some have western- style toilets) with running water. Moderately well spaced. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Yes, needed in order to arrange accommodations. ORDINATION: Not available OTHER INFORMATION: Ajaan Naeb (1897-1983), a Thai laywoman, had a deep experience of no self at the age of 34. She then sought out someone who could teach her //vipassana- kammathana.// She practiced under the Burmese monk Pathunta U Vilasa and realized nibbana. She then turned her attention to study of abhidhamma and became an expert on Buddhist philosophy. For 40 years she taught vipassana at many centers, including Boonkanjanaram. No group practice is offered. Meditators must be highly self-reliant and motivated to practice successfully. They are advised to keep noble silence with each other and abstain from reading (other than about practice) and listening to the radio. Two weeks is the recommended minimum stay. Six other centers in Thailand teach the same meditation system, though usually only in Thai. A 50 baht (US $2) daily charge is made for running expenses. WAT SAI NGAM MEANING OF NAME: "Temple of beautiful banyan trees" ALSO SPELLED: Wat Trai Ngarm ADDRESS: Tambon Donmasang, Amper Muang, Supanburi 72000 DIRECTIONS: From Bangkok, take a bus from the Northern (Moh Chit) Bus Terminal to Supanburi, 100 km to the northwest, then take a local bus northeast 15 km on the road to Ang Thong. The wat is 0.5 km in. TELEPHONE: (035) 522-005 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Ajahn Dhammadharo developed a vipassana technique using hand movements that gave good results in his practice. After 9 years of using this method, he felt confident in teaching it to others. Sitting meditation typically begins with some metta practice (benefits include helping to clear the mind of hindrances) followed by anapansati (to calm the mind). One then begins the prescribed hand and finger movements, using either arm, while directing attention to the palm or fingers. Sensations arising in the hand, then extending along the arm to the chest, back, and head are used in development of clear comprehension leading to penetrating insight. Touch-point sensations are used too. The meditation system instructions have been translated into English in the book //The Manual of Insight Meditation; Practising Clear Comprehension in Accordance with the Maha Satipatthana Sutta// by Pannavuddho Bhikkhu; this book should be available at the wat. TEACHING METHOD: Lectures (occasionally by Ajahn Dhammadharo) and by asking questions. Books and tapes in Thai can be purchased, as can the English book by Pannavuddho. TEACHERS: Ajahn Dhammadharo, abbot (Thai; age 78) assisted by senior monks. LANGUAGE: One should speak good Thai in order to take advantage of the teachings here. Some monks and nuns can speak a little English. DESCRIPTION: A large temple of 70 rai (28 acres) surrounded by rice fields. Trees shade the central area. On arrival at the main entrance, you'll find the office in the raised building on the left just past the abbot's house; the large sala ahead, also on stilts, is used for eating and meditation; turn left at the junction and follow the path for the //bot//, exceptionally beautiful even by high Thai standards. The Buddha image inside sits in a teaching pose under a large artificial tree. SIZE: monks: 150-200 novices: 15-20 nuns: 80-100 laymen: about 10 laywomen: 20-30 DAILY ROUTINE: 4 a.m. chanting in "bot;" 5 a.m. monks and novices leave for pindabat by bus; 8 a.m. first meal; 11 a.m. second meal; 2-4 p.m. sitting and standing meditation; 4-5 p.m. walking meditation; 5 p.m. drink; 6:30 p.m. sitting and standing meditation; 8 p.m. lecture; 9-10 p.m. walking meditation. FOOD: Good quality and variety. Monks and novices take a temple bus to Supanburi, Ang Thong, or other nearby town for pindabat; laypeople are welcome to come along and help collect food. Two meals in morning; nuns and laypeople eat after monks and novices. ACCOMMODATIONS: Monks and novices stay in individual kutis of stone or wood; fairly close together. All have electricity and running water; newer kutis have Thai-style bathrooms. Laymen have shared rooms or dormitories; nuns and laywomen usually share rooms. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary ORDINATION: Can be requested for novice, monk, or maechee. OTHER INFORMATION: Ajahn Dhammadharo began teaching about 1954. His first center was Wat Chai Na (Wat Tow Kote) in Nakhon Sri Thammarat Province in the south. In the 1970s he moved to his home province and founded Wat Sai Ngam. Discipline is left mostly to the individual. Laypeople observe 8 precepts and wear white; they also wear a white sash over their shoulder. The sash (//pah sabay chieng//) can be purchased in the temple shop. Unless entering or leaving the temple grounds, residents walk barefoot everywhere. SUNNATARAM FOREST MONASTERY MEANING OF NAME: "Pure mind forest monastery" ALSO SPELLED: Samnak Pah Sunyataram ADDRESS: Ban Kroeng Kra Wia, Tambon Prang Phea, Ampher Sangkhla Buri, Kanchanaburi 71180 DIRECTIONS: Located 302 km northwest of Bangkok. Take a train (from Bangkok Noi Station) or bus (from Southern or Southern AC bus terminals) west 128 km to Kanchanaburi, then hop on a bus or minibus bound for Sangkhla Buri; ask to be let off at the monastery, which is 174 km from Kanchanaburi and 42 km before Sangkhla Buri, between KM posts 32 and 33 on Hwy. 323. The monastery is just east of the highway. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati and metta TEACHING METHOD: Dhamma talks by Phra Ajahn Yantra and other senior monks. Tapes of Phra Ajahn Yantra are often played during the evening meditation period. He and other senior monks will answer questions. TEACHERS: Phra Ajahn Yantra Amaro (Thai; age 40) and senior monks. The teacher travels extensively and may be gone most of the time. He is highly respected for his metta and skill at teaching meditation. People also look up to him as a good example of how one can be happy despite life's difficulties. LANGUAGE: Phra Ajahn Yantra and a few other monks can speak some English. DESCRIPTION: The monastery covers 280 rai (112 acres) in a beautiful forested valley enclosed by steep mountains. This karst area has many sinkholes, caves, and strange-shaped rocks. Phra Ajahn Yantra discovered the site while on tudong, then founded the monastery in 1984. A small river flows through the valley, separating the women's and sangha areas. On entering the monastery, you'll pass the women's area on the right, then cross a bridge to the sangha area; monks greet visitors at a small sala just past road's end. Except on //wan phra//, the rest of the sangha area is normally closed to nonresidents. Phra Ajahn Yantra's kuti is perched high atop a rock pinnacle; ask if you can visit. Caves near the monastery can be used for meditation. SIZE: monks: 10-100 novices: 5-20 nuns: about 30 laywomen: 30-50 laymen: 5-10 DAILY ROUTINE: 3:30 a.m. wakeup; 4-6 a.m. chanting and meditation; about 6 a.m. monks and novices go on a long, 6-km pindabat; 8:30 a.m. monks and novices go on a second pindabat within the monastery; 9 a.m. chanting (reflection on food) and meditation for about 30 min., followed by the meal; 3 p.m. work period; about 4 p.m. drink; 6-8 p.m. chanting (about one hour) and meditation (a recording of a Dhamma talk by Phra Ajahn Yantra is often given during the first half of the meditation period); 8 p.m. sometimes a senior monk gives a talk. FOOD: Vegetarian of good quality and variety. Monks and novices go on pindabat for rice; laypeople at the monastery reoffer the rice and offer food prepared in the kitchen. A large garden beyond the women's kutis provides much of the community's requirements. Unusual for Thailand, the monastery and its branches take only vegetarian food as part of a metta practice. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis of various sizes and materials in both the sangha and womens areas; some have screens. When many visitors are expected, as during the Rains Retreat and when Phra Ajahn Yantra stays, simple bamboo kutis are built. Laypeople can stay in kutis, if available. Laymen who follow 8 precepts can stay in the sangha area. Only larger buildings have electricity and running water. Thai-style bathrooms (men can also use a bathing stream in the sangha area); Asian-style toilets. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary. Expect crowded conditions during the Rains Retreat and when Phra Ajahn Yantra is in residence; it's a good idea to visit a month or more ahead of these times to arrange accommodation. Groups should write in advance any time. ORDINATION: Men practice as 8-precept laymen to learn Vinaya and chanting; when the community feels the person is ready, he can ordain as a monk (no need to be a novice first if 20 or more years old). No ordination ceremonies take place here; foreigners usually ordain at Wat Bovorn in Bangkok. Women can apply to stay as a maechee but must ordain elsewhere. OTHER INFORMATION: Malaria exists here, so it's important to use netting and insect repellent. A small library has some English books. Laypeople who follow 8 precepts wear white clothing. The monastery welcomes all traditions of Buddhist monks and laypeople. Visiting monks who follow strict Vinaya can sit with resident monks for eating and daily chantings. Residents follow a strict forest tradition practice. Nearly all monks go on tudong after the Rains Retreat ends; some monks make a resolution to travel only by foot for a certain time. Populations at this monastery and its branches fluctuate greatly because of the tudong practice. Branch monasteries offer excellent conditions for meditation practice too; they can usually accommodate small numbers of visitors. Some English may be spoken at Tham Wua and Wat Sab-Chan. KOW KAEW SUNNATARAM on an island in nearby Khao Laem Reservoir offers much solitude; first ask permission to stay from the main monastery. In northwestern Thailand, THAM WUA SUNNATA has caves and a spectacular setting beneath sheer limestone cliffs; it's located about 45 km north of Mae Hong Son, then 1.5 km in by dirt road or trail (Ban Mae Su Ya, Tambon Huai Pha, Amphoe Muang, Mae Hong Son 58000). In eastern Thailand, WAT SAB-CHAN (SUNNATARAM) lies in a valley surrounded by fruit orchards and forested hills 27 km west of Chanthaburi, then 2 km in by road (Tambon Na Yai Arm, Amphoe Tha Mai, Chanthaburi 22160). In central Thailand, DHAMMALEELA MEDITATION CENTER is surrounded by a golf course 40 km northeast of Bangkok (Klong 14 Rangsit, Tambon Bang Pla Kot, Amphoe Ongkharak, Nakhon Nayok 26120). [NEW LISTINGS IN 1994] DHAMMA KAMALA: Meditation courses orgnized by students of S.N. Goenka take place occasionally; contact Mrs. Sutthi Chayodom, 65/9 Soi 1 Chaengwattana Road, Bangkhen, Bangkok 10210; tel. (02) 521-0392 or 552- 1731. These intensive vipassana courses follow the tradition of the late Sayaghi U Ba Khin of Burma. WAT LUANG PHOR SODH DHAMMAKAYARAM: This temple in Rajburi Province offers teaching in the Vijja Dhammakaya meditation technique, as taught by the late abbot of Wat Pak Nam (affectionately known as Luang Phor Sodh) in Bangkok. Distinctive white temple buildings stand in a landscaped park area. The abbot, Phra Ajahn Maha Sermchai Jayamanggalo (Thai; age 65), gives instruction in Thai and English during the meditation periods; some other monks can also give instruction in English; tapes and literature are available, too. Resident monks number 30-35 (35-60 during the Rains) with 25-30 novices, 10-12 nuns, and 10-15 laypeople. Large numbers of laypeople visit on the first Saturday of each month and on major holidays; large retreats take place in April (for youths), May, and December. Writing in advance is recommended to make sure that the abbot is in residence, as he is the main English- speaking teacher. The temple is 94 km southwest of Bangkok; from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal, you can take an ordinary bus 78 and ask to be let off at the gate; or take an air-conditioned bus to Damnoen Saduak Bus Terminal, where you can catch a yellow songtaew to the temple. Address: Damnoen Saduak District, Rajburi Province 70130; telephone/fax (032) 254650. (Information provided by temple secretary; the author has not visited here.
WAT WAH POO KAEW MEANING OF NAME: "Crystal Mountain monastery" ADDRESS: Tambon Magluwamai, Amper Sungnoen, Nakhon Ratchasima 30140 DIRECTIONS: Located 230 km northeast of Bangkok and 50 km before Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat). Take a bus on the Friendship Hwy. (Hwy. 2) from either city and ask to be let off at Wat Magluwamai (between KM posts 215 and 216); take a songtaew from the junction here south about 15 km to Wat Wah Poo Kaew. From Bangkok, it may be easier to get off at the junction for Sikhiu on the Friendship Hwy. and take a songtaew. Buses in Bangkok leave from the Northern (Moh Chit) Bus Terminal. Some trains stop at Sikhiu. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati combined with mental repetition of mantra "Buddho." All-around awareness of mind and body is emphasized. Meditators are free to use their own techniques. TEACHING METHOD: Ajahn Sutji Anutaro (Thai; age 47) is now the abbot. Retreats for students (mostly high school) take place 2- 3 times a month, lasting 4-5 days; frequently senior monks from surrounding provinces will teach. These retreats increase the noise level, but you can continue your individual practice during them. TEACHERS: Luang Paw Pudt (Phra Phawanaphisal Thera) (Thai; age 70) Ajahn Sutji Anutaro, abbot (Thai; age 47) LANGUAGE: Lectures and instruction are given in Thai. Visitors must speak at least basic conversational Thai. The teachers and most monks do not speak English. DESCRIPTION: Spread out across a lightly wooded hillside with open areas. Small farming villages occupy the valley below. The wat has 15 rai (6 acres) plus 1,000 rai (400 acres) of government deforested land entrusted to the care of the wat; this land is being replanted in trees. A wooden sala used by the abbot to meet visitors and as the monks' eating area is just inside the entrance. Winding paths lead up the hillside to a large sala where chanting and group meditation take place. Luang Paw Pudt stays in the house farther up the hillside when he visits here. A waterfall is about 2 km from the wat. SIZE: monks: 15-35 novices: 3-15 nuns: 0 (no living quarters for nuns) laypeople: a few DAILY ROUTINE: 4-5:30 a.m. chanting (30 min.) and group meditation; 6 a.m. pindabat for monks and novices; 7:30 a.m. the meal; 3-4 p.m. work period; 4 p.m. drinks; 6-8 p.m. chanting (1 hour) and group meditation. Most of the day is free for individual practice. People try to practice all night on "wan phra." FOOD: Very good quality and variety; supplied by pindabat, kitchen, and visiting supporters. One meal is served in the morning; laypeople may keep food for later in the day if they need to. People in this region of Isaan eat mostly white rice, bringing out sticky rice on special occasions. ACCOMMODATIONS: The monastery has about 34 kutis, well separated, and 10 large dormitories; nearly all have screens, Thai or Western bathrooms, running water, and electricity. A large, open sala on the hill now serves as the meditation and eating area. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary; there's usually room. ORDINATION: Not available OTHER INFORMATION: Local villagers asked a tudong monk staying at this site to establish a monastery. Luang Paw Pudt, the abbot of Wat Pah Sarawan in Nakhon Ratchasima, offered to help. Construction began in 1980 on land donated by a villager. The Forestry Department donated additional land in 1987 and the monastery became official the following year. Very suitable for experienced meditators who wish to practice in a quiet monastery environment. Laypeople normally observe 8 precepts. Information about Wat Wah Poo Kaew can be obtained from the main monastery if you're in Nakhon Ratchasima. Wat Pah Sarawan, once surrounded by jungle, is now enveloped by the city; it's located south of the railway station; easiest way there is by samlor. WAT PAH NANACHAT MEANING OF NAME: "International forest monastery" ADDRESS: Ban Bung Wai, Amper Warin, Ubon Ratchathani 34310 DIRECTIONS: Located outside the city of Ubon Ratchathani, about 600 km northeast of Bangkok. From Ubon, go southwest 12 km to Ban Bung Wai on the highway to Si Saket, then follow signs west one km through rice fields to the forest and wat. You can take a Si Saket bus from Ubon and ask to be let off at Wat Pah Nanachat or you can take a city bus 2 km south across the Mun River to Warin and get a songtaew from the market area. Trains arrive in Warin; walk 20 minutes east into town to catch a songtaew. Easiest of all is just to take a tuk-tuk or taxi at the train or bus stations or airport. Several fast trains provide daily service from Bangkok, including an overnight express which offers comfortable 2nd class sleepers. Many air-conditioned buses with reclining seats depart Bangkok's Northern (Moh Chit) Bus Terminal for the day or overnight journey. THAI offers a daily flight from Bangkok to the airport in the northern part of Ubon Ratchathani. MEDITATION SYSTEM: No single technique predominates. One is creative, using a variety of appropriate meditations and reflections from the Theravadan tradition. Mindfulness with breathing forms the basis for most formal meditation. Teachers hold that samatha and vipassana cannot be separated. Sila, conduct of body and speech, along with monastic discipline forms a fundamental part of the training. One tries to maintain mindfulness in all postures. The monastery environment provides not only an ideal environment for meditation practice, but the opportunity to learn from and reflect on the customs and traditions honored here. TEACHING METHOD: No formal instruction is offered. The teachers will answer questions. A library has a good selection of English and other foreign-language books on meditation practice. Some books about practice in the Ajahn Chah forest tradition are available by free distribution. Dhamma talks on audio tapes by Ajahn Sumedho and other teachers can be borrowed or copied. TEACHERS: Ajahn Pasanno, abbot (Canadian; age 41) Ajahn Jayasaro, vice abbot (English; age 33) Senior monks teach men too. Women only meet with the abbot or vice abbot. Teachers usually talk with laypeople in the morning; the rest of the day is reserved for instructing monks and novices. LANGUAGE: English is the medium of instruction. Most monks can speak some Thai and perhaps other Asian or European languages. The abbot and vice abbot speak fluent Thai; they give advice and Dhamma talks to local people much as abbots do at any monastery in Thailand. DESCRIPTION: Nearly half of the 250-rai area (100 acres) is in thick forest. The main sala, where most of the Buddha images are, serves as the dining area and as the place for visitors to meet the abbot. Local villagers hold cremations at a site nearby. The //bot// has a marble and wood interior of modern design. A large meditation sala lies a 5-minute walk through the forest. SIZE: monks and novices: 15-20 nuns: 0 (no living quarters for nuns) laypeople: 5-10 DAILY ROUTINE: Group meetings and work periods have equal importance with formal meditation in the monastery. Laypeople are invited and expected to join the activities: 3 a.m. wakeup; 3:30-5:15 a.m. chanting and meditation; 6-7 a.m. sweeping or help out in the kitchen (pindabat for monks, novices, and pakows); 8 a.m. offering food to the monks; about 8:30 a.m. the meal, followed by cleanup; 3-5 p.m. work period of hauling water, cleaning buildings, and other projects; 5 p.m. drink at abbot's kuti; 7-9:30 p.m. meditation, chanting, and Dhamma talk (or a reading). Other time is free for individual practice. The daily schedule changes during times of retreat and on Buddhist holy days (//wan phra//). On //wan phra//, the community and some visitors make the effort to stay up all night without lying down and practice meditation until 5 a.m. FOOD: Very good quality and variety, including vegetarian dishes. Sticky, white, and (usually) brown rice are offered. Monks, novices, and pakows go on pindabat for rice; most food is donated to or prepared in the kitchen. Laymen and women with shaved heads eat with the monks. Other laypeople eat in the kitchen. Everyone adheres to the one-meal-a-day standard; a drink and sweets are usually offered in the afternoon. ACCOMMODATIONS: Monks, novices, and laymen live in well separated kutis, most with a walking path. (Laymen visiting for short periods stay in a dormitory above the kitchen.) Women have their own building with individual rooms (can be shared) upstairs and western-style bathrooms downstairs. Men have communal facilities (bathing from tanks or showers; mostly Asian-style toilets). Bathrooms and large buildings generally have electricity and running water; kutis do not. Blankets and mosquito nets can be borrowed from the monastery. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Yes, be sure to write ahead with a request to stay, or you might be disappointed on arrival. The monastery can only accommodate a small number of guests. ORDINATION: Wat Pah Nanachat is primarily a training center for non- Thai nationals preparing to take ordination. A sincerely interested layman first becomes a pakow (anagarika) wearing a white robe and taking an alms bowl. After 3 months he can take the going forth as a novice and wear orange robes. Full ordination can take place about one year later. Anyone considering //bhikkhu// ordination will benefit from a stay at Wat Pah Nanachat, whether he plans to ordain here or not. Unless fluent in Thai, one isn't likely to find this situation of thorough training combined with ease of communication elsewhere in Thailand. OTHER INFORMATION: A visit provides a great opportunity to experience and participate in a monastic community of the forest tradition. The way of life here will be unfamiliar even to most visitors with a Buddhist background, hence an importance of being willing to adapt and learn. For best results, plan on staying a minimum of 1-2 weeks. If you're not keenly interested in the monastic life-style or if you simply prefer doing your own retreat, other places will be more suitable. Men staying for more than a few days must shave their heads, including beards and eyebrows; this shows a spirit of commitment and renunciation. Women aren't expected to shave, but they need to have an understanding and appreciation for the monks rules; women who have been here awhile will explain. Laymen dress in modest white clothing. Women usually wear white blouses and black skirts, or they can wear all white. Clothing for men and women can be borrowed from the wat. All laypeople observe the 8 precepts. Some talking and socializing is allowed, but not between men and women. Conversations should be related to Dhamma practice (avoid the temptation to talk about travel or politics as they can agitate the mind!) Ajahn Chah established Wat Pah Nanachat in 1975 as a place where his western disciples could live and train in the Dhamma-Vinaya. Ajahn Sumedho, an American, served as the first abbot; after 2 years he went to England and founded monasteries there. Ajahn Pabhakaro, the second abbot, now assists with running the monasteries in England. Ajahn Jagaro then took over; he later established a monastery in western Australia just outside Perth. The current abbot, Ajahn Pasanno, has been in charge since 1982. Originally mostly westerners and the odd Thai trained at Wat Pah Nanachat. In recent years, however, a variety of Asians have added to the international atmosphere. Today the monastery is one of more than 100 branch monasteries in Thailand and around the world of Ajahn Chah's Wat Nong Pah Pong. WAT NONG PAH PONG MEANING OF NAME: "Forest monastery of marsh and pong" (pong is a type of high grass) ADDRESS: Non Peung, Ban Gor, Amper Warin, Ubon Ratchathani 34190 DIRECTIONS: Located 12 km southeast of Ubon Ratchathani or 10 km southeast of Warin. See Wat Pah Nanachat directions above for transport to Ubon. From Ubon, you can take a pink bus to its terminus in Ban Gor, then walk or take a tuk-tuk 2 km west to the monastery. You can walk to Wat Nong Pah Pong from Wat Pah Nanachat in 1-1/2 hours on a series of dirt roads and foot paths; ask to see the map at Wat Pah Nanachat. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Similar to Wat Pah Nanachat. TEACHING METHOD: Similar to Wat Pah Nanachat, except that women have very little contact with monks. TEACHERS: Ajahn Leeam, abbot (Thai; age 50) LANGUAGE: Instruction is given in Thai; the teacher doesn't speak English. Sometimes western or Thai monks can translate. DESCRIPTION: Forest and open areas total 350 rai (140 acres). Originally this was a cremation site thought to be inhabited by ghosts. Much construction work has taken place in recent years. Arriving from the east you'll first see a 3-story museum. Exhibits inside include a life-like statue of Ajahn Chah, his robes and other memorabilia, archaeological finds, Buddhist art, and area crafts; bas-reliefs illustrate important events of Ajahn Chah's life, including his visits to England; skeletons on display can be used as meditation objects. Continuing into the monastery, you'll arrive at a new sala, an ornate concrete bell tower (monks cast the bell), Ajahn Chah's old kuti (he used to sit downstairs in a chair to meet with visitors), and a //bot// of modern architecture. A circular mound to the north is used as a meditation area; a chedi on top contains Ajahn Chah's ashes. SIZE: monks and novices: 45-70 nuns: 45-50 laypeople: Often a few laymen preparing for ordination. Lay disciples frequently visit for short periods. DAILY ROUTINE: Similar to Wat Pah Nanachat. This is also a good place to combine one's own practice with group activities in a monastic environment. FOOD: Adequate northeastern fare with sticky rice; one meal a day and an afternoon drink. ACCOMMODATIONS: Monks, novices, and laymen stay in well-separated kutis; most have no water or electricity. Laywomen stay with nuns in a separate area of the monastery; laywomen must speak Thai. Women will find better conditions at Wat Pah Nanachat. Most bathing is done in shower blocks; toilets are Asian- and western-style. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary ORDINATION: Possible if one speaks fluent Thai. Most non-Thais find Wat Pah Nanachat more suitable for initial training. Women interested in ordaining as a nun should first contact Wat Pah Nanachat. OTHER INFORMATION: One should speak Thai or be willing to learn. Long- term laymen shave their heads and wear white. Much of the western Theravadan Sangha originated here with the encouragement and support of Ajahn Chah. In Thailand, Ajahn Chah earned fame by his skill at training monks in high standards of Dhamma-Vinaya. He was one of the most influential monks of Thai Buddhism. Born in nearby Ban Gor in 1918, Ajahn Chah took robes as a novice at age 13. He ordained as a bhikkhu when he was 21. In 1946, following his 8th Rains Retreat, he set out as a //phra tudong//, wandering the forests and practicing meditation in lonely places. Teachings of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Ginaree influenced him during this period. In 1954, Ajahn Chah accepted an invitation by his mother and villagers to return to Ban Gor to establish a new monastery -- Wat Nong Pah Pong. After many years of teaching, his health began to deteriorate, resulting in an operation to relieve cranial fluid pressure in Nov. 1981. Unfortunately, his condition worsened in mid-1982; by the end of the year, Ajahn Chah had become bedridden and unable to teach. His monks continued to lovingly care for him. Ajahn Chah died here on January 16, 1992 at age 75. His life and teachings inspired a great many people around the world. At his funeral, which took place exactly one year later, the king and thousands of monks, nuns, and laypeople gathered to pay their respects. WAT PAH WANA POTIYAHN MEANING OF NAME: "Forest monastery of enlightened wisdom" OTHER NAMES: Wat Keu-an ("Dam monastery") Wat Koh ("Island monastery") ADDRESS: Dtumbol Nikom #1, Amper Phibun Mangsahan, Ubon Ratchathani 34110 DIRECTIONS: Located on a peninsula on the northeast shore of Sirindhorn Reservoir about 70 km east of Ubon Ratchathani and only 5 km from the Laotian border. (This large reservoir is named after the king's daughter, the crown princess.) From Ubon, take a bus east 45 km to Phibun Mangsahan (a "tour" bus from Bangkok also goes here), then take a songtaew east 20 km to Nikom #1; get off at Wana Potiyahn boat landing (ask in advance to be let off here -- you can't see the landing from the road). Ask to be taken across the lake to the monastery (give the boat boys a 20-baht tip), then follow a road 3/4 km to the central area. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Similar to Wat Pah Nanachat. TEACHING METHOD: Similar to Wat Pah Nanachat. TEACHER: LANGUAGE: This is a Thai monastery. The abbot gives Dhamma talks and instruction in Thai. He recommends that visitors know or be willing to learn the language. He will answer questions in English. DESCRIPTION: A dense growth of dry tropical forest covers most of the monastery's 2,500-rai (1000-acre) area. The forest is one of the finest of its type in the region. Monks have taken an active role in conservation and protection of the plant and animal life. Denizens of the forest include wild boar, langur (a type of monkey), mouse deer, forest fowl, pheasant, many other birds, and many species of snakes (though rarely seen). Wat Pah Wana Potiyahn is a branch of Ajahn Chah's Wat Nong Pah Pong. A sala, kitchen, scattered kutis, and a boat house are the main buildings. All water has to be hauled from wells. Solar cells power a lighting system for the common areas. SIZE: monks and novices: about 10 nuns: 0 laypeople: a few DAILY ROUTINE: Similar to Wat Pah Nanachat FOOD: Good northeastern fare. Supplies may be limited, especially in the hot season. Visitors can also supply their own food and prepare it in the kitchen. The community eats one meal a day. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis for monks, novices, and laypeople. Bathing is done at wells; toilets are Asian-style. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary ORDINATION: Not available OTHER INFORMATION: A good place to practice if you are looking for solitude in a remote forest monastery. Visitors need to have their own practice, be self-reliant, and be willing to learn Thai. Some malaria exists here, so take care to use repellent and netting. Because this is a frontier area near Laos, women should only come and stay in groups of 2 or more. Laypeople observe 8 precepts. Laymen must shave their heads after 3 days. Ajahn Puriso, the former abbot, has left the monkhood. Conditions may or may not be suitable for Westerners now. Ask first at Wat Pah Nanachat. WAT DOI DHAMMA CHEDI MEANING OF NAME: "The hill monastery of the Dhamma Chedi" ADDRESS: Tambol Tong Khob, King Amper Khok Sri Suphan, Sakhon Nakhon 47280 DIRECTIONS: Located 676 km northeast of Bangkok, 263 km north of Ubon Ratchathani, and 29 km southeast of Sakhon Nakhon. (Buses connect Sakhon Nakhon with Bangkok and most northeastern cities.) From Sakhon Nakhon, take a local bus or songtaew southeast 23 km on Hwy. 223 toward That Phanom; ask to be let off at Khok Sri Supan. Buses from Ubon Ratchathani to Sakhon Nakhon can also let you off here. Arrange transport south 6 km to Wat Doi Dhamma Chedi. Nearing the wat, you'll see rocky hills, then a concrete road that leads inside the grounds. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Ajahn Baen has experience with many systems. He most often teaches anapanasati or mental repetition of "Buddho" to establish concentration; one then contemplates the body and mind. Meditators are free to use their own techniques. TEACHING METHOD: Occasional lectures and by asking questions. TEACHER: Ajahn Baen, abbot (Thai; age 63) LANGUAGE: Visitors must speak good conversational Thai. The teacher and most other monks do not know English. DESCRIPTION: The wat is built on and around a small wooded hill with views across the Maekhong Plain. The many sandstone boulders and outcrops add to the beauty. The main sala, at the end of the road, has an upstairs room used for meetings and eating; Ajahn Baen talks with visitors in the open area downstairs. Follow trails up the hill to see a large reclining Buddha and the //bot//. SIZE: monks: 20-45 novices: 3-5 nuns: sometimes a few visiting laypeople: sometimes a few visiting DAILY ROUTINE: Mostly left up to individual. Ajahn Baen encourages everyone to practice diligently. Regular group activities include pindabat, the meal, an afternoon drink, and work periods. Ajahn Baen holds meetings when appropriate, most often during the Rains Retreat and other occasions when new monks arrive. Chanting and group meditation take place during the Rains Retreat in mornings and occasionally in evenings (if a meeting is held). FOOD: Very good northeastern style. Monks and novices go on pindabat; other food comes from the kitchen and donors. The community has one meal in the morning, served and eaten with the fingers. Monks, novices, and pakows eat upstairs in the main sala. Laypeople eat above the kitchen. ACCOMMODATIONS: Monks and novices stay in kutis tucked around rock outcrops in the central area or scattered in the surrounding woods. Laymen can stay in kutis if available. Laypeople have 2 large buildings east of the main sala; one for women and nuns, the other for men. Women may feel more comfortable if arriving and staying in groups of 2 or more. Bathrooms, separate for men and women, have showers and Asian-style toilets. Bathrooms and large buildings have electricity; most kutis do not. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended. The abbot likes to know such things as your name, country, and profession. ORDINATION: Can be requested. One normally spends some months as a pakow before ordination as a novice or monk. OTHER INFORMATION: Ajahn Baen places strong emphasis on practice. Disciplinary code and temple rules are of great importance too. Laypeople observe 8 precepts and dress modestly. One should avoid unnecessary conversation or wandering about too much. WAT PAH BAN THAT MEANING OF NAME: "Forest monastery of Ban That" ADDRESS: c/o Songserm Service, 89 Phosi Road, Udon Thani 41000 DIRECTIONS: Located 564 km northeast of Bangkok and 16 km southwest of Udon Thani. Take a songtaew, local bus, or taxi from Udon Thani south 8 km to Ban Gum Kling, then turn southwest 7 km to Ban That and continue one km to the wat. Some songtaews go direct to Ban That from Udon and may even drop you off at the wat entrance. Samlor drivers in Udon usually know where the songtaews depart. Several fast trains provide daily service to Udon, including an overnight express which offers comfortable 2nd class sleepers. Many air-conditioned buses with reclining seats depart Bangkok's Northern (Moh Chit) Bus Terminal for the day or overnight journey. Ubon Ratchathani and other northeastern cities also have good bus connections with Udon. THAI offers a daily flight from Bangkok to the airport just south of Udon. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati, mental repetition of "Buddho" (or "Dhammo" or "Sangho"), or contemplation of a part of the body is used to gain calm. The practice of samadhi has 3 levels. First level is characterized by short periods of calm. Second level has mental images (//nimittas//) during longer periods of calm. The real level of samadhi -- the deep stage which is necessary -- is the third. The mind (//citta//) drops down to the level of the heart; there is then the experience of knowing, but having no specific object present. This is one of the happiest states one will ever find one's life, if the state can be attained. From this level of concentration one comes out of it and directs the mind toward contemplation of the body. The object is to overcome //kilesas// (defilements) which lead us to do the wrong things. We overcome the kilesas by seeing them. However, only a well- concentrated mind can provide the basis to see deep- rooted kilesas. A teacher is valuable in developing the proper level of concentration. Self-reliance, minimal socializing, and observance of monks and temple rules receive emphasis in the practice here. TEACHING METHOD: Ajahn Maha Bua rarely gives talks due to his age but he does meet with visitors in the morning and answers questions. Some of his talks have been translated into English and published in a series of books available at the wat; //Forest Dhamma// has a fairly complete description of the meditation instructions in English. Guidance in this meditation system of Ajahn Maha Bua is provided primarily by Ajahn Pannavaddho, probably the most senior western monk in Thailand. TEACHERS: Ajahn Maha Bua, abbot (Thai; age 77) Ajahn Pannavaddho, vice abbot (English; age 65) LANGUAGE: Ajahn Maha Bua speaks a little English. Ajahn Pannavaddho speaks English and Thai. DESCRIPTION: A quiet, forested area of 160 rai (64 acres). Ajahn Maha Bua has chosen to keep the wat simple with a large wooden sala as the only major structure. SIZE: monks: 35-45 novices: about 5 nuns: occasionally a few laypeople: 5-30 DAILY ROUTINE: Besides pindabat and the morning meal, the community gets together for cleaning in and around the sala in the morning, then for sweeping and water hauling in the afternoon. Each person practices on his own for most of the day. The only regular group meeting is the fortnightly //Patimokkha// for monks. FOOD: Very good northeastern and Bangkok styles. Monks and novices go on pindabat in Ban That, then eat one meal. Additional food comes from the kitchen and visiting supporters. Resident laymen can eat in the main sala with the monks and novices. Women eat in the women's area. Drinks and sweets are served in the early afternoon. ACCOMMODATIONS: Everyone stays in well-separated kutis or in a //lan// (small roofed platform in the forest). Women live in a separate area of the wat. Some kutis have attached bathrooms or one can bathe at wells. Toilets are Asian- style. Generally no running water or electricity is available. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not needed. Try to avoid arriving on religious holidays, especially those on weekends, and during the Rains Retreat. ORDINATION: Not available OTHER INFORMATION: The popularity and renown of Ajahn Maha Bua and his wat, together with limited space, make long-term stays difficult. Laypeople usually can stay up to 2-3 weeks; extensions can be requested. Monks and novices can visit only for short periods too. You can get directions to other wats that use the same meditation system; you'll need to speak Thai at these. Ajahn Maha Bua practiced under the meditation master Ajahn Mun for 9 years; he later wrote a biography of his teacher (see Recommended Reading). WAT HIN MAAK PENG MEANING OF NAME: It refers to 3 large rocks beside the river shaped like measuring weights once used in Thailand. ADDRESS: Tambol Pra Putabat, Amper Si Chiangmai, Nong Khai 43130 DIRECTIONS: Located on the banks of the Maekhong River, 655 km northeast of Bangkok. The temple is 68 km west of Nong Khai, the provincial capital. The town of Si Chiangmai, 18 km east of the wat, has bus connections with Nong Khai, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Bangkok. The overnight tour bus from Bangkok run by Baramee Tour goes all the way to the wat if there are 8 or more passengers headed there. You can also take trains to Nong Khai or fly to Udon Thani (91 km from the wat). Songtaews go to Wat Hin Maak Peng from Si Chiangmai; other songtaews and local buses can drop you off at the gate, then it's half a kilometer walk in. TELEPHONE: (042) 451-110 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati (mindfulness with breathing), mental repetition of "Buddho," or //maranasati// (recollection of death) is used to develop concentration along with mindfulness. One then uses this "mind strength" to investigate the body and know its true characteristics. From this knowledge, the mind becomes free from clinging. TEACHING METHOD: Everyone is free to follow their own meditation system. Instruction is available mainly through books and tapes. Luang Poo Tate and other senior monks will answer questions. Mindfulness and observance of disciplinary code and temple rules are important in practice. TEACHER: Luang Poo Tate, abbot (Thai; age 89) LANGUAGE: The vice abbot, Ajahn Pichit, and a few other monks speak English; they can translate and answer questions. Luang Poo Tate meets with visitors and answers their questions in Thai. He no longer gives talks, but his books (in Thai and English) and recordings of Dhamma talks (Thai) are available. //The Autobiography of a Forest Monk//, by Venerable Ajahn Tate, recently became available in an English version, edited by Bhikkhu Ariyesako. Luang Poo Tate conveys much wisdom to the reader through stories and lessons from his life. The 314-page book is in libraries and available for free distribution from the monastery. DESCRIPTION: Many large, attractive buildings perched on the banks of the Maekhong River, opposite Laos. Scenic and quiet location with trees and bamboo groves. On entering the wat, you'll come to guest houses for laypeople on the right, the //bot// (uposatha hall) on the right, the abbot's residence on the right, then the main sala on the left. Monks and novices stay in kutis beyond the main sala. Ask one of monks in the main sala if you would like to stay or if you have questions. SIZE: monks: 35-50 novices: 5-12 nuns: 6-20 laypeople: 15-30 DAILY ROUTINE: A typical daily schedule begins with a bell at 3 a.m. for individual meditation practice (optional); 6:30 a.m. monks and novices go on pindabat; 7:30 a.m. monks and novices chant (usually in uposatha hall); 8 a.m. meal for monks, novices, and pakows in main sala (laypeople sit opposite and chant); 9 a.m. laypeople eat; 3 p.m. work period (sweeping and other chores); 4 p.m. drink; 4:30 p.m. work period (cleaning main buildings); 7 p.m. chanting in main sala; 8-10 p.m. meditation in uposatha hall. FOOD: Very good Bangkok-style. Monks and novices go on pindabat for rice; most food comes from the kitchen and donors. Laypeople eat leftovers after monks finish eating. (It's allowable for foreigners to set aside some leftovers before the chanting, as the Thai laypeople quickly scoop up everything in sight as soon as the chanting ends.) ACCOMMODATIONS: Monks and novices have individual kutis, somewhat close together. Laypeople who come for meditation can stay in guest houses (shared rooms), separate buildings for men and women. Laymen can also ask for a kuti in the monks' area. Most kutis have screens, electricity, and attached bathrooms. Bathrooms have showers or tanks for bathing and Asian-style toilets. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended. Write with your plans to stay and whether or not you speak Thai. ORDINATION: Foreigners usually ordain at Wat Bovorn in Bangkok. Ordination is possible at Wat Hin Maak Peng if one speaks fluent Thai. The usual procedure is to: (1) ask permission from Luang Poo Tate; (2) after acceptance as a layman, one learns chanting and the rules of conduct; (3) one takes the white robes of a pakow, continues training, and learns the ordination procedure; (4) bhikkhu ordination ceremony then takes place (novice if under age 20). Length of training depends on how quickly one learns; one year is average for Thai people. OTHER INFORMATION: Luang Poo Tate practiced under the famous Ajahn Mun for 9 years. He later founded this monastery on a site that had been popular with monks on tudong. Almost all monks here spend time on tudong. Some malaria exists, so one needs to be careful to use repellent or netting from dusk to dawn. Visiting monks and novices who plan to spend more than 14 days need a letter of permission from their monastery. Laypeople should observe 8 precepts, respect rules, be self-reliant and motivated, and be quiet (socializing is discouraged). Women stay in their area except for some group chantings, meeting with a teacher, making offerings (//dana//), or paying respect to monks. Women should speak at least a little Thai.
WAT UMONG MEANING OF NAME: "Monastery with tunnels" OTHER NAME: Suan Buddha Dhamma ("Garden of Buddha's teachings") ADDRESS: Tambon Suthep, Amper Muang, Chiang Mai 50000 DIRECTIONS: Located 3.5 km west of Chiang Mai. Easiest way is by tuk-tuk or bicycle. Or, take a city bus #1 or songtaew west 2.5 km on Suthep Rd. (_not_ the same road to Doi Suthep Temple) to Wang Nam Kan, then follow signs south 1 km to the wat. Chiang Mai is 700 km north of Bangkok and the most important city of the north. Frequent bus, train, and air services connect Chiang Mai with Bangkok and other major centers. TELEPHONE: (053) 277-248 (call only from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati, similar to teaching at Suan Mokkh. One is free to use one's own meditation techniques. TEACHING METHOD: Teachers are available for questions. Talks in English are given every Sunday 3-6 p.m. at the Chinese Pavillion near the pond. A library/museum has many books in English and other foreign languages. TEACHERS: Phra Khru Sukhandasila, abbot (Thai; age 56) Phra Santitthito (Santi) (German; age 50) is no longer at Wat Umong; he now takes care of a large forest center in Australia as abbot and resident teacher: Wat Buddhadhamma, Ten Mile Hollow, Wisemans Ferry, New South Wales. A Western monk is usually in residence at Wat Umong. LANGUAGE: One should be able to speak some Thai. Other senior monks, including the abbot, speak a little English. DESCRIPTION: Peaceful, wooded grounds of 37.5 rai (15 acres). You can feed the fish, turtles, and ducks in a large pond. "Talking trees" have words of wisdom in Thai and English. The wat is famous for its ancient tunnels and large stupa. Other attractions include a Buddha field of broken sculpture, a fasting Bodhisatva, a Spiritual Theatre of paintings similar to those at Suan Mokkh, reproductions of ancient Buddhist sculpture of India, and a library-museum. This last building offers many books on Buddhism and other philosophies as well as a collection of historic objects and Buddhist art. SIZE: monks: 45-75 novices: about 10 nuns: about 8 laypeople: about 10 DAILY ROUTINE: A bell is rung at 4 a.m. Monks and novices are encouraged (and laypeople welcome) to attend chanting at 4:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monks and novices go on pindabat after morning chanting, then eat together in a wooden sala. Because discipline, practice, and schedule are left up to each person for the most part, self- motivation is especially important. Laypeople on a short visit can follow 5 precepts; longer-term visitors should observe 8 precepts. FOOD: Monks eat once or twice a day from food collected on pindabat. Nuns normally cook their own food. Laypeople can also arrange meals at nearby shops or take from monk's leftovers. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis in separate areas for monks/novices, nuns, and laypeople. Kutis, somewhat closely spaced, have screens and electricity; some also have attached Thai-style bathrooms (Asian- and some western-style toilets) and running water. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Yes, write or enquire well in advance. Only a small number of kutis are available for laypeople. ORDINATION: Possible for both short- and long-term as novice, monk, or maechee. One has a personal interview with the abbot to request ordination. If approved, one usually trains at Wat Umong for at least one month before ordination. OTHER INFORMATION: The monastery, one of the oldest in the Chiang Mai area, may date as far back as 1300 A.D. Legend tells that a king built the brick-lined tunnels for a clairvoyant but sometimes eccentric monk named Thera Jan; paintings dated to about 1380 once decorated the walls. You can enter the tunnels to see the small shrines inside (a flashlight is useful). The adjacent stupa was constructed about 1520 over an earlier stupa (1400-1500). The monastery eventually fell into disuse, though Japanese troops were said to garrison here during WW II. Since 1948, the Thai prince Jao Chun Sirorot, now in his 90s, has been active in rebuilding and reestablishing the monastery. In 1949 he invited Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (founder of Suan Mokkh in southern Thailand) to come and live here. Duties kept Buddhadasa Bhikkhu from coming. Instead he sent Ajahn Pannananda and other monks to help set up and run Wat Umong. WAT RAM POENG MEANING OF NAME: "Monastery in memory of" (King Yod Chiengrai established the monastery in 1492 in memory of his father.) OTHER NAME: Wat Tapotaram ("Monastery of ascetic practice") and Northern Insight Meditation Center ADDRESS: Tambon Suthep, Amper Muang, Chiang Mai 50000 DIRECTIONS: Located 4 km southwest of Chiang Mai. Easiest way is by tuk-tuk or bicycle. Or, take city bus #1 or songtaew west 2 km on Suthep Rd. to Phayom Market (also called Suthep), then go south 2 km to the wat (can take tuk-tuk or songtaew). Wat Umong is only 1 km to the northwest. TELEPHONE: (053) 278-620 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Intensive vipassana meditation based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Mahasi Sayadaw techniques are used. TEACHING METHOD: Instruction and advice are given during daily interviews. Dhamma talks in Thai are presented on the night before //wan phra//. TEACHERS: Prasuprommayanna Thera (Ajahn Tong), abbot (Thai; age 68) Ven. Luang Paw Banyat Akkayano, vice abbot and head of foreign section (Thai; age 78) One or 2 English-speaking teachers assist. LANGUAGE: The vice abbot and assistants speak English. DESCRIPTION: Buildings are closely spaced on the 15-rai (6-acre) grounds, with some trees and grass. The central stupa dates back to the founding of the wat in 1492. The glittering new building serves as the Tripitika Library; it contains collections of the "Three Baskets" of the Theravadan scriptures in Thai, English, Sanskrit, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Mon, Korean, and Chinese languages. SIZE: monks: 60-70 novices: about 20 nuns: 60-70 laypeople: 40-60 (roughly half are foreigners) DAILY ROUTINE: Meditators are encouraged to try to practice 20 hours a day, lying down to sleep only at night. Meditation generally follows a cycle of //kraap// (bowing), walking, and sitting. Individual interviews take place daily (except on //wan phra//) in early afternoon. Practice typically begins at the 4 a.m. wakeup. Meditators have freedom to determine the schedule that works best. FOOD: Adequate; vegetarian can be requested and is generally available. Rice porridge and a vegetable are served at 6 a.m., then the main meal at 10:30 a.m. Monks and novices go on pindabat. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual rooms with electricity and Thai-style bathrooms (bathing from jars; Asian- and a few western- style toilets) with running water. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended, because the centre is often full. If all rooms are full, you can sign up on a waiting list. Alternate accommodations may be available too. Writing, or better visiting, in advance enables you to reserve a space. Busiest times are the tourist season (Oct. through March) and the Rains Retreat (3-month period beginning mid- or late July). Preference is given to those planning on staying at least 26 days for the whole course and those who have practiced here before. ORDINATION: Can be requested by committed meditators wishing to be monks or nuns. OTHER INFORMATION: The course takes 26 days to complete; a stay of one month is a bit better. Because practice is individual, you can arrive and begin at any time. Meditators may be accepted for shorter periods if space is available. Eight precepts are observed. Traditional white clothing is worn. Teachers allow some socializing, though care should be taken not to talk about or disturb others' meditation. A small foreign library has books in English and a few other languages, Dhamma talks on tapes, and books and tapes for learning Thai. The library is available to meditators who have finished the 26-day course and to outside visitors. The wat is popular with both westerners and Thais. Like Wat Umong, this monastery fell into disuse sometime after its founding. During WW II, Japanese troops occupied and badly damaged the site. Reconstruction of the viharn began in 1971. In 1974, Prakrupipatkanapiban, the abbot of Wat Muang Mang and head teacher of a meditation school in Chiang Mai, came here and stayed; he's the current abbot and now has the name Prasuprommayanna Thera. Meditation courses at Wat Ram Poeng began in 1975. THAM TONG MEDITATION CENTRE MEANING OF NAME: "Tong Cave" ADDRESS: Tambon Ban Pae, Amper Chom Thong, Chiang Mai 50240 DIRECTIONS: Located 86 km southwest of Chiang Mai. Take a bus from Chiang Mai toward Hot; ask to be let off at the stop for Tham Tong (23 km past Chom Thong, between KM posts 82 and 83). Follow the gravel road 1.5 km west to Ban Pae, then turn left 2 km on a small paved road to its end at the meditation centre. You may have to walk in from the highway as local transport is infrequent. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana based on methods taught by Mahasi Sayadaw. The centre is a branch of Wat Maha That in Bangkok; the same meditation system is used. One can also use one's own techniques. TEACHING METHOD: The teacher provides instruction for new arrivals, then interviews as needed. TEACHERS: Ajahn Suchin Vimalo, abbot (Thai; age 52) LANGUAGE: The teacher does not speak English. Visitors need to know basic conversational Thai. A few nuns speak English, but may not be available (especially for male visitors). DESCRIPTION: The center covers about 30 rai (12 acres) on both sides of a narrow, wooded valley. A peaceful setting with running stream, caves, and mountains. The land and surrounding mountains belong to the Forestry Department. SIZE: monks: 7-40 novices: 3-10 nuns: 15-25 laypeople: 10-40 DAILY ROUTINE: Wakeup bell is at 3:30 a.m.; the meal and some chanting is at 8:30 a.m. One also helps with sweeping and cleaning work. Except for the meal, the entire day is free for individual meditation practice in solitude. FOOD: Adequate quality; one meal at 8:30 a.m. of food offered by the meditation centre. (Newcomers may also be offered a rice porridge earlier in the morning for the first few days.) Monks, novices, and nuns eat from alms bowls but do not go on pindabat. Laymen can eat with the monks and novices; laywomen and nuns have their meal together in an adjacent room. ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis (in most cases), fairly close together, or rooms; most have electricity, screens, and Thai-style bathrooms with running water (bathing from tanks; Asian- style toilets). WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended. The centre is often full during the Rains Retreat and times of other retreats. ORDINATION: Not available for novice or monk. Women can ordain as maechees; this centre appears to be an especially good place for the nun's life. OTHER INFORMATION: This is a meditation practice center with strict discipline. Visitors must be highly self-reliant and self-motivated. Laypeople wear white clothing and follow 8 precepts. Time should be devoted to meditation and all-around mindfulness. Socializing, reading, and writing are discouraged.
SUAN MOKKH MEANING OF NAME: "Garden of liberation" FULL NAME: Suan Mokkhabalarama ("Garden of the power of liberation") ADDRESS: Amper Chaiya, Surat Thani 84110 DIRECTIONS: Suan Mokkh is about 640 km south of Bangkok and just west of the Asian Highway (Hwy. 41); Surat Thani, 53 km southeast, is the nearest city. From Bangkok, take any southbound Rapid train and get off at Chaiya, about 40 km north of Surat Thani's Phun Phin station, then take a songtaew to Suan Mokkh. Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal is on the Buddha-Monthon Road in Thonburi; both air- conditioned and non-AC buses depart here for southern Thailand. Take a bus bound for Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat and ask to be let off at Suan Mokkh; buses will either let you off directly in front (KM post 71) or at the Shell station 1 km north. From the south, take trains that stop in Surat Thani (Phun Phin) or Chaiya. At Phun Phin station, ask at the bus stop in front for a bus going by Suan Mokkh. (Phun Phin, Surat Thani's train station, is 14 km west of the city.) Buses from Surat Thani bus station depart about hourly during the day. THAI flies direct to Surat Thani from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket, and Trang; the airport is 27 km south of Suan Mokkh and 2 km west of the highway. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati (mindfulness with breathing) according to the Buddha's Anapanasati Sutta. New students first learn some theoretical background and the purpose of Dhamma practice, then the preparations for and the 16 lessons (objects of investigation) which make up mindfulness with breathing. Walking meditation is also done using mindfulness with breathing; if one has difficulty doing this, one can observe sensations in feet or legs. One practices the first 4 lessons (the body foundation of mindfulness) to calm one's breathing and body and to stabilize the mind. Then one refines both the calmness of the mind and one's understanding of how it works by working with lessons 5-8 (the feelings foundation of mindfulness) and 9-12 (the mind foundation of mindfulness). At any time that the mind is sufficiently calm and stable, while practicing with right understanding and motivation, insight can take place, even during the first lessons. Lessons 13-16 (the Dhamma foundation of mindfulness) further develop and perfect insight into right knowledge (//vijja//) and liberation (//vimutti//). The goal of this practice is to realize the voidness-emptiness of the 5 //skhandhas// (body, feelings, memory, thought, and sense awareness), that there is nothing worth attaching to as "I" or "mine." To aid the development of right understanding (//sammaditthi//), the Buddha's teachings on //anatta// (not-self) and //paticcasamuppada// (dependent origination) are examined in detail and depth. The study and investigation of these principles are considered essential at Suan Mokkh. TEACHING METHOD: Formal instruction is given only during monthly 10-day retreats; at other times interviews, books, and tapes are available. Retreats feature Dhamma talks, interviews, group sittings, walking meditation, and morning hatha yoga. TEACHERS: Ajahn Poh, abbot (Thai; age 60) (Foreign monks and nuns do most of the English teaching.) LANGUAGE: English is the medium of instruction for foreigners. SUAN MOKKH STYLE: The purpose of Dhamma practice here is to get free of the tyranny of ego in order to live peacefully (in realization of Nibbana) and usefully (in service to Dhamma and humanity). Thus residents try to practice unselfishness in everything they do -- meditation, study, work, talk, sleep, and whatever life asks. Suan Mokkh is not a "meditation center" per se where people come only to "meditate." This is a Garden of Liberation, a place to study and practice Dhamma in a wholistic way. Study and investigation of Buddha-Dhamma given in the Pali suttas is an essential foundation for practice. Joyful service for others is the context of practice. Thus cultivating Right Understanding and Right Aspiration with the path of samatha and vipassana becomes liberation now. Each person integrates the three aspects of study, service, and meditation in the way that works for them. With growing mindfulness and wisdom, temporary liberation blossoms into the perfect voidness empty of "I" and "mine," full of wisdom and peace. DESCRIPTION: Set on 300 rai (120 acres) of forest at the base of Nang A Mountain. Group meetings take place outdoors whenever possible. Two "ships" (one a meeting hall, the other a rock garden) can be visited, but the //bot// (uposatha) sits atop Golden Buddha Hill in the center of the monastery. This natural open-air setting under the trees probably resembles uposatha areas used during the time of the Buddha. A Spiritual Theatre, near the ships, has Buddhist paintings from many traditions. Reproductions of ancient Indian sculpture that depict the Buddha's life decorate the outside walls of the theatre and are scattered around the monastery grounds. The International Dhamma Hermitage, 1.5 km east of Suan Mokkh, has been the site of meditation retreats since 1989. Ten-day retreats in English begin on the first of every month (one must arrive 1-2 days in advance for registration). Thai retreats take place mid- month of most months; retreats for monks are held occasionally too. The 120-rai (48-acre) site has coconut palms and small trees with many open areas. A new forest monastery of about 70 rai (28 acres) lies beyond the hermitage; foreign monks and laymen come for very long-term study and practice in the Suan Mokkh tradition. English is the medium of instruction. SIZE: monks: 40-70 novices: sometimes a few nuns: 15-25 laypeople: 15-20 Thai, 15-25 foreign; (numbers increase greatly during retreats and conferences) DAILY ROUTINE: Retreat schedules change through the ten-day period according to the teachers, but wakeup time is 4 a.m., breakfast 8 a.m., and lunch 12:30 p.m. A typical schedule for meditators staying "between" retreats is 4 a.m. wakeup; 5 a.m. meditation; 6 a.m. yoga or other exercise (optional); 8 a.m. breakfast; 9 a.m. chores; 11:30 a.m. meditation; 1 p.m. lunch; 4:30 p.m. meditation; 5:30 p.m. drinks; 7 p.m. tape or talk; 8 p.m. meditation; 9 p.m. individual practice; 10 p.m. lights out. RETREAT INFORMATION: The 10-day retreats have been very popular. They provide a unique opportunity to experience the anapanasati technique in a retreat setting. (Most other meditation centres in the Theravadan tradition teach the vipassana system based on Mahasi Sayadaw's techniques.) Retreats begin on the first of every month; you must register in person a day or 2 in advance. Sometimes the 110-person capacity of the retreat cannot accommodate everyone who comes, hence the importance of coming beforehand. Upon acceptance, one must follow instructions given and be committed to staying the entire 10-day course. Late arrivals aren't possible. Retreats take place at the International Dhamma Hermitage 1.5 km east across the highway from Suan Mokkh. Foreign visitors cannot be received easily at Suan Mokkh when retreats are underway, so plan arrival after the 11th of each month. Participation in community activities is expected. One is encouraged to practice in the Suan Mokkh style. Experienced meditators who have done a retreat here before may request permission for long-term stays. FOOD: Laypeople eat 2 vegetarian meals a day at a foreign kitchen (at the hermitage during retreats, at Suan Mokkh between retreats). Monks and novices eat once or twice a day from food collected on pindabat and provided by the monks' kitchen (mostly nonvegetarian). ACCOMMODATIONS: During retreats at the International Dhamma Hermitage, meditators have small individual rooms; separate buildings for men and women. Bathing is Thai-style from tanks; toilets are Asian-style. Other times visitors stay at Suan Mokkh; men have small dormitory rooms; women stay in individual rooms or dormitories; Thai- style bathing from tanks (most men's areas are in the open); mostly Asian-style toilets. Monks and novices stay in individual kutis scattered through the forest or in monk's dormitories if all kutis are occupied (they often are). Most buildings and kutis have electricity. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Don't. Retreat registration has to be done in person. ORDINATION: Can be arranged for men who have a serious interest in ordaining and practicing in the Suan Mokkh style. One should be committed to long-term practice (at least 3 years). The training offered takes about 10 years. Normally one trains initially as a layman for 3 months or more, then as a novice for 6 months or more before full ordination. Ordination ceremonies take place at another temple. OTHER INFORMATION: Although Suan Mokkh prefers not to make rules, it is much appreciated when visitors dress and behave within the rather conservative traditions of Thai forest wats. Laypeople observe 5 precepts. A daily charge of 50 baht (US $2) covers food and accommodation expenses during and between retreats. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu founded Suan Mokkh in 1932 and moved it to its present location about 10 years later. He has sought to provide a natural setting where visitors can forget "themselves" and study, practice, and realize the Dhamma. His many books, some translated into English, skilfully explain anapanasati meditation and other aspects of the Buddha's teaching. Ajahn Buddhadasa died at Suan Mokkh on July 8, 1993; He was 87 years old. The "Evolution/Liberation" newsletter comes out once a year with articles and news; it's available free by mail or at Suan Mokkh; donations support publication and distribution. The foreign library at Suan Mokkh has a variety of books on Buddhist and related topics. Most are in English, though German, French, and other languages are represented too. WAT KOW THAM INTERNATIONAL MEDITATION CENTER MEANING OF NAME: "Mountain cave monastery" ALSO SPELLED: Wat Kow Tahm ADDRESS: Abbot, Wat Kow Tham, Koh Pha-Ngan, Surat Thani 84280 DIRECTIONS: Koh Pha-Ngan, an idyllic island with many beaches, lies just north of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. Daily boats connect the islands with each other and direct to ferry terminals in the Surat Thani area. Bangkok Airways has daily flights between Bangkok and Koh Samui. Surat Thani has good bus, train, and air connections with Bangkok and other centers. On arrival at the pier in Thong Sala on Koh Pha-Ngan, take a songtaew or taxi southeast 4 km to the junction for Wat Kow Tham, then turn inland 1 km up a steep road to the wat. MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana similar to techniques taught by Mahasi Sayadaw. Primary concentration development is on the breathing and physical sensations; mental noting helps focus on moment to moment awareness. Teachers emphasize compassion as the basis of mental development and meditation practice. Compassion and loving kindness have a close connection and receive much attention. Standing meditation is taught as a formal practice along with sitting and walking postures. Wise reflections are encouraged on compassion-loving kindness, sympathetic joy, how fortunate we are, karma, death, dukkha, and impermanence. TEACHING METHOD: During 10-day retreats, scheduled most months, teachers present a short Dhamma talk in the morning and a longer one in the evening. Further instructions are given during individual interviews. The teachers are often available for guidance between retreats too. The retreat talks can be purchased in a book and on audio tapes; people have found this material useful as an introduction before attending a retreat and a review afterward. TEACHERS: Steve Weissman (American; age 42) Rosemary Weissman (Australian; age 39) LANGUAGE: English; some German material is available. Teachers also speak Thai. DESCRIPTION: Beautiful island setting near the south coast. The wat covers 33 rai (13 acres) on a wooded hill; you can gaze out across the water to Koh Samui and other islands. SIZE: monks: 2-5 novices: usually 0 nuns: 4-6 laypeople: Steve and Rosemary Weissman are resident DAILY ROUTINE: The day begins at 4 a.m. and is largely devoted to periods of (ON RETREAT) sitting, walking, and standing meditation. A morning exercise session aids in developing mindfulness of body and improving flexibility. Teachers give morning and evening talks. Everyone is expected to keep noble silence and to follow the schedule. DAILY ROUTINE: Guests are required to take part in 3 meditation periods, a (BTWN RETREATS) work time, and the meals. FOOD: Wholesome Thai vegetarian. The kitchen serves 2 meals in the morning. A light dinner in the afternoon is also available during retreats; hot drinks are served in the afternoon between retreats. Some nonvegetarian food may be served between retreats. ACCOMMODATIONS: Simple dormitories and some shared rooms; Thai-style bathrooms have running water. Buildings have electricity. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: A good idea to obtain retreat dates and registration information. Also, the wat closes occasionally when monastic retreats take place. Mail can be slow and unreliable, so it's best to visit in person in advance of your intended stay. ORDINATION: Not available OTHER INFORMATION: Ten-day intensive retreats take place most months. They usually begin about midmonth (dates vary). The 40- person retreat capacity sometimes fills, so it's a good idea to preregister by mail or in person. A 90 baht (US $3.60) daily fee covers food expenses. Teaching and monastery facilities are offered freely. Visitors are usually welcome to practice meditation here between retreats too. A simplified schedule is followed with more freedom for one to organize one's own time. Teachers may not be available, however. Note that the wat closes occasionally. Two new programs have been developed for approved old students: an intensive 20-day retreat and a less- intensive 3-month work retreat scholarship; both are designed to help the student understand more fully how to incorporate their formal practice into their normal life. Much of the teaching centers on further development of //yoniso manasikara// (wise reflection) in developing Right Understanding and Right Intention. Attention is also given to the 10 //paramis// (perfections) and the 8 worldly conditions so that one can understand more clearly the difference between beneficial conditioning and unbeneficial conditioning. A Thai nun, Maechee Ah Mohn Pahn, is in charge of the center (nuns rarely have such a position in Thailand). She speaks English but does not teach the foreigners.
Wat Tham Sua ("Tiger Cave Temple") in Krabi Province has a beautiful setting in a natural amphitheater enclosed by sheer limestone cliffs. Some shrines and monk's kutis lie tucked back in caves. Ajahn Jumnien, who receives great respect for his skill in teaching, has mastered a variety of vipassana and concentration techniques. He will talk with a new student and suggest the best method for that person.
Language and accommodations are the main difficulties for foreigners. The teacher doesn't speak English, nor can you expect to find anyone who can translate. You may be able to stay here, but space is tight. The author found the teacher friendly and very approachable, but other temple residents to be indifferent to visitors. (The wat may get too many tourists for the comfort of the monks and nuns.) A day visit is recommended for one who can speak fluent Thai (or can bring a translator along). From Krabi, go north 6 km to the Talaat Kao junction, east 8 km on Hwy. 4 (toward Hat Yai), then 2 km north to the wat. Songtaews and local buses will take you to the turnoff, where you can walk or take a motorcycle taxi. A songtaew could also be hired direct to the wat. Any bus between Hat Yai (or Trang) and Krabi will pass by the wat turnoff.
Steve and Rosemary Weissman, teachers at Wat Kow Tham International Meditation Center, visit Ajahn Jumnien regularly and find his advice extremely helpful. They also advise traveling meditators to go to Wat Tham Sua and visit him. Someone may be available to translate, though this cannot be relied upon.
Many travelers come through this multi-cultured island to see the sights or to obtain a Thai visa. You can also stay and practice meditation here. Visitors of most nationalities typically receive a 3-month entry permit on arrival (no visa needed) in Malaysia. The country also has the advantage of easy access from Thailand (inexpensive if one comes by train or bus). English is widely spoken.
MALAYSIAN BUDDHIST MEDITATION CENTRE (M.B.M.C.) ADDRESS: Honorary Secretary, Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre, 355 Jalan Masjid Negeri, 11600 Penang, MALAYSIA DIRECTIONS: Located in the southwest part of Georgetown, the main city on Penang Island. Taxis provide the easiest way to get here. Buses "Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang" #5, 6, 9, and 11 pass by from the ferry jetty. A short, inexpensive ferry ride connects Penang with Butterworth on the northwest coast of Malaysia. The train station is in Butterworth. Long-distance buses operate both from Penang (via a bridge) and Georgetown. The airport, on Penang Island, has connections with Bangkok, Phuket, and Hat Yai in Thailand and many other cities in Asia. TELEPHONE: (04) 872-534 MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana, based on the Mahasi Sayadaw techniques and Four Foundations of Mindfulness. All meditators must adhere to this method while they are here. TEACHING METHOD: Individual interviews and group Dhamma talks; frequency is determined by the teacher. TEACHERS: A monk experienced in teaching vipassana meditation (the teacher changes from time to time). LANGUAGE: English is the main language; translation for the Hokkien language used locally is available. If the teacher is not fluent in English, he will use a translator. DESCRIPTION: Look for a large 3-story building with an orange- and green-tiled roof. The office, group sitting and walking areas, and men's accommodations are inside. Women's accommodations are in a separate building behind. Kitchen and dining area are in front and to the side of the main building. Trees and grass in a suburban setting. SIZE: monks: 2-22 novices: 0-9 nuns: 0-5 laymen: 0-22 laywomen: 5-60 DAILY ROUTINE: Day begins at 3:45 a.m. and ends after the 9:45 p.m. Metta chanting. Breakfast is at 6:30 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m. Most of the day consists of alternating hour-long periods of sitting and walking meditation; beginners can start with shorter periods, then work up to one hour. Sleep should be limited to 4-6 hours a day. Continual mindfulness through the waking hours is emphasized. FOOD: Good quality and variety Malaysian food; vegetarian is sometimes available and can be requested then. Two meals are served in the morning. ACCOMMODATIONS: Laypeople stay in dormitories, separate for men and women. Monks and novices have individual rooms but may have to share. WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended. Occasionally the centre fills, especially during school holidays, and staff can advise you. ORDINATION: Ordinations are not normally provided now. The centre is associated with the Panditarama Meditation Centre in Rangoon (Yangon). OTHER INFORMATION: The centre, declared open in 1982, offers intensive meditation instruction and practice year-round. One can begin a retreat any time. This centre is connected with the Mahasi Meditation Centre in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar). Meditators should plan on a minimum stay of 10-14 days for best results. (One can come for a month or longer.) The centre requests that everyone observe 8 precepts and abstain from reading, writing (except notes for interviews), and talking with other meditators about meditation experiences. Men wear white; women a white blouse and a long skirt (plain, no bright colors) or brown sarong. The centre appreciates your bringing a letter of recommendation. Donations support most costs of operation; a M$3 (US $1.10) daily fee is levied for food and accommodation.
Westerners tend to have many questions concerning the meditation practice. Following are some typical questions with their answers given by Ajahn Chah of Wat Nong Pah Pong and translated by Jack Kornfield.
Question: I'm trying very hard in my practice but I don't seem to be getting anywhere.
Answer: This is very important. Don't try to get anywhere in the practice. The very desire to be free or to be enlightened will be the desire that prevents your freedom. You can try as hard as you wish, practice ardently night and day, but if it is with the desire to achieve in mind, you will never find peace. The energy from this desire will be cause for doubt and restlessness. No matter how long or how hard you practice, wisdom will not arise from desire. So, simply let go. Watch the mind and body mindfully but don't try to achieve anything. Don't cling even to the practice or to enlightenment.
Q: What about other methods of practice? These days there seem to be so many teachers and so many different systems of meditation that it is confusing.
A: It is like going to town. One can approach from the north, from the southeast, from many roads. Often these systems just differ outwardly. Whether you walk one way or another, fast or slow, if you are mindful it is all the same. There is one essential point that all good practice must eventually come to. That is not clinging. In the end, all meditation systems must be let go of. Neither can one cling to the teacher. If a system leads to relinquishment, to not clinging, then it is correct practice.
You may wish to travel, to visit other teachers and try other systems. Some of you have already done so. This is a natural desire. You will find out that a thousand questions asked and knowledge of many systems will not bring you to the truth. Eventually you will get bored. You will see that only by stopping and examining your own mind can you find out what the Buddha talked about. No need to go searching outside yourself. Eventually you must return to face your own true nature. Here is where you can understand the Dhamma.
Q: Is it necessary to sit for very long stretches?
A: No, sitting for hours on end is not necessary. Some people think that the longer you can sit, the wiser you must be. I have seen chickens sit on their nest for days on end! Wisdom comes by being mindful in all postures. Your practice should begin as you awaken in the morning. It should continue until you fall asleep. Don't be concerned about how long you can sit. What is important is only that you keep watchful whether you are working or sitting or going to the bathroom.
Each person has his own natural pace. Some of you will die at age 50, some at age 65, and some at age 90. So too, your practices will not be all identical. Don't think or worry about this. Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become quieter and quieter in any surroundings. It will become still like a clear forest pool. Then all kinds of wonderful and rare animals will come to drink at the pool. You will see clearly the nature of all things in the world. You will see many wonderful and strange things come and go. But you will be still. Problems will arise and you will see through them immediately. This is the happiness of the Buddha.
Q: You have said that samatha and vipassana, or concentration and insight, are the same. Could you explain this further?
A: It is quite simple. Concentration (samatha) and wisdom (vipassana) work together. First the mind becomes still by holding on to a meditation object. It is quiet only while you are sitting with your eyes closed. This is samatha and eventually this concentration is the cause for wisdom or vipassana to arise. Then the mind is still whether you sit with your eyes closed or walk around in a busy city.
It's like this. Once you were a child. Now you are an adult. Are the child and the adult the same person? You can say that they are, or looking at it another way, you can say that they are different. In this way samatha and vipassana could also be looked at as separate. Or it is like food and feces. Food and feces could be called the same and they can be called different. Don't just believe what I say, do your practice and see for yourself. Nothing special is needed. If you examine how concentration and wisdom arise, you will know the truth for yourself. These days many people cling to the words. They call their practice vipassana. Samatha is looked down on. Or they call their practice samatha. They say it is essential to do samatha before vipassana. All this is silly. Don't bother to think about it in this way. Simply do the practice and you'll see for yourself.
Q: How can we overcome lust in our practice? Sometimes I feel as if I am a slave to my sexual desire.
A: Lust should be balanced by contemplation of loathsomeness. Attachment to bodily form is one extreme and one should keep in mind the opposite. Examine the body as a corpse and see the process of decay or think of the parts of the body such as lungs, spleen, fat, feces, and so forth. Remember these and visualize this loathsome aspect of the body when lust arises. This will free you from lust.
Q: How about anger? What should I do when I feel anger arising?
A: You must use loving kindness. When angry states of mind arise in meditation, balance them by developing feelings of loving kindness. If someone does something bad or gets angry, don't get angry yourself. If you do, you are being more ignorant than he. Be wise. Keep in mind compassion, for that person is suffering. Fill your mind with loving kindness as if he were a dear brother. Concentrate on the feeling of loving kindness as a meditation subject. Spread it to all beings in the world. Only through loving kindness is hatred overcome.
Sometimes you may see other monks behaving badly. You may get annoyed. This is suffering unnecessarily. It is not yet our Dhamma. You may think like this, "He is not as strict as I am. They are not serious meditators like us. Those monks are not good monks." This is a great defilement on your part. Do not make comparisons. Do not discriminate. Let go of your opinions and watch yourself. This is our Dhamma. You can't possibly make everyone act as you wish or to be like you. This wish will only make you suffer. It is a common mistake for meditators to make, but watching other people won't develop wisdom. Don't worry. Simply examine yourself, your feelings. This is how you will understand.
Q: Could you explain a little more about karma?
A: Karma is action. Karma is clinging. Body, speech, or mind all make karma when we cling. We make habits. These can make us suffer in the future. This is the fruit of our clinging, of our past defilement. All attachment leads to making karma. Suppose you were a thief before you became a monk. You stole, made others unhappy, made your parents unhappy. Now you are a monk, but when you remember how you made others unhappy, you feel bad and suffer yourself even today. Remember, not only body, but speech and mental action can make conditions for future results. If you did some act of kindness in the past and remember it today, you will be happy. This happy state of mind is the result of past karma. All things are conditioned by causes -- both long term and, when examined, moment to moment. But you need not bother to figure out past, present, or future. Merely watch the body and mind. You can then understand karma in yourself. Watch your mind, practice, and you will see clearly. Make sure, however, that you leave the karma of others to them. Don't cling to and don't watch others. If I take poison, I suffer. No need for you to share it with me! Take what is good that your teacher offers. Then you can become peaceful, your mind will become like that of your teacher. If you will examine it, you will see. Even if now you don't understand, when you practice, it will become clear. You will know by yourself. This is called practicing the Dhamma.
When we were young, our parents used to discipline us and get angry. Really they wanted to help us. You must see it over the long term. Parents and teachers criticize us and we get upset. Later on we can see why. After long practice you will know. Those who are too clever leave after a short time. They never learn. You must get rid of your cleverness. If you think yourself better than others, you will only suffer. What a pity. No need to get upset. Just watch.
Q: I have been meditating many years now. My mind is open and peaceful in almost all circumstances. Now I would like to try to backtrack and practice high states of concentration of mind absorption.
A: This is fine. It is a beneficial exercise. If you have wisdom, you will not get hung up on concentrated states of mind. It is the same as wanting to sit for long periods. This is fine for training. But really, practice is separate from any posture. It is a matter of directly looking at the mind. This is wisdom. When you have examined and understood the mind, then you have the wisdom to know the limitations of concentration, or of books. If you have practiced and understand not- clinging, you can then return to the books. They will be like a sweet dessert. They can help you to teach others. Or you can go back to practice absorption. You have the wisdom to know not to hold on to anything.
Although one does not have to be ordained as a bhikkhu (monk) to follow the path of the Buddha, the monastic life can be most conducive to the practice of meditation. It is a life relatively free from the worry of worldly cares and distractions. One has the opportunity and environment in which to live a life-style that the layman cannot experience.
Monks receive the greatest respect in Thai society, for ordination implies that the person has turned away from worldly desires and ambitions in pursuit of the highest wisdom and purification. Ordination is considered by Thai Buddhists the most worthy act a man can perform. So worthy is it, in fact, that most every Thai male will at some time in his life, generally after completing his studies and before marriage, spend a period in monkhood. Ordination traditionally takes place with much celebration before the commencement of the rainy season and the newly ordained monk remains in the monastery for a period of a week to a few months. During that time he learns to chant some Pali scriptures, studies the Buddha's teachings, and receives instruction in meditation. Upon completion of his time in robes, he reenters society as a layman, wiser for the experience, "ripe," and ready to fulfill his responsibilities as an adult. Some boys receive novitiate ordination as a child and remain novices throughout their youth before receiving higher ordination as a monk. Some men spend their entire lives draped in the saffron robes of the Buddhist order.
The sight of a foreigner ordained as a monk brings pleasure to the Thais. It's a sign that the foreigner accepts and respects their beliefs and wishes to experience what they consider to be a very important aspect of their lives. To wear robes means to place oneself as a symbol of the Buddhist way of life, thus it's essential to learn the proper behavior for a monk beforehand. This may take more time and effort for the foreigner than for the Thai who is "born" into Buddhist culture. Usually one spends a period at a wat as an 8-precept layman to learn the rules and some chanting. Laymen in some monasteries wear the white robes of a pakow (anagarika). Novices wear orange robes, follow 10 precepts (basically the same as 8 precepts except no money can be possessed), and have 75 training rules. Prior to full ordination as a monk, one must meet the requirements of being a man at least 20 years old, free of debt and government/military obligations, and have consent of immediate family. The ordination ceremony uses Pali language, which must be memorized. In the first part one takes the going forth as a novice; the second part, which can be done immediately following the first, comprises the higher ordination of a monk. Monks follow 227 rules of discipline (
When one has made the decision to lead a monk's life and selected a wat, one approaches the abbot or his secretary for an interview. One is then accepted as a naga, an applicant for ordination and given training in rules, daily chanting, and the ordination procedure. Some abbots feel that a short-term ordination is worthwhile and readily grant permission. Others believe that one should try to stay in robes as long as possible (1-5 years minimum). Length of training before ordination can be one month or even less at some wats; at other wats the abbot might expect an applicant to spend at least 9 months as a layman and novice before higher ordination. As the famous Ajahn Chah put it, "Easy to ordain, easy to disrobe."
To become a monk requires conviction. To remain a monk requires patience and understanding. These attributes can be cultivated and will arise naturally with the development of meditation. The life of a monk has its highs and lows and requires constant effort. There are always periods of discouragement, but with the right attitude and a balanced view of one's emotional changes, one will learn from the difficulties that arise and gain understanding. Time spent as a monk will be a valuable and rewarding experience.
When the religious order was first established, women were excluded. After several requests, and after carefully considering the social values of the day, the Buddha agreed to allow women to be admitted to the order. The first woman accepted into the Sangha was Paccabadi Gotami, the Buddha's stepmother, who was ordained by the Buddha himself. In establishing the Bhikkhuni Sangha, the Buddha stipulated that future ordinations should be conducted with a fully ordained bhikkhuni present as a witness.
For over 1,400 years women sought and received ordination. In later years, however, the number of women seeking to live the holy life began to dwindle until the day came when there were no longer any fully- ordained bhikkhunis living in the world. Without a bhikkhuni present as a witness, ordination could not be given to female applicants and the Bhikkhuni Sangha ceased to exist.
Women have not been deprived of the opportunity to live the holy life. White-robed maechees can be found following ascetic practices in many temples throughout Thailand. In fact, in some temples they outnumber monks. Ordination for women in Thailand means undertaking to live by the 8 precepts, dressing in white, and shaving the head. A woman intending to stay for only a short period does not have to shave her head.
The life of a maechee in a wat or meditation centre follows much the same pattern as a monk's, but with a greater emphasis on service (i.e. cooking and cleaning). Maechees, although living and practicing in a separate area of the wat or centre, follow a daily routine which includes meditation and chanting sessions and interviews with the teacher. They usually do not go for alms rounds, however, and sometimes eat after the monks.
Maechees generally do not receive the same high degree of respect as monks, but as a foreigner, the reception will always be warm and welcoming wherever one goes. Women's liberationists may find plenty to support their cause, so to avoid conflicts, it's better to leave such thoughts at home.
Thailand offers a rare opportunity for women to experience and live the contemplative life. Foreign women have taken advantage of this opportunity to live the life of a Thai maechee, many quite successfully. Sometimes the struggle may become difficult, but with patience and understanding, and a sense of anatta (selflessness) and humor, all obstacles can be overcome.
(Entries marked * are by free distribution only; they're available in
affiliated wats or meditation centres and in libraries.)
[Entries marked ++ are available in electronic editions via DharmaNet International, for free distribution.]
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Buddha-Dhamma for Students. The Dhamma Study and Practice Group, 1988; 85 pages. Questions and answers to such intriguing questions as "What subject did the Buddha teach?," "What should a layperson study?," "Where can we find the Buddha?," "What is Nibbana?," "Where can we put an end to suffering (dukkha)?" From 2 talks given to university students in Bangkok. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu is probably Thailand's most famous monk. His straightforward explanations of Dhamma practice have made the Buddha's teachings available to many people. (See "Suan Mokkh" under Southern Thailand for a description of his monastery and practice style.)
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Handbook for Mankind. Dhamma Study & Practice Group (Bangkok), 1989; 127 pages. This popular book presents Dhamma in very clear English. Topics include "The true nature of things," "Grasping and clinging," "The threefold training," "Insight by the nature method," and "Emancipation from the world."
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Heart-Wood from the Bo Tree. Suan Usom Foundation (Bangkok), 1985; and Wisdom Books (Boston), 1991; 99 pages. Collection of 3 talks about the heart-wood (pith or essence) of the Buddha's teachings - the dwelling with an empty mind free of clinging to the feeling of "I" and "mine." The author explains how the principle of emptiness can be a wonderful tool in Buddhist practice.
Mindfulness with Breathing: Unveiling the Secrets of Life. The Dhamma Study & Practice Group (Bangkok), 2nd edition, 1989; 174 pages. A well-written, step-by-step guide for the practice of anapanasati meditation. The author provides inspiration, advice on getting started, and guidance to the development of the highest benefits. A translation of the Buddha's Anapanasati Sutta has been included in the appendix of the 2nd edition.
Buddhaghosa, Bhadantacariya. The Path of Purification (the Visuddhimagga). Translated by Nanamoli Bhikkhu. Buddhist Publication Society, 1956-1979; 885 pages. A systematic summary of the Buddha's teachings. Useful as a reference to Buddhist meditation techniques.
Buddharakkhita, Acharya. METTA; The Philosophy & Practice of Universal Love. Wheel Publication no. 365/366 of Buddhist Publication Society (Kandy, Sri Lanka), 1989; 48 pages. The Buddha's "Karaniya Metta Sutta" (Hymn of Universal Love) in Pali and English, aspects of metta, techniques for doing the practice, and the blessings of metta.
Chaa, Ajahn. A Still Forest Pool. Edited by Jack Kornfield and Paul Breiter. Theosophical Publishing House, 1985; 192 pages. A collection of short pieces, full of wisdom and humor. Ajahn Chaa had great skill in training monks - both Thai and foreign - at his Wat Nong Pah Pong and Wat Pah Nanachat (see descriptions under Northeastern Thailand).
Debvedi, Phra. Sammasati; An Exposition of Right Mindfulness. Buddhadhamma Foundation (Bangkok), 1988; 58 pages. An explanation of some of the facets of Right Mindfulness, the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. Meditators will find the information very helpful in understanding the process of wisdom development.
Dhamma Theerarach Mahamuni, Ven. Phra. The Path to Nibbana (An Introduction to Insight Meditation). Section 5 of Wat Maha That (Bangkok), 1989; 82 pages. A meditation guide for experienced students with practical advice, 16 meditation exercises, and a "Manual for checking your "vipassana kammatthana progress."" Vipassana practice as done in Section 5 of Wat Maha That (see description under Bangkok).
*Dhammadharo, Ajahn Lee. Food for Thought. Wat Asokaram, 1989; 85 pages. "Eighteen Talks on the Training of the Heart." Reflections on dealing with day-to-day difficulties and on the value of meditation practice. Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo (1906-1961) studied in the forest tradition with meditation master Ajahn Mun, then later founded Wat Asokaram (see description under Central Thailand).
++*Dhammadharo, Ajahn Lee. Keeping the Breath in Mind. Wat Asokaram, 1990; 82 pages. Descriptions of 2 techniques of mindfulness with breathing, followed by advice on development of the practice.
*Disciples of Ajahn Chah. Seeing the Way; Buddhist Reflections on the Spiritual Life. Amaravati Publications (Hertfordshire, England), 1989; 218 pages. "An anthology of teachings by English-speaking disciples of Ajahn Chah." A biography and teachings of Ajahn Chah appear at the beginning, but this book is really about the foreigners who ordained and trained in the forest tradition under him. In many ways these short pieces about and by these monks -- full of wisdom and humor -- portray the development of the senior western sangha. (All but Ven. Gavesako of Japan have come from western countries.)
Jandamit, Helen. The Way to Vipassana; A Guide to Insight Meditation. V.H. Publications (Bangkok), 1990; 57 pages. An illustrated introduction to vipassana meditation by one of the founders of the International Buddhist Meditation Centre.
Jantrupon, Chua. Vipassana Bhavana (Theory, Practice & Result). Boonkanjanaram Meditation Center (Pattaya, Thailand), 1988; 158 pages. Guide to the meditation system used at Wat Boonkanjanaram in Pattaya (see description under Central Thailand). Also good reading on Buddhist practice theory for those who use other techniques.
Khantipalo, Bhikkhu. Banner of the Arahants. Buddhist Publication Society, 1989; 229 pages. History and development of the Buddha's order of monks and nuns from the beginnings to the present age, presented in a Theravadan context. Good reading for anyone interested in ordaining. Explanations cover many of the practices done by monks today. The chapter on bhikkhunis and nuns probably has the best information available on women in the Sangha.
Kornfield, Jack. Living Buddhist Masters. Unity Press, 1977; and Buddhist Publication Society (Kandy, Sri Lanka), 1989; 319 pages. Descriptions of the life and teachings of 12 prominent meditation masters, half from Thailand (Ajahns Chah, Buddhadasa, Naeb, Maha Boowa, Dhammadaro, and Jumnien) and half from Burma (U Ba Khin and Sayadaws Mahasi, Sunlun, Taungpulu, Monhyn, and Mogok). Jack introduces important aspects of the Buddha's teachings at the book's beginning. Although some of these teachers have died, their disciples and meditation centers carry on the traditions. Especially recommended for one seeking a teacher or tradition in Thailand.
*Magness, T. Samma Samadhi; The Method of Right Insight. Wat Pak Nam (Bangkok), 1988; 77 pages. A guide to developing very refined levels of concentration using a series of spheres and human forms as mental images. Vipassana then takes place from the concentrated mind. This meditation system, popularized by the late abbot Ven. Chao Khun Mongkol- Thepmuni, is taught at Wat Pak Nam (see description under Bangkok).
*Maha Boowa Nanasampanno, Phra. Forest Dhamma. Wat Pah Ban That (Udon Thani, Thailand), 1976; 172 pages. A collection of writings and talks on Dhamma practice from the forest tradition. The first part, "Wisdom Develops Samadhi" presents most of the fundamentals of the meditation system taught at Wat Pah Ban That (see description under Northeastern Thailand). Ajahn Maha Boowa practised under Ajahn Mun for 9 years, then spent much time in solitary practice and on tudong before founding Wat Pah Ban That.
*Maha Boowa Nanasampanno, Phra. Phra Acharn Mun. Wat Pah Ban That (Udon Thani, Thailand), 1982; 319 pages. A biography of the life and practice of meditation master Phra Acharn Mun Bhuridatto (1870-1949). This remarkable account presents much wisdom in the stories of the struggles, attainments, tigers, elephants, angels, and people encountered in Acharn Mun's life.
Mahasi Sayadaw. Practical Insight Meditation; Basic and Progressive Stages. Buddhist Publication Society, 1971; 56 pages. Instructions on how to begin vipassana meditation, then develop the practice toward Nibbana. The author's meditation system, based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness described in the Maha Satipatthana Sutta, has proved a powerful method of developing insight for many meditators.
Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (translator). Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati). Buddhist Publication Society (Kandy, Sri Lanka), 1982; 124 pages. Bhikkhu Nanamoli translated and assembled the Anapanasati and related suttas from the Pali Canon with the relevant Pali commentaries. One can study the Pali teachings of this important meditation subject in one convenient source.
Pali Chanting - with translations. Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya Press (Bangkok), 1990; 79 pages. The most commonly used Pali chants, including refuges and precepts, blessings, protections, recollections, suttas, and morning and evening chants. Pali and English translations are side by side.
Pannavuddho Bhikkhu, Ven. Phra. The Manual of Insight Meditation. Wat Sai Ngam (Supanburi, Thailand), 1988; 49 pages. Illustrated guide to the meditation techniques taught by Ajahn Dhammadharo Bhikkhu and senior monks at Wat Sai Ngam (see description under Central Thailand).
Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. Gordon Fraser (London), 1959, 1978, and by other publishers; 151 pages. One of the classic introductions to the Buddha's teachings. The author has attempted to faithfully follow the ancient Pali texts in presenting "almost everything which is commonly accepted as the essential and fundamental teaching of the Buddha."
*Sumedho, Ven. Ajahn. Mindfulness: The Path to the Deathless. Amaravati Publications (Hertfordshire, England), 1987; 75 pages; previously published as "Path to the Deathless." Introduction to meditation -- what it is and how to do it -- and a reflection on the need for wisdom in the world. Ajahn Sumedho trained many years in the forest tradition of Thailand under Ajahn Chah.
Vajirananavarorasa, Somdet Phra Maha Samana Chao Krom Phraya. The Entrance to the Vinaya. vol. I. Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya Press (Bangkok), 1969; 246 pages. Monks discipline with detailed commentary; important reading both for laymen contemplating ordination and for monks.
Vajirananavarorasa, Somdet Phra Maha Samana Chao Krom Phraya. Ordination Procedure and the Preliminary Duties of a New Bhikkhu. Wat Bovornives Vihara (Bangkok), 3rd edition, 1989; 74 pages. An illustrated guide to the ordination ceremony used for novices and monks with complete Pali text and English translation; other chapters introduce the Vinaya, have morning and evening chantings with translations, and instructions for duties a new bhikkhu must perform.
*Yantra Amaro, Phra Ajahn. Heart Blossom. Dhammaleela Foundation (P.O. Box 24, Ratthewi, Bangkok 10400), 1990; 79 pages. Gentle advice on living happily through practice of Dhamma. Other books in Thai and English are available too, all by free distribution. Many people look up to Ajahn Yantra for his metta practice and skill at teaching meditation; he has several forest monasteries (see description of Sunnataram Forest Monastery under Central Thailand).
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