Buddhist Meditation in Thailand
Any of us have at one time or another found the toll of living in
the modern world hard to bear. Stress, depression and disillusionment
are some of the diseases of modern times that leave us yearning for
a solution, a cure, so to speak. More and more people are turning to
meditation as they fail to find the answer through worldly paths.
Meditation is found in some form or other in all major religious
traditions. Even those who are not religious use it to focus the mind,
to hone it, so that it works better. In Buddhism, meditation is the
integral to the eight-fold path to enlightenment. One trains one’s mind
so that it can see the four-point Supreme Truth that forms the core
of Buddha’s teachings: suffering, what causes it, the end of suffering,
and the path to that end. Even if you are not interested in Buddhism,
meditation is a valuable training that can be applied to daily life,
for it helps with concentration and when done correctly can lead to
a state of peace and calmness that’s beyond worldly joys.
There are two main banches in Buddhist meditation: samatha (calmness,
concentration) and vipassana (insight), which stresses mindfulness.
This doesn’t mean that the two are entirely separate, since you cannot
be mindful unless you have at least some level of concentration.
The techniques of samatha meditation are many, some older than Buddhism,
others developed after the time of the Buddha. Among the most commonly
practiced here is anapanasati, or "mindfulness with breathing". This
technique was advocated by the Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikku (1903-1993),
founder of Suan Mokkh Forest Monastery in Surat Thani. Meditators at
Suan Mokkh (Garden of Liberation), follow the 16 steps of anapanasati
as laid down in Pali texts.
Mantra meditation, in which you repeat a few words over and over,
is also widely practiced. Followers of this technique may chant "Buddh"
as they inhale, and “dho” as they exhale. The words may vary, but the
purpose of chanting is really to get the mind focused. Yet another widely
taught technique is kasinas, where meditators concentrate on an object
outside themselves, such as the flame of a candle, or a crystal ball.
Sati, or mindfulness, is key to vipassana meditation. You train yourself
to be aware of the body’s action, the rise and fall of your chest as
you inhale and exhale, the movement of your feet and legs as you walk,
as well as your feelings, your thought, and finally, the state of mind
you are in. Walking, sitting and lying meditation are but a few of vipassana
techniques. When the mind is untrained, concentration can be shattered
by the slightest stimuli -noise, smell, heat, hunger, pain, etc. The
key is to become aware of what happens, but not dwell on it. Still,
a novice can only ward off so much distraction, and that’s one reason
why vipassana retreats are usually held in peaceful and isolated settings.
Meditation teachings are widely available in Thailand. You can attend
a class at one of the teaching monasteries for an afternoon or evening.
Wat Mahadhatu near the Grand Palace, for example, has two meditation
training centers open to locals and tourists. Or you may join a vipassana
retreat, which usually takes a weekend or longer. A number of retreat
centers, most of them located in the provinces, run intensive courses
of up to four weeks on an ongoing basis. All vipassana retreats require
you to follow the Five Buddhist Precepts. These include refraining from
harming all living beings, from taking what is not given, from improper
sexual behavior, from lying and incorrect speech, and from taking liquors
and drugs that will cloud the mind. Some retreats may require that you
take you take the Eight Precepts, which in addition to the first five
include refraining from dinner, from all forms of entertainment and
bodily decoration, and from sleeping on high mattresses.
Preparing for Meditation
Preparing for Meditation
Respect for one’s teacher is inherent in Thai culture. At the start
of a vipassana session, you must attend an opening ceremony, where you
pay respect to the meditation masters and present them with traditional
Buddhist offerings of incense sticks, candles and flowers - usually
three lotuses or a hand garland. There is also a closing ceremony, where
you thank your teachers and bid them a formal farewell. Even if you
cannot stay for the duration of the course, be sure to perform this
ritual before you leave, since not doing so is considered very rude.
Once you get enrolled in a course, be sure to follow only the technique
taught there. Mixing techniques will only confuse you. Usually, you
are given instructions daily, and required to report your progress -
or lack of it-to your meditation master on the following day. After
the interview you will be given advice and new instructions, or old
ones to repeat.
All-white, modest clothing is required at vipassana retreats. Check
ahead if there is a shop on the compound, or if you have to bring your
own. At most monasteries, simple accommodation and food are provided,
usually free of charge. Talking, reading and writing are discouraged,
as they will distract you from your meditation. And meditators are not
allowed to leave the retreat compound unless absolutely necessary, so
be sure to bring enough change of clothes, toiletries and personal items
for the duration of the course.
For first-time meditators, it might help to attend a day session
or two before you join a long retreat. Bangkok has a number of meditation
centers offering day classes in English. Many temples around the country
also teach samatha and vipassana meditation. Contact the nearest office
of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for a list of local temples where
English-speaking classes can be arranged.
Where to Learn Buddhist Meditation
Section Five, Wat Mahathat Yuwarajarangsarit Rajaworamahavihara
: 3, Tha Prachan, Pranakorn, Bangkok, Thailand
: 0 2223 6878
Thais and foreigners have long come to Section Five of Wat Mahadhatu
to learn mindfulness meditation. Classes are held from 7:00 - 10:00 p.m., 1:00 - 4:00
p.m. and 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. These are mixed; at any given session there will be
beginners and advanced meditators, monks and laymen, locals and tourists.
English-speaking instruction is available on Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays. You can come for a retreat of three days or longer. Meals and
accommodation are provided on the compounds free of charge. Bring enough
sets of clothes, toiletries and personal items, and an offering of flowers,
a candle and nine sticks of incense for the opening ceremony. Donations
are accepted but not solicited.
The Middle Way Meditation Retreat (POP House)
: POP House, Klongsong, Klongluang, Pathumthani, Thailand
: 08 7495 1616
The Power of Peace House (POP House) welcomes you to join our meditation
course. During your 3 days with us, you will learn how to meditate to
relax both the mind and body amidst the peaceful, natural environment
and family atmosphere. The program will introduce meditation concept
and meditation practice to participants. The meditation method we use
at POP house is the Middle Way meditation technique (Dhammakaya), one
of the most ancient techniques of meditation in the world. Its simplicity
originality and effectiveness has made the Middle way method among the
most popular meditation techniques in Thailand and its international
popularity is growing fast. Middle way meditation is all about self-discovery
relaxation and purification of the mind. This meditation will have no
conflict with any religion or creed, a meditation that you can use in
your every day activities that will create peace in your life.
The Young Buddhists Association of Thailand (YBAT) - Under Royal Patronage
: 4 Phetchkasem Road Soi 54 Bangduan Phasicharoen Bangkok, Thailand
: 0 2455 2525
YBAT was founded by a group of committed young men and women who wanted to learn more about Buddhism and
to disseminate it to Thai Society. The Yuwabuddhiga Group held successful Sunday Dhamma activities and
meditation classes. As a result, senior Buddhists praised them for showing young people the relevance
of Buddhism to their lives and that Buddhism is not only for older people but it is appropriate for
the younger generation as well.
YBAT has been active in the promotion of meditation practice for over five decades. Five YBAT
meditation centers have been established with support from lay Buddhists and former participants
in Mother Dr. Siri Karinchai's 'Mind development for peace and wisdom courses'.
Wat Bhaddanta Asahba Theravada & Sommitre Pranee Vipassana Center
: Moo 1, Baan Nong Pru, Nong Pai Kaiw, Baan Bung, Chonburi, Thailand
: 0 3829 2361
Meditation Master : Ajahn Bhaddanta Asabha, Ajahn Somsak Sorado.
Capacity : 30 persons (Recommend booking in advance)
The retreat is widely open for both beginner and experienced meditators.
On the retreat, all meditators are expected to keep silence at all times
except when giving meditation reports. All meditators must keep the
eight training precepts. Meditators need only bring conservative clothing
(preferably white colored clothing), personal hygiene accessories and
Ajahn Asabha was Head Meditation Master at Vivek Asom Meditation
Center (Chonburi, Thailand), where he taught vipassana meditation for
37 years. In 1999, Ajahn Asabha became President of Wat Bhaddanta Asabha
Theravada and Head Meditation Master at Sommit Pranee Vipassana Meditation
Center, where he now resides.
Ajahn Somsak Sorado, a disciple of Ajahn Asabha, has been teaching
vipassana meditation at Vivek Asom Meditation Center for over 5 years.
He was in the United States on Buddhist missionary duties for 2 years
and is now permanently stationed at Wat Bhaddanta Asabha Theravada.
Northern Insight Meditation Center at Wat Rampoeng (Tapotharam)
: Tumbon Suthep, Amphoe Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
: 0 5327 8620 ext 0
The Northern Insight Meditation Center has been teaching mindfulness
meditation to thousands of tourists and locals for more than 20 years.
It has English-speaking monks, nuns and volunteer facilitators on staff.
The center offers a 26-day basic course on an ongoing basis. After you
have completed this course you can join the 10-day Insight Meditation
Retreat. Tourists are required to present two passport photos, two copies
each of a valid passport and visa with entry stamp. Modest white clothing
is required; this can be bought at the Temple’s store. Dormitory-style
accommodation and meals are provided free of charge. Donations are accepted
but not solicited.
The Middle Way Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai
Dhamma Research for Environment Foundation
: Wat Suan Dok, Amphoe Suthep, Chiangmai, Thailand
: 0 5321 1424
Surrounded by picturesque hills and lofty mountains at 1,120 meters
above sea level. The Middle way Meditation Village has magnificent vistas,
fresh cool mountain air and our facilities provide immaculate and comfortable
accommodations, all designed to enable you to learn and practice Meditation
while living in close touch with the natural beauty that will surround
you. There you will learn the Dhammakaya method of Meditation which
is both the simplest and the oldest known technique in the world, taught
by ordained highly trained Buddhist Monks expert Meditation instructors!
Wat Phra Dhatu Sri Chomthong
: Moo 2, Tumbon Baan Luang, Amphoe Chomthong, Chiang Mai, Thailand
: 0 5382 6869
This temple is headed by the monk who founded the Northern Insight
Meditation Center at Wat Rampoeng. Meditation retreats are held on an
ongoing basis. Meditators must present identification card or valid
passport, and inform the temple of their intended length of stay. Then
they can choose whether to follow the Five or Eight Precepts. The temple
provides meals and simple, dormitory-style lodgings, most with their
own bathroom. Proper clothing is available at a shop next door to the
monastery. Bookings are advised, since the retreats draw large crowds
during major Buddhist holidays and Chinese vegetarian festival.
Wat Pah Nanachat
: Bung Wai Amphoe Warin Chamrab Ubon Rachathani, Thailand
Wat Pah Nanachat is a Buddhist monastery in Northeast Thailand, in the Theravada Forest Tradition.
It was established in 1975 by Ven. Ajahn Chah (1918-1992) as a branch monastery close to his own
traditional forest monastery Wat Nong Pah Pong in Ubon Rajathani province, with Ven. Ajahn Sumedho,
an American disciple of his, as the first abbot.The monastery aims at providing English-speaking
people the opportunity to train and practise the ancient lifestyle that the Buddha taught his monks
in the forests over 2600 years ago.
Suan Mokkh Forest Monastery
: Amphoe Chaiya, Surat Thani, Thailand
: 0 7743 1596-7, 0 7743 1661-2 7
Founded in 1932 by the late Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikku, meditation
master and Buddhist scholar, Suan Mokkh holds a 10-day meditation course
on an ongoing basis. During the course participants will explore two
inter-related subjects: dhamma and meditation. Meditation instruction
focuses on mindfulness with breathing (anapanasati), a system of training
used and taught most often by the Buddha. Dhamma talks are held daily,
and everyone is encouraged to participate. English-speaking facilitators
called “Friends” offer guidance on meditation practice and all other
aspects of the course.