Does anyone know if I could stay in a Thai monastery for just a few days, preferably close to the Cambodian border. I have researched quite a bid but really didn't find anything for a short stay. Any help is greatly appreciated.
#1 euroguy44 has been a member since 11/12/2011. Posts: 6
Wat Pah Nanachat just outside Ubon Ratchathani, which is a branch of Wat Nong Pah Pong, accepts short visits of a few days and English is the chief language of the monastery. This is a serious, disciplined meditation monastery in the tradition of Ajahn Chah and they don't do beginner meditation retreats, so they ask that you don't try to stay unless you have some prior meditation experience. However, you'll want to contact them in advance and they don't have internet so they ask that you send a letter the old fashioned way and wait for a reply. They ask you do this well in advance. That said, if you just show up there's a chance they'll be able to accommodate you, but I wouldn't bet on that. Check out this good feature story about staying at Wat Pah Nanachat, published here on travelfish a couple years ago. Www.watpahnanachat.org is the monastery's website.
There are many other monasteries in Isaan near Cambodia where it's possible to stay, but Wat Pah Nanachat is the only one I know of where English is widely spoken. Closer to Bangkok I had a good experience a couple years ago at Wat Sanghathan, which does encourage foreigners to stay and has at least one foreign monk to guide them. They're also pretty flexible in terms of lengths of stay. The other monasteries I know of that "advertise" their English Dhamma instruction all require a minimum stay of 7+ days, and none of those are near Cambodia. If you want to dig in to the monastery research, though, check out this page on www.buddhistravel.com.
Me too. I had heard of this Wat before, that it accomodated foreigners and English was used there, but DLuek seems to have a lot more familitarity with it. And I live here! (well, not in Ubon, but in the neighborhood)
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Thanks for all the info. So I checked around, and two monasteries would accept me, one in Chiang Mai called Wat Phradhatu Doi Suthep and the other close to Bangkok, Dhamma Center for Buddhist Studies, which one would you recommend. I have no knowledge of mediation and really want to experience self understanding and peace of mind.
#6 euroguy44 has been a member since 11/12/2011. Posts: 6
We all want peace of mind. Like true love, it's the quest that is never fullfilled. If it were me, I'd skip the Wat go find a couple of hot women, get drunk and have a good time. That will give you peace of mind for a few hours.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I guess it would be interesting to see what type of merit you'd find seeking that type of fulfillment. But as MADMAC says, it would probably only be temporary. Plus, you could most likely try that approach anywhere...
From a geographical perspective, it sounds like the center in Bangkok is the better choice of the two, as it places you much closer to Cambodia than the one in Chiang Mai does. Are there any other advantages of one place over the other, such as cost, or the amount of personal instruction, or flexibility in when you attend, an approach that you think better fits your personality?
I think either would be a fine choice for a beginning meditator.
Wat Doi Suthep is an ancient and important historic temple perched up on a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai . I was just there for my second visit a few days ago actually; beautiful place. It's one of north Thailand''s biggest tourist attractions and it's always full of foreigners snapping pictures and Thais doing their devotions, but the meditation center is situated a good distance from the main stupa and all the buzz of the front gate area. The air up there is nice and cool too, especially this time of year. If you go definitely pack a sweater or something. It was damn cold in Chiang Mai the other day! The meditation there would be classic breath and insight meditation in the northern Thai-Burmese style, similar to what's practiced at Vipassana (Insight) meditation centers and societies all over the world. I personally would think this style better for a beginner than the Dhammakaya style.
I've never been to Dhamma Center for Buddhist Studies, but it just came into existence in the early 1990s so that's a big difference between the two. The Dhammakaya tradition is a huge and newer school in Thailand that has several million members. It's been the focal point of some controversy in recent years... I'm no expert but it had something to do with supposedly crooked senior monks being unethical and greedy with donations and donation requests. Some Thais also think it's not true Theravada Buddhism because it has re-interpreted some of the ancient teachings.
In terms of Dhammakaya practice, there's more of an emphasis on academic Buddhist studies along with meditation, and the meditation has a specific structure that starts with concentration on a kasina (a candle flame for example) rather than the breath, and leads eventually to deep concentration while focusing on the center of the body just below the navel. In this respect it's similar to Chi Gong, types of Hindu yoga, and Japanese Zen meditation on the hara, but it's unusual in Theravada Buddhism. It was the creation of a famous Thai monk over 100 years ago, but it wasn't specifically taught by the Buddha himself. That said, the Dhammakaya also practice the more "typical" satipatthana meditations, and I'm fairly certain the temple would be fine for a beginner as well.
In any case, my advice is that too much "trying" to do this or that in meditation will lead only to frustration, not peace of mind. Wherever you end up, I hope it's a good experience for you.
DLuek, thank you so much for this information. I will go to Wat Doi Suthep. Certainly appreciate your help.
#10 euroguy44 has been a member since 11/12/2011. Posts: 6
As long as you go in with realistic expectations, you should have a rewarding experience. Come back here and post to let us know how it went. Good luck.
#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957