Have you tried any meditation course at temples in Asia?
Let me tell my experience of the 7 days of meditation course in Chiang Mai, on April, 2014.
- 1 What’s the Meditation Course?
- 2 Details of the Meditation Course of Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
- 3 The Way to Meditate
- 4 My Impression of the Meditation Course
- 5 The Meals in Meditation Course
- 6 Memories of the Meditation Course
What’s the Meditation Course?
In the meditation course, people go to temples and stay there for some days or some decades days and practice meditation with strict rules. Some famous temples have the courses around the world.
I went to the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai for the meditation course. (“Wat” means “temple”. Doi Suthep is a famous mountain here in Chiang Mai.) It may be famous for European tourists because the information is on “Lonely Planet” of Thailand.
Details of the Meditation Course of Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
How to go to Chiang Mai from Bangkok (Thailand)
From Bangkok, you can choose several ways.
- Bus :
You can take the buses for Chiang Mai at the Mo Chit Bus station (https://goo.gl/maps/saxZpUN1KFT2) in Bangkok. The fares depend on which buses you choose, usually between 400 – 900 THB, about 12 – 26 USD (fixed). It takes about 9h 30m ~ 11h.
cf. Bangkok to Chiang Mai Bus Schedules – Ticket Prices – Booking Online
- Train :
From Hua Lamphong Railway Station (https://goo.gl/maps/5xd5w3vye382), you can catch a train. The fares depend on which seats and trains you choose, from 231THB (6.7USD) to 1,453THB (42.2USD), and it takes about 11-15h.
You can check exact fare here: eTicket State Railway of Thailand
- Airplane : Even by airplane, it is not so expensive. Usually around 25USD for one-way. You can check fares here: Cheap domestic flights from Bangkok | Skyscanner
Here are courses on the website of the temple (fivethousandyears.org – Meditation Courses)
- Short Stay 4 days , 5 days, 7 days, 10 days, 14 days.
- Foundation Course 21 days.
- Advanced Review Course 13 days. ( Must be pass foundation course)
Usually we Japanese can attend maximum just 3 days since it’s really difficult to take a long holidays in Japan. However, I feel even 7 days is not enough for getting something from meditation. I recommend to keep more days for this course, to be honest, I couldn’t understand what is good point of meditation at all, in first 2 days. Haha.
You can make a reservation by e-mail.
At first, there were only 14 people, but eventually it was 24 people.
Western people are the most, Asian is just 10-20%. Asian female is just two or three. I saw just one Asian man.
The Rules of the Meditation Course
Here are the rules in Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. (I heard other temples have different rules.) fivethousandyears.org – Rules for Meditators
- Abstain from killing living being.
- Abstain from stealing.
- Abstain from sexual misconduct.
- Abstain from false speech.
- Abstain from alcohol, drug, smoking.
- Abstain from eating at the forbidden time. (i.e., after noon)
- Abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
- Abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping, and overindulging in sleep.
- We must not do reading or writing.
- We must not speak (Only reporting time, we can speak to Dhama.)
- All meals are made from vegetables. (No meat)
They give us daily schedule at the first day.
- 05:00 Wake-up time
- 05:30 Dhamma Talk
- 07:00 Breakfast
- 08:00 Meditation
- 11:00 Lunch
- 12:00 Meditation
- 14:00 Report
- 15:00 Meditation
- 18:00 Evening Chanting
- 19:00 Meditation
- 21:00 Bed time
In Dhamma Talk, Dhamma gave us significant stories in English. So, it’s in English… I guess it’s hard for most Japanese, haha. With my English level, I can understand just a half, I can understand each piece, but I can’t grasp the context. 🙁
The temple said:
- A copy of your passport on the information page
- 2 or 3 sets of [ shirts and trousers Uniform ] Sell Our Center
They didn’t allow off-white clothes. (I brought 3 clothes but they said it’s okay to just one…)
Even you have nothing, they can sell white clothes. Each is 170 Baht, 1 set is 340. You need at least 2 sets for some days.
- ▼Like this…
- some toiletries [ soap, shampoo, towel, etc.]
They sell soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toilet paper there. I didn’t see any sanitary goods, so I suggest to bring it by yourself.
- a count-down timer If you don’t have one you could not complete a round meditation.
I guess we can’t concentrate to meditate if we see watches so often. Digital alarm (like default iPhone alarm) distract not only me but also others, so I recommend you to prepare good timer for meditation.
I use this:
This sound is a small bell, modest clear tone so really good for meditation. You can buy other tones as add-on, but default small bell is free.
▼I limited my iPhone apps on the first screen to reduce idle thoughts.
▼Usual apps are moved to second screen…
- a white scarf or shawl, it is very cold in October until February.
- an umbrella, it rains a lot in June until September.
These are what I thought good to bring (The temples didn’t mention though):
- Citronella spray
My friend were bit a lot by insects there. They never kill insects, of course mosquito too.
I heard this spray is made from natural ingredient, not chemical. You can buy it in Chiang Mai, 95 Baht. Not only mosquito but also ants dislike this smell. 🙂
You can use a rope in front of your room for laundry, but it’s safer to use clothes-pin. You can’t get your laundry if it dropped, because there are so many plants, it seems not to be able to enter.
You can buy detergents there. Good for bringing S type hook for drying underwear in the room.
It was really useful for me to use a aroma spray for concentration. Mint and orange, I bought it at Sunday Market in Manila 🙂 Good for meditation…
They provide one room, each! I had lived at dorm for a long time, so I was happy with privacy area…
We can use a big room (center) for meditation and can use our own room for it as well. I did it in the room sometimes.
▼We can use outlets! I was worried there were nothing to charge. (I need my iPhone for meditation alarm.)
Shower rooms and toilets are shared. But 2 shower rooms and 3 toilets are enough for 4 rooms, furthermore, we have separate washbowls.
I guessed there is only cold shower, but they have hot shower! Too many ants there so I preferred using cold shower room though…
We can use “Meditation Center”, a big room at the 4th floor for meditation. 24 hours.
▼I feel solemn atmosphere by just seeing that white-clothes people do walk-meditation here…
▼Sometimes dogs slept in front of a door of the meditation center.
The room at third floor for the dhamma talk, chanting and reporting.
The second floor is dining space and a small shop. I was surprised that they sell snacks and ice creams. I thought it was more abstinent. I wonder, doesn’t it help meditators to break the rule, we must not eat anything after noon?
The Way to Meditate
We practiced 2 ways : walking-meditation and sitting-meditation.
Walking-meditation: Meditate by moving really slowly, with making conscious of our leg’s moving.
Sitting-meditation: Meditate by sitting with making conscious of our breath.
In both, if we aware that we are thinking something, make ourselves just be conscious our body, back and keep meditating.
At first it was just 15 minutes but the Dhamma told to make longer, 20 minutes, 25 minutes… My course was just 7days so I wonder how it is if 14 days or 21 days…
The Dhamma gave us meditation technics also.
At first, walking-meditation was just 2 steps: lifting and putting. But at last of my course, it became 4 steps, picking – moving – lifting – putting.
Sitting-meditation was same, from 2steps to 4steps, at first it was raising – falling, then raising – falling – sitting – touching (chakra in my mind).
These are chakra points.
In sitting-meditation, I touch the points at waist, hip and knee, right and left, total 6 points in my mind.
My Impression of the Meditation Course
The first day : Quite boring…
To be honest, it was really boring. Meditation, chanting… I was at a loss what to do in 3 hours meditation time.
After second day : Getting interesting
My awareness had become to change. Still I felt bored with meditation for a few days, I couldn’t stop thinking something, but chanting was getting interesting for me, comfortable. (It was difficult for me because of alphabet though…)
After having some meditation technics from the Dhamma, it had become interesting, I felt excited to try new meditation technics everyday. Honestly, at first, after just one meditation I took naps (!) but I became to do only meditation later.
At the third day, I broke some roles and hate myself a little.
I saw Western people spoke often… I may have to get strong mind, like, I didn’t care about breaking rules like them…
The hardest rule for me is, “We must not do reading or writing.” It was hard for me that I couldn’t use the internet.
It’s okay with me to have rules about meal – I can’t eat after noon, only vegetable and no alcohol. I wonder smokers is okay without smoking or not.
I’m a kind of person who is taciturn, so it’s okay with me not to speak at all, but sometimes it was hard for me to stop talking to myself. Others seemed to feel hard not to talk each other.
After finishing the course : …
To be honest, I’ve not attained the state of getting benefits from meditation which is told in the world yet. Unlike, “The meditation is really fantastic! Amazing! It is the strongest tool for my life!”…. I can’t think like this yet. I think I need more practice. I can’t stop myself to think like this, “It may be constructive and useful that I do reading or thinking”.
I can’t stop starting thinking negative things during meditation also. (Like things which happened long time ago, bad human relationships…)
However, I aware it during meditation, it doesn’t come from my intention, it comes unconsciously – like, I just watched the movie which is showed by something in my mind, and my emotion is just affected by that.
I googled and got to know that it is called “Ego” in Buddhism – which shows movies in my mind automatically. We become able to observe and recognize it, and leave from it by meditation.
With that logic, I realized that, until now I have been reminded bad memories again and again in my mind, gotten miserable feelings and made my very low self-esteem by myself, however, if that working has made by “Ego”, just “Ego” emphasizes it to me automatically, if I can observe the working objectively and aware of it, then I may become able to leave from it calmly and consciously, that would change my mindset better.
I’ve become to think that I can use meditation as a good tool to observe my thinking for those purposes, “Leave from bad thinking habit” “Leave from negative thinking which occur automatically in my mind“.
- If You’re Too Busy to Meditate, Read This – Peter Bregman – Harvard Business Review
- What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You)
- 瞑想のやり方教える、まじで人生捗るぞ : やせ速！ (Japanese)
- 瞑想への誤解 | Yaccoのアムリタラボ通信 (Japanese)
The Meals in Meditation Course
One of the most biggest pleasures during the course is, lunch time! Though all meals are vegetable, it’s not problem at all with me, basically I prefer vegetable to meat. 🙂
We have one carbohydrate food at breakfast, but we can have 3 vegetable side dishes with rice, sometimes we have a desert! Actually I hadn’t imagined that I can have such a good meal in the meditation course. I was really satisfied with every lunch.
▼The first breakfast. To be honest, it was not so good… The sauce was too sweet.
▼Lunch dishes are like this, we can have it as all-we-can. Sometimes there is nothing even there are still people who haven’t eaten lunch… Let’s not take too much if you leave it!
▼We had a chocolate at that day!
▼The place which we wash plates. It’s very comfortable outside 🙂 We must wash what we use.
▼A breakfast, like pasta. Good taste.
▼Sometimes they provide noodles.
▼Unusual breakfast… usually it tends to be too much, lol. This was good taste.
▼A breakfast. This is too much, haha.
▼A lunch, I was really satisfied with this 🙂 This mango was fantastic!
▼The desert is banana at that day. Vegetable meals were also nice. I love it.
I don’t know how many pictures of meals did I get satisfied with taking. (I still have more meal pics in my picture folder…）
Memories of the Meditation Course
▼The way to go to the temple. It is one of sightseeing spots in Chiang Mai, so many people were there. (The area for meditation course is quiet, no sightseer.)
▼Full of nature.
▼The dawn. It’s really pleasant to get up early 🙂
▼It’s so dark like this at night. I went bed until 8 pm, though it’s a little early.
▼Trees in the dark. Beautiful.
▼We can see statues like this, somewhere…
▼These are elephants, cute 🙂
▼This picture is one of my favorite pics 🙂 Backlight makes this picture somewhat solemn.
▼The way to go to the meditation center. Cute font, like Tedsuka Osamu’s work.
▼Another way to go to the temple.
▼They pray with watering statues.
▼The temple is high place in the mountain, we can see the Chiang Mai city at a glance.
▼The Buddhist priest’s stole which will wrap the building which is been constructed. I wrote my name here, tiny though 🙂 (They allow it)
▼There are dogs also in the temple.
▼It seems so strong… Is it the embodiment of Buddha…?
▼Young boys with praying seriously.
▼At “Buddha Day”, we went the temple, pray and chant with buddhism priests instead of usual chanting. I guess those marks mean “Buddha Day”… don’t those?
▼Priests who are praying to the worship.
▼Sunset, very beautiful.
▼The luminous golden worship.
▼It’s really beautiful at night as well with lights of town. I envied sightseeing couples a little. 😀
Usually Japanese can’t make chances to join the course which requires such a long days, but if you can make a chance – like, freelancer, at the timing of changing job or rest time between working – I can recommend to join this course as self-investment.
It may be good for our body and mental just to spend a time with nature, keeping regular hours and vegetable meals. (I was told that my face got smaller a little! Yey! It may be because of quiting drinking…)
I’d like to join 21 days course if I can have a chance, however, I heard I can’t go out of the room for the first 3 days if I join it…! I have to keep doing meditation 72 hours! It sounds so hard,…wow.