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 World Fellowship of Buddhists (W.F.B.)
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.
International Buddhist Meditation Centre (I.B.M.C.)
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
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
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
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
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
LANGUAGE: Teachers speak some English and people are usually
around who can translate. Easiest for one who can speak
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)
laypeople: about 100 (half practice meditation)
DAILY ROUTINE: Meditators can practice individually or attend group
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
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
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