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NORTHEASTERN THAILAND ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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. * * * * * * *


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