MEANING OF NAME: "Monastery with tunnels"
OTHER NAME: Suan Buddha Dhamma ("Garden of Buddha's teachings")
ADDRESS: Tambon Suthep, Amper Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
DIRECTIONS: Located 3.5 km west of Chiang Mai. Easiest way is by
tuk-tuk or bicycle. Or, take a city bus #1 or songtaew
west 2.5 km on Suthep Rd. (_not_ the same road to Doi
Suthep Temple) to Wang Nam Kan, then follow signs south
1 km to the wat.
Chiang Mai is 700 km north of Bangkok and the most
important city of the north. Frequent bus, train, and
air services connect Chiang Mai with Bangkok and other
TELEPHONE: (053) 277-248 (call only from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
MEDITATION SYSTEM: Anapanasati, similar to teaching at Suan Mokkh. One
is free to use one's own meditation techniques.
TEACHING METHOD: Teachers are available for questions. Talks in English
are given every Sunday 3-6 p.m. at the Chinese Pavillion
near the pond. A library/museum has many books in
English and other foreign languages.
TEACHERS: Phra Khru Sukhandasila, abbot (Thai; age 56)
Phra Santitthito (Santi) (German; age 50) is no longer
at Wat Umong; he now takes care of a large forest center
in Australia as abbot and resident teacher: Wat
Buddhadhamma, Ten Mile Hollow, Wisemans Ferry, New South
A Western monk is usually in residence at Wat Umong.
LANGUAGE: One should be able to speak some Thai. Other senior
monks, including the abbot, speak a little English.
DESCRIPTION: Peaceful, wooded grounds of 37.5 rai (15 acres). You can
feed the fish, turtles, and ducks in a large pond.
"Talking trees" have words of wisdom in Thai and
English. The wat is famous for its ancient tunnels and
large stupa. Other attractions include a Buddha field of
broken sculpture, a fasting Bodhisatva, a Spiritual
Theatre of paintings similar to those at Suan Mokkh,
reproductions of ancient Buddhist sculpture of India,
and a library-museum. This last building offers many
books on Buddhism and other philosophies as well as a
collection of historic objects and Buddhist art.
SIZE: monks: 45-75
novices: about 10
nuns: about 8
laypeople: about 10
DAILY ROUTINE: A bell is rung at 4 a.m. Monks and novices are
encouraged (and laypeople welcome) to attend chanting at
4:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monks and novices go on pindabat
after morning chanting, then eat together in a wooden
sala. Because discipline, practice, and schedule are
left up to each person for the most part, self-
motivation is especially important. Laypeople on a short
visit can follow 5 precepts; longer-term visitors should
observe 8 precepts.
FOOD: Monks eat once or twice a day from food collected on
pindabat. Nuns normally cook their own food. Laypeople
can also arrange meals at nearby shops or take from
ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis in separate areas for monks/novices,
nuns, and laypeople. Kutis, somewhat closely spaced,
have screens and electricity; some also have attached
Thai-style bathrooms (Asian- and some western-style
toilets) and running water.
WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Yes, write or enquire well in advance. Only a small
number of kutis are available for laypeople.
ORDINATION: Possible for both short- and long-term as novice, monk,
or maechee. One has a personal interview with the abbot
to request ordination. If approved, one usually trains
at Wat Umong for at least one month before ordination.
OTHER INFORMATION: The monastery, one of the oldest in the Chiang Mai
area, may date as far back as 1300 A.D. Legend tells
that a king built the brick-lined tunnels for a
clairvoyant but sometimes eccentric monk named Thera
Jan; paintings dated to about 1380 once decorated the
walls. You can enter the tunnels to see the small
shrines inside (a flashlight is useful). The adjacent
stupa was constructed about 1520 over an earlier stupa
(1400-1500). The monastery eventually fell into disuse,
though Japanese troops were said to garrison here during
WW II. Since 1948, the Thai prince Jao Chun Sirorot, now
in his 90s, has been active in rebuilding and
reestablishing the monastery. In 1949 he invited
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (founder of Suan Mokkh in southern
Thailand) to come and live here. Duties kept Buddhadasa
Bhikkhu from coming. Instead he sent Ajahn Pannananda
and other monks to help set up and run Wat Umong.
WAT RAM POENG
MEANING OF NAME: "Monastery in memory of" (King Yod Chiengrai
established the monastery in 1492 in memory of his
OTHER NAME: Wat Tapotaram ("Monastery of ascetic practice") and
Northern Insight Meditation Center
ADDRESS: Tambon Suthep, Amper Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
DIRECTIONS: Located 4 km southwest of Chiang Mai. Easiest way is by
tuk-tuk or bicycle. Or, take city bus #1 or songtaew
west 2 km on Suthep Rd. to Phayom Market (also called
Suthep), then go south 2 km to the wat (can take tuk-tuk
or songtaew). Wat Umong is only 1 km to the northwest.
TELEPHONE: (053) 278-620
MEDITATION SYSTEM: Intensive vipassana meditation based on the Four
Foundations of Mindfulness. Mahasi Sayadaw techniques
TEACHING METHOD: Instruction and advice are given during daily
interviews. Dhamma talks in Thai are presented on the
night before //wan phra//.
TEACHERS: Prasuprommayanna Thera (Ajahn Tong), abbot (Thai; age
Ven. Luang Paw Banyat Akkayano, vice abbot and head of
foreign section (Thai; age 78)
One or 2 English-speaking teachers assist.
LANGUAGE: The vice abbot and assistants speak English.
DESCRIPTION: Buildings are closely spaced on the 15-rai (6-acre)
grounds, with some trees and grass. The central stupa
dates back to the founding of the wat in 1492. The
glittering new building serves as the Tripitika Library;
it contains collections of the "Three Baskets" of the
Theravadan scriptures in Thai, English, Sanskrit, Sri
Lankan, Burmese, Mon, Korean, and Chinese languages.
SIZE: monks: 60-70
novices: about 20
laypeople: 40-60 (roughly half are foreigners)
DAILY ROUTINE: Meditators are encouraged to try to practice 20 hours a
day, lying down to sleep only at night. Meditation
generally follows a cycle of //kraap// (bowing),
walking, and sitting. Individual interviews take place
daily (except on //wan phra//) in early afternoon.
Practice typically begins at the 4 a.m. wakeup.
Meditators have freedom to determine the schedule that
FOOD: Adequate; vegetarian can be requested and is generally
available. Rice porridge and a vegetable are served at 6
a.m., then the main meal at 10:30 a.m. Monks and novices
go on pindabat.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual rooms with electricity and Thai-style
bathrooms (bathing from jars; Asian- and a few western-
style toilets) with running water.
WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended, because the centre is often full. If all
rooms are full, you can sign up on a waiting list.
Alternate accommodations may be available too. Writing,
or better visiting, in advance enables you to reserve a
space. Busiest times are the tourist season (Oct.
through March) and the Rains Retreat (3-month period
beginning mid- or late July). Preference is given to
those planning on staying at least 26 days for the whole
course and those who have practiced here before.
ORDINATION: Can be requested by committed meditators wishing to be
monks or nuns.
OTHER INFORMATION: The course takes 26 days to complete; a stay of one
month is a bit better. Because practice is individual,
you can arrive and begin at any time. Meditators may be
accepted for shorter periods if space is available.
Eight precepts are observed. Traditional white clothing
is worn. Teachers allow some socializing, though care
should be taken not to talk about or disturb others'
A small foreign library has books in English and a
few other languages, Dhamma talks on tapes, and books
and tapes for learning Thai. The library is available to
meditators who have finished the 26-day course and to
The wat is popular with both westerners and Thais.
Like Wat Umong, this monastery fell into disuse sometime
after its founding. During WW II, Japanese troops
occupied and badly damaged the site. Reconstruction of
the viharn began in 1971. In 1974, Prakrupipatkanapiban,
the abbot of Wat Muang Mang and head teacher of a
meditation school in Chiang Mai, came here and stayed;
he's the current abbot and now has the name
Prasuprommayanna Thera. Meditation courses at Wat Ram
Poeng began in 1975.
THAM TONG MEDITATION CENTRE
MEANING OF NAME: "Tong Cave"
ADDRESS: Tambon Ban Pae, Amper Chom Thong, Chiang Mai 50240
DIRECTIONS: Located 86 km southwest of Chiang Mai. Take a bus from
Chiang Mai toward Hot; ask to be let off at the stop for
Tham Tong (23 km past Chom Thong, between KM posts 82
and 83). Follow the gravel road 1.5 km west to Ban Pae,
then turn left 2 km on a small paved road to its end at
the meditation centre. You may have to walk in from the
highway as local transport is infrequent.
MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana based on methods taught by Mahasi Sayadaw.
The centre is a branch of Wat Maha That in Bangkok; the
same meditation system is used. One can also use one's
TEACHING METHOD: The teacher provides instruction for new arrivals, then
interviews as needed.
TEACHERS: Ajahn Suchin Vimalo, abbot (Thai; age 52)
LANGUAGE: The teacher does not speak English. Visitors need to
know basic conversational Thai. A few nuns speak
English, but may not be available (especially for male
DESCRIPTION: The center covers about 30 rai (12 acres) on both sides
of a narrow, wooded valley. A peaceful setting with
running stream, caves, and mountains. The land and
surrounding mountains belong to the Forestry Department.
SIZE: monks: 7-40
DAILY ROUTINE: Wakeup bell is at 3:30 a.m.; the meal and some chanting
is at 8:30 a.m. One also helps with sweeping and
cleaning work. Except for the meal, the entire day is
free for individual meditation practice in solitude.
FOOD: Adequate quality; one meal at 8:30 a.m. of food offered
by the meditation centre. (Newcomers may also be offered
a rice porridge earlier in the morning for the first few
days.) Monks, novices, and nuns eat from alms bowls but
do not go on pindabat. Laymen can eat with the monks and
novices; laywomen and nuns have their meal together in
an adjacent room.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Individual kutis (in most cases), fairly close together,
or rooms; most have electricity, screens, and Thai-style
bathrooms with running water (bathing from tanks; Asian-
WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Recommended. The centre is often full during the
Rains Retreat and times of other retreats.
ORDINATION: Not available for novice or monk. Women can ordain as
maechees; this centre appears to be an especially good
place for the nun's life.
OTHER INFORMATION: This is a meditation practice center with strict
discipline. Visitors must be highly self-reliant and
self-motivated. Laypeople wear white clothing and follow
8 precepts. Time should be devoted to meditation and
all-around mindfulness. Socializing, reading, and
writing are discouraged.
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