Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

NORTHERN THAILAND ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ WAT UMONG 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 major centers. 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 Wales. 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 monk's leftovers. 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 father.) 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 are used. 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 68) 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 nuns: 60-70 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 works best. 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' meditation. 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 outside visitors. 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 own techniques. 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 visitors). 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 novices: 3-10 nuns: 15-25 laypeople: 10-40 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- style toilets). 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. * * * * * * *


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank