Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand and more than 90 percent of Thai citizens are Buddhists. Meanwhile, meditation is one of the most important aspects of Buddhism, and seeking inner
peace through meditation is a growing, global phenomenon. There is an understanding around the world that meditation plays a role in sustaining a healthy lifestyle, with the practitioner seeking some degree of detachment from the material world, and drawing on inner peace for a sense of well-being.
Meditation is a safe way of balancing one’s physical, emotional, and mental states. Today, physicians recommend meditation as a way of relaxing from the stress of everyday life. It can help to lower blood pressure, relieve insomnia, help asthmatic patients breath more easily, and improving exercise performance in those suffering from angina.
In the past few years, Chiang Mai has attracted visitors from all over the world who wish to learn more about meditation. The many students of meditation range from expatriate residents to tourists, they all come expressly to discover the secret of the peaceful, meditative Buddhist lifestyle.
In their different ways, all tend to see Buddhist philosophy and meditation as a means of attaining good mental and physical health, personal fulfilment and satisfaction.
Apart from being ideal, purpose-built surroundings for the practice of meditation, Buddhist temples are the best environment in which to appreciate Thai art and architecture. Their style varies according to their location and their history.
In Chiang Mai, Wat Ram Poeng (Tapotaram) temple is a well-known place to learn and practice meditation. Situated at the foothill of Doi Suthep, this temple and retreat center is surrounded
by nature and green landscape. Thai people and foreigners come there to find fulfilment through dhamma practice. To make it to Wat Ram Poeng, a red mini bus can drive you there, it is
only ten minutes from Nimmahhaemin area. From there on, you will leave the real world behind and go for a ten days of inner peace and healthy life for your mind, body and spirit. Make sure you reserve your meditation retreat first and arrive on a Sunday, as courses in English start every Monday and lasts ten to twenty six days.
The plan at Wat Ram Poeng (Topataram) temple and Meditation Center, is that during your stay there you will be able to obtain mind cleared of worries and a feeling of calmness. The temple
and meditation center is located on a 6-acre grounds, and the central stupa dates back to the founding of the temple in 1492. One of the latest building construction serves as the Trip tika Library, it contains collections of the “Three Baskets” of the Theravadan scriptures in Thai, English, Sanskrit, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Mon, Korean, and Chinese languages.
During the retreat in the monastery, you are encouraged to try to practice 10 hours a day, and you get to go deep inside yourself - to observe, be conscious of your thoughts and be honest with yourself. The day begins at 4:00 am and spreads out with meditation and basic activities that ends with bedtime at 9:00 pm. Wat Ram Poeng (Topataram) temple teaches intensive Vipassana meditation based on the Four Fondations of Mindfulness. Sayadaw techniques are used. Apart from the usual sleeping, walking and eating, each day is fill with dhamma teachings, indoor sitting meditation, yoga and outdoor walking meditation. This schedule, which might seems simple and easy, actually requires a lot of self-discipline and inner peace, because “loving kindness” or “metta” requires more than just sitting on a cushion and wishing others well... And you might be surprise by how tired you can be when night comes!
REAL EXPERIENCES FROM TRAVELERS:
On the last morning of the English course at the centre, people talk and share their experiences, complete with big smiles on their faces. After all, it is a ten to twenty-seven days of being silent
- no use of social media, no mobile phone, no television, no book to read and only two vegetarian meals are taken a day. Their experience and all they have learned from the past week is very precious:
- “I was thinking of leaving once or twice, but now, I’m feeling so relaxed. I also like the concept of silence. It’s a bit difficult at first as I am not used to keeping quiet, but I learned a lot from it.” Sharah from France.
- “I completed the twenty six day program at Wat Ram Poeng. It was very challenging, but also very rewarding. I learned a lot about meditation and improved my practice beyond what I thought I could while I was here. I also learned a lot about myself, much more so than I could have ever expected. This was a life changing experience for me and the highlight of my trip. Stay for twenty six days; it will change your life.” Qindao, China.
- “I feel completely happy. I don’t know why I can’t stop smiling.” says Vicky from New Zealand. She heard about the centre from friends a few years ago and finally did the course. “I will definitely come back to Thailand again, just for the meditation” she says.
-“I decided to come for meditation without knowing anything about Buddhism or meditation. I only knew that it is a good opportunity. I loved the chance to calm my mind.” said Theresa from UK.
- “I didn’t come back from this experience knowing how to bring world peace, but I did come back with a new awareness, along with being incredibly relaxed. More importantly, I found a new tool for keeping myself focused” Aaron, Spain.
WHICH KIND OF MEDITATION IS PRACTISSED AT RAMPOENG
There are two main branches in Buddhist meditation in Thailand: Samatha (calmness, concentration) and Vipassana (insight). Teaching and practice at Rampoeng temple is based on Vipassana.
Mindfulness is the key to Vipassana meditation. It means “to see things as they really are”, and it was taught by the Buddha as a universal remedy for universal ills. The objects of Vipassana meditation are the position of the body at the present moment, with all sensations, emotions and thoughts that arise from the contact between body and mind and the environment.
It is based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: the mindfulness of the body, the feelings, the mind, and of mind-objects. Vipassana is a process of mental purification through self-observation, focussed on the interconnection between mind and body. It is experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and which interconnect with the life of the mind.
When the mind is unstrained, it is wide open to outside disturbances and distractions. The objective of Vipassana is to acknowledge these distractions but not to dwell on them. Therefore, you train yourself to be aware of the body’s movement, the rise and fall of the chest as you breathe, the movement of the legs and feet as you walk, as well as your feelings and state of mind. Walking, sitting and lying meditation are a few of the Vipassana techniques, and to keep distraction to a minimum, the retreats are held in calm, isolated surroundings.
The benefits of Vipassana meditation are manifold. It will enable you to calm down and look within, in order to develop wisdom and freedom. Successful practice can lift depression, cure many stressrelated illness - and at the very least add a little joy to life.
WAT RAM POENG (TAPOTARAM) TEMPLE :