Tag - buddhism

An Introduction to Cambodia

Introduction to Cambodia
Introduction to Cambodia
Introduction to Cambodia

In spite of decades of suffering, persecution and poverty, the people of Cambodia love to laugh and you are sure to receive a warm welcome wherever you wander through this charming country. The Kingdom of Cambodia covers 181,035 square kilometres and bordered by Thailand to the west, Laos in the north, Vietnam in the east and the Gulf of Thailand in the south.

Most people travel to Cambodia to visit the magnificent Angkor Wat, located near the bustling town of Siem Reap. One of the seven wonders of the world, Angkor Wat is just one in a number of enchanting ancient temples in this area, while the capital city of Phnom Penh also has plenty to offer visitors.

Although this richly diverse nation is bordered on virtually all sides, there are still some pretty islands and beaches to explore in Cambodia, such as the beach resort of Sihanoukville and the nearby islands in Ream National Park. The mighty Mekong River flows through Cambodia from Laos to Vietnam and is a great way to travel through the country.

Cambodia’s natural beauty makes it a great place for trekking and there are plenty of dense jungles, unspoilt forests and paddy fields to explore, while the Cardamom and Elephant Mountain Ranges provide a spectacular backdrop.

Subsistence farming is the main occupation of this impoverished nation, and most people live in stilted huts in small village communities. Although the majority of people (about 95%) are Khmer, there are also about twenty different hill tribes, each with their own unique culture, believes and style of dress.

The official language of Cambodia is Khmer and it is spoken by most people, while some people also speak French, Laos and Vietnamese, especially near the country borders. Although many people speak English in tourist areas and you will often be approached by people who want to practice their English, it is a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in Khmer.

Buddhism is the main religion in Cambodia, with about 90% of the population following either Therevada or Hinayana Buddhism. Worship is an important part of Khmer life and you will find a large number of temples scattered around Cambodia, although a large percentage were destroyed during the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge.

Cambodia really comes alive during the numerous festivals and public holidays, and it is idea to time your trip to coincide with one of these festivals as the streets are filled with singing and dancing and people put on their best clothes and biggest smiles.

Meditation in Bangkok

Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok

There’s no doubt about it, Thailand is a genuine draw for the spiritually inclined. Every year, thousands of people visit the kingdom to step away from the material and gain an insight into themselves and the world around them. While many “spiritual tourists” might envisage gaining enlightenment through fasting and sitting cross-legged under the torrents of one of Thailand’s many crystal-clear waterfalls, few might consider a trip to Bangkok’s main business/entertainment area a step down a spiritual path. And that just might be a shame… because it just might be what they are looking for.

Sukhumvit Road in the center of Bangkok is more recognized as street of excess than a place of retreat. It’s where people work hard, play hard and enjoy the bounty of riding the back of one of Asia’s more successful tigers. Yet, like elsewhere in the capital, pockets of spiritual resistance exist providing a ongoing reminder of just what is important in life. Fortunately, for visitors and expats wishing to learn more about the spiritual elements that forge this kingdom’s unique identity, there are people around that are willing and able to offer tutelage and guidance in a language many foreigners understand – plain English.

I recently visited a one-day meditation workshop held at Ariyasom Villa Boutique Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 1 in Bangkok. Unlike many of the hotels in the area, Ariyasom is genuinely fetching – built in 1942 as a family home it is still owned by the family that built it, and they really have made the most out of everything they’ve got. The hotel grounds are not huge, yet their design gives the impression of a vast area that you can wonder through and get lost in. Ariyasom’s gardens offer various nooks and crannies that you can walk around and find yourself a bit of personal space – probably one of the reasons this is an ideal location for a mediation workshop.

As a Brit, and a northerner at that, I haven’t made too many sorties into the world of the spiritual. Although it’s got a few Thai restaurants and Chinese takeaways, there aren’t that many temples or the like in mid-Cheshire. So, although I didn’t know what to expect from this workshop, I did, to some extent, expect to be a fish out of water. It was then very reassuring then to find out that Pandit Bhikkhu, owner of Littlebang and one of the organizers of the workshop, was in fact not Thai like I thought, but from Altrincham, a small town only a few miles from my home. In addition, David Lees, the broadminded owner of Ariyasom, proved to be a foreigner from Mere, which is even closer to my home than Altrincham! At that point in time, the three of us standing there was probably the only incidence of three Cheshire Cats being in the same room at the same time in the whole of Southeast Asia… well, at least I thought so.

Aside from its splendor, Ariyasom has even more surprises. Whereas most hotels in the area push restaurants and “discos” into every spare inch available, Ariyasom offers a spacious, dedicated meditation area replete with a bedroom for visiting monks… That certainly is a first for me.

“My wife is Thai and has been involved in meditation for a number of years,” suggested David Lees. “In fact she runs a blog about meditation. We rebuilt Ariyasom with meditation in mind. With a dedicated facility it’s easy for us to run events on a regular basis. There’s a decent-sized community of English-speaking Buddhists in Bangkok, and we help cater for them. Our events also extend to visitors to Thailand looking to learn more about Thai-style meditation. We get a good mix of people and I think people enjoy our workshops and benefit from them.”

David and his wife obviously talk the talk and walk the walk. While other hotels in the area might squeeze every cent out of their visitors, arriving at 08:30 before the start of the meditation workshop, I was greeted by hot coffee, Pa Thong Ko (the deep fried doughnuts that are a traditional Thai breakfast) and juice – all free of charge. As the day progressed, hot coffee was on tap and a vegetarian lunch was provided, again, free of charge. At the end of the day a variety of Thai fruit was on offer. Alongside offering a huge air-conditioned room for the comfort of meditators, catering for around 30 people in this way was not likely to be a cheap affair.

The workshop itself was also free of charge, and like David said, attracted a mix of backpackers, tourists and well-healed expats, although as the bulk of people seem to know each other, the latter did appear to dominate. The workshop was, not surprisingly, insightful – the Vipassana meditation being taught is better known as “Insight Meditation”. The instruction was provided by Aussie Mike Sansom and German Helge Sansom. Both are trainers at Wat Kow Tahm (Mountain Cave Monastery) International Meditation Center on Koh Phangan in southern Thailand. Mike and Helge walked beginners and veterans alike through the techniques and methodology of Vipassana meditation and the instruction proved both accessible and pragmatic.

Basically, mediation offers the opportunity to reflect. We were told to sit, eyes closed and consider the in and out of our breathing. Directing my awareness towards my breathing proved both easy and difficult at the same time. Becoming aware of my breathing generated a stillness that was immediately accessible, but it was also very easy to drift off into a reverie of thought without really noticing where my mind was going. It’s was sometimes very hard to pull myself away from thoughts of bills, work, commitments, family, and curiously, the theme music to 1980’s British TV program, “Black Beauty” – quite where that came from I dread to think. Obviously some deep and dark place. However, as Mike pointed out, any awareness was beneficial, and as Helge suggested, making a mental note of the mental distractions put them in their place and allowed you to revert to concentrating on breathing. In fact, this for me was the most valuable thing I took away from the day… Just sitting quietly like this, acknowledging the thoughts that entered my head allowed me to really understand exactly what was on my mind. 
    
Later, we were introduced to walking meditation. Although I followed the instruction and understood the technique, the sight of people walking around and meditating at the same time was a little spooky I thought. The technique is intended to be used while you are in motion and with your eyes open. It requires full awareness of your body, its movement, and even the ground beneath your feet and the feeling pressure stepping on the ground creates. I honestly couldn’t do it in front of people, not for fear how I looked, but genuine fear of how others looked. To practice this I needed to find a bit of space well away from others, and fortunately this was possible at Ariyasom.

We were also introduced to guided meditation leading to compassion and understanding. Helge introduced the meditation using an everyday scenario: You are in a shop; the check out desk is slow and you are being inconvenienced. This causes anxiety and perhaps even rage. You might even be moved to complain. However, although these emotions appear to be driven by external events, they are, in fact, only your reaction to external events. Changing your perception, through an injection of compassion, will help alleviate YOUR anxiety. Perhaps the checkout girl is having a bad day; perhaps she has financial problems or other problems at home; perhaps even she has just found out she has lost her job and today is her last day. Each of these possible scenarios would account for today, and each, with compassion, would be fully understandable.

At the end of the day’s workshop, I can honestly say I felt very refreshed – a similar feeling to that you get after having a weekend away, and yet it was really only a few hours. I really did feel I had been given some tools that would help and enrich my daily life. I felt better for the workshop. Our introduction to compassion and understanding was though immediately put to the test. During the latter stages of the workshop, a freak thunderstorm dumped what appeared to be thousands of tons of water into Soi 1. Not surprisingly, given the downfall, the Soi was completely flooded… and just to be fair – this really is the exception rather than the rule in Bangkok these days.

Even if you are only Bangkok for a couple of days, likelihood is there will be something happening that will provide you with the type of experience I had on Sukhumvit Road. Key places at look for events have already been mentioned – the Littlebang website gives broad details on what’s happening in Bangkok while mind.matters.at.ariyasom will provide you with specific details of what’s happening at Ariyasom.

I really recommend that you get involved in something while you are here. At the very least, you’ll take home with you a greater understanding into what Thais find commonplace, and that in itself, will be much more of an understanding of Thailand than some take home with them.

Staff Writer

Festivals and Holidays in Laos

Festivals and Holidays in Laos
Festivals and Holidays in Laos
Festivals and Holidays in Laos
Click on a picture to see more images by the photographer. (Some pictures do not have links.)

Bun Pha Wet

Celebrated at the end of December or early January, this festival marks the birth of Prince Vestsantara, the last Buddha to walk the earth. A large number of men enter monkhood during this period and it is a good time for families to get together.

Vietnamese Tet and Chinese New Year
This three day festival takes place in March and is marked with fireworks, loud street parties and visits to the local Vietnamese and Chinese temples.

Boun Pimai
Visitors arriving in the middle of April will witness one of Laos’ most lively festivals, held over three days to celebrate Lao New Year. This is the hottest part of the year and during Boun Pimai people soak each other in the streets with water guns, hosepipes and buckets of water to cool down a little. Luang Prabang is a great place to experience this festival as there are parades through the streets and the residents party long into the night.

Boun Bang Fai (rocket festival)
Not to be missed, the rocket festival is a Buddhist rain-making festival where huge bamboo rockets are built and decorated by monks. The rockets are carried in procession and then launched into the sky. There is much singing and dancing during this festival and the atmosphere is highly charged.


Visakha-Busaa

Celebrated on the 15th day of the 6th lunar month, this festival marks the days of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Activities focus around the country’s temples and there are pretty candlelit processions in the evening.

Khao Phansaa
This festival marks the start of Buddhist Lent, when the monks must retreat to their monasteries and commence a period of fasting. Many men become monks for a short time during Khao Phansaa, which lasts from June or July until October.

Boun Ok Phansaa
The end of the rainy season is celebrated with huge boat races along the Mekong River. Smaller boats are decorated and paraded through the town before being floated on the river.

Awk Phansaa
As the monks emerge from their monasteries once more people gather to greet them and present the spiritual guides with gifts such as robes, alms bowls and candles. Small banana-leaf boats containing candles, and incense are floated on the rivers and other waterways.

That Luang Festival
Taking place at That Luang in Vientiane, people travel from all over the country to witness the hundreds of monks, who gather to receive alms early in the morning. This festival lasts for a week and features a vibrant procession between Wat Si Muang and Pha That Luang. As well as music, dancing, chanting and delicious food.

Lao National Day
December 2nd is the day to commemorate the 1975 victory of the proletariat over the monarchy. There are parades through the streets, speeches and mass flying of the communist hammer-and-sickle flag.

The Abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat

The Abbot of Wat PahNanachat, Ubon Ratchathani, ThailandBy Jaruwan Supolrai, English and Communication student, Ubon Ratchathani University
Venerable Ajahn Nyanadhammo was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1955. He became interested in Buddhism by being inspired from reading the Buddha’s message while a biology student. And in 1978 he then stayed at Wat Buddhadhamma near Sydney before traveling to Thailand to ordain.

He received his novice ordination from Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara at Wat Bowon Niwet Wiharn in Bangkok. And in 1979 at the age of 24 he received full ordination with the late Venerable Ajahn Chah at Wat Nong Pah Pong, a forest monastery in Ubon Ratchathani, the northeastern Thailand.

He then spent many years wandering on ‘tudong’ in the forest, staying in secluded monasteries and seeking out great meditation teachers and following their footsteps especially the late Venerable Ajahn Chah’s. From 1994 to 2002 he stayed at Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Western Australia as deputy to Ajahn Brahmavamso.

In 2002 when Venerable Ajahn Jayasaro left Wat Pah Nanachat Venerable Ajahn Nyanadhammo took over his duties and become the abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat, a branch monastery of Wat Nong Pah Pong with an international community of English speaking monks, which run by the late Venerable Ajahn Chah.

Since then he diligently has worked training ‘anagarikas’ and ‘novices’ and guides the monks at the Wah Pah Nanachat. Always he gives a talk to Buddhists and people who come to give the offerings in every morning, which the talk can be counselling to those in need. And on the religion day he gives the Dhamma talks at Wah Pah Nanachat and other branch monasteries of the late Venerable Ajahn Chah in Thailand and sometimes in other countries around the world.

His First Contact with Buddhism

According to his biology background while in a university, he studied both life of animals and plants. So those things led him to be interested in studying the life of human beings and discovering what life was about, what was the true happiness and what we people were searching for.

One day when he went back home he had a chance to read a Theravada Buddhism book that his friends left at his home.

“I did not intentionally read it, I was just reading for killing the time” said the Venerable Ajahn Nyanadhammo. Then he could not put it down, reading it all the night until finishing, becoming more interested in Buddhism, his faith had arisen.

He said, “I appreciated of the Buddha’s teaching, because it was about the Four Noble Truths,” Since he did not find a true happiness, nobody found “paqqa” wisdom.

He began asking himself; Where is the person who has the true happiness? Where is the person who has the ‘paqqa’ ? Where is the ‘paqqa’? All the answer goes to the Buddha. The Buddha is the person who has the “paqqa”, he see through the sufferings, he pointed the cause of suffering and a path out of suffering that we can be free from sufferings getting the real happiness.

His Turning Points

With his curiosity in Buddhism, in the morning, he did not hesitated to go to the bookstore to buy Buddhism books. The result from reading a second book and seeing the picture of a monk on the cover of the book, which was the first monk he had ever seen in his life, had inspired him to want to be a monk.

“Having never ever seen any temples or any monks before, but I wanted to be a monk like him in the picture, it is because of my faith in Buddha, said the Venerable Ajahn Nyanadhammo.

After that, he went to the Buddhist Society in his hometown. When getting inside the temple. He said, “I had long hair and was dressing up in hippie style” and he did not know how to behave himself there. He did not take his shoes off until someone told him to take them off.
 
And there was a sign with the word, ‘Observe the Five Precepts’ written on a label inside the temple.
 
After reading the Five Precepts on that label, he felt it was the right thing for him at that time, so he decided to observe those precepts for the sake of himself and other people to be safe from any other harmful things all around. And later on, he began to practice meditation from reading many books.
 
Finally he met Ajahn Kantaparo, who used to stay at Wat Bowon Niwet Wiharn in Bangkok and came to teach Vibbassana (insight meditation) in Australia recommended him to come to Thailand.
 
Flying to Thailand
 
Not like any other farangs visiting many interesting tourist attractions when first coming, when arriving Bangkok he told a taxi driver to go to Wat Boworn Nivath Vihan where he became ordained a novice monk.
 
“From the first day that I came to Thailand until this day, I spend my time at the monastery I did not go to any other place”, said the Venerable Ajahn Nyanadhammo. And when asking why he chose to come to Thailand, “Because Thailand has a lot of Westerners and a lot of the old traditions” he said.
 
Training Under Ajahn Chah
 
A monastic life after having a chance to meet Ajahn Chah at Wat Nong Pah Pong and having him as a preceptor, he had spiritually trained with many Dhamma materials among many other training monks.
 
“I needed to change everything, I needed to speak Thai, I needed to eat Thai food and etc.” said the Venerable Nyanadhammo. It was tough with the change of food, language, weather and cultures. The food was extremely basic: sticky rice, leaves, curries – which were all put in one pot together – and a few bananas.
 
And what is more important was that the change of his manner to be suitable as the make him a good monk that he had to behave correctly. ” I felt like I was a new person, I was born again I was died from a farang and was born to be a Thai, “he added.
 
As Ajahn Chah’s way of teaching, he usually left his monks pretty much alone to practice and to learn the Vinaya or monastic codes of conduct; he would take them aside only occasionally if he sensed there were some problems need to be solved.
 
Ajahn Chah Gave Him a Kick

 
One day Ajahn Nyanadhammo and his monk-friends went on the same alms-round together into the village, and, as they were coming back to the dining-hall, there was one monk started complaining about the monks who hand out the food.
 
Self-righteous anger came up in him, and he said to him, “Instead of complaining about the other monks, why don’t you get up and help us?” And then he stormed off in a huff.
 
As Ajahn Nyanadhammo was walking, he heard Ajahn Chah’s voice saying, “Good morning” in English. (The only words he knew in English were ‘Good morning’ and ‘Cup of tea’.) He turned to see him standing only three feet away with a big radiant smile on his face. And he said, “Oh, good morning, Luang Por.” And he radiated loving kindness to Ajahn Nyanadhammo, and the aversion completely disappeared and he was really happy.
 
That evening he decided, “As Ajahn Chah was very friendly to him, he would go over and offer him a foot massage”: that was a way to do some service for him, and he often would teach Dhamma at that time. So he was sitting on a cane seat with Ajahn Nyanadhammo sitting on the floor and massaging his foot.
 
When the bell rang for evening chanting. Ajahn Chah told the other monks to go to the chanting and Ajahn Nyanadhammo was left together with Ajahn Chah; it was a beautiful cool evening, with the moon coming out full, and the sound of some seventy monks chanting, he said “It was just wonderful. Ajahn Chah sat in meditation as I was massaging his foot – and my mind was on cloud nine, uplifted with joy”.
 
At that point Ajahn Chah kicked him in the chest and knocked him flat on his back! He looked up in shock, and Ajahn Chah pointed at him saying, “See? In the morning someone says something you don’t like and you’re upset. Then someone else just says, ‘Good morning’ and you’re uplifted all day. Don’t get caught up in moods and emotions of like and dislike at what other people say.” That is one of the lessons that he still remembers to this day.
 
Staying And Teaching in Western Australia

 
After his fifteenth year as a monastic life in Thailand, he was requested to stay and teach the Dhamma in Western Australia. “I did not want to go there, I needed to go, because people there they were hungry for the Dhamma”, said the Venerable Nyanadhammo.
 
When he and his monk-friends first came there. They had to stay in a small house. Some days they did not have any meal, because nobody came to give them the offerings.
 
Not for long someone gave them a land in forest to build a monastery. Before they built a ‘sala’ and a ‘kuti’, they needed to stay in the hut for a while and had to bathe in the stream with cold water. He said, “I was living with kangaroos in the forest”.
 
“Some did not know Buddhism, some did not know gathering the alms-food”, he said, teaching Dhamma to Westerners is not easy like teaching Thais who were born in the land of Buddhism – basically have the faith in Buddha.
 
It is necessary for them to cultivate faith in the Buddha to them so that we can teach them how to meditate which is what the Westerners are interested in.
 
Teaching the Dhamma to Westerners might take a long time until it works. ” It was difficult at first but it worked and was useful in the end” said Venerable Ajahn Nyanadhammo.
 
The Family’s Thought
 
Asking what his family thinks about his ordination, when they heard about Buddhism, they did not understand. “And when I had became ordained wandering to meditate in the forest, they thought that I was crazy.”
 
But nowadays the family heard about Buddhism and have some knowledge and understanding the history of Buddhism. “They maybe see a picture on the television or documentary about Buddhism or Buddhist monks, because of that they understand” he added.
 
Things have changed quite a lot since he first came but generally he thinks most western people’s parents want their children to be happy and want their sons to be happy people to be peaceful themselves in the world. And generally the parents found it acceptable.
 
The Conclusion
 
Being of one monks here who follows the Buddha’s footstep and other great venerables, he has been seriously doing the Dharma propagation activities in Thailand and overseas – for the sake of making the world a peaceful place. ” Nowadays there are many interested Westerners coming to in Buddhism in Thailand” added the Venerable Ajahn Nyanadhammo.
 
*FOOTNOTES
 
“Tudong” – taking a bowl and robes and walk seeking out secluded places to meditate in the forest
 
“Anagarika” – a person in preparation to be in yellow robe and observe the Eight Precepts
 
“sala” a place where people gather making merits
 
“kuti” a place where monks stay in
 
“Luang Por” an old venerable
 
Wat Nong Pah Pong” – a forest monastery of marsh and pong” (pong is a type of high grass).

Monastic Training Life and Monkhood at Wat Pah Nanachat of Ubon Ratchathani

Monastic Training Life and Monkhood at Wat Pah Nanachat of Ubon Ratchathani
Monastic Training Life and Monkhood at Wat Pah Nanachat of Ubon Ratchathani
Monastic Training Life and Monkhood at Wat Pah Nanachat of Ubon Ratchathani
Monastic Training Life and Monkhood at Wat Pah Nanachat of Ubon Ratchathani
Monastic Training Life and Monkhood at Wat Pah Nanachat of Ubon Ratchathani
Monastic Training Life and Monkhood at Wat Pah Nanachat of Ubon Ratchathani

“More and more visitors to Thailand are interested in Buddhism. Many of them come to Thailand to ordain as it is very well known Buddhist country. Wat Pah Nanachat is one of their destinations”, said a monk from England who has ordained at the monastery for 2 years. However, ordaining at the monastery seems to be really challenging for many of them. It is important that they should study and prepare themselves well beforehand about their unforeseen living at the monastery.
With a very tranquil forest monastic environment, Wat Pah Nanachat (the International Forest Monastery) is an appropriate home for many foreign monks from a wide range of nationalities to practice meditation. It is located in a small forest of Bahn Bung Wai of Amper Warin Chamrab about 15 kilometers away from the city of Ubon Ratchathani of Thailand.

The monastery has been blessed as a good place for meditation and Dhamma teaching established by Venerable Ajahn Chah, one profoundly wise Buddhist meditation master of Thailand, in 1975 as a branch of Wat Nong Pah Pong. Therefore, many foreigners who search for true happiness come to ordain at the monastery every year.

In Thailand, there are many good places for people who are interested in practicing meditation.”This monastery is also one really good and quiet place for meditation practice. It is quite far away from disturbing things. To live here is a good opportunity for me to practice. And, traditional monastic training is always provided very well here”, kindly and mindfully said one monk who is from America.

Men with shaved heads who wear loose white and long trousers with white shirts are trainees who are during the traditional monastic training before ordaining at the monastery. “The interested foreigners who want to ordain here have to be initially trained about traditional way of monastic living for a short period so that they can live peacefully and successfully. The training is relative to the Buddha’s teaching and code of monastic discipline”, explained a senior monk who is from Germany.

It is not easy but not too difficult for the trainees to be during the traditional monastic training period at Wat Pah Nanachat. They will be taught about how they can enjoyably live with local culture. They are expected to follow and join all monastic activities such as meeting and work activities, rules or regulations, and daily routine of the monastery. Therefore, all of them have to adjust themselves very well with these things.

As the trainees have to join and follow everything that the monastery expects them to do before the ordaining, early during the traditional monastic training, many of them may face some challenging difficulties. The difficulties may be relative to monastic activities, rules and regulations, and daily routine of the monastery. For many current trainees and monks as they used to be trainees of Wat Pah Nanachat, There were three most outstanding challenging difficulties: getting up early, weather, and hunger.

The first quite common difficulty for them early during the training was getting up early. It is one of the rules of the monastery. “When I first came here, it was quite difficult for me to get up so early in the morning. However, it could make them to become more active”, said one trainee from Holland.

At 03.00 AM, because of the rules of the monastery, every trainee had to get up to participate in the monastic activities such as morning meeting for chanting and meditation. Also, while monks went out to surrounding villages on alms-round, trainees did the chores such as sweeping the monastery and helping in the kitchen.

In general, for some people, getting up early in the morning may be not a problem, but it should not be disregarded for prospective trainees who want to ordain at the monastery. To make sure that they can follow the rules of the monastery efficiently can mean that they can ordain and live in the monastery more happily or without any problem.

Weather was also the common challenging difficulty that many current trainees and monks as they used to be trainees at Wat Pah Nanachat used to face during their traditional monastic training. As most of them

are from the western countries which some are considered cold countries, therefore Thai hot weather was a problem for them early during their training period.
 
However, after they had lived with that condition for a while, they could overcome the problem and their bodies could be accustomed to it. “The weather here is really hot for me. In my hometown, it is quite cold. When I first came here, I had to take a shower more frequently than before”, explained a monk from Finland who has just ordained for only 2 months.
 
Also, as Wat Pah Nanachat allows the trainees to have only one meal a day at about 09.00 AM, the hunger can be one difficulty of many of them. Many current trainees and monks who used to be trainees said that they were usually hungry early during the training period.
 
However, after living at the monastery for a while, those trainees and monks could be used to living with those difficulties because their bodies could adjust themselves for it.
 
After the traditional monastic training in a short period, the trainees then can ordain. The difficulties that they may face after the training period (after they ordain) may be different from those they have to face during the training. However, they will certainly have 227 monk’s rules (the basic Theravada code of monastic discipline) to comply with.
 
“Actually, it is generally agreed that the monk’s rules laid by the Lord Buddha are considered great thing to keep; they are not a problem at all. However, they possibly cause difficulties for the future trainees”, said another monk from America.
 
According to monks at Wat Pah Nanachat, three most outstanding challenging monk’s rules for them were relative to speech, gestures, and damaging living plants. They said that these rules were difficult to keep.
 
Why rules about speech were challenging for the monks is that they had to be well mindful about their speech such as to avoid complaining, telling a lie, talking too loud, and saying something that might cause the break among them.
 
The next challenging rules were about gestures. In any habited area, they had to avoid swinging their arms, head, and body when they walked and avoid tiptoeing or sitting with arm akimbo.
 
The last outstanding challenging rules for them were about damaging living plants. They said that when they did the chores such as sweeping floor, it was hard to knowingly avoid damaging living plants like grass and other small plants.
 
Therefore, it will be very useful for prospective trainees to study about monk’s rules before they come to the monastery. It will be faster for them to learn about the monk’s rules when they ordain.
 
Thus, it is quite necessary that the future foreigners who want to ordain at Wat Pah Nanachat should prepare themselves well before they come to the monastery. There may be difficulties caused by monastic activities, rules or regulations, and the daily routine during the traditional monastic training. If they can prepare themselves well beforehand, they will be able to live in the monastery successfully.

Doi Suthep: Exploring Chiang Mai’s Spiritual Side

Doi Suthep: Exploring Chiang Mai's Spiritual Side
Doi Suthep: Exploring Chiang Mai's Spiritual Side
Doi Suthep: Exploring Chiang Mai's Spiritual Side

They say that if you only see one temple in Thailand, Doi Suthep is the one to see. Set on a mountain plateau overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, this site is steeped in history and religious significance. It’s also visually stunning. Granted, if you’re in Chiang Mai, odds are good that you stumbled upon at least 3 temples on your morning bottled-water run to the Family Mart. Believe me though, this is a temple that lives up to the hype, scenically, spiritually, and even pop-culturally (the opening to Rambo 3 was filmed on the temple steps).

A 40 Baht songtaew from the city centre takes you up the winding mountain road where Doi Suthep lies 1676 metres above Chiang Mai. The last dozen or so must be trekked on foot, up the 306-step staircase with carved dragon handrails and cool forests on either side. Of course, lazy sightseers can always opt for the 20baht cable car. While the base of the steps is swimming with chatty local vendors peddling paintings, carvings, fruit and Fanta, the temple itself is big enough to allow even the largest crowd of tourists some breathing space.

The history of the temple is a tale of monks, kings, elephants and relics. According to legend, a 14th century monk from Sukhothai found a relic from Buddha, and the Lanna King Keu Naone offered to enshrine the piece. The relic was placed on the back of a white elephant, a sacred symbol. He carried the relic up the mountain, stopped on the site where the temple stands today, and died. The temple was constructed in 1383, with a statue honouring the white elephant inside the front gate.

Your ticket (30 Baht) allows free roam of the temple grounds, though tour guides are plentiful and very helpful. Amidst Buddhist statues, jackfruit trees, and rows of metal bells (rung constantly by curious children, despite the signs warning visitors not to push the bells), the outer area is cool and spaceous, with plenty of gilded doors and ornamental carving to admire.

The bookshop and cafes allow visitors a chance to rest their feet (and cameras). It’s also a chance to take in the views of the evergreen hills and exotic birds which make up the 260 square kilometres of Doi Suthep National Park. On the other side of the entrance gate, a lookout point offers an impressive view of sprawling Chiang Mai and the distant Ping river.

The middle of the temple is the more sacred cloister area, and visitors can remove their shoes and admire the golden Lanna-style Chedi, standing 79 feet high and housing the famous relic of Buddha. Ornametal umbrellas and Buddha statues, all gold, stand around the chedi. The surrounding walls are painted with murals depicting the life of Buddha. If you have the fortune of witnessing this sight on a clear sunny day, it’s easy to get lost in a trance with this shining gold scene. This area is considered to be one of the holiest in Thailand, and makes the trip up the mountain well worthwhile.

Those in search of a spiritual stay in Chiang Mai can book into Doi Suthep’s International Buddhism Centre and stay in the temple itself, finding meditative peace in the natural and spiritual beauty in the temple and its surroundings. The website provides further information at http://www.fivethousandyears.org/

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.

Religion in Thailand


Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand

Most Thai people (around 95%) are Buddhist, whilst 4.6% are Muslim, and Christianity comprises 0.7%. Most of Thailand’s Muslims live in the south of Thailand. There are also a significant number of Hindus and Sikhs. Thailand also has a history of animism – which generally means the belief in souls and spirits – and this is still practiced by some of the people of the hill tribes in the north of Thailand.

Although Buddhism is by far the main belief, Thailand prides itself on religious freedom and welcomes the emergence of newer religions and beliefs.

The strain of Buddhism worshipped in Thailand is Thai Theravada Buddhism, which is supported and overseen by the government. Most men are expected to become a monk at some point in their life, and this is often undertaken during the three monk Khao Phansa period, which begins in July.

Monks can be easily recognised by their saffron coloured robed and shaved heads. Monks cannot carry money and so can be seen early in the morning collecting their daily food. Monks also receive a number of government benefits, such as free use of public transport.

Religion forms a cornerstone of most Thai people’s lives, entwined with daily activities and special events. Most people will worship at the temple (known as a wat) during festivals and monks and spirits are consulted when important decisions need to be made such as weddings and starting a business.