The stressed-out urbanite who craves some peace of mind should contemplate doing a meditation retreat in one of the country’s many temples. Near the forest monastery of Suan Mokkh, Garden of Liberation, (www.suanmokkh.org) in Surat Thani or at Wat Mahathat (www.mcu.ac.th/IBMC) in Bangkok, you can learn thesecrets of serenity from real Buddhist monks. These practical lessons will also teach you why the tolerant and compassionate teachings of the Buddha make it the fastest-growing religion in the world today.
At the aforementioned temple in the capital, located near the Grand Palace, visitors receive lessons in sitting and walking meditations from Thai monks conversant in English.
You can even stay over at the centre in the temple for a night or even a few weeks as long as you obey the different precepts, like not eating after 12 p.m. , just like the monks do. The temple asks only for a small donation; the amount is up to you.
In contrast, the courses at Suan Mokkh International, about one kilometer from the forest temple in Surat Thani, are much more intensive. Here, you have to rise at 4 a.m. to begin a long day of meditation practice that includes listening to talks about Buddhist teachings and even doing yoga. For the entire 10 days you have to remain completely silent.
It’s tough, but it does have many benefits, including increased concentration, more willpower, and the taming of what the Lord Buddha called ’the monkey mind.’