Tens of thousands of people visit Thailand every year, not for a holiday but to take a Buddhist meditation course. Thailand is famous the world over for meditation and, with the stresses of modern life, more people are feeling the need to learn how to relax and be calmer. Thus, a trip to Thailand.
In Thailand, there are two types of Buddhist meditation you can learn and most centers will offer one of these. Vipassana, which is centered around being mindful and Samatha, which is all about helping you concentrate and be calm.
Learning Buddhist meditation in Thailand is wonderful though, because your options are endless. You can take a solo one-hour class, take a morning, afternoon or evening class, do a weekend course, or even go on a retreat for a week or several weeks at a time. Whatever your goals in learning Buddhist meditation, you’re likely to find what you need in Thailand.
There are also many places to learn Buddhist meditation in Thailand. Some give instruction in English, some do not, so if you’ll only feel comfortable learning in English (meaning you don’t feel comfortable in just following non-verbal directions), then make sure the meditation class or course you’re interested in is offered in English before you sign up.
For some of the best places to learn Buddhist meditation in Thailand, check out one of the following centers, schools, retreats or temples. They all offer something a little different, but all come highly recommended.
International Buddhist Meditation Center, Wat Mahadhatu, Bangkok – Probably one of the most famous meditation centers in Thailand, several of my friends have taken meditation classes here and loved them. At IBMC, they teach Vipassana meditation, but only in the afternoons and late evenings.
They do, on occasion, also have weekend retreats in Nakhon Pathom, if you want to take a course that’s a little longer than a couple of hours. IBMC is part of Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, which is one of the most important centers of Buddhist learning in Thailand. IBMC is also easy to get to as it’s near the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Wat Bhaddanta Asahba Theravada/Sommitre Pranee Vipassana Center, Chonburi (Bangkok) – I actually avoided this retreat simply because, while you’re on any course, you are expected to be silent at all times. A friend recently took a week long course with them and was not able to speak for the entire time. She said, after a few days, you feel like you’re going crazy but, in the end, she did feel the course was extremely beneficial in calming her mind and behavior, and would definitely do it again.
Great thing about this retreat too is both beginners and experienced meditators are welcome. Students are expected to wear white clothing during their stay and vegetarian food will be served at each meal.
The International Dhamma Hermitage 10 Day Retreat, Surat Thani – The International Dhamma Heritage offers 10-day retreats once a month, beginning on the first day of each month. During the retreat, you will learn Mindfulness with Breathing as well as the Four Noble Truths and some of Buddha’s teachings. Participants will be expected to get up very early every day, participate in all activities, only eat 2 vegetarian meals each day, and deal with any discomfort from the meditation activities (discomfort tends to be more mental than physical).
You’ll stay in a small room with just a hard mattress, a blanket, a mosquito net and a wooden pillow. This 10-day course is quite extreme, but if you’re serious about learning Buddhist meditation, this is the way to go. The retreat takes place at a temple about 10 hours south of Bangkok, near Surat Thani in southern Thailand.
The Middle Way Meditation Retreat, Phu Ruea, Loei Province – One of the nicest places for a Buddhist meditation retreat is The Middle Way Meditation Retreat in Loei Province.
The Middle Way teaches Dhammakaya meditation, which is Mindfulness of Breathing but also includes the practice of visualization. Up in the fresh air of the mountains near Phu Ruea, the center offers a 7-day meditation retreat. You can also do a 3-day meditation retreat in Phu Wanalee at Khao Yai, one of Thailand’s largest national parks, or a 1-day retreat at their Phuket Meditation Center.
There are many more places to learn Buddhist mediation in Thailand. If you want to just take one or two classes, Section Five at Wat Mahadhatu in Bangkok is an excellent place to start, as is the Young Buddhists Association of Thailand in Bangkok.
Before you sign up for any course, do a little bit of research to make sure they’re offering the type of meditation courses you’re interested in, and then take the plunge. You’ll come out feeling much more relaxed and calm, and able to deal with the stresses of normal daily life so much better.