Buddhism was introduced into Thailand from Sri Lanka, and currently nearly 95% of the population is Buddhist. Theravada is the predominent school, though beliefs are often mixed with folk religions. Mahayana Buddhism is also practiced in Thailand, though it is mostly confined to Thais of Chinese ancestry. Since the 1960s, many foreigners have trained at monasteries in Thailand, and while most have only stayed for a short time, many have also taken monastic ordination. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see farang(foreigners) monks at monasteries, especially those located in rural areas in the north and north-east of Thailand. Two famous Thai monks who have enjoyed influence overseas are Ajahn Chah and Buddhadasa Bikkhu.
Thais are pretty flexible by nature and so readily make allowances for foreigners who are not familiar with their customs. However, there are a few rules that should be observed when visiting a monastery:
- Never sit with the soles of your feet facing a Buddha image or a Buddhist monk. The feet are considered dirty, and so it is considered disrespectful to sit with them facing an object of respect.
- Women should never touch a Buddhist monk. If a female wishes to make an offering to a monk, she should place it on a table and allow the monk to retrieve from there.
- Do not climb on sacred objects and do not hug Buddha statues.
- Do not take photographs of meditating monks as this obviously disturbs their practice.
Below is a list of monasteries that offer meditation courses for non-Thai speakers. NB: This list serves only as a ‘pointer,’ and more detailed information is available on the city or province article where the temple is located.
TEMPLES THAT OFFER MULTI-DAY MEDITATION COURSES
Wat Prayong International Meditation Center, 22 Mu 4 Prachasamran RoadKlong 12, Nong Chok, Bangkok 10530 http://www.meditationthailand.com
Wat Chom Tong, Tambon Ban Luang, Amphoe Chom Tong (about 60 km south-west of the Chiang Mai)
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Ram Poeng, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang (4 miles south-west of the Chiang Mai)
Wat Pah Nanachat (WPN) The International Forest Monastery, Ban Bung Wai, Amper Warin (12 kms from Ubon Ratchathani). .
Suan Mokkh, Ampoe Chaiya, Surat Thani Province (50km north of Surat Thani)
Wat Sri Boen Ruang ,Fang (150 kms north of Chiang Mai) http://www.watsriboenruang.wordpress.com
TEMPLES THAT OFFER NON-RESIDENTIAL MEDITATION COURSES
Wat Prayong International Meditation Centre, Bangkok
Wat Umong, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang (3 and a half miles from Chiang Mai)
Wat Suan Dok, Th Suthep, Chiang Mai (1/2 a mile west of the Old City Moat)
The International Buddhist Meditation Centre, Bangkok
The World Fellowship of Buddhists, Bangkok.
DHARMA CENTERS WITH INSTRUCTION (RESIDENTIAL AND MULTI DAY COURSES)
Wat Prayong International Meditation Center, 22 Mu 4 Prachasamran Road, Klong 12, Nong Chok, Bangkok 10530 http://www.meditationthailand.com
Karuna Meditation Center, Phuket.(Karuna Meditation Center has been closed down in 2011)
Dharana Meditation and Retreat Center, Phuket.
POP House Retreat Center, Pathum Thani, Bangkok