Chom Tong Insight Meditation Center
Chom Tong Insight Meditation Center (Chaing Mai, Thailand)
- Name of Center: Chom Tong Insight Meditation Center
- Address and Directions: Tambon Ban Luang, Amper Chom Tong, Chiang Mai 50160 (60 km South-West of Chiang Mai city). The easiest way to get there from Chiang Mai city is either by blue bus from South (Chiang Mai) Gate or Chiang Peuak bus station or a yellow songtaew (also from Chiang Mai Gate). Buses go directly from NE bus terminal, Bangkok, to Chom Tong Meditation Center every evening.
- Contact Information for Reservations: Please make reservations as the temple is sometimes full. Best to arrive in the afternoon from 1:00-3:00pm as the office is closed for lunch and you will have to wait until it reopens. The email address for reservations is firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tradition(s): Theravada
- Technique(s): Satipatthana Vipassana (Insight Meditation based on the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness) in the tradition of Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching. Equal parts walking and sitting meditation with mindfulness/awareness using mental noting. Temple emphasizes developing momentary concentration paired with mindfulness. New instructions on most days of practice. This is a difficult retreat by most meditators standards. "Goenka is a vacation compared to this" was one yogi’s comment recently.
- Teacher(s): Achan Tong, the Abott of the temple and widely regarded as the greatest Vipassana master in Thailand, still gives basic instructions and teaches at various times of the year (with the help of a translator). He has kindly set up an International section at the temple so that meditators can receive teachings in English. The head of the International section is Thanat Chindaporn (Thai). He is supported by Kate Chindaporn (American), his wife. Thanat and Kate each have over 20 years experience teaching Ajahn Tong's method to international students. Thanat and Kate are supported by many experienced teachers from from Canada, USA, Germany, and South Africa.
- Cost: By donation.
- Accommodations: Each meditator is provided with an individual hut or kuti. The kutis have wood or tile floors, screens, a fan, western toilet, running water, showers. White clothes, blankets a pillow and a mattress are provided by the temple.
- Facilities: Wat Phradhatu Sri Chom Tong Voravihara is a Royal Historic Treasure, and contains the Holy Dakkhinamoli Buddha Relic; legend has it that the Lord Buddha came to teach the people on the hill near the monastery. Special ceremonies are held at different times during the year to wash the relics. The temple is spread out over 20 acres, rapidly expanding into surrounding rice fields. Parts of the temple are quiet and tree covered, other parts can be noisy at times. There are several meditation halls, one specifically for Western students, and new facilities exclusively for Western students
- Size: 100 or more Thai meditators and 8-10 Western students on average.
- Physical Setting: The retreat center is in Chom Tong, a medium size Thai village at the base of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. The surrounding town has many Western conveniences, market, internet shops, 7-11 for meditators to buy supplies or make travel arrangements on the way into or out of the temple.
- Food (Vegetarian/Vegan/etc.): There are two meals a day, breakfast and lunch. Food is served cafeteria style and is usually traditional Thai food. Breakfast is usually a soup or noodle dish. Both vegetarian and meat meals are available for breakfast and lunch. Meditators can take any type of liquid after noon (juice, milk, honey, yogurt etc.). For special dietary needs, help can be sought by the foreign department, and generally soy milk is offered as a gift in the evening.
- Retreat Length(s): The Basic Course is around 21 days. Subsequent retreats are for the standard 10 days.
- Typical Schedule: Wake up at 4:00am go to sleep at 10:00pm. There is very little group meditation. Meditators are expected to observe the eight precepts, meditate throughout the day and report to their teacher every day. Teachers may suggest more or less time meditating depending on the meditators conditions.
- Issues of Rites/Rituals: Respect and adherence to Thai cultural values. Showing respect to Ajahn Tong if seen in the temple or on the grounds. Prostrating while entering and leaving the temple, and while reporting to monks. Opening and closing ceremonies to take 8 precepts on entering and 5 precepts on leaving.
- Issues of Proper Dress: Loose white clothes, long pants, minimum revealed skin and sandals/flip flops. Clothes are available in the village or from the temple.
- Issues of Etiquette: Theravada based etiquette as well as respect for Thai cultural norms. Meditators are expected to follow the 8-precepts. There is no noble silence but as little speech as possible is emphasized. Suggestions are made to get the most out of the practice but in the middle way with loving kindness. Meditators may be asked to leave if it appears they are not serious about their practice or are going against teachers' suggestions repeatedly.
- Issues of Language: Courses are taught in Thai or English, there are also basic instructions printed in other European languages, and frequently foreign assistant teachers, monks, or nuns who speak multiple languages if needed.
- Openness of Discussion: While on retreat meditators must report at least once a day to their teacher but the teacher is available for additional consultation to support their practice. The meditation practice itself is regarded as the real teacher and reporting usually revolves around technique of walking and sitting meditation and the conditions that arise from the practice. The Thai teachers are usually more strict and structured and discussion is purely about conditions of the practice.
- Conduciveness to Practice: A good environment for serious meditators with discipline. Practice in the meditation halls or on your own in your house.
- Openness about Hardcore Practice: Depends on the instructors. Serious students are welcome to stay as long as space is available, after a few retreats and as rapport grows with instructors, there are more opportunities for discussion.
- Issues of Taboos around attainment, real practice, disclosing insights, etc.: No specific taboos but teachers ask meditators not to discuss their meditations conditions with each other as this often leads to comparing, doubt and confusion. Students usually ignore this suggestion. Students are encouraged to discuss everything that arises during their meditation with their teacher.
- Health Issues: Vipassana in general and this type of intensive practice can exacerbate underlying and existing medical and psychological conditions. Anyone suffering from either medical or psychological conditions would be better off with a more Western centered facility and method of meditation.
- Problems?: The most common challenge is students coming with expectations of achieving something other than insight i.e. wanting to learn to relax or switch off, or learn Buddhism. Other challenges are attachment to concentration and therefore difficulty adapting to mindlfulness/awareness. The temple is quite big and noisy, with more than 100 monks/novices and 80 nuns plus a majority of Thai meditors, so meditators who dream of quiet, peaceful meditation center are quickly in for a rude reality shock. Effort, plus a good sense of humor and "I don't know attitude" are useful.