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MBMC vs. Doi Suthep / Chom Tong

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MBMC vs. Doi Suthep / Chom Tong
Answer
5/30/19 4:50 PM
Hello all -

First time poster here, hoping for some retreat center advice. Quick background on my practice.

29 y/o male
Past Retreats (all generally in the Theravadan tradition at centers such as Spirit Rock MC)
a) 28 days x 1
b) 9 days x 2
c) 5 days x 2
d) Various long weekends and day-longs

I'm hoping to practice for 4-6 weeks in Asia on short notice, specifically in the Mahasi tradition. This would begin in middle to late June. I applied to various centers, and just received word back from MBMC as well as Doi Suthep outside of Chiang Mai. Doi Suthep confirmed me for 3 full weeks, while MBMC only approved me for 10 days and a longer stay provisional on the teacher's review. I'm ruling out Burma on account of the entry visa sponsorship requirements, at least for this trip.

Has anyone been to MBMC recently? Some folks seem to think it's closed, though clearly on account of their responding it's not. Also, I would be a little worried traveling all the way out to Malaysia only to be turned away after 10 days. Doi Suthep seems to have a great reputation and the 21 day entry course seems like a great starting point, potentialy extending another 13 days depending on how it goes.

If anyone has more insight on MBMC, recent experience at Doi Suthep, or other suggestions for Mahasi centers I could visit on short notice that would be great. My attempts to find something more local (i.e. in North America) were unsuccessful, unless I want to practice in an environment that is entirely self-lead with periodic teacher check ins.

Thanks!

RE: MBMC vs. Doi Suthep / Chom Tong
Answer
5/30/19 6:09 PM as a reply to Elliott A.
Hi Elliott

Check out this website by one of this forum’s users which lists retreat centres in Asia:

https://placestomeditate.wordpress.com/

It also has a page on the Myanmar visa, which is easy to obtain. And if you’re going there for less than 28 days, you don’t need a meditation visa and can get the 28-day tourist visa online anytime you want. Easy! Plenty of Mahasi-based places there. Check out the Mahasi Centre in Yangon, and the Panditarama forest centre as well as their city centre. All details on the above website. 

All the best!

RE: MBMC vs. Doi Suthep / Chom Tong
Answer
6/11/19 8:53 PM as a reply to Elliott A.
I spent a little over 30 days at MBMC about a year ago. My background seems pretty similar to you though I had a bit less experience; I'd done two 10-day retreats. At that point I'd learned mostly from reading western books: TMI, MCTB, Joseph Goldstein, and many other books listed at http://www.10percenthappier.com/reading, as well as listening to podcasts (10% Happier, BuddhistGeeks, Sam Harris). I become aware of MBMC from Daniel's recommendation in MCTB.

> Also, I would be a little worried traveling all the way out to Malaysia only to be turned away after 10 days.
I had this concern as well but I don't think it's likely. As long as you are presentable and a serious practitioner, I can't imagine they would turn you away. Several folks who seemed less serious than I'd expect seemed to have no trouble. I've not been here but there's https://placestomeditate.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/buddhist-hermitage-lunas/ as a backup.

Here's a potted summary:

Prior to visiting, I read (I think D. Ingram) said that the teachers can change and the quality varies. I couldn't find further information so I was in the dark on this point. Upon visiting, my sense was that the Sayadaw listed on the website stably runs things (though he travels a bit). This was my first experience with a Burmese style retreat with interview so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Without more experience, it's hard to know what's normal here but I must say, I didn't find the interactions with the Sayadaw very helpful. I felt like I was making progress based on everything I'd read and heard up to that point (I was having intense, novel experiences) but when I shared this in the interview he didn't seem very receptive and kept things pretty short. He seemed fixated on asking me if there was still pain. I tried to explain that sometimes there was, sometimes there wasn't and other times it seemed to break down when examined more closely but he didn't really engage with any of that; he said that I shouldn't be feeling any pain after day X and proceeded to question if I was really following the schedule and practicing (I was). This was frustrating. It sparked doubt in my practice but I knew firsthand that I was having experiences I'd not previously had that linked up remarkably with what I'd read about. I didn't have anyone else to confer with so I don't know if I'm an especially stubborn yogi in this respect.

I remain a bit skeptical of relying on teachers at least in the sense that someone's third person view could be more reliable than the first person view, but I'm open to the possibility that the issue stems from my end. It seems to me ultimately a matter of having the right information and putting in the practice; communicating what is essentially nonconceptual experience seems rife for confusion and miscommunication, especially when adding cultural and language complexities.

Even though I had difficulties, I have no doubt that I made valuable progress so I'd still recommend MBMC if you're looking to practice in Asia. Overall it was good; surely things could get much worse and I want to make sure this doesn't come off the wrong way, so to be clear: I very much appreciated the opportunity and am grateful for the generosity of everyone at MBMC. Again, I'm fairly new to intensive retreat so take what I say with a grain of salt.