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Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand

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Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/21/14 7:21 AM
I sat a 10-day retreat at Wat Kow Tahm on Koh Pangang, Thailand this summer, and had a very positive experience, so figured I'd do a write up for others that may be in South East Asia and thinking of doing a retreat.

Koh Pangang is a funny island in that it both has the extreme of the "bucket boys" Full Moon Party culture, and then also a lot of yoga centers and spiritual seekers (guess it's one of those Dark Night Yogi magnets).

In that vein Steve and Rosemary Weissman started a meditation center at Wat Kow Tahm monestary over 25 years ago. Since 2013 the teaching has been taken over by a Anthony, a (relatiavely) young Australian former monk of 11 years. Anthony has extensive deep practice experience both with Pa Auk, U Pandita, U Tejaniya and several Thai teachers, although his own teaching could be broadly labeled as Satipattana based. He is definitely a sutta guy, to the point of almost denying that there is any need to read any other other books, even the standard commentaries, than simply a collection of relevant suttas to make progress on the path. He does know the Progress of Insight stages intimatily (a seven month retreat at Panditarama back to back from a seven month retreat with with his teacher in thailand will breed that kind of familiarity I suppose), although he doesn't explicitly teaches them during the retreat. 

His teachings are definitely the opposite of 'mushroom' culture, although perhaps a bit too technical for some of the people that have signed up for their first meditation experience. For me however, I had never heard the techniques and the path explained so clearly and straightforwardly in my life, and that includes hunderds of hour of listening to online dharma talks as well as MCTB. 

When he talks about no-self teachings, it is clear that even finds it hard to fathom that some of us still believe that we are a self. 

In sum: highly recommended. 

The retreats run from the 10th to the 20th every month. 

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/21/14 3:48 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
That sounds awesome, and I've had recommendations about it before. Is there a website? Sound perfect to me since I'm a wannabe sutta geek.
By the way. what is the prize? It says no where on the site it seems...

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/21/14 4:06 PM as a reply to Pål.
The website is at http://nunamornpun-kohphangan.com/

The 'prize' is having a shot at enlightenment I guess emoticon

The 'price' though is free: it's completely donation based.

(it's run by volunteers who pitch in during the retreats, and Anthony is basically just running down his savings as he refuses to ask for teacher dana) 

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/22/14 3:02 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
Thanks for the review! I am quite sold on this retreat (will look more into it on the website), if you have the time could you please fill out the Retreat Review template for others to get more info about your overall experience there?
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/Retreat+Center+Review+Template

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/22/14 12:33 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
Ok cool, how much do people usually donate?

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/22/14 3:17 PM as a reply to Pål.
Well, people donate how much as they can spare and as much as they value the practice I guess. You don't announce it to anybody, you just put it in a bin. Bill Gates might give a million, a poor peasant a few cups of rice. The amazing thing is that this whole buddhist tradition has been built for two and a half millenia on dana and generosity. So you have all those people that have given in the past 2500 years to thank for passing the teaching on to you, now you have the chance to take your turn. In general I think it is a good idea to give enough that it hurts just a little, that's when you know you're actually practicing and stretching your capacity of generosity. So whatever you usually spend daily during your holidays plus a bit extra might be a good guideline. If you can spare more, give more, so that other's that can afford less can still receive the teachings.

At Wat Kow Tahm they actually had the most understated 'dana talk' of any retreat that I've been to. Anthony seemed really uncomfortable even mentioning the possibility to donate. I guess that's wat monkhood does to you emoticon

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/22/14 5:08 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
Got to go there sometime. Do you have to follow 8 precepts? This not eating, not sleeping thing is one thing that kind of scares me off most retreats now I think. Could I go there, and if dinner isn't served, like bring some protein shakes? How upset will they get? 

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/22/14 5:20 PM as a reply to Pål.
Yes, you follow the eight precepts, which mainly just implies that you don't eat after midday. But you will see that your body really doesn't need to - you're not lifting weights all day, just sitting, walking, sitting, walking.The food is actually delicious, which makes it tempting to fill up, but that will just mess up your meditation afterwards.

The beds are not too luxurious, but I slept more than fine! 

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/22/14 5:32 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
How could eating mess up meditation? 

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/23/14 4:06 AM as a reply to Pål.
If you eat to much you get sleepy and stomache ache emoticon

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/23/14 8:52 AM as a reply to Andreas.
The Buddha gave us tools for how to handle sleepiness in the Ahara sutta, and if we get stomache ache, then why not just be mindfull of the pain?

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/24/14 3:32 AM as a reply to Pål.
Yes, there are skillfull means of dealing with hindrances such as drowsiness that have arisen - standing up, opening your eyes, pulling your earlobes, taking a nap, etc.

But the even more skillful thing to do is to prevent them from arising in the first place. That's one of the (main?) reasons that we keep the precepts. 

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/24/14 6:21 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
thanks a million for this.  i had looked at this possibilty in its old form and had heard much about the former couple.  i would love to do this retreat but wonder how much that desire is just the desire to be in thailand again.

great work!

tom

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/25/14 3:08 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
But still, with the eight precepts, I could bring protein shakes to drink as a light dinner, right? That's not eating emoticon

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/25/14 3:41 PM as a reply to Pål.
Perhaps you could, but why would you? (unless you have a medical condition).

I find that it generally works best with retreat to simply "surrender to the form". Especially beginning meditators can spend the first couple of days disagreeing about the schedule, the food, the teacher, the retreat manager, the cleanliness, the noise, other retreatants, etc, etc, etc. Only when they finally drop all this can the retreat really start. Thus the quicker you drop this resistance and papance, the faster your retreat can start. 

Making a strong resolution to fully surrender to the form (even if you do believe that it may not be the most optimal perfect form that you will choose yourself when you open your own retreat center) will be very beneficial to your practice.

In addition to that, you can't keep food in your room (jungle animals like it as well), and you make it more difficult for other retreatants to stick to the precepts when you break them in front of them. 

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/27/14 4:18 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
Yes but I'm not breaking the precepts, right? They don't say anything about drinking at the wrong time as far as I know. So I guess I'm not breaking the form.
I'l have to keep the protein powder well stored to protect it then I guess.
Why? Because (do not take this personally) I think not building or trying to maintain muscle and strength while normally having an ordinary western life style, is pretty stupid. If you don't, your back and knees are going to hate you when you get old. Yeah I know, 3C and stuff...

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/27/14 8:26 PM as a reply to Pål.
Restricting food intake has been a part of spiritual practice for literally tens of thousnds of years. In most (all?) indigenous cultures, shamans fasted before doing any kind of spiritual work, even if that only meant skipping dinner. Bear in mind that this was typically done in hunter-gatherer cultures where a day's meal was never really guaranteed, so it was a pretty big deal. 

And of course, the act of restricting food intake in spiritual practice has continued as societies have grown more complex and more sophisticated technologies such as insight meditation have emerged.

So, please, just try skipping dinner per the retreat guidelines. Give yourself a week to get used to it.

If you have concerns for maintaining your bodily health, I think you may be underestimating how powerful meditation can be. It's almost as if it's nourishing in and of itself. There is certainly no shortage of anecdotes regarding monks and nuns of various going days without sleep, eating a ridiculously small amount of food, melting snow with their body heat, and other tales of meditative power. Of course, you need to use common sense. If you go without eating things can get really crazy. Try to eat at least a small amount of food if you ever find yourself skipping meals because you're so blissed out, or whatever...

RE: Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Pangang, Thailand
Answer
12/28/14 5:22 AM as a reply to Eric M W.
Yes I've noticed this stuff generates energy, even with the small amount of practice I do, although I haven't learned channeling it into heat or nourishment yet. And also, the better I am at keeping strict brahmacharya, the more energy there is during meditation haha
but even though it might nourish the body for some time I doubt it provided enough protein, vitamins or minerals. And believe me, eating only breakfast and lunch+a protein shake will really be fasting to me, I normally eat like 5-6 big meals a day. 
But ok, if drinking bcaa or something like that after noon is breaking the eight precepts then maybe I could take it first thing in the morning instead, like an extra breakfast emoticon