Location:Thai Plum Village 174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong (district), Nakhon Ratchasima (province), Thailand
The Little Voice Before heading out to Thailand to teach English and consequently immerse myself in the Buddhist practices of Plum Village in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, there was a little voice in my head saying I didn't need any more immersion on any other spiritual pursuit, as Vipassana already provides all the answers to all my questions. With Vipassana, my spiritual needs are satiated.
The Louder Voice There is also a louder voice in my head saying that I have nothing to lose by learning something new. Master Thich Nhat Hanh has helped many lives with his system. His monastic order is relatively young (since 1982), but in that brief time frame, it has already spread globally. There must be a compelling merit to all this.
Vipassana Background I began my Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course back in 2009 and have since taken 7 courses altogether, 3 sits and 4 serves in two countries (serve means volunteering to provide the logistical support [kitchen helper] for the meditation sitters while still actively participating in all group sits). Vipassana has many traditions too, but I have taken that of S.N. Goenka. Without going into the mechanics, Vipassana has been transformational in empowering me to realize that everything I need for my self-realization already resides within. This is a broad and sweeping paradigm that has enabled me to architecture my life from a position of power and control. I create my own life templates compliant to my uniqueness instead letting society, government or religion take control and make decisions for me.
Plum Village Background To be honest, I only heard about Plum Village last Dec when I was invited to attend one their sits. I have not even read any of Thich Nhat Hanh's books. But from what I've glimpsed (yes, just a glimpse) so far here at the center in Thailand in the week I had been here, I begin to see the tip of the iceberg which have provided an indelible impression.
Mirror Image Coming from the lineage of Buddha, Plum Village tradition and Vipassana should be more similar than different. And indeed, as I immerse myself in Master Thich Nhat Hahn's tradition, the differences diminish everyday and I now see how similar they are. They are almost a reflection of each other. They both extoll the tenets of Buddhism. To say that they are 2 sides of the one coin would not even be accurate as that suggests they are different but complementary. Rather, my analogy is that both of them are the parallel rails of a train track - they mirror each other. Different tradition, different names, different teachers, but they run along parallel lines and the object remains the same - happiness by staying present. It's not really as over-simplistic as it sounds.
Similarities Both Plum Village tradition and Vipassana practice non-reaction to craving and aversion. They both emphasize non-attachment to everything - people, places, things, etc. Both subscribe to the impermanence of everything. Both take refuge in the breath to bring the self back to the present.
Plum Village Difference Plum Village tradition embraces the full spectrum of Buddhism, but with its own flavor. Vipassana only takes a part of Buddhism and makes it a stand-alone non-sectarian discipline, making the practice available to anyone of any faith. The difference between them is where they put emphasis or focus on the practice.
Plum Village is a Zen tradition focusing almost entirely on mindfulness in everything, 24/7. The practice is such that nearly every activity becomes a meditative ritual to avoid going into the auto-pilot habit pattern of the mind. The monks' movement is placid, their demeanor calm and gentle, keeping awareness in the here-and-now, as the clock ticks. They even have a timed reminder when a bell rings every 15 minutes where they stop whatever they're doing for a few seconds to remind themselves to be present and bring the mind and attention to the here-and-now. Even the chewing of food is a solemn meditative process.
Like Vipassana, they have their own version of meditating on body parts, but that seems to be a minor part of the practice. They call it Total Relaxation and is done for an hour, 4x a week (according to the retreat schedule given to me).
Vipassana Difference What Vipassana applied from Buddhism is the meditative technique of creating awareness on individual body parts, observing sensation without reacting to it - similar to Plum Village's Total Relaxation. But Vipassana dissects this process down to its core anatomy and makes for the entire practice where you can meditate for 11 hours a day for 10 days. The process is a deep surgery of the mind down to the root level to exorcise all the negativity. This process alone can take several lifetimes to master. Just like Plum Village, Vipassana practices mindfulness but not as hardcore as the Plum Village tradition.
Ending Thoughts Yes, they are two different traditions at the surface level but really parallel along its tenets as you go deeper in the practice. The difference is where they put their focus on. I am fortunate that by the time I leave Plum Village, I would be a student of 2 great teachers - Thich Nhat Hahn and S.N. Goenka. What a privilege to learn from these 2 masters!
Disclaimer: The above article is not official by any means...just my observation
Thai Plum Village International Practice Centre
with direction coming from Bangkok
GPS waypoint: 14°33'25.4"N 101°31'45.0"E
174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong District, NakornRatchasima, Thailand
How to Get to Plum Village from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport
You are encouraged to arrive at the Center Friday afternoon between 2-4 pm
Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok proper (Phaya Thai Station) there is already a direct train from the airport that goes all the way to Bangkok with a final stop at Phaya Thai. Upon airport arrival, go down to Basement and take the Airport Link train to Phaya Thai Station35 mins | Baht 45. Get off at Phaya Thai Station (the last stop) and walk (.8km) to the Phaya Thai BTS Station.
Phaya Thai Station (N2) - Mo Chit Station (N8) by BTS TRAIN board the BTS train heading to Mo Chit and get off there.
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Platform 6, public van at #78 this is a short walk. Go to Platform 6 and get on the public van at #78 offering Jamnong Tour.
IMPORTANT ! - make sure you make it clear to the driver that HIS van drops you off at Plum Village. Otherwise, they might finish the tour in Pak Chong proper. If this happens, you're still 45 minutes away from Plum Village which costs 500 Baht by cab! Best to copy/print/take a picture of the image below to show to the driver:
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Plum Village by VAN the trip all the way to Plum Village, Pak Chong costs Baht 500 and takes 3.5 to 4 hours. Take the 11am or 12 noon van to ensure you arrive at the center before 4pm.
How to Get to Pak Chong (Proper) from Bangkok by train
ignore this if you plan to go to Plum Village. Take the direction above instead
If you are arriving Bangkok and would like to proceed directly to Pak Chong without spending a night in Bangkok, best to take a plane that will land in Don Mueang Airport in time for the #71 Train (Bangkok to Si Sa Ket) to stop at the MRT Train Station, Bang Sue, which is only a short walk from the airport. Train schedule at Bang Sue Station: Fri 10:27am, arriving Pak Chong 1:30pm. Express aircon car (Baht 289), non aircon (Baht 198). Duration is 3 hours, stopping right in the heart of Pak Chong. From Pak Chong.
You can also take the train from the main terminal near the center of Bangkok at the MRT Station, Hua Lampong Railway Station. Departure, Friday 10:00am.
Plum Village Cost Index
(US$1 = Thailand Baht 35.77 = Php 47.52 as of Feb 28, 2016)
Baht 500 van from Victory Monument to Plum Village
Baht 289 Express train from Bang Sue MRT Station (Bangkok) to Pak Chong Train Station, aircon (non aircon, Baht 189)
Baht 500 taxi from Pak Chong to Plum Village (call this taxi number, Mr. Khun Paisan: 085 772.4519 for the trip to Plum Village)
Things to bring if staying overnight
not a requirement, but it helps if you bring clothing in the dark brown color in order to blend-in