Dec 12, 2018 - Jan 1, 2019
20 Days of Monastic Life at Wat Pa Tam Wua
Goodbye and Thank You
Location: Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery, Mae Hong Son, Thailand
20 days of monastic life can be surreal to most people - a daily routine of meditation, Dhamma talks by Buddhist monks, 2 vegetarian meals/day, confinement within the monastic grounds and internalization of all the lessons, teachings and practice. After all that immersion, what exactly did I come away with?
Web Development for Wat Pa Tam Wua
This is very uncanny. Around my 4th day at the monastery, I told Attila that I wanted to give back something to the center but didn't have money, so I offered my web services. As fate would have it, they were already on crisis-mode about their website situation. Apparently, their current web designer has gone rogue. Mr. Pong even went up the mountain to meditate to Quan Yin about their web crisis. Lo and behold, within 24 hours, I came knocking on their door offering to make their website.
This just confirms to me that my being here wasn't coincidence. It's almost like an unseen hand was guiding me here. 2 days before my Vietnamese visa expiry, I had no idea where to go. I didn't even know Wat Pa Tam Wua existed. Then Sasha, a Russian tea master, talked about his experience at the monastery. It resonated so I penciled-in the monastery to be my next destination. I'm just glad that my universe has once again steered my path to answer a call.
New Website (new domain name too): https://www.wattamwua.com
20 days of doing the practice and 20 days of watching the monks do the repetitive rituals in their practice. I also had 20 days of thinking this through. Would I give up my here-and-now and devote the rest of my life in pursuit of enlightenment through isolation, extreme penitence, extreme abstinence and extreme penance? To top it all, all that sacrifice doesn't guarantee anything. It may take several lifetimes of this devotion at this extreme level to achieve that. What exactly is enlightenment to be worth all that sacrifice for? Even if enlightenment is all that good, my argument is, what exactly is so wrong with the present moment that makes enlightenment so attractive? The compelling reason they all give is enlightenment is a stop of rebirth, a stop to suffering through craving and aversion. Huh? What's so bad about being reborn? What's so bad about experiencing indulgence? What's so bad about ageing? I do not find that suffering. Getting old, dying, experiencing the loss of a loved one...that is a part and parcel of a process called LIFE! What's wrong with that? Sorry, I don't get it. It would seem to me that anyone who pursues that path is the one choosing to suffer instead. If you have your health, you eat 3x/day, a roof over your head, have friends, family who look after your well being, then what are you suffering from?
The Middle Path
I am very comfortable walking the middle way approach - exactly how Buddha explained it. I would do my Vipassana once every 6 months to stay on the rail, deepen my practice and regain perspective. But I won't isolate myself in a cave or temple. I would go out into the default world and live life while applying what I've gleaned from all that pursuit of Dhamma. I would be the catalyst for all the positive changes I want to see in me, in society and on the planet from a position of power and strength - a warrior of light. One foot in the divine world and the other foot on solid ground.
This is exactly how I have lived my life in the past 6 years and I have never proven that way to be wrong. Never. I remain healthy, of sound mind and spirit, connected to default reality while staying within the fringe of society. Even without money, property, an address or stable job, I have never missed a meal or slept on a sidewalk. Instead, I find myself in the right place at the right time meeting magnificent lives I need to meet, get doors flung open for opportunities to manifest my desires and live a life of travel. If I am doing the wrong thing, I would be dead by now. But I am alive and kicking. This is how my benevolent universe validates the choices I've made. Until proven wrong, this is the way I will continue to be doing things.
Having said all that, I wish to make it clear that I am not being arrogant or ungrateful to this monastic retreat. I am profoundly thankful and humbled by their generosity, hospitality and accommodation.
My experience within the hallowed ground of this monastery exceeded all expectations. Having done the 'hard core' Goenka courses 9 times, I thought this would be a breeze. Yes, it was a breeze but in a profound, intense and delightful way. The open interaction allowed friendships to form and deepen. Introduction of new concepts (The Knower, Samatha) allows me to navigate through the byzantine maze with a blueprint.
20 days of monastic retreat here at Wat Pa Tam Wua was pure bliss. People come and they leave with a sense of peace knowing a little more about themselves and the hidden realities peeled away for them. No wonder other monks from different temples and monasteries come here to study the program - maybe they emulate the system. Maybe monastic retreats become an emergent trend.
I've met so many wonderful souls who now become part of my sacred space - my sangha. Together, we make up this swelling tide of like-minded individuals who will hopefully tip the scales of consciousness when critical mass is met.
The approach to Vipassana by this tradition is such an ideal beginning for anyone who wishes to start a meditation practice - very light-handed to ease the transition. Other traditions can take them deeper into the practice.
I am forever grateful to the monks and the staff of this wonderful space. Their generosity and kindness breach many walls. In my parting words to Mr. Pong, my relationship to this place is for life - I am an email away when needed. Thank you Wat Pa Tam Wua 🙏 🙏 🙏
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stunning pictures by Attila Mag
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Next stop: Overnight in Pai with Mike
Mae Hong Son (city), Thailand
Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery Blogs
- 20 Days of Monastic Life at Wat Pa Tam Wua...Goodbye and Thank You Dec 12, 2018 - Jan 1, 2019
- Peoplescape at the Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery Dec 12 - Jan , 2019
- Arahattamagga Arahattaphala - the path to Aranhantship Dec 30, 2018
- Goenka and the Theravada Forest Monastery Vipassana Traditions Dec 25, 2018
- The Knower Dec 24, 2018
- 10-Day Meditation at Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery Dec 9, 2018
Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery Information
Bangkok to Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery by Bus
- go to Mo Chit Bus Terminal near Chatuchak. Bus #509, #9 and #157 go there
- at the ground level, go to Ticket Counter #13, #14 or #15 - Sombat Tour counter
- schedule and pay for your bus ticket
1 Destination/Origin: Mae Sariang. Take the bus that passes through Chiang Mai/Pai.
- upon boarding, explain to the driver to drop you off Wat Tam Wua Monastery, otherwise, you might end up in Mae Hong Son town which is 30 minutes further out. Best to show him a written instruction in Thai.
- from the main road, it's a one kilometer walk to the monastery
FYI / Tips
- even though the Wat Pa Tam Wua website states that you need the abbott's permission to stay, you can just go straight there without any prior booking or registration.
- accommodation, food (no dinner), blankets, pillow, white shirts/pants and floor mattress will be provided at no charge. Donations are accepted.
- BEWARE: by the entrance to the monastic compound is a convenience store. It is not run by the monastery. The vendor offers Mae Hong Son/Pai tours without any quotation and charges exorbitant fees in the end. He also tells people that part of the fee goes to the monastery - this is not true. He has been reprimanded already but still, he continues his shady business.
- floor mattress on hard bed provides no cushioning. If this is a problem to get good sleep, you can bring an inflatable camping mattress (usually 1-inch cushioning and not too bulky to bring)
About Mae Hong Son
FYI / Tips
- Mae Hong Son Airport has flights to Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Mae Sot, Hanoi (Vietnam), Laos (Luang Prabang, Mandalay, Naypaytiaw, Vientiane) and Yangon (Myanmar)
Travel Tips for Thailand
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
- Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
- After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
- NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
- bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
- submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
- when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
- when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
- when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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