Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery




Yesterday I wrote about becoming reacquainted with the Monk of the forest monastery. Today I will be writing of our visit to him.

After our visit to Ban Huaysuatao, we drove over to the Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery.  The Monastery is located 37 km from Maehongson on Highway 1095 headed towards Pai.  The village where the monastery is located is called Mae Suya.  Although 37 km is not that long of a distance, travel to the monastery takes longer than expected due to the many curves and elevation changes along Highway 1095.

With Highway 1095 In the Background, Yong Boy Does Flip
The side road off of Highway 1095 leading the 1 km to the monastery is well marked with a large sign for the monastery as well as many yellow Buddhist flags.  At the intersection there is also a small bridge crossing a stream.  In 2009, I photographed young boys enjoying themselves in a pool of water created by a sandbag dam at the bridge.



This visit, there were no boys enjoying a swim on a hot April afternoon in Maehongson Province.  There was no deep pool of water to dive, flip, or even to swim in.  The sand bag dam had been removed and was in the process of being rebuilt.

We drove the narrow lane back to Monastery and parked the truck on the flat grass tract of land next to the entrance of the facility.   We had arrived at 4:15 P.M. so the people staying at the monastery were busy cleaning the area.  Men and women dressed in the white modest loose fitting clothing of Thai mediators were busy sweeping the grounds and facilities with brooms.

In the dining area, Thai people were making preparations to serve tea at 5:00 P.M.

In a pavilion located between the parking area and the entrance to the facilities, local people were being paid their weekly wages in cash with entries and acknowledgements being written in a bound accounting ledger.

We asked around regarding the location of the Abbott and were told that he was not expected back until 6:00 P.M. for evening chanting and meditation.  This was of some concern to me because the sun was getting low and we were also leaving the next morning at 4:00 A.M. to drive all the way back home.  Duang was also concerned.  I told Duang that we would wait until 5:00 P.M. and if the Monk had not returned by then we would return to Maehongson with what little light remained.  I had no sooner said this when we became aware of some commotion at the entrance to the facility - it was the Monk and his superiors from Bangkok.

The Monk invited Duang and I to accompany him on his afternoon rounds of the facility.  I walked beside Ajahn Luongta Saiyut and Duang followed a few steps behind.  In the late afternoon light we toured the facilities that are nestled between tall craggy limestone hills on three sides.  The grounds are park like in nature - many trees, shrubs, flowers accentuating the lush green grounds.  The air was only interrupted by the sounds of birds and insects - a definite refuge from the onslaught to the senses that modern life presents.

Sprinkled about the grounds were small wooden huts where the guests stay.  A small stream divided the grounds into an area where the guests reside as well as study and the area where the Monks live.  On our tour of the area, the Abbott made a point to greet each of the guests who were busy cleaning their hut or the grounds.  All the guests seemed happy and relaxed.  Everyone was smiling and the smiles were not smiles that tend to make me uncomfortable.  Last year people from 109 countries visited the forest monastery.

When we arrived at one of the huts, the Abbott had one of his Thai helpers go in and come out with the special amulets that Ajahn Luongta Saiyut wanted to give us.  We knelt on the ground facing the Abbott as he faced a tall craggy limestone hill and chanted before placing the amulet around my neck and then repeated the process for Duang. I attempted to make an offering to the Monk but he politely declined.  The Monk excused himself to go prepare for the evening's activities but not before making sure that we were advised to walk a little further to visit the fish pond.

Duang and I walked a little ways further to the fish pond. As we walked along the edge of the pond, fish of various sizes would surface as if expecting to be fed.  At one end of the small pond was a covered bench where a young Monk and three local Novice Monks were seated.  We stopped and socialized for a while before making our way to a pavilion where Duang worshiped.  We then made our way back to the truck but not before encountering Ajahn Luongta Saiyut (AKA "Luang Ta") and his guests from Bangkok.  They wished us a safe journey and good luck.

Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery is a place for meditation, refuge and self discovery.  At the monastery, people are taught meditation methods with "Vipassana" (Mindfulness on Breathing) being the focused practice.  Two vegetarian meals are served each day with tea, coffee, juice or milk served in place of dinner.

Participants at the monastery are asked to observe 5 Buddhist precepts - refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, drug abuse, and no smoking.  Men and women have separate housing and people are expected keep their hut clean, help out in the kitchen, and clean up after themselves.

The monastery is operated through donations.  There is no charge for staying at the monastery for the public who seek to learn practices of spirituality however the sacred grounds are not a hotel or resort.

Ajahn Luongta Saiyut is a remarkable man.  He is very outgoing and personable.  He speaks impeccable English and in addition to Thai he also speaks Burmese, Lao, and Chinese. He founded Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery.  He has been a forest monk for over 38 years and spent over 17 years as a wandering Buddhist monk.  Based upon our visits with him, I have no doubt that he is an inspiring as well as an effective teacher.  His phone numbers are +66 (8) 1031 3326, +66 (8) 7982 1168

Even if you do not want to study meditation, I suggest a visit to Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery - if for no other reasons than to experience the peaceful surroundings for an hour or two along with an opportunity to meet as well as to speak with Luang Ta.

13 comments:

  1. hello, I came across your blog and this article as I was searching for information about Wat Pa Tam Wua. That monastery was pretty hard to pin down to a map but I think I finally got it! What I wanted to ask is: do you know what is the best way to travel there? Also, is it safe for a woman to be traveling alone in that general area?
    Thanks for your time, it will be my first visit to Thailand this September and I need all the help I can get. :)

    Mary

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    Replies
    1. Mary - I assume that you will be flying to Bangkok. From Bangkok you can fly to Chiang Mai. From Chang Mai you can fly to Maehongson. You can also take a bus from Chang Mai to Maehongson and have them stop at the road that goes to Wat Pa Tam Wua. It is not a very long walk from the main road to the monestary. You can also take a bus from Maehongson heading to Chang Mai and get off at the intersection going to the monestary. This area is as safe as you will find in Thailand. As in any place, you should keep your wits about you, stay alert, listen to your inner self and avoid doing foolish things. The people are friendly and nice but it takes only one exception to ruin a tip. I would suggest that you call Ajahn Luongta Saiyut to perhaps get more specific information. September is still our rainy season so road and flying conditions could be variable.

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  2. hi Allen, thanks for the tips, it seems a bit difficult to get there and back but I have a feeling it will be worth it!

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary - Transportation here in Thailand is no way near as expensive or difficult as in the USA or Canada. Taxis for Westerners are affordable. There are pickup trucks with two benches in the back (songtaew?) that run on set routes. You flag them down, climb aboard in the back, ring a buzzer when you want to get off and pay the driver as you leave. Songtaew are cheap. I ived for 18 months without a vehicle here, making use of public transportation. People will help you find the right number of the songtaew to get you to your destination or destination along your way (you may have to take several to get from point A to point B. Good luck and best wishes!

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  3. Hello Allen,
    I am thinking about going to the monastery to do some meditation. Is this the same monastery? http://livingatamonastery.weebly.com/how-to-reach.html

    Do you know if some of the monks speak english?

    ReplyDelete
  4. person4 - Yes the blogger is writing about the same monastery. I do not now how many Monks speak English but I know for a fact that th Abbot speaks excellent English. In my two short visits to the monastery I did not see where English communication is a problem. There were many American and Australian students there. I spoke with some Monks and their English was acceptable. Now is a good time to go. The rainy season is over and it is cooler. In March and April it will be much warmer.

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  5. Thanks for your write up Allen. I'm a "serious meditator" as in I like to do 1-2 month retreats In monasteries. wat tam wua looks great and i have 7 weeks left on my visa to meditate, my only concern is that there'll be heaps of bustly western tourists there that may distract me. Is that the case? Sorry if my msg comes off as pretentious :p

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  6. I have visited the monastery twice and did not pick up on "western tourists" being an issue there. I saw some westerners but they seemed to be serious people rather than tourists. The ones that I observed were quietly cleaning the grounds or helping to prepare food. I am not a meditator but this place appeared to be a great location and managed place for that type of activity.

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  7. Hey!

    Thanks for the Blog!

    Could you help me find who to e-mail in order to know if there is space for me to travel to Wat Tam Wua during the time I have free to meditate this upcoming February?

    Anything helps! Thanks a mucho :)

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  8. Did the Abbott's phone numbers not work? His phone numbers are +66 (8) 1031 3326, +66 (8) 7982 1168 Some other sites say that registration is not necessary - just show up before 17:00. I do not have an email address.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hello,
    If I were a beginner with 3 days to meditate, can I come in and learn meditation?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have no idea. I suggest that you contact the Monastery directly

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Allen A Hale- Thank you, wishing you equanimity.

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