Wat Suan Mokkh

by Dieter Baltruschat, last updated March 2003

no registration (but arrive on time)
Wat Suan Mokkh, Chaiya, Surat Thani 84110, Thailand
Internet: www.suanmokkh.org

Description: The “Garden of Liberation” is located about 640 km south of Bangkok, 50 km from Surat Thani (ferry to Ko Samui and Ko Phangan). Wooded area with hill and pond. The monks’ living quarters are strewn along paths through the wood. Larger common buildings include the spiritual theatre (art exhibitions), the Dhammaships (congregation halls) and the guest kitchen. Unfortunately, traffic noise from highway 41 can be heard.

Retreats are conducted in the fairly quiet retreat center about 1.5 km away. It accommodates up to 180 people. Palm trees and two hot springs can be found on the spacious grounds where you can stretch your legs during breaks.

How to get there: From Bangkok best take the train to Chaiya (not all trains stop!). The trip is about 12 hours. We recommend the 2nd class sleeper (take reservations!). From Chaiya take a Songthaew (shared taxi, about 10 Baht) for the 7 km to Wat Suan Mokkh. From Surat Thani or Phun Phin (train station) about 1 hour by bus (departs hourly, about 20 Baht). Absolutely arrive before dusk.

Tradition and Focus: Theravada, methods according to Ajahn Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Introduction to meditation and basics of Buddhism.

Meditation technique: Anapanasati (Mindfulness with Breathing) is practised during the entire retreat. Ajahn Buddhadasa does not strictly differentiate between Samatha and Vipassana meditation. Rather, he advocates the simultaneous development of mental tranquility and insight (the bird’s two wings). Anapanasati is taught in four steps: observation of the body (kaya), of feeling (vedana), the mind (citta) and the insight into the highest dhamma. These four observations are subdivided into four steps.

Teacher and guidance: Ajahn Poh is in his early seventies. He is highly experienced in meditation and in teaching Buddha-Dhamma. He heads the Wat following the tradition of famous Dhamma teacher Ajahn Buddhadasa. Teachings will be by Ajahn Poh, monks, or Western meditators. Teachers are not called teachers but Dhamma-friends. Personal questions can be addressed individually with Ajahn Poh or others.

Language(s): Teachings are in English. Thai-English needs getting used to and for a newcomer is often difficult to comprehend.

Course duration and dates: A 10-day retreat starts every first day of the month (ends the morning of the 11th). Since preregistration is not available you must arrive on time, that is, one day early at the latest (better two). Dormitory accommodation available. Registration on the last day of the month starting about 9 a.m.

Accommodation: Between and before retreats in the Wat Suan Mokkh dormitory. For men also in kutis in the forest. During retreats individual cells (womens‘ and mens‘ house) in the retreat center. Simple but clean toilets and laundry facilities. No showers, but mandis (water basin and plastic bowl). In the evening you have the possibility to take a bath in a hot spring. Men will need shorts (no bathing trunks), women a sarong (no bathing suits). You sleep on straw mats placed directly on concrete or wooden floors. If you consider this too hard, bring an insulation pad (Ridge-Rest or Therm-A-Rest are a little more costly, but quite comfortable). Mosquito nets and blankets can be borrowed. A light sleeping bag may be a good idea especially during the cooler season. Meditation pillows and pads are available. In “high season” (December to March) pillows may become scarce.

Shopping: Before the retreat you should buy a torch, shorts (for men), a sarong (cloth for wearing, covering, fending off mosqiitoes), flip-flops, water bottle, insect repellant and hygiene articles. You can buy these things in Chaiya. During the rainy season an umbrella is useful. Some hygiene articles and other daily necessities can be bought during the retreat.

Food: For breakfast there is rice soup and a hot drink. For lunch there is rice, two vegetarian dishes and sometimes fruit (self-service). Evenings: a hot drink. Potable water (rain water) is filtered and is safe for consumption. If you want to be sure, bring disinfectant.

Cost: A 10-day retreat is about 1200 Baht, outside retreat times dormitory accommodation and evening tea are for free. Breakfast and lunch vouchers are 30 Baht.

Medical care: Very good by Asian standards. The nearest hospital and pharmacies are in Chaiya. The area is not considered malaria area, but in other parts of Thailand malaria is common. Hygienic conditions in the Wat are good.

Rules: Participants commit themselves to remain for the entire retreat, to observe the schedule, to keep noble silence, not to read (except meditation instructions) and write, to suspend sexual activities and to observe the eight silas (eight moral precepts). Clothing should be comfortable, functional, and decent (no shorts or tank tops). Each participant is expected to take on a task serving the community (e.g. sweeping, filling up water) and to endeavor to lead a spiritual life.

Climate and best time to go: March, April (from april onwards very hot). Very crowded during main season from December to February and July/August. The rainy season in Southern Thailand is November/December.

Notes: A warm jacket can be useful during morning meditation. People with back problems should bring a good sleep pad. Books for the library are welcome. You can find more information and a short meditation instruction at www.suanmokkh.org. Very suitable for beginners, good conditions.

Daily schedule:
4:00 a.m.: morning bell
4:30 a.m.: morning reading
4:45 a.m.: sitting meditation
5:15 a.m.: exercise (f.i. Yoga)
7:00 a.m.: sitting meditation
8:00 a.m.: breakfast
10:00 a.m.: Dhamma talk
10:45 a.m.: walking meditation
11:15 a.m.: sitting meditation
12:00 a.m.: walking meditation
12:30 a.m.: lunch
2:30 p.m.: medit. instruction
3:30 p.m.: walking meditation
4:00 p.m.: sitting meditation
4:30 p.m.: walking meditation
5:00 p.m.: chanting
6:00 p.m.: tea
7:30 p.m.: Dhamma talk
8:00 p.m.: walking meditation
8:30 p.m.: sitting meditation
9:00 p.m.: end