A Study of the Meditation Center of Wat Suan Mokhh
(Surat Thani province)
Phra Thaweesak Thannawaro (Chanpradit)
ID Student: 5501403950
M.A. (International program)
Faculty of Humanities
Phra Saenghuang Narindo, Dr.
This report is part of Buddhist meditation subject
The second term of academic year 2013
Wat Srisudaram, Bangkok, Thailand
In Thailand, there are many meditation centers all over the country. Every meditation center is aimed to spread Dhammas through teaching and practicing which has important role in serving all people who tend to develop the mind by practicing meditation.
As we all commonly know that meditation centers are one of important religious institutions in Thailand which it is used for promoting Buddhism in several ways particularly teaching of Buddhist meditation, giving knowledge on Dhammas of the Buddha, and practicing meditation together. These things can be united people live together in peace. Even there are many temples in Thailand but some temples have no meditation center to serve all people from many corners of the world especially temples where are situated in the countryside. It’s caused Buddhists hard to find an appropriate place for their meditation practice.
Fortunately, a number of meditation centers have been increasing for years because people those who strongly believe in Buddhism have established the Buddhist association nationwide in Thailand, aiming for serving Buddhists to understand Dhammas and practice Dhammas. In addition, someone has personal meditation room at his/her house which makes him/her comfortable in practicing meditation by self.
In summation, meditation centers are very important to all Buddhists around the world in aiding them to get more understand both learning theory and practical theory of Buddhist meditation for the real peace as the Buddha has taught that “peace comes from within. Do not seek it without”.
Phra Thaweesak Thannawaro (Chanpradit)
12, February 2014
Table of contents
The meditation center of Wat Suan Mokkha Page
1. A brief background of Wat Suan Mokhh 1
2. Founder of Wat Suan Mokhh 1-3
Ø A short biography of founder
Ø The final project of founder
3. The meditation Technique 3-9
Ø Mindfulness with breathing
4. The outcomes 10-13
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Cahn, B. R., & Polich, J. (2006). Meditation states and traits: Eeg, erp, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin, pp. 132, 180 –211.
Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, pp. 32, 303–322.
Daphne M. Davis and Jeffrey A. Hayes. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness: A wealth of new research has explored this age-old practice. Here's a look at its benefits for both clients and psychologists. Pennsylvania State University.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, pp. 66, 149 –152.
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Hoffman, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A metaanalytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, pp. 78, 169 –183.
Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, pp. 10, 54 – 64.
Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and Cognition, pp. 18, 176 –186.
Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and Cognition, pp. 18, 176 –186.
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A Study of the Meditation Center of Wat Suan Mokhh
(Surat Thani Province)
1. A brief Background of Wat Suan Mokhh
Luang Por Buddhadasa founded his forest hermitage Suan Mokkh (garden of liberation) in 1930, a center for Dhamma study and practice Dhamma. Suan Mokkh is situated in Surat Thani Province of southern Thailand. The fundamental teaching of him mainly focused on the quiet awareness of one's breathing pattern called Anapanasati. But his practical personality was very much grounded in advanced research and interpretation of early Pali texts on the one hand, and on his basic private experimentation on the other hand.
In later years, Luang Por Buddhadasa's teachings attracted many foreign seekers and Thai Buddhists to his hermitage (Suan Mokhh). He held Dhamma talks with Buddhist scholars and clergy of various faiths. His objective in these discussions was to probe the similarities at the heart of each of the major world religions which it brought the peace to the world. Before the last stage of his death in 1993, he established an International Dhamma Hermitage Center across the highway from his own retreat to assist people both Thai and foreign people by educating of Buddhism and other yogic practices to international people.
2. Founder of Suan Mokhh (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu)
Luang Por Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (Servant of the Buddha) was ordained as a Bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) in 1926, at the age of twenty. After finishing study in Bangkok, which convinced him "purity is not to be found in the big city," he was inspired to live closely with nature in order to contemplate the Buddha’s teachings. Thus, he established Suan Mokkh monastery (The Grove of the Power of Liberation) in 1932, it’s closed his hometown of Pum Riang (now in Chaiya District). At that time, it was the only forest Dhamma Center and one of the few places dedicated to Vipassana meditation in Southern Thailand. Word of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, his academic work, and Suan Mokkh spread over the years so that they are easily described as "one of the most influential events of Buddhist history in Siam." Here, we can only mention some of the most interesting services he has rendered Buddhism.
Luang Por Buddhadasa worked painstakingly to establish and explain the correct and essential principles of what he called "pristine Buddhism," that is, the original realization of the Lord Buddha before it was buried under commentaries, ritualism, clerical politics, and the like. His work was based in extensive research of the Pali texts (Canon and commentary), especially of the Buddha's Discourses (Sutta Pitaka), followed by personal experiment and practice with these teachings. Then he taught whatever he could say truly quenches Dukkha (dissatisfaction, suffering). His main goal was to produce a complete set of references for present and future research and practice. His approach was always scientific, straight-forward, and very practical.
Although his formal education only went as far as ninth grade and beginning Pali studies, he was given five Honorary Doctorates by many famous universities of Thailand. His books, both written and transcribed from talks, fill a room at the National Library and influence all serious Thai Buddhists in Siam. Doctoral dissertations are still being written about him and his legacy. His books can be found in bookstores around the country and are favorites as gifts at cremations.
Progressive elements in Thai society, especially the young, were inspired by his teaching and selfless example. Since the 1960's, activists and thinkers in areas such as education, ecology, social welfare, and rural development have drawn upon his teaching and advice. Most of the monks involved in nature conservation and community development were inspired by him. He provided the link between the scriptural tradition and engaged Buddhist practice today.
After the founding of Suan Mokkh, he studied all schools of Buddhism, as well as the other major religious traditions. This interest was practical rather than scholarly. He sought to unite all genuinely religious people in order to work together to help, as he put it, "drag humanity out from under the power of materialism." This broadmindedness won him friends and students from around the world, including Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.
His final project was to establish an International Dhamma Hermitage. This addition to Suan Mokkh is intended to provide facilities for:
I. To introduce foreigners to the right understanding of Buddhist principles and practice meditation on the right way according to the Buddha’s teaching.
II. To be religious place for meetings among Buddhists from around the world to establish and agree upon the "heart of Buddhism".
III. To be used for meetings of leaders from all religions for the sake of making mutual good understanding and cooperating to drag the world out from under the tyranny of materialism.
IV. He left instruction for the building of Dhamma-Mata, a residential facility to support the dedicated study-practice of women. He called it Dhamma-Mata (Dhamma Mothers, those who give birth to others through Dhamma).
Luang Por Buddhadasa died in 1993 after a series of heart attacks and strokes that he kept bouncing back from in order to teach. The final stroke occurred as he was preparing notes for a talk to be given on his birthday in two days (27 May). Suan Mokkh carries on in the hearts and actions of all those who have been inspired and guided by his example and words. Suan Mokkh is not so much a physical place as it is the place of liberation that all seekers must discover in life.
3. The meditation Technique of Luang Por Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
(Mindfulness with breathing)
Luang Por Buddhadasa Bkikkhu has always taught his meditation technique by wording and practicing. His teaching about sitting meditation is that all practitioners must sit up straight (with all the vertebrae of the spine fitting together snugly). Keep your head upright. Direct your eyes towards the tip of your nose so that nothing else is seen. Whether you see it or not doesn't really matter, just gaze in its direction. Once you get used to it, the results will be better than closing the eyes and you won't be encouraged to fall asleep so easily.
In particular, people who are sleepy should practice with their eyes open rather than closed. Practice like this steadily and they will close by themselves when the time comes for them to close. (If you want to practice with your eyes closed from the start, that's up to you.) Still, the method of keeping the eyes open gives better results. Some people, however, will feel that it's too difficult, especially those who are attached to closing their eyes. They won't be able to practice with their eyes open, and may close them if they wish.
Lay the hands in your lap, comfortably, one on top of the other. Overlap or cross your legs in a way that distributes and holds your weight well, so that you can sit comfortably and will not fall over easily. The legs can be overlapped in an ordinary way or crossed, whichever you prefer or are able to do. Fat people can only cross their legs in what is called the "diamond posture" (lotus posture) with difficulty, but fancy postures are not necessary. Merely sit with the legs folded so that your weight is evenly balanced and you cannot tip over easily -- that's good enough. The more difficult and serious postures can be left for when one gets serious, like a yogi. In special circumstances when you are sick, not feeling well, or just tired you can rest against something, sit on a chair, or use a deck chair, in order to recline a bit. Those who are sick can even lie down to meditate.
Sit in a place with good air circulation, where you can breathe comfortably. There should be nothing overly disturbing. Loud noises which are steady and have no meaning, such as the sound of waves or a factory are no problem unless you attach to them as a problem. Sounds with meaning, such as people speaking, are more of a problem for those just learning to practice. If you can't find a quiet place, pretend there aren't any sounds. Just be determined to practice and it will work out eventually.
Although the eyes are gazing inattentively at the tip of the nose, you can gather your attention or awareness or sati, as it's called in our technical language, in order to catch and note your own breathing in and out. (Those who like to close their eyes will do so from here on.) Those who prefer to leave the eyes open will do so continually until the eyes gradually close on their own as concentration and calmness (samadhi) increases.
In the beginning of practicing mindfulness meditation, those who are practitioners should make it easy to note the breathing, try to breathe as long as you can. Force it in and out strongly many times. Do so in order to know clearly for yourself what the breath rubs against or touches as it draws in and out along its path. In a simple way, notice where it appears to end in the belly (by taking the physical sensations as one's measure rather than anatomical reality). Note this in an easy-going way as well as you can, well enough to fix the inner and outer end points of the breathing. Don't be tense or too strict about it.
Most practitioners will feel the breath striking at the tip of the nose and should take that point as the outer end. (In people with flat or upturned noses the breath will strike on the edge of the upper lip, and they should take that as the external end.) Now you will have both outer and inner end points by fixing one point at the tip of the nose and the other at the navel. The breath will drag itself back and forth between these two points. Here make your mind just like something which chases after or stalks the breathing, like a tiger or a spy, unwilling to part with it even for a moment, following every breath for as long as you meditate. This is the first step of our practice. We call it "chasing after (or stalking) the whole time."
Earlier we said to begin by trying to make the breathing as long as possible, and as strong, vigorous, and rough as possible, many times from the very start. Do so in order to find the end points and the track the breath follows between them. Once the mind (or sati) can catch and fix the breathing in and out -- by constantly being aware of how the breath touches and flows, then where it ends, then how it turns back either inside or outside -- you can gradually relax the breathing until it becomes normal no longer forcing or pushing it in any way. (Be careful: don't force or control it at all.) Still, sati fixes on the breathing the whole time, just as it did earlier with the rough and strong breathing.
Sati is able to pay attention to the entire path of the breath from the inner end point (the navel or the base of the abdomen) to the outer end point (the tip of the nose or the upper lip). However fine or soft the breath becomes, Sati can clearly note it all the time. If it happens that we cannot note (or feel) the breath because it is too soft or refined, then breathe more strongly or maybe roughly again. (But not as strong or rough as before, just enough to note the breath clearly.
Fix attention on the breathing again until Sati is aware of it without any gaps. Make sure it can be done well, that is, keep practicing until even the purely ordinary, unforced breathing can be securely observed. However long or short it is, know it. However heavy or light it is, know it. Know it clearly within that very awareness as sati merely holds closely to and follows the breathing back and forth the whole time you are meditating. When you can do this it means success in the level of preparation called "chasing after all the time."
Lack of success is due to the inability of Sati (or the attention) to stay with the breathing the whole time. You don't know when it lost track. You don't know when it ran off to home, work, or play. You don't know until it's already gone. And you don't know when it went, how, why, or whatever. Once you are aware of what happened, catch the breathing again, gently bring it back to the breathing, and train until successful on this level. Do it for at least ten minutes each session, before going on to the next step.
The next step, the second level of preparation, is called "waiting (or guarding) in ambush at one point." It's best to practice this second step only after the first step can be done well, but anyone who can skip straight to the second won't be scolded. At this stage, Sati (or recollection) lies in wait fixing at a particular point and stops chasing after the breathing. Note the sensation when the breathing enters the body all the way (to the navel or thereabouts) once, then let go or release it.
Next, note when the breathing contacts the other end point (the tip of the nose) once more, then let go or leave it alone until it contacts the inner end point (navel) again. Continue like this without changing anything. In moments of letting go, the mind doesn't run away to home, the fields, the office, or anywhere. This means that Sati pays attention at the two end points both inner and outer and doesn't pay attention to anything between them.
Whenever you can securely go back and forth between the two end points without paying attention to things in between, leave out the inner end point and focus only on the outer, namely, the tip of the nose. Now, sati consistently watches only at the tip of the nose. Whether the breathing strikes while inhaling or while exhaling, know it every time. This is called "guarding the gate." There's a feeling as the breathing passes in or out; the rest of the way is left void or quiet. If you have firm awareness at the nose tip, the breathing becomes increasingly calm and quiet. Thus you can't feel movements other than at the nose tip. In the spaces when it's empty or quiet, when you can't feel anything, the mind doesn't run away to home or elsewhere. The ability to do this well is success in the "waiting in ambush at one point" level of preparation.
Lack of success is when the mind runs away without you knowing. It doesn't return to the gate as it should or, after entering the gate, it sneaks all the way inside. Both of these errors happen because the period of emptiness or quiet is incorrect and incomplete. You have not done it properly since the start of this step. Therefore, you ought to practice carefully, solidly, expertly from the very first step.
Even the beginning step, the one called "chasing after the whole time," is not easy for everyone. Yet when one can do it, the results -- both physical and mental -- are beyond expectations. So you ought to make yourself able to do it, and do it consistently, until it is a game like the sports you like to play. If you have even two minutes, by all means practice. Breathe forcefully, if your bones crack or rattle that's even better. Breathe strongly until it whistles, a little noise won't hurt. Then relax and lighten it gradually until it finds its natural level.
The ordinary breathing of most people is not natural or normal, but is coarser or lower than normal, without us being aware. Especially when we do certain activities or are in positions which are restricted, our breathing is more or less course than it ought to be, although we don't know it. So you ought to start with strong, vigorous breathing first, then let it relax until it becomes natural. In this way, you'll end up with breathing which is the "middle way" or just right. Such breathing makes the body natural, normal, and healthy. And it is fit for use as the object of meditation at the beginning of Anapanasati (4). Let us stress once more that this first step of preparation ought to be practiced until it's just a natural game for every one of us, and in all circumstances. This will bring numerous physical and mental benefits.
Actually, the difference between "chasing after the whole time" and "waiting in ambush at one place" is not so great. The latter is a little more relaxed and subtle, that is, the area noted by sati decreases. To make this easier to understand, we'll use the simile of the baby sitter rocking the baby's hammock.
At first, when the child has just been put into the hammock, it isn't sleepy yet and will try to get out. At this stage, the baby sitter must watch the hammock carefully. As it swings from side to side, her head must turn from left to right so that the child won't be out of sight for a moment. Once the baby begins to get sleepy and doesn't try to get out anymore, the baby sitter need not turn her head from left to right, back and forth, as the hammock swings. The baby sitter only watches when the hammock passes in front of her face, which is good enough. Watching only at one point while the hammock is in front of her face, the baby won't have a chance to get out of the hammock just the same, because the child is ready to fall sleep. (Although the baby will fall asleep, the meditator should not!)
The first stage of preparation in noting the breathing "chasing after the whole time" is like when the baby sitter must turn her head from side to side with the swinging hammock so that it isn't out of sight for a moment. The second stage where the breathing is noted at the nose tip "waiting and watching at one point" -- is like when the baby is ready to sleep and the baby sitter watches the hammock only when it passes her face.
When you have practiced and trained fully in the second step, you can train further by making the area noted by sati even more subtle and gentle until there is secure, stable concentration. Then concentration can be deepened step by step until attaining one of the Jhanas, which, for most people, is beyond the rather easy concentration of the first steps.
The jhanas are a refined and precise subject with strict requirements and subtle principles. One must be strongly interested and committed for that level of practice. At this stage, just be constantly interested in the basic steps until they become familiar and ordinary. Then you might be able gather in the higher levels later.
May ordinary lay people give themselves the chance to meditate in a way which has many benefits both physically and mentally, and which satisfies the basic needs of our practice, before going on to more difficult things. May you train with these first steps in order to be fully equipped with sila (morality), samadhi(concentration), and pañña (wisdom), that is, to be fully grounded in the noble eightfold path. Even if only a start, this is better than not going anywhere. Your body will become more healthy and peaceful than usual by training in successively higher levels of samadhi. You will discover something that everyone should find in order to not waste the opportunity of having been born.
1. Sati is a key term in Buddhist meditation. It means "recall, recollection, awareness, attention, mindfulness." All of these concern the present and do not involve memory or thought. In this article, the activity of sati is conveyed through a number of verbs: to fix, to note, to attend, to pay attention, to be aware, to experience. (Sati does not mean "to concentrate or focus.") Please study these various words and their meaning in each context, then you will have a correct understanding of sati, namely, what it is and how to use it to get free of dukkha.
2. Don't try to push other things out of awareness that will create tension. Just keep your attention centered on the breathing in a balanced way. Let go of anything that takes you away from the breathing.
3. In fact, our breathing tends to be unhealthy, which contributes to many physical and mental problems. Please learn to breathe freely and naturally.
4. "Anapanasati" is the Pali term for the practice of mindfulness with breathing (the very subject of this essay).
5. In India and Thailand small hammocks are used instead of cradles.
6. The jhanas are states of one-pointedness which result from highly developed concentration which is turned inward. In them one is only aware of a particular object and certain mental factors.
4. The outcomes of mindfulness meditation
Researchers theorize that mindfulness meditation promotes metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities and enhances attentional capacities through gains in working memory. These cognitive gains, in turn, contribute to effective emotion-regulation strategies. More specifically, research on mindfulness has identified these benefits:
Several studies have shown that mindfulness reduces rumination. In one study, for example, Chambers et al. (2008) asked 20 novice meditators to participate in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. After the retreat, the meditation group had significantly higher self-reported mindfulness and a decreased negative affect compared with a control group. They also experienced fewer depressive symptoms and less rumination. In addition, the meditators had significantly better working memory capacity and were better able to sustain attention during a performance task compared with the control group.
Many studies show that practicing mindfulness reduces stress. In 2010, Hoffman et al. conducted a meta-analysis of 39 studies that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be useful in altering affective and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues.
Those findings are consistent with evidence that mindfulness meditation increases positive affect and decreases anxiety and negative affect. In one study, participants randomly assigned to an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction group were compared with controls on self-reported measures of depression, anxiety and psychopathology, and on neural reactivity as measured by fMRI after watching sad films (Farb et al., 2010).
The researchers found that the participants who experienced mindfulness-based stress reduction had significantly less anxiety, depression and somatic distress compared with the control group. In addition, the FMRI data indicated that the mindfulness group had less neural reactivity when they were exposed to the films than the control group, and they displayed distinctly different neural responses while watching the films than they did before their mindfulness training. These findings suggest that mindfulness meditation shifts people's ability to use emotion regulation strategies in a way that enables them to experience emotion selectively, and that the emotions they experience may be processed differently in the brain (Farb et al., 2010; Williams, 2010).
Improvements to working memory appear to be another benefit of mindfulness, research finds. A 2010 study by Jha et al., for example, documented the benefits of mindfulness meditation among a military group who participated in an eight-week mindfulness training, a non-meditating military group and a group of non-meditating civilians. Both military groups were in a highly stressful period before deployment. The researchers found that the non-meditating military group had decreased working memory capacity over time, whereas working memory capacity among non-meditating civilians was stable across time. Within the meditating military group, however, working memory capacity increased with meditation practice. In addition, meditation practice was directly related to self-reported positive affect and inversely related to self-reported negative affect.
Another study examined how mindfulness meditation affected participants' ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information. The researchers compared a group of experienced mindfulness meditators with a control group that had no meditation experience. They found that the meditation group had significantly better performance on all measures of attention and had higher self-reported mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation practice and self-reported mindfulness were correlated directly with cognitive flexibility and attentional functioning (Moore and Malinowski, 2009).
Research also supports the notion that mindfulness meditation decreases emotional reactivity. In a study of people who had anywhere from one month to 29 years of mindfulness meditation practice, researchers found that mindfulness meditation practice helped people disengage from emotionally upsetting pictures and enabled them to focus better on a cognitive task as compared with people who saw the pictures but did not meditate.
Another line of research suggests that in addition to helping people become less reactive, mindfulness meditation may also give them greater cognitive flexibility. One study found that people who practice mindfulness meditation appear to develop the skill of self-observation, which neurologically disengages the automatic pathways that were created by prior learning and enables present-moment input to be integrated in a new way (Siegel, 2007a). Meditation also activates the brain region associated with more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations (Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al., 2003).
Several studies find that a person's ability to be mindful can help predict relationship satisfaction — the ability to respond well to relationship stress and the skill in communicating one's emotions to a partner. Empirical evidence suggests that mindfulness protects against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflict (Barnes et al., 2007), is positively associated with the ability to express oneself in various social situations and predicts relationship satisfaction.
Mindfulness has been shown to enhance self-insight, morality, intuition and fear modulation, all functions associated with the brain's middle prefrontal lobe area. Evidence also suggests that mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits, including increased immune functioning (Davidson et al., 2003)
In addition, mindfulness meditation practice appears to increase information processing speed (Moore & Malinowski, 2009), as well as decrease task effort and having thoughts that are unrelated to the task at hand.