Suan Mokhh Bangkok: Tranquil Space in the Midst of City Frenzy
The Buddhist Channel, 28 April 2023
Bangkok, Thailand -- Meditation is usually not associated with heavenly locations. More so Buddhist meditation such as Anapanasati (mindfulness of breath) and Vipassana (insight meditation), where practitioners are urged to look into their discomfort while practicing in a dimly lighted temple room and humid conditions.
This raw experience was the norm of the original Wat Suan Mokhh International Dhamma Hermitage in Surat Thani, Thailand. Meditators are provided with basic amenities and there are no special comfort arrangements to protect them from the heat and humidity. Meditators feel it as it was felt by its founder, the revered late Buddhadassa Bhikkhu. Being mindful of the elements and the havoc they cause due to the mind rejecting them are important lessons by themselves.<< The calming demeanor of Suan Mokhh Bangkok.
Walking into Suan Mokhh Bangkok, however, is a different experience all together. Located beside the Vachirabenjatas Park, its entrance is imbued with colorful flowering trees and shrubs, fringing along the rim of a clear water lake. Visitors are greeted with a large signage of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's signature in Thai and Chinese. The grey building has high ceilings and is airy, courtesy of the wind billowing from the lake fronting it.
The immediate facility at the entrance is the library, which hosts all the paraphernalia of the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, such as his fan (talapad in Thai), a replica of his humble kuti (monk's hut), his spectacles, copy of his famous diary, his working table, typewriter and his collection of books.
Replica of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's kuti >>
Here one can read all the published writings of the late Dhamma teacher. Instead of calling it the library, it's developer has dubbed it as a "Co Dhamma Space" where people from anywhere can just walk in and enjoy the facilities.
Apart from the library, at the ground floor a large open aired space is allocated for public gatherings. Here food are served for meditator and groups can book it to use for their activities, such as camps and retreats. A floor up is reserved for meditation while the third floor is designated as the "Nirvana" space. Here visitors get to have a "taste" of nirvana by walking through museum like displays, listening to mind calming sounds and reading inspiring verses from the suttas.
Symbols and Symbolism<< Images of the Buddha are represented by symbols rather than the human form, as such this stone carving telling the story of Angulimala.
Everywhere in the vicinity, one will find bas-relief stone carvings mounted on walls. These are replica of actual carvings found in India, such as those from Bharhut and Amaravati. Visitors will be surprised to know that these replicas were made by Thai craftsmen by just looking at photo images taken by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu when he visited India.
The late monk's took deep interest in aniconic images representing the Buddha. These stone carvings were created not with images of the Buddha, but with symbolism that represents the Buddha’s teachings: the absence of his image in the scenes, the footprints, the swastika, the fire pillar, and the triratna symbol, the ancient mark of the Triple Gem. Visiting scholars from India are usually astonished how these replicas look so much like the real ones. Moreover, this is the only place in the world where one can see a collection of famous stone carvings of the Buddha’s biography from Amaravati, Ajanta, Bharhut and Sanchi all in one location.<< The 5 pillars monument
A favourite monument of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu can be found in the garden outside the building. Called the five concrete pillars, it represents many of the Dhamma's important groups of fives, namely the five hindrances (nīvaraṇa), the five groups of clinging (upādānakkhandha), the five powers (bala), the five sovereigns (indriya), the five essentials (dhammasāra), the five paths and fruits & nibbāna (magga-phalanibbāna). Symbolism such as this dots all over the compound, as Buddhadasa Bhikkhu finds them to be effective in explaining important Buddhist teachings.
The centre here teaches Anapanasati and Vipassana meditation according to the Goenka method. Visitors can walk in for a 40 minutes experience or half day sessions subject to prior arrangements. Retreats and camp organisers may also contact them to use the facility for longer term practice sessions. Meditation rooms are air conditioned and practitioners are provided with cushions for their sittings.
The aim of the short sittings is to introduce people to Buddhist meditation. After each session a video of a Dhamma talk by Goenka is presented. Most sittings are conducted bilingually in English and Thai. The minders in the facility speaks fluent English and non-Thai visitors are welcomed.
For longer sessions, some decorum are expected such as no usage of electronic gadgets. Instructions are also given to remove spectacles during meditation. Practitioners are not required to wear all white. Any clothing which are casually comfortable and decent is all that is required.
All in all, Suan Mokhh Bangkok is an ideal place for beginners to get a feel of meditation practice. Following the Buddhist teachings of Anapanasati and Vipassana, and presented through the Goenka method, instructions are easy to follow. Novice practitioners are encouraged to hone their practice here, and gradually increase the intensity of their sittings. Further extensive practices, such as those with 10 days or 1 month duration and beyond, meditationer are requested to further their practice at the Suan Mokhh hermitage centre at Surat Thani.
Suan Mokhh Bangkok
Khwaeng Chatuchak, Khey Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
Opening Hours: Opens daily 9 am to 6 pm
Building location: Vachirabenjatas Park
Google location: ซอย นิคมรถไฟสาย 1https://maps.app.goo.gl/daaU94yQKdNw7UJ59