peace and purpose in the rain?
March 7, 2008 4:54 PM   Subscribe

How would a westerner go about participating in the Theravada tradition of Vassa in Thailand?

First a bit of background: I am a 24 year old recent university graduate living in Canada who has been looking to take a trip since finishing school, and before perhaps returning and studying law (to be honest I have no idea what I want to do). I have been to Europe, and have never really been interested in the whole backpacking through Europe and seeing the sights trip, nor have I been interested in taking a strictly hedonistic vacation. I would like to take a long-ish trip (three months sounds about perfect) to really change my life and my perception of the world, I am a very spiritual person and my idea of this trip has always included some kind of extended stay at a monastery.

I have always been interested in Buddhism, but especially what I see as the more individual and self-reliant tradition of Theravada/Hinayana. I had been considering going to Japan to study Zen, or Tibet to study Vajrayana, thinking that Theravada monastaries were mostly only existent in countries which I would otherwise not really be interested in visiting. After having heard of Vassa/Phansa/Rain Retreat in Thailand, I think it sounds perfect, in terms of the duration, timing, and experience.

From what I have read, it is common for locals to take up the vows of a monk for the three month period of Vassa only to return to a lay life afterwards. I'm wondering if it would be possible for a westerner with good amount of academic background in Theravada Buddhism (and of course some practice in following the tenets and practices, including meditation), and next to no knowledge of Thailand to do the same? I have the money, I have the time, and I have the desire. To me the idea of spending three months in a monastery developing personally and spiritually is so much more appealing than seeing historic places or lounging on the beach.

I would like to avoid the tourist trap type places which would offer a watered down experience, and have tour-groups constantly wandering through (that would really defeat the purpose of the trip). The more remote and the better the reputation of the monastery and teacher/s the better. I don't really care about comfort, that isn't the point, I want an authentic experience.
posted by paradoxflow to Travel & Transportation around Thailand (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ask in one of these forums here.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:19 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've never been myself, but I've heard many people recommend Ajahn Chah's Thai monasteries that are part of Forest Sangha. I believe Wat Pah Pong, in particular, is supposed to be a good place for Westerners.

I respect your decision to take a spiritual journey instead of a hedonistic one. Good luck!
posted by aebaxter at 7:04 AM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

And here's a great outline of life for Westerners at Wat Pah Nanachat.
posted by aebaxter at 7:15 AM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Or try this forum.
posted by jaruwaan at 5:52 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

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