Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vipassana Retreat at Wat Ampawan

From 24.2.2008 to 3.3.2008 I went for a 1 week Vipassana retreat at Wat Ampawan in Singburi, Thailand with my meditation group. This is the temple of LP Jarun, a widely renowned Vipassana master in Central Thailand. Our meditation teacher, Sister Soo Ngoh, has learned under LP Jarun for many years. I had wanted to attend such a retreat for very long as I have no time in Singapore to practice with that kind of intensity. We arrived at Wat Ampawan from Suwarnaphum Airport after a 2 hour journey by mini-bus.
The 3 monkey statues at the entrance tell us the rules here: See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. The teacher's advice for us was also to talk less, eat less, sleep less and practice more.
The flourishing Bodhi Tree in the meditation centre. Perhaps a sign of the Dhamma prosperity among the yogis here?
My dormitory in the centre. By this time we have changed into the white attire of an Upasaka and have taken the 8 precepts. Room conditions are relatively sparse but it is kept neat and clean by people staying there.
My room-mates. At least we have a mat and pillow to sleep on. Thankfully, the windows and doors are fixed with mosquito netting to keep the mosquitoes out.
Looking out of our dormitory, we can see the outer compound of Wat Ampawan.
Below is the courtyard, where yogis practice walking, standing and sitting meditation. The timetable there is like this: we wake up at 3.30am everyday, wash up and go to the chanting hall for morning chanting at 4am. We finish the chanting at 5am, after which we practice meditation until 6.30am. At 6.30am we have our breakfast, which is the same everyday - a bowl of plain porridge with some vegetables and mock meat. Well I thought to myself that this is the kind of food that encourages dispassion in eating! How nice..
The Jow Mae Thoranee (Earth goddess) shrine in the centre. After breakfast we go back to our rooms to rest for a while. At 8am we begin the 3-hour morning meditation session that lasts till 11am. Normally we start with standing and walking meditation for 1 hour and switch to sitting for 1 hour after that. At 11am we have our lunch, which is actually quite nice compared to breakfast. There's rice with 2 dishes and 1 dessert. That is our last meal for the day as we cannot eat after noon time, in accordance with the precepts.
The Pang Palelai (Wednesday PM Buddha) shrine. After lunch we rest for an hour, before starting the 3-hour afternoon meditation session, which lasts from 1pm to 4pm. Then we have a 2-hour break for us to take some liquid refreshments, rest or do our laundry (service provided by volunteers at centre). At 6pm we do the evening chanting until 7pm. From 7pm to 9pm is the 2-hour eveing meditation session, the last for the day. After 9pm we retire to our rooms for the day to wash up and sleep. We are also supposed to do lying meditation until we fall asleep. If we don't include that, each day spent at the centre allows us to do up to 9 and a half hours of intensive meditation!
The Phra Sivali shrine. The first 2 days at the centre was quite tough as many of us struggled to adjust to the spartan meditative lifestyle there. But by the 3rd day, I started to get used to the aches experienced during the intense sessions and the hunger felt at night. Towards the end of the week, I no longer felt hungry at night and could meditate quite fluently. On the 4th day I experienced a strong vedana (feeling) of pain in my torso during the afternoon sitting meditation, during which I acknowledged and later gain some knowledge of a past existence. I verified this with my teacher after the session, and she also thought that it should be a reliable experience. I finally knew for myself what it meant when the teacher said, "Pain is our teacher".
The main Buddha Image in the Ubosot hall, Luang Por Chalotorn. It is named after the patron Mr Tongyoi Chalotorn, who contributed to the casting of this Image as well as building this new Ubosot. Although he died in a traffic accident due to his karma of killing turtles, but because of the merit he gained from building the Ubosot and the Image, he had been reborn as one of the Devadas protecting Wat Ampawan. The smaller Buddha Image is called Luang Por Samret Phon. It was brought over from the old Ubosot.
This is the shrine of Somdej Puttajarn Toh beside the Ubosot, unique in the whole of Thailand. It is unique as it shows Somdej Toh in a sitting posture, holding a font to sprinkle holy water. This Image was casted and presented to Wat Ampawan by patrons Mr Seng and Mrs Pongsri Jaiboon in 1987, along with the Image of LP Saeng, who was Somdej Toh's teacher. A group photo taken by one of the ladies in the meditation hall. Notice the numerous white orbs on the right side of the photo. LP Saeng's painted Image is in the middle, on the right side of the Buddha Image. Originally Somdej Toh was placed in the Ubosot and LP Saeng in the meditation hall, but Somdej Toh did not want to stay in the Ubosot as there were too many people moving around there. So he enter the dreams of 3 different people, asking them to tell LP Jarun (who was the abbot) to build him a separate shrine. LP did not believe at first, but finally relented after the 3rd person pleaded with him. So LP offered joss sticks and candles to Somdej Toh and told him that it would be done. The Image of Somdej Toh "smiled" and the shrine for him was completed in a month. Since then many devotees came regularly to pray to Somdej Toh and plenty of money flowed into the temple as a result. LP also taught 2 of Somdej Toh's kathas for our protection. The 1st is for subduing fierce animals, spirits and people who might cause you harm:
I
Metta Gunnang Arahang Metta.

It is said that Somdej Toh was able to pacify the ghost of Mae Nak Phrakanong using this katha and even teach her to meditate. The 2nd one is for driving safety:
I
Mettanca Sabbalokasaming
Manasambhavaye Aparimanang.

This katha will invoke a ghost to help you while you are driving.
A closer look at the unique Image of Somdej Toh. Notice the white orb above his right hand. During the casting and consecration of the Image, Phra Sangharaj Yansangworn also came to participate in the grand ceremony. Many miraculous signs were recorded. One of the patrons, Mr Hua Suphapak also saw with his own eyes that Indra (king of the gods) and another female Deva had came down from Tavatimsa heaven to pour the gold into the mould. After that they slowly disappeared. Readers might find it amazing, but these are all true accounts.
The shrine of King Naret the Great's elephant, Don Mongkonchai. It is also beside the Ubosot. This elephant deity came to stay in Wat Ampawan in 1991, after it manifested a miracle during the World Bank Conference at Queen Sirikit Convention Centre and later at Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok. Before these events, the deity had already appeared before LP Jarun, informing him of its intention. True to its word, it was brought here by Dusit Thani Hotel staff 2 months later.
This is the Walking Buddha Image in front of the Assembly Hall. No legends regarding this one.
Another group photo taken in the Assembly Hall with one of the resident monks. There are also plenty of white orbs in this one.
The Phra Leela and King Naret shrine in front of LP Jarun's kuti. LP has a strong affinity with King Naret the Great. In 1990, King Naret manifested a miracle at Maehongson province, driving away Burmese and Karen bandits with a powerful storm. This inspired the governor, Mr Pramuan Rujanaseri to create a batch of King Naret medals to commemorate the event. Again, Phra Sangharaj was invited to consecrate these medals. Mr Pramuan gave some medals to LP, and he took them with him on his trip to Los Angeles in 1991. King Naret manifested himself to a Thai Chinese girl living there, prompting her to invite LP to her house and request a medal that she saw in her dream from him. By this time LP had already given out all the medals except for his own personal one. But LP still gave the very last piece he had to her as she could describe clearly what the medal looked like. When LP returned to Thailand, King Naret's elephant came to stay in the temple with him towards the end of the year. All these events are by no means coincidental.
The meeting room below LP's kuti. This is where he meets the lay people coming to see him.
A painting of LP. Below the painting is the photo of LP with a broken neck when he met with an accident that would have killed him if not for the merits of his meditation. He had to suffer this negative karma at 49yrs old as he had broken the necks of birds when he was young.
A photo portrait of LP in his youth.
This is the Ven Ajarn who gave us our 8 precepts. He is of Chinese descent and speaks both Mandarin and Teochew dialect. Ajarn is also very kind and accomodating with our requests for photos as well as the chopping of LP's books with LP's signature.
On Sunday (2.3.2008), after we have completed our 1 week retreat, we went to see LP along with the other devotees, all eager to make offerings as you can see above.
But we still got to take a group photo with LP after making our group offering. Behind LP is the sacred scripture shelf with a painting of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). The story of that painting was also told in one of LP's Law of Karma books.
The banner advertising a new batch of LP Jarun medals made last year (2007). The front is LP's image, behind the medal is an image of Phra Prom (Brahma Sahampati). LP seldom consecrates amulets (the last batch was 11 yrs ago), but this batch of medals is to raise funds to build the biggest Phra Prom statue in the whole of Thailand (and thus the world). This statue is to be located in Promburi district, some distance away from Wat Ampawan. It should become an important tourist attraction in the future. We left for home the next day (3.3.2008).
The good stuff I brought back from Wat Ampawan (except for the golden Ganesha medal on the right). This had been a very fruitful first retreat for me spiritually and I hope to be able to go back again next year.
Visiting and making offerings to LP again in Jan 2009.
A closer shot of LP. Now he needs an assistant to support him when he walks.

38 comments:

Honsing said...

Thanks for the wonderful account. It is very inspiring. :)

Anonymous said...

Nice blogpost Wayne. Btw how would you interprete the white "globes" in some of the pics ? Are they some form of manifestations?

Wayne said...

According to some practitioners, dull "orbs" are petas, whereas bright "orbs" are devadas. In Wat Ampawan everyone practice side by side, no matter whether you are human, ghost or deity.

AZ said...

Hi Wayne, thanks for sharing these in your blog.I enjoy reading and really informative.

regarding retreat, is everyone suitable for it? any requirements?if so, how should one go about it?Thanks

Wayne said...

The only requirement is that you must be well versed with the basics of Vipassana meditation like standing, walking & sitting.

Anonymous said...

Maha-sadhu to you for having such a chance to go for such a wonderful retreat. And maha-sadhu to you for providing such a detailed account of your retreat. For your information,I am an avid fan of LP Jarun.It is thru him that I learn vipassana meditation from the book he wrote. Reading your detailed account has truly aroused much of faith in him.
One thing i was surprised was to see LP`s picture.He looked almost a different person from the usual LP i saw from the book.That really gives me a shock.
Just curious,does the standing meditation system taught there is somewhat like "picturing oneself in the mind and move one`s attention from the crown of the head to the tips of the toe and thenmove upwards back"?

Wayne said...

Yes, the standing meditation is to look at the whole body from the crown to the toe tips, then back again. This is done 5 times. One should pay attention to the head hair, body hair, nails, teeth & skin in one's contemplation.

Andy said...

hi wayne, metta from smoke forum..

i have read lp jarun< fruit of karma> and am inspired to go to his wat this month to undergo 1 week meditation. May i know is there any cost in the accomodation? and which airline did u take last time u went there?

do i need to book advance booking to inform the temple i will be going?

do email me at divanhot@gmail.com, much appreciated, thanks!

Fernando Costa said...

Hi Wayne, O got your blog on the internet, when was searching information about the Wat Amphawan..

I would like to know if I need to book in advance when I'm going to over there..

Please could you send me some more information about it? some telephones..

my email: deepcell@gmail.com

Best Regards!

Very Good Blog, Wayne.

fred said...

I have been living in thailand for about 16 years now and started Vipassana meditation at wat Amphawan some 15 years ago after reading 'Fruit of Karma'. This book was only the first 20 chapters of the Thai book and they later published anew book called "Views through a temple window" which included the first 40 chapters (of 80 chapters)translated into English. (I have this if anyone wants a copy.) Now this book is impossible to find. Wanting to read more i started to read the Book in Thai and subsequently read all of the series which in Thai came to another four books.
These are not to be confused with the Law of karma books published at Wat Amphawan.
On my first visit I was taught by a Singaporean Nun who later returned to her home....maybe the one who has returned now.

Wayne said...

Bro Fred, glad to hear of your long experience in Vipassana. The Singaporean nun who taught you last time is my teacher, Sister Soo Ngoh. She has returned to the lay life since she came back home years ago. I would very much like to have a copy of the book you mentioned if possible. How can I get it from you?

fred said...

send me your home address to ...
fabianfred@gmail.com
nice blog by the way....

fred said...

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=529691988&ref=name

I just wrote a review (copied from the Amazon.com review i made ages ago).... and updated it...about the book on my Facebook account...

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=529691988&ref=name

anicca said...

We plan to visit Wat Amphavan next week and so lucky to read your blog. Can you tell us how to get there from the airport? Did you hire the mini bus in advance or could we hire one when we arrive at the airport? What would be the cost? Can you also write out the address in Thai for us as we do not speak Thai.Please email me at tsanganicca@o2.co.uk ASAP as we are leaving UK on Friday this week.
Many thanks.
Sauling

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and your fruitful information. I am Thai but live oversea. I read many books about Ajan Charan and now practice praying following his guide as often as I could. I promise myself next time I visit Thailand, I will go to his temple and do a meditation there at least 1 night. That's what I promise to Ajan Charan when I pray.
Jantana

Wayne said...

Khun Jantana, 1 night is not enough. You should practice Vipassana earnestly for 1 whole week at Wat Ampawan in order to gain some real benefit. Try to do it soon bcos Luang Por is getting very old, and I fear he might not be with us for very much longer.

Anonymous said...

Hi Wayne, my friend and I are planning to go to Wat Ambhavan next year in June. We are not Thais and we dont speak Thai. Since there will only be two(or maybe three) of us going to Thailand, we really need more information and guidance from you.

Besides, is it possible that we get in touch with your teacher, Sister Soo Ngoh?

My email address is dhamma03@gmail.com. We would really appreciate your time and help.

May you always be happy :)

Brooke Schedneck said...

Wayne,
I am doing research on meditation retreats for English-speakers in Thailand. Do they have instruction in English at Wat Amphawan or can people stay and just do their own practice of vipassana? thanks for any advice.
Best,
Brooke
wanderingdhamma.wordpress.com
bschedneck@gmail.com

Wayne said...

Yes they do have a few seniors inside the temple who can speak some English. If u need instruction in English, I think they should be able to help u.

Eng Soon said...

Hi Wayne,
Jus to check with you on the fruit of karma,
have you completed the whole book?
Or jus half which is still incomplete?

Wayne Woo said...

I finished the whole book.

Darre said...

Hi wayne, im planning to visit wat ambhavan soon. Can you provide me with the contact information for there?

Many thanks
Darren

email : yitmin_86@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

How long can a person can stay in this meditation center?
My wife is now there since 6 weeks, i have no news (telephone cut) and I scare to much because of floods...

fred said...

because they are so busy they normally restrict a person to seven days....

lee said...

I am interested for meditation retreat in Wat Ampbhawan. Could forward the wat ambhawan address and telephone to my email leekirkip@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Please email wat amphawan retreat contact details eg. transport, contact person to snoppy-123@hotmail.com.

Thankyou.

Anonymous said...

Hi wayne,
good blog of retreat & appreciate your post. It will benefit many pple, Sadhu3 X.
I'm also planning to go there for retreat on the Apr 28 for 7 days retreat. But their website is only in thai language. How to write to them. I've also been reading LP vipasanna method.
Want to find out more things too for the preparation of retreat. tks n cheers
Samuel_yau@ymail.com

Herman said...

dewar wayne
do you have telephone no of the temple and can they speak english?

i cant speak thai

many tks

Herman said...

dear wayne

can i actually do retreat there eg go in friday and leave sunday without knowing to speak thai?

could you be so kind as to give me their tel number to my email
hermanong22@yahoo.com

tks

wai lun said...

I am interested for meditation retreat in Wat Ampbhawan. Could forward the wat ambhawan address and telephone to my email
wailunloh74@gmail.com

Julie said...

Hey Wayne,
it was really interesting to read your blog about your experience. I want to go to the Ampawan temple the next days. Could you please tell me if I need to inform them in advance, that I want to come or is it ok if I just go there? I would be very grateful if you could send me some informations. Thank you very much!! my email is julimueller@gmail.com

Herman Tan said...

Hi wayne,

Just to confirm with you, is this the correct address of Wat Ambhavan:

Wat Ambhavan
Umphur Promburi
Singhburi 16160
Thailand
Tel: 66 036 599381

Wayne Woo said...

Yes.

Herman Tan said...

Thanks alots ...Wayne kor kor

~我的世界~ said...

Hi all , I wound like to know is that I need to advanced booking to go for temple ? Can anyone give me the contact number please ? Thanks a lot..

Nick said...

Hi Wayne,
Im also looking to stay at Wat Amphawan soon. Can you please send me the contact details?

Cheers
Nick

nick.patulny@gmail.com

My name is HT said...

Hi can you please email me a contact number for me to make arrangements to go for a retreat there? very much appreciated wayne.

andylee79@gmail.com

Iamwhoiam said...

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http://www.kidbuxblog.com/ajahn-wimoak/