During retreat we take care of our conduct every hour of the day, as part of calming and training our mind. The point of being here in retreat, is to completely focus inwardly. By knowing what to do and to expect in outward behavior, we can more easily concentrate on that. So the purpose of these rules is to help that happen.
- The Precepts: At the beginning of retreat, and every morning thereafter, we remind ourselves of the Eight Precepts. While on retreat we do not, in any form: Take life, steal, have sex, use harmful speech, take intoxicating substances, eat anything between noon and 7 am, dance/sing/beautify etc., or use fancy seats or beds.
- Noble silence: We do not talk at all during the seven days of silent retreat, even in the privacy of the dorm. Gestures may be used but only the minimum necessary to get our point across during some necessary activity, such as pointing out a broom during chores. [Read more about Noble Silence]
- We never leave the Khao Tham grounds during the seven days. If you find it necessary to do so, please talk to the Manager or staff.
- Reading and writing: Please bring a notebook and pen/pencil. This is for taking notes at teaching sessions and in your dorm room only. There are some very nice books in the dining hall about our Thai Forest Tradition. Please read them, but leave them there for others. Please do not bring unrelated reading materials — our goal is to have an intensive, focused 7 days!
- There are separate men’s and women’s dorms, and each is strictly off-limits to the other gender.
- No food or drink is to be brought to the rooms.
- Of course, no smoking, drinking, drug-taking!
Anyone unable to follow these points will be asked to leave.
Courtesy: Caring for others
There are also points of courtesy that help us take care of each other and of the flow of the retreat.
- The Shoe Pile: Please keep your shoes at either side of the entrance when slipping out of them at the entrance to a building
There are people who may have physical problems that are not obvious, but that make stepping over or through a swath of shoes anything from an annoyance to a huge obstacle! These problems can include poor eyesight, balance issues, bad back, sore knees, painful feet, and more. There is at least one person regularly at retreats who has several of these issues. We can care for them.
We can also think of the effect on the mind of a clear and open path as compared to a blocked one.
- Mosquitoes: Do not apply repellent inside spaces such as the meditation or dining halls. Do it before you enter.
Yes, there are always mosquitoes, and we pretty much need to use mosquito repellent, especially in morning and evening. But the action of applying repellent is also disturbing to meditators, and the smell and fumes are unpleasant in enclosed space, or even worse for those with breathing problems.
- Water: Please be mindful and don’t waste it.
When drinking the nice clean filtered water, we can be remembering all the people who filtered it, put it in the big bottles, loaded bottle onto truck to distribution, unloaded, loaded again onto truck to bring to us, unloaded, and lifted that big bottle to pour it into our big water can! Then we don’t want to idly drink half a glass and throw the rest out, if we are thinking of all the muscle power that it took to get it to us. 🙂
- Electricity: We can take care and use lights, fans, and tap water (pumps!) only when needed, being mindful that Khao Tham exists entirely on donations, and the electricity company exists entirely on money.
- Support people: There are many people in the background making the buildings, water, electricity, toilets, meals, food supplies, other supplies, all happen so you don’t have to think about them and can concentrate fully on your precious self. A couple of these people you may see at the dining hall, others you may never see during retreat. A few receive a small salary, others get no money for their work. All do much more and with much sweeter minds than is required by their jobs. They are Mae Chee, Fai, Kid, Nou, Yut, But, Comb, and more whose names i haven’t learned yet. Every single thing you use has been cared for by at least one of those people. So when using the facilities here we can be remembering the carers as well.
- Giving back: We can think what we have received here and give back so that Khao Tham can continue on to provide for the next person … or even you, to come back again!