Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to questions that have been asked.
Have another question? Advice on answers? Comments? Tell us below — or at retreat — or anywhere! — and we’ll try to add it here.

Donation: Other Vipassana places don't ask for 5,000 baht, but more around 2,000 - 3,000. Why is it more at Khao Tham?
It’s hard to speak to the costs and needs of different retreat centers. Also, some places have a lot more funding than we do! Khao Tham has no other funding. All costs of running the Center are from donations by members of each retreat. This is part of our practice
Bt 5,000 is the suggested amount of donation, based on the costs of maintaining one retreatant. Money can never be a condition of dhamma, and nobody is ever turned away for lack of funds; you can talk to Tookata about your needs. (We hope that those who have less can be helped by those who have more!)
Read more about donating.
Food: I cannot eat gluten/eggs/chili/etc. Can Kow Tham make meals for me?
Our hard-working cook just doesn’t have the resources to make special meals. But the food at Khao Tham is simple and healthy, and quite a lot of it doesn’t contain those things. Many different dishes are served at one meal. So you can pick from the things that are right for you.
Also, the tradition we are following emphasizes acceptance of everything that occurs around us. Part of that is accepting whatever we are given — this is why Thai monks and other practitioners even eat meat when it is given to them.
If your dietary needs are seriously health- or life-threatening, you might want to think if Khao Tham is the right place for you.
Read more about food at retreat.
Eating meat: I heard that Thai and Tibetan monks even eat meat. Isn't this against the precepts of not taking life and doing no harm?
Yes they do. The core of Buddhism, the thing we are trying to learn, is acceptance of everything that occurs around us. Part of that is accepting whatever we are given — this is why Thai monks even eat meat.
If we have to emphasize our “Self” with special requests (whether to ourselves or others) — especially when it involves disrupting another’s flow — it could be time to look again at the purpose of our practice.
Read more about Buddhism precepts and practices.
Personal practices: I do a regular practice of my own (such as chanting, flower meditation, visualisation, ...). Can i continue my practice during the retreat? Can i bring special items like mala, mandala, flowers?
It is excellent that you have regular practices of your own.
But it is not beneficial to do them during a retreat. it would be like practicing your basketball moves at a football camp. They are all part of the same thing, but the purpose of being here is to concentrate on the specific practices here.
Stay at Khao Tham: Is it possible to live some time at Khao Tham and do my personal Buddhist practice?
It may be possible; will depend on the individual circumstances. You can contact Tookata and see!
Enlightenment now! I am so inspired and motivated. I want to achieve samadhi -- enlightenment -- nirvana -- as fast as possible! How long does it take?
“This is good! You need enthusiasm to stay motivated in your practice. You also have a sense of urgency which will help you progress.”
It will take as long as needed for you — and not any longer.
Must Monk? Must i practice full-time monkhood to really practice Buddhism?
“No it’s not the Only way. You can realise Nibbanna as a lay person. Monastics do have the advantage of living full-time in an environment that is conducive to their practice.” — Orion.
Why so many words in Pali? and chanting in Pali? Won't we understand better in our own language?
The terms which are used in the Buddha’s teachings just have no equivalent in other languages. If we try to use Christian terms (ordination, confession, salvation, etc.) or Sanskrit terms (karma, nirvâna, etc.) we will be missing the real idea — they are not only different, but sometimes even in opposition to the true meaning of the Pali term. (So don’t try to study the Pali terms — because they have no real translation! Just chant them, read them, use them, and gradually their meaning will become clear.)
Mindfulness / Vipassana? Is there a difference between 'mindfulness meditation' as taught in the West, and Vipassana meditation?
The difference is in focus:
In general, Western mindfulness is practiced for the goals of health, mental stability, success, and so on. — for worldly life.
Vipassana meditation is done as part of the practice of Buddhism, and has moral and philosophical aspects — with an eye to samadhi.
More at Buddhism.Stackexchange.com here and here.
Buddhism seems so complicated! How does all this have to do with real life?
At one retreat our teacher Phra Marut summed it up like this:
Whenever you are thinking, or stressing, or doing anything — just stop, and do this:
  • ana = “breathe in”
  • pana = “breathe out”
  • sati = “be in the present”, “pay attention”
  • Do your work.
  • Metta first.
And then do it again. And again … that’s all!
Great! If it is so easy, why do we need a retreat? and precepts? and philosophy? ...

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