Frequently Asked Questions

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

About the retreat

Donation: Other meditation centers 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 for ten days. 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 Khao 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 may 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 find in ourselves, the need 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.
Reading and writing: I would like to take notes during teachings / study Buddhism texts in the evenings / keep a journal / etc, to solidify my practice while at retreat. Is this ok?
There are two points of view about studying, reading, and writing during a retreat. Which one we will follow, will depend on the view of the teacher. If it is not made clear during Orientation, please ask.
Read more about this on the Practices page.
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.
Part-time retreat: I would like to come late | leave early | attend retreat for only 3 days | etc.
The retreat program is developed especially for the 10 days. The energy and rhythm of the group and of each person changes through the retreat. You are cheating your own self if you do not attend the full retreat time.
Also, it is disruptive to the retreat flow and to the other retreatants to have an energy appear or disappear during the retreat.
If you really feel you must have a special retreat length for your special self, contact Tookata for permission.
One good place for a shorter retreat is our sister center Dipabhavan on Koh Samui, which has two 7-day retreats each month.
Stay at Khao Tham: Is it possible to stay at Khow Tham after retreat? Or to stay for some time and do my personal Buddhist practice?
It may be possible; will depend on the individual circumstances. More information on staying at Khao Tham is here.
What if no place for me -- or no retreat: I am worried about this “no pre-registration”. I have to buy plane tickets and plan work/school/ etc. What if i don't get a place at the retreat? Or what if retreat is canceled?!
This is a totally understandable concern!
As far as getting a place — it is very unlikely that we will go over limit. Only one time this year we ran out of dorm room and had to put a couple of people in the yoga hall. Just come early for registration, and you should be fine.
As far as retreat being canceled — unlikely, but things do happen, and we know that impermanence is one of the aspects of life! If the worst scenario should happen, some options are: 😊 Look for other people who have come, and get something going together! 😊 If you have done retreat before, see if it is possible to stay at Khao Tham and do meditation, possibly with other people here. 😊 There are retreats somewhat nearby, before 10th and after 20th at our sister centers Suan Mokkh and Dipabhavan. You can read summaries of them on our resources page, and from there go to their websites for more info.

About Buddhism

What is meditation anyway?
“Meditation is sitting quietly
while paying attention to your experience,
allowing everything to be just as it is.”
— Cassandra Vieten
More on our Meditation page.
What is the Thai Forest Tradition?
The Thai Forest tradition, under which we are studying and practicing here, is the branch of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand that most strongly emphasizes meditative practice and the realization of enlightenment. Forest monasteries are primarily oriented around practising the Buddha’s path of contemplative insight. The Forest tradition in one sense even predates the Buddha, as it was a common practice of spiritual seekers in ancient India to leave the life of town and village and wander in the wilderness and mountains. [ref]
A brief description is here on this website.
Learn more about the community and the practices at ForestSangha.org.
There is a comprehensive overview at Wikipedia
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?
Strictly speaking under the Thai Forest Tradition, it would be expected. However, there are schools of thought which consider the teachings of the Buddha, and its goals, as meant for all people, not just Vinaya holders.
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.
Must Religion? Why all this religious terminology and bowing and chanting? It seems cultish. Mindfulness and meditation have been proven scientifically to be effective, what is the need for the religious bits?
Yes, mindfulness and meditation practiced only in a secular way (without the religious bits) are absolutely effective and life-changing. You can practice them effectively in your life.
As we learn and grow through our practice, we become more aware of the immense interdependence of all things. We may feel the desire to recognise it, to give back to it by honoring it.
It is part of our human nature to express awe when we feel it. Think of the exultation you feel hearing the music of an amazing band or watching an amazing performance or landscape.
Must Pali? Why so many words in Pali? and all this 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.)
More about Pali on this website., including how to pronounce Pali words.
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?
It does seem complicated. This is because our monkey mind likes to play with everything it finds, turn things over and over, examine every side … and talk talk talk about it. And it is fun and educational, and even inspiring, to do all that! But basically it is pretty simple
Notice we don’t say “Buddhism religion” or “believing in Buddhism”. It is called “practicing Buddhism” because that’s exactly what it is: Practicing for real life. In the practicing you will find the application.
When we “get it”, it's pretty simple.
At one retreat our teacher Phra Marut summed up Buddhist practice like this …
Whenever you are thinking, or stressing, or in the grip of an emotion — or being anything at all — just stop, and do this:
  • ana = “breathe in”
  • pana = “breathe out”
  • sati = “be in the present”, “pay attention”
then
  • Do your work.
and always
And then do it again. And again … and again … that’s all!
Great! If it is so easy, why do we need a retreat? and precepts? and philosophy? ...
Because of that monkey mind.

More FAQs at other places

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