Wat Mahathat, an iconic landmark near the Grand Palace, is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. It was originally built to house a relic of The Buddha and evolved to house Thailand’s largest monastic order, a Vipassana Meditation centre and the oldest Buddhist university in the world. Three guided meditation classes, assisted by English-speaking monks, are held daily. Meanwhile, longer periods of study, which include accommodation and food, can be arranged by the centre as well.
This small studio, in the Yogatique Building, is run by a nonprofit organisation – The Shambhala Mandala Association – as part of an international community of more than 200 urban meditation and rural retreat centres. The practice is focused on Shambhala’s vision, rooted in the teachings of Buddhism, but with applicative guidance to modern challenges. The practice traces its roots to schools of Tibetan Buddhism, from which one monk called Chögyam Trungpa incorporated his experiences in the Western world to develop the Shambhala tradition. Shambhala Centre hosts open-level meditation classes, as well as a regular schedule of visiting teachers, special workshops and study events. Drop-ins are welcome to any scheduled offering, though online registration is encouraged to ensure availability. All classes are free and donations are appreciated.
This centre is one of nearly 200 around the world dedicated to the practice of Vipassana Meditation — one of India’s most ancient techniques. Vipassana is typically taught through 10-day residential courses where students learn the history of the practice and basic methods. The centre accepts applications online to its signature 10-day course, along with one and three-day sessions catering to past students. All programs have no set cost, with everything — including food and accommodation — run solely on a donation basis. Check their schedule to ensure the availability of English language courses.
This community centre has a range of events held in English and Thai, including the popular Meditate with a Monk Mondays, which it recently took over from Little Bangkok Meditation Centre. It also gathers the local mindfulness community for a monthly Thai Buddhist, or Theravada Puja, a ceremony held daily in Thai temples considered the staple entry to Buddhism. Visitors are welcome to observe or join in and the half-day session includes a guest speaker. Past topics have included The Four Noble Truths, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Karma, Sense Desire and Kilesa.
The Middle Way Meditation Institute is a non-profit that operates in six countries. In Bangkok, just outside the city in a peaceful and natural setting, the organisation coordinates retreats at its POP House (Power of Peace), dedicated to the study of the Middle Way Meditation. This technique aims at attaining the Dhammakaya, a state of purity and a path to wisdom within. The three-day retreat introduces beginners to learn and practice the philosophy of mindfulness through meditation, while living among the tenets of Buddhism during their stay. Yoga and other activities are available to encourage conscious living, whilst meditation sessions are overseen by a monk who suggests solutions to individuals’ personal obstacles. The organisation has longer retreats available at its other centres around the country, each with all-inclusive registration fees of 4,000THB (about 130USD) and up.
This small centre on the outskirts of Bangkok hosts meditation retreats during the first week of the month from November to February in English, German and Thai. The retreats immerse participants in full training of the Buddhist philosophy and lifestyle, from instruction on bowing and chanting, discussion sessions with monks, mindful work and attentiveness to the eight Buddhist precepts. The program was founded by Mc Brigitte, a Buddhist monk who was honoured by the UN as an “outstanding woman in Buddhism” in 2009.
This quaint shophouse, in the northern suburbs of Bangkok, was converted into a cosy community centre that provides a meditation room, a Buddhist library and a meeting space for events and workshops. Archarn Helen, the centre’s Vipassana teacher, has immersed herself in the philosophies of meditation and Buddhism for decades, honoured in 2002 by the United Nations as the Foremost Western Woman Meditation Master in Southeast Asia. It is open several days a week for scheduled meditation classes and healing sessions, plus it caters to private requests as well. Basic meditation classes are priced at 500THB (about 16USD) per person, with one and two-day all-inclusive retreats starting at 3,000THB (about 96USD). The centre also offers Reiki healing courses, Metta meditation and Pendulum workshops, as well as introductory sessions to healing crystals.
Up your meditation game by booking yourself an appointment to float. Bangkok Float is the first dedicated float centre in the city, providing guests with access to state-of-the-art Dream Pods. The pods are filled with water heated to skin temperature and loaded with around 700kg of Epsom salt to allow floaters to achieve effortless buoyancy in the water and block out all sensory input. Freedom from gravity, temperature, touch, sight and sound – which together account for 90 percent of neuromuscular activity – redirects and conserves mental energy for maximum relaxation and meditation. Studies have indicated that cortisol, the main chemical related to stress, drops the longer you float in the water, while also elevating dopamine and endorphins, resulting in feelings of wellness and happiness.
This temple, in the Khlong Luang District north of Bangkok, was founded in 1970 and is renowned as the fastest growing temple of the Dhammakaya Tradition (Vijja Dhammakaya). Since it was founded, the temple’s following has grown exponentially and there are now numerous buildings on the site, notable for their minimalist design. Visitors can take a tour of the expansive temple ground on board a tram and take a walk through the enormous Sapha Meditation Hall, which can accommodate 150,000 people. The Dhammakaya Cetiya is another highlight and is home to around one million statues of Buddha.
Looking for answers to some of life’s most philosophical questions? According to Bangkok Meditation, it’s a simple matter of discarding negative thoughts and embracing positive thinking. The meditation centre in Phra Khanong offers classes that teach a simple seven-step meditation process that reportedly clears the mind and allows you to expand consciousness. The centre is open seven days a week and offers seven classes daily, available in English and Korean, with a monthly membership covering unlimited meditation time.
This retreat, in the affluent Wattana neighbourhood, takes its name from an ancient Sanskrit term meaning “rejuvenation” – and it’s all about detoxing body and mind. The holistic health center specialises in rejuvenation through deep cleansing and weight loss programs, colon hydrotherapy, herbal bowel cleansing, raw living food cuisine, yoga, pilates, far-infrared sauna, aromatherapy and a unique selection of therapeutic massages. Not up for a full detox? Pay a visit to the raw cafe, which offers healthy takes on comfort food, such as mushroom marinara pizza made from a live flaxseed and sunflower crust topped with marinated mushrooms, marinara sauce and vegetables.
Led by the teachings of the third Dupseng Rinpoche – one of the most highly regarded Tibetan Buddhist teachers worldwide – the Manjushri Retreat Center is home to the Kagyu Yogi Academy. This extended course teaches lay practitioners how to practice Mahamudra meditation. The course begins with preliminary modules covering prostrations, bodhicitta (enlightenment-mind), mandala offering and guru yoga, before progressing to mind training, yidam practice and Naro yoga. The end goal is Mahamudra, a Sanskrit word referring to the wisdom of an empty mind.
Mandi Keighran contributed additional reporting to this article.
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