Training the mind is indispensable to true Buddhist practice. Often this is casually referred to as “meditation.” On a visit to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, you will have the opportunity to learn basic mental training under the guidance of Thai Buddhist monks so you can have a taste of it first-hand.
Chiang Mai is the second most important city in Thailand next to Bangkok, its capital. Aside from the hundreds of temples sprinkled throughout the city, and several excellent Thai massage schools, Chiang Mai also boasts of modern meditation classes for English-speaking students.
Why training the mind is important in Buddhism
Average people have no control over their thoughts and feelings. Like water that is unclear when it moves, an agitated mind fails to perceive truth. Buddhism in Thailand and elsewhere in the world teaches that to see truth and be free of suffering, one has to learn to tame the mind first. This taming of the mind is acquired through basic concentration and breathing practices. In ancient times people had to take monastic vows to practice these exercises in seclusion. Today you can take “meditation retreats” to receive similar training without becoming a monk or nun. Several schools in Chiang Mai offer such retreats and classes.
Meditation Classes in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Northern Insight Meditation Center teaches the vipassana method of mindfulness. Its intensive classes take 26 days to complete, or no less than 10 days for those who cannot take the full course.
The International Buddhism Center offers a 21-day course on vipassana as well. You can join discussions and chanting or a short 3-day retreat.
Wat Soan Dok gives people a chance to learn about the lives and practices of monks in their “Monk Chat Programme” held every other day on weekdays. For meditators, the temple has a 4-day course on vipassana.
Tip: Learn Thai yoga
Meditation exercises should be practiced only by healthy, mentally and physically sound individuals. To prepare for Buddhist meditation, you might also want to learn Thai yoga, also known as ruesri dat ton. This system of exercises are designed to improve physical health and give a sense of calmness, necessary for mental training.