Wat Pah Ban That Temple Meditation Retreat, Udonthani, Thailand
MEANING OF WAT PAH BAN THAT
It means the ‘forest monastery of Ban That.’
c/o Serm Service, 89 Phosi Road, Udon Thani 41000.
Located 564 km northeast of Bangkok and 16 km southwest of Udon Thani. Take a songtaew, local bus, or taxi from Udon Thani south 8 km to Ban Gum Kling, then turn southwest 7 km to Ban That and continue one km to the wat. Some songtaews go direct to Ban That from Udon and may even drop you off at the wat entrance. Samlor drivers in Udon usually know where the songtaews depart.
Several fast trains provide daily service to Udon, including an overnight express which offers comfortable Second-class sleepers. Many air-conditioned buses with reclining seats depart Bangkok’s Northern (Moh Chit) Bus Terminal for the day or overnight journey. Ubon Ratchathani and other northeastern cities also have good bus connections with Udon. THAI offers a daily flight from Bangkok to the airport just south of Udon.
Anapanasati, the mental repetition of “Buddho” (or “Dhammo” or “Sangho”), or contemplation of a part of the body is used to gain calm. The practice of samadhi has 3 levels. The first level is characterized by short periods of calm. Second level has mental images nimittas during longer periods of calm. The real level of samadhi — the deep stage which is necessary — is the third.
The mind Citta drops down to the level of the heart; there is then the experience of knowing, but having no specific object present. This is one of the happiest states one will ever find in life if the state can be attained. From this level of concentration one comes out of it and directs the mind toward contemplation of the body.
The object is to overcome kilesas (defilements) which leads us to do the wrong things. We overcome the kilesas by seeing them. However, only a well-concentrated mind can provide the basis to see deep-rooted kilesas. A teacher is valuable in developing the proper level of concentration. Self-reliance, minimal socializing, and observance of monks and temple rules receive emphasis in the practice here.
Ajahn Maha Bua rarely gives talks due to his age but he does meet with visitors in the morning and answers questions. Some of his talks have been translated into English and published in a series of books available at the wat. Forest Dhamma has a fairly complete description of the meditation instructions in English. Guidance in this meditation system of Ajahn Maha Bua is provided primarily by Ajahn Pannavaddho, probably the most senior western monk in Thailand.
- Ajahn Maha Bua, abbot (Thai; age 77)
- Ajahn Pannavaddho, vice abbot (English; age 65)
Ajahn Maha Bua speaks a little English. Ajahn Pannavaddho speaks English and Thai.
A quiet, forested area of 160 rai (64 acres). Ajahn Maha Bua has chosen to keep the wat simple with a large wooden sala as the only major structure.
- monks: 35-45
- novices: about 5
- nuns: occasionally
- a few laypeople: 5-30
Besides pindabat and the morning meal, the community gets together for cleaning in and around the sala in the morning, then for sweeping and water hauling in the afternoon. Each person practices on his own for most of the day. The only regular group meeting is the fortnightly Patimokkha for monks.
Very good northeastern and Bangkok styles. Monks and novices go on pindabat in Ban That, then eat one meal. Additional food comes from the kitchen and visiting supporters. Resident laymen can eat in the main sala with the monks and novices. Women eat in the women’s area. Drinks and sweets are served in the early afternoon.
Everyone stays in well-separated kutis or in a lan (small roofed platform in the forest). Women live in a separate area of the wat. Some kutis have attached bathrooms or one can bathe at wells. Toilets are Asian-style. Generally, no running water or electricity is available.
WRITE IN ADVANCE?
Not needed. Try to avoid arriving on religious holidays, especially those on weekends, and during the Rains Retreat.
The popularity and renown of Ajahn Maha Bua and his wat, together with limited space, make long-term stays difficult. Laypeople usually can stay up to 2-3 weeks; extensions can be requested. Monks and novices can visit only for short periods too. You can get directions to other wats that use the same meditation system; you’ll need to speak Thai at these. Ajahn Maha Bua practiced under the meditation master Ajahn Mun for 9 years; he later wrote a biography of his teacher.