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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

About experiencing forest wats (1)

buddhism forest wats tudong monks isaan thailand
Okay, so what does a westerner do if he stays for longer than a couple hours, say overnight, at a forest wat in isaan thailand.
Every wat and everyone is different so all of this is based on my experiences and what I have seen over the past 20 some years involved with monks, wats, and forest buddhism.
The "tourist ( I mean here the wats that have appear in books like "the Loopey Planet Guide" and other travel for idiots guides that exist)(but who am i to judge)" wats like wat pa nanachat and others have a formal set of instructions and rules so, just read their websites.
No one would go wrong spending time at a wat like nanachet. English is spoken and the teaching is clear, concise and to the point.
At most of the forest wats you are going to need a bit of Thai to get along. It is sometimes amazing at the number of people in the villages and wats in isaan thailand that have a bit of english. Also remember that a lot of folks can speak english, better than they can understand it. A lot like me and thai.
Know something about the wat you are going to visit.You need to realize that most thais, or isaan people do not have a clue about forest wats, so do your research.
Do NOT believe the fallacy about forest wats, that the monks in them are only interested in meditation, but not formal studies.Forest monks well understand the relationship between knowledge and wisdom. They are involved in their "nak dham" and pali studies. I have often found them much better learned than many city monks.
Now a days some wats have set up"come visit a wat experience" for westerners. I have heard good and bad about these and have not gone to or inspected one myself. You are on your own there. Check around ask people who have been. As a matter of fact I have heard of one here in khon kaen and will try to check it out this month

Coming next about bedrolls, footwear and food.