When visitors spend one or two weeks in Chiang Mai, they will normally visited a few temples and photographed some Buddhist monks. Here are ways to go deeper into this philosophy and start to practice and understand some Buddhist concepts.
1. Give alms
Each morning, all Buddhist monks get up before dawn and set to walk in and around their respective temples. The goal is to collect offerings in the form or food or even money. In exchange, the giver receives blessings in the form of a chant.
What to do: Put your offering in the monk’s alms bowl and kneel while bringing your hands in a praying position while lowering your head. The monk will chant for about 1 minute.
Where to do it: At any moment when you see a monk walk around between 4:30 and 7AM. The most popular place to do this in Chiang Mai is the at the Chiang Mai Gate Market near the South-East corner of the old city where dozens of monks gather every morning.
2. Attend a Dharma talk
A Dharma talk will give you the opportunity to directly discuss Buddhism with monks. You will be introduced to the basic principals of Buddhism such as karma and precepts, learn about daily life for a monk and even be allowed to ask questions.
Where to do this: Wat Suandok offers a 2 hour talk beginning at 17:00 Monday to Friday.
3. Learn to meditate
Meditation is at the center of Buddhism; this is the way the Buddha attained enlightenment. Contrary to popular beliefs, meditation is not practiced while listening to relaxing music. It’s a practice which takes time, regularity and discipline. There are several methods but the ones taught and practiced in Thailand are mostly Vipassana and walking meditation.
Where to do it: Wat Rampoeng (temple) offers a mini 10 meditation retreat. If you have more time, they also offer one of 26 days. These two retreats are considered very basic introduction but will give you a very strong basis for a life long practice which will change your life.
Wat Suandok offers a tiny 2 day retreat.
The historical Wat Umong also offers a retreats. We suggest that you show up a few days before you decide to begin your retreat.
Please be warned that you will need to obey the very strict rules which are a part of daily life in a Buddhist temple.