Meditation courses are becoming very popular in Thailand and the best place in which to study the art is Wat Tam Doi Tone in Amphur Maewang, in Chiang Mai.
Phra Ajarn Piya-dhassi is the abbot of Wat Tam Doi Tone. He discovered the site for the temple in 1986 and built this meditation Sala in 2006. The large pond is a sanctuary for frogs who’s nocturnal croaking is a source of great frustration for the local hill tribe villagers, who regard frogs as a supreme delicacy. However they are safe from human predators behind the temple’s walls. Wat Tam Doi Tone is situated on over five acres of lush gardens and natural forest which includes a huge cave, at the end of which is a large bronze statue of Buddha looking down serenely upon those seeking enlightenment on the cave floor. The cave is also a sanctuary for a colony of very useful little animals – small insectivorous bats who, on their nocturnal forays, eat their own weight in mosquito’s and other insect pests every night. If it wasn’t for the temple providing a home for them, they’d be quickly caught and eaten by the hill tribe people who regard them as a delicacy second only to frogs. Thus, Phra Ajarn Piyadhassi is following in the footsteps of the Lord Buddha who preached that one should be mindful of environmental issues.
Phra Ajarn Piyadhassi is one of the great meditation masters. He’s been meditating for thirty five years, and teaching for over twenty years. He’s noticed that more and more young people are coming to his meditation courses, seeking an alternative to the stressful life style of today’s consumer society. And he recently hosted a meditation retreat for a delegation of Jesuit monks who came from all over South East Asia to learn how to adapt Buddhist meditation techniques to the practice of their own religion.
Phra Ajarn Piyadhassi is a man of infinite knowledge and wisdom, but at the same time, a very practical man who cares deeply for the welfare of the people in his community. And it was this commitment that saw him plan and execute a rather interesting project.
” About ten years ago some teachers from a small school in Nongmonta Village dropped in at my temple on the way home from Chiang Mai. They had been trying to raise funds to build a new school, as the existing school was very run down and inadequate for the needs of the children. We talked about it, and I decided to help them. Over the years, with the aid of some very generous people in America and Thailand, we raised over 1 million 350,000 baht. Finally it is all finished and ready for the teachers and children to start using it.”
The climax of all the years of planning and building came on Friday the 23rd of August, 2013 when a convoy of vehicles set off to scale the slippery mountain road leading to Nongmonta Village.
The grand opening of the new school was scheduled for the following day and a big celebration had been planned, so truck loads of vital equipment had to be hauled up the mountain side. And the most vital piece of equipment was this generator as the school is so remote that there is no electricity on the site. It was needed to ensure that there was a never ending supply of noodles and waffles to boost the morale of the legions of volunteers who had worked up a tremendous appetite pushing reluctant vehicles up the treacherous mountain road. Meanwhile the temple’s team of photographers and video makers began to record the historic event……..and the performers started to rehearse their routines……..
Day two dawned and the hundreds of guests, volunteers and performers prepared themselves with another hearty serving of waffles and noodles prepared by the venerable Au-Thai Ariyawangso and Mister Banjongand and his catering team, before launching into their carefully rehearsed routines.
But there was a serious side to the day. There were people and buildings to be blessed. The library was made possible by the generosity of the Clark family from America, and Phra Ajarn Piyadhassi made a large cash donation himself, as well as donating months of time and effort. But it was all worthwhile in the end.
The school has four teachers who will attempt to teach the sixty Karen children everything they need to know to have a happy and productive future. It will be a challenge, as each teacher teaches two grades in the one room. But these children have been given a chance by a progressive, forward thinking man and several local and overseas sponsors, who’s generous support will give them a chance to make a quantum leap from a small village in north Thailand to a place somewhere in today’s modern world.
For more information regarding meditation courses at Wat Tam Doi Tone,check out their website.