Nature of Buddha Nature

Wednesday 25th November

Dhamma Talk with

Ven. Chong Go Sunim

(American monk – Korean lineage)


Phra Pandit Cittasamvaro

(British Theravada monk)

The Nature of Buddha Nature

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in Bangkok the Korean Soen (Zen) One-Mind  temple is arranging a number of activities (See here for celebration and dhamma talk on Sunday 22nd Nov 09).

On the Wednesday 25th of November Venerable Chong Go Sunim – an American monk of the Korean Seon (Zen) lineage, and Phra Pandit Cittasamvaro – British monk of the Thai Theravada lineage, will jointly give a Dhamma talk on Buddha-nature and consciousness. The event is free of charge, in English and open to all. No reservation is needed.


The nature of consciousness is the great unexplored realm of humanity of the modern age. Only in the last decade has it even become an acceptable topic of research. Despite cracking the organic cell and mapping the neural pathways, science still has practically no idea of how or what consciousness is. And yet it is the very foundation of human life!

Essentially this was the quest of the Buddha, and was the basis of his ultimate discovery. He followed consciousness to its source in what we would now call a replicable experiment – that is anyone can do as he did. Of course, it takes discipline and dedication in training the mind in the right way. ( see the recent Littlebang blog on the Skeptic’s Dilemma)

‘Buddha-nature’ is a Mahayana Buddhist name for the basic nature of the mind. It is not quite a ‘shared consciousness’, but nonetheless is the same for everyone. Much of the Korean One-Mind school of Buddhism meditation approach focusses on this nature, and ones relationship to it.

Though the term does not appear in Theravada, the theory sits well with standard Theravada teachings. The Buddha himself was an explorer of the conscious experience, and claimed to have found an Unconditioned base to the mind that is Enlightenment. And he described these resulting experiences in different ways.


Venerable Chong Go Sunim:

Chong Go SunimVenerable Chong Go Sunim, originally from the United States, was ordained in the Korean Jogye Order (the largest Buddhist Order in Korea) in 1993. He completed an MA in Seon Studies in 2003 and received 3rd level certification from the Jogye order in 2002 allowing him to ordain others and serve as an abbot.

Ven. Chong Go Sunim’s Dharma teacher is the Venerable Seon Master Daehaeng KunSunim and he practices at the Hanmaum International Centre where he helps translate the works of Master Daehaeng into English and other languages. He also runs several Dharma groups and gives regular talks in English and Korean.

Venerable Phra Cittasamvaro Bhikku:

There is a beautiful place in the mind, peaceful, bright and aware, that shows itself when you put everything down. It is free to all who undertake the search.”
– Phra Cittasamvaro Bhikku

Venerable Phra Cittasamvaro Bhikku, originally from England, has been an ordained member of the Thai Sangha for over 13 years and is the founder and continuing inspiration and guide behind what has come to be known as The Littlebang Sangha, the community of English-speaking Buddhists in Bangkok.

The Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Center:

The Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Center is an overseas branch of Hanmaum Seon, established by Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim, a female Seon master widely respected throughout Korea, and part of the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism. Seon is the Korean word for Zen, and Master Daehaeng’s teaching is to realize and awaken to our inherent nature, sometimes called Buddha-nature, inherent mind, or Juingong.

The Bangkok branch of Hanmaum Seon was established ten years ago and is very much a centre of the Korean Buddhist community. The centre is run by two resident Sunims and holds regular ceremonies and teachings in Korean, and a monthly English-language Seon group that usually meets on the evening of the first Saturday of the month.

A point to note:

  •  There are no bare feet in Korean temples, it would be much appreciated if those wishing to come will remember to bring socks!

The Details:

Wednesday November 25th

6.30pm onwards – Arrival
7pm to 8.30pm – Dharma talk by Ven. Chong Go Sunim and Ven. Cittasamvaro Bhikkhu

The Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Centre
86-1 Soi 4 Sukhumvit 63
BTS – Ekamai, Exit 1

Leave the Ekkamai Skytrain station at exit 1, on the side opposite the Bus Terminal. The temple is in Sukhumvit 63. A short way down 63 on the right you will see soi 4. Go all the way to end of soi 4 and it’s on your left.

You can get a motorbike taxi from the BTS station, just ask for the Korean Temple (‘wat gowlee’). It’s only a few minutes away and should cost just 10 or 20 baht.

Click map for a lager version:



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The Conscious Experiment

Update – due to a special donation, lunch is subsidised and is now 90 baht/person instead of 206 🙂

The final social gathering and movie at the Tai Pan Hotel of this decade!

The Conscious Experiment

Lunch/movie at the Tai Pan Hotel

Saturday 28th November

Film: The Illusion of Consciousness

Dr Susan Blackmore

Followed by a 15 minute summary of the Buddha’s own ultimate experiment in consciousness according to The Way of the Elders (Theravada)

Finally we’ll leave the floor to Dr Georges Dreyfus to define some of the concepts, problems and theoretical solutions according to the great Mahayana Buddhists of history.

Everyone welcome! These events are a good chance to meet some of the other faces in an informal setting and swap some viewpoints later after the documentary. We are always a diverse crowd so everyone will fit in ..


The usual 206 baht buffet lunch at the Tai Pan Hotel – good food, wide choice. With soups, salad, make-your-own pizza, and Thai & Western dishes. Lunch is specially discounted and will be just 90 baht each – it’s a big range of food, coffee, desserts … for 90 baht.

Come any start time between 11:15 and 12:15

If you can’t make lunch you are also welcome to come just for the film (or just for lunch as skip the movie). It’s an informal day so feel free.

FilmDr Susan Blackmore

A thoroughly interesting 45 minute taped lecture of Dr Susan Blackmore (Wikipedia biography . And  her homepage here) called The Illusion of Consciousness that was presented at the Skeptics conference on consciousness in 2005.

Susan Blackmore is a skeptic, psychologist and student of consciousness. Not to mention a long time student of Zen Buddhism, and prolific writer including authoring 3 books on consciousness :

 Conversations on Consciousness
Consciousness: An Introduction,

and A very short introduction to consciousness

Consciousness in Buddhism

Any ultimate experiment in consciousness must be subjective – only you can taste and feel it. The Buddha followed consciousness to its roots and discovered what he called the Unconditioned, or the Amata (deathless) – a base of consciousness, the attainment of which is perfect enlightenment.

We will rattle through a 10 (ish)  minute presentation of this discovery, and purportedly replicable experiment, according to The Way of the Elders (Theravada Buddhism)

George-DreyfusThen we will leave the floor to the very interesting Georges Dreyfus – Sanskrit scholar and former Tibetan monk of 15 years. Georges gave a very lively and stimulating talk on the nature of consciousness in Chulalongkorn university last year, which left an impression on a number of us Little Bangkok Sangha who attended. He is an experienced lecturer in top US universities, and an enthusiastic speaker.


Saturday 28th November

11:15 – 1 pm Lunch (arrive any time)

1:15 – 2pm The Illusion of Consciousness

2:00 – 2:15 Consciousness according to early Buddhism

2:15 – 3:15 (ish) Presentation and discussion led by Dr Georges Dreyfus.

Finish around 3:30 (people welcome to stay later and chat afterwards)


Goto Asoke BTS or Underground line. Walk East and go down Sukhumvit 23 for 336 meters (thanks Google Earth). Turn left into the Tai Pan Hotel. Restaurant is on the ground floor as you enter the building. Make sure to come and announce yourself – or they might not give you our discounted price for lunch!

Map to Tai Pan Hotel - Sukhumvit 23

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Cat banned from prison visit

Cat banned from visiting Buddhist inmate

A Buddhist bank robber has been refused permission for his cat to visit him in jail – even though he says it’s the reincarnation of his mum.

Peter Keonig, 46, is serving five-years for armed robberies in Whirl, Germany, reports the Daily Telegraph.

He went to court to demand the right for his cat Gisela to be allowed to visit him in jail “because she is my dead mum”.

Buddhists believe that people come back as other animals after death.

He said: “I know it is mummy. She looks after me just the way she did. I need to see her like other prisoners see their wives and children.”

The court ruling said: “While we respect the religious freedom of individuals, the accused has not been able to furnish proof that his deceased mother has been reborn in a cat. Therefore, the request for visiting rights for the feline is rejected.”

The court did say he would be allowed to write to the cat.

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Skeptic’s Dilemma

Find out for yourself

…is the oft repeated saying from the Buddha.

and don’t just believe me

A look around the world’s great spiritual teachers reveals something interesting – none of them really wanted to be worshipped. All of them had discovered something and wished others to recreate the experience. We might cite the exceptions of Moses and others, who claimed to be simply passing on a message whispered in their ear by God. But even they did not want to be worshipped. It is a curious trait of people in the world to venerate their teachers, rather than the teachings. Buddhism is no exception.

The Dhamma taught by the Buddha is supposed to be universal law. That means that it is the nature of the universe whether there is someone who understands and points it out or not. He claimed to have rediscovered it, like a traveller might rediscover an ancient path in the forest, that leads somewhere interesting (Buddha’s own analogy). That is: he rediscovered the Unconditioned or the Deathless (amata) base of consciousness.

In the way of a pure science, the experiments have been done, the conclusion reached and the details laid out for anyone to follow and recreate the results. Just like it is somewhat difficult to recreate nuclear fusion experiments, until you have learned all the necessary background (not to mention secured a big budget) it is also difficult to follow the advice laid out in the Suttas for how to reach this Unconditioned for yourself. Purification of morality, of view, of understanding, of knowledge and vision, of meditation etc.. this is a difficult experiment to replicate for those caught up in the world and in desire.

Yet along that path that you call difficult, the noble ones make their way

(advice to Kamada)

So if we are to take the path as a grand experiment, does that leave room for the skeptic ?

A student of nuclear physics must take a certain amount on trust and follow the text books. Doubting and arguing every step of the way will ensure they never reach the goal of recreating a nuclear fusion experiment by themselves. Similarly for Buddhism, while you should certainly keep your wits about you, and should never leave your intelligence or understanding far behind, you must at the same time take a certain amount on trust. To recreate the experiment you can’t rely on anyone else. You have to be willing to get on the cushion and put aside your thoughts and desires and train the mind in the way recommended. Only then can one go beyond skeptical doubting. Until then, the skeptic will always be faced by the classic dilemma:

The skeptic is unable to accept solutions to questions they are unable to dismiss as unsolvable


This Friday we will be joining Georges Dreyfus at Chulalongkorn univeristy for a lecture on Skepticism in Buddhsim. He is a warm and interesting speaker. Those who can join early – we will be meeting for lunch before hand at 10:45 outside the building where the talk is held.

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Sun 29 – Workshop with A. Wimaok

This month Thai monk Ajahn Wimoak will lead his usual monthly workshop in English/Thai on Sunday 29th Nov. 

Interested foreigners are welcome to attend – the day is kind of ‘Thai style’, which means a little ‘fluid’ in schedule. There will be a dhamma talk in the morning session, and some walking meditation and meditation interviews by visiting lay practitioners for those who want it. The day is officially in English, but depending on the participants there will be periods of Thai language teaching also. 

The program, including lunch, is kindly provided free of charge by Ariyasom Bangkok Boutique Hotel.

Ajahn Wimoak is a Thai monk, currently finishing a PhD in Buddhsim in English. He is also an accomplished meditator and has good English. He is able to put dhamma into accessible words based on direct experience, which is in contrast to the formulaic approach of most Thai monks.

Note: the schedule is rarely adhered to, except for check in and lunch which is at the correct time.

  • 8:30 – 9 am Registration
  • 9 – 10 Talk on Kayakatasati (mindfulness of body)
  • 10-11:15 refreshments and meditation
  • 11:30 Lunch
  • Afternoon session will (usually)  include short Dhamma talk, sitting and walking meditation, and one-to-one interviews.
  • Finish between 4 and 5 pm

Ariyasom Villa
65 Sukhumvit Soi 1, Sukhumvit Road,
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok 10110
Tel. 02 254 8880

Click here for further information on Ariyasomvilla

Directions couldn’t be easier. Go down Sukhumvit Soi 1 straight to the very end, and you will see Ariyasom Villa on the left.

For Skytrain users, take the Ploen Chit Station.

Map to Ariyasom

Click for larger view-


(Click here to go to Ariyasom Villa’s map)



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Monk Police

Here is an interesting video about the ‘Monk Police’, a crack FBI style squad of heroic defenders of the faith. At least that is how the documenters present it.

These monks have taken it on themselves to catch ‘fake’ monks who beg for food or money via the robe and bowl. Some of them are drunk, others are not even ordained monks.

These kinds of story make it look like Thailand is crawling with ‘fakes’. In fact the opposite is true. While there will always be opportunists, for the most part the Thai Sangha has avoided much controversy. Sometimes someone is ‘caught’ drinking or going to a Karaoke bar. While it is wrong behaviour it is fairly tame. In such times the person, if not given a second chance, will be quietly disrobed and returned to lay life.

As for the giver – when one gives to any monk it should be with the intention to support the Sangha as a whole, rather than  a particular individual. Of course, if the monk is a family member or someone you know well then there is the personal element. Yet the base intention is to support the Sangha, which protects and maintains the religion. Therefore most people who offer alms in the mornings feel quite rightly that they have done their part. If a monk lets the Sangha side down, it is their own Karmic lookout.


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Kathmandu Healing Meditation

Announcement for the November Kathmandu Gallery Healing Meditation  (last month was skipped due to renovations at the Gallery)

After the event most of the participants go over to the now famous Mashoor’s Indian Veggie cafe for lunch to chat and eat – great food too.

Healing Meditation

The workshop this November will start off with simple but creative “aromatic ” chi kung to raise the level of our life force in order to facilitate the healing meditation which we will learn the yogic technique of japa, silently repeating mantra, the most potent technique in rapidly relaxing the mind.

Sunday 15 of November, 2009

From 10.00-11.30 am

at Kathmandu Photo Gallery and Book Shop

87 Pan Road, off Silom Road

(near Indian Temple)

BTS Surasak or Chongnonsi

Admission is free but donation is welcome

Open to beginners and

to open minded meditators

Please book your place in advance

Kathmandu 02-234-6700

If you need to sit on the chair,

please also let us know

Recommended for people with cancer

Kathmandu Gallery is a 10 min walk from Surasak BTS Station.

Click the wonderful and clear map below for a larger version.


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Psycho Buddhists

Dr Holly and co. have been thinking long about a psychology and Buddhism meeting of some kind. Getting things underway there will now be a meeting every month (ish) at a cafe somewhere in town. First attempt was Starbucks, but it proved a little noisy.

Next meet will be Tuesday 10th November, 4 pm.

In the Indigo, just off soi Convent. (Sala Daeng BTS).

leave a message below to be included on the email notification or connect by telephone.

Over the last 10 years meditation, and especially mindfulness meditation, has become the watchword in psychology, with lots of genuine research. How far can Buddhist principles help psychologists, and how much can psychology help Buddhist meditators with their practise ? There is certainly lots of cross-over.

The next meeting will discuss the ego and ‘self’.

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One more one-day Workshop

Sorry – the meditation workshop below is fully booked now. We will do more in the future!


Before they leave for an extended stay at Wat Kow Tahm, Mike and Helge will by popular demand, be leading one more one-day meditation workshop at the beautiful Ariyasom Villa Boutique Hotel.

Back in September they led 2 one day workshops over a weekend, with some 60+ participants. Everyone gave positive feedback. Their style is calm and measured – sitting and walking meditation based on mindful awareness in the Mahasi Sayadaw style, with some instruction and reflections interspersed. They will be available for private interview if anyone wishes to discuss their meditation directly.

The workshop is free of charge, so we won’t be collecting deposits. But there is only be room for 30 participants, so please be VERY sure you will be attending. It is open only to those who book in advance and who will participate in the whole day, due to shortage of space and the interest in the teachers.

Saturday 14th November

One Day Meditation Workshop

With Mike and Helge

Assist. Teachers Wat Kow Tahm

In English (questions in German also ok)

8:30 Arrive/coffee

9.00 am -9.55 am: Introduction talk (ca.20 min), meditation instructions and sitting meditation

10.00 am – 10.40 am: walking meditation instructions (ca. 10 min) and walking

10.45am – 11.30 am: short talk (ca. 7 min) and guided Compassion/Loving Kindness meditation

11.35 am – 12 pm: walking meditation

                     ———    12 pm – 1.30 pm lunch break (talking)  ——-

1.30 pm – 2.10 pm: talk on wise reflections (ca. 20 min) and meditation

2.15 pm – 2.40 pm: walking

2.45 pm – 3.10 pm sitting

3.15 pm- 3.30 pm standing meditation instructions (ca. 4 min) and standing

3.30 pm – 3.55 pm: walking

4.00 pm: guided meditation, then public questions and answers

5 pm Official finish – those who would like to meet and chat with Mike and Helge are free to do so afterwards. The dhamma hall will remain open for meditation in the evening.

The workshop will be very structured and close with the teachers, so only those attending the FULL DAY and booked in advance may join during the daytime sessions.

Wat Kow Tahm has been well known for the last 20+ years for the regular 10 day meditation retreats open to the public. They also have longer and more private retreats for old students. The program has been led by Steve and Rosemary who gave a talk for us last time they passed through Bangkok (and have an open invite to do so again). Many of our regulars with ‘littlebang’ have done retreats at Wat Kow Tahm and it comes highly recommended.

Mike and Helge are the senior assistant teachers at Wat Kow Tahm and regularly take of the reigns leading the retreats or doing the interviews.

Mike Sansom (Australia), born 1970 and has been meditating since 1994. Helge Sansom (Germany), born 1968 and has been meditating since 1997. Both are long term students of Rosemary and Steve Weissman, living and working at Wat Kow Tahm since 1999.

Many people have commented we have had a lot of Dhamma Talks, but no so much in the way of actual ‘nitty gritty’ meditation instruction. So this workshop will focus directly on the ‘How-To’ of insight meditation based on the Foundations of Mindfulness.

Ariyasom Villa

The event is kindly hosted free of charge by the fabulous Ariyasom Villa boutique hotel, at the end of Sukhumvit Soi 1. Most of our regulars will know this location well – it is a real oasis of tranquility, style and calm, right in the middle of Bangkok. Lunch and refreshments will be provided free of charge for participants.  Map and Photos are below

Booking in : Please give your name, Nationality, and email address. Do you have any prior meditation experience ? Information entered into the box below is delivered via email , and will not appear on this page.

65 Sukhumvit Sukhumvit “>Soi 1, Sukhumvit Road,
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok 10110
Tel. 02 254 8880

Click here for further information on Ariyasomvilla

Directions couldn’t be easier. Go down Sukhumvit Soi 1 straight to the very end, and you will see Ariyasom Villa on the left.

For Skytrain users, take the Ploen Chit Station.

Map to Ariyasom

Click map for larger view


(Click here to go to Ariyasom Villa’s map)



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WBU Forum Nov 09

Program :            WBU SUNDAY FORUM

Topic :                 A Child, a dog & our Buddha nature  

Date & Time :     November 1st , 2552(2009), 12.00-13.30 P.M

Speaker ;             Mr. Richard Rubacher

About the Topic :           A child, a dog & our Buddha nature


Child’s Mind: In situations of stress I enter a state of ‘absurd calmness.’ Being in a child’s mind I see the universe as a safe place.

Dog: A dog knows its Buddha Nature. This will be explained.

Buddha Nature means recurring epiphanies or ‘aha moments’ that results in joy.  People with the most epiphanies on the planet are Oprah, the Dog Whisperer, the Dalai Lama and Irena Sendler (the female version of Oskar Schlindler).

Enter Matthew Fox, the Roman Catholic priest who was summoned to the Vatican to explain why he placed his dog above the Gentleman from Nazareth; the church’s theological elite were also upset with his book, Original Blessing. Matthew Fox debunked original sin. He endorsed Mark Twain’s quip—original sin is man’s fall into seriousness.

Enter Cesar Millan, ‘the dog whisperer.’ He releases dogs from suffering (dukkha) to happiness (sukkha). He catapults people (dog owners) into an epiphany.

My experiences with dogs before and after knowing about the dog whisperer’s magical formula.

My first experience with my Buddha Nature—a glorious epiphany at age eleven when I no longer wanted to be a sex slave to Alcatraz, the leader of the Tomahawks. I talk about the initiation torture of the first white boy into an all-black gang. The aftermath of the initiation—going into battle with another Brooklyn gang. 

Fast forward to Detroit (April 1968) the night after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I, along with a crippled friend, was caught in a Detroit ghetto AFTER the 8:00 p.m. curfew. An epiphany in the ghetto

Fast forward to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury when I was assistant director in a halfway house for ex-cons. I had to inform Jitterbug that he was expelled from the house by a committee of ex-cons. Jitterbug, the winner of a thousand battles, attacked me. What happened immediately after the attack was another epiphany, a supreme aha moment. 

Another incident with Jitterbug a week after his expulsion. A black angel came to my rescue when Jitterbug came to my room at the halfway house.

An incident with a Charles Manson family member who came to my San Francisco flat on Manson’s orders. He secret agenda became known to me. Absurd calmness, an epiphany.

Bio Info Of  The Speaker

Richard is collaborating with a Hollywood producer-director for the film rights on his new book, CHARLES MANSON’S BLOOD LETTERS–dueling with the devil.  As a graduate student Richard published research papers on “the Manhattan Project of the Mind.” His first presentation at WBU, “Hollywood & the Buddha” was in March 2008. His research paper, “Psychological Near-Death Experiences: the marriage of heaven & hell,” was presented to the International Association of Near-Death Studies at its Fifth Annual North American Conference at the University of Hartford, CT in 1997. He is the author of Thai Touch where the good and bad about Thailand are told with a comic touch. He appears on dharma radio talk shows and was interviewed by Thai monks on a dharma TV show in Bangkok. He was interviewed by the shock jock, Howard Stern. 

Location :

Location :
Meeting Room, the World Buddhist University, 3rd floor, WFB Headquarters Bldg., in Benjasiri Park, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok, Time : 12.00-13.30 pm. All are welcome to join the programme free of charge. For more information, please call 02-258-0369 to -0373, fax 02-258-0372, or see

The WBU shares the same building with the WFB (World Fellowship of Buddhists), and can be found by our maps below. It is on the third floor. The WBU is open most office hours, and the building can be entered from the rear of the building from the Soi. The front gate that faces the park is generally locked, but there is access to walk through to the rear.

click maps for larger view

    WFB/WBU Building   Wide area Skytrain map

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If everyone was a …..

Vegetarian week in Thailand has drawn to a close.  In recent years even the Thais seem to have come round to the idea that a vegetarian diet is more healthy.

Traditional Diets

Traditionally, rice farmers relied on meat to provide those nutrients that rice (the old variety that was full of nutrition, as opposed to the modern ‘high yield’ strains) could not. Meat was necessary. The hill tribes without electricity know this – having no refrigerators to store food means their diets are missing some proteins – proteins that are made up by meat. They eat any animal moving, including squirrels.

But the modern world does have electricity, and plenty of options regarding diet. Meat eating is not a necessity.

Global Warming

American and European families congratulate themselves on driving electric hybrid cars and saving the planet by doing so – ignoring the fact that the electricity is produced by burning the same fuels that power cars. An electric hybrid might be cheaper to run, but that is mostly due to the fact that electricity is taxed less than gasoline. They are only very marginally more efficient than a regular diesel engine. If you really want to reduce greenhouse gasses, you would be better stopping eating meat.

Belching Cows

The planets 1.5 billion cows, and its bulls, pigs and other large grazers, contribute more to greenhouse gasses than cars, planes and trains do. Not to mention using 30% of the worlds ‘green land’ cover – land that could be used for crops (‘white land’ cover is ice regions). Land used for crops feeds vastly more people than land for meat or dairy.

When cows eat they generate methane. This is belched (from the front end) and though small in quantity, the methane is 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the usual G.W. culprit carbon dioxide. Put another way – it would take methane from 200 cows to power a car for a year. Yet a single cow produces more global warming gasses than a single car does (Some rough figures) .

Farm waste, washed downhill by rain, is a major source of water pollution. The methane and ammonia in cow dung rise into the air with evaporating water — and fall back down as ingredients of acid rain.

In China, phosphorus and nitrogen contamination are flowing into the South China Sea, killing off marine life.


Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain.

Ranching, the report adds, is “the major driver of deforestation” worldwide, and overgrazing is turning a fifth of all pastures and ranges into desert.Cows also soak up vast amounts of water: it takes a staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.

Wastes from feedlots and fertilisers used to grow their feed overnourish water, causing weeds to choke all other life. And the pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used to treat them get into drinking water and endanger human health.

It seems clear that whether you believe in global warming or not, refraining from beef, pork and milk products will have a positive environmental effect.

But what to put on your pizza instead of cheese ?

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Meditation and Offerings

A great post from Marcus’ blog  from his experience at YBAT. This organisation provide meditation for 10’s of thousands of people every year through their 3 centres. While the general population of ‘Buddhist’ Thailand might not be ardent regular yogis, it is impressive that most Thai’s have been on meditation retreats at some point and value their experiences. The integration of regular people and monastics, of general faith and deeper practise is very vibrant in Thailand, and in Buddhism as a whole:



It is often said that one of the big differences between western Buddhism and Buddhism in Asia is that Asian Buddhists don’t meditate. To some extent this is true. The average lay Buddhist in Asia is likely to put much more emphasis on offerings and chanting in their practice than on silent meditation, and certainly there are many Asian Buddhists who never meditate at all.

And yet meditation does happen, certainly in the two countries with which I am most familiar. The temples in Korea, though filled with chants, are also filled with meditative silence, and last weekend I was lucky enough to witness how rigorous meditation practice is part and parcel of most Thai people’s experience of Buddhism from a very young age.


Most Thai men, for a short period in their lives, ordain as monks, and many are encouraged to do this while still in their teens. The son of a good friend of mine here in Bangkok is currently ordained at a popular retreat centre outside the city run by the Young Buddhists Association of Thailand, and I was kindly invited along last weekend to visit him and see how he was getting on.

For the first week the boys were novices and wore white and the meditation came as a shock. Each sit lasts one hour, which would be too much for me let alone a teenage boy with little experience, and at the end of the first week over half decided not to continue. Given the length and intensity of the retreat, combined with natural feelings of homesickness, I’m surprised it wasn’t more.

The young man I went to see had also found it tough going at first but eventually settled into it, and by the time I saw him, three weeks into the retreat, he’d been transformed from typical teenager into Buddhist Bhikku. It was a Sunday and all the families there had brought special treats for lunch. Large boxes of pizza, and, from the group I went up with, huge bags of fried chicken.

The young monks ate while their relatives watched, and when they had finished the lay people took their turn to eat. As volunteer helpers cleaned up, the young monks had a little free time to spend with their visitors. Mothers and fathers knelt down in front of their children and bowed three times and paid them all the respect due to an ordained member of the Sangha.

The family I was with chatted and laughed and then, finally, we placed our palms together for a blessing from the young monk. Next week he’ll be back home and, even if he never meditates again, there are things he’ll always remember. The chants for sure, the behaviour he was expected to maintain, and whatever insights he gained from his month of silent sitting and walking meditation.

I suspect that this young man will maintain his practice, but even those that don’t will still benefit from the experience. Everyone does, both ordained and lay. With families coming together to organise and visit the retreat, offering food to the entire Sangha, providing the young Bhikkus with support and respect, everyone is tied closer together, and closer to the Triple Gem.

It was a wonderful experience for me to see this young man practicing hard and supported by both his family and the wider Buddhist community, and I’d like to thank both him and them for allowing me to briefly be a part of it and to share in some of the closeness that such Buddhist practice, the practices of both meditation and making offerings, brings. Thank you.

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The Three Refuges

A recent ‘Buddhist Intellectual’ who spoke in Bangkok recently, pointed a lot of criticism at Thailand. While doing so he addressed the question of his qualification to throw blame around. He is not a meditator, and not a follower of Buddhism on anything but a scritural level. He asked ‘am I a Buddhist’, and then agreed that many could rightly say he is not. But he does know the scriptures, and then continued to pour blame on ‘Buddhists’ for not having any idea of what the teachings actually are.

In fact many have a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. Especially in Thailand. But it is a mark of intellectual-only people that they can rarely agree, and they tend to view other scriptural experts as wrong.

On the other hand, the Buddha told his followers to blend like ‘milk and water’. Those who want to argue and bicker over different points are not ‘blenders’.

On the other hand those who take the ‘Three Refuges’ of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, tend to blend very harmoniously. And this is what it means to be a Buddhist.


The ‘Buddha’ means faith that there have been and are those yogis who have discovered the ‘Unconditioned’ or enlightenment, and taught it to others. And that you yourself have the potential. It does not depend on your birth status, your money, your race, or what club you belong to. Everyone has the capacity to discover enlightenment.

The ‘Dhamma’ means the teaching that was given. The Dhamma is supposed to be universal – the laws of the universe. Even a Buddha cannot change these laws; only point them out to others so they can use it for their own progress.

The ‘Sangha’ means literally ‘community’. Traditionally this has meant the monks and nuns. But the actual texts say ‘those who have practised well’ – ss a group, and not as individuals – i.e. you don not judge who you think is worthy, but take your refuge with the community of followers. This includes the laypeople who can also gain enlightenment.

That’s it! You are a Buddhist on a ‘refuge’ level. Years of study and exams and foreign languages are not a necessity. In the suttas we see lots of instances where people are enlightened after only a few words of teaching. With just a few pointers people can progress on the path.

These are the communtiy of followers, and for the most part, when the refuge is genuine, there really is a blending like milk and water. Mahayana monks meet with Theravada without dispute. Vajrayana followers meet with warmth Zen monks from Korea or Japan. Male and female Buddhists are all recognised as contributing. Genuine meditators mix with common faith followers without problem. The ‘Intellectual Buddhists’ on the other hand, tend to dispute with anyone who will listen. And then congratulate themselves for bravery.


Marcus had some comments on the Refuges too :

Posted in All Posts, Dhamma | 2 Comments

Vegetarian week

from 18th to 25th October 2009 is vegetarian week in Thailand.

Thai cuisine is not known for vegetarian food, though there are some excellent places. Generally the veggie stuff is is Chinese or Indian. But they are coming round to the idea that meat, particularly red meat, is not really very good for you. Even ten years ago most Thai people felt that if you do not eat meat you will fall ill. In the temples in England where the fare was usually vegetarian, many of the Thais felt it was not good for them.

In Thailand, the Thai monks are also known for their fondness for meat, which is surprising to foreigners who associate Buddhism with vegetarianism. Both Western and Chinese derived Buddhism favour a vegetarian diet.

So far as Buddhism itself is concerned there are differing opinions. The Buddha told him monks to accept whatever was given, since it was gained on alms round. It would be a bit absurd to go on almsround but tell the people what kind of food you like. So long as the monk or nun does not suspect the animal was killed for them specifically, they can accept the offering.

On the other hand Devadatta, the Buddha’s cousin who tried to form a breakaway sect, demanded that monks be vegetarian. Faced with this the Buddha gave monks the choice, that they could be vegetarian if they wished, but he would not make it a stipulation.

From this we can understand that if you are veggie or not, you can still meditate, practise and gain enlightenment.

But do we know more now then they did then? For instance, the Buddha also allowed smoking. But we now know that it is not good for you, and is addictive. Hardly in line with the teachings (but remember there is an allowance for smoking in the monk’s code).

perhaps we now know more about diet too! In fact most meditators feel that diet and exercise are a vital part of the spiritual path. They feel it helps them.  They also feel it is more in keeping with the practise of metta (loving kindness for all beings). Even many Thai temples now, according to our Thai friend Terry, are trying to encourage vegetarianism.

The arguments go back and forth. But what we are left with is a choice. There is no stipulation that Buddhists must be vegetarian, but no prohibition either. It is up to the individual to make an informed choice.

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November 22nd Korean Temple Event

Below are details of a special event at the Korean temple – There is an American monk flying in specially, and he will give a dharma talk in the afternoon. Contact Marcus for any extra details (either through the comments box at the end of this post, or through our contact page)

The Bangkok Hanmaum Seonwon (One-Mind Zen Centre) is celebrating its

Tenth Aniversary

Sunday, November 22nd

Two parts to the day:

  • 10:00 am – Anniversary ceremony (with some English and Thai translation)
  • 2:30   pm – Dharma talk in English by the American monk Venerable Chong Go Sunim

All are welcome to attend either or both of these events. All is free of charge.

Venerable Chong Go Sunim:

Sunim is the Korean word for Bhikkhu or monk.

American Bhikkhu Ven Chong Go was ordained as a sami in the Korean Jogye Order (the largest Buddhist Order in Korea) in September 1993 and as a Bhikkhu in October 1998. On both occasions his preceptor was the Venerable Chong Ha.

Ven. Chong Go Sunim completed an MA in Seon Studies at Dongguk University in 2003 and received 3rd level certification from the Jogye order in 2002 allowing him to ordain others and serve as an abbot.

Ven. Chong Go’s Guiding Sunim is the Venerable Hye Go Sunim and his Dharma teacher is the Venerable Seon Master Daehaeng Kun Sunim.

Chong Go Sunim practices at the Hanmaum International Centre where he helps translate the works of Master Daehaeng into English and other languages. He also takes care of several Dharma groups and give Dharma talks in English and Korean.

The Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Center:

Bangkok Seon Club

The Bangkok Seon Club is an English-language Zen group that will be meeting monthly at the Bangkok Hanmaum Seonwon  aka the One-mind Zen Centre near Ekamai BTS (map and directions below)  to share experiences and study Korean Zen in general, and the teachings of Zen Master Daehaeng Kunsunim in particular. First up is informal study of Daehaeng Kunsunim’s book “No River to Cross” – copies of which will be available at the centre.

Meetings will be open to all comers interested in Korean Zen Buddhism, whatever your background in Buddhism or meditation.


Daehaeng SunimThe Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Center is an overseas branch ofHanmaum Seonwon, established by Seon Master Daehaeng Kunsunim (a female Seon master widely respected throughout Korea) in 1972, and part of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism – the largest Buddhist Order in Korea with a history stretching back over 1,200 years.

‘Seon’ by the way, is the Korean word for ‘Zen’, and Master Daehaeng’s teaching is to realize and awaken to our inherent nature, also called Buddha-nature, inherent mind, or Juingong.

Daehaeng Kun Sunim teaches people to

Believe in your foundation, Juingong, and entrust it with everything that confronts you. Then go forward while observing and experimenting with what you experience.

The Bangkok branch of Hanmaum Seonwon was established ten years ago and serves the spiritual needs of Korean residents and visitors in the city. It is very much a centre of the Korean Buddhist community, and many families attend regularly with children of all ages.

The founder does not reside at this branch temple, but it is run by two resident female Sunims (monks) and holds regular weekly ceremonies and teachings in Korean, and a monthly English-language Seon group that usually meets on the evening of the first Saturday of the month.

Special Event Details:

Date: Sunday November 22nd

Time:  9.30am onwards – Arrival

10am to 12:00 – Ceremony

2.30pm – Dharma talk by Ven. Chong Go Sunim



The Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Centre

86-1 Soi 4 Sukhumvit 63

BTS  Ekamai Station – Exit 1

Take Exit 1 from Ekamai Station, and go down Ekamai Road (aka Sukhumvit 63). Turn right along Soi 4 and go to the end. Turning left you will see the Centre on your right a few meters along.

A motorcycle from Ekamai can also take you there cheaply. Ask for the ‘Wat Gao-lii’ (Korean temple).

Click map for a lager version:



A few points to note:

  • * There are no bare feet in Korean temples, it would be much appreciated if those wishing to come will remember to bring socks!
  • * The morning ceremony will be mostly in Korean. Although some transcribed versions will be available for some parts of the ceremony, and a translator will be available on the day, all the chants will be carried out in Korean.
  • * Korean bowing is very different to Thai bowing, and there will be a lot of it in the temple. No need to worry though, someone will show you how to perform a Korean bow, and you can just follow along!
  • * This is a good chance here in Bangkok to participate in an important ceremony in a Zen Buddhist temple, and to listen to some teachings from a well-respected and long-serving American Zen Buddhist monk. See you there!
Posted in All Posts, Upcoming events | 1 Comment

Lecture series at National Museum

The following is an announcement from the NMV. Please contact them directly for any eservations or queries :
NMV Introductory Lecture Series 2009
Learn more about Thai art, history, religion and culture

The National Museum Volunteers (NMV) is holding its 64th Introductory Lecture Series at the National Museum Bangkok over four consecutive Thursday mornings from 9 to 12 noon starting 29 October and on 5, 12, 19 November. All are welcome.

The popular Lecture Series is well attended by English-speakers from all countries; both newcomers to Thailand who wish to learn about their host country and by dedicated NMV members, who return year after year to refresh their knowledge of ‘all things Thai’. This year’s series includes: post 1932 politics, a look at the current Chakri dynasty’s reign of righteousness, a look at the1,500 year saga of how Bangkok came to be, Buddhist cosmology, an introduction to Buddhism, contemporary Hinduism, contemporary Thai art, and unraveling the myth of ‘Anna and the King’. All lectures will be held in the National Museum which houses the largest Buddhist Art collection in Southeast Asia. You may want to tour the galleries and collections after some lunch in one of the Museum’s cafes. You can access the National Museum, which is on Naphrathat Road opposite Sanam Luang next to Thammasat University, by taxi (National Museum in Thai is: pipittipan haeng chat) or by river boat to the closest pier, Ta Chang. Limited parking is available.

Non-members: 400 baht per day or 1,500 baht for full series Members: 200 baht per day or 700 baht for full series Without advance registration a seat may not be guaranteed. Please email

For further information on the full program, go to

NMV 64th Introductory Lecture Series 2009 program Lecture 1: 9:30 to 10:45 (registration 9:00 am) Lecture 2: 11:00 to 12 noon (registration 10:45 am) Arrive by 9 am (or 10.45) for registration and refreshments.

Thursday 29 October Perspectives on Post-1932 Thailand – Michael J. Montesano, Ph.D. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore An Introduction to Buddhism – Denise Tomecko, Author Thursday 5 November Buddhist Cosmology – Mom Rajawongse Chakrarot Chitrabongs, Patron of the Arts, Scholar, Historian Glimpses of the Chakri Dynasty: Reigning with Righteousness – Mom Bongkojpriya Yugala na Ayutthaya Thursday 12 November 1,500 years in 60 minutes: The Saga of Bangkok’s Evolution – Steve Van Beek, Author Monks, Missionaries, and Monarchs: Unraveling the Myth of Anna and the King – Jane Puranananda, Consultant, Writer, Scholar Thursday 19 November Living Hinduism – Surya Tahora, Teacher of Indian Philosophy Contemporary Art in Thailand: From Tomyamkung Syndrome to the Present – Khun Jeab Gridthiya Gaweewong, Artistic Director, Jim Thompson Art Center

Non-members: 400 baht per day or 1,500 baht for full series Members: 200 baht per day or 700 baht for full series

Liz Elliott NMV Publicity Chair

Posted in All Posts, Upcoming events

Inner Wealth of Dharma-Sun 18th

An interesting event for Sunday evening:

The Inner Wealth of Dharma

Discover our potential for limitless inner wealth that is an inexhaustible source of benefit for us, both now and in the future.

Tibetan Monk Gen Kelsang Tonglam will explain how, by sincerely putting Dharma into practice, we can transform all around us into precious treasures.Venerable

The evening will consist of: Dharma talk, guided meditations and discussion. Everybody welcome.

7 pm – 8:30 pm

Venue  :  The Buddha Dharma Relic Museum
Bangkok Square 762/2, Rama 3 Road, Yanawa, 
Bangpongpang, Bangkok, 10120

[Sorry – no map was provided – please contact the organisers below]

For more information, contact Tony Lee at +6016-4162668 or

Clifford Chuan at +66-818-898221

PDF flyer introducing the topic and speaker

Teachings in English, with Thai translation

Gen Kelsang Tonglamis the National Spiritual Director of the NKT-IKBU in Asia and the Resident Teacher of the Kadampa Meditation Centre in Hong Kong. He has been studying and practising Buddhism for many years under the guidance of Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. With his in depth knowledge of Buddhism, he is very skilful in showing how we can integrate Buddha’s advice into our daily lives and thereby increase our understanding of the teachings through our own experience.

Posted in All Posts, Upcoming events | 5 Comments

Can a Buddhist be a Skeptic?

Update: some of us will be meeting for lunch in front of the building at 10:45. We’ll go to the Chulalongkorn university teachers cafe… all welcome to join.


With Dr Georges Dreyfus

Friday 6th November 1-3 pm

Chulalongkorn University

Buddhist scholar and former Tibetan monk of 15 years Georges Dreyfus is back in Bangkok and will give another presentation at Chulalongkorn university, where he has been invited by Dr Soraj.

Georges gave a talk there earlier this year (or was it even longer ago?) on the nature of consciousness. We all found him to be a thoroughly engaging and enthusiastic speaker. Clear and precise, and never a dull moment. So all of you who are free on that Friday afternoon are definitely encouraged to attend.

There will be a talk and then time for Q&A. There won’t be any meditation, but after the talk we’ll be heading somewhere closeby for coffee.

Georges has been invited by Dr Soraj – a Professor at Chulalonkorn University in the Center for Ethics of Science and Technology. Dr Soraj often invites good academic speakers to talk there. Events are always free of charge, and held in the air-con rooms of the university, walking distance from Siam BTS Station (maps below). He also has an interesting blog that is regularly updated.

Topic, by Georges Dreyfus:

Rather than look at recent advocacies of skepticism as a way to accommodate Buddhism to modernity, I answer this question by looking at the Madhyamaka philosophy of Nagarjuna and some of its interpretations.  I compare this philosophy to ancient skepticism and show how this comparison can help us to understand the Madhyamaka tradition in particular and important aspects of Buddhism in general. I conclude by wondering about the ethical implications of such a skeptical stance within the modern context.

Room 708, Boromratchakumari Bldg., Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

All are welcome. Free of Charge.

It is a 10-15 minute walk from Siam BTS Station. Go along Henry Durant road until you get to the footbridge. Turn right at the Chula university entrance after the footbridge, and turn right again once inside the compound. The Building you want is the tallest in the area, so it is easy to spot.

Click images to enlarge them:


Here is the view as you come through the correct entrance to the university. Turn right as you enter (taxis are forced to turn left and circle round).


Boromratchakumari Building  Entrance. It is the tallest building on the campus:


Posted in All Posts, Upcoming events | 3 Comments

Dhamma Talk with Ajahn Jayasaro


Extra Special Event

Monday 9th November

Dhamma Talk with Ajahn Jayasaro

in English, at Baan Aree Library

  Ajahn Jayasaro

 We are happy to announce that Tahn Ajahn Jayasaro will be giving a Dhamma Talk in English, for our Little Bangkok Sangha on Monday 9th November 2009.

Ajahn Jayasaro was formerly the co-abbot and then sole abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat International Forest monastery in the North-East of Thailand for many years. Wat Pah Nanachat is in the lineage of Luang Phor Chah – a huge name in Thai Buddhism. Ajahn Jayasaro now resides alone in Kao Yai, and rarely makes public appearances in English outside of Kao Yai. In fact we are planning to arrange some regular trips to his hermitage where he gives a public talk every week in Thai – if there are enough of us to go along he will gladly speak in English there.

Ajahn Jayasaro is well known for his interesting and moving Dhamma Talks, in both his native English and also in Thai. For many years he led the International monastery and gained a fine reputation for accessibility and sharp dhamma. Hugely popular with the Thai community we are very glad he will talk this time in English only in support of the international community here in Bangkok.

We are holding the event at Baan Aree Library – the place where ‘Littlebang’ started 3 years ago! Be sure to come early to ensure a seat inside the air-con hall, as there will likely be a lot of people.

Time : 6:30 – 8:30 pm with Dhamma talk, Q&A, and meditation if time permits

Baan Aree

Baan Aree Library is a thriving dhamma site with library, meeting hall, and lots of events organised in Thai. The Library itself is open daily from 9 am – 7 pm and has a few books in English. The new Dhamma Hall is airconditioned and set in the attractive grounds, with many very reasonably priced vegetarian food stalls open in the daytime.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Baan Aree as the place where ‘Littlebang’ first started with the generous offering of great facilities free of charge for the English speaking community in Bangkok. Our group would not have gotten going otherwise.

Baan Aree has regular Dhamma meetings in Thai which are listed at their Thai website:  .

The Library is right on the Skytrain line. Go to Ari BTS station and walk back towards the victory monument about 20 meters and you should see the passage way to Baan Aree Library on the right hand side – click on the maps below. Do arrive early and meet with some of the regulars in the coffee shop in the compound. Baan Aree car park is accessible from the rear (Soi Ari 1) where you see the sign for ‘ BANANA FAMILY PARK ‘. Bus routes 8, 28, 29, 38, 54, 63, 74, 77, 108, 157, 177, 502, 503, 509, and 510 all pass by. Get out at Ari BTS Station.

click map to enlarge:

map to Baan Aree

click map below for a wide area view of Baan Aree location:

Wide area Skytrain map 

Baan Aree, Bahn Aree, Bahn Ari, Baan Ari are all the same thing – just various transliterations from the Thai. The Skytrain station is usually written ‘Ari’, while the Library itself usually renders it as ‘Baan Aree’ .

Posted in All Posts, Upcoming events | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Listening to Dhamma

Last night we had a dhamma talk by Sayadaw U Sujana. It might not be what most people expected when coming to listen to dhamma. Dhamma talks in Asian countries, especially Myanmar where the teachings are so well known and studied, tend to focus heavily around the Pali language. In Sri Lanaka it is the same – whenever dhamma is discussed or taught it centers on the teachings direct from the Pali language set of scriptures. Our friend Ven Kusala commented on this – on how strange he finds it when Westerners do dhamma talks in a friendly, and hopefully entertaining manner. He was not critical in any way … but he does appreciate when the original suttas are continually referenced. Naturally this will mean a certain familiarity with the Pali words.

In fact the Pali has a range of words that are not easily translated. The translations that have become common were brought in by the pioneers of Buddhists studies in Europe around 100 ++ years ago. Sometimes they got it right, sometimes they perhaps did not pick the right word.

Take ‘merit’ for instance. Making merit is a big part of the Asian approach. But the Pali word ‘Punya’ is nothing at all like the word ‘merit’. Using the word ‘merit’ suggests that you have to do some ritual that will  earn some kind of supernatural points that earn your way into heaven. Of course ‘punya’ is nothing like that, and is in fact nothing complicated. The real mechanism of punya is just a psychological process.

By returning continually to the scriptures, Asian teachers feel that there is less likelihood of going off track. And they are probably right. Looking around at some of the wacky theories and teachings around today – some of which we have been exposed to in Bangkok also – getting back to the texts would be a good thing.

The other aspect of dhamma talks in many Asian situations is the way in which they are given, rather than the words. Last night was a great example of this. It is not so important to be feeding the understanding with lots of new and interesting ideas, as a western ‘lecture’ should do. But more to lead the audience to an understanding on the feeling level. To do this you need to ‘tune in’ to where the teacher is speaking from.

Ven Sujana, as many great Myanmaese masters, spend years and years in meditation, and it shows in his demeanor. During the afternoon a few of us took the chance to ask some direct questions and then meditate together with him – and it was wonderful. In the evening those who have some experience already were able to ‘tune in’ easily and take the mind into clear and present mindfulness.

In fact for foreign monks and students in Asia, we have had to learn how to do this. Ordaining in Thai temples means endless hours of sitting through dhamma talks where you can’t understand a word. Even after a few years and some progress in the language, it can be difficult to follow Thai teachers. Yet …. some part of you feels, usually in retrospect, that you get more out of these talks than ones in your own language.

It is hard for beginners of course. Hearing streams of Pali words, and difficult concepts mentioned in passing ( like bliss as a deva for millions of years), yet it was nice to see that so many of our group were able to feel inspired by Sayadaw, and gain an experiential benefit that lies on a deeper level than mere intellectual stimulation.


Posted in All Posts, Dhamma | 4 Comments

The Offering Cloth

A look at the protocol of the monks use of the offering cloth – in response to a recent talk in Bangkok by a well known Indologist and Pali scholar, who was criticising Buddhism and Buddhists on several fronts.

If you have been around Thai monks at all you will have seen the curious tradition of them receiving things from ladies via an ‘offering cloth’, which is a handkerchief sized orange cloth, or other handy item, spread out before the monk so that he can receive things without any physical contact.


Note the monk is holding out an offering cloth

The reason forthis custom between monks and women should be obvious. Every monastic order around the world maintains a degree of separation between the sexes. Particularly celibate orders. In fact, even cub scouts/girl guides, bathrooms and changing rooms in offices or stores, the army …. everywhere there is a degree of separation between the sexes. It is something that all societies agree on . Where there are celibate orders it obvious why the boundaries are clarified and laid out even more formally.

The Protocol

The etiquette with the offering cloth is this: if a female is offering food, clothing or medicine to a monk, he will lay a cloth/bowl or other suitable item in front of him. The lady puts the item on the cloth and it is then ‘offered’ – which means it has formally been given to the Sangha of monks. And of course laymen follow the same protocol with Nuns.

Men also should formally offer food/cloth/medicine to the monks, but can do so by putting directly into the hands of the receiver.

This tradition was seized upon by a (supposedly expert) speaker in Bangkok a few days ago, as a dire sexist travesty.

Naturally the same protocol is followed when men are offering to Buddhist Nuns or Mae Chees- a point ignored by those who love to promote conflict

Things are ‘offered’ in this way so there is no discrepancy between what has been given to the monk and what has not – so that he does not take something on presumption, that the owner might not feel is appropriate. If a layperson touches the offered item after this point, it is then considered ‘unoffered’ and the monk will not take it for his own use.


Much of this is Thai tradition rather than encoded Buddhist vinaya (list of rules for monks). In fact, by the book, you can ‘offer’ something by word, gesture or receptacle (such as a bowl). But in Thailand the culture here likes to make things more clear, so things are only ‘offered’ when put directly into the hands of the receiver.

Only food and medicine needs to be formally 'offered'

Only food and medicine needs to be formally 'offered'

If on the other hand you are simply passing something to a monk rather than formally offering, such as passing a pen or book, then ladies are asked to put the item down first, and then the monk will pick the item up. If a male, you can pass the item directly into the hands of the monk. Similarly the monk will not pass something directly to a lady, but will place the item down somewhere first. If there is nowhere handy to place things, there is the funny looking ‘drop’ method where the item is dropped into the hands of the receiver – dropped either by the lady or the monk depending on who is passing to who.

There is often a relaxation of the protocol as appropriate, so don’t be surprised if it is not always followed to the letter.

Sensible People

The reason for the separation should be obvious to any sensible person. Men and women are attracted to each other, the whole world over. Just because someone is a monk or a nun does not make them immune to lust. Keeping a clear cut boundary of proper behavior between the sexes is to respect a person’s decision to keep the celibate life. Sometimes Westerners ask why women are not supposed to touch a monk. To which the answer is clear – it is the monk who is not supposed to touch the women!

The speaker several days ago jumped from this simple concept to the term ‘untouchable’as a delibarate ploy to stir controversy, knowing full well that the caste system and the ‘untouchable’ concept in India are rejected by Buddhism. As a self proclaimed ‘life-long academic’ how much research did the speaker present ? How many monks and nuns had he canvassed ? How many monks/nuns do you know who consider the whole of the opposite sex ‘unclean’ or ‘untouchable’ ? Sadly there are always those listeners who get excited by such calculated contention without questioning.

To Reiterate

It is very unfortunate that some people who just love conflict, like to declare that women are somehow ‘unclean’ in the eyes of monks, or that they will be somehow tainted by a woman’s touch. Try asking a monk if he considers his mother or sister ritually unclean – what would the answer be based on your experience of Buddhism? Such a view is every bit as ignorant and stupid as it seems. But there are always those who love conflict – if not actually creating it, then buying into it and adding fuel to a stupid misinformation typical of ‘gutter press’ sensationalism.

The offering cloth is simply a protocolkept to maintain a separation between celibates and the opposite sex. It is no judgement of the opposite sex. When a man offers something to a nun he too will be asked to follow the same protocol, by placing the item down first, or by formally offering on a cloth while ladies can offer and pass things directly to nuns (and Mae Chees). Is this a judgement of the Nuns that all males are ‘unclean’? Such a view is as stupid as it sounds, yet bizarrely some people buy into this ‘blame-game’.


To a celibate monastic, male or female, it is not the opposite sex that is a defilement, but lust. When you are living as a celibate, it means you are trying to put aside sexual attraction, difficult as that is for all human beings. It is a powerful urge, and famously the Buddha once taught that if there were 2 such powerful urges then the living of the Holy Life would be impossible. Respecting the degree of separation is a way to respect the person’s choice to live without sexual contact.

The suggestion in this abrasive talk in Bangkok, was that if this protocol was about lust and not a view of females as ‘unclean’, then why is it maintained with young children and older ladies? Again the argument is as stupid as it sounds. Even young girls and older ladies can be attractive – with the advances coming from either direction. And besides, what monk or nun would waive the protocol by considering the person too old, too ugly or too young? And would the nuns be considering men also unclean rather than just maintaining the appropriate degree of separation according to the social norms?

In fact there is often a slackening of the protocol when dealing with family members or in informal situations where there is no obvious issue of sexual attraction. And similarly more care is taken with young and beautiful people both male and female, where things are more likely to be taken out of context.

Thai or Buddhist?

The offering cloth is not strictly a Buddhist tradition so much as it is a Thai tradition. Sri Lankan and Myanmese monks will not usually use the offering cloth in their own countries, though of course they will follow it in Thailand out of respect for the Thai culture. Sadly there will always be people who like to try and highlight ‘faults’ of other cultures, arrogantly asserting their own standards as superior. The rest of us though can move comfortably through different cultural norms without conflict. In Thailand the separation between the sexes and monastics is maintained across the offering cloth to ensure there is no physical contact. It is quite a nice tradition in fact, and is nothing too serious.

Theravada monks outside of Thailand do not use the offering cloth

Theravada monks outside of Thailand do not use the offering cloth

Indian Religions

In India the cultural norms are again different. There is a suggestion in that culture that menstruation makes women somehow unclean. The origin of this tradition is that evil spirits linger around a menstruating woman in hope of finding a womb to give them rebirth – it is the spirits that are defiled, not the women. But anyway, it would go against everything we know and expect of the peaceful teaching of Buddhism if Buddhists were to buy into such an outlook. Yes there are some issues between the sexes in Buddhism that might be considered somewhat controversial, but we should restrict those discussions to a) a respectful and productive dialogue and b) to the factual issues. Sadly both these boundaries are ignored by some Westerners who just love their conflict at any price.

More Interesting

A much more interesting issue is why monastic traditions of all religions are so down on lust and sex. What is wrong with lust ? What is its effect and what is the result of renouncing it? At what point of contact or action is celibacy breached? All good topics for sensible discussion ….

Posted in All Posts, In Media | 3 Comments

Bhikkhuni Dhammananda @ Siam Society

Bhikkhuni Bhikkhuni “>Dhammananda, Thailand’s leading Bhikkhuni (fully ordained nun) will be giving a talk for the Siam Society on Sat 7th November. The topic is the discovery of two sites in Northern India that claim to be Kapilavastu – the home city of the Buddha. Since the two discoveries the two sites have vied for authenticity as the ‘real’ site. Yet we know that during the last days of the Buddha he witnessed his home city destroyed by the warring Ariyan clans. Could one site be the old city, and the other site the new city rebuilt?

 Old time members of ‘littlebang’ might remember she gave a talk for our group on this same topic just over 2 years ago.

The Discovery of Kapilavastu II

With Venerable Bhikkhuni Dhammananda

Ven. Dhammananda’s presentation will provide a background view on the controversial issue of  the 2 sites of Kapilavastu, one in Napal and one in India. She will provide material to support the connection between the two sites and the important discovery of the relics at Piprahwa (Kapilvastu II). The first set of the relics were sent to Thailand during the reign of King Rama V. There is a question as to where those relics are located today. The talk will focus on the suspected excavation sites. The speaker will provide more information on the latest findings. Ven. Dhammananda (Dr. Chatsuamarn Kabilsingh) was born in 1944. Her father, Korkiat Shatsena, was a member of parliament, and her mother, Voramai, was a school teacher. Before she decided to take the route of spiritual service in 2001 by being ordained she had a family with three grown sons.

Ven. Dhammananda spent 27 years as a professor at Thammasat University. She has written and translated more than 70 books. She has a strong academic background in the history of Buddhism and has been involved in the bhikkhuni ordination procedure for more than 3 decades. In 2004 she received the UN Outstanding Buddhist Women award and in 2005 she received the Prestige Women of the Year award as an educator. In 2005 she was one of the 1000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Award. Her mother, Ven. Bhikkhuni Ta Tao Fa Tzu (Voramai Kabilsingh), founder of the Songdhammakalyani Monastery, was the first Thai woman to be ordained in the Mahayana tradition. In 2001 she became the first Thai woman to be fully ordained as a bhikkhuni in Theravada tradition. Though her ordained status is not recognized by the Thai Government, nor by the Sangha, she is well supported and runs her own monastery which is also an International Buddhist Studies Center just outside of Bangkok. Currently she conducts lower ordination for women at her own monastery.

7 November 2009 (Saturday)

10:00 a.m at  The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

For more information, please telephone Khun Arunsri at

(02) 661 6470-7, fax (02) 258 3491, or e-mail

Office Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.

Non-Members : Donation: 200 baht

Siam Society Members, Members’ spouses and children, and all students

showing valid student I.D. cards, are admitted free of charge.

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12 Mindful Steps

The following is regarding some sincere efforts to link mindfulness meditation methods and the western-style 12 step program .

One Day Insight Meditation Workshop

Sunday 18 October 2009,

9 am – 4 pm (lunch included)

Meeting venue courtesy of: Yip In Soi & Co. Ltd

523 Mahaprutharam, Bangrak, Bangkok

Several local and expat Bangkok residents are exploring ways to combine our Buddhist meditation practice with western-style “twelve-step support community” strategies that we have found useful in coping with the stresses and strains of living in our fast-paces metropolis.

Within this framework we are offering a one-day workshop to investigate how these two broad health and wellness practices may complement each other.

Participants need not be members of a twelve step community nor do twelve-steppers need to know how to meditate to participate in this workshop.

We are inviting Jonathan Preboy, a senior lay teacher from the International Meditation Center at Wat Chom Tong in North Thailand to provide meditation instruction to workshop participants. Those already familiar with Insight Meditation will be asked to adopt this particular variation of the broader practice for the duration of the workshop. A panel of experienced meditators and practicing twelve-steppers will lead an open discussion among participants after morning and afternoon sessions of walking and sitting meditation.

All participants will be asked to commit a full day to this workshop (9 am-4 pm) — no drop-ins please. A simple lunch will be served. The venue is provided courtesy of Yip In Soi Company, at their headquarters, accessible from the Hua Lompong station of the MRTA. Those attending the workshop will be provided a map and more details regarding the Workshop by return email.

If you are interested in participating please email your name, telephone number and email address to:

Fred Burian via the contact form below or call him directly on  02-883-3501:

The workshop is free-of-charge. The meditation room will be air conditioned. Participants who have a meditation cushion should bring it. For others, meditation cushions will be provided. Straight back chairs will be available for those not use to sitting on the floor. Participants should wear loose-fitting, comfortable cloths. Donations for lunch and travel of the lay teacher from the North of Thailand will be welcomed.

Posted in All Posts, Upcoming events

Dzochen Teaching Oct 7-9

The Thousand Stars Tibetan Buddhist organisation in Bangkok has the following announcement (be sure to contact them to find out details such as  how much is in English/Thai)


The Thousand Stars Foundation is pleased to invite you to join a series of teaching on “A-Tri Preliminary Practice of Dzogchen” by Latri Khenpo Geshe Nyima Dakpa Rinpoche on :

October 7-9, 2009, 6.30-8.30 pm.

.. at the foundation house. This is the first time ever for such a teaching to be given in Thailand. There are no registration fees.

“A” is a sacred syllable representing primordial mind, which is pure, clear and radiant. Preliminary practice is the training to realize this state. We will do the practice step by step. Rinpoche will do guided meditation at the end of each session. We will also do a 9-step breathing practice to purify our body and mind before we start meditating.

สำหรับทุกท่านที่สนใจการฝึกจิตตามแนวซกเช็น พระอาจารย์ลาตรี เคนโป เกเช ญีมา ทรักปา ริมโปเช จะนำภาวนาเรื่อง “การฝึก อา-ทรี บนวิถีแห่งซกเช็น” วันที่ 7-9 ตุลาคม ที่บ้านมูลนิธิพันดารา เวลา 18.30-20.30 น. หัวข้อภาวนานี้เป็นครั้งแรกที่มีการสอนจริงจังในเมืองไทย งานนี้ไม่เก็บค่าลงทะเบียนค่ะ

“อา” เป็นอักขระศักดิ์สิทธิ์หมายถึงจิตกระจ่าง เป็นสภาวะเดิมแท้ของจิตที่มีอยู่ภายใน ใสบริสุทธิ์ การฝึกซกเช็นคือการกลับไปสู่สภาวะนี้ การฝึกปฏิบัตินี้จะทำตามลำดับขั้น ช่วงท้ายของทุกวัน เราจะร่วมนั่งสมาธิกับพระอาจารย์ ฝึกลมหายใจเพื่อชำระล้างให้สะอาดก่อนฝึกสมาธิบนวิถีซกเช็น


Thousand Stars Foundation

695 ลาดพร้าว 11 จตุจักร กทม 10900

695 Ladprao 11 Jatujuk BKK 10900

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Fast quickly

Why shouldn’t you do what you like ? Isn’t feeding the senses what life is all about ?

In fact no one can just do what they like. And no sense is safe when over fed. The Buddhist way was always about ‘RESTRAINT’.

A nice little article in The Daily Beast examines the benefits of fasting. Practically all religions, spiritual movements and even just health movements have proclaimed the benefits of fasting. It seems to have a strengthening effect on the spirit just as much as a healthy (when done right) effect on the body.

Abnegation is a way of adding oomph to any ritual; putting your stomach where your mouth is. It’s like saying, “Hey, God, I really mean it!”

The article points to research of fasting with arthritis, fertility, jet lag and ageing.

Very much like the mind. Fill it with exciting passtimes, and soon your energy depletes. If you try and meditate then the mind will simply leap about – because you have trained it to feed on stimulation. You have trained it to grasp. So it simply does what you have taught it to do. If you appreciate peace – the kind of peace that is vibrant, present and as bright as it is sharp, rather than the peace of a day-off or the peace of a nice snooze – then in meditation the mind settles more quickly. After, if you need to, you can direct the mind to whatever task you need it to perform.

The Sutta description is of a mountain spring that exits the ground and leaks away back into the soil. Compared to the spring that is walled up and the water collected so that it can be used for bathing, washing or drinking. When the wall is broken the water goes rushing in that direction. So does the mind rush to perform what task you set it if you have let it gather itself.

Another analogy from the suttas is that of a carriage with a team of fresh horses waiting at a crossroads. You only have to point the horses and click the reigns and they will charge in that direction.

The benefits of restraint are manifold, in both body (with fasting etc..) and mind. For all that, it has not become very popular in an age where youth and exctiement are held as the Holy Grail.

Posted in All Posts, Dhamma