The Best Meditation Centres in Bangkok
Thailand is a SE Asian nation steeped in the rich cultural heritage of Buddhism, and most visitors to the country will doubtless have been on at least one tour of some the impressive grand temples dotted across the land.
Even the capital of Bangkok has a high number of these Buddhist-inspired architectural delights, some of them stretching back 500 years or more.
And, although temples and indeed Buddhism are both relevant to this post, it is rather more closely focused on something that some people may associate with either or both of them –- namely meditation.
Meditation has been around forever, but it has certainly been gaining wider and wider exposure throughout the entire globe in the last decade or so, possibly due to the expanding interest in yoga, spirituality, and other such like-minded pursuits. This is now so much the case that, in fact, we are now at the point where we have a multitude of meditation ‘apps’.
It’s no secret that people from all over the globe have been travelling to dusty SE Asian regions for aeons in search of spiritual practices not common in their own lands, and these days it is probably much easier to do that than ever before, mainly due to the ease of access to available related information.
It’s also true that many travellers and seekers who have traditionally headed out to Thailand for this pursuit have usually gone the ‘temple route’. That is, they have combined an interest in Buddhism with meditation, and sought out an establishment able to accommodate them (although not always easily, we might add).
This has actually been going on since the 1960s and 70s, if not before, but there was something of a ‘Golden Age’ of revered monks who were able to accommodate and instruct Westerners –- the venerable Ajarn Chah being a prime example from this era –- and many of these monks eventually travelled and taught in the west.
It is worth pointing out though, that although Thailand is obviously not short of its fair share of temples, anyone intent on taking this particular route in search of ‘authentic’ meditation might want to consider a couple of things beforehand – namely that ‘Thai Buddhism’, although largely steeped in the Theravada tradition, is something of a law unto itself, and more importantly, there is still something of a language barrier in many, if not most of the temples in this largely non-English-speaking country.
Other forms of retreats and centres or facilities offering various insights into the meditation experience are fairly easy to find, especially in the capital, so a temple may not always be the best way to go for the majority of willing meditation practitioners — at least without a reasonable amount of research and inquiry having gone into the escapade beforehand, possibly with a focus on seeking out the places that are more likely to accommodate foreigners.
Although there are indeed temples specifically catering to meditation and indeed to international visitors and practitioners, the main point to consider here is that just walking into any old temple in Thailand and expecting meditation instruction (in English or any other language) is likely to attract more than a few strange glances or raised eyebrows (!).
In which case, this post focuses on a small section we’ve put together of meditation centres in the city of Bangkok that may provide a slightly more accessible route and experience for many visitors to the country, while also being suitable for people of any background or level.
Maybe you are just in the city and looking to try something for the first time -– so why not try meditation while in the heart of SE Asian capital city?
1. Bangkok Meditation Centre
As the name would appear to imply, this is a meditation centre in Bangkok, found in the central Sukhumvit Road region of Thailand’s capital.
The centre offers guided meditation across seven different levels, with each level encompassing its own method of approaching the ‘false’ mind that is seemingly the cause of so many problems in modern life. The methods used by the centre are claimed to be simple enough to allow anyone from a young child to an older grandparent to employ and practice them.
The meditation classes are available in English and also Korean, and the aim of the centre’s classes is to help practitioners uncover true wisdom through the cleansing of the false mind, or ego. This is achieved by following a simple, guided, step-by-step method that anyone can easily follow, allowing deeper and more intimate glimpses of the ‘authentic’ mind through the different levels.
The classes and the different levels run throughout the day, starting at 9 am and culminating at 11 pm, with each session being 2 hours in duration – for instance, the first level is the first class of the day which runs 9 am-11 am. Practitioners are encouraged to participate in as many sessions as they feel suitable for their level.
You can access the facility from the BTS station at On Nut (Exit 4), then going on foot into Sukhumvit Soi 52 for about 5-10 minutes until you see the sign ‘Bangkok Meditation’.
Location: 87 Sukhumvit 52 Alley, Bang Chak, Phra Khanong, Bangkok 10260
2. Bangkok Shambala Meditation Centre
The Bangkok Shambala Meditation Centre is a facility connected to a wider community across the world, which functions with the aim of cultivating positive human qualities such as kindness and wisdom within society.
Again located on the easily-accessible, central Sukhumvit Road region of the city, this facility uses a mindfulness meditation technique that may be familiar to anyone with any prior inkling of Buddhist practices known as Samatha Viphassana.
There is a variety of classes held each week at the Bangkok facility to accommodate a fairly diverse group of members, led by a certified instructor. The schedule at the centre is focused around regular, drop-in classes, although on occasion other visiting teachers or special events may be featured.
Located in: Young Place Plaza, 3rd floor (BTS Asok)
Address: 118/79 Sukhumvit Soi 23, Young Pl Alley, 10110
Hours: Currently 6 pm onwards — check schedule for details
3. Wat Prayong Meditation Centre
Now we approach a Bangkok temple that provides access to meditation for both local and visiting practitioners. Wat Prayong is a local Thai temple that is nevertheless open to all-comers, and well-known as a place of open-mindedness.
This is another Vipassana meditation experience suitable for both experienced and novice meditators, in a temple that was founded in 2007 by Thai monk Phra Ajarn Pichet for the purpose of making meditation more accessible. He was joined a couple of years later by a ‘Mae Chee’ (female Buddhist nun) in the form of Austrian meditation teacher Brigitte Schrottenbacher, who teaches in English and German.
Mae Chee Brigitte was ordained in Thailand, where she has studied and taught meditation in a wide number of provinces, as well as travelling abroad regularly to Europe and other regions to teach in both the Samatha and Vipassana methods of Buddhist meditation.
Classes are offered at the temple’s international meditation centre, which accommodates both drop-in and resident practitioners.
Location: Wat Prayong International Meditation Centre, 22 Moo Prachasamran Road, Khlong 12, Nong Chok, Bangkok 10530
4. The House of Dharma
This unlikely looking establishment may not seem like a meditation centre that much from the outside, but once you step across the threshold of the front door of this converted shophouse, you may be pleasantly surprised.
This facility is in many ways one of the choicest picks in this post, as The House of Dhamma is to be found in the Chatuchak District, Bangkok, a stone’s throw away from the famous parks in the area, and also rather close to the BTS station.
Here you can learn and practice Insight meditation (Vipassana), Buddhist Mindfulness, Reiki healing, and a few other related areas of interest, as well as receiving instruction is in English.
The House of Dharma facility runs short courses that are usually just one or two days in duration, for people of various levels and backgrounds. The facility’s main offering is classes and courses the Vipassana /Buddhist Insight Meditation vein, a form of meditation that has been practised in Asia for over 2500 years.
The philosophy behind the centre’s approach is that regular practice of Insight meditation allows you to know yourself better, which facilitates a more confident approach to life as you find you are less dependent on others.
It is also thought to help practitioners break out of limiting views and mindsets, as well as any harmful or potentially toxic behavior. This in turn is believed to lead to more of a feeling of openness to life, and hence peace.
As the courses are short, they are usually presented as one and two-day weekend affairs, between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm. The centre is actually open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00 am – 17.00 pm, and appointments can be made anytime if time permits.
Address: 26/9 Lat Phrao 15 Alley, Chom Phon, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900 (BTS Mo Chit/MRT Chatuchak)
5. Dhamma Dhānī (City of Dhamma).
Dhamma Dhānī, which translates as ‘Dharma City’ in simple terms, is a Thai Buddhist meditation centre located in a Bangkok suburb surrounded by about as much tranquillity as you are likely to find anywhere near to the city -– and this place even comes complete with its own lake.
There is a good reason for the fact that this stretch of land on the outer perimeters of the Thai capital is relatively free from any kind of major disturbance more common to the central city regions. Namely, this two-storey Buddhist meditation centre is the headquarters of the Foundation for the Promotion of Vipassana Meditation in Thailand, which operates under the patronage of His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand (that’s the head monk of the Theravada Buddhism line in the country, for the uninitiated).
This facility was opened as the fourth Vipassana centre in Thailand to offer courses in meditation taught according to Buddhist lineage, in the insight tradition of famed master Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
The centre has been running Vipassana Meditation courses since 2005, and the main approach of the centre is to present this Buddhist method of insight meditation to anyone and everyone who is interested in experiencing its many benefits, which are not limited to Buddhists.
The centre’s instruction focuses on the idea that the techniques work according to the fact often represented in Buddhism, that all human problems are universal, and therefore practitioners from any, or even no religious denominations are just as likely to experience the benefits of Vipassana meditation.
The facility offers courses of various durations, namely of 1, 3, and 10 days, as well as executive and children’s courses. Dhamma Dhānī is one of the larger centres in this post in that it can accommodate around 100 practitioners, with both genders being welcomed in equal measure.
Instruction has been given in both Thai and English (but it is good to check this first as English-speaking instructors are not always available), and this centre is a popular retreat for those from the city who wish to participate in slightly longer courses like the 10-day retreat, which tends to begin on the evening of the first session and end on the morning of the last session, as is the tradition with this style of instruction.
Anyone willing or intending to participate in any of the centre’s courses is advised to first check the Dhani Dhamma website and read the Code of Discipline outlined before filling in the application. The courses are run solely on the basis of donations as well, which is another point to consider beforehand.
The site is only partially accessible via the BTS system (up until Wat Phra Sri Mahathat, on the Sukhumvit line), then you’ll need a taxi or a car.
When travelling to the centre you might need to know that it is separate from the main village just in case you can’t find it initially, and it is close to the K. C. Garden Home on Nimitmai Road.
Address: 42/660 Nimit Mai 40 Alley, Sam Wa Tawan Ok, Khlong Sam Wa, Bangkok 10510