MEANING OF NAME: "Temple of the great element" (refers to a famous copper pagoda) ALSO SPELLED: Wat Mahadhatu
ADDRESS: Tha-Phrachan, Bangkok 10200
DIRECTIONS: Located west of Sanam Luang (parade grounds) and south of the National Museum and Thammasat University. Main entrances are on the west side from Maharaj Road. Many city buses pass by. TELEPHONE: (02) 222-6011 (Section 5) (02) 222-4981 (Section 5 secretary) (02) 222-2835 (Dhamma Vicaya Hall)
MEDITATION SYSTEM: Vipassana using techniques similar to those taught by Mahasi Sayadaw. Based on Four Foundations of Mindfulness described in the Maha Satipatthana Sutta. Concentration is developed on the rise and fall of the abdomen, then awareness is directed to physical and mental sensations.
TEACHING METHOD: Individual daily interviews. Weekly lectures in Thai (usually on Sundays). Most meditation instruction and practice takes place in Section 5.
TEACHERS: Ajahn Maha Sawai Nanaviro (Thai; age 35)
Ajahn Phramaha Boonchit (Nanasangvaro) (Thai; age 34).
Other experienced monks and laypeople assist. Ajahn Phramaha Suphap Khemarangsi (Thai; age 45) is head of Section 5.
LANGUAGE: Teachers and some assistants in Section 5 can speak a little English, though instruction is normally given in Thai. If no one speaks English when you visit, ask at the Dhamma Vicaya Hall.
DESCRIPTION: Large, busy temple of 50 rai (20 acres). Founded in the 18th century, Wat Maha That serves as an important center for Thai Buddhism. Many of the monks attend Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University here. Crowds of worshippers visit the various viharns, shrines, chedis, and Buddha images on the grounds. Monks in the Dhamma Vicaya Hall sometimes speak English and can answer questions; scheduled talks are given here. Meditation takes place in Section 5; you're welcome to join in on the group sitting and walking sessions.
SIZE: Monks: 300-400 (one of the largest populations in Thailand during the Rains Retreat) (30-50 monks in Section 5)
Novices: 50-70 (about 10 in Section 5)
Nuns: 10-12 (about 8 in Section 5)
Laypeople: about 500 (30-40 in Section 5)
DAILY ROUTINE: In Section 5: 6:30 a.m. breakfast; 7-11 a.m. morning chanting (about 30 min.) and sitting and walking group meditation; 11:30 a.m. lunch; 1-4 p.m. sitting and walking group meditation; 4 p.m. drinks; 6-8 or 9 p.m. evening chanting (about one hour) and sitting and walking group meditation.
FOOD: Good quality and variety. A simple breakfast in early morning, then the main meal in late morning; drinks are served in the afternoon. Meditators can also arrange for food, including vegetarian, to be delivered from shops.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Laypeople usually stay in dormitories, separate for men and women; conditions tend to be crowded. Monks, novices, and some laymen have individual rooms. Electricity and running water. Bathing is from jars or showers; Asian-style toilets.
WRITE IN ADVANCE?: Not necessary.
ORDINATION: Possible as monk, novice, or maechee. First ask chief of Section 5, who will inform the abbot. One then has an interview with the abbot. Longer ordinations of 1-2 years or more are preferred.
OTHER INFORMATION: Laypeople follow 8 precepts and normally wear white clothing. Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University Bookstore, facing the street on the north side of the wat, has some English books on Buddhism; other Buddhist bookstores are on the same street. For more information, please visit http://mahathat.vitualave.net
Reference: 1. Bill Weir, A guide to Buddhist Monasteries and Meditation centres in Thailand, 3rd ed., The World Fellowship of Buddhism, 1991
2. Wat Mahathat