Table of Contents – Here’s how to meditate like a Thai monk in 7 easy steps:
- Find a quiet, calming space.
- Set a realistic time to meditate.
- Pay attention to your senses.
- Simply “watch the breath”.
- Observe your wandering mind.
- Guide it back with kindness.
- Close with inner gratitude.
This article will teach you how to meditate like a true Thai monk as you uncover the origins of monk religion and learn the hidden relevance behind the Buddha statue in modern Thai culture.
How Did Buddhism Arrive in Thailand?
Theravada Buddhism was introduced to the people of Thailand during the 3rd century BCE when King Asoka sent his monks to Sri Lanka and Central Asia to learn about Buddha prayer and teachings. It’s now the most prominent teaching in Southeast Asian countries and is even said to be practiced by 95% of the population in Thailand.
The meditating Buddha statue has become synonymous with Thai religion and culture but isn’t unique to the Thai monk religion. The earliest documented record of meditation came from Hindu traditions in India from around 1500 BCE. Even non-religious people regularly meditate due to its known health benefits.
Why Do Thai Monks Meditate?
Meditation is the main practice that helps Buddhists carry out the essence of Buddha’s earliest teachings. Theravada Buddhism is the main practice of Thai monks and is based on the Four Noble Truths of life’s suffering:
- Life is suffering
- The cause of suffering is craving
- The end of suffering comes with an end to craving
- There is a path that leads one away from craving and suffering
Being able to bring yourself back to the current moment during the times aimless streams of thought are taking over is a skill painstakingly practiced as a Buddhist in Thailand. Meditating consistently – sometimes for hours each day – is believed to help you improve your overall focus and concentration whilst grounding yourself in reality.
Buddhists strive to make the body and mind a single entity. Thai Buddha believes meditation cleanses the mind of things that spoil it, like delusion and ignorance, and also reduces bias, envy, and other factors that can cloud your judgment.
The most traditional meditative practice of Thai monks is that of Kammaṭṭhāna, which translates from the sacred language of ‘Pali’ as “The Place of Work”. It basically refers to the place where young Buddhists retreat in order to work on their own spiritual development.
The main purpose of this meditation is to overcome certain dispositions by concentrating on different items representing them. These are referred to as ‘Kammaṭṭhānas’ and there are 40 in total. Eradicating the infatuation we have with the human body is the primary intention behind Kammaṭṭhāna meditation, according to its founder, Ajahn Mun.
How Do Thai Monks Meditate?
Every Thai monk starts out practicing a form of meditation, like the Kammaṭṭhāna, which aims to eliminate toxicity from the mind using different proven techniques. Satipatthana is the core meditation predominantly practiced in modern-day Thailand. The word ‘Satipatthana’ translates from Pali as “the establishment (or presence) of mindfulness”.
This meditation practice focuses on four frames of reference to get the mind into a deep state of concentration.
- Mindfulness of the body
- Mindfulness of feelings
- Mindfulness of mind
- Mindfulness of Dhamma (referring to the Four Noble Truths)
In Thailand religion, Buddha meditation statues always depict Buddha sitting with the right foot on the left thigh, the left foot under the right thigh, and the right hand placed upon the left in his lap with thumbs touching. This is the traditional posture Thai monks use when meditating for a number of hours each day in monasteries, temples, and homes on their quest for spiritual enlightenment.
Thai monasteries generally have an hour-long morning and evening chant, which may be followed by an hour-long meditation session. A normal meditation starts by focusing on the rising and falling of one’s breath, either at the nose or at the abdomen, and then moves on to other physical or mental phenomena as they occur.
How Can I Meditate Like a Thai Monk?
Consistency is key when wanting to achieve the brain-altering benefits of meditation. It can be as easy or as difficult as you choose – it’s a state of mind. Practically speaking, it’s not difficult to adopt the same habits as Thai monks if you know the core principles and pace yourself with actionable steps each day.
These 7 steps can help you get started on your path to meditating like a true Thai monk:
1. Find a quiet, calming space.
Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you. It’s not always possible to find an absolutely silent space, which is absolutely fine, as it’s not necessary during mindfulness meditation.
It’s not essential to sit the exact cross-legged position traditional monk religion depicts either. You can use a cushion, comfy chair, or even bed as opposed to sitting on harder surfaces as Thai monks are accustomed to.
The most important thing is to ensure you’re in a restful environment, seated in an upright position that doesn’t restrict the natural curvature of your back when taking deep breaths. Of course, be sure to be in a position comfortable enough for you to remain in for the duration of your meditation.
2. Set a realistic time to meditate.
Start with a time realistic to you and your current lifestyle. Even if you have the urge to sit for an entire hour attempting the same meditative state as the Thai Buddha, life might get in the way, as might your current inexperience.
Not to worry. It will become easier with practice. It can help progress to make your meditation time a lot more manageable. Perhaps try to start out with a short time such as five or 10 minutes and gradually increase the amount of time by five minutes after a week. See how long it takes for you to arrive at the hour mark – but please be gentle with yourself.
Also, make sure the alarm you set on your timer is a gentle one too, otherwise, you’ll risk a nasty shock to the system when rousing from your meditative state.
3. Pay attention to your senses.
Notice your body when you’ve placed your timer down beside you, close your eyes and draw a few deep breaths. Is your body stable? Are your muscles tense? Do you hear any noises around you or within you? What are your hands touching?
You might only be able to see the inside of your eyelids or a shroud of darkness but raising awareness of how your other senses are responding to the situation can help you embrace it, let it go, and return to the breath.
4. Simply “watch the breath”.
Now comes the part where you must sit back and notice your breath as it goes in and as it goes out. It might be a lot shallower than it was a few breathing cycles ago – and that’s ok. The purpose is to let it happen and simply observe it.
The Buddha in the Anapanasati Sutta recommends going into the forest and sitting beneath a tree, just watching the breath to notice if it is long or short.
The practice trains the mind to be sensitive to one or more of the senses such as the whole body, rapture, pleasure, the mind itself, or mental processes. A focus on inconstancy, dispassion, cessation, and relinquishment may also be stimulated to encourage the exploration and eventual release of certain stressors.
5. Observe your wandering mind.
You might become distracted by thoughts of the day, the niggling responsibilities waiting for you after meditating, the TV show you watched the other day… and, suddenly, you’re lost in thought. Again, this is ok — it’s all part of the process. What’s important is what you do next…
6. Guide it back with kindness.
This isn’t a time for judgment on how you perform during this mental excursion. This is about being mindful of what your mind does when left to its own devices in the stillness of meditation. Your thoughts will come and go but always return to your breath — inhale and exhale.
7. Close with inner gratitude.
Before you open your eyes, after your timer is up, take a moment to return to your senses. Notice how they have changed. In turn, you’ll realize how you have also changed. Your thoughts, your emotions, your physical sensations, whether you feel restful or energized. All of this is down to you taking the initiative to pause and connect with your body and mind with this mindfulness meditation.
Be grateful for yourself. Smile. You have done it!
The longer you keep at your practice, the easier it will be to adjust to the same length of time Thai monks devote to their daily meditation practice – and the more you’ll find yourself looking and feeling as happy as a Thai Buddha statue!
Will Having a Buddha Statue Help Me to Meditate?
Having a Buddha meditation statue in your home or place of practice can be a crucial element when maintaining focus on the teachings of Buddhism. Meditating Buddha sculptures serve as visual imagery that narrates the many areas of Buddha’s life and lessons.
Thailand is commonly referred to as “the Land of Smiles” due to Thai people choosing to smile a lot, even in situations where smiling isn’t necessary. Laughing Buddha statues are frequently kept in hotels, restaurants, offices, and in the home as they are considered to bring positive energy and good luck.
This well-known culture of Thailand is what draws in tourists from around the globe wanting to experience its positive and welcoming nature for themselves.
The significance of having a presence of Buddha statues originated from the Indian teachings of Vastu Shastra, which express a traditional system of Indian architecture that achieves harmony with nature and can encourage positive, intentional energy within the home.
Bringing home a Laughing Buddha statue can nurture a calm, peaceful life. Taking measures to reduce stress in your life will make it easier for you to cope with it. The meditating Buddha statue should be kept in a prayer room, bedroom, or study room.
Parting tip: You should never look at the statue of the idol from above, so the best advice is to present it at your eye level or higher.