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I was thinking about going to a retreat in thailand called suanmok and then I saw the picture of the bed. A straw mat and a tiny wooden pillow!!! why would they make people sleep like that? It seems like torture to me and so I decided not to go. If the Buddha didn't believe in asceticism why do some monasteries and retreat centres? At the very least I need to sleep comfortably when on retreat. I would just end up sleep deprived and grumpy and not be able to meditate properly anyway. I can't even sleep properly in my luxurious queen size bed with pillow top mattress most nights. Does anyone know of a more comfortable retreat?

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    You have got to be kidding me! – user698 Jun 30 '17 at 23:04
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    damyata ... datta ... dayadhvam – Kauvasara Jun 30 '17 at 23:23
  • I used to run a retreat center in the northern USA. It is still open. It has beds, etc like any US house. Vegetarian food, which is delicious. Inexpensive... I don't know where you are though. There are other related centres in other countries. – user2341 Jul 6 '17 at 23:58
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Google earth of meditation centre

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They also provide a piece of 'masonite' wood over the concrete bed.

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You can take your own camping mattress & pillow.

Since the retreat is catering mostly for backpackers, people turn up with their backpacks & whatever they are carrying in them, which they take into their room.

They don't have 'dhamma police' checking for camping mattresses the rooms.

As for taking a bath, it is outdoor, communal, cold water, using a dish.

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As for toilets, generally squat (unless you can find a sit down, somewhere).

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In the good old days, we all piled into these old wooden dorms, sleep on the floor & use this old toilet in the forest. At least recently there is an individual wooden bed.

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This old toilet location is circled in red, below. One of the most beautiful toilet in the world.

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Better view:

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Meditate with the white Buddha.

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  • Far out! Looks more like a concentration camp. I won't be going. I don't see the point of puttin myself through such tough conditions like that when it's not neccessary. Some people might say it's good practice to learn how to be with difficult feelings but I'm a fan of the belief that if your not feeling difficult feelings then no need to try and evoke them. They are going to arise sooner or later anyway. How do you bathe in that thing? Looks like a septic tank. Fully clothed in order to maintain modesty? Ugh Yep there are better ways to journey toward enlightenment. – Arturia Jul 1 '17 at 6:25
  • Omg that sign outside the toilet is hysterical. I wonder if they realise how funny it is – Arturia Jul 1 '17 at 6:28
  • You use the plastic dipper to splash the body with water. Then soap up. The splash off, with the plastic dipper. "Tough?". Lol. Its is easy. – Dhammadhatu Jul 1 '17 at 6:53
  • That is a good one @Dhammadhatu. And I am not saying it in a rude way or a funny way. For others it may be a bit of a laugh, or a rude awakening, but I see it as a great answer, a great post. – Saptha Visuddhi Jul 1 '17 at 9:42
  • Thank you so much for this answer. It makes me truly appreciate the amenities I have around me. I am living like a King! It actually makes me feel warm inside to see these accommodations. When you have stripped everything else away then you are the closest you will ever be to your true self. I try to rid myself of things and shed layers daily and I still feel almost opulent by comparison. To ME Dhammadhatu's example is exactly how a retreat should be. Of course I may see one that overwhelms me with its' luxuriousness and think the same. But this example is MUCH appreciated! Thank you. – Kauvasara Jul 1 '17 at 18:47
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Calling it "torture" and a "concentration camp" is obviously an exaggeration; and I read the Buddha's "not believing in asceticism" as meaning that people need enough food.

There might be something to say about the eighth precept (but I don't know what):

I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.

Perhaps your apparent astonishment is a matter of what you've been accustomed to. Dhammadattu's photographs remind me of a boarding school, army barrack, boy scout camp, youth hostel, and/or camping ground. The dormitory he showed looks to me more "luxurious" than camping (sleeping) in a tent is, which lots of people do (or did) just for a holiday; and a flush toilet is preferable to a "pit latrine".

If you're not used to it (from your past experiences) perhaps that's why it's surprising to you?

Maybe an analogy is sitting in the "lotus" position: that it's not a problem for people who are used to it. I don't think I can reach the "lotus" position, but sleep on a wood (or straw) surface is feasible.

As for "why would they make people sleep like that", apart from any Dharma-related (or health-related) reasons I expect it's practical: cheap, sufficient, no bed-bugs or mice, no linen to launder.

On this page, as Dhammadattu said, someone commented that they brought their own bedding, including a foamy mattress which they bought at a local market.

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"I can't even sleep properly in my luxurious queen size bed with pillow top mattress most nights."

"*****"

Here is the answer to your question. Sleep is nothing to with the luxury.

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  • That's your perception. Not necessarily the actual truth or reality. – Arturia Jul 2 '17 at 5:28
  • When asked by people with 'insomnia', my Guru said, "If you are tired, you'll sleep!" – user2341 Jul 6 '17 at 23:48
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Wat Doi Suthep has 'normal' beds, hot showers as well.

fivethousandyears.org

Two years ago I stayed at the monk side of Wat Chomtong. The bed was a high one. The shower was private but cold.

northernvipassana.org/en/

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Last year I stayed at the tourist side of Wat Chomtong; the matras was thinner, the shower shared but hot.

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  • Thank you for this information. These ones look much better – Arturia Jul 5 '17 at 21:33
  • I spent two months every summer while growing up in a wooden cabin like this one, on a small island that has no roads or bridge to it, with no heat, water, TV, phone or even a radio (until older brother brought "his music"). Spent a lot of time swimming, watching the dark sky at night, listening to silence, reading, and building tree forts from lumber that washed ashore. It is never too late to have a happy childhood. – user2341 Jul 6 '17 at 23:52
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You will be discouraged from indulging in sleep on most meditation retreats. If you stay with the schedule (waking up as early as 4:00 in the morning), you will find that the most sleep you can get is around 6 hours. Simple bedding motivates you to make the most of your sleeping hours and devote the rest of the time to practicing meditation.

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  • A straw mat and wooden pillow is just taking it a step too far. This would play havoc for elderly people with back issues etc. no thanks, they can keep their concentration camp conditions for those who feel the need to self flagellate. – Arturia Jul 2 '17 at 1:05
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    Also, when you are worn out from a day's sitting, you can pretty much sleep standing up in a closet with Slayer blasting the whole six hours! – user698 Jul 5 '17 at 18:44
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I was thinking about going to a retreat in thailand called suanmok and then I saw the picture of the bed. A straw mat and a tiny wooden pillow!!! why would they make people sleep like that? It seems like torture to me and so I decided not to go. If the Buddha didn't believe in asceticism why do some monasteries and retreat centres? At the very least I need to sleep comfortably when on retreat. I would just end up sleep deprived and grumpy and not be able to meditate properly anyway. I can't even sleep properly in my luxurious queen size bed with pillow top mattress most nights. Does anyone know of a more comfortable retreat?

Perhaps the Four Noble Truths will take some dust off your eyes:

1) There is suffering.

Stop distracting yourself with worldly things or trying to run away from suffering. Uncomfortableness, pain, aching, aging, death, and so on should be known!

2) There is an origin to suffering: clinging/craving/addiction

When you experience something, people naturally create judgments: this is good, bad, and so on. Because of this, they cling to preferred experiences and when a preferred experience falls after arising, one suffers out of ignorance of the Three Characteristics of Existence: Impermanence (what arises must fall), unsatisfactoriness (no one is ever content as a result of impermanence), and no-self (the experiences one has are not controllable or ownable). Out of ignorance of our experiences, we continue to cling, causing the Poisons, which cause Kamma, and our continued existence.

3) There is an end to suffering.

That is through meditation. Specifically, Vipassana. That is insight meditation, which is meant to understand the Four Noble Truths in its entirety by focusing on experiences and their nature: The Three Characteristics. When one realizes that their experiences (which is the only real reality), are ultimately impermanent, unsatisfactory, and no-self (uncontrollable, unownable), one will naturally let go until one lets go of everything, being in a state of eternal contentedness called Nibbana. That is what the Sangha strives for and ironically lets go of in the end.

4) That end is through the Middle Way.

The Middle Way is between the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence. That being the Noble Eightfold Path: wisdom, conduct, and meditation. This path leads one to the end of suffering by purifying one's mind, ending Kamma and thus, the cycle of rebirth.

For answers to your questions by applying the Dhamma to it:

1) "why would they make people sleep like that?"

The 8th Precept for serious meditators is "to refrain from high and luxurious beds." This is one of the rules for serious meditators to help them get up in the early mornings and to prevent clinging to the comforts of a bed or to (possibly) understand their aversion to the discomfort of the bed. Some people even sleep on the floor, but the Buddha never said such a thing was required.

2) "If the Buddha didn't believe in asceticism why do some monasteries and retreat centres?"

The Buddha found the Middle Way, away from asceticism and self-mortification, but also away from comfort and pleasure. Asceticism is only eating once grain of rice a day or meditating in a jungle or cave with little or no clothes, medicine, shelter, and so on. The conditions of the meditation centres are meant to keep you aligned with the Middle Way, which is not the same as everyday comfortable and pleasurable experiences. The Middle Way is only having the necessities of living (once a day alms, medicine, a robe, shelter).

3) "Does anyone know of a more comfortable retreat?"

The centres who do not follow the teachings mentioned in my answer to question #2 sway from the Dhamma, sway from the Middle Way, and will have a harder time meditating on their experiences and letting go of them in the long run if there are horrid conditions such as asceticism or in comfortable and pleasurable clinging conditions, both of which arise aversion, greed, & delusion, continuing intention.

If you want to learn more about all of this, I would suggest Venerable Yuttadhammo's Youtube Channel. He has extensive knowledge of the Dhamma & answers a plentiful amount of questions to help clear up and help the understanding of the Buddha's teaching.

I hope this helped. May your meditations flourish in the light of the Buddha, the Dhamma, & the Sangha! :)

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