If you’re traveling to Myanmar, an experience you can’t miss out on is visiting a meditation center. Whether you seek an escape from the bustling city, a path to inner peace, or simply an authentic Burmese experience, a meditation center stay is for you!
Myanmar is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, and an activity many Burmese people partake in is attending a meditation camp or retreat during the holidays. Most monasteries and stand-alone meditation centers offer short-term programs, ranging anywhere from a day to a month. During your stay, you will learn and practice Buddhist meditation, mindfulness, and discipline. It can be a challenging experience, but it’s a great form of relaxation, learning, and self-development if you’re up for it!
For a truly enlightening and immersive retreat, we recommend Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery located in Mon State, Myanmar.
About the Monastery and the Sayadaw
Established in 1926, Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery is situated in a lush forest on the outskirts of Mawlamyine, and is home to one of Myanmar’s most well-known meditation retreats. Every year, hundreds of monks, nuns, and ordinary visitors from around the world travel here to practice meditation. The monastery, which is divided into Upper (for men), Middle, and Lower (for women) Monasteries, has running water, electricity, Wi-Fi and other modern conveniences.
The Sayadaw, meaning “respected teacher” and head of the monastery, is the Most Venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw Bhaddanta Acinna. He is the lead dhamma and meditation instructor who you will be learning under and speaks fluent English.
A Typical Day at the Center
While you are at the monastery, you will be observing the fourfold purification:
- Observe 5, 8, or 10 of the Buddhist precepts
- Restraint of the six senses: of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind
- Right Livelihood: living according to the precepts
- Reflection and moderation of the four requisites: food, shelter, clothing, and medicine
Myanmar practices the Theravada branch of Buddhism, which is quite orthodox and requires a strong commitment to tradition. You are expected to strictly adhere to a given schedule and be disciplined. Depending on the kind of person, a meditation retreat can be new and refreshing or tiring and difficult.
Every day, you will be following a meditation schedule issued by the monastery. This includes a wake-up call at 3:30 am and lights-out at 9 pm. Daily activities include:
- Morning alms-gathering and breakfast at sunrise
- Group sitting meditation sessions
- Walking meditation sessions
- Daily interview/check-in sessions with your meditation teacher
- Evening chanting & Dhamma talk
Of course, you will also be given breaks and personal time in-between. At the end of each day, you can return to your quarters, reflect on a day well spent, and drift off to a peaceful slumber.
Staying at the Monastery
Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery is a scenic setting where you can surround yourself with nature. Feel free to take a stroll around the sprawling grounds and appreciate the fresh air and clear sky. For the duration of your retreat, you will be staying in a cozy meditation hut called a kuti.
Your meditation retreat includes daily home-cooked meals. The monastery has taken care to provide vegetarian, reduced oil and spice meals to guests. If you have any other dietary requirements, you can talk to your meditation teacher and visit a nearby market for alternatives.
Tips and Reminders for a Happy Stay
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and water-resistant sandals. Monastery rules require that guests refrain from dressing in revealing attire.
- Bring your own toiletries, towel, bedding, prescription medicine, mosquito repellent spray, a flashlight, a battery-powered alarm clock. But don’t worry if you forget something; you can always purchase everyday items nearby for friendly prices!
- The monastery welcomes guests of all ages and nationalities looking to enjoy a peaceful and mindful retreat. Be open-minded and considerate; you can make new friends!
- If you’re new to meditation, you might experience leg cramps. It can get uncomfortable, but you’ll get used to it! Luckily, the Pa-Auk Tawya program specially incorporates walking meditation so you won’t always be sitting still.
- Part of practicing Theravada Buddhism is abstaining from food afternoon. But don’t worry, you’ll be given refreshments (typically sweet beverages) in the evenings!
- Before you leave, consider a donation to the monastery. The retreat provides food and lodging free-of-charge because it runs on the kind support of donors. Even a little goes a long way!
How to Get There
There are several ways to get to Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery. You can take a plane, bus, or train to Mawlamyine, and continue to the monastery by car.
By plane and car:
- Take a direct flight from Yangon to Mawlamyine (available twice a week).
- Once you land at Mawlamyine Airport, you can hire a vehicle.
By bus and car:
- Take an air-conditioned overnight bus from the Yangon highway bus station to Mawlamyine/Mudon (available daily). (Tip: Ask the driver to let you off at “Pa-Auk Tawya”).
- Walk or hire a vehicle to reach the monastery.
By train and car:
- Take a train from Yangon Central Railway Station to Mawlamyine (available daily). (Tip: Make sure to bring your passport and book the “first-class” train).
- Once you arrive at the Mawlamyine station, you can hire a vehicle.
Staying at a meditation center is a great experience you can’t leave off your travel itinerary. No matter if it’s your first time traveling to Myanmar or you’re looking to explore places outside the city, traveling alone or with your friends, a meditation retreat at Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery is a Myanmar must!