A time to chill: Free English language meditation course starts in Pattaya

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The Willpower Institute’s first English-language mediation course in Thailand began at the Diana Garden Resort in Pattaya on Sept. 6, hosted by the Diana Group Managing Director Sopin Thappajug.

Sopin thanked the guests, teachers Charmaine Smith and Emilie Fowler, and students for their participation, and talked about how this project came to be.  It started when Sopin was asked by Viriyang Sirintharo, the founder, developer, and master teacher of the global Willpower Institute network, about the foreign tourists and residents in Pattaya, and stated his wishes to open a branch here for them in English.  At the time, in 2013, Sopin had already answered his first wishes to open meditation courses in Thai, fully supported by Peter Malhotra of Pattaya Mail Publishing and his team and affiliates.

Phra Acharn Sermporn Dhammavaro talks to the audience about the concepts and lifelong benefits of meditation.

After the opening ceremony, Sopin asked Viriyang for his blessings, which was broadcast live from Canada.

The monk talked briefly about the history of the institute, his personal experiences and the reasons we should meditate using his “mind power” techniques.

“When I was 13, a female friend invited me to a temple, but I became bored while waiting for friends to finish praying.  Thinking at first I would never return, I soon felt peaceful and light.  I felt myself walk out of my body and my soul walk down to the pavilion to stand in the middle of the temple,” he said.

Attendees listen to an address by His Holiness Viriyang Sirintharo in a live broadcast from Canada.

Not long after, over 75 years ago, Viriyang became a monk, a revered abbot, learning, teaching, and writing books, and spreading knowledge about meditation.

“Meditation is useful for everyone regardless of nationality, language or religion,” he added.  “It focuses on bringing peace and happiness to the person meditating, family, society, country, and humankind.”

The English meditation class is led by two instructors from Canada, Emilie Fowler and Charmaine Smith, who have volunteered their time to come to Pattaya to continue the work of the esteemed meditation master.

Students from the Willpower Institute welcome members of the public to the official opening of the first English-language mediation course in Thailand, at the Diana Garden Resort in Pattaya on Sept. 6.

Emilie and Charmaine both took the course in Niagara Falls in the United States.  Emilie became an instructor 15 years ago and Charmaine 10, bringing with them a lot of meditation experience to pass on.

The method of meditation taught is “samatha” which is sometimes translated as “tranquility” meditation.  By becoming focused and deeply concentrated, the student learns to stop the incessant chattering of the “monkey mind” and can attain levels of deep contemplation, resulting in a peaceful, still mind.

The goal is to offer the free English course for people who live in Pattaya and surrounding areas.  Thanks to the generosity of many local people, facilities have been made available and students can study in surroundings appropriate for the practice of meditation.

Diana Group Managing Director Sopin Thappajug recounts how the English language meditation classes sprouted from an idea by His Holiness Viriyang Sirintharo to help foreigners in Pattaya.

The course itself is challenging as students are expected to attend classes five days a week from 6-8 pm for a six-month period.  The first hour of the class is lecture-based using a textbook written by Viriyang, which details the method he has devised.

The second hour puts that theory into practice.  There is 30 minutes of walking meditation, followed by 30 minutes of sitting.

Canadians Charmaine Smith (left) and Emilie Fowler (right) will lead the free meditation classes in Pattaya.

Although the commitment required to complete the course may seem daunting, the benefits derived from the regular practice of meditation are countless.

People who complete the course have shared their experiences and many say that they are much happier people, no longer controlled by overwhelming emotions which caused much suffering in their lives.  After learning meditation, they are more aware of how their minds work and are able to step back from situations that once triggered negative emotions such as anger.  Some people also report improved health as a result of meditation.  Others have become more creative and adept at problem solving in their home and work environments.

At the end of the course, students who have fulfilled attendance requirements will take a written exam and are then invited to attend a four-day, three-night retreat in Doi Inthanon where they will meet up with students from other centers in Thailand and from the U.S. and Canada.  The meditation retreat will be led by Viriyang himself.

Though designed by a Buddhist monk, the Willpower Institute meditation course is non-denominational.  It’s open to students looking for certification, as well as those interested in the practice for personal growth.

For more information, call 082-453-9545, 088-022-4106 or visit WillPowerInstitute.com.

Note: Emilie Fowler and Charmaine Smith also contributed to this article.