This week, we’re inaugurating our new meditation hall in the woods with a five-day retreat led by the Venerable Lama Rinchen Phuntsok, a highly respected scholar and meditation master from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is teaching Shamatha” (calm abiding) and “Vipashyana” (insight) meditation. Many of the 45 retreat participants, who come from various areas in Thailand, are staying at New Life Foundation. Others are housed at a nearby resort and are transported in the Foundation van.
Steven Epstein, a New Life Board Member who came for the inauguration, says he’s very impressed with the new meditation hall. “It’s much larger and nicer than I imagined. The traditional Thai leaf roof is incredible. ”
He says the new building is full of positive energy. “It’s been such a collective effort by residents and volunteers,” he says. “And the organic architecture enhances the good feelings inside.”
Like most of us, Steve is surprised how quickly the building went up. Back in February, residents and volunteers were just starting to make mud bricks and now, four months later, it’s a full-fledged meditation center that Steve estimates can hold up a 100 people.
Steve came to New Life’s first retreat and attended several more. Six months ago he was asked to join the New Life board. An American who has spent most of his life in Asia studying Buddhism, he leads the Green Papaya Asangha in Chiang Mai.
Last winter, Steve brought a group of his monk students to New Life to build mud bricks. With robes held to their knees, they had a grand time stomping in the mud, mixing the dirt, rice hulls and water with their feet.
In fact, the monks had such a great experience they plan on coming back to help build the kutis (meditation huts) that will surround the new meditation hall.