Buddhist Retirement Community, Thailand

See this blog for pictures and information about a new retirement community forming in Thailand for meditators.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Retired Meditators Welcome: Home/Community Developing in Thailand

If you are a meditator and retired or getting ready to retire you may be interested in a new retirement community that is coming into "being" in North Thailand.

Update: Since first publishing this Blog we have had over 40 requests but no one has been in a position to, or been willing to commit any funds to make it happen. Daishin, the founding monk also had no money. Recently we were gifted $25,000 to the community fund. Also, recently we have had a serge of requests after a long quiet time. We now need at least 5 more people to commit to funds of $25,000 or more and we can buy the property, since the seller has reduced his price due to the recession. See pictures of this great property below:

Now, back to the original posting:

The retirement community development is in its formative stage at present. My name is Daishin. I am a US citizen, Zen monk ordained by the late Kobun Chino of Jikoji Retreat Center near Santa Cruz. I have been teaching Vipassana meditation for 15 years. For the last six years I lived in North Thailand teaching meditation to travelers from around the world. I created a homestay program with my Hill Tribe/Thai wife in a little village tucked away in the mountains. Among many things to learn at the homestay is meditation (see web page www.LisuHillTribe.com).
I lived in an intentional community called Breitenbush in Oregon for three years, around 1980. I was there in the formative years and was part of the struggle and joy of forming a new alternative community.

Recently the idea of a retirement community came to me as I observed a wonderful property that is for sale near our homestay. But before I get into the property and materialistic topics I want to share with you an excerpt from a talk given by a meditation teacher whom I admire. This talk was given to a group of young novices who were about to commit to a life with a community of monks. I quote from the text because it presents, in a most eloquent way, my own concept of what the main focus of this new meditators retirement community would strive to be.


An excerpt from a talk by Ajahn Amaro, a student of the late Ajahn Chah, a forest monk from Thailand. I would suggest that we use this talk as a starting point in forming the community.

In this talk Ajahn Amaro explains the benefits of living in a Spiritually focused community (sangha):

In the Refuge of Sangha

An excerpt from his book Silent Rain

You can find this at www.Abhayagiri.com

Ajahn Amaro

December 24, 2004

"The Buddha's first discourse after enlightenment... is something which always touches my heart. There is something moving and significant about the recreation of that moment .. That was the moment the Sangha [community] began... So, all these centuries further on, we are part of that family and we inherit the blessings, the benefits, the treasures of it.
The Sangha is something we describe in the daily chanting as "giving occasion for incomparable goodness to arise in the world." This is something that is good to contemplate: why is existing together as a group so important? Why such a big deal about it? How come a group of people who live a simple life together, who observe kindness and restraint and so forth, how come this is such a blessing? Why is this an incomparable field of merit, a fertile ground for goodness to develop in? Why is it such an important thing for the world?

For myself, I can see that if I didn't have like-minded companions to help me in the spiritual life, I never would have gained remotely the understanding or the peace of mind that there is in my life; it would have been impossible to develop any kind of spiritual qualities without the presence of such companionship.

When I was growing up I was always very interested in mystical things, the inner aspects of religion and understanding. It was tremendously important to me to understand what lay behind everything, to understand the meaning. I thought about these things often and felt that I had figured out a lot. I would get into intense discussions on esoteric, profound, obtuse philosophical points for hours on end, ablaze with interest and an emergent understanding. Alongside that, however, there was also tremendous emotional turbulence; uncontrolled anxieties, fears and passions were all swishing around in my mind along with everything else.

Even though there was a strong spiritual impulse from a young age, still the confusion coming from instinctual desires, fears and insecurities meant that all the attraction towards Truth, wisdom and understanding that was there, the valid insight that was there became confused, corrupted and sidetracked and taken up with secondary things, or got drawn into being lazy or choosing oblivion rather than true knowledge of the spiritual Way.

I had been studying at London University. When my degree was finished I took the opportunity to leave England and head off into the East, on my spiritual quest. Up until that point I had always felt that making my own piecemeal spiritual path was quite sufficient; I wasn't consciously looking for any kind of institution of group to belong to. In fact I had quite strong anti-establishment feelings, I always felt that to just to be a free spirit was the ideal: "When love beckons to you, follow him . . . when he speaks to you believe in him," as Kahil Ghibran put it. Well, 'love' was leading me to some disastrous places.

Even though I made efforts to live a free and spiritual existence, trying to maximize on the qualities that I respected -- being a harmless, friendly, kind, generous etc. person -- this didn't seem to help me a great deal with the confusion that was in my mind. Also spending time amongst people whose values were very worldly and were based upon distraction had a very negative effect. It became clear that just having a nice philosophy and nice principles but without having something that helped that to be actualised, led to a place where I found all of my ideas and aspirations were wasted, burned up. I began to feel a lot of despair. I seemed to be doing all of the right things according to my own formula, yet the result was extremely painful and disappointing.

One of the things that I had always cherished was the quality of harmony and friendship. I found that being a force of concord between people was an important ethic in my life. I always felt very hurt by people who were determined to conflict. When coming into contact with the Sangha in Thailand, I found that the quality of harmony or friendship was the very basis of that community. The word 'Sangha' means "those that are together". Its whole essence is in being separate individual people joined together in harmony: "As friendly and undisputed as milk with water, looking upon each other with kindly eyes."

The initial attraction towards the Sangha was the realization that, "Here is a group of people who are putting into action the spirit of what I respect and find most important and precious in life. Here are people who are learning to live harmoniously with each other." ...what was most important was the communal spirit, the training of the heart to live harmoniously with others. This is what caught my interest and drew me into the community. This was slightly unusual because most of the other people in the Sangha were people interested in meditation, who had wanted to find a teacher, who had studied Buddhism and wanted to try and experience life as a monastic. For me all of that was stuff that came later -- the spirit of community was what I really longed for.

I suppose I knew in my heart that what I needed more than anything else was an environment in which to make use of the potential that was there within myself. I could see that a lot of the good things that were within me and other people were just being wasted. And I could see that this was a tragedy, and would only lead to sorrow in the end.

So the beauty of the Sangha is that we have people around us who are like-minded who can support us in our spiritual life and encourage us with their presence... I realized that a monastery is not for 'saints', it is for 'sinners'. If we were all pure, enlightened beings there wouldn't be any need for monasteries.
So the Sangha is a gathering together of people who are encouraging each other to have the strength and fortitude to keep going, to fulfill the resolution that we have. I know that even if I had been taught how to meditate and do all the right things, if I hadn't had the companionship and the support of the monks and the nuns I would have slung the towel in long ago -- of that I have no doubt whatsoever. I would have given up the whole thing, hit the bottle or ended up in some dope-den in Bombay, or just found a little corner to crawl away into to forget the whole thing. One has high ideals and nice illusions about life, but so many times there has been that feeling of, "I can't stand it any more, I give up." So many times that feeling has come up, but one of the most important things about being part of a whole collection of people, is the sense of honor or affiliation with other members of the group. That sense is what stops us, and says, "Well, if you give up then you are robbing other people of the encouragement to keep going; your resolution will contribute to the resolution of others.". . . . That quality of being part of the group and expressing devotion towards the communal aspiration is what provides us with the check that says, "No, don't give up, don't throw it in."
Then, because we have paused to take into account the community's values, we realize that that thought, that feeling is not as absolute as it pretends to be.
So this is why I feel in my heart that the Sangha is something that we need to deeply treasure, respecting it as an institution and as an entity in itself. Without the Sangha and its communal aspiration so many of us would just fall away caught into our desires, our worries, fears and distractions. Those qualities which are pure and noble within us would be lost, or not given the opportunity to fulfill themselves as they do in this situation here.

Once we generate that reverence in our hearts, things can become difficult, because that reverence is something that we sometimes prefer not to have around. Often one would really not like to be a member of the Sangha, thinking, "If only these other people were not around, I could get on with my own thing. If I didn't have a meeting to go to; if I didn't have these rules to keep; if I didn't have these other people hovering in the background, then I could do my thing." It is hard to sustain that respect because it frustrates the self-centered lower mind. That frustration is hard to bear. But what such respect does do, if we do bear with it, is bring us to experience the true wealth, true richness, true joy in life. We find a heart which is light, free, which is beautiful. Which is unobtainable just through the gratification of desire.
Gratification can mimic that same fullness but it cannot really match it. So the presence of the Sangha is a source of support, it is like having a sea that buoys us up; it is like being able to float -- when our resolve weakens then we have the community which is there to keep us breathing, which will hold us up when our strength and interest in the spiritual flags and wanes.

In an ideal world we shouldn't need this, if we were all enlightened beings we wouldn't need this but, because there is work to be done, we need friends. We need to connect with people who respect what is good, spiritual and pure. Those connections will help keep us alive and maintain that capacity within us for the good qualities of our hearts to flourish."

Daishin: "What better time to find community, (Sangha), then in our senior years, if not now, when?"


The property that is for sale has four brick duplex bungalows on it plus a large home, four bamboo cottages, and a restaurant, on about two and a half acres of flat land, great for gardening and room to build at least five more bungalows. A creek runs through it and it has a good road and electricity, internet too. It is in a picturesque valley surrounded by rice paddies and mountain views. It is near a town called Soppong which is a Thai farming village and has a good hospital. It is about three hours from Chiang Mai, the third largest city in Thailand. There is a town called Pai just an hour away which is home to many foreigners, many great local and ethnic fusion restaurants and venues with contemporary international entertainment. However, if you like being in nature and country living our local town of Soppong is a great place to just “be”.
The improvements have just been built a year ago by a German man (very solid quality construction) and his Thai wife, as a guest house. But they have a challenging family situation with their daughter and need to sell.
I am 67 and would like to create a small community of like minded people to enjoy the benefits
of our senior years (45 and older) together. Thailand, especially North Thailand, is a refreshingly warm, uplifting, peaceful and healthy place to live with a strong Buddhist tradition. There are several monasteries near the property. And Thailand is very inexpensive.
My concept for the community is for a small core group of people to buy the property and then sell memberships (which could be resold) with each member having a private living space. The amount of each share for the core group would have to be enough to buy the property. This core group would create the bylaws for the community which would have provisions for amendments as needed. Residents could eat communally and also have the option to prepare what ever meals they want when they want. There would also be a monthly fee to cover expenses and keep the place going. As is, the property could accommodate about 20 members and there is room for expansion if the community so desires.

Since labor is cheap in Thailand and the villagers near by are always looking for work there could be enough staff to provide care for all members until they pass on to their next incarnation. The Thai people are known for their respect and caring for the elderly. The younger members could possibly do hospice work for the elders.

For those who like, there is the possibility of creating income on the property by offering retreats, workshops, and short term stays for non-member meditators. I also offers a detox program which is very popular and could be another resource for those who would like to assist me. Others could offer their specialties as well. The restaurant is quite large and could double as a zendo, yoga sala, etc. All of the above ideas are open for discussion, I am very open to your suggestions.

The pictures from the top down are: 1.local scenery, 2.View of property from above, 3.Close view of property, 4. Fire circle, 5.Main house rear view, 6. Main house front view, 7. Main house fire place, 8. Duplex, 9. Duplex shower, 10. Duplex bed room, 11. Bamboo cottage, 12. Single bungalow, 13. Restaurant, 14. Restaurant, 15. View of river, 16. View of Soppong Town, 17. Local produce market, 18. Road to property, 19. Local Hospital, Soppong.

The asking price for the property was $250K USD. Recently it was reduced to $175K because of the recession. The whole property is about 5 rai or about 2.5 A.The main house is 130 square meters, or about 1400 square feet, 3 BR, 1 Bath. There are two duplexes, one single bungalow same size as a duplex, four bamboo cottages with electricity but no plumbing (a very nice shared bath house), large restaurant, and a storage building. There is a possibility of a lease/option with a substantial deposit or down payment.

For more information please contact Daishin at:


Ph. or 089-998-4886 in Thailand

Please tell me a little about yourself and why you might be interested in this project. Let me know if I can share your email with other interested folks. Thank you. Daishin

For an excellent website about retirement in Thailand please see www.retire2thailand.com