10-Day Vipassana Course At Dhamma Malaysia
What You Need To Know Before Attending
If you think you might sign up for a 10 day Vipassana Meditation course, my advice is to do it. It’s only 10 days, you will survive. If you’re still undecided start writing down your worries and think about them.
Are you being irrational?
What’s the worst that can happen…you miss out on the internets latest cat video?
It went smoother than expected for me. That’s not to say it was easy as it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s not just 10 days of silence but 10 days of noble silence while following five of the eight precepts (old students are required to follow all eight). The five you’ll follow are:
1. to abstain from killing any being;
2. to abstain from stealing;
3. to abstain from all sexual activity;
4. to abstain from telling lies;
5. to abstain from all intoxicants.
What is noble silence? Keeping your body, speech, and mind silent. In practical terms, in addition to no talking (except to the course managers/assistant at specific times), you can’t communicate with other students using sign language, gestures, or written notes etc.
I struggled with the gestures. I’m always acknowledging (gesturing) to people as I walk past them with a smile and/or a head nod in normal life. It was weird purposefully trying to avoid this by looking down at the ground or focusing on something in the distance while walking past people.
I struggled with the heat big time. The mornings and evenings were okay, but from 11 am to 5 pm the heat was stifling (in April). The clothing I wore wasn’t the best with it being relatively close fitting. It’s worth the investment in buying loose t-shirts and pants, if not t-shirt and pants that are designed for meditation.
In terms of the mediation, the course is very structured and the skills build up throughout the 10 days. The daily schedule has three mandatory sessions of group mediation each day. The course assistant may require you to stay in the meditation hall at other times as a group but the majority of the time you can choose to mediate in the hall or in your room (you have a meditation mat and pillow in your room). I knew myself that if I meditated in my room, the lure of lying on my bed would be too much so was in the hall during all meditation sessions. That was the best for me, but you might prefer meditating in private. Don’t shortchange yourself though, put in the hard work and avoid lying down when no one is looking.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
If you’re staying in Kuala Lumpur you can make it to Dhamma Malaya from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) in three hours. Buses leave from TBS frequently so as long as you’re on a bus by 12.30pm you should make it on time. Ask the bus driver to drop you of at Gambang (UMP stop).
There are chartered buses organised by Dhamma Malaya too, depending on the demand. For the latest information on how to get to Dhamma Malaya, this website has all the latest.
Alternatively, you could stay in the nearest large town, Kuantan, which is 30km away. You can take public transport from Kuantan to the entrance of Dhamma Malaya but it takes at least an hour, so a taxi/Grab is more practical. On the last day of the course, you leave in the morning, ample time to reach your next destination (they assist you with working out the best transport options on the last day).
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
The facilities hosting Vipassana courses vary significantly and afterwards, I was told Dhamma Malaya is one of the best in Asia. We all had a private room with a single (raised) bed with a private bathroom included and a fan. The showers aren’t hot, but you have access to hot water so you can fill up a bucket if you want a warm bucket shower. The rooms aren’t fancy but considering I was expecting a mattress on the floor in a stuffy dormitory, it felt like 5 stars.
Eat – Restaurants
The food? Awesome, there was a good variety and the options cater to both Western and Asian foods. And it was all vegetarian! As a vegan, I could eat nearly everything. It was weird eating breakfast and lunch early (6.30am and 11:30 am) knowing that the 5.30pm dinner is a small serving of fruit. A few commented on how they struggled to sleep on an empty stomach which may have had a role in why I struggled to sleep in hindsight. Don’t go too big on the meals thinking you aren’t going to be eating after lunch time. Trying to meditate on a full stomach isn’t easy. There is unlimited access to filtered water during the course.
You don’t exactly have much choice during the course. Before you enter the road leading to the Dhamma Malaya, there is a 7/11 and a small restaurant if you want one last meal from the outside world (I couldn’t resist some Oreos).
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
The 10 day Vipassana courses run throughout the year, approximately twice a month. You can check the latest schedule on the website. To guarantee a spot, sign up as early as possible as the wait lists can get long.
Safety – Possible risks
There should be no concern for your safety while staying at Dhamma Malaysia.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
You won’t be getting any amounts out of me. All of the Vipassana courses are run by volunteers and costs are covered by donations. This pays for food, maintenance, volunteer accommodation, stationery, and towards the construction of new properties. I was nervous about payment, but my method was to work out what my average daily spend was and donated 10x that amount. There’s no amount too small or too big, they won’t judge you at all.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Respect The Other Students
If you’re not going to take this seriously and do your best don’t bother going. The meaning of taking a Vipassana course differs from person to person. From what I could tell there were some students you could tell were focused to another level. Everyone is on their own journey, as long as you abide by the precepts and noble silence you’ll be a model student.
Don’t Be A No Show
If you sign up and are accepted, show up. Don’t be a no show because you don’t feel like it anymore. Most of the courses have waiting lists, so if you don’t show up, you are taking away a place of someone who wanted to be on the course. If you can’t make the course for whatever reason, email the people listed in your acceptance letter ASAP.
Let People Know You’re Offline
No one is going to be able to contact you for 10 days (unless it’s an emergency). At a minimum, let a couple of family members know what your plans are and the emergency contact details in the email you’ll be sent. If you have friends you talk to daily, it’s probably wise to let them know as well to prevent unnecessary worry. You could always post on Facebook too.
You’ll make your donation on the last day. Bring at least some cash with you. While there are usually credit card facilities, we all no our bank cards don’t always work in foreign countries.
Reality Check – Be Aware
When you arrive on site, you’re required to hand over all your technology, books, pens, paper etc. (to be put away for safekeeping). No exceptions. Oh, how I wish I could have finished the last chapter of my book before the course started!
While you’re committing to the full 10 days of the course, I have heard people do leave early for a host of reasons (mostly a weak mind). No one left early on the course I attended (with 100+ students), so if you see lots of people leaving, don’t let the excuse of ‘oh they’re leaving so I can’ cross your mind.
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Have you ever been to a city that had a really unique historical or cultural feature? Where was it and what made it so unique?
For another ‘spiritual’ activity, its definitely worth being in attendance for the Hindu Thaipusam Festival, held every January or February!
Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!