Buddhists make an obsession of mindfulness — a movement driven by the ancient doctrine of transcendental meditation that seeks to bring peace and quiet into the mind and body. In Thailand, many young Buddhist monks begin meditation in a trip to Hong Kong’s famed Miraikan spiritual retreat, a centuries-old center of Buddhist learning and meditation that has had a prominent role in the practice of mindfulness for decades.
Founded in 1954 by prominent Zen Buddhist monk Toshi Takahashi and funded in large part by the British Government, Miraikan uses Buddhist meditation techniques that emphasize balance and compassion. Meditation sessions range from an hour to almost 16 hours each day. Before their arrival in Hong Kong, young monks are required to complete in-depth ceremonies, a program called the Wave-Out training. During the program, monks learn the strengths and weaknesses of their body to assist them in developing a balanced meditation practice. While the curriculum that guides the monks is pretty steep, the program is more laid back than most retreats and doesn’t require monks to spend the whole day meditating alone.
On April 28, 2019, after a one-year stay in Hong Kong, over 100 young monks will begin the Wave-Out training and spend five days and nights with scholars from around the world, including Sophia Loren, Maureen O’Hara, and the Dalai Lama, cultivating and practicing their new meditation skills. After four days in meditation, the monks will leave Hong Kong, free to pursue their religious life as monks, but with a sense of new purpose, thanks to their experience at Miraikan.
Back in Bangkok, the monks are expected to learn about current Buddhist tradition and learn and adapt their new meditation styles to reflect new ideas for the future of meditation and compassion. At Miraikan, the primary aim is to bring people to a state of openness and meditation that is more than mind-body dualism, but rather one that is uplifting, joyful, and loving.
According to legend, 1,900 monks came to Hong Kong in November 1954 to attend the Mt. Makara meditation, a two-day retreat held every few years. However, once the monks were sent back to Thailand and the Canadian Institute of Royal Retreats banned the practice of meditation, only over 300 monks attended. Since the mandate that teachers stop offering to meditate as monks at Mount Makara, there has been a steady drop in the number of monks that have attended the retreat, only around 100 today.