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Learn to Meditate at Truc Lam, Da Lat, Vietnam’s Buddhist Monastery

Trúc Lâm Temple and Monastery

I found myself in a half lotus position on a yellow circular pillow that was on a yellow, square mat. My thumbs were touching my middle finger. I was meditating trying to meditate like a Buddhist.  This wasn’t as easy as I’d expected.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

We were visiting the Trúc Lâm Temple and Monastery campus. Trúc Lâm is a Zen Buddhist temple in Da Lat, Vietnam, and we’d read about their meditation center.  We wanted to check it out.

We walked through the campus aimlessly exploring. We were looking for the tourists’ meditation pagoda.  Luckily, we ran into a monk dressed in mustard yellow robes who was on his way to the 2:30 p.m. meditation session. He stopped to talk with us.  After taking a couple of pictures with him, he explained what exactly we were visiting. This monastery is where Buddhist monks and nuns live (separately, of course) so they can devote their lives to Buddhism.  There are three daily meditation sessions.  The monks and nuns who live here go to EVERY SINGLE MEDITATION SESSION.

Family with Buddhist monk at Truc Lam
Off to our private meditation lesson

The daily meditation times are:  3:30-5:30 a.m.; 2:30-4:30 p.m.; and 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Buddhism Overview

In case you are unaware of the religion Buddhism, let me explain it for you. Buddhism is more like a way of life, not a religion, but it is still considered a religion. It is the 4th most popular belief system in the whole world. It began with a man named Siddhārtha Gautama. Siddhārtha Gautama was born Hindu in 563 BC. He tried many Hindu beliefs, but none really worked for him so he began his own belief system, Buddhism.

A Buddhist is basically a person who understands the meaning of life and truth about the world. Pretty much anyone can be a Buddhist, but Siddārtha was the head honcho, or Buddha. That’s the summary of Buddhism.

So we asked the monk where the tourist meditation pagoda was and he lead us to it. We walked on a sidewalk until we reached some steps. Up the steps and through a door, we were in an empty meditation room. The monk pulled some mats out for us which we lined up on the precise duct tape lines to keep all the mats from touching. He then told us that he would be back in a minute. When he got back, he had five circular pillows and three small picture books in his hands. He dispersed the books and explained that Zen meditation is for everyone, not just Buddhists.  Then he showed us the basic meditation how-to moves.

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How to Meditate

  • Start by laying down your mat and placing the circular pillow (optional but increases balance over time) near the back corner of the mat.
  • Now sit in a full or half lotus position with your booty on the circle pillow and your knees touching the mat. If you aren’t very flexible or find the lotus uncomfy, sit criss-cross-applesauce.

This next step is crucial to not falling asleep:

  • Keep your eyes slightly open and stare at the floor three feet in front of you.
  • Here’s the hard part…erase any thoughts from your brain. If you feel a thought coming on, imagine erasing it like a tissue on a white board.
  • Stay still try to stay still for as long as possible and deepen into relaxation.

The monk left the room and continued on his way to his meditation session (monks and tourists don’t meditate in the same place). I tried to stay focused while meditating, but with my dad stretching his legs due to knee pain, I got distracted. I read some of my meditation book and waited for my mom and Delaney to finish meditating.

We struggled to meditate for six whole minutes–1/60th of the time the monks and nuns meditate each day.

Hey, I’m impressed that I lasted that long.

One Last Tip:

If you happen to fall asleep meditating at work and your boss walks in, slowly raise your head and say, “In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

I promise you won’t be fired.

Family meditates at Truc Lam

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