I took this picture after my reatreat, hence I'm not in it.
I've been on over 100 meditation retreats. Starting in 1979, I have done retreats in New Zealand, India, Thailand, Japan, USA, and England. This is the first time I've ever advised anyone not to go to a retreat center.
The center is in a beautiful place and the meditation hall is kind of a heaven realm. Plus the climate is perfect, the food is good, and the staff is sincere. Unfortunately the teacher, who used to teach at Swan Mokkh, I found to be a real bozo. He seems to speak just to hear his own words and he has no sensitivity at all for his audience. I suffered hearing his self-centered, egotistical, and very unhelpful talks and his talks leave many of the meditators terribly confused. That wouldn't be so bad if an experienced meditator could just skip out of the talks but the place is so small that you really can't get away. I tried hiding in various places but I would still hear the talks.
All of the men sleep in one room under the meditation hall. When I was there the snorers made the thing into a train station, and airport tarmac, and a thunderstorm all at the same time. Again I tried to move away from the snorers but it was very difficult.
After six days the schedule calls for loading everyone up in truck and sending them to a local "meditation park"— Suan Dhamma Bheri. That wouldn't be a bad thing, but what happened in my case and which I imagine usually happens is that the people on the retreat, many of whom have not done meditation before, use the outing as an excuse to talk. I tried to demand silence, and felt extreme hostility from some of the meditators. After the retreat one of the talkers apologized to me for his juvenile behavior. Looking back, I found that the outing was so disconcerting that the rest of the retreat was wasted for me.
Is there hope for the center? If they can find ways to house people in individual rooms or even in double rooms, sleeping might then become bearable. If they can find a decent meditation teacher that can explain the meditation in a way that people can understand that would be very helpful. And certainly they should eliminate the outing to the park on day six.
In the meantime I have to advise anyone to think a very long time before going.