Hospital to become a meditation centre
09:00 28 August 2010
A FORMER hospital is set to be converted into a silent meditation retreat teaching the ancient relaxation techniques of the Buddha.
The Whitwell House Day Hospital in Saxon Road, Saxmundham, used to look after mental health patients but closed last year.
Planning chiefs at Suffolk Coastal District Council have now given the thumbs up for the building to be used as a silent meditation retreat centre subject to a number of conditions.
It will be run by the Vipassana Trust, a charity which was formed in 1988 and has its headquarters in Hereford.
Most of the the residential courses on offer will be no more than three days long, although some could eventually last for up to 10 days.
Last night Patrick Elder, from Walpole, near Halesworth, who acted as an agent for the application and practices the meditation technique, said: “Vipassana is based on the techniques taught by the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. It is not in any way religious – it is open to everyone.
“The courses are quiet retreats and the participants will enjoy silence for the majority of their stay.
“It will certainly bring people into the town and we are excited about the project.
“There is a bit of work that we still have to do but we would be disappointed if we were not up and running before the end of the year.”
Some concerns were raised about the lack of car parking, the risk of flooding and the poor access for disabled people but these have been addressed by the applicant.
The charity is run through donations and there are no charges for any of the courses. “People may or may not give a donation,” Mr Elder continued. “It depends if they feel they have benefited from what they are doing. It is entirely up to them.
“It means the courses are available to absolutely anybody from whatever walk of life, religion, creed or nationality.”
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient forms of meditation.
For more details on the Vipassana Trust visit www.dipa.dhamma.org/about.html