Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Buddhist Riddle: Sitting Buddha, Standing Buddha, Walking Buddha and Sleeping Buddha

A Buddhist Riddle of the Four Brahmaviharas

While we are in the heart of Old Bangkok, we may need to adjust our mental frame as a humble Buddhist to appreciate the Sublime and Divine. Then the Sublime and Divine will manifest their omnipresence through the temples, the pagodas, the Buddha statues, the Buddhist teachings and all the other historical buildings. These physical structures will also reveal to us the high culture of Thai arts, as well as the layers of Heaven through religious symbols, faith and Buddhist riddles. From the outset, Bangkok, as its official name implies, was created by Lord Vishnu, who radiates his kindness equally toward the Celestial Beings and human beings.

The Buddha does not refute the existence of the worlds of the lower beings, nor that of the worlds of the higher beings. But he focuses on the present, how one might reach a breakthrough of one's consciousness. This is the ultimate Heaven, the Nirvana where there is no self and only absolute tranquillity. Angels or Gods may still have emotions and desires. They dwell in different realms. And they still have to go through the cycle of birth and death. But the Buddha and those who follow his path to Nirvana have no emotion or desire, only the ever-present state of blissfulness. The Buddha sees a potential to realise a perfect soul in every human being.

In the City of Celestial Beings, our mode of thought gives in to the Sublime and Divine. What is more Sublime and Divine than to have a mind-set of Brahma or to enter the realm of Brahma?

But first we have to solve a Buddhist riddle of the Four Brahmaviharas.

The Buddha employs Brahma as a metaphor in his teaching of the Four Brahmaviharas. Together with Vishnu and Shiva, Brahma forms the Trinity of the Hindu Gods. Two words combine to make Brahmavihara. As we already know, Brahma is the Hindu God of creation. Vihara means a building or a residence, generally a grand and imposing structure where the high priests perform religious rites or where the gods take their residence. To perfect the Four Brahmaviharas of Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha is to enter the realm of Brahma and to attain the Sublime and Divine.

In Thailand, we can see Brahma Shrines almost everywhere because the Thais also worship Brahma, who renders peace and prosperity and fulfils our wishes and cures our traumas. Brahma Shrines are located in front of government offices, office buildings or condominiums. There are two most prominent Brahma Shrines in Bangkok, one at the Government House and the other at the Rajaprasong Intersection near the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. The Thao Maha Phrom of the Erawan Shrine at the Rajaprasong Intersection, created in 1956, is the most well-known spirit house of all. Every day the Thais, as well as tourists mostly from Hong Kong and Singapore, flock the Erawan Shrine to worship the four-headed and eight-handed Brahma and his elephant Erawan with offerings, garlands of sweet-scented jasmine, roses and also wooden elephants. When the supplicants' wishes are answered, they pay a tribute to Thao Maha Phrom with a troupe of a ritual dance and traditional Thai music.

In the early morning of March 21, 2006, a man with a record of mental illness smashed the Great Brahma statue to pieces with a hammer. He was later beaten to death by an angry mob. The incident shocked the Thai public, who could not have imagined that the Brahma shrine came under the attack. It was beyond any imaginable crimes, the most sinful act of all. "It's hard to believe it happened," said Viranya Aiemcharoen, who visited the shrine with her family in the morning after learning of the incident." My heart is filled with sorrow, so I came to pay respect to the gods again," she said. Members of her family often asked for blessings at the shrine and were devastated by the statue's destruction. Patsalin Sritan, a sales clerk, said she rushed to the shrine after a motorcycle taxi driver told her what had happened." I feel sorry for all Thais because the statue was much revered by Buddhists," she said. Garland vendor Pinkaew Pipat-asa witnessed people started arriving as early as 4 am to pay their tribute. She immediately phoned her friends then rushed to the scene. "I was shocked and my heart was broken ...I am a second-generation garland seller here, I've been here for about 40 years," she said.

It was not until three months afterward that the Hindu God Thao Maha Phrom was restored. During which time there was much speculation about the motivation behind the destruction of the Erawan Shrine. One plausible theory was that the real culprit behind this black-magic act of terror would like to destroy Brahma and the Four Brahmaviharas governing the Sublime and Divine of Bangkok. The culprit hoped that if he could destroy the Four Brahmaviharas, the Thais at large would be falling to the lower worlds governed by the beasts. It would be more convenient to rule the Thais reduced to residing in the realms of Naraka or Hell under the disguised form of Democracy.

Since Brahma has four faces and eight hands, each face comes to represent a virtue of the Four Brahmaviharas (Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha), while each hand signifies a virtue of Noble Eightfold Path (Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration). Those who possess or persevere through the virtues of the Four Brahmaviharas are considered perfect human beings. Those who practice the Noble Eightfold Path will ultimately find a way to end suffering. These virtues enshrined in the Buddha’s teachings can be achieved through meditation and daily practice. The barami, or reserve power, that is acquired through the constant practice and refining of these virtues will help us attain the Sublime and Divine.

The Buddha holds that cultivation of the Four Brahmaviharas has the power to cause the practitioner to be re-born into a Brahma realm. Through the Four Brahamaviharas, we radiate our pure heart to all beings in all directions in the mental states of loving-kindness or benevolence (Metta), compassion (Karuna), sympathetic joy (Mudita), and, equanimity (Upekkha).

Metta is the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy. The Thais make merit by pouring water into a vessel (tham boon kruat nam). While they pray during this merit making, they radiate metta not only to their family members but also to other fellow human beings and animals, who all share the same fate of the cycle of birth and death in this world.

Karuna is the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering. The Thais sometimes free the birds and release the fish back into the water in a merit-making act of metta and karuna radiation. At Wat Rakhang, which is located on the bank of the Chao Phya River on the Thon Buri side of Bangkok, many Thais make merit by sending the birds kept in cages into the air and release the fish in plastic bags back into the river so that they may enjoy freedom again. The temple's ground is a no-killing zone. A big flock of pigeons finds protection within the temple's compound. The fish, which swim in the river in front of the temple's pier are also getting fed with food and bread from the well-wishers. There, human beings and animals are treated equally.

Mudita is the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings. When we don't feel jealous toward the success of some one but rejoices in his or her happiness or achievement, we are in the Mudita mode.

Upekkha is a state of mind that does not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. If we treat all other sentient beings as equal, we will get the respect from all.
These virtues of the Brahmavihara form the foundation of a perfect human being. We may enter the realm of Brahma without having to wait for the next life by simultaneously practising the virtues of Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha.

The Buddhist riddle of the Four Brahmaviharas is also concealed in the Buddha statues in Bangkok and the nearby Nakhon Pathom. These Buddha statues communicate and are related to each other. We can detect the riddle of the Four Brahmaviharas, as exemplified through the Sitting Buddha, the Standing Buddha, the Walking Buddha and the Sleeping Buddha. Each Buddha statue represents one virtue of the Four Brahmaviharas.

The Sitting Buddha or Phra Sri Sakayamuni at Wat Suthat represents the virtue of Metta. The Standing Buddha or Phra Sri Ariyametreya at Wat Indhravoraviharn illustrates the virtue of Karuna. The Walking Buddha or Phra Srisakayathosphol at Nakhon Pathom's Phuttamonthon manifests the virtue of Mudita. Finally, the Sleeping Buddha at Wat Pho exemplifies the virtue of Upekkha.

These Buddha statues speak to each other. They reveal our past, present and future. They relate to us the past glory of Suvarnabhumi. They reflect the decadence and despair and hope of our present time. And they point to the future of a re-emerging Suvarnabhumi, a lost Heaven that could be regained. Only after we have come to terms with these Buddha images and fallen on your knees to pray before them, with a perfect heart of the Four Brahmaviharas, would we realise that the door to Heaven is wide open before our eyes.


The Sitting Buddha
At Wat Suthat Thepwararam, a royal temple of the first grade, the Buddha statue Phra Sri Sakayamuni offers a striking image. You are overwhelmed at once by the statue's immense size and beauty. The aesthetics of Thai arts and the Buddhist ideals are inseparable. Beauty is defined by a combination of an appropriate size and proportion. And Phra Sri Sakayamuni is created with an appropriate size and proportion to become a perfect piece of art, a rendition of the force of Metta and an embodiment of the Four Brahmaviharas. The creation of this Buddha image reflects the Golden Age of the Sukhothai Kingdom, which marked one of the early cradles of the Suvarnabhumi civilisation.

Wat Suthat is located at the centre of Old Bangkok on Bamrungmuang Road of Phra Nakhon District. In front of this temple stands the Giant Swing, a relic of Brahmanic ceremony. The Giant Swing is made of 20-metre tall red lacquered teak logs. In the ceremony, a group of men would push the swing until someone could snatch a bag of gold from a 15-metre bamboo pole with his teeth. Nearby are a Brahmin Shrine, the Dev Mandir Temple and the headquarters of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

A narrow street in front of Wat Suthat leads to the broader Rajadamneon Klang Road, where the Democracy Monument stands frugally as a symbol of modernity. Yet most motorists driving around the circle of the Democracy Monument hardly draw any inspiration from what it stands for. The Democracy Monument, created after the 1932 Revolution that toppled Absolute Monarchy, looks more like a crumbling symbol of what has gone wrong with modern Thailand. Surrounding the Democracy Monument are buried arsenals, chained together in a circle as a curse against the true Thai ideals.

The main Viharn of Wat Suthat houses Phra Sri Sakayamuni, while Phra Buddha Trilokachet is placed in the Ubosot (Ordinary Hall) and Phra Buddha Setthamuni in the Sala Kan Parien (Meeting Hall). When you cross the threshold of the main gate into the temple, you immediately enter the layers of Heaven, symbolised by both the Hindu and Buddhist ideals. Chinese and Thai arts also blend together in an order of conformity. Most important, you witness the Ayutthaya heritage in a recreation. The verandah around it was built in the style of Wat Mongkhon Bophit in Ayutthaya.

The early Bangkok people called this temple as Wat Phra Yai or Wat Sao Ching Cha. King Yodfa named it as Wat Mahasuthawat, which means the temple endowed with the beauty of the Brahma Heaven. Later on King Mongkut, one of his grandsons, renamed this temple as Wat Suthatthepwararam. The new name also came with a heaven-like connotation from Hinduism. It means the Temple that resides on the Mount Meru, the central part of Heaven where Indra takes residence. For bronze horses, beautifully cast with polished surface, are located at each direction to represent the four continents surrounding Mount Meru. Wat Suthat, like all other temples in Bangkok, is a holy place, endowed with the highest Hindu and Buddhist ideals. This temple also represents a central corridor connected to the innermost part of the centre of Heaven situated at Wat Pho and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

In 1807, King Yodfa commissioned the construction of Wat Suthat. King Lertla would help carved the door panels, which turned out to be a masterpiece. The carved doors are now being kept at the National Museum. But Wat Suthat would not be completed until 1847 during the reign of King Nangklao. A true nation builder, King Nangklao presided over the building and rennovation of most of the temples in Bangkok.

King Yodfa was conscious of the glory of Ayutthaya "when the country was still prosperous". He would like to recreate Ayutthaya, both its spirit and its physical features, in the new capital he built. Reviving the morale of the Siamese through Buddhism was his most important task, which included building new temples, renovating the old ones and moving the Buddha images from the old capitals and major cities to keep them in Bangkok. During his reign, King Yodfa ended up having 1,248 Buddha images moved to the new capita for preservation. Of these, the three most important Buddha images of the land were the Emerald Buddha of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Phra Srisakayamuni of Wat Suthat and Phra Srisanphet, a standing Buddha image installed inside the grand pagoda Phra Maha Chedi Srisanpetchadayarn at Wat Pho.

The new temple in the middle of Bangkok would be called Wat Phra Yai (Temple of the Big Buddha Image) because King Yodfa would like to model it after Wat Phanan Cherng of Ayutthaya. Located outside Ayutthaya's inner city on the riverbank in the south of the Old Capital, Wat Phanan Cherng was built probably in the year 1324 before the founding of Ayutthaya. The large Buddha image in the Vihara was called Phra Chao Phanan Cherng, whose name was later changed to Phra Puttha Trairatana Nayok. But the Ayutthaya people call this Buddha image simply as Luang Pho To. Most Thais also called Phra Sri Sakayamuni by a secular name of Luang Pho To.

The origin of Phra Srisakaymuni was from the Vihara of Wat Mahathat, the ancient city of Sukhothai in the North of Thailand. Phra Mahathammaraja Lithai, King of the Sukhothai Dynasty (1347-1375) had Phra Sri Sakayamuni Buddha image cast. The work was finished in 1361. Wat Mahathat was one of the royal temples of the first grade within what is now the Sukhothai Historical Park. The temple was left to decay with time under the scorching heat of the sun and the humidity of the rain. Phra Sri Sakayamuni, the main Buddha image in the chapel, was also left neglected. The Sukhothai Empire lost its power after the rise of Ayutthaya.

In 1808, King Yodfa commanded that Phra Phirenthep made a journey to Sukhothai to retrieve this Buddha image and bring it down to Bangkok. Phra Sri Sakayamuni was floated by raft through the Chao Phraya River before it disembarked at Tha Chang, a pier just outside the Grand Palace. Festivities followed for seven nights and seven days to celebrate the arrival of Phra Sri Sakayamuni, which would be transported via a sledge to the main vihara of the new temple.

The Buddha image was carried in a huge raft, floating down the Chao Phya River until it reached Tha Chang, some dozen steps away from the Grand Palace. Phra Srisakayamuni was installed temporarily there for celebration for seven days and seven nights. King Yodfa had a very fragile health at that point. Still, with his bare-footed, the King led a procession to move the Buddha image from Tha Chang, a new pier just outside the Grand Palace, to the new temple. Apparently, the King was committing the last virtuous act of restoring the glory of Buddhism to his land. The founder of Bangkok, who spent most of his life on the battlefield, was a deeply religious man. He was navigating the last part of his life toward Enlightenment and Heaven. He died shortly after this grand celebration of Phra Srisakayamuni at the age of 72.

Inside the Viharn where the Buddha image Phra Sri Sakyamuni is installed, there are murals portraying Thai Buddhist cosmology and scenes of the Himavanta forest with lotus ponds, Kinnara and Kinnari and their children. The Buddha image is seated at the centre of the Heaven.

At about eight metres in height and six metres in width, Phra Sri Sakayamuni is one of the largest and oldest bronze-cast Buddha images in Thailand. The Buddha image is seated in a classic mediating posture after his victory over King Mara. The Buddha image is in a crossed-legged position, with the right hand placing on the right knee while the left hand resting below the navel, dwelling on the upper thigh in front of the abdomen, with the palm facing up. The base on which the Buddha image sits resembles lion's feet. Under this base the royal ashes of Rama VIII are kept.

Indeed, Phra Sri Sakayamuni is styled after the Buddha's Subduing of the Mara. According to the Buddhist legend, the Mara King rode on elephant back ahead of a fierce army, trying to disrupt the Buddha's path to enlightenment. The appearance of the Mara King is a recurring theme of a fight between Good and Evil. The Lord Buddha called Vasundhara, or the Goddess of Earth, to witness this confrontation with the Mara King and his army. The Goddess of Earth said she would return to the Buddha the water he had poured on the earth in an act of making merit (tham boon kruad nam). Thus she began to wring water from her hair. All of a sudden, the water flowing from her hair became a mighty ocean, sweeping away the Mara King and his army to the ends of the earth and killing most of them. Frightened by this power, the Mara King fled in disgrace. The Lord Buddha's confrontation with the Mara King has deeply caught the imagination of Thai artists, inspiring them to create statues and paintings of the Buddha in the act of subduing the Mara King.
The Sitting Buddha communicates to us several profound meanings. When you wake up from a long sleep, the first thing you do is to sit up on your bed. This sitting allows us to clear the dizziness in our head and to prepare a sound mind for the day. If you assume a loving-kindness mode or Metta without holding on to your elusive self, you will be starting your good day with auspicises.

Likewise, the Sitting Buddha assumes a mode of serenity and Metta, the first quality of the Four Brahmaviharas. The way his hands are posed signifies that they are empty. The Buddha image's hands are not holding to anything. They are in effect in a "letting go" posture. The Buddha has let it go. He does not hold on to anything. To him, all the things in the universe are subject to change. Nothing lasts forever.

As you pray before Phra Sri Sakayamuni, with a lotus, a candle and three joss sticks to represent the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, you feel that the image is radiating Metta to you. The image's eyes penetrate your mind. You are overwhelmed by this Metta force. You're already entering the realm of Brahma.

Phra Sri Sakayamuni also looks into himself. He is in a meditation mode. The Buddha image looks inward, into his inner most self to realise that impermanence is the essence of this universe. The Buddha, or the Awakened One, attained enlightenment because he looked inward rather than outward. While meditating under a bodhi tree near the River Neranjana, the Buddha discovered the Four Noble Truths. He saw through the nature of suffering (Dukkha), the fundamental cause of all suffering (Samuddaya), the escape from suffering (Nirodha), and what effort a person can go to so that they themselves can attain emancipation (Marga).

Once the Buddha became enlightened, he had the wisdom to understand thoroughly the world from within and the world from without. The Buddhist Heaven he led us to is a place of absolute tranquillity.

As the name Phra Sri Sakayamuni implies, this Buddha image represents the historical Buddha, or Sithartha Gautama, who lived more than two thousand years ago. The Buddha was born into the royal Sakaya family. Since there are no photos or paintings of the Buddha, artists or artisans can only create the Buddha in their own images or imaginations. Phra Sri Sakayamuni has a facial look of a man who is and is not of this world. The part that belongs to this world must have reflected a common feature of one of the ancient persons of Suvarnabhumi, who was gentle and kind. Phra Sri Sakayamuni represents an ideal superman man of Suvarnabhumi, one who was noble, bold, religiously tolerant and having a Metta heart.

The Sukhothai artists achieved the high art of beauty through the creation of Phra Sri Sakayamuni, which could not be more perfect. The Buddha image also embodies the highest virtue of goodness because it represents the Buddha's Dharma teachings. Moreover, Phra Sri Sakayamuni also teaches us about absolute reality through his bare left hand, which does not hold on to anything because in absolute reality there is nothingness. In our life, we all aim to realise the highest ideals of beauty, virtue and truth. In Phra Sri Sakayamuni, we can realise these highest ideals of beauty, virtue and ultimate truth all at once.

By placing Phra Sri Sakayamuni in Wat Phrayai in Bangkok, modelled after Wat Phanan Cherng, King Yodfa created a necessary link between the three kingdoms into an unbroken line. The Thon Buri Kingdom would represent a ring that ties the knot between Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Kingdoms with the Bangkok Kingdom. Without King Taksin the Great, who consolidated Siam after the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, the Suvarnabhumi civilisation would have ceased to exist. King Yodfa took on from the Thonburi Kingdom to found the new capital and to restore the glory that was Ayutthaya. But he also consciously had a vision of Suvarnabhumi, through Sukhothai ideals, in his mind when he built Bangkok as the new capital. Wat Suthat would represent the glory of Sukhothai through Phra Sri Sakayamuni, the grandeur of Ayutthaya through the modelling of its spirit, and the celebration of the Bangkok Kingdom.

The surrounding courtyard, a blend of Chinese and Thai arts so prevalent during the reign of King Nangklao, contains 156 Buddha images. A statue of King Rama VIII stands in one of the corners in front of the Vihara. On the door and windows panels there are pictures of guardians and divinities. At the lower terrace of the base there are Chinese pagodas, seven pagodas on each side making 28 of them to signify the 28 Buddhas born onto this earth. Buddhists believe in the reincarnation and a perfect being in the Buddha. Phra Sri Sakayamuni is one of a series of the Buddhas born into this world to lead human beings to salvation. He was the historical Buddha, or the Buddha that had flesh, blood and feeling like all of us. And he was the Awakened One, or the Enlightened One, who understood thoroughly the impermanent of the universe.

The Sakayamuni Buddha’s teaching would only last 5,000 years before it goes into oblivion. We have already passed the middle of Buddhist era. After Sri Sakayamuni, a new Buddha will be born to lead us to redemption again. The next Buddha is called Maitreya.
Wat Suthat provides a platform for Sri Sakayamuni to pass on the candle of Dharma to the next Buddha, or Maitreya. For all of his Metta, Phra Sri Sakayamuni gives blessing of compassion for Maitreya, who waits for his turn to come down to this world to attain the complete enlightenment.

Sakayamuni spoke about the Buddha of the Future, who would follow him as follows:

"He will have a heavenly voice which reaches far; his skin will have a golden hue, a great splendour will radiate from his body, his chest will be broad, his limbs well developed, and his eyes will be like lotus petals. His body is eighty cubits high, and twenty cubits broad. He will have a retinue of 84,000 persons, whom he will instruct in the mantras. With this retinue he will one day go forth into the homeless life. A Dragon tree will then be the tree under which he will win enlightenment; its branches rise up to fifty leagues, and its foliage spreads far and wide over six Kos. Underneath it Maitreya, the best of men, will attain supreme enlightenment - there can be no doubt on that. And he will win his enlightenment the very same day that he has gone forth into the homeless life.

“And then, a supreme sage, he will with a perfect voice preach the true dharma, which is auspicious and removes all ill, i.e. the fact of ill, the origination of ill, the transcending of ill, and the holy eightfold path which brings security and leads to Nirvana. He will explain the four Truths, because he has seen that generation, in faith, ready for them, and those who have listened to his Dharma will thereupon make progress in the religion. They will be assembled in a park full of beautiful flowers, and his assembly will extend over a hundred leagues. Under Maitreya's guidance, hundreds of thousands of living beings shall enter upon a religious life."

Phra Srisakayamuni has witnessed it all. He saw the glory of Sukhothai 700 years ago and Suvarnabhumi as well as their decline. In the middle period represented by Ayutthaya, Phra Srisakyayamuni was completely forgotten. Now this Buddha image is about to make his move by passing on the legacy of Buddhism and the Middle Path principle to the next Buddha. The Standing Buddha of Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya at Wat Indhraviharn in Bangkok’s Bangkhunphrom area, which is a few kilometres a way from Wat Suthat, is about to take over as the next Buddha as a new chapter of Suvarnabhumi begins.

The Standing Buddha
After paying a visit to the Sitting Buddha, you now set your sight at the Standing Buddha, which towers over Wat Intharaviharn in the northern part of Old Bangkok. You have already acquired a Metta blessing from Phra Sri Sakayamuni, the historical Buddha. You can't rest until you proceed to visit Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya, the Buddha of the Future. The Standing Buddha has been waiting for his turn and an appropriate timing to take over the great legacy of the Sitting Buddha.

This gigantic Standing Buddha statue represents a virtue of Karuna or compassion of the Four Brahmaviharas. When you have Metta or loving-kindess in your heart, you also need to have the accompanying Karuna. Metta and Karuna are the two brotherly virtues that co-exist like your tongue and your teeth. Hence, after praying to Phra Sri Sakayamuni, it is necessary to move on to pay homage to Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya to experience the Sublime and the Divine.

From Wat Suthat to Wat Intharaviharn, the distance is only a few kilometres away. By way of a tuk-tuk, which sprints its noisy way through the narrow Dinso Road, you arrive at the broader Rachadamnoen Klang Road, where the Democracy Monument serves as a landmark. You go half way around the monument and take the connected Prachathipatai (Democracy) Road before crossing a bridge over Khlong Banglamphoo, a canal that forms a borderline of the Ratanakosin Island in the inner Old Bangkok. Then you arrive at an intersection cut across by the Wisut Kasat (Pure Monarch) Road. Not many Thais are aware of this Prachathipatai Road, which starts obscurely from the Democracy Monument. After all, it is a strange meet between Prachathipatai and Wisut Kasat.

Along the way, there are long lines of old shop houses, which appear to disconnect themselves from the modern business. You make a left turn at the intersection to enter the Wisut Kasat Road, above which is the Rama XIII Bridge. Soon you will be approaching another old area of Old Bangkok, called the Bangkhunphrom sub-district. You're still in the Phra Nakhon District, or the District of the Great Capital. On your right side before reaching Samsen Road, you will find Wat Intharaviharn, which looks as if it would like to conceal itself from the modern world. Many foreign tourists find this temple as one of their main attractions.

At 32 metres in height and 11 metres in width, Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya is the world's largest standing Buddha statue with alms-bowl in hands. Both of the hands of the Standing Buddha are almost entirely concealed under the yellow saffron. You can see only the fingers of the left hand sneaking out of the yellow saffron to hold the black alms-bowl. As you stand in front of the Standing Buddha, you are overwhelmed by its imposing and gigantic structure and radiating compassion barami (accumulated power and dignity).

The huge Standing Buddha has a solemn look, with a facial feature of a Thai. Unlike the more surreal Phra Sri Sakayamuni, Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya gives you a sense of realism in spite of its dominating size. Artistically, however, it no match to the Sitting Buddha because it was built in the later Rattanakosin period. But the two statues communicate to each other in a subtle way.

Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya strikes a sharp contrast with Phra Srisakayamuni when it comes to posture. After sitting, your next natural posture is to stand. Standing gives you another chance to think through with samadhi (concentration) before you start your day by walking. If you have already formed Metta in your heart from your sitting posture, you should begin to develop Karuna as you rise from your bed to stand. Embracing the Metta and Karuna virtues will lead you half way to the realm of Brahma.

You can feel that the statue looks almost like a living monk holding the alms-bowl and waiting to take delivery of the food from a merit-maker. But you also can look upon this Standing Buddha statue as waiting for his turn to arrive to this world and achieve the complete enlightenment before leading all of us to salvation. On the other hand, Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya also comes to represent the Triple Gem. For this standing Buddha image can be seen as a representation of the Buddha of the Future, the Dharma from his attaining the enlightenment and a monk in the Sangha, all of which are at once manifest.

In 1867, during the reign of King Mongkut, Somdej Phra Buddhachan (To Phromarangsri of Wat Rakhang Kositharam) started the construction of the statue of the Standing Buddha, commonly called as "Luang Pho To". Then Somdej To (1788-1872) was 80 years old. Phra Sri Sakayamuni also has the same common name of Luang Pho To. The statue was built by crossing the logs alternating with structural steel. Unfortunately, Somdej Phra Buddhachan died in 1872 before he could see the completion of the statue. It was not until the reign of King Prajadhipok in 1927 that the Standing Buddha was completed.

Although he lived through the five reigns from King Rama I to King Rama V, Somdej To attained the height of his fame during the time of King Rama IV. Somdej To was one of the greatest and most revered monks of the Rattanakosin period. Well-versed in the Buddhist texts and brilliant in his sermons, he commissioned the creation of Phra Somdej, which is now recognised as the crown jewel of Buddha amulets in the Kingdom. Each Phra Somdej -- the authentic one -- is now worth several million baht.

Wat Intharavihan was built during the end of Ayutthaya period. Formerly, it was called "Wat Rai Phrik" (Temple of the Chili Garden). Then the Chinese were growing vegetable or chili gardens in that area. During the reign of King Yodfa, many members of the royal family of Laos, principally Chao Inthawong, and their entourage settled down in this Bangkhumphorm area. They were brought to Bangkok after King Yodfa's army subdued a rebellion in Vientiane. The area was then called Ban Laos. Chao Inthawong was the faithful Buddhist. He had Wat Rai Phrik rennovated and renamed it as "Wat Intharam". During the reign of King Rama VI, the temple's name was changed to "Wat Intharaviharn".
Somdej To spent his childhood at this temple when he entered monkhood as a novice. His parents would like him to become a supreme monk. He eventually became the Awakened One.

Several years ago, Senator Chirmsak Pinthong held a lantern in broad daylight while he walked into the Senate chamber. He was sending out a subtle message after it emerged that the government had fallen into greed, hatred and ignorance by launching a widespread probe of the bank accounts of journalists, activists, bureaucrats and politicians. “I am holding the lantern to send out a message that our country is in a crisis when it comes to civil liberty. The lantern will provide the light in this Dark Age," Chirmsak said. "Somdej Phraphutthajarn used to hold a lantern when he met with the phuyai of the country during the daytime in order to signal that the country was facing big problems." The senator from Bangkok was known as one of the fiercest critics of the Thaksin government at that time.

One day, Somdej To walked into the Grand Palace with a burning torch in his hand. It was broad daylight and the sun was shining above his shaved head. As soon as King Mongkut saw the abbot of Wat Rakhang, he immediately understood the subtle message. The two had achieved the same level of Buddhist enlightenment. King Mongkut said: "Khrua To, Nai Luang (the King) knows what you want to say to Nai Luang." Somdej To did not say anything. He doused the flame by pressing the torchlight against the wall of the Grand Palace. Then he walked out. At that time it was known that King Mongkut was distracted more by his worldly affairs. King Mongkut had high respect for Somdej To. The revered monk wanted to warn the King about his need to get back to the business of running his Kingdom. But Somdej To was reluctant to say so directly. So Somdej To used the torchlight to send his indirect warning. As a philosopher of the same rank with Somdej To, King Mongkut, who had been ordained as a monk for 26 years, quickly got the message. He said: "I know, I know."

Another torchlight incident took place during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, or King Rama V. Then, Somdej Chaophya Borom Mahasrisuriya-wongse (Chuang Bunnag) was serving as Regent. As a leader of the influential Bunnag clan, he commanded the highest power in the Kingdom because King Chulalongkorn, who became king at the age of 15 in 1868, was too young to rule. There were rumours during that time of political transition that the Regent might want the throne for himself. After the death of King Mongkut, Somdej Chaophya Borom Mahasrisuriyawongse, who dominated the council of senior bureaucrats in the Siamese Court, picked the young Prince Chulalongkorn as the new king as requested by King Mongkut. Yet Somdej Chaophaya also did the unprecedented by appointing Prince Bovornvichaicharn, the heir to Second King Pinklao, as the Palace of the Front. King Pinklao was brother to King Mongkut and was known to the West as the Second King.

The implication of the Palace of the Front appointment was that if anything should happen to King Chulalongkorn, who was then very ill and not expected to live much longer, Prince Bovornvichaicharn, who was the protege of the Regent, would become the next king. One day Somdej To proceeded to confront Somdej Chaophya at his residence. Again in broad daylight, he held a torch in his hand. The Regent asked about the purpose of his unusual visit. Somdej To got quickly straight to the point. He said he heard that a dark cloud was descending over the country because somebody was attempting to take over the Kingdom. "If it is true, then I would like to ask him for a bowl of merit," Somdej To said. Somdej Chaophya was dumbstruck for some seconds before the managed to assure the revered monk that as long as he lived he would not allow anybody to attempt to usurp the throne of King Chulalongkorn.

During his time, Somdej To was believed to have created 84,000 Phra Somdej as a symbol for the continuity of the Buddhist religion. He also commissioned the creation of the famous Phra Somdej Ketchaiyo at Wat Ketchaiyo Woraviharn. The story of his torchlight is a classic, serving to remind Thais how to act with moral courage during a time when the country is facing a crisis.

Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya that Somdej To built speaks to us about our future. The statue points to you the great expectation of an impending arrival of the Buddha of the Future and a return to the Golden Age of Suvarnabhumi. The Buddha image represents Maitreya, who is waiting for his turn to preside over another era succeeding the Sakayamuni Buddha Era. Our universe can afford to have only one Buddha at a time. Maitreya is a Bodhisattva, who will appear on earth to attain complete enlightenment and teach the pure Dharma. This land of Suvarnabhumi is waiting for Maitreya's return.

Facing the east, Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya Buddha statue surges into the sky as if it were to reach out to the Dusita Heaven, where Maitreya the Buddha of the Future is residing. According to The Buddhist Scriptures, Maitreya is described as a person with extraordinary personality, size and statue. “His body is eighty cubits high, and twenty cubits broad." Cubit is an ancient linear unit based on the length of the forearm, from elbow to the tip of the middle finger, usually from 17 to 21 inches. Based on the sheer size alone, Phra Sri Ariyamaitreya indeed has the physical necessity of the Buddha of the Future.

Maitreya is the fifth Buddha after Sakayamuni Buddha, whose teaching would last 5,000 years before going into oblivion. We have already passed the critical mid-point of the Buddhist era in 1957 or B.E. 2500 by more than five decades. Hence Maitreya would be born any time in the next 2,500 years in Suvarnabhumi, the Land of Buddhism.

According to Buddhist cosmology, the world system would gradually decline after the passing of one Buddha and then gradually improve before the arrival of the next Buddha. We are now living at this critical mid-point juncture. Now we are seeing a fast degeneration of the world system, with the people becoming immoral with greed, hatred, and delusion and forgetting the Buddha's Dharma. Many people are also afraid that the world system would go through prolonged periods of famine, disease and continuous warfare. The catastrophe could plunge the people into complete despair and result in dead tolls in the millions. Only then would human beings realise that the roots of all the suffering arise from their greed, hatred and delusion. Many of them would go back to embrace the old Dharma values and realise all of their shortcomings. The conditions of the world would then improve. There upon Maitreya would appear to lead the people further to redemption. Then the people "will lose their doubts, and the torrents of their cravings will be cut off: free from all misery they will manage to cross the ocean of becoming; and, as a result of Maitreya's teachings, they will lead a holy life. No longer will they regard anything as their own, they will have no possession, no gold or silver, no home, no relatives! But they will lead the holy life of chastity under Maitreya's guidance. They will have torn the net of the passions, they will manage to enter into trances, and theirs will be an abundance of joy and happiness, for they will lead a holy life under Maitreya's guidance."

Some people believe that Phra Sri Ariya Maitreya represents Somdej To himself, who built the Standing Budda as a memory of his childhood when as a novice he stood in front of Wat Intharaviharn and spent his formative years there. By commemorating his past, Somdej To was also predicting the future when the Buddha of the Future would be born again to lead the people out of the cycle of suffering. Somdej To had a clear vision of Suvarnabhumi.

This is the secret of Suvarnabhumi, the holy golden land and the land of Dharma. It is a Thai version of a Utopian society.


The Walking Buddha
After visiting the Standing Buddha at Wat Intharaviharn, your next destination is Phutthamonthon, or Land of the Buddha. The Walking Buddha presides over the vast Phutthamonthon religious site. Phutthamonthon is a district attached to Nakhon Pathom, westward from Bangkok. And which is a better site to build the Land of the Buddha than Nakhon Pathom, literally the first city of Suvarnabhumi (nakhon means city; pathom means first). Nakhon Pathom was already an important centre during the Dvaravati Kingdom from the 6th century until the 11th century. The Phutthamonthon religious site is a version of the Buddhist Heaven in a reductive form.

From Wat Inthraviharn you can take a cab, which needs to make a U-turn to get onto the Rama VIII Bridge. It is a beautiful cable bridge across the Chao Phya River. Most of the bridges across the Chao Phya River bear the names after the Rattanakosin Kings. And lo and behold, as you enter the main structure of the bridge, you can see an arch-like gate designed similar to a mould of a Buddha amulet of Phra Nangphaya. Phra Nangphaya from Pitsanulok is one of the five crown jewels of the Thai Buddha amulets. The other four are Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang from Bangkok, Phra Rod from Lamphun, Phra Phongsuphan from Suphan Buri and Phra Sumko from Kamphaengphet. If you have one of these Buddha amulets hanging around your neck, you are ready to face any vicissitudes in the world with mindfulness. As you pass through this auspicious gate, you feel that you have a full blessing from Phra Nangphaya for your journey into the holy Land of the Buddha. Your mind feels blissful.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej laid the foundation for the construction of the Phutthamonthon religious site in 1957 to commemorate the 2500th year of the Buddhist Era. Two years before, Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsongkram, initiated this project. But it was not until 1978 that the construction, marred by financial shortfall, was finished.

The year 1957 or B.E. 2500 marked was the mid-point of the Buddhist Era as Buddhism under Sakayamuni Buddha was prophesied to last 5,000 years. Afterward Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, would be born into this world to attain a complete enlightenment, teach his Dharma before passing into Nirvana. Maitreya would create another Buddhist Era to succeed Sakayamuni Buddha. The Thais believe that Sakayamuni Buddha visited Suvarnabhumi in the ancient time and declared that Suvarnabhumi would become the Land of the Buddha. And Maitreya would be born in Suvarnabhumi, and no where else, when the time is ripe. The Buddha is believed to have created footprints, many of which are still not discovered, in Suvarnabhumi to symbolise his prophecy. In making his footprints, the Buddha radiated his spiritual power to turn hard stone into soft stone before printing his foot on it.

The huge Walking Buddha image cast in bronze gold measuring 15.8 metres marks the centre of Phutthamonthon religious site. Phra Sri Sakayathospholyan was designed in 1955 by one of the most well-known artists in Thailand, the late Professor Silp Birasri. But it was not until 1981 that this Buddha image was actually cast. Modern Thai artists trace their knowledge and inspiration from Professor Silp, the Italian-born teacher and artist, who pioneered art studies at the Silapakorn University. At first Professor Silp carved out the structure of the Walking Buddha with a size of 2.14 metres. But to commemorate the mid-point of the Buddhist Era, the size of the Walking Buddha was later expanded to 2,500 krabiat. One krabiat, a Thai unit of measurement, equals 0.25. Therefore the size of the Walking Buddha was 7.5 times the original design. King Bhumibol Adulyadej named this Buddha statue as Phra Sri Sakayathosaphonlayan, which represents the historical Buddha.

In the walking posture, Phra Sakayathospholyan raises his right foot in preparation to walk. A vast lotus seat is behind him. You can see his saffron flying as he has just risen from the lotus seat and is about to walk after his long sitting posture to attain enlightenment. There is another lotus below to greet the Buddha image's feet. The right hand of the Buddha image drops loosely to the side. The left hand is raised forward to the chest level. The Buddha image is striking in appearance. It has a beautiful face of a young Buddha, one who has just attained enlightenment.

This image is reminiscent of the walking Buddha posture created in the Sukhothai period. The walking Buddha posture is known in Thai as "phra leela". Phra leela has a delicate walking posture, with elements of feminism in movement and in the curved shape of the body. Phra leela illustrates the height of Sukhothai’s artistic excellence. You can also see some of the famous phra leela Buddha images of Sukhothai at Wat Benjamabophit, the Marble Temple built by King Chulalongkorn, in Bangkok. You can sense that Phra Sri Sakayathospholyan and the phra leela Buddha images at Wat Benjamabophit are about to walk together to usher the grand tradition of Buddhism into a new age in Suvarnabhumi.

After sitting and standing, our next mode of movement is to walk. The Walking Buddha signifies an action of a carrying on of the tradition of Buddhism so that this religion will last into the future. Otherwise, Buddhism will cease to prosper. The Walking Buddha of Buddhamonthon also represents Mudita, or sympathetic joy, which is the third virtue of the Four Brahmaviharas. In Mudita, you radiate your sympathetic joy to others with a selfless heart. You're happy when you see other people happy. You don't feel any craving for yourself, but you would like others to be happy. And when you walk, you create an action. In Buddhism, action, or deed, is most important, representing your karma. If you act with good deeds, you'll get good karma. If you act with bad deeds, you'll get bad karma. In other words, good deed leads to good result, while bad deed brings about bad result.

In his paper, The Aesthetics of Buddhist Sculpture, which was read before the Siam Society in 1949, Professor Silp pointed out that there are two ways of appreciating the old art. You may look at it according to its antiquity. Or you may appreciate it according to its beauty. "In general, archaeologists and historians are enthusiastic about very old objects because they represent for them the human activity of the past, while for an artist the value of an old object lies in the extent to which it is the expression of true beauty. The artist judges from an aesthetic point of view, while the archaeologists and historians judge from scientific principles,” he argued. But the late Mom Chao Chand Chirayu Rajani, a literary giant of Thailand, adopted a non-iconographical approach. Instead of looking at a Buddha image from the outside, he proposed to look from the inside, both artistically and spiritually. Then we intuitively see the artistic beauty and feel the spiritual meaning of the Buddha image without any too much why and wherefore. (Mom Chao Chand Chirayu Rajani, “Thai Imageries of Suvarnabhumi”, Bangkok: Amarin Printing Group, 1987)

Although Phra Srisakayathospholyan is a relatively new comer to the scene and its antiquity cannot be compared to the Sitting Buddha of Wat Suthat or the Standing Buddha of Wat Inthraviharn, this Buddha image is of no less importance in artistic and spiritual value. You only have to feel the Buddha image from the inside. On a Visakha Puja Day, the moon orbits around Phra Srisakayathospholyan as if this Buddha image were standing the centre of the universe.

The Sukhothai artisans and artists found their inspiration from the Buddhist legend in creating the walking Buddha posture. During the Lent period, the Buddha once went to preach to his Mother in a heaven called Tavatsinsa or the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Devata. After the Lent, the Buddha returned to earth by descending the crystal ladder, flanked by the golden and silver ladders. The Lord Indra and Brahma followed him respectively. Montri Umavijani argued that this event had a great meaning for Buddhist art. "First of all, it was a the basis of the iconography of the Walking Buddha. Besides, it had a great effect on the attitude towards perspecitve in Thai Buddhist art. It is said that when the Buddha returned to earth, he made a miracle by 'opening all the worlds to view'. All the levels of heaven, all levels of Hell and all continents were, therefore, laid bare and equidistant to the eyes. This partly explains why the works of Thai artists before the advent of Western influence were always two-dimensional," he said.

Each area of Buddhamonthon is equally one kilometre in length, representing each virtue of the Four Brahmaviharas. Each virtue in the Four Brahmaviharas is equally important to the others. But the Buddha also suggests that once you have perfected the virtues of the Four Brahmaviharas, you will also attain good conduct, sound concentration, shiny wisdom and full freedom of the mind.

While the Buddha was staying at Bhanda, a few months before his passing away, he addressed a large community of monks about the four qualities needed to break away from the cycle of rebirth. "It is because of not understanding, not penetrating four qualities that you and I have run and wandered the round of rebirth in this way for such a long time. Which four? It is because of not understanding, not penegrating noble conduct...noble concentration...noble wisdom...noble freedom that you and I have run and wandered the round of rebirth in this way for such a long time. But once noble conduct is understood and penetrated, once noble concentration is understood and penetrated, once noble wisdom is understood and penetrated, once noble freedom is understood and penetrated, then craving for existence is cut off, the conductor of existence is destroyed, and no longer is there rebirth." (Rupert Gethin, Saying of the Buddha, Page 69.)

The Walking Buddha at Phutthamonthon shows us that action, guided by good practice, concentration and wisdom, is the basis for all goodness. The Buddha image is also leading us by walking tirelessly toward the new age of Suvarnabhumi, where the Thais live happily with a bright face and act with selflessness.


The Sleeping Buddha
Our visit to Old Bangkok should start and end at Wat Phra Chetuphon, or Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is here that the cycle begins and ends, only to begin and end again. The Thai Buddhists prefer to call this temple simply as Wat Pho. Most westerners know the Sleeping Buddha as the Reclining Buddha.

We may approach the Sleeping Buddha in two ways. Sleeping is a state of serenity and an attainment of spiritual emancipation. Besides, one also has to sleep first in order to wake up to become the Awakened One, like the Buddha.

The Sleeping Buddha thus represents equanimity or Upekkha, which is the final virtue of the Four Brahmaviharas. With Upekkha, we learn to accept gain and loss, praise and blame and success and failure with detachment. Detachment is a neutral state of the mind, which is not holding onto anything, big or small, significant or trivial.
After sitting, standing and walking all day, we have to sleep. Sleeping allows us to develop a tranquil state of mind. These four postures of Buddha image encompass our daily activity, which should all be governed by mindfulness. To be mindful is to become the master of oneself. To pay homage to the Sleeping Buddha at Wat Pho is to realise the virtue of Upekkha. What is more sublime or divine than to realise with our direct experience all the virtues of Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha as represented by the Sitting Buddha, the Standing Budda, the Walking Buddha and the Sleeping Buddha?

Inside the chapel, the Sleeping Buddha stretches his long golden body to 46 metres in length and 15 metres in height. The craftsmanship of this Buddha image reflects the height of artistic excellence of the Rattanakosin period. The face turns northward to the Grand Palace, which locates across the Thai Wang Street. At Wat Pho, you arrived at one of the inner-most areas of the Bangkok Heaven. The image of the Sleeping Buddha was made of brick and cement and decorated with gold leaves and gum as adhesive.

King Nangklao commissioned the construction of the Sleeping Buddha at Wat Pho. Then there was not any significant Buddha image in a sleeping posture in Bangkok. The Sleeping Buddha would be created to culminate his reign of nation building when Siam began to enjoy peace and prosperity. During that time, the Burmese were tied up to their domestic turmoil. At first, the Sleeping Buddha was built in the open air within Wat Pho's compound before the chapel was constructed to cover the whole statue.

You are immediately awe-struck by the immense size of the Sleeping Buddha. So spectacular of the golden sight of the Reclining Buddha that your heart almost stops beating once you set your foot inside the chapel. You suddenly feel a sense of absolute serenity. The air inside the chapel is calm. In the Sleeping Buddha, you can witness once again a blending of the Thai art and the Buddhist ideal. The face of the Buddha image shows a serene state, fulfilled and detached from any worldly concerns.
The Reclining Buddha images are normally built with a large size. This can be traced back to a story of the life of the Buddha. The giant Asurindarahu would like to see the Buddha but hesitated to bow before him. While still lying down, the Buddha transformed himself to a larger size than the giant. He then proceeded to show the giants the realm of Heaven with heavenly figures all larger than the giant. After all this, Asurindarahu was subdued. And he paid due respect to the Buddha and left, hence the creation of posture of the Reclining Buddha image.
In the Sukhothai period, the Buddha image postures of sitting, standing, walking and sleeping were created with an aura of equanimity, perfection and holiness. They also served to highlight the height of Buddhism and the Golden Age of Suvarnabhumi. Sukhothai embraced Buddhism from Sri Lanka and also its arts. It also took in the artistic influence from the Khmer and Mon civilisations. The Buddha images from the ancient Sukhothai are most beautiful, as judged by the flames on top of the hair, the curled hair, the oval-shaped faces, the curved eyebrows, the downward gazes and gentle smiles, the broad shoulders and the small waists. The Buddha images of Sukhothai represent an ideal perception of a superman.

The Buddha image at Wat Pho, called Phra Phutthasaiyat, sleeps on his right side, similar to the way lions sleep. According to the Pali context, there are four postures of sleeping. If you lay down on your left side to sleep, this posture reflects your obsession with sexual and other worldly desires. If you sleep normally with your whole back on the bed and your face up, you'll sleep like a peta, or a ghost, which dwells in the realm of Hell. This posture reflects your state of anxiety, with your unending desire for material wealth and assets. Your desires are never fulfilled. If you sleep on your right side, you sleep like a lion. This is the healthiest posture as you sleep with mindfulness. A lion normally sleeps in this posture with its right foot overlapping with the left foot. When it wakes up, it can look into the front or turn around to look at the back to watch out for any danger. Whenever the Buddha went to sleep, he would mediate and enter into the fourth level of the trance state. His body would sleep but his mind was always awake, like a candle that always burns.

The best spot to watch the Reclining Buddha is at the image's feet. There you can see the image's body stretching out in full length, with the flame of the hair pointing to the roof. The footprints of the Reclining Buddha reflect many Buddhist symbols and riddles. They are adorned with 108 mother-of-pearl inlaid auspicious signs. The Lord's body had the 32 marks of a superman, and was endowed with the eighty subsidiary characteristics.

It is most likely that the Reclining Buddha does not signify a normal sleeping posture but represents the Buddha's attaining nirvana. The story of the last day of the Buddha is very touching. When the Buddha, with his followers, arrived at the Kusinara, his final destination, he told the venerable Ananda, his assistant, to set up a bed for him. He laid down with his head pointing to the east. Then he laid down like a lion with full conscience, and mindful of his consciousness. The Buddha did not want to wake up again. He would be entering into the realm of nirvana.
Then the Buddha uttered his final words to his followers. He said: "Everything comes to an end, though it may last for an aeon. The hour of parting is bound to come in the end. Now I have done what I could do, both for myself and for others. To stay here would from now on be without any purpose. I have disciplined, in heaven and on earth, all those whom I have disciplined, and I have set them in the stream. Hereafter, this my Dharma, O monks, shall abide for generations and generations among living beings. Therefore, recognise the true nature of the living world, and do not be anxious; for separation cannot possibly be avoided. Recognise that all that lives is subject to this law; and strive from today-onwards that it shall be thus no more! When the light of gnosis has dispelled the darkness of ignorance, when all existence has been seen as without substance, peace ensures when life draws to an end, which seems to cure a long sickness at last. Everything, whether stationary or movable, is bound to perish in the end. Be ye therefore mindfull and vigilant! The time for my entry into Nirvana has now arrived! These are my last words!" (Edward Conze's Buddhist Scriptures: Page 62-63).

In his last words to the community of monks, the Buddha emphasised mindfulness as his ultimate teaching before parting forever into the realm of absolute tranquillity. The Buddhist Scriptures from the Pali Nikayas (see Rupert Gethin," Saying of the Buddha, Oxford World's Classics) describes the process of the Buddha's arriving at parinirvana quite dramatically in transic term. After his last words, "the Blessed One entered the first absorption (trance). Emerging from that, he entered the second absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the third absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the fourth absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the sphere of infinity of space. Emerging from that, he entered the sphere of infinity of consciousness. Emerging from that, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Emerging from that, he entered the sphere of neither consciousness or unconsciousness. Emerging from that, he entered the cessation of conception and feeling."

At that point, Phra Ananda announced to the community of monks that the Buddha had attained the final nirvana.

But the Buddha reversed the process of his trance state again. "Then emerging from the cessation of conception and feeling, the Blessed One entered the sphere of neither consciousness nor unconsciousness. Emerging from that, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Emerging from that, he entered the sphere of infinity of consciousness. Emerging from that, he entered the sphere of infinity of space. Emerging from that, he entered the fourth absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the third absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the second absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the first absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the second absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the third absorption. Emerging from that, he entered the fourth absorption. Emerging from the fourth absorption, the Blessed One directly attained the final nibbana (nirvana)."

When the Buddha, through meditation, achieved enlightenment at the age of 35, he could recollected his previous lives and his future lives. He then arrived at the ultimate understanding about the impermanence of this transient world, which formed the basis of his teaching of the Fourth Noble Truths. During his meditation, he arrived at the first level of trance state or absorption and discovered the first truth as consisting of suffering. At the second level of his trance state, the Buddha realised attachment as the origin of suffering, followed by the attainable cessation of suffering in the third level of trance state, and the path to the cessation of suffering in the fourth level of the trance state. The path to the cession of the suffering is exemplified in the Eightfold Path (right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfullness and right concentration.) Right view and right intention form the basis of our wisdom, while right speech, right action and right livelihood represent our good conduct and right effort, right mindfullness and right concentration are part of our concentration. Therein lies in the unity of the Buddhist teachings.

Thereupon the Buddha had no wish to continue to go through the cycle of birth and death again. But before entering nirvana, he would preach his Dharma to the fellow human beings so that they, like him, might achieve the final salvation.

Wat Pho is the second most important temple after the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is situated within the compound of the Grand Palace. It was an ancient temple built during the Ayutthaya period. King Yodfa had the temple renovated. Later on, Wat Pho would further assume a more important role when it became Siam's first open university, where the Thais could learn different kinds of discipline from medicine, traditional massage, astrology, Buddhism, literacy to arts.

As King Yodfa had moved more than 1,248 Buddha images from all over the country to the new capital for preservation. Hundreds of these Buddha images, which witnessed the glory past of Suvarnabhumi, were placed inside Wat Pho. It is at Wat Pho that much of the legacy of old Suvarnabhumi has been well protected and preserved.

Apart from the Reclining Buddha, the Four Great Pagodas of the four kings of the Rattanakosin period also bear witness to the grandeur of Old Bangkok. King Yodfa had the Phra Maha Chedi Srisanpetchadayarn built to install a standing Buddha image of Phra Srisanpetch. This Buddha image, which stands 16 metres, with a face of two metres in length and 1.5 metre in width. The Buddha image's breast is 5.5 metres in width. Cast more than 500 years ago, Phra Srisanpetch was almost burnt to the ground by the Burmese when they ransacked Ayutthaya in 1767. The Buddha image was established inside Wat Phra Srisanpet in Ayutthaya.
The Burmese pealed off some 3.432 metric tonnes of gold from Phra Srisanpet, leaving the Buddha image with a battered structure. King Yodfa would like this Buddha image to be re-cast, but the senior monks voiced their objection because they did not want to have the Buddha image burnt again. It would be quite inauspicious to do so. The King concurred and had Phra Srisanpetch, together with the Buddha's holy teeth, installed inside a new pagoda at Wat Pho instead.

King Nangklao, the grandson of King Yodfa, had two pagodas erected beside the Srisanpetchadayarn pagoda. The pagoda, adorned with dark blue tiles on the right side of the founder's pagoda, was dedicated to his father King Lertla, while the pagoda decorated with yeallow glazed tiles was for the Third Reign himself. In the back of three pagoda stands Phra Chedi Sri Suriyothai, built by King Mongkut and modelled after the great pagoda at Suan Luang Sobsawan Temple in Ayutthaya. Having erected this pagoda, King Mongkut suggested that he and his three predecessors all saw each other. But he added: "In the future, all kings should not follow us in erecting a pagoda for each reign in the Chetuphon Temple."
The Four Great Pagodas of King Yodfa, King Lertla, King Nangklao and King Mongkut mark the early period of Old Bangkok, which forms an unbroken line of continuity from the ancient Suvarnabhumi. Paying homage to the Four Great Pagodas amounts to honouring and seeking blessing from the founding fathers of Bangkok, without whom Suvarnabhumi would not have been restored or would have been lost.

The cycle completes with your paying homage to the Sitting Buddha at Wat Suthat, the Standing Buddha at Wat Intharaviharn, the Walking Buddha at Phutthamonthon and the Sleeping Buddha at Wat Pho. By doing so, you have realised with equal weight the four virtues of Brahamaviharas, which then allow you to wholly enter the realm of Brahma. This is the path of a perfect man, one who is blessed with loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. A perfect man, fully equipped with the Fourth Brahmaviharas, is also blessed with good conduct, concentration and wisdom, which represent the core of the Buddhist principles. And only in Old Bangkok, the capital of Suvarnabhumi, can you detect the Buddhist riddles and realise your own potential as a perfect man.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Wat Benjamaborphit

PHITSANULOK - Pilgrims travelling to this northern province during the New Year festival to pay homage to Phra Jinaraj hardly had any peace of mind. All along the highway from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, for a distance of 377 kilometres, they were distracted by the eyesore posters of Chuan Leekpai and Thaksin Shinawatra.Both candidates were heading into a full-scale dogfight for the premiership. The political campaign trail created a worldly parallel to the journey of religious devotion of the thousands of pilgrims who had Wat Phrasri Rattana Mahathat as their final destination.Wat Phrasri Rattana Mahathat is an elegant temple, built during the reign of Phra Maha Thamma Raja (Phraya Lithai) in 1357. The temple overlooks the Nan River, which makes its way down south to form - together with the Ping, Wang and Yom - the Chao Phya River at Pak Nam Pho, Nakhon Sawan.Wat Phrasri Rattana Mahathat is home to Phra Jinaraj, unquestionably the Kingdom's most beautiful Buddha image through a perfect combination of size and proportion. The local people call the temple by its simple name of Wat Yai, or "Big Temple". They also give Phra Jinaraj a more intimate name of luang por ("father"). Most Buddha images are called luang por or luang pu (grandfather) because they do not age generation after generation.In the local people's consciousness, Phra Jinaraj is always there, giving moral guidance for courage and virtue. All the Siamese kings, as a royal tradition, have made a pilgrimage to Phra Jinaraj. You fulfil your devotion as a Thai Buddhist by paying homage to Phra Jinaraj at least once in your lifetime to realise the transcendental experience and to appreciate the perfection of impermanence.King Naresuan the Great (1590-1605) grew up with Phra Jinaraj, originally a bronze statue. A prince by birth, he was born and raised in Phitsanulok, then a northern outpost of Ayutthaya. Phra Jinaraj was definitely his mentor. Ekathotsarot, his younger brother, was said to have coated Phra Jinaraj with some of his gold regalia, using his own hands, until the Buddha image shone totally in gold. The effect is striking, adding to the glamour and the unworldliness of Phra Jinaraj.Phra Jinaraj is cast in a posture of the Buddha Subduing the Mara. Legend has it that the Buddha was sitting under a tree when he was suddenly surrounded by thousands of heavenly beings. Then came the Mara, or the Devil, with his army, which aimed to prevail over virtue with vice. But the Buddha's absolute power conquered the Mara, hence giving rise to one of his most famous postures in the making of Buddha images. It is also a sign of the victory of virtue over vice.Inside Wat Yai, hundreds of pilgrims flock to pay tribute to Phra Jinaraj. There are Buddha amulets of Phra Jinaraj on the front and King Naresuan, Prince Ekathosarot and Princess Suphan Kalaya on the back. The three siblings are now immortalised as heroes who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Thai independence.It was with the guiding spirit of Phra Jinaraj that King Naresuan fought his victorious wars against the Burmese and other enemies. Opposite the township of Phitsanulok, there is a shrine dedicated to King Naresuan. His statue is in a sitting posture and he is pouring lustral water from a golden container to declare Ayutthaya's independence from the Burmese. In this age, where genuine heroes cannot be found, it is necessary to go back to King Naresuan as a source of heroism and an inspiration of courage and virtue.Having fulfilled their pilgrimage, the thousands of Thais who visited the temple went home to resume their daily lives with the image of Phra Jinaraj and King Naresuan in the forefront of their consciousness. This blessing made the politics of the general election and the politicians undertaking to lead Thailand look absurd and unreal.Victorious and gloriousFor breathtaking aesthetic beauty, it's hard to match the statue of Phra Buddha Chinnaratby Thanong Khanthong, The Nation (Thailand), April 24, 2006Aesthetically speaking, Phra Buddha Chinnarat stands out as the most beautiful Buddha statue in Thailand. If beauty is to be defined by size and proportion, then Phra Buddha Chinnarat is a perfectly built statue, radiating a striking image of the Victorious Buddha and representing the highest achievement of Buddhist art.You have to hold your breath as you set foot inside Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahathat, where Phra Buddha Chinnarat resides in his authoritative posture. It is in fact a posture of the Buddha's Subduing of the Mara. The entire body of the statue, with its decorative frame of Naga, the mythical snake, is covered with gold leaf, so bright that you can feel a myriad rays beaming out from the statue in the daytime.Built during the Sukhothai era, Phra Buddha Chinnarat truly embodies the noble spirit and grandeur of ancient Phitsanulok, the northern outpost and onetime capital of old Siam. The maker of Phra Buddha Chinnarat must have had a pure image of the Victorious Buddha in mind and set about creating the statue without following any previous model. The bronze statue is 3.72 metres high and 2.85 metres wide.Once you have made a pilgrimage to Phitsanulok to worship Phra Buddha Chinnarat, you have fulfilled your life as a Buddhist. Nobody can truly claim to be a Buddhist living in Siam without once in his or her life paying homage to this Victorious Buddha.Phra Buddha Chinnarat has the posture of the Buddha' Subduing of the Mara, or Demon King. The Buddha was sitting under a tree, surrounded by thousands of heavenly beings when the Mara arrived with his army. The Demon King wished to destroy the Buddha. The heavenly beings were filled with fear and fled away. The Buddha then conquered the Mara alone with his own power - hence the statue of the Buddha's Subduing of the Mara. For this reason, Phra Buddha Chinnarat is looked upon as the Victorious Buddha.King Naresuan the Great and his brother King Ekathosarot, both warrior kings, must have developed a special bond with Phra Buddha Chinnarat, for they only needed to cross the Nan River from their Chandra Palace to visit the temple and Phra Buddha Chinnarat, commonly called Luang Pho. The term Luang Pho gives Phra Buddha Chinnarat a life, an image of a grand old, learned man.Luang Pho can also be considered a teacher, for in the old days only monks served as teachers, with the temples serving as schools.The inspiration King Naresuan drew from worshipping Phra Buddha Chinnarat must have been carried with him to every battlefield on which he waged war against the Burmese. King Naresuan and King Ekathosarot were believed to have glued the gold leaf to the body of Phra Buddha Chinnarat with their own hands. With the Victorious Buddha in his heart, King Naresuan won all the battles alone, like the Buddha's victory over the Mara.When the statue is stripped of its gold for cleaning, it is completely black. Incidentally, King Naresuan was also known by the name Phra Ong Dum (the Black King). Four hundred years after his death, the people of Phitsanulok have come to associate King Naresuan with Phra Buddha Chinnarat. Buddha amulets and Buddha coins are made with the image of Phra Buddha Chinnarat on the front and that of King Naresuan on the back. In this regard, Phra Buddha Chinnarat and King Naresuan are two sides of the same coin.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ramkhamhaeng stone inscription

The National Museum

My father was named Sri Indraditya, my mother was named Lady Suang, my elder brother was named Ban Muang. There were five of us born from the same womb: three boys and two firls. My eldest brother died when he was still a child.
When I was nineteen years old, Lord Sam Chon, the ruler of Muang Chot, came to attack Muang Tak. My father went to fight Lord Sam Chon on the left; Lord Sam Chon drove forward on convusion. (I did not flee. I mounted my elephant, opned [away through] the solders, and pushed him ahead in front of my father. I foght an elephant duel with Lord Sam Chon. I fought Lord Sam Chon's elephant, Mas Muang by name, and beat him. Lord Cham Chon fled. Then my father named me Phra Ram Khamhaeng because I fought Sam Chon's elephant.

In my father's lifetime I served my father and I served my mother. When I caught any game or fish I broght them to my father. When I picked any acid or sweet fruits that were delicious and good to eat, I brought them to my father. When I went hunting elephants, either by lasso or by [driving them into] a corral, I brought them to my father. When I raided a town or a village and captured elephants, young men or women of rank, silver or gold, I turned them over to my father. When my mother died, my elder brother was still alive, and I served him steadfastly as I had served my father. When my elder brother died, I got the whole kingdom for myself.

In the time of King Ram Khamhaeng this land of Sukhothai is thriving. There is fish in the water and rice in the fields. The lord of the realm does not levy toll on his subjects for travelling the roads; they lead their cattle to trade or ride their horses to sell; whoever wants to trade in elephants, does so; whoever wants to trade in horses, does so; whoever wants to trade in silver or gold, does so. When any commoner or man of rank dies, his estate -- his elephants, wives, children, granaries, rice, retainers, and groves of areca and betel -- is left in its entirety to his children. When commoners or men of rank differ and disagree, [the King] examines the case to get at the truth and then settles it justly for them. He does not connive with thieves or favour concealers [of stolen goods]. When he sees someone's rice he does not covet it; when he sees someon's wealth he does not get angry. If anyone riding an elephant comes to see him to put his own contry under his protection, he helps him, treats him generously, and takes care of him; if [someone comes to him] with no elephants, no horses, no yong men or women of rank, no silver or gold, he gives him some, and helps him until he can establish a state [of his own]. When he captures enemy warriors, he does not kill them or beat them. He has hung a bell in the opening of the gate over there: if any commoner in the land is involved in a quarrel and wants to make his case known to the ruler or lord, it is easy; he goes to strike the...

That's the end of the first side of the Inscription.

Nov 22, 1999: THIS evening, as the Thai people go to the nearby rivers, khlongs or ponds to float their lotus-shaped vessels made of banana leaves, they will be evoking the spirit of the sacred past, with a blessing of a full moon.Of all the Thai festivals, Loy Krathong is perhaps one of the most ritualistic and colourful events, rich in religious and spiritual expression. A krathong normally comes with a candle, three-joss-sticks and some flowers. Floating the krathong down the river during the high tide, and after the rainy season is over, not only signifies the attempt to purge evil or bad luck, but also represents an act of worshipping the Goddess of the water.Therein lies the influence of Brahminism. Brahmin rites cannot be separated from the traditional religious practices of the Thais. But ancient Thai beliefs and folklore also hold that there are higher spirits residing everywhere, in the rivers, the trees and the mountains. There are virtually no places on earth that are not, or have not been, occupied by ghosts or by gods. You are supposed to act with reservation and not to speak out loud when you are in a forest because you do not want to disturb the spirits. But in Western thought, a forest is nothing but a wilderness for man to conquer.For Bt3,800 a ticket at the Shangri-la Hotel, you can observe the delights of fireworks above the Chao Phraya River while having your favourite wine and food. Other Bangkok hotels, with an eye for the dollar, also go at top gear with their Loy Krathong gimmicks. This is an idle, if not rather expensive, way to let the Loy Krathong Day slip by without philosophising or without the trouble fighting the crowds on the riverbanks.Nowhere in Thailand is the Loy Krathong Festival held with more fanfare than at Sukhothai, one of the ancient capitals that lies about 450 kilometres north of Bangkok. Despite its past grandeur, and its Utopian characteristics, Sukhothai's existence comes to the fore only once a year, at the time of Loy Krathong. For most of the year Sukhothai is far from the Thai consciousness, like the ruins of its past that are forever buried under layers of the earth.Reviving Sukhothai can only be done necessarily by popularising it, with modern lights and sounds against the background of its decaying structures. But as the young girls, clad in exquisite Thai costumes, prepare to float their krathongs into the pond of the Sukhothai historical park in front of the thousands of visitors, they almost unconsciously might have formed an elusive image of the grandiose Noppamas in their imaginations.What Venus is to beauty for the ancient Greeks, Noppamas is beauty for Thais. And one way of popularising Noppamas is to immortalise her through the Noppamas Beauty Queen Contest, held not only in Sukhothai but elsewhere throughout the country.Legend has it that Noppamas, a beautiful lady of exceptional wit and charm, was the first to have devised the krathong in the 13th century. She served in the court of King Lithai, the grandson of King Ramkhamhaeng The Great. A favourite of the king, Noppamas was said to have raised court mannerisms and practices to a high order. The krathong she floated created a lasting tradition that is still observed today, though with different imageries.Now Loy Krathong is firmly connected with the worldly desires for material gains. Young Thai couples also find the festival auspicious enough to bind their love together. You will know a Thai girl's boyfriend by waiting to see with whom she goes to float the krathong with. Little do the young couples realise, however, that once they float the krathong, which is supposed to hold their spirits together, they let go their destiny into the realm of the unknown.While most Thais know Noppamas by associating her with the Loy Krathong Festival, few have bothered to go back to read King Lithai's Buddhist to gain a proper frame of mind.While his grandfather King Ramkhamhaeng was held as the inventor of the Thai written characters, King Lithai wrote Trai Phum Phra Ruang or ''Sermon on the Three Worlds''. This masterpiece was recognised as a Thai version of the Divine Comedy, ranked in the same class as Dante's.King Lithai's ''Three Worlds'' do not represent the earthly, the infernal or the heavenly spheres, but account for the three Buddhist forms of existence of the sentient world. In this religious universe, there is the world of kama-loka, or the world of the five senses; the world of rupa-loka, or the corporeal world of the 16 celestial grades; and the world of arupa-loka, or the incorporeal world where the five senses cease to function. This treatise formed a doctrinal basis for King Lithai to lead his followers to redemption. Ancient Thais were given the vision of the various cosmic realms and their inhabitants, some of whom were confined to eternal damnations if they could not break away from their sins.Floating the krathong with King Lithai -- not Noppamas -- in your heart will get you closer to Dharmma. A shocking reality is now emerging that in spite of her immortality, Noppamas might not exist at all.Whether she is a historical person or a fictional character is a subject of controversial debate in the academic circle. But let the academics carry on their debate. Noppamas will continue to exist, for in Thailand histories and legends are mixed so intensely like moulding gold into a pagoda that the facts lie in the realm of introspection.Even the significance of Sukhothai as the first formal capital of Thailand has also been disputed bitterly among the historians. For generations, Thais have been taught that Sukhothai was Thailand's first formal kingdom before it was defeated by Ayudhya. Then we have Thon Buri and Bangkok. All of which cover a span of more than 700 years. New suggestions have attempted to paint Sukhothai as simply one of the several kingdoms or muangs, which were scattering throughout this part of the world and vying for political and military predominance at the time.To deny Sukhothai is one thing, but to delete Noppamas from the Thai consciousness amounts to daylight robbery of Loy Krathong. The young girls who dance in front of the remnants of the Sukhothai look as if they were trying to establish a connection with the past through Noppamas, the person they can only imagine or dream of. And these Sukhothai dancers are but the descendants of the semi-devine and radius beings, who at the beginning of time, came down to this world and were lured by the temptations of the fragrance of the earth. Once they tasted the earth, they at once became walking mortals. In this classical Buddhist doctrine, mankind was created and reincarnated in the unending cycle of suffering, until enlightenment is attained.For almost three years, Thais have come to appreciate the world ''float'' even more. After the float of the Thai baht in July 1997, its value has been bumping up and down like the fate of the krathong trying to negotiate the treacherous high waters. The arrival of the Loy Krathong Festival once again reinforces the universality of Buddhism. It completes the cycle -- that the certain has become the uncertain and the uncertain has become the certain.BY THANONG KHANTHONG
Bangkok, Nov. 08: Myth and reality are inseparable in Thai history as shown by the latest debate, which centres on whether Lady Nopphamart, who has embodied the spirit of the Loy Krathong festival since the Sukhothai era, ever existed.
One by one, Thai heroines have come under historians' scrutiny, from Queen Suriyothai of the middle Ayudhaya period to Thao Suranaree of Nakhon Rachasima in the early Rattanakosin period.
Lady Nopphamart is among the latest casualties whose identity as a historical person is being questioned.
For generations, Thais have grown up believing that she was a court lady serving Phra Luang, a king of Sukhothai some 700 years ago. She was credited with inventing the krathong, a lotus-shaped vessel made from banana leaves, and floating it into a river as part of the full-moon festival in the twelfth month of the Thai calendar.
Thais learn about Lady Nopphamart and her idealised world from the "Book of Thaosrichulalak", which was earlier believed to have been written during the Sukhothai period. The book vividly depicted her life and how she had become a court lady. It described the rituals, the religion and life during the Sukhothai period.
Thais have been modelling the Loy Krathong festival after this book.
But most historians now believe that the "Book of Thaosrichulalak" was written in the early Rattakanosin Period. Dr Nithi Eaewsriwong of Chiang Mai University argues that the "Book of Thaosrichulalak" belongs to the Rattanakosin period.
Nithi goes so far as to say that the book was written during the reign of King Rama III. He bases this on an analysis of the book's language, and its references to America and arsenals. America did not exist in name 700 years ago!
In fact, Prince Damrong, or Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanuphap, had earlier made a similar claim, saying King Rama III could have written half of the book.
But most Thais remain quite comfortable with the mythical status of Lady Nopphamart. Whether or not she existed is not important as long as she continues to cast her spell during the full moon of the twelfth month.
On the Loy Krathong Day, her descendants or her representatives, dressed in beautiful traditional costumes, appear along the banks of rivers or beside ponds like angels to float krathongs.
The krathong is designed to look like a lotus, the flower used to pay respect to the Lord Buddha.
During the twelfth month's full moon, the tide is high. Hence, it is appropriate, ritualistically, to float the krathong down the river. "Loy" means "to float". Loy Krathong, therefore, is a festival for floating lotus-shaped vessels to pay respect to the Goddess of the River. Another purpose for floating the krathong is to dispel bad luck or ill omens from the past year.
Some years ago, a student at Chulalongkorn University floated a krathong to dispel his bad luck. He put a big "F" sign into the krathong and tried to float it away so that he would not get an "F" on any of his exams.
By design or by coincidence, the krathong kept floating back to him. He was unable to make if float away. The poor chap ended up spending more than five years at Chulalongkorn before managing to graduate!
Loy Krathong has become one of Thailand's most charming and ritualistic festivals, full of splendour and imagination. Thousands of people throng rivers near their hometowns every year for the opportunity to celebrate it.
If someone becomes your Valentine's Day date, you know for certain that he or she likes you. This also applies to a Loy Krathong date. When two people celebrate Loy Krathong together they make a vow to share a destiny.
Sometimes, you cannot help believing that Lady Nopphamart is the Goddess of the River herself as you gently float your krathong on a pond with your loved ones.
Lady Nopphamart will continue to exist, transcending the modern consciousness of Thais, as they look for the model of a perfect life and a perfect lady. Only in Lady Nopphamart can we reside blissfully in mythical experience, even though it is a short-lived one.-

Friday, June 19, 2009

wheel of dharma

พร้อมใบการันตีby G-PRA..นักสะสม&ชาวธรรมศาสตร์พลาดไม่ได้&ไม่เคยมีลงในเวป&หาเหรียญที่ 2 ยากแน่นอน..เหรียญแพรแถบที่ระลึกฉลองธรรมจักรสัญลักษณ์ม.ธ.11ธ.ค.2511สวยเดิมสุดๆได้มาจากศิษย์เก่าม.ธ.โดยตรง เคาะเดียว
^^พระแท้ๆ+ใบการันตีby G-PRA^^..นักสะสม&ชาวธรรมศาสตร์พลาดไม่ได้! & ไม่เคยมีลงในเวป & หาเหรียญที่ 2 แทบไม่ได้แน่นอนเพราะหายากมาก..เหรียญแพรแถบที่ระลึกฉลองธรรมจักร(ตราประจำมหาวิทยาลัย คือ พระธรรมจักร) วันที่ 11 ธ.ค.2511อีกด้านเป็นข้อความว่า "สถาปนา ม.ธ.ก. 27 มิถุนายน2477" เนื้อทองแดง มอบให้เฉพาะศิษย์เก่าที่ทำคุณค่าให้ ม.ธ.(เจ้าของเดิมที่มอบให้ผมขออนุญาตสงวนนามนะครับ แต่เป็นข้าราชการปลดเกษียณแล้วครับ)สภาพสวยเดิมสุดๆไม่มีล้างเหรียญเพื่ออนุรักษ์ความสวยเดิมๆไว้เหรียญนี้มาจากศิษย์เก่า ม.ธ. โดยตรงรับประกันแท้ตลอดชีพเคาะเดียวขั้นต่ำครับ สำหรับเหรียญที่มีคุณค่ายิ่งของชาวธรรมศาสตร์เหรียญนี้(ขนาดเหรียญปรกม.ธ. 50 ปี ..ปี2527 เนื้อทองแดงหนังสือพระลง 1500.- เนื้อเงินลง 5000.- ขึ้นหมด แต่เหรียญนี้ หาแทบไม่ได้แล้ว แถมปีพ.ศ.ลึกๆ อีกต่างหาก พลาดแล้วพลาดเลยนะครับ)-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------@เรื่องน่ารู้เกี่ยวกับ มธ.@1.มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์เป็นมหาวิทยาลัยแห่งที่ 2 ของประเทศ2.ชื่อเดิมของมหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์ (ม.ธ.) คือ มหาวิทยาลัยวิชาธรรมศาสตร์และการเมือง (ม.ธ.ก.) ที่ต้องตัดคำว่า "และการเมือง" ออก เพื่อไม่ให้น.ศ.ฝักใฝ่การเมืองมากไปรวมระยะเวลาที่ใช้ชื่อนี้ 18 ปี3.สถาปนาโดยท่านผู้ประศาสน์การ ดร.ปรีดี พนมยงค์ รัฐบุรุษอาวุโส อดีตผู้สำเร็จราชการแทนพระองค์ หัวหน้าขบวนการเสรีไทย อดีตนายกรัฐมนตรี รัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงการคลัง กระทรวงการต่างประเทศและ กระทรวงมหาดไทย และปัจจุบันองค์การยูเนสโกได้ประกาศว่าท่านเป็นบุคคลสำคัญของโลกอีกด้วย4.อธิการบดีคนแรกของมหาวิทยาลัยเป็นนายกรัฐมนตรีคือ จอมพล ป. พิบูลสงคราม5.วันสถาปนามหาวิทยาลัย คือ 27 มิถุนายน 2477 (ซึ่งตรงกับวันคล้ายวันพระราชทานรัฐธรรมนูญ ฉบับชั่วคราว)6.ความหมายของตึกโดม คือ ตัวโดมที่เป็นรูป 6 เหลี่ยมเพราะจะได้สะท้อนถึงหลักที่ 6 ในหลัก 6 ประการของคณะราษฎร คือ จะต้องให้การศึกษาเต็มที่แก่ราษฎร และ ที่ยอดตัวโดม แหลมขึ้นฟ้านั่นก็เพราะ เปรียบโดมเสมือนดินสอ ที่จดบันทึกวิชาความรู้และเรื่องราวต่าง ๆ ที่ไม่รู้จักจบสิ้นเอาไว้บนผืนฟ้าอันกว้างใหญ่7.จุดประสงค์ในการก่อตั้ง คือ เพื่อเป็นสถาบันการศึกษาชั้นสูงที่ ให้ความรู้ทางด้านกฎหมาย การเมือง และเศรษฐกิจ ซึ่งเป็นวิทยาการสมัยใหม่แก่ประชาชนทุกชนชั้น โดยเก็บค่าเล่าเรียน ให้น้อยที่สุด8.ตราประจำมหาวิทยาลัย คือ พระธรรมจักร เกิดขึ้นในปี 2479 เป็นรูปธรรมจักรสีเหลือง ตัดเส้นด้วยสีแดง มีพานรัฐธรรมนูญสีแดงสลับเหลืองอยู่กลาง ที่ขอบธรรมจักรมีอักษรสีแดงจารึกว่า "มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์" หรือ "ม.ธ." อยู่ตอนบน กับ "THAMMASAT UNIVERSITY" หรือ "T.U." อยู่ตอนล่าง และระหว่างคำว่า "มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์" หรือ "ม.ธ." กับ "THAMMASAT UNIVERSITY" หรือ "T.U." มีลายกนกสีแดงคั่นอยู่(คัดจากหนังสือราชกิจจานุเบกษา เล่ม 83 ตอนที่ 19 วันที่ 1 มีนาคม 2509)" ตราธรรมจักร" บอกความหมายว่า สถาบันแห่งนี้ยึดถือคติธรรมของพุทธศาสนา เป็นหลักกล่อมเกลาบัณฑิต สิ่งที่อยู่กลางธรรมจักร คือ พานรัฐธรรมนูญ หมายถึง การยึดมั่น เชิดชูรัฐธรรมนูญเป็นหลักการที่ มธก. ยึดถือ และประพฤติปฏิบัติ(จากหนังสือสำนักนั้นธรรมศาสตร์และการเมือง หน้า 54)9.สีประจำมหาวิทยาลัย คือ สีเหลือง-แดง มีความหมายว่า เหลือง คือ ธรรม ประจำจิตใจของน.ศ. แดง คือ โลหิตที่ต้องอุทิศตนเพื่อประชาชน"เหลืองของเราคือธรรมประจำจิต แดงของเราคือโลหิตอุทิศให้"10.ต้นไม้ประจำมหาวิทยาลัย คือ ต้นยูงทอง มีอยู่ 5 ต้น ซึ่งพระบาทสมเด็จ พระเจ้าอยู่หัว ได้ทรงเพาะชำเอง และเสด็จฯมาทรงปลูกด้วยพระองค์เอง ยังความปลาบปลื้ม มาสู่ชาวธรรมศาสตร์จวบจนทุกวันนี้

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kuan Im shrine and Wat Kalayanamitr

Wat Kalayanamitr
Voice of sermon flew in the air as I walked along Wat Kalayanamitr community. That mystic voice led me the way to the gate. I believe the first thing any visitor see from the distance, the Chinese red and white lanterns which are swaying, are capable to explain briefly about Wat Kalayanamitr’s history.
Lord Nikornbodin, a great nobleman in Rattanakosin kingdom’s King Rama III throne, was the initiator of Wat Kalayanamitr construction. The Lord’s father was a Chinese merchant, later got accredit from King Taksin the Great, Thonburi dynasty, and became คุณหลวง. For having true faith in Buddhism, Lord Nikornbodin bestowed his house and nearby land to be a location for a temple. Lord Nikornbodin had served King Rama III with honesty and loyalty. By that reason, he had an honor to be called as “a good friend” of King Rama III. The temple construction was completely finished in 1825. Lord Nikornbodin had an intention at the beginning that he would dedicate the temple to be the royal temple. King Rama III appreciated his willing, so his majesty named the royal temple after Lord Nikornbodin’s last name, Kalayanamitr, which also means “a good friend”.
Since Lord Nikornbodin was Chinese descend, Wat Kalayanamitr’s architecture has an integration look between Thai and Chinese arts. Behind the red front door, a huge Chinese limestone arch places upon a golden censer. It was brought from China through bark, the same as other statues and decorations in the temple. I saw people gathered at the censer, prayed in silence toward three Buddha images and stabbed joss sticks in. Traditionally, Buddhism begin the worship by prostration with three of joss sticks which are signs reminding goodness of Buddha, his teaching and monks. The three Buddha images place at the center of the temple’s pavilion. พระพุทธไตรรัตนายกs stand on the right and left hand sides พระสังกัจจายนะ, smiling Buddha. พระสังกัจจายนะ is differentiated from common Buddha image due to his facial expression and body. As he is plump, he is seen as figure of luck and plentitude that really matter to Chinese people.
At the side of those, six of golden Chinese Gods sculptures stand. The God of Luck is in the first order since it is priority concerned. He is the plumpest among the sculptures. The rest of them are Gods of constancy, love, fighting, cure and wealthy. Notably, some people touched the sculptures, asking for blessings.
After walking around the pavilion, the sound of drums got louder as I stepped closer to the main monastery. I was stunning with a huge golden Buddha image, sitting in the center of the main monastery. With 19 meters height and 20 meters long measure in the posture of meditation, พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก has become the biggest Buddha image in Bangkok. Local residents call พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก as Tor monk, named accordingly to Lord Nikornbodin’s nickname. Although it was built in Rattanakosin kingdom, it has four arts characteristics. King Rama III impressed with Ayudhaya kingdom’s miracle Buddha image at Panacherng temple, which was constructed 685 years ago, therefore the royal architectures designed พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก with the Buddha image at Panacherng’s pattern. Amid similarity, there’s difference. พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก smiles, while most of Ayudhaya’s Buddha images looked solemn. พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก design might influenced by Sukhothai kingdom’s arts. During that era, people lived in peace and abundance. The kings treated people as good as their own children. It is seen as Eutopia of Thailand. Even though life in Rattanakosin kingdom is not perfect, still people live without tragedies. By that reason, พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก has common characteristic with Sukhothai kingdom’s Buddha image arts. Or you can say that พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก is the blend combination between arts of Sukhothai, Ayuddhaya, Rattanakoson and Chinese arts.
Inside the main monastery, the mixing arts of architectures reflect Thai and Chinese nationalities. Mural is drawn with pictures of flowers. Altar tables and vases upon are decorated with bas-reliefs of golden dragons, tigers and angels. Alongside with mural, some people took bottles of holy water and mystic symbol papers for worship. Those papers are hardly to seen in other Thai temples as it initiated in China. They believe that drinking holy water with the papers ash would obviate the persons from darkness and accusation. While sound of เซียมซี shaking continued, I found origin of the sound I heard at first. There are two of huge ancient drums near the gates, symbols of victory. Hence, people hit the drums with belief that it might bring luck. However, I didn’t see anyone frown inside the monastery, all smiled.
Various kinds of bells hang around the temple area. Seniors always say that ones may find peace when listen to the sound of swinging bells. By the reason, temples construction usually comes with bells in Rattanakosin kingdom as people have lived in peace. Thus, after worship, people will hit the bells, calling for peace in their mind. On the left hand side of the main monastery, a bell tower sets majestically. The gigantic brass bell inside, with 30 meters height and 9 meters width, is the biggest bell in Thailand. It was constructed in 1933, an era of Rattanakosin kingdom’s King Rama VI. One part of the message engraved on the bell said “the bell builder offers it for the temple, merits for King Rama I through VI ”. King Rama I was the primary king of Rattanakosin kingdom.
The bell is the connection between whole Thai kingdoms, Sukhothai, Ayuddhaya, Thonburi and Rattanakosin. I can say that because at the beginning of Thai administration in Sukhothai kingdom, King Ram Khamhaeng the Great used the big bell as justice calling, people hit the bell in front of the royal palace, asking for inquiry. In another case, the name of the kings appears on the bell not only refers directly to the kings of Rattanakosin kingdom, but also the kings from Ayuddhaya and Thonburi. Ayuddaya’s the first, tenth and twenty-seventh king were named as King Rama I, II and III subsequently. And King Thaksin the Great, the primary king of Thonburi kingdom, was named as King Rama IV. The monk at the temple calls this ‘a puzzle’, very few people perceive the message’s hidden meaning.
Moreover, the small monastery and chapel were created with Thai and Chinese arts. Chinese pagodas place around. Chinese and Thai have been deep rooted for hundreds years since Sukhothai kingdom. Besides Chinese involved with merchant, they and Thai people had close relationship. During Thonburi kingdom, King Thanksin the Great settled Chinese community, they truly adored him. After the king moved the capital to another one, some of them still stayed, then became neighbors with local people. Chinese people are one of the major key in preserving Thai unity. Cultures or use of language may adjust as the time pass, but the only thing which lasts long, be stable and unchanged in Thai society is the religion. It connected Thai and Chinese with common belief, and with that belief, it has kept the harmony survive until now.Along riverside at the back of the temple, Chinese community remains. And other religion churches nearly locate. I looked into the sky, the top of the temple, Christian church, mosque and Chinese pagodas came in my sight in the same. This peaceful view might looked the same as Eutopia dream of ancestors.

Pieces in Thonburi Era are evidenced inside the architectural building of Kulayanamitra Temple and the nearby ancient Chinese village that was initially dwelled by King Tak-Sin’s supporters in 1767-1782. Entering the other side of Bangkok is Thonburi, the shorten-glamour town of Thais before Bangkok, where situates many importance ancient places back in Thonburi Era and Ayudthaya Era such as Arunrachavararam Temple, King Tak-Sin the Great’s statue, an old Chinese village near Kulyanmitra Temple next to sacred Kuan Yim shrine, Moleelokayaram Temple or 327 years Wichai Prasit Fort.
The temple has shown the beautiful Chinese Art blends with Thai culture, even added more sacred to the place and completely the worship place for both Thai and Chinese. We have been told by a monk that this temple was built up by JaoSua To or the ancestor of Kulayanamitra family in King Rama III era. With his faith towards religion, he bought the areas for his family house before dedicated to religious purpose, that is, the creation of Kulyanamitra Temple.
It’s about 2 in the afternoon as we are moving to another observation. Kuan Yin shrine is located on Klong Bang Kok Yai in Kudee Jeen community (Chinese Monk’s house), supposedly named as many Chinese living there, facing the Chao Praya River of Thonburi side. We walk through the small path that leads us to the Goddess of Mercy. The surrounding ambience feel the sense of community of helping and caring to each other; the olds are bubbling about their pasts or things around them that could be claimed, children are playing around with the gang, some households build up their fronts as a small noodle restaurant and an order-in restaurant, some open as engine care (fixing; bicycle, any machines, TV, radio) or a small clinic, that seems to be remain since years as if she has prospered merci to people in the village.
It is a bit dark and humid during the walkway then the light brightens up showing the way out to the open land of Kuan Yin shrine.
Kuan Yin is another episode of Pra Po Thi Sat Kuan Yin that was born female for showing gentle and giving merci to the earth.
According to the Chinese traditional history, Princess Myo San, the third daughter of King Myo Juagn, aimed to help release pain and grieve occur in humanity and animals after had been practiced in Buddhism but it disobeyed her father’s purpose to arrange her a marriage. She was tortured, punished, exiled by her father’s greed in power but she never angry or blamed to his action. One day, King Myo Juagn had a serious illness that none of medicine could cure, caused by karma he did with his daughter. Princess Myo San heard about her father sickness by second sight then sacrificed her eyes and arms as to give his life. By the scarification, she earned the eternal worship and has been known among Chinese by her merci, forgiveness, love and kindness for years.
The sign is at your left in front of a small the Chao Praya river port, if you walk from Kulyanmitra Temple. The weather is not too bad during this summer because the wind breezes vapor from the ChaoPraya’s surface up to the walk path of the shrine, the fine heat-loosen the visitors’ temperature.
The red colored at the shrine and its courtyard, the fascinated red area, significantly presents an overwhelmed welcome for visitors as wishing them luck for coming in a meantime for going out; red is the color for luck according to Chinese beliefs.
On the day, silence covers as if she is forgotten; unlike crowded Yaowaraj. Anyhow, it has brought peaceful to the place for some visitors like us to respect and be pleasurable of the olden place.
Although, the red of the shrine is not as red as it was but becoming the sacred red that remains as central-minded for Chinese and Thai-Chinese to pay respect for over 200 years.
The area around the shrine is clean, no dry leaves on the ground as it has been taken care also plants have been decorated which gives a well-shady among the walk way.
Grasping around the shrine, it likes a house of old Chinese custom that is well decorated of Chinese animals’ signature; the dragons, the lions and Chinese arts that are unified with historical of Chinese characters.
As I walked closer to the entry, the smell of scent was spreading all over the place as if shown many people’s faith and sacred to the place. The entry is separated into two; one on the right, I assume, for going in and the exit is one on the left, walking in a square shape. In the middle is the light shining up from the sun facing Kuan Yin statue where the shadow covers like she remains her duty of giving merci, prosperous, wealth, health and happiness for the comer as they are here to wish for.
Chinese worship is different from Thai kind in a mean of beliefs. In Chinese custom, everything during worship process until the end always means to something such as 5propitios fruits, for example; orange for family’s or one’s auspicious, apple for healthiness or peach for longevity and to worship gods and goddesses in heaven. Silver and gold papers are burnt to the angles when asking for wealth and richness or oil that fills the lamp for the flame of lives in which Buddhist has shared the same belief as well as การเสี่ยงเซียมซี .
Whatever they ask for, they will first give to the upper part with the faith that results will come after which different from Thais’ that Buddhism is mind-centered to reduce anxiety and concerned.
At the right, there is another shrine of Chinese God and Buddha statues situates together similarly shown in Kulayanamitra Temple of the united among two races and tradition. Sanctity remains even the aged of this place is older. The cabinet of the ancestor’s names stills there as if protecting and caring for this sacred place for the younger generation to meet, also, to remind of their faiths toward religious and to realize its value toward humanity.

Before the time of Kuan Yin shrine installation in King Rama III, there were originally shrines situated two significant Gods of Chinese; Jo Sue Kong and Kuan U, which were built after they followed King Taksin to Thonburi as his important supporters.
Its history was not officially recorded but has been told as Fujians from China, the originated ancestors of Simasathien and Tuntivejjakul, were here to worship the shrines but found them decayed. Instead of restore the old, they rebuilt them into one and replaced the recent Kuan Yin Shrine for worshipping as the reason that Kuan Yin patronized the journey of พระพุทธไตรรัตนายก or Sum Por Kong establishment at Kulyanamitra Temple.
They found the shrine was left, assuming, when the Chinese followed King Rama I to Bangkok and sheltered in Sam-Peng market for merchandising. Then, the name of Kien Un Keng Shrine, situates of Kuan Yin; the goddess of mercy, has emerged in Thailand.
Coldness airs from the humidity in granite around the shrine that is usually used in many shrines around the country.
And art painted inside might be destroyed by the ages and times but stills be its value and story is told for visitors.
The front wall facing with the riverside looks alive even engraved on the stone. It tells the story of Chinese living cultural, social status, wealth, and the vital commerce of Chinese. It looks so much alive as they are really telling the story by themselves every time I concentrate. And that’s a charm of the place.
This is the evidence that prove the history of Chinese-Thai relations. Besides, trading field that Chinese has taught Thai for over times, the important factor that should be remembered is the community of King Taksin’s army’s energy in supporting food, water, and suppliers to won over Burma and also the reunite of collapsed Ayutthaya.
It also proves Chinese and Thai relations are firm throughout art and architecture that were engraved and created.
Moreover, it is not only the shelter for Chinese and Buddhism but also Christian and Islam, everyone is living together with the same faiths they have in religious for years after years.

OVERDRIVE: Civilisations in conflict - but we can handle it

Even at the very micro level, we routinely witness clashes between the khaek civilisation and the jek civilisation in Thailand.
Khaek is a convenient term that Thais use to refer to Indians.
Jek denotes the Chinese.
One such clash is taking place at a site where I am building a house on extended land for my family.
It would not be surprising to witness similar clashes between the khaek and the jek elsewhere - clashes that profoundly shape the way the Thai people live, speak, act, worship and believe.
In the backyard of my house will stand a spirit house.
Next month a Brahmin priest will conduct a sacred ceremony to erect the spirit house for the god or the gods to reside.
The gods will live side by side with my family and ensure that we live in peace and with happiness.
Coincidentally, my next door neighbour is also building a new house.
He is spying on what we are doing.
He has just consulted a feng shui master on the design and the construction of his house.
Feng shui is the Chinese art of living in harmony with nature.
My neighbour sometimes sneaks onto my site to send out a signal that I am not building my house within the principles of feng shui.
Apparently, he believes that the spirit house is not good enough for me to ensure luck and prosperity.
This is a big difference in our values.
I am more inclined toward the khaek civilisation.
For, through the spirit house, I want peace and happiness in my house.
My neighbour strictly follows feng shui because he wants luck and prosperity for his family.
Jamlong, the head of the construction site at my house, remarked with a good heart about the rivalry that is going on between the two beliefs.
"It is fun as we are going to see a fierce battle between the feng shui master and the priest," he said.
As Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Indian prime minister, leads a top-level delegation to Thailand to open up a new era of bilateral relations, he will immediately recognise the profound influence that India has had on Thailand for thousands of years.
Thailand is a recipient country of two great civilisations - India from the West and China from the North.
But the influence from India is deeper, forming layers and layers in the foundation of Thai civilisation.
From religion to the arts, language, music, culture, law and literature, you see significant Indian elements in the ways of the Thais.
We borrowed ideas from India and used them rather conveniently until they were considered Thai ideas.
It was Emperor Asoka of India who in the third century played a key role in turning Suvarnabhumi, or the Golden Land, into a more civilised land.
Before, the local people in Suvarnabhumi worshipped ghosts and gods, who were believed to reside everywhere in rivers, in trees, in mountains, in the fields.
Emperor Asoka sent two chief missionaries to the east to propagate Buddhism.
One missionary went to Suvarnabhumi, the other to China, to then go on and teach Buddhism in Korea and Japan.
But before that, Hinduism, brought to this region by Indian merchants, had strengthened its foothold in the Cham civilisation of Vietnam and the Khmer civilisation, as witnessed by the grandeur of Angkor Wat.
When King Rama I, who founded Bangkok in 1782, wrote his own version of "Ramayana", originally written in Sanskrit by Valmiki, he did so in a poetic style and it now has its theme rooted in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace of Bangkok.
"Ramayana" is widely read by Thais, who also adapted it into khlon plays.
It's immediately recognisable by the fact that the kings of the Chakri Dynasty use the title Rama, a name derived from the "Ramayana".
One of our deputy prime ministers, Dr Vishanu Krua-ngam, has a khaek first name.
Lord Vishnu is one of the Indian Gods.
But somehow the Indian elements have permeated Thai culture so deeply that we have forgotten their origin.
Pragmatic as we Thais are, we have also come to assume that the Indian elements are Thai.
Then the jek came later on with their forceful civilisation, their food, customs, beliefs and trading practices, to provide a topping for Thai civilisation.
Feng shui is only one of the examples.
The Chinese began building Chinatown from the founding of Bangkok.
We can also see the Indian community, around Phahurat near Chinatown.
Somehow the Chinese have overshadowed the Indians and now exert more influence on the Thais.
Yet the Indian spirit is always there in the consciousness of the Thais.
For the Thais, whether it is khaek or jek, we don't mind as long as it works.
Thanong Khanthong The Nation