Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Travels to Wat Phakho

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra says:

"The body of the of the Tathagata is beyond birth & death. It is the Self, it is Permanant; it is Blissful and it is Pure. Thus, Self signifies the Buddha, Permanance signifies the Dharmakaya (Body of Truth); Bliss signifies Nirvana, and Purity signifies the Dharma."

In August this year I went to Wat Phakho (pronounced Pah-ko) on the same day that I visited Wat Pagor. Actually there was some confusion with the driver, cause the names of the 2 temples sound similar. But after some clarifcation, we managed to proceed on our way there, which is in the northeast corner of Songkhla (Sathing Phra district). The journey, almost 100 km away, took 1 hr plus from Had Yai. As we all know, Wat Phakho is the temple where LP Tuad resided during his youth, before he travelled to Ayuthaya to further his Dhamma studies. This temple is located on the Phiphetasing Hill and therefore we need to climb up the hill to reach it. This long flight of steps are flanked by Nagas, which is a distinct feature of hilltop temples in Thailand. Near the entrance we are greeted by 2 statues of LP Tuad, in Samatid as well as Dhutanga postures. This temple was built many centuries ago (in 1514 AD) and houses many ancient objects & artifacts, many belonging to LP Tuad.The side hall is where the revered golden image of LP Tuad is kept, covered from head to toe with gold leaf. You can almost feel LP Tuad's presence here in the Sala. The main Chedi (Stupa) of the temple below is a well known symbol of Wat Phakho. It was renovated in recent years and given a fresh coat of white paint. It is said to house the Buddha's Footprint; notice the mystical aura or glow surrounding the Chedi. This a definitely a place of great power. A small Chedi below the main one caught my eye. In front of the Chedi is a statue of a young boy. Could this be a stupa of Kumantong or maybe just one of the young novices of this temple? A tall white Chedi behind the main one. This probably belongs to one of the past abbots. The golden reclining Buddha (Phra Non) statue in the pavillion (Sala). He smiles radiantly towards all sentient being who come and worship at the temple.The main prayer hall (Bot) of the temple houses 3 southern styled Buddha statues as well as another seated image of LP Tuad. As we can see, there's an intricate web of white string below the roof, used for consecration of sacred amulets & images. One of my favorite Buddhas, Phra Sangajai or Maitreya (to the Chinese) located at the back of the temple, overlooking the South China Sea.The old court house - Wat Phakho used to be the religious & political centre on this side of Songkhla, and therefore all legal matters were discussed here around 300 years ago. But it had long been converted into another Sala for people to worship. A life-sized wax image of LP Tuad, and yes, his magical crystal ball! According to the legend, this crystal ball is given to him by a python (probably a Naga) when he was a baby, and had followed LP Tuad ever since. I could not go near it as the whole thing was protected by a glass chamber. However, as it was raining heavily at that time, I sat down and meditated outside the chamber in order to feel the energy radiating from the ball. It was a blissful experience! When the rain became lighter, I made my way down to hill and proceeded on my way back to Had Yai. This was without a doubt, one of my most memorable temple tours I took to Thailand. Hopefully I can also visit Wat Changhai (in Pattani), where LP Tuad attained enlightenment when it is safe from the terrorist threat. May the Dharmakaya of LP Tuad protect everyone, sadhu.

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