Wednesday, February 20, 2008

LP Phra Serm of Wat Patum

On 19.1.08 I visited Wat Patum, the forest tradition temple right in the heart of Bangkok. It is a tranquil pureland inside one of the busiest shopping areas there - Siam Square. Wat Patum is also the temple that houses the sacred Phra Serm, one of the 3 Buddha Images forged in Vientiane, Laos. If the reader remembers the story of the Legend of Phra Sai that I've related in last year's entry: Phra Sai refused to leave Wat Po Chai in Nongkhai, but Phra Serm followed King Rama V's transport team back to Bangkok, eventually finding its home in Wat Patum. Above is the altar outside the Phra Sai Vihara. Yes, Wat Patum has Viharas to house replicas of Phra Sai and Phra Suk (which sunk to the bottom of Mekong river) as well. However I did not manage to see the replica of Phra Suk as that Vihara was closed.
The 7-headed Naga guardian outside the Vihara.
The replica of Phra Sai inside the Vihara.
A closer look at Phra Sai.
This is the Phra Sai katha. It is different from the one taught in Wat Po Chai. This one goes:
Namo Tassa (3x)
Seyya Buddha Pathi Makarang
Ahang Vandami Sabbasso
Nama Karanu Bhavena
Niddukkho Nirupaddavo
Siddhi Kiccang
Siddhi Kammang
Siddhi Kariya Tathagato
Siddhi Tejo Jayo Niccang
Siddhi Labho Niratarang
Sabba Kammang Pasiddhi Me
Sabba Siddhi Bhavantu Me.
The Ubosot. Many lay people are gathered inside listening to the Ajarn's Dhamma talk.
This is the Phra Serm altar in the Ubosot.
Side view of LP Phra Serm.
A closeup view of Phra Serm. The Katha for Phra Serm goes:
Namo Tassa (3x)
Na Mo Put Ta Ya
Na Serm Song
Mo Serm Sook
Put Serm Chok
Ta Serm Larp
Ya Serm Sarp
Amnat Wassana Baramee
Ahang Wantami Sappasotthi Phawantu Me (5x).
On the left side of the Ubosot is an altar to 2 Forest Ajarns and 6 Lan Chang Buddha images.
A display cabinet showing the REAL Makaliporn or mystical female fruit spirits picked up by the Forest Ajarns in during their Dhutanga travels.
At the front of the Ubosot were various crystal chedis containing the relics of the Buddha and various enlightened disciples.
The main crystal chedi on a lotus pedestal.
The Buddha and Jatukam shrine outside the Ubosot.
Also outside the Ubosot were various large wooden elephant guardians.
A billboard advertising the latest batch of Jatukam amulets made by this temple. This batch is called "Setthi Tawon". The consecration is led by Ajarn Tawon, the current abbot.
This is the 6cm Nawa material Jatukam medal I obtained from the temple.
The Chedi platform containing (LP Mun's?) relics in the middle of the courtyard pond. Behind we can see the BTS skytrain track.
The Phra Buddha Chinaraj shrine in the courtyard. Wat Patum is definitely somewhere you want to go to find peace in the hustle and bustle of life in Bangkok. Its quiet enviroment is very conducive to meditation.

Monday, February 18, 2008

LP Put of Wat Klang Bang Phra

On 17.1.08 I went to Wat Klang Bang Phra, the temple of the late LP Put in Nakhon Pathom. It is just some distance away from Wat Bang Phra. So it is no surprise that LP Put used to be good friends with LP Peun. I first heard of the temple from a friend who came here in the past. He told me there were a lot of "good stuff" that could be obtained from this temple, and thus there I was to find out for myself.
In front of the Sala we could see a billboard advertising the new batch of amulets and takruts to commemorate the 9th aniversary of LP Put's passing away in 2542 BE (1999 CE).
This is the preserved body of the crocodile subdued by LP Put in the past. Notice that the devotees still make offerings to it. That's why LP Put was known as 伏鳄罗汉 or Crocodile Subduing Arahant.
They really have a lot of good stuff here. You can see the whole corridor of buchas and amulets on display. Coincidentally, when I was there the monks were conducting a chanting ceremony for LP Put, who passed away 9 years ago on the very same day. It was LP Put's death aniversary and many devotees from the area came to participate in the auspicious ceremony. I feel this should be a sign of my karmic affinity with LP Put. Regretably, I did not manage to take a close look at LP Put's undecaying body in this Vihara as there were too many people around.
These are the 2 buchas of LP Put I obtained from the temple. The left one is 5-inch (knee to knee) and has LP holding a walking stick. The right one is 3-inch, with LP raising his right hand in blessing.
A small seated Tao Hanuman bucha from the temple. Hanuman is holding his command flag and trident. There are also some blessed "objects" embedded below the bucha. There are many other interesting things available at the temple. You guys can take your time to slowly look them through if you visit. Highly recommended.
On my 2nd trip to Wat Klang Bang Phra in Apr 2009 I managed to take more photos. This is the undecaying body of LP Put. A closer shot of LP Put's body, which appeared to be still in very good condition.The various Buddha statues in the LP Put Vihara.
The altar to LP Put's wax statue.
A closer look at the statue.Outside the Luang Por Tubtim Vihara.Luang Por Tubtim is the presiding Buddha image of this temple.A closer look at the image. It looks very much like LP Sotorn in Chachengsao. The Phra Leela statue outside the Vihara.
The big Luang Por Yai Buddha image at the back of the temple.

A video of Luang Por Yai and the surroundings.

The Vihara close to Luang Por Yai. That's all for the Apr 2009 visit.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Oxhead & Horseface

Who are Oxhead and Horseface? They are believed to be the 2 soldiers of King Yama, in charge of bringing the spirits of the dead to Hades for judgement. Chinese call them "Guichai 鬼差", whereas the Thais call them "Yama-toot". Their tasks are somewhat similar to Black and White Wuchang, but they are of lower rank than the Wuchang duo. Legend has it that in ancient times there were a buffalo and a horse who were worked to death by their owners. When they went to Hades, King Yama took pity on these 2 poor beasts and gave them posts as his soldiers. They retained their animal heads and have been faithfully doing their jobs ever since.
On the 12th (12.2.08) there was an article in Shinmin paper where a certain 70-year old Uncle Huang related a strange tale about "Oxhead and Horseface". He didn't believe in such things, but an accident that happened 30 years ago changed his mind. At that time, Huang and his wife went to Malaysia to attend an international business conference. When it was lunchtime, the couple and their 5 colleagues proceeded to the lift lobby, intending to go to the cafeteria below for their meals. Suddenly, Huang felt 2 pairs of eyes staring at them. He turned his head to look, only to see 2 big-sized guys standing in 1 corner of the lobby. They looked quite fierce and had ghostly pale faces. Their steely stare sent shivers down the spine of the normally bold Huang. The lift arrived with a "Ding" sound. Huang and company tried to rush into the lift, but the 2 guys were much quicker, squeezing in before them. As the lift was already full with 7 people inside, Huang and wife had no choice but to let his 5 colleagues go down first. But deep in his heart he breathed a sigh of relief for not having to take the lift with the 2 scary guys.
As the lift doors were about to close Huang suddenly had a bad premonition. But when he tried to press the lift button it was already too late. Just 3 secs later there was a deafening crashing sound coming from within the lift well. The lift cables had snapped due to poor maintenance and the lift went crashing down all the way to the bottom of the well! None of his 5 colleagues survived the fall. When the police arrived to investigate, Huang told them surely that there were 7 people in the lift altogether, including the "2 fierce-looking guys". But the strange thing was the investigators only found the 5 bodies of his colleagues inside the lift. Where had the 2 guys disappeared to?
After that incident Uncle Huang started to believe that Oxhead and Horseface really exists. He believes that they are none other than those 2 guys that he saw entered the lift. He added, "Well now that my age is getting quite old, I think I'm going to meet those 2 guys again pretty soon!"
If one contemplates on this story one will see that Oxhead and Horseface have deep meaning behind them. Who are they really? Sickness and Aging. Sickness is like a stubborn ox that relentlessly pull us slowly towards death, no matter how well we take care of our own body. It may stop for a period to rest, and we get to be healthy for the time being; but soon it is going to start pulling and we will be falling sick again. Aging is like a single-minded race horse, carrying its rider towards the finishing line as fast as it could run. Nobody can stop the horse until it finishes the race, and the moment we are born we are already on it. As long as we are alive, we can't really be freed from the "steely stare" of Oxhead and Horseface. Only when we find that thing which is not born, that which has no becoming, then will they stop bothering you once and for all. Why don't you start looking for it?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Phra Pathom Chedi & Phra Ruang

On 17.01.2008 I visited Phra Pathom Chedi 大佛塔 in Nakhon Pathom, which is the temple with the biggest Chedi in Thailand and the world. Towering 120m over the provincial town of Nakhon Pathom, the Chedi with its glazed bright orange tiles shines like a golden sphere in the sky. Visible for miles, it is indeed the world's tallest Buddhist monument. Above is the northern entrance to the Chedi.
A view of the Chedi up close. Located in the center of Nakhon Pathom, approximately 56km west of Bangkok, Phra Pathom Chedi attracts Buddhist devotees from around the world. For visitors coming towards the city, the first glimpse of the majestic Phra Pathom Chedi - which means "The First Stupa'' leaves a long lasting impression.
It takes almost 5 mins to walk round the Chedi, large as it is. The origins of this great Chedi date back 2,000 yrs to King Asoka's reign in the 3rd century B.C. During that time he sent out missionaries in all directions from India to faraway lands to spread the Buddhist teachings. One such land was Suwarnaphum, in present-day Thailand. From Phra Pathom Chedi and other archaeological findings discovered in the city area, it is believed that the city was a center of civilization during that era and is thus one of Thailand's most ancient cities.
In this Vihara we see a painting of the Chedi's internal structure. The original chedi with its unique stupa design in the shape of an upside-down bowl was 39m high, similar in style to that of the Sanchi Stupa in India. The original monument is still there, but has been restored over the years. In 1853, Thailand's King Mongkut (Rama IV) commanded the construction of a new huge chedi covering the original one (a replica of the original stands south of the present day one) and took nearly 17 yrs to complete. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the Chedi being completed. The height from the ground to its top spire is a towering 120.45m high & its total diameter at the base is 233.5m!
The view from within the Vihara. Phra Pathom Chedi does not only have great significance for Thai Buddhists; throughout Thailand's history it has also been a very special chedi for its rulers. To be sure, it has always been a royal tradition for the reigning King to offer candles and joss sticks whenever passing Phra Pathom Chedi.
A Dvaravati style seated stone Buddha on the other side of the Chedi.
The Phra Non (Reclining Buddha) in the western Vihara of the Chedi.
This is the 8m tall gold-plated Phra Ruang 大塔佛 image in northern Vihara of the Chedi. It is a magnificent Sukhothai style standing Buddha in the posture of "preventing calamities" or "stopping the relatives from fighting". Thus it is believed to have the power to bring peace and protection from disasters. The original image was first discovered in 1909 by Crown Prince Vajiravuth (who later became King Rama VI) damaged and buried in the ground at Sukhothai. He had it dug up, and upon inspection, found that its head, hands and feet still in good condition. The Prince immediately took a liking to the image's beauty, and thus ordered its restoration. Upon its completion, he gave it the title of "Phra Ruang Rojanarit". The image was moved from Sukhothai and installed at its present location in 1915, and in accordance with his wishes, King Rama VI's ashes were buried at the base of Phra Ruang after he passed away. Since then the sacred image has become an icon synonymous with Phra Pathom Chedi. This is evident in the way their Chinese names are arranged, which are "Buddha of the Great Pagoda" and "The Great Buddha Pagoda" respectively.
This is the beautiful 12-inch (15 inch including base) Phra Ruang bucha I obtained from the temple, also made from Pit Thong (gold-coated bronze) material. I also saw many other nice images available there, so it was a pity that I could not collect more! Perhaps next time..