Wednesday, January 30, 2008

LP Wat Raiking of Nakhon Pathom

Luang Por Wat Raiking 来金佛 is the most revered Buddha image in the province of Nakhon Pathom, believed to be able to grant wishes. Everyday there are many devotees, from here as well as from Bangkok coming to pray for all sorts of things. I visited Wat Raiking for the first time on 17.01.2008. The temple was founded in 2334 BE (217 years ago) during the reign of King Rama I. It is in the common posture of subduing Mara, and measures 4 cubits 2 inches knee to knee, 4 cubits 16 inches high. The image is believed to be casted by Lan Chang artisans. Legend has it that the Buddha floated down the river to land in this area. A temple was built here to house the sacred image. It was then named "Wat Mongkon Chindaram" by a royal patriarch, but nobody uses that name; instead everybody prefer to call it Wat Raiking, which means "Ginger Plantation Temple". Above we see the Sala outside the Ubosot.
A web of Saisin (holy thread) hangs above the Ubosot in front of LP Wat Raiking. Recently we can see this in most of the temples we visit as there are many consecration cermonies going on.
A close up the sacred Buddha image.
The Katha chanted to revere LP Wat Raiking is as follows:
Namo tassa (3X)
Gayena Wajaya Wa Jetasawa
Mahesakkaya Tewadaya Apipathidang
Ittipadiharigang Mangkala Jindarama Putta Padimagarang
Poochamihang Yawacheewanja Sugammigo Sukapatthitaya (Sathu).
People sticking gold leaf on the Phra Sangajaya image outside the Ubosot.
This is the 5-inch LP Wat Raiking bucha that I obtained from the temple. It is made of Pit Thong (bronze with gold coating) material and consecrated in 2523 BE (1980 CE). It emanates a compassionate and peaceful golden aura. No wonder the people here respect this Buddha image so much.
This is the 5cm wooden medal consecrated last year (2007) by the temple. It is light and very well-crafted. Suitable for guys but girls may find it too big. Wat Raiking is a great temple and I will definitely come to visit again in the future.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Little Dog which prays to the Buddha

Last week there was an article reporting a certain pet dog living in a Buddhist monastery in Okinawa, Japan. The 18-month old long-haired Chihuahua is named "Conan" and the strange thing about it is whenever the abbot does his sutra-chanting, Conan will stand on its hind legs and clasp its front paws in reverence. Like the monks, it would also do a "gassho" before it eats or go out.

The Mahakaruna Citta Dharani Sutra says:

"If I must head for the Animal realm, let all animals become wise."

The Bodhisattva cannot be seen, but he manifests in all the 6 realms to help sentient beings. If a common animal is wise enough show reverence for the Triple Gems, how much more so for us humans? On the other hand, some may ask why is Conan in the body of a dog, when it obviously deserve to be in a higher form. Ven Zhaozhou's Koan of a dog's Buddha-nature comes to mind. Does a dog have Buddha-nature? No. But all beings have Buddha-nature, why not the dog? Because it did wrong even when it knew better. Does a dog have Buddha-nature? Yes. Then why is it in the body of a dog? Because past karma obscures its consciousness. So from this we know that taking refuge in the external Triple Gems is not enough, for they are unstable like all other sankharas (formations). Only by taking refuge in the inner Triple Gems could one find the true path to the end of suffering. What does it mean to take refuge in the inner Triple Gems? To take refuge in the Buddha means to take refuge in your own mindfulness, to be constantly aware of the movements of the mind in the form of likes and dislikes. To take refuge in the Dhamma means to take refuge in your own wisdom, which knows better than to let the mind follow its own likes and dislikes. To take refuge in the Sangha is take refuge in the harmony of mindfulness and wisdom, understanding that they are fundamentally non-dual. Seeing that the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha arise only to deal with defilements and dissolves when defilements are no more; such that nothing really arises or dissolves is called the highest refuge - Nibbana. Let us all take refuge in the inner Triple Gems, sadhu.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ajarn Od of Wat Saimai

Ajarn Od of Wat Saimai is one of the rising "young" stars of the Thai Buddhist amulet world (the other being Ajarn Daeng of Wat Rai in Pattani). Wat Saimai is located in the Rangsit area of Bangkok, near the old airport. When I was there (on 18.01.2008), the temple was thronging with hundreds of Thai people all waiting and queuing up to see Ajarn. They were there because it was the launching day(s) of a new batch of amulets from the temple, and Ajarn was also giving out freebies. I only managed to cut queue and meet him thanks to my driver, who told the police officer guarding his kuti that I was from Singapore. The kind officer let us in specially to see Ajarn in consideration that I have come a long way (sort of). Coincidentally, another brother from Singapore also happened to be there for the same purpose. Ajarn Od drawing Yants on my Rians. He looked quite serious, but he was actually quite capable of joking with us; he offered to test the protective power of the takruts he gave me by hacking me on the back with his sword! Obviously I declined, to the laughter of those people present. Whew!
These are the you-know-what takruts I received from Ajarn. On the right are Ajarn Od's first batch of Rian (medallions). Each person was only limited to getting 3 pieces, so I bought 3 and gave one of them to my driver in appreciation for his help. Before I went to Bangkok, I did not know Ajarn's story. Then on further enquiry, my driver told me that sometime ago one of the Thai princes tested out Ajarn Od's takruts by trying to shoot him with a pistol. The prince tried 3 times, but the pistol failed to work everytime due to the protective power of the takrut. He was amazed and prostrated before the master. So from that time Ajarn Od became famous and many people went to Wat Saimai to pay respect to him. I seriously count myself lucky that I too was able to meet him and receive takruts from him.

LP Poon of Wat Pailom

LP Poon of Wat Pailom in Nakhon Pathom used to be famous for making Hanuman and Kumantong amulets and images. At least, that was what all the Singaporeans and Malaysians know about. Among Thais in the province he was also well known for doing a lot of charitable works like building schools and hospitals with temple money. Since LP Poon passed away a few years ago, Wat Pailom has been taken over by his successor, the plump Ajarn Foon. He has managed to keep the name up so far, despite some negative stories being revealed about him. On 17.01.2008 I visited this temple for the first time. It was quite well decorated and furnished, showing that this is still a rich temple. Above is the Ubosot of the temple.
A large flying Hanuman statue with flag and trident outside the Ubosot.
The gate of the Ubosot with the 2 Yakkha guardians. Below is the billboard advertising the most recent batch of amulets made, "Neung Nai Paen Din". It was consecrated on October last year, and Phra Sangaraj also came to participate in the chanting.
Another view of the Ubosot.
Inside the main Vihara we can see LP Poon's wax statue as well as his body in a glass coffin. We could see that the body had turned totally black, same as LP Peun of Wat Bang Phra. It was not an "undecaying body". Think the temple should cremate LP Poon rather than put his body on show indefinitely to attract visitors.
Here we see a large Kumantong as well as a few Lersi (hermit) statues.
The various mystical masks kept by LP Poon.
This is the 2-inch mini Jatukam bucha I obtained at the temple, made from black bronze and Pit Thong. It is part of the recent "Neung Nai Paen Din" batch. There are also many more stuff available at the temple counter, if one can bother to go through them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

History of Phra Mongkon Bopit

Wat Mongkon Bopit is another one of the popular temples in Ayuttaya. The current temple building was built in 1956, but the Buddha image inside the temple, Phra Mongkon Bopit had been around since the early Ayuttaya Period (1448-1602 CE).
It is one of the largest bronze Buddha images in Thailand, measuring 9.55m from knee to knee and 12.45m high without the base. However the image was almost destroyed twice in its long history. In 1706 CE its head was damaged by lightning and it was only restored decades later during the reign of King Boromakot (1742-43 CE). Another shot of the Buddha where many "white orbs" could be seen. When Ayuttaya fell to the Burmese in 1767 CE, the Vihara's roof was burned and again the head and its right arm was broken. It was left like that for more than 180 years and it was until 1956 that the temple and image was completely restored once again. In 1990 Phra Sangharaj presided over a candle lighting ceremony before Phra Mongkon Bopit, making a call for people to make merit by covering it in gold leaf. HM Queen Sirikit was the first to answer the call by donating 70,000 baht to the restoration fund. The people followed suit and eventually we have the Phra Mongkon Bopit completely plated in gold as we can see today.
This is the silver Phra Kring that I obtained from the temple 3 years ago in 2005. It was consecrated in 2538 BE (1995 CE). Visiting the temple again on 18.01.2008, I found that things have changed a lot, and the compounds outside the temple has since become a tourist market.
This is the latest 3-inch Bucha of Phra Buddha Mongkon Bopit that I obtained from the temple in July 2008. It is made of black bronze material. This bucha was consecrated in 2539 (1996). Gold-foil coated ones are also available.
The gold-foil coated 3" bucha I obtained in Jan 2009.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

LP Parn of Wat Bangnomkho

LP Parn (1875-1938 CE) is best known as the great guru monk who taught the Phra Pajjeka Po Prod Sat Katha, better known as the "Billionaire Rich Katha", as well as the Yant Kropetch or "Diamond Shield" talisman of invulnerability. Like many others, I first learned of this guru monk from Lek Watruak's website. For a more detailed history you can click here.
LP was the past abbot of Wat Bangnomkho in Sena district in Ayuttaya. Although LP had passed away for 70 years, he is still remembered by many people in Central Thailand for his transcendal Dhamma power.
I visited Wat Bangnomkho on 18.01.2008 in admiration of this great guru. A giant statue of LP Parn immediately greets all visitors to this temple.
A smaller standing statue of LP Parn. Beside the statue is the Billionaire Katha, which goes:

Namo Tassa (3x)
Put Ta Ma Ah U Na Mo Put Ta Ya (1x)
Wira Dhayo Wira Konayang Wira Hingsa
Wira Dhasi Wira Dhasa Wira Ittiyo
Buddhassa Manee Mama Buddhassa Swahom (3 or 9x)

This Katha is chanted every morning and evening for prosperity and the ending of poverty.
The Buddha image in the Ubosot of Wat Bangnomkho. Below the Buddha is another image of LP Parn. The web of Saisin or holy thread above suggests a consecration ceremony had taken place recently. A new life-sized wax image of LP Parn. It was only there when I visited the 2nd time in July 08.
A mural in the Ubosot depicting HM the King coming to honour LP Parn.
The main Chedi of the Wat.
The wax statue of LP Parn. Behind it is the golden stupa containing LP's relics.
Another view of the Vihara.
Outside the Vihara.
Another shrine outside the Vihara, with a statue of LP Parn reading a scripture.
A 5" bronze bucha of LP Parn I obtained from the temple.
Another 5" bucha I obtained from the temple in Jan 2009.
A set of 6 LP Parn Somdej amulets consecrated in 2545 BE (2002 CE). A set of LP Parn's Somdej Rian (medals), also consecrated in 2545. As the Chinese saying goes, "A mountain is famous not because of its height, it is famous because of its immortals". This is an interesting temple definitely worth visiting again.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Phra Buddha Nimit of Wat Na Phramen

Phra Buddha Nimit 常胜佛 (seen above) is the main Buddha Image of the centuries old Wat Na Phramen, Ayuttaya. The Image was first casted in bronze, then lacquered and plated with gold. It measures 9 cubits wide knee to knee and is 6 meters high. The Image is also clad in royal attire and in the posture of subduing Mara. Legend has it that the temple was built my the King of the Devas, Phra Indra in 1503 CE during the reign of King Ramathibodi II, the 10th King of Ayuttaya. The name given to the temple at that time was Wat Phra Meru Rachikaram. In the year 1760 CE, when King Along Phaya of Burma came to attack Ayuttaya, he had his soldiers station cannons at Wat Na Phramen and Wat Chang. King Along Phaya commanded the troops and fired the cannon at Wat Na Phramen himself. Unfortunately for him, the cannon exploded and he was seriously injured. The Burmese forces had to beat a hasty retreat north. As soon as the troops left, the King also passed away. With the sacredness of the Buddha Image, it was long believed to have help save Ayuttaya from its enemies. Furthermore, the Image had always remained in the same condition for the past few centuries, and the temple was the only one not sacked by the Burmese when they conquered Ayuttaya.
Another important Buddha Image in Wat Na Phramen is Phra Khandararat (above), which had been around since the Dvaravati period. It is carved out of green sandstone and believed to be around 1,500 years old. The Image measures 1.7 meters wide knee to knee and is 5.2 meters tall. It sits upon a throne with the hands resting on his knees, similar to the giant Maitreya Buddha Image in Leshan, China. Phra Khandararat is believed to be brought from Sri Lanka to Siam during the Dvaravati period by Phra Upali and Phra Chaiwichit, when they went there to study Buddhism.
Replicas of the 2 important Buddha images in the Ubosot, side by side. Below is the Katha for revering Phra Buddha Nimit. First chant Namo Tassa 3 times, then recite:

"Buddha Nimittang Ahang Wantha Kamamihang
Buddha Nimittang Sahassakoti Taotanang
Buddha Nimittang Sathu Roophanang
Iti Sugato Arahang Buddho Namo Buddhaya
Potawee Kongkha Phrapoo Matewa Kamamihang."

Another 2 replicas in the courtyard.The Phra Sangkachai shrine.
The glass-enclosed Jatukam shrine.
The glass-enclosed Thousand Arm Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) Shrine.
This is the 5" Bucha of Phra Buddha Nimit that I obtained from the temple, made from bronze with gold coating. See how majestic and shining it is! An excellent image to pray to, no doubt.
The 3.5" Phra Mahasetthi 9 Nah (9-Face Buddha) bucha I obtained from the temple in Jan 2009. Made of Navaloha material. A fine bucha as well.

A video of Phra Buddha Nimit, the presiding Buddha image of Wat Na Pramen, Ayuttaya.