I decided to switch from the Bodhi Path ‘modernized’ temple to a true Buddhist site. My last two visits to the Wat Buddharangsi temple have provided for a true enlightening experience and a brilliant segue into the world of Theravada Buddhism.
Frankly, I was slightly intimidated by the grand projection of the temple in comparison with the former Bodhi Path site visit. The temple, also known as the ‘wat’ held a very peculiar design, of the likes I had never seen before. There were various Buddhist statues outside of the actual wat building, very large and very detailed. Initially, I felt alone. There was no one is sight other than curious, effervescent tourists. As I was photographing the temple and its symbolic structures, I spotted a monk, who immediately directed himself toward me. Feeling ashamed, I quickly hid the camera and braced for a brusque scolding. However I was quick to note the friendliness in his tone, striding about barefoot with his bright orange, monastic robe and shaved head. He welcomed me to the temple and ushered me into their ‘vihara,’ or hall for preaching and meditation; within the wat. As I entered I noticed a room full of people, standing, listening to a monk preaching through a microphone; which I thought was odd at first. The vihara floor was covered in a soft, red velvet carpet; so temple attendees may kneel and meditate without discomfort. The hall’s walls were moderately decorated, with the occasional Buddhist artwork hanging high for all to see. Towards the end of the hall was where the true action took place; with multitude of a small statuettes, flowers, vases, candles and decorative, woodcuts. I was taken aback with the towering presence of an immense statue, surrounded by the almost infinitesimal sacred objects surrounding it, which represented the Buddha, and even more astonished at the statue’s official name: Phrabuddhadhammachinaraj Sakayamuneesriamaidulnakij. The monk encouraged me to participate with the rest of the crowd and promptly disappeared, and with him my sense of comfort. I directed my attention to the preaching monk and found it difficult to understand his English, heavily influenced by a pronounced Thai accent. Absolutely bewildered, I mimicked the movements of those around me, standing, kneeling, and meditating. Once the session ended, the attendees vacated the hall, and I snatched some flyers on my way out, hoping to find some sort of guidance.
My last visit to the wat temple held more curiosity and attentiveness, as opposed to anxiety or nervousness. Attending the meditation and lecture sessions, I was able to decipher what the monk had been preaching, based on the Buddhist dharma teachings, the four noble truths, that one has the opportunity to enlightenment only through their own accord, without unnecessary dependency on other gods or supernatural forces. The monk also revealed to all the present attendees, his marriage, which he had essentially ‘quit’ in order to remain detached from such a ‘permanent institution,’ and remain in the temple as a monk on the path to enlightenment within the ‘Sangha.’ He proceeded to explain the reason for such detachment, offering another example which is to not father any children, for, in Buddhism, permanence is an illusion and ignorance comes from believing in such permanence. After the monk brought a session to a close, the crowd of attendees vacated the hall, full of men and women, of various race and color, this indicated to me the in-discriminatory and universal nature of this particular Theravada Buddhist temple, which a harmonious chord with me. This up close and personal experience to the Wat Buddharangsi Thai temple has reinforced my understanding of specific cultures in southeastern Asian regions. It has enriched my global perception and appreciation for the role of Buddhism within such cultures that seem so foreign, so alien to me.