Sunday, 2 September 2012

Thailand, Koh Samui Temples

Visiting the temples is a must when you are at Koh Samui or in other parts of Thailand. For most Thai people, Buddhism is a way of life so that is why there are many temples even on a small island such as Koh Samui. 

The most popular temple in Samui is the Kunaram Temple, where curious people like me could see for themselves the mummified monk, whose body was put on display for more than 20 years. According to the story, the monk had died while meditating and his body was in the same sitting position when he was first found.

An interesting lamp post found at the temple.

There was a small stall selling yellow flowers just outside the temple. Some of these flowers were bought by several members in the tour group. The flowers were offered to the monks as a form of merit. I noticed that Buddhists knelt 3 times while praying. 3 incense sticks were also lit, which are then placed at the altar. I found out that one is lit for Buddha, one for Sangha (Buddhist monks), and one for Dharma (teachings of Buddha).

Venturing outside the grounds of the temple, one small shady corner caught my attention. I wondered why these Buddha statues were left in the open and not placed on the shelves available in the temple.

Apparently, this was the final resting place for the old and broken Buddha statues, which worshippers no longer wanted to put at their altar. According to the tour guide, one could not simply throw away their Buddha along with all the other rubbish in the trash bin because it was frowned upon by the religion. Hence, worshippers left their "unwanted" Buddha at this temple or they may alternatively place their Buddha under a Bodhi tree.

Beside this spot, there was also a small lotus pond in the temple. Lotus is a significant flower in Buddhism as it is associated with rebirth and purity.

Even the second temple, which we went to - Wat Plai Laem, is on a lotus-like structure built on a lake.

Interestingly, each petals of the lotus surrounding the temple was made to house the ashes of those who were cremated.

The other unique feature of this Buddhist temple is the Kuan Im statue (the lady monk) with 20 arms. Not sure what each arm represents but the two hands at the top of the statue's head are actually holding a golden Buddha. Overall, this temple is a little bit different from other temples because there seem to be a strong influence in Taoism in this temple.

At the end of the trip, it feels like I have at least understood a little bit more about Buddhism. It also helps when the tour guide was so passionate when explaining to me about his religion.

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