Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wat Pho

The Kingdom of Sukhothai had important contacts with Sri Lanka. Thai monks travelled to Sri Lanka for further religious instruction, and Sri Lankan monks settled in Sukhothai. Sukhothai religious art was thus influenced by Sri Lankan art. The Buddha images of the Sukhothai era gained important disdinguishing characteristics from the images during the Khmer and Mon era.A flame appeared on top of the head of the Buddha. The head is covered with fine curled hair. The face is oval, with high curving eyebrows, a hooked nose, a downward gaze, and overall displays a gentle smiling expression.The body of the Buddha images displays broad shoulders and a small waist. Overall it can be said that the Buddha Images do not appear human, but display idealistic or superhuman characteristics.During the Sukhothai era, the four postures of the Buddha (sitting, standing, walking, reclining) were created. Reclining Buddha at Wat Imprumoon, Ang Thong province. Why are reclining Buddha images so large? Well it likely relates to a 'story' of the life of the Buddha. The giant Asurindarahu wanted to see the Buddha, but was reluctant to bow before him. The Buddha, while lying down, presented himself as much larger than the giant. He then showed him the realm of heaven with heavenly figures all larger than the giant. After all this, Asurindarahu, the giant, was humbled, and made his obeisance to the Buddha before leaving.

It all ends at Wat Pho, with the Reclining Buddha. The state of Maha Prarinimphan.A wandering spirit rests
Published on June 7, 2007

The artistic legacy of poet Montri Umavijani is vividly remembered
The marathon memorial reading of the 27 volumes of Montri Umavijani's poetry at Wat Pho on Saturday took almost 13 and a half hours to complete, setting a record for the longest English-language poetry reading in Thailand.

It was indeed a day to remember.
The reading took place in a sala in front of the Reclining Buddha, where friends and family members of Montri took turns to read out the entire collection.

John Solt, an American academic and poet, has compiled all 27 of Montri's books in a complete set.
The new publication is called "As Old As The World: The Complete English Poetry Books Of Montri Umavijani (1942-2006)".

The reading, which started at around 9am, lasted until 10.
30pm, with the last few books taking three times longer to read than Montri's earlier books.

The nighttime atmosphere was beautiful, with a full moon and stupas aglow as the poems were read.

"Temples are like oases for those in Bangkok," said Chuthathip Umavijani, Montri's wife, who organised the event.
"All in all, it was one of those days that we will never forget.
Poetry reading, in a way, is a sacred ritual.
Although not many people showed up for the event, a small congregation was enough to keep its spirit moving.
Family members, relatives and friends all came for the same purpose of commemorating one of Thailand's greatest modern poets and appreciating his artistic legacy.

Montri wrote his poetry mostly in English, but with a distinctly noble Thai voice and Buddhist spirit.
But his Thai poetry was equally excellent.

He had a passion for travel in search of meaning and truth and attempted, throughout his life and work, to fathom the innermost level of human consciousness and experience.

He did not write his poetry in a static mode.
His poems were like frames of pictures, which appeared to juxtapose his confrontation with experience.
But there was always a unity of structure in his seemingly unconnected works.

Montri himself held a poetry reading for Prince Thammatibes (Chao Fa Kung) at Wat Chaiwatanaram in Ayutthaya in August 2005.
To him, Prince Thammatibes, with his exquisite barge songs, was the greatest poet of the Ayutthaya period.

Montri was born into this unruly world in order to redeem our lost innocence.
During his lifetime his physical condition had always been his burden.
Yet his mind was sharp, free, insightful, intellectual and noble.
He fought the vanities of life and always came back with a triumph of mind over body.

His earlier works were powerful and original.
His later works sometimes sounded redundant but they are all still very refreshing to read, as his consciousness wandered between the finite and the infinite, the particulars and the universals before ultimately reaching out for Buddhahood.

"I wonder how many poets' works would stand up to such 'scrutiny by reading'?" said Solt, who co-organised the reading event.
"I think one reason why Montri's poetry delights in different, nuanced ways is because his early poetry was already fully bloomed, like a young Arthur Rimbaud, Raymond Radiguet or Charles Henri Ford, what the French call 'genie.
"As he aged, the poetry which was already focused and one-pointed from the beginning, gradually thickens and becomes a superbly crunched residue of his fleeting consciousness.
His annoyance at seeing the same human follies is palpable but more humour-laden as he switches places and accumulates layers of time.
His devotion to writing broadens as his poet's quest is tested and re-tested by reflection from various angles on his journeys to many countries, each simultaneously an exploration of the past and an experiencing of his immediate present," Solt said.

Montri's soul must have been wandering around the area he cherished during his life.
Wat Pho is recognised as being Thailand's first open university.
It was an old temple when King Nangklao, or Rama III, renovated it so that Thais could study astrology, traditional massage, traditional medicine, religion and literature.

While he was alive, Montri came back again and again to Wat Pho to appreciate its beauty and grandeur, the highlight of which is the Reclining Buddha.
The stature represents the Buddha entering a stage of nirvana.

Solt said: "It is good that we read in front of the Reclining Buddha rather than the sitting one; it was easier for the Buddha that way.
Montri would have certainly taken a last look at the gathering before going through the cycle of rebirth again.
He was a selfless person who spent most of his life in search of the highest knowledge and the ultimate meaning; he could have been reborn as a Maitreya, the Buddha of the future.

Indeed, he wrote "The Book of Maitreya" after a trip to Korea and Western Australia in 1988.

Montri and Maitreya share the same linguistic root.
He also consciously wanted to follow in the footstep of Maitreya, who writes for the knowledge of enlightenment.

I wish I could once again
Look at Maitreya
In meditative pose
To understand
The nature of enlightenment
For somebody destined.

I have found him
The poet of life -
Reflecting and writing
On the path to
Supreme enlightenment.

Thanong Khanthong
The Nation

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