December 19, 2008

281206 remnants of Wat Pha Chao

Leaving Wat Xieng Thong, the cat took a shortcut through a nearby cluster of temples (Wat Sibounheuang, Wat Simoungkhoun & Wat Sop). Ignored by the Lonely Planet guidebook & tour groups, it seemed like a quiet, peaceful spot without a soul in sight...

...& then the cat suddenly found itself standing in the midst of an orange flood of novice monks pouring out from a block of classrooms, chattering & swinging their shoulder bags at classmates, laughing & pushing one another, SABAIDII MAA TAE SAI WAO PHAASAA ANGKIT DAI BOR JAO SEU NYANG HELLO WHERE YOU FROM CAN YOU SER-PEAK ENGLISH WHAT YOUR NAME - it had wandered into the grounds of Wat Sop Buddhist secondary school during their break time. Quiet, peaceful spot INDEED...

Next door at Reebok cap's former temple aka. Wat Saen, the cat found a tall standing Buddha image in a corner of the compound:


Rather odd to find it outside hidden in a little corner & under an open pavilion - such a huge statue would usually be the main venerated Buddha image of any temple & housed within the main chapel:


Turns out that it was not originally part of Wat Saen, but belonged to Wat Pha Chao & was made homeless as the number of temples in Luang Prabang was reduced from 65 to 29 (or 33, depending on which source one chooses to believe). Once upon a time, there were two temples (ວັດພະເຈົ້າ Wat Pha Chao & ວັດທາດນ້ອຍ Wat That Noi) located in between Wat Sop & Wat Saen, & a total of 92 in the greater Luang Prabang area according to a list compiled by Pha Ajan Onekeo Sitthivong & Prof Volker Grabowsky. The former is the abbot of Wat Xieng Thong & Wat Pak Khan & director of the Buddhist schools in Luang Prabang, whom the cat's Lao consultants describe as a kind elder they can approach for help.

Buddha returning to earth at the end of Buddhist Lent (Ok Phansa) after spending his seventh rains retreat preaching the Abhidhamma pitaka to his mother in Tavatimsa heaven to repay his debt of gratitude:


The king of Tavatimsa heaven constructed three stairways - one each of gold, silver & ruby - for Buddha to descend from Mount Meru down to Sankisa, the abode of humans. Buddha chose the middle one of ruby (for some reason shown here in blue), & the four-faced Brahmas on the silver stairway sheltered him with an umbrella while devas on the gold stairway fanned him.

Stencilled on either side of the Buddha statue are four of the five Buddhas of the present universe:


Each is shown above the animal that brought them up, & which they are named after; from first to fourth - Kukusanto (Gakusandho, rooster, upper left), Konakhamano (naga, upper right), Kassapo (turtle, lower left), & Kotama (aka. Gautama, cow, lower right).

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