Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wat Sibounheuang

wat si boun heuang, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

I went out for a long bicycle ride today, passing this temple alone the Mekong River. A set of statues of the Buddha during different periods of his life. The main figure depicts his sitting in meditation under the Bodhi tree, protected from the rain by the seven-headed Naga King. Under the Bodhi tree, there are several small spirits houses where people make offerings to the spirit of the tree and the spirits of the place.

Most temples in Vientiane have a main Bodhi tree, and maybe several scattered on the grounds. The word "Bodhi" means enlightenment - from the story of the Lord Buddha, he was born a prince and left his idle life of riches to seek meaning. After six years of wandering with a group of ascetics, he felt that deprivations and starvation was not bringing him closer to his goal. He sat under the Bodhi tree and declared he would not move until he learned the truth.

Just as that moment, a young girl appeared, carrying a bowl of curd. She told the Buddha that he was too skinny and he should eat (this was in India but it could have been Lao, same advice I hear all the time!). He did eat and felt stronger - well prepared for his ordeal. After various trials during his six weeks, which included a thunderstorm where the Naga King protect him from the rain and fighting with the forces of Mara, delusion, he attained enlightenment. He understood the Four Noble Truths about suffering and its conquest, and the Eight-fold Path, a middle way which leads to greater understanding.

These trees are beautiful, sometimes getting to 100 feet high, and the heart-shaped leaves are about 8 inches long. Because of the shape of the leaves and stem, when the wind blows, they shimmer as they move back and forth. In a strong wind, they actually make a lot of noise.

Huh. I wanted to explain about the picture and it suddenly became a lecture.

1 comment:

Keera Ann Fox said...

No, not a lecture. A wonderful introduction into the significance and beauty of the tree of enlightenment. Thank you!