Even though staying at the temple tried my patience and concentration, I actually learned a lot about Buddhism. We had two Dharma talks every day. The Dharma is the collective wisdom of Buddhist teaching, so a Dharma talk is the Buddhist equivalent of a sermon. One day, our teacher-monk took us around the temple an explained the significance of the different statues of Buddha. Each posture is associated with a day of the week. There are a total of eight because Thai culture separates Wednesday in to a morning and evening portion.
Saturday- When Buddha was meditating non-stop for months under the bodhi tree, a mythical cobra came to protect him from the rains.
Friday- After Buddha achieved Enlightenment, he had to decide between passing straight into Nirvana and staying to teach others how to gain freedom from life’s suffering. Buddha perceived four types of people in the world- those who can learn the Dharma almost instantaneously on hearing it, those who need teaching and further examples, those who need shown how to live the Dharma and those whose hearts aren’t yet open to the Dharma. Although most of the world belongs to the fourth, unteachable group, Buddha had compassion on the those who could be instructed and dedicated the rest of his life their edification. This statue shows Buddha observing the world and feeling compassion for them.
Thursday- This is the half-lotus position, the posture in which Buddha gained Enlightenment. Monks still sit this way when they are meditating. Buddha’s hand is pointed to the earth to show that he has sprinkled water on the ground as an offering to Mother Earth. Mother Earth repaid this dedication by helping to chase away Mara the Tempter’s three daughters (Greed, Hatred and Delusion) who attempted to distract Buddha while he was meditating under the bodhi tree.
Wednesday evening- Once, Buddha spent the rainy season meditating in the woods, away from the other monks’ dwelling place. The animals attending to him until the end of the rains.
Wednesday daytime- Buddha is collecting alms. Monks in Thailand still do this. All of the food I ate at the temple was alms food dedicated by the faithful.
Tuesday- Buddha is laying on the ground because he is about to die and finally pass into Nirvana.
Monday- Before Buddha became a wandering ascetic, he was the prince of a prosperous kingdom in northern India. His wife’s family also had a powerful presence in the area, and a conflict arose between her family and the Buddha’s over water rights. Before a war could start, however, Buddha was able to teach his family and in-laws that life is more important that any other earthly possession. I forgot to take a picture of this one. Sorry.
Sunday- After reaching Enlightenment, Buddha continued his meditation until he could perceive the Dharma clearly and completely. Looking to the six directions (north, south, east, west, to the sky and to the earth), Buddha was able to understand new aspects of the Dharma.