Pictured is a taxi driver by the name of Mr. Seton and myself. This past weekend, the majority of students took a trip to Chiang Rai ( the northernmost province of Thailand. I took the opportunity to visit some famous temples- the white temple, the blue temple, the black house, and the massive Kuan Im temple. When I say massive, I mean unfathomably so.
At each site, it was dazzlingly evident that great effort and skill were put into the construction of these marvels. The white temple, Wat Rong Khun, is a masterwork created by Chalermchai Kositpipat. His works span from astoundingly detailed depictions of heavens and mystical guardians in Buddhist cosmolgy to intricate infusions of cultural commentary and said guardians. He also constructed the blue temple Wat Rong Suea Ten, an equally glorious exhibition. These structures embody a degree of reverence and beauty I’ve yet to see surpassed. I’m inspired to bring the same amount of skill and attention-to-detail to my own practices.
The black house, Baan Dam, was something different entirely. While one may go to the blue temple or white temple to contemplate the qualities of The Buddha or heaven, they may then go to Baan Dam to witness hell. Thawan Duchanee displays bones, carcasses, crude phalices, and a mutlitde of paintings and drawings depicting horrific hellbeasts. Death contemplation is easy in that environment. Certainty surrounds one’s heart when gazing at the skin of a crocodile surrounded by the skeletons of buffalo.
The main event of my stay in Chiang Mai was most certainly my fast friendship with Mr. Seton. He was the one and only taxi driver I spent time with in Chiang Mai, he chauffered us everywhere. On Saturday, some friends and I went to the Kuan Im temple. While waiting for the others to show up, Mr. Seton and I struck up a conversation in broken English and Thai. It was great language practice; but the most productive bit was learning about a great monk who had consecrated a protective amulet for him. He was a Muay Thai champion and was quite proud of this. I asked Mr. Seton to take me to the Kruba Luang Phor (great teacher/monk) temple the next day. To say the least, my experience was unique and memorable. Luang Phor was kind and patient in my asking him questions in poorly spoken Thai. He unexpected gave my friend and I a blessing and sent us on our way.
After dropping off my friend at his hotel and a quick lunch, I asked Mr. Seton to take me to a specific Wat (temple). I told him the name and he told me a name that sounded very similar, therefore I assumed he simply pronounced the same Wat differently. I was wrong. He took me to a completely different Wat quite far away (about an hour). This was a blessing. Exactly what I was looking for happened to be in the hospitality and kindness of the Abbott. He allowed me to meditate in their cave-turned-meditation hall, he offered me to come stay and receive meditation teachings. Luang Phor (an affectionate term referring to an older monk, usually honorific in a sense) spoke almost no English but listened to be attentively. Mr. Seton did me the favor of being an enthusiastic advocate, vouging for my inquiries and sincerity. I appreciate his friendship and hope to return to Chiang Rai soon enough.
It’s experienced like this that reaffirm my determination.
Thank you for reading and take care.