Wat Dhammamongkon: A Monk’s Dream
Wat Dhammamongkon might be too far away for some but it is definitely worth the trip. This temple can be visibly seen in several highly elevated places in Bangkok. A revered monk was said to have spent more than 20 years recluse in the forest. He came back to Bangkok to raise funds for this unique temple. The 95 meter high tower was completed in 1985. It was a modern interpretation of the tower that now marks the place where Buddha had his enlightenment in India.
Phra Viriyang the monk found himself to have that inner urging to share what he learned and to help the needy. He had a vision that compelled him to leave his retreat to make the arduous journey into Bangkok. When he reached the capital, he lived in a thatched hut on flat swampy grounds near Sukhumvit Soi 101. His neighbors were actually snakes but he was burning with passion to raise funds to turn his dream into reality. Temples were usually built near the water and he found this location to be the perfect spot for his temple. It took severalof years and a long wait before Thailand’s economy boom. He received only a couple of donations from 10 to 20 Baht from his devotees. Slowly the temple complex was beginning to take shape.
In 1979, he was given five Buddha relics and strands of Buddha’s hair from the Supreme Patriarch of Bangladesh. It was not until 1985 that the relics were placed where they should stay. He was not content with his accomplishments. He had continued to raise funds and built a total of 12 more temples in Thailand, a hospital in Chiang Mai and day care centers around the country to serve the poor. His influence at this time has spread beyond the borders of Thailand. As evidence, five Buddhist temples were build in Canada under his supervision.
For the uninitiated they only see monks while they pray and go around busy with their work. Young boys become novices at a young age but cannot be a monk until reaching the age of 20. Most monks only last up to three months while others remained as monks for the rest of their lives. Every day they wake up and meditate for an hour. After this they chant for another hour. They then proceed to walk barefoot around the temple grounds and neighborhood while the local people make merit by giving them food. They return to the temple to have their breakfast as they say a prayer for world peace. Before noon time they choose to eat a light lunch. This is the last solid food that they are allowed to eat before sunrise of the next day. These monks attend classes. The classes may be outside of the temple. This is why they can be seen in the temple grounds. To end their day they spend two hours of meditation and prayer and spend another two hours to do home work. The monks are given their set of household duties.
What to See
Wat Dhammamongkon is famous for its 30 foot Jade Buddha. It is listed under the Guinness Book of Records. The ceiling above this Jade Buddha shows scenes from the life of Prince Siddartha Gotama who later became the Buddha. Various collections of his teachings were attributed to him. These are passed down from followers to other followers through oral tradition. It was not until about 400 years ago when it was placed in writing.
Inside this temple are 12 floors that house the following rooms: classrooms that serve as career development center, radio station and museum. The museum starts from the 10th floor which is how far the elevator goes. The museum has a large collection of Buddhist text, various items owned by monks as well as other temple furnishings. These items are stuffed into display cases but there was no label to identify what they are. No interpretations were given which could help guest know more about what they are used for. Disappointingly so, the workmanship of the monumental buildings is rather poor which is why in 2011 it is in bad shape. As a result, the floor tiles were peeling off and chunks of plaster falling off. The ornamental pond which is supposed to be a centerpiece was leaking.
On top of the museum lies a meditation area and above this is the chapel where the bell shaped chedi can be found. The room inside this chedi is covered with mirrored tiles. Next to this tower lies a large domed shaped building which houses a large Buddha image carved in nephrite. Some mistook it for being made out of jade but it is actually nephrite due to the almost black consistency instead of the green that one usually finds in real jade. Inside the domed shaped building is a Buddha covered in bronze panels. The panels show the life of Buddha. Another statue can be found there which is Kwan Yin or Goddess of Mercy. It is made from the same material as that of the Buddha. For the past ten years; Kuan Im cult has become popular among Thai.
The school built in this temple is known as Willpower Institute. The temple is located on a seven acre property in an environment conducive to retreat. The center offers week long retreats for those who are interested. Registrations begin from 2pm to 4pm on Friday and it ends on Sunday at 4pm. Before the program starts it is advisable to submit documents a week before that. The program starts with a simple yoga meditation session. For those who are not interested to stay overnight they are not required to register. The temple is also known as the temple of the Auspicious Dhamma. Dhamma in Buddhism refers to the truth as taught by Buddha.
How to Get There
After the Skytrain has been extended, going down from Punnawithi Station will take just a short 10 minutes walk to the temple. This temple is located off Sukhumvit Soi 101 in the southeastern suburb of Bangkok.