Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Top 5 Temples in Thailand

Originally posted on on Sept 2, 2013

When we think of Thailand, sumptuous Thai food, its great beaches and islands and its spiritual temples come to mind. It’s Theravada Buddhist culture and deep belief in spirituality has ensured that Thailand is home to some of the most vibrant and beautiful Buddhist temples. While there are many beautiful Buddhist temples across the length and breadth of Thailand, here is my list of top 5 temples of Thailand.

Steep Flight of Stairs that lead to the top of Wat Arun

Wat Arun, Bangkok
This temple doesn’t need an introduction. It is so popular that is on the 10 baht coin. This temple known as the ‘temple of dawn’ towers on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. Apart from this 17th century, which is beautiful in itself, there are 2 things that make Wat Arun such a hot favorite. One, the first rays of the rising sun on the temple from the Chao Phraya river is a sight to behold. Second, the steep flight of steps that leads to a sensational view of Bangkok’s river side. You can either take a short boat ride or a longer route by road to reach this striking Bangkok landmark.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Even though Chiang Mai is a very famous temple city in itself, its most popular temple is located about 15 kms from the city and on a mountain called Doi Suthep. This temple, sacred to many Thai people, offers stunning views of the Chiang Mai city and is especially popular during sunsets. This 14th century temple is built on principles derived from Buddhism and Hinduism. Everything in the temple is gold plated and that includes its pagodas, statues, bells and shrines. This temple also carries a model of the revered Emerald Buddha.

Big Buddha Temple or Wat Phra Yai, Ko Samui
Most of the tourists visiting Ko Samui, do so for its beautiful beaches, but there is a deep Buddhist side to this tropical island too. And this can be seen through its most visible landmark, the Big Buddha temple that can be seen when people fly into Ko Samui. This temple with the 12 meter seated Buddha statue is situated on the north east corner of the island on Koh Faan that is connected to Koh Samui by a causeway. The Buddha here is seated in the Mara posture that symbolizes steadfastness, purity and enlightenment. All the Ko Samui hotels would happily arrange a tour if you are interested in visiting this iconic Ko Samui landmark.

Reflections of the White Temple, Chiang Rai

White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), Chiang Rai
This has got to be the prettiest temple in the whole of Thailand even though it is a contemporary and unconventional Buddhist temple. Like the name suggests, everything in this temple is white in colour. Be it the fish in it ponds, the statue of Buddha, its carvings, its walls and all its stupas, everything is white. The special aspect of this temple is the creative imagination that was used by its designer Chalermchai Kosipipat. The construction of this temple began in 1997 and is still in construction, though tourists and devotees are allowed to visit.

One of the temples in the Ayyuthaya historical park

Ayutthaya Historical Temple Complex, Ayutthaya
The ancient capital of Thailand is Thailand’s temple center. There are so many beautiful temples here that one can get lost in temple lore for a long time. The rich history and its ancient feel is what draws people from far and wide. Whether it is the Phra Chedi Chaimongol temple, the sleeping Buddha, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Phra Mahathat or Wat Ratchaburana, the temples of Ayutthaya have a lot of stories to share. Its vast ruins give you an idea of its majestic past and a guided tour over a long duration can help you transfer yourself to an Ayutthaya era.

Definition List:
  • sumptuous: very expensive and looking very impressive
  • to ensure: to make sure that something happens or is definite
  • vibrant: full of life and energy
  • steadfastness: not changing in your attitudes or aims
  • iconic: acting as a sign or symbol of something
  • landmark: a building or a place that is very important because of its history, and that should be preserved
Pronunciation MP3:
= sumptuous
= ensure
= vibrant
= steadfastness
= iconic
= landmark

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What do Buddhists believe?

by Karen Maezen Miller

From time to time I’m asked this question: What do Buddhists believe?

I don’t know what some Buddhists believe, but I like to respond that Buddhism requires no beliefs. That’s rather hard to believe. And so I offer this solely as my own testimony.

I believe in love. Not the love that is the enemy of hate, but the love that has no enemies or rivals, no end and no reason, no justification and no words. Love and hate are completely unrelated and incomparable. Hate is born of human fear. Love is never born, which is to say, it is eternal and absolutely fearless. This love does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in truth. Not the truth that is investigated or exposed, interpreted or proven. But the truth that is revealed, inevitably and without a doubt, right in front of my eyes. All truth is self-revealed; it just doesn’t always appear as quickly or emphatically as I’d like it to. This truth does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in freedom. Not the freedom that is confined or decreed by ideology, but the freedom that is free of all confining impositions, definitions, expectations and doctrines. Not the freedom in whose name we tremble and fight, but the freedom that needs no defense. This freedom does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in justice. Not the justice that is deliberated or prosecuted; not that is weighed or measured or meted by my own corruptible self-interest. I believe in the unfailing precision of cause and effect, the universal and inviolable law of interdependence. It shows itself to me in my own suffering every single time I act with a savage hand, a greedy mind or a selfish thought. It shows itself in the state of the world, and the state of the mind, we inhabit. This justice does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in peace. Not the peace that is a prize. Not the peace that can be won. There is no peace in victory; there is only lasting resentment, recrimination and pain. The peace I seek is the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is the peace that is always at hand. No matter what you believe, this peace does not require belief, it requires practice.

I believe in wisdom. Not the wisdom that is imparted or achieved; not the wisdom sought or the wisdom gained. But the wisdom that we each already own as our birthright. The wisdom that manifests in our own clarity and selflessness, and that we embody as love, truth, freedom, justice and peace. The wisdom that is practice.

English PDFMP3

Originally published on Shambhala SunSpace,
reprinted here with author's permission


Errant mother, delinquent wife, reluctant dog walker, expert laundress, and stationmaster of the full catastrophe. Author of "Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood" and the forthcoming "Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for An Ordinary Life.

Her blog is at

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Everyday Mind

Everyday Mind
edited by Jean Smith

"By closing ourselves away from suffering, we also close ourselves to our own wellspring of compassion. We don't need to be particularly saintly in order to be compassionate. Compassion is the natural response of an open heart, but that wellspring of compassion remains capped as long as we turn away from or deny or resist the truth of what it is. When we deny our experience of suffering, we move away from what is genuine to what is fabricated, deceptive, and confusing." Joseph Goldstein

"(Spiritual) Practice cannot be measured in time, so let go the whole notion of when and how long. The practice is a process unfolding, and it unfolds in its own time. We do not need any particular length of time for this process of letting things be." Joseph Goldstein

"...Buddha-nature requires no additions. One does not have to memorize sutras, recite prayers, or accumulate virtues to create it. All one needs to do is unveil it." B. Alan Wallace

"Whenever we have the desire to blame others, speak harshly or cause disruption we should practice this technique of non-reaction." Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

"Some people practice throughout their entire lives just by paying attention to breathing. Everything that is true about anything is true about breath: it's impermanent; it arises and it passes away." Sylvia Boorstein

"Sometimes we think that to develop an open heart, to be truly loving and compassionate, means that we need to be passive, to allow others to abuse us, to smile and let anyone do what they want with us. Yet this is not what is meant by compassion. Quite the contrary. Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that arises out of seeing the true nature of suffering in the world. Compassion allows us to bear witness to that suffering, whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception." Sharon Salzberg

"The suffering itself is not so bad, it's the resentment against suffering that is the real pain." Allen Ginsberg
Health is the greatest gain.
Contentment is the greatest wealth.
A trustworthy friend is the best of kin.
Unconditional freedom is the highest bliss.

from the Dhammapada
"In spiritual life there is no room for compromise. Awakening is not negotiable; we cannot bargain to hold on to things that please us while relinquishing things that do not matter to us. A lukewarm yearning for awakening is not enough to sustain us through the difficulties involved in letting go. It is important to understand that anything that can be lost was never truly ours, anything that we deeply cling to only imprisons us." Christina Feldman & Jack Kornfield

"Here's how mindfulness changes karma. When you sit, you are not allowing your impulses to translate into action. For the time being, at least, you are just watching them. Looking at them, you quickly see that all impulses in the mind arise and pass away, that they have a life of their own, that they are not you but just thinking, and that you do not have to be ruled by them. Not feeding or reacting to impulses, you come to understand their nature as thoughts directly. This process actually burns up destructive impulses in the fires of concentration and equanimity and non-doing. At the same time, creative insights and creative impulses are no longer squeezed out so much by the more turbulent, destructive ones. They are nourished as they are perceived and held in awareness." Jon Kabat-Zinn

"There is another word for self-discipline. It is patience." Henepola Gunaratana
"Mindfulness challenges us to stay with things as they are and to change our lives through action that harms no one. Working together, mindfully and compassionately, we can create a community in which all our livelihoods are 'right'." Claude Whitmyer

"Spirituality based on self-hatred can never sustain itself. Generosity coming from self-hatred becomes martyrdom. Morality born of self-hatred becomes rigid repression. Love for others without the foundation of love for ourselves becomes a loss of boundaries, codependency, and a painful and fruitless search for intimacy. But when we contact, through meditation, our true nature, we can allow others to also find theirs." Sharon Salzberg

"A single act of giving has a value beyond what we can imagine. So much of the spiritual path is expressed and realized in giving: love, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity; letting go of grasping, aversion, and delusion. To give is powerful. That is why the Buddha said that if we knew, as he did, the power of giving, we would not let a single meal pass without sharing some of it." Sharon Salzberg

"In the long run causing others misery and infringing on their rights to peace and happiness results in anxiety, fear and suspicion within oneself." The Dalai Lama

"The fact that it's in the nature of minds for storms to arise and pass away is not a problem. It helps in keeping the spirits up to remember that the weather is going to change. Our difficult mind states become a problem only if we believe they are going to go on forever." Sylvia Boorstein

"The basic precepts are not passive. They can actively express a compassionate heart in our life. Not killing can grow into a reverence for life, a protective caring for all sentient beings who share life with us. Not stealing can become the basis for a wise ecology, honoring the limited resources of the earth and actively seeking ways to live and work that share our blessings worldwide. From this spirit can come a life of natural and healing simplicity. Our of not lying we can develop our voice to speak for compassion, understanding, and justice. Out of nonharming sexuality, our most intimate relations can also become expressions of love, joy, and tenderness. Out of not abusing intoxicants or becoming heedless, we can develop a spirit that seeks to live in the most awake and conscious manner in all circumstances." Jack Kornfield

"Life never stops. The torment of men will be eternal, unless the function of creating and acting and changing, living intensely through each day, be considered an eternal joy." Le Corbusier

"Morality as taught by way of rules is extremely powerful and valuable in the development of practice. It must be remembered first that it, like all the techniques in meditation, is merely a tool to enable one to eventually get to that place of unselfishness where morality and wisdom flow naturally." Jack Kornfield

"(Self-discipline) is the skill at seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret. They have no power over you. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit." Henepola Gunaratana

"How to make our lives an embodiment of wisdom and compassion is the greatest challenge spiritual seekers face. The truths we have come to understand need to find their visible expression in our lives. Our every thought, word, or action holds the possibility of being a living expression of clarity and love. It is not enough to be a possessor of wisdom. Wisdom is alive only as long as it is lived, understanding is liberating only as long as it is applied. Knowledge and achievements matter little if we do not yet know how to touch the heart of another and be touched." Christina Feldman & Jack Kornfield

"Renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but accepting that they go away." Suzuki

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ego, Attachment and Liberation

Ego, Attachment and Liberation
by Lama Yeshe

What I would like is for each of you to become a wise human being instead of one dominated by the energy force of a super-sensitive ego.

When your mind is occupied by ego energy, it's like constantly having needles stuck into your body. That would be pretty uncomfortable. Thus, you can realize how important it is to release attachment and ego. If you can manage to do so, you will realize everlasting joy, inner freedom, inner liberation, doesn't matter what you call it.

For those seekers investigating the nature of inner reality, problems help; instead of harming, problems benefit them. Problems give them more energy, greater wisdom and deeper realizations. Negative experiences become positive. They don't even see such experiences as negative but as opportunities to learn.

...think, "How lucky I am to have questions. For such a long time I have accepted being under the control of ego and attachment without question. For once I am trying to understand and control my own internal world; therefore it's good to have questions."

What you need to decide once and for all is: "I'm tired of being a servant to my ego. My ego rules my mind and even though it continuously gives me nothing but trouble and not time for rest, I still spend my entire life as its servant. My mind is constantly in turmoil only because of my ego. I'm not going to be a slave to my ego any longer!"

...we need to preserve our precious human body to use it intelligently for inner growth. Our body is sort of on loan, like a rented house. We have to look after it so that we can practice Dharma properly.

The most important thing is to dedicate whatever you do to others. That is of prime importance.

However - forget about realizing enlightenment - if the teachings you take help you see things more clearly, make your life easier, improve your communication with others and make you friendlier toward other sentient beings, taking them has been most worthwhile. should decide once and for all to stop bowing down before attachment. "Although I think I'm very intelligent, I recognize now that I have always blindly followed attachment to objects as seen by my ego. I'm not intelligent: I'm silly. I'll never again be ruled by attachment or bow to that destructive mind."

...don't be attached to any ideas, even those of Buddhism or whatever else you're doing. Just put your Dharma into action; practice as much as you can. If you can do that, it will be wonderful. If somebody tells you they're following another religion and you feel negative or insecure, that's a mistake. Instead, be glad that that person is seeking inner truth and can see the possibility of developing his or her mind. Instead of feeling jealous or insecure, respect that person and rejoice.

Trying to release attachment and being concerned for the welfare of other sentient beings are not at all Tibetan culture; they are no particular people's culture. What ordinary people consider culture is that which developed by attachment to sense pleasure, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with Dharma knowledge-wisdom. Dharma knowledge-wisdom is nobody's culture. It is only wisdom culture; universal wisdom culture.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Breakfast with Buddha

Breakfast with Buddha
by Roland Merullo

Everyone going, always going, always hurrying, but headed where?

I think sometimes that our national obsession with sex is really nothing more than a profound spiritual longing in disguise: the desire to exhaust all other desires and feel loved and sated, at peace with our fragmented modern selves, linked to those around us. At peace, at rest.

When you are a crank, you put yourself on the top of the list of people you make miserable.

It's not about religion, it's about relationship.

...if Christ's message could be distilled down to one line, that line would have to do with kindness and inclusiveness, not rules and divisiveness.
"Work out your own salvation with diligence." Buddha
What difference makes what you believe? What happens will happen anyway, exactly the same, no matter what you believe. What you do makes the important part, what you do.
You change your spiritual condition - by prayer, by meditation, by the way you live, the way you decide to think, by the lessons you learn in living this life with good intentions - and then, when this happens, after a long time or a short time, the way you see the world changes.

"How does one get one's mind that clean?" That is the very best question... The answer is a simple answer, but very hard also: Life a good life. Help people. Meditate. Live another good life. Meditate some more. Don't hurt. Don't hurt.

When your mind is more clear, you see the true way the world is made. When you see the true way the world is made, you feel at peace inside. You see how you make your own world, so then you can make a difference if you want.

...I was in control of my spiritual situation, not God; that we had been given the tools for an expanded consciousness and it was up to us to use them, not simply wait around for death and salvation.

People make their armor from their smartness, their anger, or their quiet, or their fear, or their being busy, or their being nice. Some people make it from a big show, always talking. Some make it by being very important. Many people do not make it, though, and those people can begin to see the world as it is.

Every day, many times every day, you can go one way or the other way. You can go with anger or not go. Go with greed or not go. Go with hate or not go. Go with eating too much or sexing too much, or not go. Two ways. These feel like small things, small choices, but every day, across one life, across many, many lives, if you choose the good way, again and again and again, in what you are thinking and what you are doing, if you choose to go away from anger not toward, away from hate, not toward, away from armor, not toward, away from falseness, not toward...then you become this person like you - good, not stealing, not hurting. Some people make good choices in their past lives and so, like you, they are given maybe an easy life for this time. Not the perfect life, not the life with no trouble or pain in it at all, but a life where it easier to turn the mind to the spiritual part...
     So you have a small quiet space in your mind from that. And that quiet space gives you a chance to see deep, deep into the world if you want to. Another choice, yes? You can take that choice and look deep, or no. But if a person goes the other way, little choice and little choice toward the bad and the selfish, life after life, hour after hour, then this spirit does not have the good incarnation, so does not have the quiet space. Sometimes that person becomes the one who kills, who rapes, who hurts. Other times, in this life, they maybe make a big change to the good. Do you see?
     There are people who are past being hurt, beyond being hurt. You should know this is true. You should try to become one of these people, to make an understanding with yourself that you are not your body, that you are something bigger. That is your work on this earth, do you see? Every experience here is to teach you to do that. Living, dying, every experience.

...God is just giving out love and giving out love and giving out love, like a very nice music is always playing. If you hurt people you make yourself deaf to this music, that's all. Not God's fault, your fault. Not God's judgment, your choice, you see? Life and life you make yourself no chance, and then one life maybe you start to change, and be a little quiet inside, and listen to this music that is always there - for you, for the bad people, always there. Even the most bad people live in their trouble for thousands of lives, and then, one moment, they chose a different way. They go this way and not that way. One choice, another choice. They start to come on the long trip home.

At some point you had to risk the ridicule of the mob, of your own internalized voices, and try to see clearly what had been set in front of you in this life, and try to act on that as bravely and honestly as you could, no matter what kind of rules you'd previously been living by.