Making Merits at Wat Prayoon, ทำบุญไหว้พระที่วัดประยุรวงศาวาส, Market Friday

This is my entry for #marketfriday hosted by the gentle and compassionate @dswigle. It seems that I still have to catch up with some lost time. I should meditate and try to extend the duration of time so that I could slow down a bit. I must have spent a lot of time in Buddhist temples in my past life as I have a weak spot for old temples with forgotten history.

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An old Chinese plague in front of the Viharn (Temple Hall) telling me that this temple had been thriving during the period of King Rama III. The main patron of the temple must have Chinese ancestors. The red incense pot was also an antique piece made from cast iron. Luckily, it looked quite tatty and did not attract much attention.

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Walking around these Buddhist temples which had been carefully and faithfully built by past generations of dedicated Buddhists, I often wonder about their thoughts and lifestyle in the past. So, visiting this 192 years old temple did make me wonder whether I had once walked around this ground hundreds of years ago. I felt like this temple used to be my frequent venue for Buddhist ceremonies; this place have a strong sense of familiarity.

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The big Buddha statue inside the Viharn was over two hundred years old which was transferred from the old capital of Sukhothai in 1831 or 188 years ago. The Buddha’s name is Phra Phutta-Naga-Noi or Small Naga-Buddha. Local people on this side of the river, where the first Palace of the Great King Taksin was built and Thonburi being the first Siamese capitol after the end of Ayutthaya period, have always been very proud of their historical heritage. So, there has been a great sense of community and cooperation among these local people.

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Buddhists’ custom is to make merits whenever we visit a temple especially on important religious days. They would either bring along a bag full of household items such as soap, toothpaste, towel, cleaning brushes, tea and coffee, some basic medicine and sandals to offer to a monk. This ritual is called offering Sangha-Tana or making merits by giving ‘physical’ donation to monks. The purpose of the giver may be to enhance personal well being or to send the resulting merits to deceased family members in other intangible world or dimension. The monk will chant a Pali mantra while the person would be pouring water from a small brass bottle into a small brass bowl. This represents the transferring of the resulting merits to all the spirits of departed love ones. Then, the person would take the water bowl outside to pour onto the roots of a big tree. In this way, Mother Earth or Phra Mae Thoranee will become the messenger for forwarding this merits to the intended destination.

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I noticed that there were minimum decorations inside this Viharn which was constructed for this big Buddha statue in 1831. I felt very hopeful seeing new or younger generation of people showing spiritual inclination and gentle humbleness, with giving spirit. There is hope that true Buddhist spirit may survive the waves of materialistic progress for several hundred years.

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A small representative model of the big Buddha was placed outside the Viharn so that people could pay respect with candles, incense and gold leafs.

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The intricate decorations and newly renovated wall paintings of the Ordination Hall or Ubosod came as a stark contrast to the simplicity of the Viharn.

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This Ubosod has gone through several renovations and constructions during the reigns of King Rama III and IV, and again after the Second World War as many buildings were damaged during the Allied bombing of Bangkok. In 1828, a high ranking feudal Lord in the Reign of King Rama III ordered a new Buddha statue to be casted in bronze; a Japanese craftsman was hired to do the gold gilded of the statue. So, this was the first Buddha statue being gilded by a Japanese expert in his craft; that’s why the golden colour always looks bright and beautiful.

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The large Ordination Hall or Ubosod made me feel very small and overwhelmed by the vibrant Buddha statue. This temple’s opulence could rival those temples on the other side of the river. This rich surroundings reflected the historical importance of the old capitol on this side. There were elderly monks performing rituals which had been invented ages ago and absorbed into routine temple rituals. In the past, Thai warriors had to combat with swords at close range so they needed psychological support in terms of Buddhist amulets or magical souvenirs invented by monks. So, nowadays folk culture is full of amazing types of amulets and magical objects. But for ordinary people, it is very suspicious to have a monk tying a white cotton thread or strands of colourful cotton strings around the wrist. These were prepared by putting them on a large tray in chanting rituals by all the monks on religious days. So, people believe in the positive vibes of the chanting in these cotton strings.

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The other important ritual is the sprinkling of holy water on people’s heads by the monk. The big brass bowl with clean water would be placed in front of the shrine in the Ubosod so that the water will be blessed daily during the monks’ chanting in the morning and evening. Water has memory so I guess powerful chanting of old mantras would exude positive vibes which could be remembered by water molecules. In some famous temples, people would go there with empty bottles to get some holy water to be used at home. They believe that powerful holy water would help curing their illness, chase away bad luck and protect them from black magic. To my surprise, I could tell the difference between holy water which has just been through a few chanting ceremonies and the really powerful one which had bent through weeks of chantings.

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เราคงต้องเคยชอบเดินเล่นในวัดเก่าแก่มากในชาติก่อนๆ เราพึ่งรู้ว่าตนเองชอบวัดมาก และชอบเที่ยววัดเก่าๆที่มีอะไรแปลกให้ชมและเรียนรู้ วัดประยุรวงศาวาสเป็นวัดเก่าที่มีพระพุทธรูปมาจากสุโขทัยในพระวิหารมีชื่อว่า พระพุทธนาคน้อย ซึ่งถูกอัญเชิญมาจากสุโขทัยเมื่อปี 2374 ประมาณ188ปีมาแล้ว ภายในพระวิหารมีวัยรุ่นมาทำบุญกรวดน้ำด้วย งานประจำปีของวัดนี้มีคนในท้องที่มาเที่ยวและทำบุญกันหนาแน่นมาก เราเห็นแล้วก็พอมีความหวังว่า พุทธศาสนาจะอยู่คู่เมืองไทยไปอีกนาน ที่น่าสังเกตคือพระวิหารไม่มีการตกแต่งอย่างอลังการเหมือนในโบสถ์ แต่ขนาดของพระพุทธนาคน้อยนั้นขนาดใหญ่คับพระวิหารเลย สงสัยจริงว่าคนโบราณหล่อพระพุทธรูปขนาดใหญ่แบบนี้ได้กันอย่างไร

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ในโบสถ์นั้นมีพระพุทธรูปปางมารวิชัยที่สวยงามมาก สร้างโดยเจ้าพระยามหาประยูรวงศ์ ในปี2371 โดยได้จ้างช่างญี่ปุ่นมาทำการปิดทองทั้งองค์ นับว่าเป็นพระพุทธรูปองค์แรกที่ปิดทองโดยช่างจากญี่ปุ่น ซึ่งมีฝีมือดีมาก พระพุทธรูปเหลืองอร่ามดูเหมือนใหม่ตลอดแม้ว่าจะมีอายุกว่า 192ปีแล้ว ในโบสถ์มีความกว้างใหญ่โอ่โถงมาก และพึ่งทำการทาสีใหม่เมื่อปีก่อน ทำให้ดูงามมาก มีคนมาให้พระผูกสายสินธ์ที่ข้อมือ และมีคนมาขอให้พระพรมน้ำมนต์ให้ตลอดวัน เพื่อเป็นขวัญกำลังใจและเพื่อชีวิตที่มีมงคลนั่นเอง

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I liked the painting on the old wooden door of the Ubosod. These colours looked more natural whereas the newly renovated wall paintings were a bit too bright. They told the stories of Lord Buddha’s life and some parts from the old Ramayana Epic with the existence of monkey-man, big and small giants, legendary animals and the Devadas or angels.

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Wishing you peace, good health and prosperity.

Cheers.