It is morning in Chiang Mai and the 5:00 a.m. temple bells are ringing. Heading out for a walk two hours later I notice the streets are already busy with whizzing vehicles. A barefoot monk passes me on the sidewalk. I feel his serene presence and sense his concentration. For a moment our eyes meet and in that second, we touch in silence.
Inside a temple compound I walk slowly around a stupa. On my third time around I notice the dog asleep on the ledge. He blends in with the stupa so naturally he looks like an ancient stone carving.
Back on the street again an adorable friend wags her tail thankful for the several minutes I spend scratching and rubbing her furry, itchy body.
Funny how you can pass the same way over and over again and completely not notice things. Today heading up Ratchadamnoen Street I discover a narrow passage that leads into a temple compound. How could I have missed this on my many walking trips down this street? I stroll inside to see a huge, and I mean HUGE pagoda rising hundreds of feet from the center of the courtyard. I read on a plaque this 14th century structure made from bricks is called Wat Chedi Luang or Wat Chotikaram.
The 600 year old structure formerly enshrined Buddha’s relics from Sri Lanka along with the emerald Buddha that was placed in its eastern niche. Covered in copper sheeting it must have appeared like a diadem rising towards the infinite sky. In 1545 an earthquake damaged half of the pagoda causing it to topple from its 86 meter height. It was restored in 1990 and although it never returned to its original grandeur the pagoda is venerated by Thai people today.
Surrounding the pagoda a series of buildings enshrine various images of the Buddha and other enlightened beings. A large reclining Buddha fills a shed-like structure on the western side of the courtyard.
Later I visit another temple complex down the road. It takes me a moment to realize the monks sitting before the shrine are not breathing! Their wax figures are so life-like I expect them to start chanting any moment.
….a signboard hanging from a tree imparts a message from the Buddha…
May all beings be peaceful and happy…