If you’re looking for a quiet sanctuary this coming Visaka Bucha Day, Wat Sanghathan is the perfect place to escape the clamour of Bangkok’s busy temples and relax in peaceful surroundings. Located just outside of Bangkok, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, this temple is just off the tourist radar and often gets overlooked by the majority of visitors. The best way to get there is to take the express boat to Nonthaburi pier and cross the river with the ferry then take a taxi or get in one of the red pick-up trucks. The temple is located off Rattanathibet Road down mangrove-lined roads and has 50 acres of secluded landscape gardens.
George W. Bush in a Buddhist Temple
The temple features numerous wood sculptures, the most exquisite of which is the wood temple near the floating meditation area. This marvellous temple is entirely made up of wood which has been beautifully carved to show characters from Thai mythology and folklore. Inside the wood temple there are numerous wood columns that have been carved to represent different countries and religions from around the world. The column that represents England, for example, has London buses carved on it and the Houses of Parliament. The United States of America shows a Native American Indian profile and, two airplanes flying into the Twin Towers. The column for Iraq has a carving of George W. Bush with a finger pointing in the air and next to him stands a soldier holding an automatic weapon. There are columns showing about 18 countries and religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. There is no column depicting Thailand but other Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar can be found. The wood temple is definitely worth a visit and is a great place to relax.
Flora and Fauna
Wat Sanghathan blends seamlessly into its natural surroundings, with small ponds and trees to create shade from the hot sun. Birds and animals abound and you will see turtles and frogs in the ponds as well as numerous small lizards in the trees. A few dogs will be lazing around in the sun, which is pretty typical for Thailand (the dog that always lies on the threshold to 7-Eleven, for example). There are plenty of places to sit down and take in the ambiance of the temple grounds.
Rising out of the tree canopy is the octagonal glass Uposatha Hall which houses the Luang Por Tho Buddha image. All around the hall are images painted onto the glass walls depicting the Buddha and his disciples. You will see a few people meditating in here and many people walk around the outer perimeter of the temple in a ritual known as wien tien.
The temple is most popular as a meditation centre and visitors are allowed to stay at the centre for 7 days. If you want to stay for longer, you have to request permission from Ajarn Sanong Katapunyo. The temple is friendly to foreigners and some of the monks can speak English. People who wish to stay there have to show there passport and provide two passport-sized photographs. You will also be required to agree to the eight precepts:
– Refrain from killing any living creature.
– Refrain from taking anything which does not belong to you.
– Refrain from any sexual activity.
– Refrain from telling lies or speaking impolitely.
– Refrain from drinking intoxicating liquors and taking drugs.
– Refrain from eating after 12 o’clock mid-day.
– Refrain from dancing, singing, listening to music, wearing jewellery, perfumes and cosmetics.
– Refrain from lying on a high and luxurious bed.
If you do wish to stay at the temple, be aware that mobile phones and smoking are not permitted and there is a daily schedule that must be followed:
– 04.00 a.m. Morning chanting until 04.30 – followed by sitting meditation.
– 06.00 a.m. Warm drinks.
– 07.30 a.m. Walking meditation.
– 09.00 a.m. Food from the Buffet.
– 12.30 p.m. Chanting and Meditation until 13.30 p.m.
– 15.30 p.m. Communal cleaning.
– 16.30 p.m. Walking meditation.
– 17.30 p.m. Drinks and rest period.
– 19.00 p.m. Evening chanting.
– 20.00 p.m. Sitting meditation at the Dhamma Hall.
Staying at the temple is a great way to immerse yourself in a different side of Thai culture and escape the hectic pace of modern life. The temple has modern amenities such as payphones and an ATM and there are a few toilets located around the vicinity.
For more information about retreats at Wat Sanghathan, contact:
Wat Sanghathan Meditation Center
Bangphai, Muang, Nonthaburi 11000, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0)89 0500052, +66 (0)84 0066080