First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby gavesako » Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:04 pm

"To stop doing evil is more important than performing merit. Even criminals can make merit." - Ajahn Chah

A few interesting points here: a Thai criminal in exile finances the building of a huge temple in China to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries and to reflect true Thai-ness, in cooperation with the high-ranking monks who congratulate him on his efforts. (And how did they manage to make a Sima boundary for a Theravada temple inside an already existing Mahayana temple? A sign of true religious harmony? $$$)





Theravada goes to China
A magnificent Buddhist house of worship opens in Luoyang, Henan province, after 20 years in the making

Published: 4/08/2012 at 02:28 AM
When the first Thai temple of the Theravada doctrine opened in China, the story emerged of the unique way it was conceived and built and, more significantly, who was behind it.

First, Wat Hame Assavaram is a temple within a temple. It occupies a space inside the Baima Si Temple, which in English has the catchy name White Horse Temple.

Wat Hame Assavaram also adheres to the conservative Theravada sect of Buddhism while Bai Si Temple _ the first Buddhist temple in China _ observes the new-school Mahayana tradition.

The two temples in Luoyang, the country's long-time capital city in Henan province, recently welcomed the man who made Wat Hame Assavaram possible and after whom the temple was named.

Thai criminal fugitive Vatana Asavahame presided over the burying of the luk nimit sacred stone orb in the temple's grounds on July 20. Where the orb is dropped designates the perimeter (Sima) of the main chapel.

It was the first time Vatana has appeared in the media spotlight in four years since fleeing a 10-year jail term imposed on him by the Supreme Court in the Klong Dan water treatment facility case in Samut Prakan in 2008.

He said despite his circumstances, he has found solace in making merit.

Vatana's connection with the Baima Si Temple goes back more than 20 years to when he was deputy interior minister.

During a visit to China at the time, he felt there should be a Thai temple in the country. He discovered a suitable location at the Baima Si Temple, which he grew attached to since his Chinese ancestral surname and Asavahame mean horse.

He knew then that he was going to build an architecturally authentic Thai temple at the Baima Si Temple site. However, the early structure erected for worship showed no physical semblance of a functional temple.

Distance hindered progress of the temple plan, which at times had to be put on hold as Vatana was too busy with work to fly to China to follow up on the construction.

It wasn't until two years ago while he was in exile that he started to think seriously about resuming the project and getting it finished.

He raised 200 million baht, most of which is believed to have come from his own pocket, to finance the construction.

The fruit of his labour is a meticulously-built principal chapel or ubosoth steeped in bona fide Thai architecture, standing imposingly on a seven-rai compound inside the Baima Si Temple.

The temple is equipped with a belfry, a Buddhist scripture pavilion and living quarters for the monks.

Vatana recalled one of his early visits to the Baima Si Temple and saw the Hame Assavaram project in disarray.

His first thought was the old chapel housing the principal Buddha image _ a replica of Phra Buddha Chinnarat, the most revered Buddha statue in Phitsanulok _ had to be rebuilt to make it look more Thai in appearance.

``Also to me, the Phra Buddha Chinnarat image had a rather grim face. The chapel itself was more Chinese than Thai to people's eyes,'' Vatana said.

He harboured a strong wish to commission a new chapel which would look and feel every bit a Thai temple.

He immediately consulted the Baima Si Temple executive committee and Luoyang city's ecclesiastical organisation on how to turn his vision into reality.

``I told myself I will construct this temple with my heart,'' he said.

The blueprint of the chapel was spread out for the Chinese authorities to see and give feedback about. Some of them suggested it should replicate the exterior of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok or a Thai palace.

``We rolled out all of the temple's construction plans for their inspection. The plans had been approved by the Thai Fine Arts Department and the National Office of Buddhism,'' he said.

But he insisted the facade of the chapel must be stylised to reflect Thai-ness.

The whole process of the temple's construction was supervised by Pra Thep Sitthikosol, abbot of Wat Plabprachai, who had been through many monastic construction tasks in the past.

``I went to China three times a month to monitor the project,'' the monk said.

``Over the two-year construction period, I was in close consultation with Vatana and heard his opinions,'' he added.

The work proceeded well with consistent cooperation from the Baima Si Temple's present abbot, the venerable Yen Ler.

``We had invited abbot Yen Ler to several international Buddhist conferences in Thailand. We also brought him to meet with Somdej Kiew,'' Phra Thep Sitthikosol said, referring to Somdej Phra Puthajarn, the widely respected abbot of Wat Srakesa in Bangkok.

To ensure the new chapel displayed the true integrity of Thai art, a team of architects, engineers and artisans regularly went to China to carry out the project.

However, extreme weather hampered the construction progress. The temperature at the temple site would drop to minus 40C in winter and soar to almost 40C in summer.

Meanwhile, all of the temple's components, such as roof tiles, wooden panels and frames, had to be imported from Thailand and delivered by ship or airplane.

Once the chapel was finished, the next task was to figure out how to keep and maintain the temple.

Phra Thep Sitthikosol said Wat Hame Assavaram plans to set up 10 funds, worth one million baht each, in order to pay for the temple's routine expenses, absorb the costs of maintenance and organise religious ceremonies.

``The paintings of the Lord Buddha's life drawn by Thai artists will be displayed here to propagate a religious cause and strengthen bilateral ties with China,'' Phra Thep Sitthikosol said.

At the July 20 orb burying ceremony, more than 100 senior monks from all parts of Thailand attended the religious event. Somdej Kiew appeared on a video link at the event.

He said Vatana's deed in building the temple in China would be a blessing to his life.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/feature/reli ... s-to-china



"As long as they [politicians] still play politics in such a way, national reconciliation will not have a chance. They don't care for the country," the fugitive politician said in China

Vatana Asavahame sprinkles petals over a holy luk nimit orb during his recent visit to a Thai temple he commissioned in Luoyang, China.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/3 ... for-future

:spy:

Compare: http://asiancorrespondent.com/20564/vatana-asavahame/

:broke:
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby gavesako » Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:31 pm

Dhammapada 84: "For his own sake or for the sake of others, he does no evil; nor does he wish for sons and daughters or for wealth or for a kingdom by doing evil; nor does he wish for success by unfair means; such a one is indeed virtuous, wise and just."
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Re: First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby pilgrim » Wed Aug 15, 2012 2:20 am

Bhante, I don't know in what way it qualifies as the 1st Thai temple in China. Surely there are numerous Thai style temples in the southern Yunnan province built by the Tai ethnic group, who are basically Thais.
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Re: First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby gavesako » Wed Aug 15, 2012 2:48 pm

Yes, that is true, in Yunnan the population belongs to the Tai ethnic group. But it is seen as a regional anomaly I suppose. This new temple is in a central Chinese province.

________


Dhammapada Verse 108
Sariputtattherassa sahayaka brahmana Vatthu

Yamkinci yittham va hutam va loke
samvaccharam yajetha punnapekkho
sabbampi tam na catubhagameti
abhivadana ujjugatesu seyyo.

Verse 108: In this world, one may make sacrificial offerings, great and small, all the year round, in order to gain merit; all these offerings are not worth a quarter of the merit gained by worshipping the Noble Ones (Ariyas) who walk the right path.


The Story of Thera Sariputta's Friend

While residing at the Veluvana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (108) of this book, with reference to a friend of Thera Sariputta.

On one occasion Thera Sariputta asked his friend, a brahmin, whether he was doing any meritorious deeds and he replied that he had been making sacrificial offerings on a big scale, hoping to get to the Brahma world in his next existence. Thera Sariputta told him that his teachers had given him false hopes and that they themselves did not know the way to the Brahma world. Then he took his friend to the Buddha, who showed him the way to the Brahma world. To the friend of Thera Sariputta, the Buddha said, "Brahmin, worshipping the Noble Ones (Ariyas) only for a moment is better than making sacrificial offerings, great and small, throughout the year."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 108: In this world, one may make sacrificial offerings, great and small, all the year round, in order to gain merit; all these offerings are not worth a quarter of the merit gained by worshipping the Noble Ones (Ariyas) who walk the right path.
At the end of the discourse the brahmin attained Sotapatti Fruition.

http://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/ve ... ?verse=108
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby gavesako » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:11 pm

The Baima-si temple is an important place in Chinese Buddhist history and you can worship the graves of the first (successful) Buddhist missionaries to China. The Luoyang - Xian area is full of Buddhist sacred sites and very inspiring for those with a love for the history of Buddhism in China. That is probably why it was chosen as the best place for a Thai temple to be built there.
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Re: First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby manas » Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:26 am

gavesako wrote:Dhammapada 84: "For his own sake or for the sake of others, he does no evil; nor does he wish for sons and daughters or for wealth or for a kingdom by doing evil; nor does he wish for success by unfair means; such a one is indeed virtuous, wise and just."
'


Greetings Bhante,

some criminals would have gambled the money away, or spent it on women, intoxication, etc...at least he didn't waste the money on more badness. Even though his understanding is faulty (he might be thinking he can now 'get away with' what he did before, kammically), isn't a good act still good, even if the motivation is a bit misguided? But I do agree that it is a symptom of how 'merit' is misunderstood in most of the Buddhist world. People often seem to see it as a sort of commodity, like shares or something. I also know of Western Buddhists (I've met some in real life) who also are tinged with this mentality.

:namaste:
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Re: First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby gavesako » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:26 am

Did you ever read the story of Bodhidharma and the Chinese emperor?

http://monkeytree.org/silkroad/mindbody/emperor.html


The emperor practiced the outward behaviors of Buddhism; he wore Buddhist robes, abstained from eating meat, build many temples and supported hundreds of monks and nuns. The emperor was proud of his knowledge of Buddhism and his support of Buddhism in his kingdom. He asked Bodhidharma, "Since I came to the throne, I have built many temples, published numerous scriptures and supported countless monks and nuns. How great is the merit in all these?"

"No merit to speak of.", was the shocking reply of Bodhidharma. The emperor had often heard renowned masters say, "Do good, and you will receive good; do bad and you will receive bad. The Law of Cause and Effect is unchangeable, effects follow causes as shadows follow figures." But now, this foreign sage declared that all his efforts had earned no merit at all.

The emperor failed to understand that one is not practising Buddhism if one does good with the desire to gain merit for oneself. It will be more like promoting one's own welfare or hoping for admiration by the public. The emperor asked his next question, "What then, is the essence of Buddhism?"

Bodhidharma's immediated reply was, "Vast emptiness and no essence at all!" This stunned the emperor. Other masters had explained that the essence was contained in doctrines such as The Four Noble Truths and The Law of Cause and Effect, but this foreign sage of Buddhism had just declared there was 'no essence at all'.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: First Thai temple in China built by a criminal

Postby gavesako » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:43 am

Dana Sutta: Giving
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

"Sariputta, there is the case where a person gives a gift seeking his own profit, with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"
"Yes, lord."
"Having given this gift seeking his own profit — with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself, [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the-->Four Great Kings.<-- Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.
"Then there is the case of a person who gives a gift not seeking his own profit, not with a mind attached [to the reward], not seeking to store up for himself, nor [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death.' Instead, he gives a gift with the thought, 'Giving is good.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"
"Yes, lord."
"Having given this gift with the thought, 'Giving is good,' on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of -->the Devas of the Thirty-three<--. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.
"Or, instead of thinking, 'Giving is good,' he gives a gift with the thought, 'This was given in the past, done in the past, by my father & grandfather. It would not be right for me to let this old family custom be discontinued'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of -->the Devas of the Hours<--. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.
"Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'I am well-off. These are not well-off. It would not be right for me, being well-off, not to give a gift to those who are not well-off'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of -->the Contented Devas<--. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.
"Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'Just as there were the great sacrifices of the sages of the past — Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, & Bhagu — in the same way will this be my distribution of gifts'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the devas who delight in creation. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.
"Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in -->the company of the devas who have power over the creations of others<--. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.
"Or, instead of thinking, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,' he gives a gift with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"
"Yes, lord."
"Having given this, not seeking his own profit, not with a mind attached [to the reward], not seeking to store up for himself, nor [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death,'
" — nor with the thought, 'Giving is good,'
" — nor with the thought, 'This was given in the past, done in the past, by my father & grandfather. It would not be right for me to let this old family custom be discontinued,'
" — nor with the thought, 'I am well-off. These are not well-off. It would not be right for me, being well-off, not to give a gift to those who are not well-off,' nor with the thought, 'Just as there were the great sacrifices of the sages of the past — Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, & Bhagu — in the same way this will be my distribution of gifts,'
" — nor with the thought, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,'
" — but with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of Brahma's Retinue. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a non-returner. He does not come back to this world.
"This, Sariputta, is the cause, this is the reason, why a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit."

:buddha2:
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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