Written by Administrator
Thursday, 25 March 2010 16:22
Buddhist Monasteries, or Wats
both Thai and foreign, are usually welcome inside Buddhist monasteries, and a
visit there can be most informative and interesting. There are scores of
monasteries on Phuket, and virtually every Buddhist community here has a wat as
its traditional cultural centre. So it is acceptable to walk into the grounds
of any monastery on the island during daylight hours. Most close their doors at
Since these are quiet sanctuaries where monks are supposed to live with the
minimum of material possessions and where they are challenged with the task of
overcoming physical desires, it is expected that women – representing the
physical desire perhaps most difficult to overcome – should act and dress modestly.
A Thai woman would normally not come into the presence of monks dressed in sexy
or revealing attire. Women therefore should avoid visiting the monasteries in
beach clothes or short pants. Monks are also forbidden to have physical contact
with any woman, or to receive an object directly from one hand of a woman. To
give something to a monk a woman must first place the object on a table, or
mat, and leave the monk to pick it up. Or give it to a man who can hand it to
When entering any building within a monastery shoes must be removed. They can
be worn throughout the grounds – unlike in Burma, where shoes must be taken
off when entering any monastery grounds.
Thai temple is composed of several parts, including the ‘temple’ itself, called
ubosot, in which the most important Buddha image is usually housed.
Identifying this building is easy: look for short, carved stone pillars buried
in the ground around it, one at each corner, with others in the middle of each
side. The ubosot is usually closed, except on Buddhist holidays (one
every 14 days) and perhaps in the evenings or early mornings when monks may
come to chant prayers. When the monks are doing this laymen may enter the back
of the temple hall quietly, sit down and absorb the holy atmosphere.
Other buildings in the typical wat include a cheddi, or stupa,
the soaring golden spire that represents the Buddhist strive for infinity, or
the ultimate. A second temple-like building is often present, and is recognised
by the lack of the holy pillars that surround and sanctifying an ubosot.
This my also contain Budddha images, and will be used for more everyday
Buddhist functions. A sala, or meeting hall, is often present, and is
often distinguished by a lack of walls. This will be used for public
gatherings, and monks may eat their meals here and receive offerings from
laymen. The guthi are the monks’ simple accommodation, and may be built
as small Thai-style homes, often surrounding a raised eating platform.
In former generations Buddhist monasteries were the site of learning, and had
the only schools in the country. Today the government builds independent
schools, though still today many monasteries contain schools within their
grounds. The monastery at Rawai is a good example of this, and here each
morning hundreds of students parade under the coconut palms in the monastery
The Buddhist site most often visited on Phuket is Wat Chalong, a sprawling
temple in the middle of the island with lots of room for tours buses. But the
island has numerous, equally interesting monasteries that can be visited
freely. One of the most curious, with a strange history, or fable attached to
it, is Wat Phra Thong (Golden Buddha Monastery) on the airport road on the
north side of Talang town.