Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wat Luang - Pakse's Favored Holy Place

In 1935, while two Lao personalities joined the Indochine Communist Party - a precursor of what the country will eventually embrace - Pakse started construction of two of its important temples: Wat Tham Fai and Wat Luang, oblivious of the implications of a few individual's participation is some "partisan" groups. Wat Luang hosts a monastic school (a "Sangha" college) and boasts of some of the most intricate interiors in South Laos: ornate pillars, carved wooden doors, and colorful murals (some date as recent as 1989). The murals are decidedly more secular - and fun - than other canonical art works.

The temple complex stands beside the Sedone River, almost reaching its confluence with the great Mekong. Though smaller than the sprawl of Wat Tham Fai, this temple complex has more historical weight, what with a former minister's (Khamtay Loun Sasothith) ashes entombed in one of its thaats.

This we post for easy comparison from Wat Tham Fai from our previous post. We have earlier featured this in our travelogue (with different photos):

Wat Luang is easier to visit if you're billeted at one of the guesthouses near the Mekong riverside.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Entrance to the main temple, the sim or ordination hall.

The back of the sim faces the Sedone River and is a picturesque spot (see photo below).

Buddha inside the sim or ordination hall.

A friendly and chatty monk poses for me.

One of the several colorful murals inside the main temple.

Beautiful designs (above and below)

A huge white stupa standing beside the main temple.

A beautiful thaat in the temple grounds. This should be former prime minister Khamtay Loun Sasothith's place.

Sangha college or monastic school

Monks' residence

The view of the monks' residence from Sedone II Bridge.

Sedone River meets up with the Mekong one smoky afternoon (they were burning the dried leaves).

Sedone II Bridge - Sedone I is located near Champasak Palace Hotel and Wat Tham Fai.

Sedone River meets the Mekong westward.

Monks lounging at their residence.


Mom with a Dot said...

Wow!! Such beautiful temples. I would love to be sitting in front of that statue of The Buddha right now :)

eye in the sky said...

@ Mom with a Dot:

Yes, the temples look radiantly grandiose, and the colors are a feast to the eyes. :)

NRIGirl said...

So, tell me this Eye in the Sky - Once a monk always a monk? How does the system work, any idea?

Just look at them - they are kids! Hope they are not forced into it against their will...

eye in the sky said...

@ NRIGirl:

Monkhood is basically a lifestyle among Buddhists. They supposedly choose to leave mainstream society and live their lives in prayer and contemplation.

In countries like Thailand, Laos or Myanmar, a person may choose to be a monk early on - thus we see children who are mere 5-6 years old - or as an adult. This monkhood can be a short stint (3 months) to a lifetime, thus it isn't like priesthood where you're "always a priest" once ordained. Once you officially "disrobe" (which includes a ceremony of sorts), you're out of it.

In Thailand, parents suggest to children because of the added benefits. Having a monk son is "status symbol" because it is supposed to give "merits" to the child's parents, much like having a priest/son in the family in the Philippines. It's like having a foot in the doors of the Heavens.

But the added benefit really includes the spiritual formation and the academic foundation of the child. Young monkhood includes elementary education. They have to go to school with other monks and learn the 3 R's and all the other subjects basic to education - for free! Add the fact that their parents won't have to worry feeding their children while they are "robed" as monks. Moreover, these children (and their adult counterparts) have the option to leave monkhood anytime they want.

So it isn't really a case of practicing ascetism against their will. It's both a lifestyle and a religious practice. :)

NRIGirl said...

Thank you for the detailed response Eye! Appreciate it much.

It gives me peace they could "disrobe" anytime.

Thanks again!

eye in the sky said...

@ NRIGirl:

You're very welcome. :)