Commisioned in 1782 by the first Thai monarch, Rama I, the colorful and ornate roofs and chedi (aka stupa) lure us into the walled complex of the Grand Palace. We visited the emerald Buddha, gawked at the towering ogres guarding the temple and followed the story of the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana epic) on the 178 section mural bordering the compound. We also toured past the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall built by king Rama V as the royal residence.
Our visit to this historical wang (Thai for palace) lead to a discussion of the monarchy and goverment in Thailand:
Who is the current king and what role does he play in the governing of Thailand?
What other countries have a monarchy?
How do you feel about religion being part of the government?
Exploring Wat Saket – the temple of the Golden Mount – provided a stimulating opportunity to understand the Thai Buddhist traditions. We climbed the spiraling stairs 80 meters high, under ancient, lush trees, passing landscaped waterfalls and statued shrines. A gentle chanting of a monk through the speakers guided our ascent as a light breeze cooled us. Along the way, we rang bells for good luck. Striking the towering gongs sent deep resonating tones through the air. We observed Thai Buddhists making offerings of lotus buds and flower garlands to the golden Buddha statues and lighting incense and candles for wish fulfillment.
This visit provided a great platform for discussing:
What are some similarities of the Buddhist tradition to other religions we have observed from home?
How are the Thai Buddhist practices different from religions we know well?
What is karma and how does it relate to the Buddhist belief of rebirth?