We are in Bangkok, Thailand. We were tricked by a minor scam — we met a well-dressed man, who said he was a college professor. He was kind and friendly and explained to us that almost everything in Bangkok was closed until noon due to the Thai holiday. We knew that the day before was a holiday because the post office had been closed so his statement seemed possible. I knew about the “everything is closed scam” — the scammer lies about everything being closed — but I was merely being friendly and got sucked into his pitch. That shows how good a scammer he was!
The guy told me about the correct way to get a deal on a canal boat and suggested that we take a canal tour because we would not be able to do what we had planned. Everything “official” was closed because of the holiday, he said. The scam was pulled off so skillfully! A security guy nearby confirmed that everything was closed and the “professor” explained about the best way to get to the canal boat. A tuk-tuk happened to stop by and the professor bargained for a good tuk-tuk price to the canal. I ended up having to take a private canal boat ride which cost more than the standard fare — it was not a major rip-off scam, but a clever way of separating me from my money. The “professor,” security guys, tuk-tuk guy, man at the pier, and boat driver were all part of the scam. See Karen’s blog for the whole story (karenfranza2014.wordpress.com).
Here we are on the canal….going past a wat. I am thinking about what I might show to you that would catch your attention in a way that could motivate you to engage in an inner voyage, a journey inside yourself…but, in the back on my mind, I knew I had been overcharged for a boat ride and that boat riding is not exactly connected to mysticism or meditation.
Bangkok used to be a city of canals — like Venice. But the water was a problem due to mosquitoes and most canals were filled in with earth to create streets.
I lived in various Asian countries for a number of years and I have passed through Bangkok many times — but not in recent years. Bangkok gets hot this time of year — and today it is almost 100 degree F.
The boat ends up close to the Royal Palace and Jade Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kiew Temple, the most sacred temple in Thailand) — which was not closed but is open everyday, of course. It’s a heavy tourist environment. They won’t let you take photos of the Emerald Buddha inside — which is not emerald, but jade — but that is another story, isn’t it? It is a 66 cm high Buddha made from a single piece of jade.
I’m thinking about how to have a religious experience — is it possible even though I’m in this environment with the memory of the scam boat ride stuck in my head and the temperature being so hot? Some people are praying but the crowds are so thick that it is hard to think straight.
There are tourists everywhere — many Chinese people. They take photos of themselves.
Giant demons (Thotsakhirithin) stand guard. Also guarding things are kinane (half-man/half bird), nagas (mythical serpents), and garudas (flying animals that fight the nagas at times).
The lotus blossom symbolizes blooming where you are — and the insects are happy with the situation.
Here is the Jade Buddha Temple — the Jade Buddha was covered in plaster while in Laos and the nose got chipped and a monk saw the green color and thought it was emerald — that is why they sometimes call it the Emerald Buddha (the Buddha was captured through warfare, deception, scamming — and to prevent it from bring taken it was covered in plaster — things are not as they seem).
I walk toward the entrance — you can see inside — there is the Jade Buddha, deep inside.
The Jade Buddha was created in India (date unknown — and location uncertain). It was taken to Sri Lanka for safe keeping — then was supposed to be taken to Burma but ended up in Cambodia because of a ship wreck (15th century). This may be correct — maybe it was constructed in Thailand but it was taken to Laos in the 16th century — to Chiang Rai, then Chiang Mai, then Luang Prabang, and was in Vietiane for 215 years — but captured by the Thais and brought to Bangkok.
The sage Nagasena had long ago stated that the Jade Buddha would bring “prosperity and pre-eminence to each country in which it resides.” Magic!
Actually, the most powerful kingdom was able to hold onto it and it ended up in Bangkok. It is the protective image of Thai society.
I thought that what I need is an image that would provide protection for you — something that would reach deep inside so that you could find your core.
They prevent photographs of it but here is one I got off the Internet. This Buddha protects Thailand — what about you?
Some ladies chant while I look at the mural scenes surrounding the Ramayana — which the Thais have modified so that it fits their culture. The Thai version is called the Ramakian.
The mural tells the story Rama (Thai: Phra Rama), Sita, his wife (Thai: Nang Sita), Hanuman (Rama’s monkey warrior fried), and Ravana (Thai: Thotsakan — The demon king of Lanka).
Here is the basic story:
Rama and Sita were sent into exile; Sita was kidnapped by the evil King Ravana, who took her to Lanka (Sri Lanka, these days). Rama and his monkey friend Hanuman help install a new monkey king and Rama and Hanuman brought the monkey army to wage war on Ravana so that Rama can get his wife back.
There are various seductions and attempted seductions in this story — Ravana talked his niece into transforming herself into an image of Sita — and, because he was in love with Sita, Ravana tried to seduce her. Eventually, she set him straight and took part in a plan to fool Rama. She feigned death and floated past Rama’s camp — the idea was that Rama would give up engaging in battle if he thought his wife was dead.
In the mural, they are looking at the body of the niece/Sita — a sleeping beauty — but Hanuman was not tricked and pursued the spirit of the niece into the sky where he decided to seduce her — and ended up marrying her! These things happen — the guy chases the girl and she catches him. Then they live happily ever after (until they have children).
In the end, the evil king was defeated. Sita passed a fire test which proved her virtue and the story has a happy ending for those on the good side rather than evil.
The image shows a raging river — and your inner life can be like that at times. You don’t have control over it — the battles and seductions, who has control over the outcomes?
The story is a metaphor. Each of the personalities is inside of you. You hold heroes and demons within — the seducer and the seduced — the scammer and the one scammed — the winner and loser — all within.
Each of us plays a role in life and each of us has a story. We struggle to overcome opposition, seeking to preserve our virtue and honor.
What can you do to increase your chances for success?
There is an unseen world and there are magical ways to affect the outcomes in life. Stories present ideas and images which can touch the inner places of your heart — thinking about this can cause an idea to come to you, showing you the first step.
If you do not believe in magic, you can consider the process as purely mechanistic — cause and effect. It all works out the same — the unseen world cannot be understood — but there is a path that leads to your well-being.
If you were to look inside yourself, what would you see?