We are at Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Angkor Wat is outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
It is difficult to portray the essence of this place. The main site (Angkor Wat) was built by Khmer King Suryavaman II in the early 12th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.
Karen and I walk through the ruins. There are many tourists and it is very, very hot — our Angkor Wat visit becomes somewhat of a survival ordeal — it is hot, hot, hot.
The various temples in the Angkor Wat complex have similar basic designs but were built during different eras and the architecture varies slightly — each complex has unique features. There are two basic plans: the “temple mountain” (which achieves height) and the “galleried temple” (which exhibits sculptured artwork).
The history of Angkor Wat is complex. Suryavarman II ruled the Khmer empire between 1113-1150 and built Angkor Wat as a place for his burial. After he died in battle, the Khmer were surprised and unprepared for an invasion by the Chams (from Champa — now Vietnam), their traditional enemy. The Chams overran Angkor Wat and destroyed it — the first of various invasions by armies from areas that are now in Vietnam and Thailand.
The new Khmer King Jayavarman VII, a Buddhist, repelled the Chams and built a new capital, Angkor Thom, a few kilometers to the north, in honor of the Buddha. After King Jayavarman’s death, the Khmer reverted back to Hinduism and reconfigured the Buddhist temples into Hindu temples.
We walk toward a gate into Angkor Thom.
Ultimately, the Khmer adopted Buddhism and modern Cambodians are mainly Buddhist (with some Muslims).
The Thai invaded in the 14th and 15th centuries and the Angkor Wat irrigation system failed. Angkor Wat was abandoned to the jungle.
Because Angkor Wat was surrounded by a moat and high walls, it withstood the jungle better than did other temples. In 1586, a Portuguese monk was the first European to visit the site.
French colonists began restoration of Angkor Wat in the early 1900s.
Angkor Wat has become the symbol of Cambodia — its image is on the Cambodian flag.
Our tuk-tuk driver takes us from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom (a complex with stone faces).
We see an elephant [there is an issue regarding treatment of these elephants — their training involves cruel treatment, Karen says]
We view our surroundings from a temple height.
I am looking for the most sacred place. I wish you were with us. I wish to show you the most sacred place.
The bas relief shows men at war — a scene from an old story — it would not have been easy participating in this type of battle.
The ruins are visited by millions of tourists each year. I seek a special place whew we can encounter the heart of what is sacred to you.
We look at the ruins. Which is most sacred?
Masters beating workers. Where is the most sacred place?
We climb to the top. Where is the sacred place?
This tree is probably a thousand years old — is it the most sacred place? It has sacred qualities.
In Japan, a tree such as this one would be thought to harbor “Kami” — spirit/spirits that live in the tree, causing the tree to take unusual forms. This tree has roots that have faces. But this is not the most sacred place — the one that I want you to visit.
The most sacred place was not made by human hands. I will tell you where to find it. You can find it inside yourself. Practice meditation and find that place.