Sunday, May 14, 2006

Wesak Day 2006

So I was heading to a jungle somewhere in Gerik, Perak on Wesak Day morning. Not having to drive, I get to sleep and recover from the 3+ hours sleep the night (technically morning) before. Went drinking with my colleagues and mabuk a little bit while my brother was waiting for me at home to head to my aunt place at a border town in Perak. Reached home at almost 2am. I had told him earlier that I will be late. Pack my cloth, yes in a state of a little high I manage to leave out an extra short, and my cap (for the golfing, the day after Wesak Day) and my brother drove us to aunty place.

Back to my Wesak Day visit to a small temple in a jungle somewhere in Gerik. I was going there with all the cousins (who are working and staying in Klang Valley). We all gathered at my aunt house, and after all the huhaa of taking turn to take bath in limited bathrooms, we took off at 7:30am, 30 mins late from the planned iternary. You don't have to be a math genius to know that we are going to be late for the rendezvous with my uncle in Gerik. He came all the way from Kelantan.

Being the "releks" nephews we are, we managed to make the monk (as was told later) to wait for my uncle for at least 15 mins, before he decide to give up and start the prayer without waiting for my uncle to arrive.

Yeah, we stopped for breakie in Bidor and had another stopped at the north south highway R&R (I can't remember exactly where, I think somewhere after Tapah and before Ipoh) for a cousin to make big business. All in all, we were late for almost 45 mins and by the time we arrived at the little temple (actually more like a small hut), the prayer session has almost came to an end.

When we arrived at the rendezvous point, we asked our grandma to get into our car. Actually that's the main reason we went to the temple. Not so much for the prayer, but to meet with grandma. Grandma has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's few years back. With grandma away from home, it mean our eldest aunty, who is taking care of her during day time, can truly have a public holiday on this Wesak Day and have some rest.

Grandma was seated between me and another cousin in the middle row seat on the MPV. Her first comment was about my small ear. "Mmm... small ear, this boy is surely very brave." and as usual the rest of the cousins will start to make noise, as we always do whenever she make any "nice" comment about me or any other cousin.

She can't recognised all of us, and sometimes mistaken us for her grown up sons and daugthers (our parents and moms). During the early period when she was first diagnosed with the disease, one of the story that she made up and told the rest of the family member (hallucination is one of the sympton of this disease) I phoned her and "reported" to her that our not so youngest uncle (her favourite and still single) being "disturbed" by the malay chicks. Being the grandson who call back the least and go back the least, most of the cousin will make fun of me everytime this story is brought up. The same story was being brought up when grandma commented about my ear that morning, and I sort of expected it.

Anyway, grandma seated next to me and put her arm around my shoulder. Just like a friend, my brother commented later. I guess she don't even know where she was heading to and where is she at that time, but I am surely glad that I get the oppurtunity to spend some time with her, even for few hours.

The temple is situated pretty deep in the jungle, about 30km away from Gerik town. We took a small one lane tar road into the small siamese village. It's a peaceful and nice place. I didn't expect to see so many visitor there that morning. On rough estimation, there was at least 20 cars (maybe more) parked fully packed in the small clearing at the temple limited compound when we arrived. Mostly Kelantan and Penang cars.

After the prayer, we had our lunch from the meals that was brought over by devotees. Easily 60 of us, and the small temple was overflowed and few of us late comers have to seat on the ground outside the small wooden temple. I prayed for SCB too.

The chief monk is a meditation (vipasana) monk, who earlier had a temple in a small jungle somewhere in Kelantan. There are a couple of cave around this new temple which is very suitable for meditation. I heard that the caves is protected by some spirits.

There was a lay person who went to meditate there one night, and while meditating had the urge to have leak. Being late at night and dark all over, he'd decided to just take leak at a rock within the cave. Then he got back to the rock where he meditate earlier. The moment he start meditating, the rock he was sitting on was being shaken voilently by unseen force. There after he was unable to pee, until he went to see the chief monk, who chanted the metta (loving kindness) prayer and "restore" his ability to pee. My uncle advise us to be respectful when we went into the caves.

We head to the cave after we took the meal. The first cave had some of it's stalamites decorated into some stupas. There was two opening to the cave, and within the cave there was a small cavities where we can climb in. The monk and visitor goes there to meditate.

Then we head for the second cave which is about 1km from the first cave, and the climb up to the cave opening is pretty steep. As steep as the climb I had in Mt. Kinabalu last month, but fortunately it was just a short distance.

This second cave was about triple the size of the first cave. It's deeper too. We had to walk in with torch or it will be too dark at the end of the cave. We sort of turn off all the torch when we were at the deep end of the cave, just to have a feel of being in the dark. We were surounded by complete darkness.

After washing our foot and hand in the chilling and nice water in the stream, we went back to the temple, where grandma was left with my aunty in-law. Initially we had decided to leave the temple together with my uncle and some of his friends and their family. But after waiting for no end for them to take bath and refresh, we decided to leave first and wait for them in Gerik town.

While waiting and before decided to leave, we spend sometime with grandma.

Grandma: When will you be going back? You are not going back today ain't you?
Me: We will be going back today. Later.
Grandma: Since when you come back? Have you go back to your parent house?
Me: We don't planned to go back to hometown. We are just here to see you.
Grandma: Oh ya? How do you know I am comming here?
Me: Uncle told us he will bring you here today, that's why we come here to meet you.
Grandma: Oh!

After five minutes.....

Grandma: When will you guys be going back?
Me: Today. We will go back later.
Grandma: Have you return to your parent house?
Me: No. We are here to see you only.
Grandma: so fast?

And this exact conversations were repeat for at least five times within that one hour. Then grandma mistaken my uncle friends car for my uncle car, and walk toward the car. When my cousin caught up with her asked her what is she looking for. She said she is looking for her money. Why? "What for?" my cousin asked her. She said she wanted to give some money to me. When she couldn't get the money, she walked to me try to give the few bucks she had in her pocket to me. I told her we had all started working and earning our own wage and politely turn down her money.

I guess she still remember us as college/univ going kids many years back. When everytime we went back hometown to visit her, and she will passed us some pocket money. This is a typical condition of a Alzheimer's patient. They tend to recall old memories, and thought that it's just happened very recently.

So while the rest of the people was taking their sweet time to refresh (take bath) at the temple, we left for Gerik town, first to refuel as we realised that the car fuel was very low when we are arriving the temple earlier.

By right, we can go back by ourselves. But my uncle and his friend said we want to go out together as we all planned to visit Luang Phor Thuad's shrine in a small kampung (village) called Kg. Kuala Kenering. It's is somewhere between Gerik and Lengong town. So my uncle and friends actually will have to detour from the route back to Kelantan to go to this place. This monk is a very famous for his amulets I have been carrying on of his amulet since I was in high school, passed down to me by my dad and easily the amulet is older than my age as my dad got it from a monk when he was still young and single. That's easily more than 30 years.

As we were coming out from the small road onto the main road, it started to rain cat and dog. I was fast asleep on my seat all the way to Gerik town. After refuel, we decided to head to one of the mamak to have roti canai and other food while waiting for uncle and the rest to arrive. It was still raining cat and dog. When they finally arrived at the town to refuel, we had ordered our meal and still waiting for it to be ready. So we told them to go ahead first, and we will catch up with them after the meal. Only few minutes later we received call from them, saying they had decided to scrap the plan as it was raining cat and dog and will head back to east west highway toward Kelantan. So we had our snack meal and head back to my aunty place 4 hours away.

In the car, I told the cousins we will scrap the plan to visit the shrine if the rain didn't stop. The place was like about 10km away from Gerik town. When we were finally there, the place was so dry with no sign of rain at all. The sky is dark, yet it only started to dizzle a little bit as we get down from the car.

We'd never been to that place, and were finding our way around based on the hand drawn map given by my uncle to my brother. When we turn into the tiny village with few kampung houses, we sort of thinking that we might had got into a wrong place. As that is a malay kampung. Then my cousin saw a small hut by the riverside, and we decided to stop the car and walk in and had a look.

There were two stupas about one meter aways from the edge of the water. One look pretty new, and the other one which is nearer to the river look older. There is a yellow plastic board on the fence of the chandi, but the sticker wording on it has mostly gone and only word we can read was of Luang Phor Thuad name. So that's the chandi that we had been looking for. And as if the he is welcoming us there by preventing the rain from falling when we arrived.

We had with us some jossstick, yet no of us is smoker so no lighter. And again luck is with us, when there is a pakcik fishing there and had a lighter with him. We borrowed the lighter from him, lighted the scented jossstick and made our prayer. I was given the honour to light the joss stick and start the prayer. I guess not many people knew about Luang Phor Thuad shrine in this place, as most will expect his shrine to be in Thailand like his famous Chang Hai temple.

His year of passing is carved on the candi, but I can't remember the exact year. It's was in 17th century (year 16xx). The meditation monk we whose temple we visited earlier came here before to confirm that this shrine really belong to Luang Phor Thuad, and he is certain that this shrine really belong to Luang Phor Thuad. While the location may seems pretty unlikely now, yet if we were trace back the history toward 17th century, the northern part of penisular malaysia was under influent and administration of Thai Kingdom. So it's pretty logical. From most of the story I came across about Luang Phor Thuad, there is little mentioned on where and when did his passed away. Being far south of the Thai Kingdom, and with little mean of communication at that time, this maybe the reason why not many people know about his passing away's time and location.

From the little conversation we had with the pakcik who is fishing there, occasionally there are tourists come all the way from Thailand to visit the shrine. We can't ascertain whos chandi the new one belong to. My uncle said he can only very little of the thai character carved on the new candi, not enough for him to know who's ashes it contains, when my cousin called him later.

As the sky was getting dark, we left the place and head back home. Five kilometers ahead, it rains cat and dog all over again. We would like to think that, the only reason the small kampung was so dry and doesn not rain, while the surounding areas was raining cat and dog, as a sign Luang Phor Thuad was expecting our visit and welcoming us there.

Luang Pu Thuat

Since Wesak Day has just passed and I happened to come across and stopped by the stupa of Luang Pu Thuat on Wesak Day, somewhere in Gerik, Perak (See my next post, no promise that it will be up by today though :P).

As for the title, there are actually a few variants on the romanized spelling of Luang Phor Thuad (yes this is another variant) and before you go further please keep in mind that I am not an expert on this topic and the following material is copied verbatim from the document that I received in my e-mail. Another similar writting on this topic can be found here.

Brief Biography
Luang Pu Thuat was born 1582 in Suan Chan Village, Chumphol Dustrict, Sathing Phra in Songkla (Southern Thailand). His parent were Mr. Hu and Mdm. Chan, a poor couple living in the place of Shrentthi Pan, the wealthy landlord. His parents name their child as “PU” (meaning crab). One day his parent took PU (still a new born baby) out to the rice field and before going to the field the made a cradle by hanging a cloth between two trees for the child to sleep in. After sometime out in the field working, Chan turned around to check out her baby and to her surprise she saw a large snake curled up around the child’s cradle. Chan cried loudly in fright and those in the distance as well as Hu quickly rush to check out what was happening. They found out that a snake had curled up around their baby and was observed by others. To their surprise, the snake did not harm their child. With the old belief that this snake might be the Buddha’s created vision, they prayed to the snake and offered flowers and rice cake. The snake then uncurl itself, spit out a Crystal Translucent Gem and left the child. In astonishment, the baby was still asleep with a crystal gem that emits rainbow colors beside his neck. The crystal gem was properly kept and given back to PU when he was grown up. Even today, the crystal ball is still installed as Wat Phra Kho in Songkla with many stories of its miracles.

When PU was seven years old, he was send to stay with Abbot Chuang, his Bikkhu uncle, at Wat Kudi Luang and further his primary school studies there. Then at 15 he was ordained as a novice monk and lived with Phra Khru Saddhammarangsi at Wat Sri Ku-Yang (at present in Ranod, Songkla). At the age of 20, he was ordained as a monk by same as his preceptor. “Samiramo” the Buddhist name (Chaya) was given to the new monk.

Three years of his monkhood under the guidance of Phra Khru Ka Derm, he studied Dhamma and Pali Language till its basic introductory is completed. Later on, he wanted to further his studies of Buddhist scriptures in Ayudhya. After obtaining permission to leave from his preceptor, accompanied by Mr. Inn the passenger ship owner and they left for Ayudhya. Three days after sailing off the open sea, suddenly storm and rough sea starts to rock the boat. The boat had to be anchored till the sea becomes calm before proceeding with their journey again. During this hard times, they’d consumes all of the fresh water as well as foods. Out of anger and frustration, other passengers on board including the owner vented their anger by blaming and cursing Bikkhu PU and exclaimed that he’d brought to them bad luck and wanted to expel him down from the ship. Then Bikkhu PU rose and others look on, he dipped his foot into the sea to draw a circle. Then he told the sailor to fetch fresh drinking water from the sea from where he’d circled with his feet. The sailor then perform what was told and tasted the water himself, after satisfying his doubts and found to be drinkable like normal fresh water. Soon after sufficient fresh water were collected and stored for the rest of the journey, they proceed with their interrupted journey. After realizing the ability of Bikkhu PU, all on board kneeled down to beg their pardon from him, and the owner invited him to use the boat again on his next trip. When arrived to Ayudhya, Mr. In took Bikkhu PU to reside in Wat Khae and offered Nai Chan, his servant to follow Bikkhu PU as his close assistant. After business is done by Mr. In, he left and sailed back to where he’d came from.

In Ayudhya while Bhikkhu PU had studied Buddhist scriptures at Wat Lumbalinavas. During that time the King of Sri Lanka are challenging with the King of Siam to translate all of the golden alphabets into the Buddhist Scriptures to the correct order within seven days. If all the requested be met and finished in time, the King of Sri Lanka would then give all of the treasures transported in seven boats to the King of Siam as prize. Otherwise the King of Siam will have to pay to the king of Sri Lanka he failed.

The King then summoned those learned monks and persons within the capital city a Ayudhya, no one could meet with this challenge. Six days of anxiety of the King had passed. At last it was known that a young Bhikkhu named PU or Samiramo with great abilities, and was summoned to translate all of the golden alphabets into the Buddhist Scriptures to the correct order. The young monk went to the assembly, paying his respect to Maha Sangha and King, then encountered with seven Brahmins from Sri Lanka.

Bhikkhu PU started to rearrange the golden seeds into the Dhamma according to Buddhist texts with no difficulties. The 84,000 units of the golden seeds were all used up except seven seeds left missing. They were Sarn (Dhamma-sangani), Vi (Vibhanga), Dha (Dhatukotha), Pu (PUggala-pannatti), Ka (Kathavatthu), Ya (Yamaka) and Pa (Patthana) which are the heart of the seven scriptures of Abhidhamma Pitako. The young monk turned to the seven Brahmins and asked if they had kept the missing golden seeds. When they were given, the complete rearrangement of golden seeds into Buddhist scripture of Abhidhamma was finished on the 7th day, the Brahmins as the Ambassadors of King Sri Lanka had then given all the treasures of 7 boats to the young monk but he turned everything away and gave them all to the King.

Being favorite to King Ekadasaroth of Ayudhya with his knowledge and wisdom, Bhikkhu PU had been bestowed upon the Sangha title of "Somdej Phra Rajamuni Samiramagunupamacarya" the most higher rank ever given to any other wondering monk before in the country.

Somdej Phra Rajamuni Samiramagunupamacarya or Luang Pu Thuat had stayed in Ayudhya to have advised to the King many ways till his old age and then asked for permission from the King to go back his home town. The King had permitted with a promise to give all the supports requested by Luang Pu Thuat in turns of his virtuous deeds. When Luang Pu Thuat was back to Wat Phra Khoh, he found the Wat mostly ruined and thus sent a message requesting the support to restore the temple to the King.

King Ekadasaroth was pleased to respond to Luang Pu Thuat needs, he gave all supports to the said monastery and graciously issued the Royal Degree on Dedication of Land and People of about 250 families nearby Wat Phra Khoh as beneficial temple. The Royal Decree was later successive to Wat Khian possession and given to prince Damrong Rajanubhab in 1913. At present the document was kept in the National Library in Bangkok.

Luang Pu Thuat had spent his life spreading the Dhamma for benefiting the people without impartiality. Lastly, he took leave from Wat Phra Khoh along with a young novice to preach Dhamma and helped people at various places in the South up to Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. His second permanent residence was at Wat Changhai, Pattani. His date of passing away was not certain.

Through his supernatural power and miraculous virtues, Luang Pu Thuat manifest through vision and dream seeking to produce the first amulet of him initiated in Wat Changhai 1954. Amulets of Luang Pu Thuat have shown many miracles to individuals carrying it. From there onwards, many batches of his amulet pendants were produced. The popular one’s have been documented in the book titled "Luang Pu Thuat: The Story of His Life and Amulets".

Another Miracle Write up.
Luong Pu Thuat became famous during the 16th century when he saved the people from draught. There was at that time, not enough drinking water, and the weather deteriorate day after day. According to an account related by villagers, a monk was sighted in a small boat which moving along the river. He was in deep meditation and prayer. After he’d finished chanting, he lowered one of his leg into the river, and within short while, the river is filled with clear, clean drinking water. A miracle had happened. This bit of good news spread throughout the province and to other parts of Thailand. The monk was no other than Luong Pu Thuat himself. The people highly respected and graciously revered him from then on.

- Amulet : Something worn in the belief or hope that it will protect the wearer against evil, ill fortune, etc. and at the same time it can be able to make the wearer or worshipper accomplished with happiness and prosperity.
- Phra Khru : Rank and Prefixes of Buddhist monks.
- Wat : Temple in Thai language.
- Bikkhu : Monk in Pali language.
- Pali : Language used during the time of the Buddha.
- Luang : A monk who is or supposed to be one's relation, used as combination as Luang Phi = one's elder brother; Luang Pho = one's father; Luang PU = one’s grandfather, etc.
- Somdej : Majesty; serenity, holiness, mostly used as a first element in styles and titles of sovereigns and names of princes of the blood and monks or priests of high rank like Somdej Phra Sangha Raja = the Supreme Patriarch, etc.