Great Stupa Rises
Thai Buddhists can observe the traditions of their Tibetan brothers at a new holy site near Hua Hin.
Like the winding mountain trails that ascend to Tibetan temples, a red-earth path, similarly lined by colourful prayer flags, leads to the future site of the Tara Great Stupa for Peace and Harmony at the Thousand Stars Foundation’s Khadiravna Centre in Hua Hin.
The ground is spiked with 505 grey pilings at what will be the base of a grand chorten (pagoda) fashioned in the classical Tibetan style. The site will have the only pagoda in Thailand dedicated to Buddhism’s Vajrayana School, a Tibetan-focused offshoot of Mahayana. It takes a lot of imagination to divine exactly how the site, where construction only recently began, will morph into the scene envisioned in the promotional brochure. But Thousand Stars founder-president Dr Krisadawan Hongladarom, known as Kris, patiently accepting one donation at a time, has plenty of what Barack Obama calls “the audacity of hope”.
“I consider myself a pilgrim – everything I learn from Tibet is an inner journey, inner transformation,” Kris said at a recent lecture on the subject at the Siam Society.
Entranced by a life-defining visit there in 1995, she admired the gorgeous land of sacred mountains and lakes and its extraordinarily devout pilgrims.”When we practise Tibetan Buddhism, the most important thing isn’t outside, but in our mind … In that sense, the monastery is not something outside you – it’s inside. So you go everywhere and you carry the monastery with you.”The Khadiravna Centre is on track to have, within five years, a soaring white stupa flecked with multiple hues, a Tara Temple, vegetable gardens and a library.
Already erected is an open-air pavilion temple with images of the historical Buddha, Their Majesties the King and Queen, the Dalai Lama and Tara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
Nearby is a cone-shaped assembly of prayer flags being whipped into threads by the wind, symbolically sending their inscribed wishes to Heaven. They’re made in Bangkok: Kris says Tibetan prayer flags are too expensive to import and don’t last as long – even though their whole purpose is to disintegrate.
Combining Tibetan and Thai Buddhist traditions is common enough in Thailand. Here it’s taught that Mahayana stresses enlightenment’s attainability within one’s own lifetime, about the kind hearts of the bodhisattvas. Tibetan monks who visit return home with wonderful impressions of Thai generosity and knowledge of Buddhism. China’s Cultural Revolution left experts on the faith in short supply in their own land.
“Buddhist wisdom focuses on the interdependence and interconnectivity of all beings,” Kris noted in a chat with The Nation at a recent weekend retreat at the centre.
She studied the Tibetan language and culture in the US, taught linguistics at Chulalongkorn University from 1993 to 2007 and accompanied Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on a trip to China and Tibet in 2002. She says her life since leaving cushioned academia for the Herculean task of establishing a huge temple has been “happy but difficult”.
Helping her run the centre is Meu Yonten, a Tibetan who was left by his parents at a monastery shortly after he was born. He spent the first 27 of his 32 years there.
Yonten is responsible for ensuring authenticity at the new facilities. The religious paintings, the adherents’ tsampa grain breakfasts, the ritual ringing of bells and beating of drums that he and Kris perform while leading manta recitations – it all has to be accurate.
He also tutors Thais in the Tibetan language and calligraphy.Foreigners wonder how Tibetans in their homeland can remain so dedicated when their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is so far removed from them, in exile in India.
“When we have strong devotion, even if he isn’t here, he knows about us,” Yonyten says.
Another recent Happiness Training retreat at the centre was for the bickering employees of a private firm. The staff members were encouraged to see themselves in a more benevolent light and abide by the Buddhist principles of loving kindness and tolerance.
They planted banyan trees and engaged in Tibetan-style group prostrations before Buddha images in the pavilion.
Most practitioners at the centre currently stay in small tents. “VIPs” stay with two to three monks in a house made of compacted earth that’s painted in bright primary colours. More of these will be built so everyone can enjoy more restful nights.
Kris says many Thai visitors arrive thinking they’re incapable of achieving their goals in life, but leave full of hope and confidence. The meditation practice at the centre reminds them, she says, that “the real nature of the mind has no concepts or fabricated thoughts – it’s free of thinking”.
She also points out that the mind is naturally full of radiance, something Tibetans acknowledge by brightening their homes with fanciful colours. If those colours can be shared and the Tibetan attitude can migrate to Hua Hin, the centre should be a glimpse of paradise, ideal for the pursuit of enlightenment.
For details on the Thousand Stars Foundation, call (081) 343 1586, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.Thousand-Stars.org.
by Carleton Cole
Special to The Nation
Published on January 10, 2011
(From The Nation – http://www.nationmultimedia.com/home/The-Great-Stupa-rises-30145945.html)