Buddhism

Vessantara Jataka Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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Vessantara Jataka mural of gods caring for Prince Vessantara's children while Jujaka sleeps in a tree

The third-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city tell the story of Prince Vessantara (Phra Wetsandon in Thai). It’s the last of the 547 Jataka tales, a collection of birth stories from the Pali Canon (the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible) recounting some of the Buddha-to-be’s pre-enlightenment lives. The Jataka tales are, for the most part, morality stories in which… Read More

Buddhism

The Nandivisala Jataka

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scene from the Nandivisala Jataka, the Bodhisatta as an ox pulling loaded carts

A clique of the Buddha’s monks taunted and insulted other monks when they disagreed with them on something. When the Buddha was told about their behavior he scolded them and then told them this story of one of his past lives so they would understand that speaking with kindness rather than hostility is beneficial. — — — The Bodhisatta was born as an ox. His owner named him Nandivisala and… Read More

Buddhism

The Culla-Paduma Jataka

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mural painting of Bodhisatta's wife pushing him off the cliff from the Culla-Paduma Jataka in ubosot of Wat Thung Si Muang

One of the Buddha’s disciples, while out on a morning alms round, saw a woman so beautiful that he fell in love at first sight. After returning to the monastery, his obsession with her made him depressed and ill and he could no longer concentrate on his studies or meditation. The Buddha told him that he should stop thinking about her and then to remind the disciples that all women… Read More

Buddhism

Buddhist Flags in Thailand

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Thai Buddhist flag

The Thai Buddhist Flag Nearly every temple in Thailand flies the yellow and red tong dhammachak (“Thai Buddhist flag”) which was officially introduced by the Thai sangha in 1958. The red circle is a dharma wheel (dhammachak in Thai) and it represents dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. Also known as the “wheel of law,” it was metaphorically set in motion when the Buddha gave his first sermon, known as… Read More

Buddhism

Corpse Meditation Murals at Wat Um Long

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Wat Um Long corpse meditation mural

The small old ubosot at Wat Um Long in Thoen, Lampang province, is interesting and unusual in many ways. The most interesting for me is that the majority of interior wall space is covered with murals of a monk doing corpse meditation. (The rest are scenes from the life of the Buddha.) This is not an uncommon subject matter for inclusion in temple paintings, but it’s rare for it to… Read More

Buddhism

The Buddha Nearing Death at Wat Yang Tuang Wararam

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close up of buddha vomiting on mural painting at wat yang tuang wararam

The Buddha died of dysentery after eating spoiled pork. Some people (seemingly mostly Westerners who are uncomfortable with the idea of the Buddha eating meat, even though this is discussed in the Pali Canon many times) have decided that the final meal of “soft pork” was actually a type of mushroom and he died from poisoning. Regardless of what the food was, the Buddha knew that is was bad and… Read More