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  • Remember the Victoria Memorial in the centre of the Queen's Gardens in front of Buckingham Palace?

    In 1845 Queen Victoria gave a piece of land for the building of a new Siamese Buddhist Temple as a gesture of goodwill towards the King of Siam. (Siam became Muang Thai, Land of the Free, or Thailand, in 1939.) This new Temple is the Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram on Burma Road, George Town, Penang.

    130 years later, devotees mingle with people on holiday, that is, to translate literally from its national language equivalent, "[travelling] to eat the wind," in order to "refresh the eyes."

    Close up to the Buddha we can appreciate its size, the statue being the third largest Reclining Buddha in the world.

    I wandered off towards the feet of the Buddha reclining in his final state of enlightenment and see the passage behind. I followed the dark narrow corridor - the Buddha on one side, the wall on the other. And then there is a door opening into a lit room. Do we all naturally gravitate towards the light? I wonder now. Back then, I was only 15. I made for the door instinctively, and just as instinctively stopped short of entering. For the Chinese devotee inside, standing before one of the many niches against the wall (like the card catalogs in libraries), turned and looked at me and I understood her: "Ah Moi, don't come in here."

    I went away. Later I learned that the room under the Buddha held the ashes of devotees.

    Adytos. Adytum.

    Humanly speaking, nothing is so ancient as death, and nothing so enshrined as what's left when we're gone from this body, this time. Unless, as Buddhists put it, it is Enlightenment.

    Photo of Reclining Buddha, Penang, courtesy of tk_yeoh of

    Here are some more photos of Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram (Reclining Buddha Temple) on Penang Island

    And another utterly incongruous song, Holiday by Green Day. However it does address some modern pressing concerns that taken together may be the raison d’être of many Buddhists of the Western world. And who knows, the extent of the peace emanating from Buddhahood बुद्धत्व
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