WAT SAKITHAKA

The ideal way to approach the lovely setting of Wat Sakithaka (aka Wat Palad) is by climbing the Monks Trail. This is not so called because it is used by monks, but because a long stretch of trees along the trail have been designated as “monks” by tying a saffron robe around them. This is to ensure that they are treated with respect.

But since the mountain is steep, the climate is hot, and my legs tire easily, we go by car, instead.

On our first visit, the driver turned down the driveway to take us to the main entrance, but then I noticed that we had passed a couple little temples at the top of the driveway. So this time, I tell the driver to stop at the turnoff, so we can check these out.

The first is a basic Buddha temple, well cared-for, and, judging from the incense sticks and lighters left in front of the main statue, regularly visited. Nice enough, and I feel a warming-up of my Buddha-awareness. Then I try a smaller temple off to the side, which seems alone and neglected. To my amazement, it’s even more beautiful and inspiring; the image speaks to my Avalokiteshvara devotion. The walls are covered with artful images. Esso, my companion, has no explanation as to the style of the images, or why the temple might be neglected.

Already filled with inner light, we walk down the driveway, among tall trees and stands of epic bamboo, to the main temple area. Although we have visited here before, a different turn through the gate takes us to the lovely main temple, which we had totally missed before. It has a cunning series of gates, as if inviting a series of initiations on the way in. The materials are simple, all hand-built (probably from native wood and stone), but elegantly designed.

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Outside the temple, a stone stupa covered with a carpet of living green. Naturally, it is the feminine Kuan Im figure (Quan Yin, equivalent to Tara) whose image is held by this stupa.

We return to the lovely stream, with its reflecting pool and waterfalls. This is a fine place to sit and meditate in the middle of the rushing water, while looking out over the city.

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Finally, we seek out of the upper end of the Monks Trail. It is built to be passable in all weather, but as close to nature as possible. The fallen tree is not sawn or even moved, but has a ladder built over it for passage (but requiring a bit of humility to find ones balance). All the way down, the trail has been made just passable, never easy. It is quite a trek, even downhill.

Off to one side, one exceptional tree catches my eye. Larger than the other “monks,” its robe hangs high overhead. One major limb has been destroyed, apparently by lightning, leaving a huge black hollow scar in the trunk. Yet the tree remains strong, with all its dignity. If only we could learn the profound lesson this monk is teaching us!

Many fingi grow in this forest, in this season. This is a lovely tableau, with one community of tiny white mushrooms on top of the log, another of large yellow ones on the ground beside it.

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The foot of the trail is on an isolated road, uphill from the back of the zoo. Still alight from all the sacred inspiration here, but too tired to continue on foot, we find a ride back to the hotel.

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