In continuation of the Ko Samui Big Buddha temple that we filmed in August of last year, I decided to return and film some other temples on the Island of which there are plenty. In this episode, we visit ‘Wat Plai Leam’ (Endpoint temple) or ‘The Lady Monk Temple’ as it is sometimes referred.
Situated in the northeast of the Island not far from the airport, The Lady Monk temple pays homage to several gods in the form of medium to large-sized effigies all located in the same area within meters of each other. The Lady Monk Temple has a Guanyin, a Lord Buddha Ubosot (praying area), a Budai (laughing Buddha), and a Taoist temple all lined up one after the other.
“All these temples were designed in part by one Thai artist”.James Alexander – Farangbowl Magazine.
All the statues in The Lady Monk Temple incorporate Chinese, Indian, and Thai religions. They were designed in part by a renowned Thai artist called Jarit Phumdonming. Built-in 2004, these modern temples can be found on road 4171 between Big Buddha and Choeng Mon, Koh Samui.
18 Armed Guanyin
To the far right of the Wat Plai Leam area is the stunning 18-armed Guanyin who is known by the Chinese as the Goddess of Mercy. She is not a Buddha, she is what the Hindus refer to as a ‘Bodisattva’ which is a saint or someone who is close to achieving enlightenment. ‘Bodisattva’s delay their journey into Nirvana to stay on earth and help people. Guanyin to the Chinese means the ‘Saint who listens to the world’. She is respected by most of East Asia. The Thai people refer to her as Phra Mae Kuam Im which translated directly means Mother Guanyin. The reason why she has so many arms is to demonstrate her helping many different people with different problems all at the same time. In some texts, it is said she has a thousand arms.
The walk up to this Guanyin is magical as you take in the grandeur and detail of the statue itself whilst traveling along the bridge across the lake water.
Buddhist temple Ubosot
Positioned between the Guanyin and the Budai (also on the lake waters) is an ‘Ubosot’ which is the main prayer room of this active temple site. Various religious ceremonies are officially held here, and people are welcome to pray and make merit. Making merit is the practice of presenting monks with food and gifts in return for their blessing.
At this Ubosot is a beautiful golden standing Buddha, and various paintings and murals depicting historical scenes on the exterior walls.
I particularly appreciate the long serpents seen surrounding buildings (image on the left) and entrances of Buddhist temples that some confuse with dragons. They are not dragons; they are called Naga and they are said to live in the netherworld. They can take a serpent, a human, or a mix of a serpent and a human form.
Budai or Laughing Buddha
The Budai again is not the actual Lord Buddha. He was in fact a real person and monk that is said to have lived in the 10th Century. His name literally means “Cloth Sack” which refers to the bag he would sling over his shoulders to carry goods whilst traveling. Due to his humorous personality and the fact he was always smiling, he was given the nickname “Laughing Buddha”.
The walk along this Budai temple bridge is also awe-inspiring. So much attention to detail has been paid here. Even the artwork of the figurines that sit on top of the series of posts that lead to the temple is impressive. As you travel along the bridge over the waters you are given a sense that you are traveling to the netherworld to sit in the presence of a great being. Like the Guanyin this Budai is huge. His smile is contagious, and I honestly felt happier around him.
Surrounding this Budai temple are four smaller Hindu god statues. They are Ganesha (the elephant boy God known for being a “remover of obstacles” and “patron saint of the arts” is the son of Shiva the God of destruction), Vishnu (known as “The Preserver” is a deity of supreme divinity and is one the triumvirate that is combined responsible for the creation, upkeep, and destruction of the world. Vishnu “creates, protects, and transforms the universe”), Shiva (father of Ganesha is the third god of the triumvirate whose role is to destroy the world in order for it to be recreated), and finally Sakka (the ruler of Heaven according to Buddist cosmology).
Such an interesting blend of Thai, Chinese, and Indian cultures is represented here. If anyone has anything to add to this, then please do so in the comments.
The final temple on the Wat Plai Leam grounds is a colourful Taoist temple. This is situated on terra firma at the foot of the entrance to the Budai. It has these stunning colourful dragons sliding up the pillars to its entrance and a couple of proud-looking tigers on each of its stair banisters. Here we also see mural paintings showing cultural scenes of ancient China including depictions on the floor. This temple has been developed as a preservation point where visitors are encouraged to donate in order to assist with the maintenance of all the temples.
I love the vibrant colours used in Taoist temples and always find them very exciting to visit. It was a pleasant and spiritual experience reviewing these structures and soaking up some tranquility.
To summarize, all I will say is that it would be a shame to visit the Island of Ko Samui and not pay a visit.
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The Lady Monk Temple
Address: Wat Plai Laem, Road 4171, Ko Samui, Thailand,
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