Lessons from the burnt Buddha statue in Wat Mahathat

For the Buddhist Observation Calendar 2024/ 2567 that is available for free download, I’ve selected the Buddha statue located at Wat Mahathat, Ayuthaya as the cover picture….in this post I would like to explain the story behind:

Once long time ago, there was a Buddhist nun who was undergoing solidary ascetic (tudong) practice.

She arrived at this place, Wat Mahathat and went to the spot where the Buddha statue above was located. By the time she arrive it was getting dark.

This nun had given up a very good life (as she was a successful businesswoman) and ordained as a nun. She chosen the path of ascetic practice where she went on foot across forest, cemetries, caves, having been on the complete mercy of the elements such as rain, sun, wind and thunderstorm.

During that evening, she was feeling discouraged when there seemed not much progress in the practice and one had to endure endless hardships. When she sat and meditated in front of this Buddha statue, she had a message. The gist of it is as follows:

Look at my form and face which was burnt and damaged without mercy. Yet I am unaffected by what external actions that is being done towards me. My heart remains at peace and equanmity. So do you, my child, please be resillient and continue to practice. No matter how others treat you or the external difficulties you face, let it not affect your heart. For one day, you would be able to experience good results in your practice. Do not give up.

The nun’s heart felt joy and she felt energized to continue her practice and achieved the goal of her spiritual practice.

Note: In Ayuthaya, as you know from history it was once attacked by neighbouring country and many of the Buddha statues were burnt and damaged. 

When Life Gets Tough for Us

It is the same for us. Life often is not easy and there are many hardships, obstacles and challenges we face. At times, we often feel like giving up. Especially for those who wish to embark on spiritual practice, there is often a phrase of ‘honeymoon’ period where everything is full of awe and inspiration. However once the period wears off, we would be brought down to earth in a painful thump as challenges, suffering and tribulations start to come one by one. It would fill our hearts with doubt about our faith, about the goodness of humanity and of our practice.

We may find ourselves badly treated, bullied and experience financial challenges. Maybe a loved one may get sick or we may lose someone close and dear to us. When faced with such difficult situation, we may feel forsaken by the Buddha (or the faith that we are following)…. that why so much bad things happen to us?

At times, we may feel like giving up. It is not that we are being forsaken but sometimes challenges, suffering and obstacles are necessary for personal and spiritual growth. There are so many times in life that I too, felt like giving up….. and I would prayed to the Buddha, sometimes even cry alone in front of the statue because I felt so alone and hopeless in facing certain situations in my life. And just that I felt I could not take it anymore, somehow I would be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel….. where someone would come along and was able to help me.

But as I undergo each of these stages, something in me changed and slowly I was able to let go and experience the lightness and joy of letting go.

I hope that you too, would continue to stay strong, do not divert in your wholesome principles and have faith and belief in the Buddha’s teachings. Even if you are from another faith, it is the same too. Coming from a multiracial country, I have friends from other race and religion. All religion teaches one to be good and provides the path to happiness and peace…. if the teachings are experienced and practiced from the heart with compassion and without malice and enmity.

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