Wat Chana Songkhram

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I am sitting, cross-legged,
upon a rich red carpet.
To either side of me stand tall
white pillars, reaching up to
the red and gold painted ceiling.
Flowers adorn each wall, real
and fake alike. Before me,
beneath glittering diamond
chandeliers sits a large golden
Buddha, a marigold sash
draped across his left shoulder,
and upwards of ten other
gold Buddhas encircling him.
Two massive elephant tusks
stand on either side of the shrine,
one to two meters in length these
ivory sentinels stand watch over
the crowd of Buddhas.
A young Thai mother sits to
my left, deep in prayer. Her hands
clasped before her chest, she
doesn’t notice her two children
whispering and giggling beside her.
An older woman and what
appears to be her mother sit
beside them, engaged in hushed
whispers they exchange a few words
before each bending and placing
folded hands upon the floor.
Two men also kneel in the hall,
eyes closed, palms lifted,
they are now the only others left
on the red carpet other than myself.
I hear bells chime outside
the temple and I close my eyes
and say, “Listen, listen. This
wonderful sound brings me
back to my true self.”
Out in front of the temple,
next to many sets of flip flops
scattered upon the steps, tall
yellow candles flicker next to
hundreds of smoking incense
sticks. These candles are
wider than my arm, probably
the same circumference of
my head, and stand one meter
in height. Some are exquisitely
carved and some stand plain.
I get the same feeling of peace
in Buddhist temples as I do in
churches, but I feel much
more welcome here. Everyone
offers me a large toothy smile
and voices fill the space, making
you feel as if you are never
alone, never forgotten.
I raise my hands in prayer
and bow my head to the floor
in a message of love and thanks
to the Buddha for being with
me always.

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