Saturday, January 7, 2012

Thailand

On Tuesday morning at 3:30 a.m., Blanca and other students from Lancaster Theological Seminary headed out on a journey (including almost 24 hours in the air) to Thailand. They join students from another seminary on a three week cross cultural study of religion and Christianity in Thailand.  Pics from the LTS sending service, at the chapel: Juan and Myra (from First Spanish UM Church, York), Jim and Blanca, JP; Blanca and the team from LTS.  An update from Thailand, by the faculty instructor Kathy Clark, sent on Friday:


Today was dedicated to the study of Buddhism, with a very interesting and informative lecture in the morning and a “field trip” in the afternoon to Wat Doi Sutep. A wat is a Buddhist temple and this particular temple is near the top of the mountain outside Chiang Mai that we can see directly across from our place of lodging on the campus of Payap University. We rode to the temple – up a winding and steep mountain road – in the “cattle car” that transported us from the airport when we first arrived. Did I describe that already? It is a large, covered truck (large enough to hold many heads of cattle), open in the back, with pull down-steps for getting on and off, and benches along the sides for seating. I am not sure whether or not it has any shock absorbers, but it seems not. Thomas dubbed the ride “Six Flags Over Chiang Mai.” It was an adventure.

The ride up the mountain offered spectacular views of the city of Chiang Mai, as did the overlook from the temple. The temple itself is the wealthiest in Chiang Mai and, while it is a working temple with a community of monks, it is also a very popular tourist attraction. Ajaan (Professor) John Butt led us on a tour of the temple, explaining the religious and cultural influences on Thai Buddhism, the theological significance of the ornate architecture and symbols, the historical development of Theravada Buddhism, and the meaning of the rituals we observed. He also narrated the life of the Buddha by showing and explaining a beautiful mural that adorns the walls. He is extremely knowledgeable and an excellent communicator, so much so that perfect strangers joined our group to listen in.

There are 300 steps leading to the temple. The majority of the group opted to walk up (and back down) the steps, while a more reasonable group of us opted for the elevator. (J) As a result of the physical exertion in the hot sun, and the lingering impact of jet lag, we have some very weary travelers today.

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