Wat Pho is the largest and oldest Buddhist temple in the city of Bangkok. It takes up as much space as Buckingham Palace and has over 1,000 Buddha images (more than any other temple in Thailand).
The largest is the Reclining Buddha which is 150 feet long and 50 feet tall. Covered in gold leaf, it depicts Śākyamuni Buddha in Mahāparinirvāṇa, the state beyond Nirvana.
Even though this peaceful image of the Buddha is the main attraction for most visitors, I couldn’t ignore the intricate murals decorating the walls of the viharn (shrine area).
As I exited into the back garden of the temple complex, my eyes were immediately mesmerized by the many stupas sprinkled about the area. There are 91 stupas in total, many decorated with exquisite ceramic tiles and grand spires reaching skyward.
Meandering around these monuments, I was delighted to come across many statues of hermit monks in what appeared to be familiar asanas! Wat Pho is home to one of the earliest Thai medicine and massage schools; the stone statues depict various positions of Thai yoga, exercises clearly influenced by hatha yoga asana of India.
Amidst the madness of Bangkok, I felt so honored to witness a place of such beauty. One of the greatest gifts of travel is continuing to uncover the varied and deep influence of yoga.
If it wasn’t for a flight later that day, I could have easily spent hours getting lost in the details and the history of Wat Pho.
In the Bhagavad Gita, the hero Arjuna asks his friend Lord Krishna,
“If you are perfect and unified (yoked), unlike the rest of us who are disorderly, then why do you continue to act in the world? Why do you do yoga?”
Krisha replies, “I do it to hold the world together.”
To be on this path of yoga is to accept an invitation to the possibility of our own cultivation.
A deliberate engagement (with all the feelings).
But from that intention, our engagement must manifest into purposeful action.
The currents of the world won’t circumvent our yoga mats.
We are not separate.
We must hold it
hold each other