The Kingdom of Thailand, a country known for its leadership in Theravada Buddhism, adds yet another gigantic Buddha statue to the array that spreads throughout the kingdom, the tallest being the 92-metres high Phra Buddha Maha Nawamin statue in Wat Muang, Ang Thong province.
Nonetheless, the newly constructed statue of Phra Buddha Dhammakaya Thepmongkhon will replaced the iconic 32-metres tall Buddha statue of Phra Si Ariyamettrai of Wat Intharawihan, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok as the tallest Buddha in the capital.
The Phra Buddha Dhammakaya Thepmongkhon statue is a meditation Buddha image seated on a lotus with a lap width of 40-meters and a height of 69-meters that is approximately equivalent to a 20-storey building overseeing the Chao Phaya River.
The construction took place in one of Thailand’s prominent temple Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen which was built during the Ayutthaya period or around year 1610. The temple received royal patronage up-until late nineteenth century before falling into abandonment and destitute.
However, at the turn of the twentieth century, the Wat Paknam rose from the ashes with the appointment of Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro’s (Phra Mongkolthepmuni) as its abbot in 1916. The temple underwent major restructuring and innovation under the leadership of His Venerable. Luang Pu Sodh began preaching the Dharma on a regular basis and His Venerable also conducted meditation classes for both monks and laypeople. Subsequently, in the 1950s, Luang Pu Sodh also established an institute for Pali studies and schools for primary education.
Apart from his dharmic nature, Luang Pu Sodh was also a top and highly respected guru monk within the inner path. He has made various amulets and among the more highly sought after are His Venerable’s personal medallions and Somdej Wat Paknam Loon Laek to Loon Sam. Consequently, the temple was expeditiously restored to its past glory housing hundreds of monks and became well-supported by the affluent community around Bangkok.
After serving the Sangha for 53 years, Luang Pu Sodh entered parinibbana on February 3, 1959 at the age of 75. His body is still being preserved in the temple because of the large number of believers paying respect to His Venerable hitherto. Pursuant thereto, it also became a major tourist attraction for the temple. However, the years 1916 to 1959 marked the peak of Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen.
Work on the statue of Phra Buddha Dhammakaya Thepmongkhon commenced in 2017 and is projected to be completed this year. However, owing to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the Phra Puttapisek ceremony will likely be deferred to a later date.
It was speculated that the statue of Phra Buddha Dhammakaya Thepmongkhon was built as an offering to the Triple Gems, that is, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, as well as a homage to Luang Pu Sodh, In other words, the statue of Phra Buddha Dhammakaya Thepmongkhon is representational of Buddhanusati, Dhammanusati, and Sanghanusati,
The 69-metre-tall Buddha statue made from copper and painted gold has a heart, according to the “Lotus Sattha Bongkut”, made of 12 kilograms of pure gold. The total cost for the construction was reported to be 500 million baht (approximately USD 15.4 million). The Buddha statue will be visible across the capital, especially on all raised train lines, and is expected to become a new tourist attraction once the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic is over.