Photo of the Week: Fasting Buddha at Wat Umong image

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We are used to seeing Buddhas in Chiang Mai, usually golden and sitting serenely, but this Buddha at the forest temple Wat Umong was a shock and unlike any we had seen before. This emaciated statue is called the Fasting Buddha and represents the Buddha at the end of his long fasting period before he gained enlightenment.

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  1. This statue has been made in the style of those made in Gandhara – an ancient kingdom in the area of what is now north-western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Gandhara was at the cross-roads between east and west. Archaeological remains, and in particular Buddha statues, show evidence of Indian and Greek influences. This was an area that was conquered and controlled by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. It went on to be a key location on the Silk Road and a link in the spread of Buddhism to China.


  2. Just a Thai passerby

    I entered a monkhood at Wat Umong. When the Buddha decided to seek for Dhama (not a fancy or mythical mumbo-jumbo word. In San Sakrit this word mean “something that can stay by themself” (or you can say something that exist, nature of things etc.) The Buddha didn’t know how to reach the truth of Dhama, so he tried hundreds of ways. Fasting was one of them. Later he would find that neither too strict (like fasting or hurting yourself) nor too relax (like the ancient epicurean who enjoy too much food, sex, drinking, etc) are the way to the truth.

    Well, the statue you took the photo is called Buddha in “Took-Kha-Ki-Ri-Ya” And, as you wrote, this fasting happened before he know that this is not the way to enlightenment.

    PS. …Usually Buddha is portrayed as robust and round…>>> That is “Smiling Buddha” in Mahayana. Thai is Theravad and we have no “smilling buddha” (We have a statue of “Pra SangKajjai” who was a famous student of Buddha, robust and round too, but not Buddha himself.) There’s a bit different between this two sects. (and other sects like Wachirayana in Thibet buddhism) But the core are the same.


  3. Altogether he struggled for six years in Bodhisatta strive. It is not clear how much of that time was studying with his teachers and how much on his own accompanied by these five ascetics.


    • Honestly, we needed somewhere to work for a while and we heard that Chiang Mai was inexpensive, had great food and friendly people. All of that was true and we also love exploring the countryside on our moped and visiting the many wats in the city.


  4. Funny, I saw your picture this morning before we went to see the Temple of the Tooth Temple here in Kandy… They had two similar statues of Buddha.

    We were wondering that is maybe the reason why Buddhism got to be so popular – I mean who wants to fast for years?



  5. Hi, in my world literature class we had to pick a country that we wanted to explore. The country I picked was Thailand because of its rich culture and differences that it has to America. I’ve studied the country extensively, both facts and literature, but I cannot gain first hand experience. You, however, have that experience that is crucial to me in immersing myself deeper in the Thai culture. I love your blog. Would you mind telling me more about what your time in Thailand has been like? What is the culture like? How are traditions being upheld and also changing? I’d really appreciate it if you could answer these questions and tell me anything else you feel fitting. Have a great day!


    • Hi Erica, that’s quite a difficult question to answer, especially in a comment. We’ll be writing soon about more of our observations about Thailand and its culture, so it’s probably best to look out for that post.


  6. This is such an interesting photo. I showed it to Patrick and both of us were just absolutely shocked to see the Buddha looking like this. I’ve seen images in paintings and drawings of his fasting but never a sculpture. Great shot!


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