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Langkawi Wat Wanararm

Look no further if you don't intend to travel a long way to Thailand just to visit a Thai temple. We have it right here - Wat Luangpo Koon Parisutto Wanararm or simply known as "Wat Koh Wanararm" a traditional Thai influenced temple in Langkawi Island, Malaysia.  It is approximately 50 minutes by AirAsia to this holiday destination from Kuala Lumpur.

It is a good alternative to travel by flight if you don't want to waste precious time on board land travel to Kuala Perlis and then transfer by ferry to Langkawi. Land journey usually by coach will take an ardous 8-10 hours one way (plus waiting time for ferry to reach the island from Kuala Lumpur). Once you are in the island, you can take the taxi service to Wat Wanararm by highlighting "Tokong Sami at Jalan Kisap".  Literally it means Buddhist Monks Temple at Jalan Kisap road.

The perfect timing to visit most temples is during the Vassa rain retreat as monks will mostly be staying inside the temple compound for 3 months. By far the Buddhist practice requires at least 6 monks to be in a temple in order for lay devotees to conduct the Kartina service (offering of monk robes) at the end of the Rain retreat sometime in October. I am fortunate to have met all the monks that I once knew are staying there during my visit.

Wat Wanararm is the branch of LP Koon temple - Wat Banrai in Thailand. We are very fortunate that Luang Po Koon had given his full support for Wat Wanararm to be built at Langkawi island following requests from many Thai-Malaysian residents in Langkawi. This good purpose had enabled many Buddhists to benefit the teachings of the Lord Buddha from the Sangha (monks).

Lay devotees offering dana "alms food" to resident monks of Wat Koh Warararm. Many children are of Thai-Malaysian parents although they may look alike any ordinary local Chinese. There are also Thai descendants living in Langkawi because of the near distance where you can reach Satun in Southern Thailand just by ferry from Kuah jetty.

All together there are 7 monks during 2008 rain retreat (Vassa Period). In total there are 6 Thai monks and 1 Malaysian monk. Before receiving the food from lay supporters, the monks will recide Pali Suttas for almost 30 minutes to all the devotees present. LP Khaw have very strict practice when receiving alms. He will ensure the giver will be properly blessed by him and the Sangha in return.

At the end of every Vassa, there is a tradition to observe the Patimoka Sila (Vinaya rules for monks) and the leader will conduct this tradition and remind all monks on self-conduct in accordance to the Patimoka Sila.

Since the humble beginning of this temple led by Thai Sangha Order, LP Khaw had led numerous alms receiving called "Pindabart" according to Buddhist teachings for the purpose of getting rid of attachment in oneself. At the same time it create opportunity for the givers to accrue meritorious deeds. The Pindabart alms round was conducted during 2010 rain retreat at Langkawi town.

Devotees paying respect before listening to the Pali chanting by monks and gave alms food

To begin with, LP Koon had appointed monk desciples from Wat Saikhao located at Muang District, Songkhla to head the Dharma teaching and support the people. The chief abbot of Wat Saikhao – Chao Khun Parn had chosen Luang Phor Khaw to represent Wat Wanararm. Since then LP Khaw had done some pretty impressive works between such a few short years to what it is today with the help from monks from all over Thailand.  One such monk with Buddhism teaching experience is Phra Maha Thera whom hailed from Supanburi, Thailand.  He graduated with a M.A. Buddhism from India and had been a monk for 38 years and a teacher himself teaching school childrens and Samaneras (newly ordained monks) in Nakhon Pathom.  English speaking visitors will not have any problem in communicating or enquire any questions related to Dhamma and meditation practice with Phra Maha.

Photograph of Chief Abbot of Wat Wanararm Langkawi, Luang Po Khaw whom joined the monkhood at a very young age at Wat Saikhao, Thailand. Deep inside LP Khaw is a very compassionate heart.

He showed me around the temple compound during his routine visit to the Kutis (monk's hut) at the hillside forest area.  The Kutis are meant for monk's meditation.

The photo on the left is at the edge of the hill nearby the temple compound where you can see the small path leading uphill. The pathway was surrounded by trees and marble rocks.

This is the starting point if you intend to go into serious meditation. It was a bit slippery due to early morning rain and walking uphill is no easy task. I had to practically holding onto tree branches to pull myself up along the way.

This meditation site is surrounded by flush jungles and the environment is very serene. Surprisingly I can't find any sign of mosquitos. You can hear plenty of birds and insects sounds. The aura vibration along the pathway is very clear probably I was guided up by one of the resident monk Ajahn Udon.

Photograph of Ajahn Udon on the way uphill to the meditation cave.

At my request, Ajahn Udon agreed to allow me to take a photograph of him. I sense that he is a highly skillful meditative monk and very warm hearted depending on whom appraoches him.

Ajahn Udon is probably the most experienced  monk regarding this forest meditation site. At the hilltop, I was taken into a cave hanging on the cliff.

This is where Ajahn Udon would spend his meditative time inside. I was given the permission to enter this cave and you can see the big dark brown tudong umbrella hanging on top of the cave where it is also used as mosquito shield at night when Ajahn sleeps. Inside the small cave contains his belongings - a simple straw mat, a pillow and some personal belongings.

Monks are encouraged by the Lord Buddha to seek solitude place at the hills, cliff, under a tree and thick jungles where those places are far away from people to practice meditation. 

Apart from that, there are also wild mushrooms that I was informed this species can be made into medicines. Ajahn Udon brought me around the forest area near the cave to pick some mushrooms back and placed it into the pot for soaking off the sand and muds. Only Thai monks are experts in using natural herbal ingredients for curing diseases and health maintenance because they usually can't find doctor nearby whenever they are struck with illness.

He was bestowed the title "Ong Dam" for surviving the ordeal of malaria during his tudong days in deep forested jungles of Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Ajahn Udon specifically mentioned that he did not die from the malaria in which he had suffered. He was shivering in cold fever and did not take any medicine for 1 month and he healed by himself through preservation and mind training.

Ajahn also told me his story when he first made residence inside this particular cave. He was visited by a very large snake. He described to me the snake's diameter is around the size of a normal man's thigh. He also described that it was a very beautiful snake from the appearance of its skin tone. He then showed me inside the cave there's another smaller entrance where that snake used to lived until his arrival. He was not aware of this snake presence and during his meditation one day, that snake came from behind where he was sitting meditation and the snake hissed furiously to his ear. Without any fear he communicated with the snake to allow him to share the cave dwelling.

One night while he was asleep and sharing residence with that large snake, it went pass the side of his body without disturbing him and then out of the cave. In fact Ajahn was fully aware and gave space for the snake to pass through while he was lying down. The snake slit through the side of his body and rolled down from the hanging cliff. If you see that photo earlier, the hanging cliff height is quite high and the rocks are quite sharp with cutting edges. And yet according to Ajahn that snake was very skillful in getting up and going down the cave every time. Of course the snake did not use the ladder to climb.

One day, that very snake that have been sharing the cave dwelling with Ajahn gave signs and strange gestures to ask him to follow it to another cave entrance about 100 meters away. It's the intention of that snake to lead Ajahn to its new dwelling of another cave opening. It takes a very brave monk to accomplish what Ajahn Udon had done so far for the realization of Truth.

Ajahn Udon is a wondering monk who goes to places where needs his help. He had helped in the early phase of Wat Wanararm construction.  Ajahn Udon have been wandering around in Thailand for sometime.  The past 2 years rain retret he did not return to Wat Wanararm.  Hopefully he will come back again in the near future.

So far there are only 4 Kutis that had been built at the hill side of Wat Wanararm. This small Kuti may look impressive from the exterior with its blue color zink roof and stainless steel walls. But if you take a look again, it's the left over construction materials that monk recycled from the Main Hall building construction at the temple.

Here is a photo shot of another small Kuti that was over shadowed by a large thick tree not far from the above one.

Monk's residence is very plain simple and yet it's very practical. I was impressed by their hard work apart from meditation duty and serving the community.

Photograph of Ajahn Sawang hard at work to complete his Kuti during this rain retreat. He can speak simple English and he is from Udon if I can remember. Ajahn Sawang is probably the most meticulous monk and likes to keep his place very tidy. His workmanship in carpentary skills for building up his Kuti is very impressive too.

I am very impressed that all materials used to build the Kutis are recycled from the nearby construction of the temple Main Shrine and LP Koon's building so that it does not go to waste. Other materials e.g. lights, floor mattress, etc. came in the form of donation from most lay devotees.

Like most wondering monks such as Ajahn Suwang and Ajahn Udon, they will never stay for too long in a single location.  We hope with good fate we shall meet them again in the future.

Other parts around the temple surrounding is the building of LP Koon (picture shown below here). It has a very rich Thai architecture design and it's beautiful. The construction of this building was completed not too long ago as far as I can remember.

Next, the picture below shows inside the newly completed Main Shrine or Ubosot. The large Buddha statue at the background was shipped from Thailand that is similar to Wat Raiking.

Below pictures taken in August 2009 are Phra Pidta talisman - a creation by LP Khaw that will be placed underneath the big Buddha statue inside the Main Sermon hall. This batch of Pidta are all individually hand pressed using the mold made by LP Khaw himself. It is very common for Chief Abbot to leave behind their legacy for future generations to discover Buddhism treasures right underneath this big Buddha statue when the right opportune comes.

Apart from making Phra Pidta, LP Khaw is also famous for making effective Palakit for many years. There are various sizes and individually hand crafted from certain type of woods. The process of chanting, blessing and finally yants are inscribed into each pieces before they are being given away to devotees. It takes a long time to make these Palakits and always in demand.

Katha used for wood Palakit from LP Khaw:
Ditak Kamma Upasampa
Sunakmolo Sachatri
Cittang Buriso
Cittang Pit-Krit Nili-Mit

There is also a very nicely decorated plush garden with the image of Lord Buddha sitting in serene peace. The whole place is serene and yet far from traffic noises although it is not very far from the outside civilization.

For more information or going to Wat Wanararm

Kampung Bukit Putih, Jalan Kisap, 07000 Pulau Langkawi, Kedah

Thank you very much to all Dharma Friends and readers for taking your time to read about Wat Koh Wanararm. May you all be always well and happy. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

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