The Sanctuary of Truth, not just a tourist destination but a place of profound thoughts and inspiration
Sightseeing can be so full of hyped expectations. Sometimes we see so many exaggerated advertisements that the reality can be mediocre or even disappointment. Sometimes however, the complete opposite can also happen with a visit becoming memorable, leaving a marked impression in one’s memory.
I had heard about the Sanctuary of Truth several years ago when visiting the imposing and inspirational Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan, Bangkok. Since moving to Pattaya it has been on my doorstep but some of the reports of overcrowding and commercialism had affected my perception. However, in Covod-19 time, with no tourists it was time to delay no longer.
The Sanctuary of Truth is located in the Naklua area of North Pattaya, it is well signposted and the narrow entrance road must be quite a challenge in busy, pre-covid times. The entrance is into a walled courtyard and tantalisingly there was not sight of the building that we had come to see. With just a few cars on the parking we were able to stop in front of the ticket office. Visiting The Sanctuary of Truth is a spiritual experience that may have been lost with the hordes of tourists, but today the friendliness and dedication of the staff is excellent. English speak staff assist you with the pricing and here you will find no-dual ricing, both Thais and foreigners pay the same price of THB.500. You take a short walk to a vantage point to await for your guide. New normal regulations restrict numbers and we were just 7 people in our group.
At this vantage point you get your first sight of the Sanctuary and it is breath-taking. The information board provides some initial information, specifically to the 5 figures at the top. Promptly on time the group is gathered with an introduction in both Thai and English, you then proceed down the steps(I believe that there are alternate ways if you are not so mobile). Gradually as you descend the full size and glory presents itself and at the bottom you are presented with a hard hat as construction still continues inside.
The Sanctuary of Truth was the life work of Kuhn Lek and Kuhn Prapai Vinyahbhun a highly successful business-man and philanthropist with a passion for old culture and an ardent collector of old artefacts and works of art. Construction commenced in 1981 and still continues today and may not be completed until 2025. Kuhn Lek’s vision with The Sanctuary of Truth is the balance between life and the universe. It is inspiring and encourages reflection into our modern lives.
The tour commences with a walk around the outside and one can see that completion is a long way off as various support fixed with nails are obvious, the plan however is for all metal nails to be removed on completion.
Every part of the Sanctuary has been designed with a deep message from the entrance steps offering two choices under the watchful gaze of the 4-face Brahma, to the exit with it’s poignant murals of family existence. The Sanctuary is especially interesting as it represents both Hindu and Buddhism yet it is a museum and not a temple. It is inspiring and extremely spiritual.
Constructed entirely of wood, there are 4 main halls with vast columns of Takien wood that is expected to last at least 600 years. Each has specific meanings and lessons through the meticulous carvings featuring Thai, Hindi, Buddhist, Chinese and Khmer traditions. The construction is over 100 meters tall and the total indoor space 2,115 sq meters.
The Northern Hall features Guanyin(all-seeing, all-hearing immortal being and the Goddess of Mercy). The Southern Hall indicates astronomical themes including the Sun, the Moon and the Planets in addition to sculptures of Bramha(the creator god in Hinduism), Vishnu(the 2nd god in the Hindu triumvirate) and Shiva(the supreme being within Shaivism).
In the Western Hall, carvings feature representations of the Classical Elements(Earth, Wind, Water and Fire). Carvings in the Eastern Hall, dominated by the Father & Mother gratitude sculpture, depict familial representations. The Central Hall is the Great Throne and Liberation symbolising the entrance to the universe or Aryasatyani(the 4 Noble Truths).
When your tour has ended, spend time in the little café close by, their smoothies are very refreshing and it is a wonderful place to be able to sit and let the messages of the Sanctuary soak in and feast your eyes on the intricacies of the construction before you.
As you follow the exit signs you will be directed through the Workshop. Do spend time here to watch the artists at work and gain a further understanding of how the construction is possible, and also why it is taking so long!
In some ways it is hard to describe what one is seeing. The objective of The Sanctuary of Truth is “to highlight the significance of religious philosophies that promote sustainability and the world, through spirituality and strong piety and arts or moral cultures – teaching humans to do good and avoid bad’.
I was extremely fortunate to visit when the Sanctuary was quiet and therefore be able to appreciate the intricacy of the building and to be able to reflect on its purpose.
To some it may be just a tick on the ‘to do’ list in Thailand and a chance for Instagram/Facebook postings. I personally found the Sanctuary of Truth to be a place of profound inspiration indicating so many messages on how to lead a good life.
I will leave you with a quote from a great man for whom I have enormous respect: “A man has no rest day. When you work, your work is never ending. The future is waiting and life is never ending, so we have to keep exploring” – Kuhn Lek Viriyahbhun, creator of The Sanctuary of Truth.
Kim Waddoup enjoyed a lifetime in the tourism business and is an active ‘Silver-Ager” living in Thailand. He writes for his age group with high varied articles covering subjects relevant to retirees living in, or visiting Thailand.
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