Phra Panya Nu Phap Chaiyamongkol
Auspicious Victory Through The Power Of Wisdom
This is the name given to the Buddha image that is currently being created for Panyaden School through the collaboration of two Thai artists. It captures the essence of the school’s belief in helping its students develop and apply wisdom in their lives.
The materials used for the Buddha statue are bamboo and earth mixed with rice husks – the same natural materials that compose the walls, floors and roofs of Panyaden School.The inspiration for this sculpture came from a smaller Buddha image made by Thai artist, Metta Sudsawad (Took). The main sculpturing is done by Chiang Mai artist Thana Chaiyasien. Khun Took is overseeing this important undertaking. She is also instrumental in crafting the details that will make the image come alive.
The Making Of A Buddha Image
We follow the journey of our main Buddha statue as it begins its life on paper as a 5-foot tall drawing made by Pi Took (white Buddha in the main photo above).
Pi Thana first creates the skeleton from bamboo pieces which he enhances with rope and holds everything in place by wooden dowels. 3 days later, he starts to flesh out the body with a mixture of earth, rice husks and water. A week later, we join Pi Took as she examines and works out any changes with Pi Thana. Once she is happy with the structure and proportion of the main body, she will start working each day to finesse the little details that are so important in creating the right posture, attitude and feeling that this Buddha image will evoke. It is refreshing to see the two artists quietly working together to create a statue that will embody Buddha’s wisdom and compassion.
I ask Pi Took if her vision for the statue is based on any specific Thai tradition of Buddha art. “I would say it’s a contemporary style, closer to the Rattanakosin School which makes the Buddha image more realistic and closer to human anatomy and features. However, instead of a flame at the top of the head, I will sculpt a hollow lotus bud, which I think is a softer and more peaceful symbol. Ajahn Jayasaro will place a Buddha relic in the bud during the installation ceremony at Panyaden School.”
The Buddha statue has its right hand, palm down, touching the earth in the Bhumisparsha Mudra (ปางมารวิชัย, pang maa ra wi chai or ‘Calling the Earth to Witness’) gesture (mudra). It is believed that Shakyamuni (before he became Buddha) touched the earth, calling out to the Goddess of the Earth, Sthavara, to testify to his purity.
The left hand, held flat in the lap in the dhyana (meditation) mudra, personifies “the union of method and wisdom, samasara and nirvana, and also the realisations of the conventional and ultimate truths” (https://www.lotussculpture.com/mudras.htm). The Bhumisparsha Mudra therefore symbolises Buddha’s victory over Mara, the demon that embodies “the Tempter, the forces of greed, hatred and delusion” (https://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/buddhist_ceremonies_1.html).
After the torso and refining of the fingers, hands, feet and robe of the statue comes the difficult task of crafting the face. Pi Took feels that when most people look at a Buddha image, they tend to look at the face first. This is why she wants to spend enough time mindfully crafting it.
“The Mind Is Everything. What You Think You Become.” – Buddha
Working on the statue is almost like meditating. “It’s like communicating with Buddha. I talk to him and it seems like he is talking back to me! I feel close to Dhamma. This helps me become aware of my emotions. I need to clear my mind because I have to focus and put positive energy into it or the statue will not come out right.”
Further reading about different styles of Buddha images and the meaning of their gestures/positions: