Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ying and Yang

Hello, readers! I am Amanda Wiggans and I am from Macon, Missouri. I just finished my first year as a graduate equivalency student in Music Therapy at the University of Kansas.

A couple of weekends ago we traveled to the northern provinces of Thailand. We spent 2 nights in Chiang Rai, and 2 nights in Chiang Mai. Between sight-seeing at temples, meandering through the Queen Mother’s giant flower garden and elephant rides, the group was kept very busy the entire time.

On this trip we visited several interesting and unique temples. We were introduced to what I now know as my favorite temple that I’ve seen in Thailand; Wat Rong Khun or “The White Temple”. It was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat. Construction began in 1997 and building is constantly ongoing. Wat Rong Khun is different from any other temple in Thailand, as it is designed in white color with some use of white glass and mirrors. The white color of the structure represents Buddha’s purity, and the white glass and mirrors stand for Buddha’s wisdom that is said to "shine brightly all over the Earth and the Universe."

The bridge leading to the temple represents the crossing over from the cycle of rebirth to the Abode of Buddha. A small semicircle before the bridge stands for the human world. The big circle with fangs and hands reaching upwards is a representation of the mouth of Rahu, meaning impurities in the mind. This area is a representation of hell or suffering.

All the paintings inside the temple have golden tones. The four walls, ceiling and floor contain paintings showing an escape from the defilements of temptation. On the roof, there are four kinds of animals representing earth, water, wind and fire. The elephant stands for the earth; the naga (snake) stands for water; the swan's wings represent wind; and the lion’s mane represents fire. On the walls on the temple at each side of the entrance are images that I was very surprised to see! There were painted scenes of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, battle scenes between George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. There are also scenes from the Predator, Spiderman, Batman, Keanu Reeves character in the Matrix, covering the walls, as well as Avatar characters along side of other sci-fi images such as rocket ships and UFO’s. While these murals were initially strange to me, I soon began to understand what I was seeing. I believe that these paintings are significant because it portrays some of the famous battles that are significant to this era, whether it was an actual battle or cinematic portrayal, there are important lessons to be learned from both.

After we finished touring the White Temple, we set off to visit the Black House. Thawan Duchanee, who happens to be the mentor of the artist who designed and built the White Temple, built this structure. Though very different in actual structure, they are similar in that both artists have created very large, “living” works of art. Both artists are constantly building, constructing and adding to their works. The outside of the main hall is constructed of teak wood and is mostly painted black. The inside of the central building is decorated with several different animal skins, horns and skulls displayed on the walls and tables. There were also smaller, abstract structures on the property that was will filled with various black wooden statues and other exotic animal furs and bones. There was even a full elephant skeleton on display. To me, this place definitely had a darker feel than the white temple, but after seeing the both of these places back to back, oddly enough, it seemed to balance out. The White temple was more representational of a celestial experience and is more focused on anticipation of the afterlife. The Black House was more representational of the earthly world and is ground in day-to-day experiences.

After observing the similarities and differences between these two structures, I began to make transfers in my own life, and in music therapy. Experiences or even clients may appear to be one way, but upon closer inspection can be viewed at in a totally different light. Are things always black and white in your life? Is there a balance that you strive to achieve? Is there a time in your life when you realized that things aren’t always what they appeared to be?

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