A journey towards peace and harmony: Orientation Program for the new students at IBC Korat Campus July 12-15, 2010

On Sunday (11th July 2010), in a very beautiful refreshing morning all the students both new and old gathered together in the front gate of the IBC Korat Campus. Everyone is excited communicating with their new friends with a smiling face. It appeared to be a purely Buddhist environment, a beautiful happy moment, a moment that never be forgotten from the memory of each individual of the group. While everyone is busy talking to their friends someone almost suddenly announced that the bus has arrived. Today everyone will be going out to a trip that is inspiring, educational and refreshing. From tomorrow onwards classes will begin. The IBC Korat Campus opened its door to the learning mind by organizing this trip to several important places in Korat after two days of orientation programme. The 'trip' that I call 'A journey towards peace and harmony'.

In previous two orientation days old students shared their knowledge and experiences of their life in IBC (Songkhla Campus) to their new friends. They discussed the significance of Buddha's teachings in resolving the present day Global problems. They discussed the holistic nature of Buddhism that should be studied and practiced not for the sake of personal gain alone but with a holistic attitude. The new students agreed to their old colleagues and submitted themselves with their weakness while the old friends promised to extand their kind cooperation.

As usual everybody moved towards the bus and sat on seats of their liking. With a very moving Pali chanting in the bus our journey began to the sightseeing of the Korat Province. Headed by Ven. Zhen Chan, the director of student affairs, first of all we arrived at Phimai Historical Park. It was really an amazing visiting spot. A guide took us around it explaining the history, architectural style and significance of the park. We came to know that it was built around 11th - 12th century A.D., some years before Angkor Wat of Cambodia was built, during the reign of king Suriyavarman - a Khmer king. The architectural style and the images on lintels represent the Brahmanic influence, though it was mainly a centre for Mahayana Buddhism. Built of bricks and sandstone the Phimai Historical Park is 655 meters wide and 1,033 meters long in its rectangular shape. However, the place appeared to me as a Mandala of Esoteric Buddhism. Finally we had our lunch on the beautiful grassy ground of the Park.

Secondly we had been to the National Museum of Phimai. Situated in front of a big pond the Museum attracts the mind of visitors. The first image we came across upon entering into the museum was the sandstone statue of the last great Khmer king Jayavarman - a master piece of the museum collection. The museum, however, stores a rich quantity of arts and architectures of Dvaravati and Khmer styles. This includes the history of Phimai in 11th - 13th century A.D., development of communities in the lower Issan, image curved at sandstone showing the religious rites of the time, and the image of the Buddha sheltered by seven headed Naga, and Shiva - the god of destruction etc.

Thirdly we visited an outdoor museum called Ban-Prasat. In this place there are 3 pits that have been landscaped and open to the public. In the pits are seen some human skeletons which according to archeologists are around three thousand years old. This indicates that people lived in this place at a time prehistoric to the early history. And the pottery and bronze elements found along with those skeletons suggest a very early period in the history of human civilization which archeologists call beginning of the 'bronze age'.

Fourthly we visited a place called Sai-ngam. In this place we encountered an unusual phenomenon that is we saw many banyan trees of which branches and leaves are inter-woven by nature with each other. They are considered the largest Banyan trees in Southeast Asia. The branches and leaves of the trees are indistinguishable from one another. Among them there is also a holy tree of 350 years old which is respected by all people. A beautiful expression shared by our beloved teacher Dr. Dhammanandi after visiting this place was - just as the trees in this place standing together dependently we humans are also no different. Understanding the nature of dependency, therefore, we have to recognize our states of affairs and work accordingly.

Finally we visited a very magnificent temple by the name 'Wat Salaloy'. Every building in temple area was built with lots of arts and architectural beauty. The temple is said to have been awarded for their unique way of erecting those buildings.

By the end of the day after visiting all five places mentioned above we came back to the bus exhausted but with a rich knowledge regarding the history of Korat Province. An obvious phenomenon that I observed throughout the trip was all friends while visiting each place were eagerly trying to know about the place and sharing their knowledge with the nearest colleagues. Finally I would say trip is a very important part of our learning. In trips we learn together in a joyous environment. We can feel the spirit of 'oneness in differences' or rather 'unity in diversity'. Throughout the trip refreshments were served by Ven. Bangladeshi Satyajit and Ven. Laos Sanchoy. And the entertainment part was taken care of by Mr. Thai Thammasak.

Ven. Zhen Chan thanking all the participants in the trip and reciting the 'Namo Amitabha Sutra' together concluded the journey. It was really a journey towards peace and harmony. It laid a lasting impression on my heart that I will never forget.

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