WSEC – Meditating within the Angkor Temple complex

Terry Herbert

I noted with particular interest that one day of the 6-day Retreat is devoted to visiting the Angkor Temple complex. Excellent!
Before my 6 day retreat, I had already visited the complex. The temples (wats) are indescribably beautiful, so even if you don’t go on retreat and don’t have Adele to guide you, you must go.

Been there…

That was early June, 37C and steaming hot. I got to see at least 12 wats in the day, and came away awestruck by the enormity, artistic splendour and engineering complexity of the “Lost City of Angkor Wat”. It is estimated in the 12th Century, more than 2 million people lived in this city. By comparison, Paris at the same time, then the largest city in Europe, had a population of 80,000.
I came away from that first visit feeling spiritually unfulfilled. That was a big driver for me. To delve deeper into my own understanding of “spirituality” and to return to the complex to see if my perspective and perception had changed.
Day 4 of my Wayist Spiritual Energy Center retreat was Temple Complex tour day and for this post I will focus just on the 2 meditations that happened that day.

Meditation, but not as I knew it

I have been “mindfully” meditating for more than 20 years, usually just me and my cushion, but also as part of a group meditation at my local Buddhist Center. Karman Yoga Meditation and Heart Sutra guided meditation are different from my previous experiences. Distinctly different.
We had 3 days of these meditations before Temple day and I looked forward eagerly to each one. After eating a full breakfast before meditation on my first day, I soon discovered an empty stomach is better for the body (and the soul) when meditating. There are wonderful Khmer snacks and fresh tropical fruits to follow so no chance to be hungry.
Karman is comprised of fourteen movements, each with its own benefit for the soul, but I wasn’t expecting it to benefit my body or mind as powerfully as it did. First up, prepare yourself for an active meditation, although there are passive moments, mostly spent in reflective “Namaste” between each movement, your body is taken through a thorough work-out. Like Karma that only sends us lessons we are capable of learning, you only resist the movements with the force your own strength can muster. Anyone, everyone, will gain added strength and flexibility.
Heart Sutra Guided Meditation is more like what I’m used to in terms of passive, reflective and hopefully (but for me not always) mindful contemplation. It is a “heart” sutra because it is Anaharta, the heart chakra, where the soul-mind is ready to receive spirit-mind wisdom. We hope!
An angelic voice sings in Sanskrit, “Tayata Om, Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate.” Translation: “Gather the soul energies, go forth to the Om, Truth is not here, it is There, go over and beyond.” This is repeated. The effect: calming, peaceful, cathartic, reflective, contemplative.

Finally, Temple Day dawns

Ahh, but roll on Temple visit day. As they say in gaming vernacular, meditation is about to go, “next level”.
Well, we were there at Angkor Wat, before dawn, along with bus-loads of Chinese tourists waiting for the dawn sun to rise majestically over the silhouetted forms of Angkor Wat… except that thick, churlish clouds had conspired to block our post card sunrise.
How quickly I went from feeling robbed to feeling blessed.
There are over 200 temples that make up the Angkor complex and most tourists are lucky to see 10. Adele was an amazing guide and took us to places and temples I never went to the first time and would never see with any other guide. We were ushered to South Kleang Temple, built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII in the 12th Century and dedicated to Avalokithesvare, the Buddha of Compassion.

You could pull the Prana from the air

How special. We had a 900 year-old temple all to ourselves. It’s a cliché to say the energy was “palpable”, but you could literally pull the Prana energy from the air. With the stone slabs beneath us, walls and columns around and sky above still waking up in the quiet of early morning, we began our Karman meditation.
With my eyes closed, I can still feel, see, smell that morning. The previous days’ KYM meditations coalesced into a seamless flow. I could feel Prana everywhere, in me and around me. I didn’t have to visualize it…it was There!
Nothing else existed. I was completely in the moment. All the movements made sense, heck, in that instant I made sense! I drew Prana from heaven, I set my body-mind in balance, I shared my bounty, defended the weak and energised my aura and chakras. I was alive!
Adele made sure we had a nourishing breakfast to follow, but at that point I felt I could exist on Universal Prana Energy alone. I can remember seeing, hearing and tasting everything with greater clarity. I’m sure other senses came into play too, I just felt hyper-alive and extremely grateful.
Heat was seeping into the day, but the temperature was still mild. Another tuk-tuk ride to another out-of-the-way temple. We walked up the stone slab steps and into Ta Nei Wat, also constructed in the 12th Century at the behest of King Jayavarman VII. Once again, there was just us. Though not as splendid, it was a rare treat to have this ancient place to ourselves.
We lit our incense and I silently gave thanks before we began our Heart Sutra. My eyes were open and my body comfortably propped against a stone hearth. I watched the fine tendrils from my incense curl and climb toward heaven as the Mantra Meditation began: “Tayata Om, Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate. Tayata Om, Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate.”
The blissful energy I had felt before was replaced with love ─ compassionate love ─ and if love has a colour, that day it was golden. I felt at peace. Adele wisely told us, after our guided meditation we should quietly withdraw to our own intimate nook and claim it for this time as our own. Here we would light another incense stick and reflect, or explore, if we chose to. I chose both. I walked through doorways, stepping over ruins, along corridors, the solid stone absorbing sound so everything outside was muted. A cone of silence.
I found an entrance that bisected two passageways. I saw in its center what I imagined was a lingam, a male phallic symbol. Was I drawing on my Yang, my maleness? ─ I hoped so. I was seated snugly out of the sun, in gentle shade with a gentle breeze that whispered in all directions at once and lit my incense. Instead of climbing to heaven, the incense smoke swirled around me, in a very pleasant fashion. I spent that time counting my blessings and feeling the love of my family and friends.
The meditations for me that day were deeper and seemed more meaningful at the temple complex. There is no denying this ancient place is infused with energy. I know I perceived more, I felt more. Has my “spiritual perspective” changed after temple day? I can definitely say my spiritual awareness is heightened.
Thank-you Adele for being my spiritual guide.

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