Renowned Thai artist, Khun Teerayoot Daochanterk, was commissioned to carve two wall murals in stone to depict the biography of Lord Buddha and the principle teachings of the Buddha, as a tribute to our Great and Compassionate Teacher.  These stone murals are similar to the “Borobudur” bas reliefs in Java, Indonesia.

Composition of the mural
1 mural1The composition of the relief scene is symmetrical.  There are two intended directions in which the relief is depicted.  First is the main theme, displayed in the central column, in an upward direction from the bottom to the top.  It depicts the Birth of the Buddha, his Enlightenment, the preaching of his First Sermon and the Final Passing Away of the Buddha. (Featured in the photograph on the left.)
The second is the detailed biography of the Buddha to illustrate the main theme mentioned above.  This is depicted in a rightwards direction, beginning from the lowest left hand corner, moving towards the right and then continuing on the next row upwards, again from left to right.
As the Buddha had lived for eighty years, it will not be possible to depict all the details of his life.  Instead, the artist has chosen to depict only the most significant events in the relief.  Moreover, due to the size of the mural, the scenes have been simplified to represent whole events.
Prior to his Enlightenment, the Buddha was referred to as the Bodhisatta (a Buddha-to-be).  In the relief, beings of the higher realms, such as devas and brahmas, are differentiated with special characteristics, namely halos around their heads.  The ‘curly shapes’ in some of the relief panels depicts supernormal sights/events or other realms of existence.

The drawing below depicts the entire mural and the panels are numbered to facilitate the reader’s easy reference to the description of the biography.  The scenes in the relief are divided into 7 episodes, consisting of 35 panels. 

Mural on the Life of the Buddha

For example, Scene 1 depicts the Bodhisatta Residing in Tusita Heaven
The left panel depicts our Bodhisatta in Tusita heaven as he was being requested by the Chief of the Devas to take rebirth on earth.  The scene in the right panel depicts the Bodhisatta’s mother (Sri Mahamaya) having the prophetic dream (with curly shape) that a young white elephant entered her womb.  A row of court attendants are seated beneath her bed.

Mural on the Teaching of Lord Buddha

The objective of the mural is to present a visual representation of the key components of the Teachings of Lord Buddha. The following paragraphs describe the mural from top to bottom. 

1 mural2 Panels 1-10    This row of Buddhas represents the Nibbana element to which Enlightened beings ‘enter into’ after their passing away, totally released from the cycle of samsara (the seemingly endless round of births and deaths which ordinary beings get caught in if they do not take up the Buddha’s Path of Practice to free themselves).

Panel 11    This lotus flower motif with four distinct sections represents the Four Noble Truths which the Buddha attained insight into when he gained Enlightenment.  The Four Nobles Truths discovered by the Buddha refers to the fact that : 1) Life is stressful (dukkha – also translated as suffering, unsatisfactory etc). 2) Stress arises because of certain causes – craving for sensual happiness, craving for becoming (wanting things to go the way we expect) and craving for not becoming (not wanting things to be what they present themselves to be).  3) The end of stress can be realized/attained. 
4) There is a Practice Path to the end/transcendence of stress.

Panel 12    This panel represents Lord Buddha preaching his first sermon to his first five disciples – the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta (The Sermon on the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma).  The image in this panel is a replica of a very famous image found in Sarnath India (where the First Sermon was taught).  The presiding image in our meditation hall is also a replica of this same image.

Panel 13    This panel shows three fishes eating one another in a circular fashion, representing the three characteristics of existence (anicca – impermanence, dukkha – stress, anatta – not-self).  The inner circle is divided into 12 sections, each representing the 12 component factors of Dependent Origination (Paticca Sammupada).  The Buddha stated that this teaching of Dependent Origination is very deep and difficult to understand but “whoever sees Dependent Origination, sees the Dhamma, whoever sees the Dhamma, sees Dependent Origination”.  It is taught that all those who attain Enlightenment, does so by penetrating Dependent Origination.

Panels 14,15,18,19, 20,21,22,23
These eight footprints represents the footprints of the Buddha and at the same time, they represent the Eightfold Path of Practice taught by the Buddha.  The footprints also reminds us of the fact that Teachings of the Buddha are to be walked/put into practiced.  The Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha is: 1) Samma Ditthi – Right View, 2) Samma Samkappo – Right Renunciation, 3) Samma Vaca – Right Speech, 4) Samma Kammanto – Right Actions, 5) Samma Ajivo – Right Livelihood, 6) Samma Vayamo – Right Effort, 7) Samma Sati – Right Mindfulness, 8) Samma Samadhi – Right Concentration.       

Panels 16, 16A, 17,17A    
These four panels represents the four component members of the Buddhist Parsia or community.  This community is made up of Monks, Nuns, laymen and lay women.

Panel 24        This lotus flower motif with four distinct sections represents the Four Bases of Power/Success (Iddhipada).  These factors are necessary for achieving our intentions/objectives be they spiritual or secular.  The factors are: 1) Mindfulness, 2) Persistence, 3) Concentration, and 4) Discernment.

Panels 25, 29        These two panels contain a total of Seven Lotus flowers.  Each of these flowers represent one set of each of the Seven Wings to Awakening.  These Wings to Awakening were emphasized by the Buddha (during the three months before his passing away) as the most important aspects of his teachings which are to be practiced by his disciples if the teachings are to be preserved for future generations.  The Seven sets are:  1) The Four Frames of Reference, 2) The Four Right Efforts, 3) The Four Bases of Power, 4) The Five Facuilties, 5)The Five, 6) The Seven Factors of Enlightenment, 7) The Eightfold Path.

Panels 26, 27, 28    The Noble Eightfold Path can also be summarized under three headings, namely, the practice of Sila (Virtue - 28), Samadhi (Concentration - 27), Panna (Wisdom - 26).  You will see that the lotus flowers in Panel 28 appear as new flowers/buds, signifying that the practice begins with virtue as a base.  Panel 27 shows the flowers beginning to blossom, meaning that Samadhi (Concentration) opens up our minds for wisdom to arise.  Panel 26 represents the flower in full bloom, meaning the practitioner attains full Enlightenment.

Panel 30        This four sectored lotus flower represents the practice of the four sublime attitudes of mind (Brahmaviharas), namely : loving kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity of mind.

Panel 31    This panel reminds us of the importance of the practice of generosity/giving.  It shows a group of monks collecting alms from lay supporters, which is part of the daily practice of lay Buddhists.  More importantly, it is an open reminder of the relationship between lay people and the monastic community – lay people provide the basic support for the livelihood of monks and in turn monks provide the laity with the opportunity to practice generosity and accumulate merits in the process.

Panel 32    This panel reminds us of the need to practice the lay person’s code of conduct which leads to family harmony and happiness.  The Buddha taught this code in the famous Sigalovada sutta which, amongst other things, teaches us how to recognize true friends, avoid causes of ruin to one’s fortunes, and how to preserve one’s earnings.