Webster University Thailand MAIR Students Visit Wat Paknam | Webster University Thailand

Webster University Thailand MAIR Students Visit Wat Paknam

By Cassidy Winters

The grounds of the temple were surrounded by lush gardens. There was a steady flow of visitors that included local worshipers and foreign tourists. And yet, it was surprisingly quiet apart from some soft chanting by the temple’s nuns. The smell of incense lingered in the air. This is what several students in the Webster International Relations Master’s Wat Paknamprogram experienced when Dr Latifa Laghzaoui led this field trip to Wat (temple in Thai) Paknam, on 5 November 2018. The visit included a tour of the temple and the opportunity to meet Phra Pandit, a British monk who has been affiliated with this temple for almost 20 years.

Wat Paknam was built in the middle of the Ayutthaya period , between 1488 and 1629. Besides its historical significance, Wat Paknam is also known for its eclectic collection of artifacts. These artifacts are not specifically related to Buddhism, but instead range from statues of Buddha, to manual typewriters, clocks and classic cars. During the tour, students went up to the top floor of this exhibition building where the artifacts on display became more elaborate and ornate. But the highlight of this tour was on the top floor where a giant Chedi, made entirely out of glass, was displayed. This captivating Chedi was surrounded by a beautifully painted dome. Students lingered in this area, taking in the impressive art. Shaikh Zaman, a MAIR student, said about the tour,“I liked that we were able to ask questions and generate a dialogue of the monastery. It made the tour a learning experience in which we were able to understand what we were looking at and why it was there.” 

Wat Paknam

After the tour, the students had the opportunity to sit with Phra Pandit and discuss Buddhism and life as a monk. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Phra Pandit studied Psychology. Given his interest in meditation, he decided to dedicate his life to the teachings of Buddhism and live as a monk. 

When asked what he missed, Phra Pandit said he missed being able to choose his own food, stating, “it grinds you down after a while.” He also noted the differences in the weather — in England, he enjoyed the different seasons in particular autumn and winter. Phra Pandit says “being a monk is a blessed life in many ways but you have to keep busy or you can sit in your room and waste away.” He spends much of his time organizing meditation workshops and retreats for English speaking residents and visitors in Bangkok.

This was a unique and a very enriching opportunity for MAIR students to visit Wat Paknam and learn directly from an experienced and knowledgeable monk about Buddhism and monkhood. MAIR student Casey Loyet said, “As an International Relations student, I find value in learning about how one country positively impacts other parts of the world.” This experience helped cultivate an understanding of Thai culture and encouraged students to learn as much as possible during their time in Thailand.

Wat Paknam

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