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All you need to know about the Tiger Temple of Thailand

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By Pragya Jha

Image Source: wikimedia commons
Image Source: wikimedia commons

Located in Sai Yok District of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province, the temple is not very far from the border with Burma, some 38km northwest of Kachnaburi. It charges admission fee.

In 2015 the temple was cleared from the allegations of mistreatment of animals as per the investigation conducted by Wildlife officials and a raid by Thai soldiers.

Tigers

The temple received its first tiger cub in the year 1999.Villagers found that cub and handed over it to the temple. However, the cub died soon after. After that several tiger cubs were given to the temple. The no of tigers residing in the temple are 150 approx. as of January 2016.

The DNA data of the original eight tigers which were rescued is incomplete and therefore it is unavailable to public. The origin of these tigers is not known but it is assumed that they are Indochinese tiger, except Mek. Mek is a pedigree of Bengal Tiger. It is possible that some may be the cross breed or hybrid of Malyalan Tigers.

Issues and Controversy

An organization called Care for the Wild International alleged the temple of being involved in clandestine exchange of tiger with the owner of tiger farm in Laos. It is claimed that it operates tiger breeding facility without a license that is required under the Thai Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act of 1992.

According to the founder of Wildlife Friends of Thailand, the temple’s functions violates CITES (An international treaty to which Thailand is signatory). Under its laws CITES bans the commercial breeding of protected wild animals. All previous attempts by authorities to remove tigers from the temple have failed because of the influence created by the temple and its abbot, Phra Wisutthisarathen.

Based on the report of Care for the Wild International, a coalition of 39 conservative groups which included the Humane Society International, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, World Animal Protection and World Wide Fund For Nature sent to the director general of National Parks of Thailand under the name of “The International Tiger Coalition” urging the director general to take action against the temple for importing and exporting of 12 tigers with Laos. The letter concluded that the tiger temple does not have the facilities and skills neither it has relationships with accredited zoos. It also claims that the temple does not desire the tigers to manage in appropriate fashion and is encouraged purely for profit.

In December 2006, employees of ABC news spent three days in the temple and didn’t found any evidence of mistreating or drugging the animals.

On 2 February 2015 an official investigation was conducted by the Forest Officials. They were initially sent away by the temple authorities and were returned the following day with warrant, soldiers, and policemen.  The officials seized the wild birds and impounded the tigers. The head of Wildlife Crime Suspension stated that park did not have the permit for raising birds.

In 2016 two reports were issued  regarding the mistreatment and abuse of tigers in Tiger Temple.

Pragya Jha is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi.Twitter:pragya1527

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)