Yesterday I went for a little hike up a hill in Chiang Mai. There is a nicely paved road leading all the way uphill to the sacred Temple ‘Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’
It’s a steep road with many bends and corners.
I chose to hike up about half the way to a temple called ‘Wat Pha Lad’ on the trail. It used to be the temple where monks would stop to rest in olden times as they hiked to the main temple uphill.
Slowly and steadily, walking afoot, I made my way to the temple.
On the road, just before the temple, there was a little shrine with a statue of the Buddha inside it.
I wondered why there was this little shrine on the road just before a major temple that stood a bit further from the road, inside the forest.
I looked into the eyes of the Buddha’s statue and prayed for the strength to find my own truth.
After visiting the breathtaking temple nestled in the forest, I started walking downhill, back home. I passed by the little shrine again. After being mesmerised by the ethereal beauty of the temple in the jungle, I wondered again, why this little shrine stands here after all!
And I continued on.
Today, I decided to cycle all the way uphill to ‘Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’. Within one kilometer of cycling I understood what I had gotten myself into.
The steep incline was going to last for 11 kilometers until I reached the temple. The weather was getting stormy by the second. I gasped deeper and deeper for breaths as my heart rate jumped to twice the normal. Drenched in sweat, I pedalled on in the lowest gear, heaving and panting constantly.
About half way up, thick black clouds started to condnese into raindrops. Huge blobs of water started hitting me like torpedoes.
I got a bit worried since I was going uphill and there was a forest all round me.
I could turn back and race downhill to save myself from getting drenched. But I wanted to go all the way up.
I was determined.
I saw a signboard at a distance as I approached it at an easy pace. In moments I could read what it said,
‘Wat Pha Lad 500 meters ahead’
I heaved a sigh, this time of relief.
I pedalled on quickly to reach the little shrine just ahead of the temple I’d been to yesterday.
I parked my bike and took all my stuff inside the shrine to find shelter.
The downpour lasted for half an hour.
In the meantime, I just sat in front of the Buddha’s statue. I saw what I failed to see yesterday. There was a roof on Buddha’s little shrine!
And it saved me from getting caught in heavy rain.
I tried to remember if there were any roofs in the magnificent forest temple I was so mesmerised by yesterday.
I couldn’t remember any.
Grateful for the roof, I understood why there are small shrines leading to all big temples.
I looked intointo Buddha’s eyes on the statue,
And he told me,
‘I am here only to remind you to pray.
Not to me.
But just to pray.’
‘When you face adversity as you undertake a big challenge,
Your prayers will manifest into the shelter you need to keep you going.’
After two hours of cycling uphill, I finally reached the main temple ‘Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’
On my way back downhill,
speeding past the little shrine,
And in my mind,
Full of belief,
I am ready for the next challenge,
The next ride,