The Golden Buddha

I first heard the story of the Golden Buddha earlier this year during a Sunday service at the Self-Realization Fellowship temple in Encinitas, California. I remember thinking how profound and amazing this discovery was. I also felt sadness about the way human beings treat each other when “valuable” material objects are at stake. I found this version of the story on a blog called The Planet Whisperer.


In 1957, a group of Thai monks were informed that due to major construction of a new port and highway, their shrine was to be relocated. The shrine in question was a huge clay Buddha.

Careful arrangements were made and the day of the shrine moving arrived. The shrine, located under a roof to keep it safe from the elements, was prepared for its journey. A crane was brought in and began lifting the clay Buddha, but as it rose off of its resting place, it began to crack. It seemed to be far heavier than all the engineers had estimated.

The monk supervising the movement of the Buddha frantically called to the crane operator telling him to set the Buddha down. As the monks and the engineers examined the Buddha, they found several large cracks and so to ensure safe movement of the Buddha, a larger crane would be needed, which would arrive the next day. The Buddha was left where it was placed and was to spend the night in its current location.

With a storm brewing, the monks covered the Buddha with a waterproof tarpaulin on poles to keep it dry overnight and all seemed to be well. During the night, the head monk awoke and decided to check on the Buddha. With a flashlight, the monk carefully checked the condition of the Buddha. As he walked around the huge clay figure shining his light on the cracks, something caught his eye. He peered into the crack and what he saw he did not understand, so he needed to see more.

The monk returned to his quarters, found a chisel and a hammer and returned to the Buddha. He began carefully chipping at the clay around the crack. As the crack widened, he could not believe his eyes. He ran to wake the other monks and instructed each of them to bring a hammer and chisel to the place where the Buddha sat.

By lantern light the monks carefully chipped all the clay from the Buddha. After hours of chiselling, the monks stepped back and stared in awe at the sight before them. There, in front of the monks, stood a solid gold Buddha.

When the moving crew arrived later that morning to complete the job of moving the Buddha to its new location, there was much confusion and excitement. Where had the clay Buddha gone? From where had the Golden Buddha come? The monks explained. Historians were called and research was begun to discover the origin of the Golden Buddha.

After much research, the pieces of the story were put together. The Golden Buddha was the cherished responsibility of a group of monks several centuries earlier. These monks received word that the Burmese army was headed their way and they were concerned that the invading army would loot the shrine for its Golden Buddha. So, the monks covered their Buddha with 8 to 12 inches of clay and when they were finished the Golden Buddha appeared to be made of clay.
The monks felt sure that the army would have no interest in a clay Buddha, and they were right. However, the Burmese army killed all of the monks before they moved on and The Golden Buddha was lost in history until 1957.


We should remember that there is a Golden Buddha inside each of us. It is hidden away under layers of clay that slowly forms throughout our lives. When we are born, we start life as a Golden Buddha, and this story reminds us that with the right tools, the Golden Buddha within each of us can be revealed in its full glory once again.

Life events and experiences may shroud us in clay, but when we have Faith, courage and self-belief we can break through the clay and allow our true natures to be revealed.

So, much like the monk with his hammer and chisel, it is our task to discover our true essence and to shine.

Yes, the Golden Buddha does really exist. Here is a historical account by Jeffrey Miller of The Korea Times that was posted online on June 2, 2005.


There are many magnificent Buddhist temples awaiting travelers in Bangkok, but of all of the Buddhist images, none are perhaps more impressive than that of the Golden Buddha.

Located in Wat Traimit at the end of Yaowarat Road near Bangkok’s Hualampong Railway Station, the Golden Buddha is one of Bangkok’s must-see attractions. Although the temple itself pales in comparison to other temples in Bangkok with its rather modest temple architecture, it is the Golden Buddha inside that attracts hundreds of visitors daily.

Built during the Sukhothai Period, the three meter (about 10 feet) high image of the seated Buddha is made of solid gold and weighs five and a half tons—the largest of its kind in the world. The enormous statue gleams with such richness and purity that even the most jaded are inspired by its quiet strength and power that overwhelm you as soon as you approach it. To be sure, of all the Buddha images that one can see in Bangkok from the Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaeo to the Reclining Buddha at Wat Po, the Golden Buddha is without question one of the lovelier and more serene statues found in the city.

Inasmuch as a visit to Wat Traimit should be at the top of your list of places to see when visiting Bangkok, the story behind this amazing Buddhist statue (and its discovery) is equally impressive. While it has been determined that the statue was made sometime during the Sukhothai period (13th to 15th century)—one of Thailand’s more famous periods of architectural and Buddhist arts—no one knows exactly when and where. However, it was located in a temple in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya (about one hour north of Bangkok).

The story of the Golden Buddha is interesting because the statue was camouflaged to protect its identity. When the Burmese were about to sack the city, the Golden Buddha was covered in plaster to conceal it from the invaders. Obviously, the camouflage job turned out to be too good because when those responsible for covering it with plaster died, so did the true nature of the Buddha image inside.

Later, the encased statue was moved to Bangkok and installed as the principal Buddha image in the main building of the Choti-naram Temple, or Wat Phrayakrai, during the reign Thailand’s King Rama III (1824-51). The temple was deserted around 1931, and the plaster-covered Buddha was moved to a temporary shelter. Two centuries after it had been first covered in plaster, it was thought to be worth very little.

The true nature of the Golden Buddha might not have been discovered if it hadn’t been for an accident. When the statue was being moved to a new temple in Bangkok in the 1950s (during expansion work of the Port of Bangkok) it slipped from a crane and fell into the mud. According to temple lore, in the morning, a temple monk, who had dreamed that the statue was divinely inspired, went to see the Buddha image. Through a crack in the plaster he saw a glint of yellow and soon discovered that the statue was pure gold, and the rest is history.

Since then, the statue has become one of the main attractions in Bangkok and is definitely worth seeing no matter what travel itinerary you might have while in the city. Although Wat Traimit, sometimes called the Temple of the Golden Buddha, has little architectural merit—the statue itself sits in a plain building just barely big enough to hold it within the temple compound—the Golden Buddha should not be missed when visiting the city.

Getting to the temple is rather easy because it is located within walking distance from Hualampong Railway Station, which can be accessed from Bangkok’s new subway system and the Skytrain. It’s probably a good idea to arrive early before the tour buses show up and everyone crowds into the small sanctuary that houses the Buddha to take photographs. Nonetheless, it is one of the few temples in Bangkok that allows visitors to get very close to such an important Buddhist artifact.

The building housing the Golden Buddha is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and admission is only 20 Baht. There are a few other buildings located within the confines of the small temple compound, but it’s probably best just to pay your respects to the Golden Buddha, light some incense, take your photographs and continue your sightseeing. To be sure, if you are looking for other places to visit while in the area, from here you can also get to Bangkok’s legendary Chinatown by foot so it can fit in nicely with a good day of sightseeing in this part of the city.


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