Wat Buddhapadipa is an undisturbed, serene sanctuary hidden in energetic and busy London; it sits a stone’s throw away from the illustrious All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club – where the ball flying drama of Wimbledon takes place. It has been rumoured that tennis stars as famous as Novak Djokovic visit this haven, to refresh their spirits between matches with meditation and mindfulness.
Buddhapadipa means ‘Buddha the light’, a name that is shared with the central statue inside the temple and signifies Buddhism’s reach into the West. In fact, the temple was the first Thai holy place to be constructed in Europe, way back in 1976. Surrounding the temple is five acres of land – home to a royal ornamental pond with a water feature gifted by the King of Thailand, gentle streams, quaint bridges, a beautiful flower garden and an elegant orchard.
The temple itself is dressed with white walls topped with a red and gold roof. The window and door frames are carved from gold leaf and the windows are decorated with coloured glass. With shoes slipped off, you can step inside and marvel at the surreal, mural masterpiece which covers the interior walls. The bright colours and dreamlike imagery depict the life of Buddha from his birth – through renunciation and enlightenment – to his death. The mural also portrays myths, objects and famous figures from the Buddhist tradition and modern life. A vibrant selection of statues and ornaments are displayed in the shrine; meaning the holy place can be used for Buddhist activities, special ceremonies and meditation.
Phramaha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso, one of the head Buddhist monks, says that Wat Buddhapadipa represents the essence of Buddhist teaching: ‘Refrain from doing bad things, do all the good things and purify one’s mind’. Phramaha and the rest of the orange-robed monks and nuns live in the resident house opposite the temple. They eat twice a day, once in the morning at 11.00 am and then after sunset; they dedicate their lives to the upkeep of the temple grounds. Food is supplied to them by donations from the local community.
The tranquil magic of this special spot is exemplified by the picturesque path that weaves around the garden, along which stand signposts with Buddhist quotes such as: ‘Though one may conquer a thousand men in battle, the one who conquers himself, is the greatest warrior’. As you walk through the grounds and gaze up at the trees you are reminded of the ethos of the temple: to welcome everyone, from all walks of life, whether Buddhist or not.
Meditation classes take place daily, with meditation retreats also available across the year, many of which are free. On Sundays, talks and discussions often take place in the main temple and several vibrant Buddhist festivals occur throughout the year. However, you do not have to set up camp inside the temple to meditate – you can always find a special spot in the grounds, under a tree or even in the middle of one of the bridges. In the summer months, a meditation garden is also accessible.
Next time you feel the urge to visit Thailand or you’re in search for some inner peace, remember this authentic Buddhist sanctuary and its undeniable calm atmosphere. It is an extraordinary place and worth visiting at least once.
14 Calonne Road, Wimbledon, SW19 5HJ, +44 (0) 208 946 1357