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Wat That Phanom in Nakhon Phanom
In northeastern Thailand, a kilometer from the shores of the vast Mekong River stands the exotic temple complex of That Phanom on the sacred hill of Phu Kamphra. According to the earliest known legends, the original sanctity of this site derived from visits by Kakusandha, Konagamana, and Kassapa, the Buddhas of the three previous ages. Long after these mythical visits the Buddha of our current age made a pilgrimage to the sacred hill to venerate the relics of the earlier Buddhas. Accompanied by his chief disciple, Ananda, the Buddha journeyed east from India to Phu Kamphra (legends say he actually flew) visiting other sacred places along the way. While at the sacred hill the Buddha telepathically communicated with another disciple, giving him instructions that following his death the disciple should bring the Buddha's breastbone relic to the hill. Legends say that this relic was later brought to That Phanom and that a reliquary was established to protect and enshrine it. In the Theravada Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand it is commonly thought that the Buddha, shortly before his demise, made an extended journey throughout the region of Southeast Asia to visit sacred sites of earlier Buddhas and also to lend support to the emerging Buddhist monastic tradition. No historical evidence, however, confirms that such a journey ever took place. Scholarly interpretation of the legend suggests that it was a method the Theravada sect used to mark and sanctify Buddhist territory.
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