When traveling Thai villages, you sometimes will see monuments where the dedication (or meaning behind the monument) is unclear. A few hundred meters north of Wat Nong Bua Sang (Sakon Nakhon) there is just such a monument in the form a large, closed lotus flower. It is named the Memorial Monument to an Enduring Angel (อนุสรณ์สถานแถนสถิต). At least that is how we have translated the Thai name.
Translating Thai can be tricky at times. In this case, the Thai word for a memorial monument (anuson sataan) is easily translated, but the second part of the name (taen satit) is a little trickier because it’s unusual to see these two words paired together. The Thai word taen (แถน) can mean angel, elves, or sky, while the word satit (สถิต) means to be static or unchanging, or to stay or remain. Considering the context of the monument, we believe “Enduring Angel” to be the intended meaning. For those who are learning Thai, remember that context is hugely important in understanding the Thai language.
So, what is the purpose of the Memorial Monument to an Enduring Angel? Well, we don’t think that it’s a “lucky” Buddhist shrine such as the Phaya Surayn Nakarat Shrine, which people visit to make wishes and travelers honk at when passing. It is much likelier a memorial to someone from the village or tambon (sub-district). Such monuments are sometimes constructed in Thailand to memorialize the life of an important person from a specific area (such as a monk or generous benefactor), or to memorialize a beloved child who has died much too early.
Traditionally, a closed lotus flower symbolizes the life the Buddha before enlightenment, and the potential for all people to become enlightened. However, in a memorial monument, the closed lotus flower sometimes represents the death of the person being memorialized, and their return to heaven or the spiritual world.
At the base of the Lotus flower monument, there is placed a small Buddha statue in the pose of meditation. The Buddha is sitting upon a cement platform with a cement lotus leaf on each side. It is likely that this cement platform/box contains the ashes of the person being memorialized. As there is no name on this platform, or on the lotus flower, we believe that an important village monk most likely is being honored — the absence of a name perhaps reflecting the monk’s Buddhist belief in the illusion of self-hood and his return to the ALL and the achievement of Nirvana.