Wat Mongkolratanaram is located at 741 Mayflower Ave, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547, and it’s one of the most unique Buddhist temples in the country. The temple stands on the site of an ancient burial ground which belonged to the Tequesta tribe in pre-Columbian times. It is a Buddhist temple dedicated to two of Thailand’s most revered monks – Luangta Bua That Siri Raknet and Luangta Bua That Phutawan. Wat Mongkolratanaram is a Thai word meaning “Temple of Three Jewels.” In Thai culture, there are three types of gems that represent different concepts. These three jewels are representative of what Buddhists believe as sacredness: the Buddha, Dhamma (or Dharma) and Sangha. The Buddha is traditionally viewed as being enlightened with universal knowledge and teachings; this form of sacredness is represented by a gemstone called jade, which represents purity and calmness. A practice known as sila, or virtue or good behavior in Buddhism, is represented by a gemstone called sapphire which symbolizes truthfulness and honesty. Finally, worldly success or material wealth is represented by a precious stone called corundum which symbolizes prosperity and contentment with life. Thus, Wat Mongkolratanaram’s name literally means “Temple that houses the sacredness of three jewels.”
Wat Mongkolratanaram is actually the fourth temple built on the site of an ancient burial ground. The first temple was built in 1747 by a Thai immigrant named Buddh Rajidet. He was a member of the Siamese embassy stationed in Bangkok, as well as a devout Buddhist. During the reign of King Rama I, the Thai Buddhist community was thriving. Wat Mongkolratanaram was one of many Buddhist temples built in Thailand during that era. However, the temple’s history stretches much further back than this. The site of Wat Mongkolratanaram has been used as a Buddhist temple since at least the late Chon Buri period – a period of pre-colonial Thai history that spanned from A.D. 602 to A.D. 1767. The Chon Buri period marked a period of particular prosperity for Buddhist art in Thailand. During this era, Thai Buddhism was at its most popular, with many temples built in the country. When the Thai Buddhist community was thriving, the site of Wat Mongkolratanaram was overflowing with Buddhist art. The primary Buddhist art found at this site is that of the Ramakien, a historical Thai epic poem. During the Ayutthaya period – a period that stretched from A.D. 1351 to A.D. 1767 – Wat Mongkolratanaram was a popular place of pilgrimage. The Ramakien was at its most popular during this era, with numerous temples in Ayutthaya dedicated to the poem.
There are many things to experience at Wat Mongkolratanaram. The most important Buddhist practices are the morning and evening chanting of the monks. Chanting takes place at the front of the temple, and the sounds are very calming. Morning chanting takes place from about 6am-8am, and the monks usually chant one prose poem, which usually lasts about 30 minutes. Evening chanting takes place at about 6pm-8pm and usually features two prose poems. Another main practice at Wat Mongkolratanaram is the making of red-slipped Buddhist incense. Incense is a very important part of Buddhist practice, and a large incense stick is used to burn a variety of fragrant herbs – incense – that are believed to cleanse the air of pollution. Incense sticks are sold on the nearby temple grounds, and they can also be purchased in small packs.
Wat Mongkolratanaram is home to two Thai Buddhist monks who are revered for their teachings. One of these Ven. Luangta Bua That Siriraknet is an absolute goldmine of Buddhist knowledge, and he is the main focus of the morning chanting at Wat Mongkolratanaram. Siriraknet grew up in a Thai Buddhist family, and his love of the religion was evident at a young age. Siriraknet studied Buddhist philosophy in college and trained to become a monk in Bangkok. He is also a well-known author and poet. While Siriraknet’s teachings are very in-depth, he is also a very likable person. His personality makes the temple experience more enjoyable, and he has a very friendly and open attitude. Moreover, Siriraknet is also a very good story-teller, with a very interesting life and plenty of wisdom to boot. Ven. Luangta Bua That Phutawan is also a very popular monk at Wat Mongkolratanaram. He is revered for his teachings of Dhamma (or Dharma), which encourage proper behavior and virtue, as well as his teachings of Sangha, or community. Dhamma is the central topic of most Buddhist teachings. It contains principles such as harmlessness, non-attachment, and the interdependence of all things. Dhamma is also a central topic of Sangha, which means what good behavior should be exhibited by oneself as well as others of the same community.
Wat Mongkolratanaram is located in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and it’s easily reachable by car or public transportation. It is near the end of US-98, the main highway that connects Fort Walton Beach to Destin. If you’d like to visit Wat Mongkolratanaram, consider visiting during one of the annual Buddhist festivals. The most popular festival is the Meri Luang Thai New Year’s Festival, which is held on January 13th. This festival is a celebration of the new year, as well as a major Buddhist celebration. A great read
Wat Mongkolratanaram is a must-visit for any Buddhist traveler to the United States. The temple is unique in its history, culture and Buddhist practice, and it is well worth the drive. If you’re visiting Fort Walton Beach and want to experience something truly special, make the trip to Wat Mongkolratanaram. Additional info