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Sima stone blessing


Part of the Amaravati Temple concept was to designate it as a suitable place for the formal acceptance of candidates into the Sangha as monks or nuns. This required the marking out of a sima - a consecrated boundary, determined by marker stones - within which these ceremonies could take place. A sima is used for a variety of other 'official' monastic business but ordinations are the most closely defined and regulated. In the time of the Buddha natural features would have been used to delineate the sima - the rock outcrop in the north, the river in the west, etc. - and the lines of the actual boundary would not have been especially precise. With the development of monasteries, and their more clearly defined boundaries, the degree of precision and formality that developed around establishing a sima increased.
The establishment procedure: the area within the required boundary is divided into sections, each of which is ceremonially consecrated and formally declared part of the sima using a variety of traditional Pali formulae. The line of the sima is marked at the eight primary compass points - usually with stones. In the case of the Amaravati sima, these stones were buried under the foundations of the building; the idea being that even should the Temple be destroyed it would still be possible to continue ordaining monks and nuns. Once in the ground each stone is then designated by its cardinal orientation using various Pali formulae: 'This is the stone in the north-west corner of the sima' and so forth. To make the sima area visually clear, limestone was used to form an inner court of the final Temple floor; the sima stones, buried well below the floor, were each indicated by stylised lotuses carved into the limestone.
There are a few photos of the establishment of the Amaravati sima - here (see: Groundwork). And another one - here.


In the Thai tradition the sima is not truely complete until a ninth stone - the 'luk nimit' - is interred in the 'heart' of the Temple. The placing of the boundary stones is largely a monastic ceremony whereas the luk nimit is of greater interest to the laity and the ceremony is often much more ornate.
The stone is a pure sphere which, as a geometric form, symbolises unity, completion and perfection. Its surface, as an endless line, represents infinity; that which is unbound. Such an object can in fact be seen as a symbol of the deathless.

Over several months gold leaf was gradually applied to the ball by visitors to the monastery. It was then taken into the Temple and placed in the exact centre of the floor over a vertical shaft. In the case of Amaravati stone, Princess Galyani Vadhana, the King of Thailand's Sister, officiated and cut the ribbon restraining the ball.