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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

The Buddha Statue — Symbolism and History

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Siddhartha Gautama was the founder of Buddhism and is the figure represented by the Buddha statue. He was an Indian prince who lived from 563 to 483 B.C. Buddhism is a religious philosophy that, unlike many other traditional religions does not believe in a personal God that punishes our wrong-doings and rewards our good deeds individually. It was originally begun as an atheistic philosophy. It is based on the Noble Eightfold path and the Four Truths. The Buddha statue represents the “Enlightened One.” The Four Noble Truths are: that suffering is part of life, craving is what causes suffering, the suffering stops when the craving stops, and that the only way to conquer the cravings and suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path Is:

Right views, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation. As the Enlightened One the Buddha statue represents other values as well. The individual is not recognized in Buddhism. All that happens to individuals is based on an impersonal moral “karma.” Once an individual follows all of the steps on the Noble Eightfold path they reach an enlightened pure non-existent state called “nirvana.”

The First Statue

It is believed that the first Buddha statue was not created until four or five hundred years after the death of Buddha out of respect. Therefore, the statues are not an exact replication of the person and there is no “right way” to represent him. The artist had artistic freedom of expression in that area. But, there are certain characteristics and symbolic elements that you will find at least one of in every Buddha statue.

o If the hands are resting in the lap this represents meditation.

o The hands crossing over the chest are a symbol of Dharma-or a state of “being.”

o In the earliest Buddha statue, the figure has both hands raised with the ring finger on the left hand touching the thumb and the index finger on the right hand is touching the thumb to make a circle with the three other fingers held aright. It is not certain what this symbolizes.

Buddhism Exists In Three Forms Today

The first is Mahayana, which reveres Buddha as a God like figure and still uses the Buddha statue to represent him. It is called “the Greater Vehicle” and is the most practiced form of Buddhism in the world today. The second is practiced by just over a third of the Buddhists in the world and is called Theravada, or the “Doctrine of the Elders.” It is atheistic in nature and philosophy but still reveres the Buddha statue. Vajrayana is the least common type of Buddhism and uses the occult and shamanism. It is practiced by just 6 percent of the Buddhists.

Many people looking on the Buddha statue find it a source of happiness and serenity. It is a symbol of the end of suffering and true peace. The Buddhist philosophy that we must strive for perfection and control over our personal cravings to work for the good of all is not a bad philosophy. If society as a whole would adopt at least some of these concepts there would be much more peace and tolerance in the world-we could begin to come to a state of nirvana.

History of The Buddha

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Buddhism is the Western term for the teaching of the Buddha or the religion founded by the Buddha. In the East it is known as the Buddha Sasana. ‘Buddha’ is not aname. It is a title, meaning the Enlightened One or the Awakened One. The Buddha’s personal name was Siddhattha1 and his clan name was Gotama.2 Thus he was sometimes called Siddhattha Gotama. Few people, however, now make use of these names. They simply call him the Buddha or Gotama the Buddha.

The Buddha lived twenty five centuries ago in North India. He was born a prince of the Sakyan kingdom which was located at the foot of the Himalaya. His father, who was the king ruling over the Sakyas, was called Suddhodana. The Queen who was the Prince’s mother was called Maya. As a prince, he grew up in the midst of luxury, led the happy life of a privileged youth and married Princess Yasodhara. His beautiful cousin, who bore him a son, Rahula.

This happened for the first time when he took chariot rides in the streets of his father’s capital, Kapilavastu. Then he saw four sights which altered his whole life. The first three of them – a man feeble with old age, another with a grievous disease, and a corpse – filled him with a longing to find some way to help his fellow men and to discover the true meaning of life. The fourth sight, a monk, gave him a hope of the possibility of learning about Truth and finding a way out of suffering. Then, at the age of 29, Prince Siddhattha left his father’s palace, left his dearly loved wife and newborn son, and led the life of a wandering ascetic, devoting himself to finding some way of overcoming suffering.

At the full moon of May, forty five years before the Buddhist Era, while sitting under the Bodhi tree at Gaya, he found his answer and at tained the Enlightenment. The Great Man, now known as the Buddha, went first from Gaya to Sarnath mear Benares where he gave his first sermon in the Deer Park. From then through the remaining 45 years of his life, he wandered from place to place teaching his discoveries to all who would listen to him and organizing his followers who renounced the world to form the Sangha.

Though it is now more than 2500 years since the passing away of the Buddha, the Dharma he taught remains our Teacher as he himself named it. The Sangha which consists of the followers who study, prac tise and disseminate the Dharma, has received this torch of light from the torchbearer himself and carried it on and on to us throughout lands and centuries. The three of them – the Buddha, the founder; the Dharma, the teaching; and the Sangha, the Order of disciples – form the Triple Gem which all Buddhists value the best of all precious things, and the Threefold Refuge which guides them on the Path of the true good life. Each year on the Visakha Full Moon, throughout the world, millions of men and women gather together to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and passing away of this Great Man.

The Birth reminds them of the fact that a man, by training himself through his own effort and intelligence, can achieve supreme attainments even to be a Buddha; the Enlightenment, that only through the discovery of the Buddha did the timeless Dharma become known to the world; and the Passing Away, that though the Buddha as a person was gone, the light of the timeless Dharma will still be kept shining so long as there is a Sangha, a community of righteous followers, to carry on the torch by treading the path of self enlightenment themselves and helping others towards the same goal.