The Life of a Buddhist Monk

Buddhist monk statue holding alms bowl

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In the Far East, it is considered a high honor for one to leave their family in order to delve deeper in ones Buddhist practice.  This may seem strange to westerners to think of valuing ones children to leave home in order to become a practicing monk.  But in Asia, delving one’s life completely into Buddhist practices is very highly regarded.  These monks or nuns devote their lives to their faith and helping others in their personal quests.  They live very simple and pure lives with others of similar values.  Within the monasteries, although they are there to serve and practice, they are not completely torn from their previous lives and families.  They are allowed to venture back in the case of illness or death of a family member.  Otherwise their lives are spent in simple meditation and practice.

Within a monastery, the typical life of a monk is one of devote prayer and meditation within the temple.  They have specific tasks allotted to them around the monetary so that they may collectively take part in upkeep and daily living.  Everyone works with kindness and respect for one another.  Some may teach outside the monastery in order to spread the Dharma to devotees.  They are very much devoted to not only personal development, but the development of others.  Monks need to conduct themselves in the up most regard, living with integrity and deep-rooted principles.

Most of the time monks have very few possessions.  A few simple robes and an offering bowl.  Most shave their heads in order to shed the desire for outward beauty focusing solely on their internal beauty.  Although they have an offering bowl, they rely on the contribution of others.  They do not beg for food by take what is given to them in humble graciousness.  The robes are typically simple and made of cotton with no adornments.

In every way the life of a monk is one of simple devotion and intrigue.  This is the way that the Buddha lived his on his path to enlightenment and the way he believes will produce the most uncluttered way to enlightenment.  With spirituality being of the up most calling, Buddhist across Asia strive to live a life of such simplicity.

The Origins of Budai: Commonly Confused with Gautama Buddha

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Many Americans mistakenly identify the Budai as that of the Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.  The Budai is often depicted holding a cloth sack and is commonly referred to as the laughing Buddha or the fat & happy Buddha.  It is believed that the Budai is an incarnation of Maitreya or the future Buddha form that will succeed the historic Gautama Buddha by appearing on earth someday in the future at a time when Dharma will have been forgotten, in order to re-teach the pure dharma.  He is said to appear on earth one day and achieve complete enlightenment, just as the historic Gautama, teaching the world his wisdom.

In Buddhist folk traditions it is said that the Budai is a man of good and loving character and is admired for his genuine happiness, plentitude, and contentment.  A popular belief is that rubbing his belly will bring about good luck, wealth, and overall prosperity.  Incorporate a Fat & Happy Buddha Statue from Lotus Sculpture into your life and rub his belly for good luck and happiness!

What is the Buddhist & Hindu Concept of Dharma?

Many people wonder about the Buddhist and Hindu word Dharma and what it signifies.  Dharma is one of the core concepts within both Buddhism and Hinduism.  When capitalized and referred to as the Dharma, the word means the collective teaching of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, or the Enlightened Buddha.  Much the same way Christians study Jesus’s teachings within the Bible, Buddhists study and worship the Dharma.  Simply put, the Dharma is the Buddha’s Teachings.

Thai style Buddha statue

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When presented in a lowercase form as dharma, the word translates to mean simply ‘the way things are’.  Just as the Taoists follow the Tao, or the Way as they call it, dharma represents the laws of nature or why things are the way they are.   It is thought to be our ultimate aim in life to realize the dharma or understand the ways of the universe.  Dharma is thought to an unchanging universal law just as gravity is an unchanging presence in the universe.

The first writings about dharma can be found within the Vedas among various ancient writings.  At the time it was thought that knowledge of dharma could only be passed on from Sages.  Later on, however, it was thought that through ritual practices or duties one could achieve ultimate understandings, the dharma.

Although the dharma was referenced in the Vedas it was never clear how a lay person really could achieve it.

Within Buddhism, the dharma was the main focus of the Buddha’s meditations.  Dharma was thought to be infinite containing both material and immaterial elements of the world.  It is believed to become a sense in just the same way one can smell a flower they can develop the sense of dharma.  Dharma carries goodness and it is thought to be a person’s duty to seek it out.  Through his meditations, the Buddha sought the dharma, or the ultimate meaning to life.  It was underneath the Bodhi tree in which the Buddha ultimately attained it.

What’s your dharma?

Postures of the Buddha

Large_Chiang_Saen_Buddha_Statue

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The Buddha is often depicted within art and sculpture holding many different poses or postures.  A lot of times these poses include specific hand gestures as well as positioning of the legs.  Many people wonder the meanings behind these certain hand gestures and seated positions.  The Buddha is often seen with either his ankles tucked, called the Double Lotus position, or with one leg resting atop the other which is called a Single Lotus position.  These seated positions are in combination with certain hand gestures called Mudras.

One such posture that is commonly seen is the Buddha sitting with crossed legs (Double Lotus) and both hands resting palms up upon his knees.  This stance represents meditation and is the most common posture due to the Buddha’s enlightenment through meditation underneath the Bodhi Tree.  This stance, called the Meditation Buddha, represents inner wisdom, emotional stability, and clarity of the mind.

Another important posture is that of the Buddha with legs crossed (Double Lotus), left hand resting face up within his lap, and right hand pointing to the ground with his palm facing towards him.  This pose is regarded as the Buddha calling the earth as witness to the moment he reached enlightenment.  This stance, called the Enlightenment Buddha, signifies gaining insight, achieving great character, and having self-discipline.

Here are a few more common postures of the Buddha:

Protection Buddha: The Buddha sits in either Double or Single Lotus position with right hand raised facing outward and left hand in the lap.  This position represents having courage and offers the bearer protection against fear, delusion, and anger.

Teaching_Budda

Teaching Buddha Statue

Teaching Buddha: The Buddha sits in a Double Lotus position with hands up at chest level.  His hands form a circle by joining thumbs and index fingers with the right palm facing in and the left facing out.  This position brings about wisdom, understanding, and finding the truth behind your life’s path.

Contemplation Buddha:  The Buddha stands with legs together and both arms against the chest, palms in, and right hand on top of the right.    This pose represents patient understanding.

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10 Famous Buddhist Temples Around the World: Part 2

5) Boudhanath: Located within Kathmandu Nepal, Boudhanath boasts on of the largest stupas in the world.  Kathmandu is the most prominent city within Buddhist Nepal and this temple is often visited regularly by the devout.  The Boudhanath temple is best known for the Buddha eyes located on each side of the temple.

Boudhanath-temple-nepal

Boudhanath Temple, Nepal

4) Mahabodhi Temple: Translated to mean the Great Enlightement, the Mahabodhi is a large Buddhist temple located in India.  It is said that a portion of the temple holds a related tree to the original tree sat under by Siddhartha Gautama during his enlightenment.  For this reason the Mahabodhi temple is thought to be one of the most sacred sites within the Buddhist religion.  The current temple still stands from the 5th century.

3) Shwedagon Pagoda: Named the Golden Shrine, the Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred shrines in Burma.  What makes this temple so striking is the 326 feet high main stupa which is entirely covered in gold.

shwedagon-pagoda-temple

Shwedagon Pagoda Temple, Burma

2) Bagan: This sacred site is not simply known for just one temple, but its collection of many pagodas, stupas, and ancient ruins.  At its peak it was a center for Buddhist teaching and scholarship.

1) Borobudur:  Borobudur is the largest and most famous Buddhist temple in the entire world.  It took almost a hundred years to completed during the 8th and 9th centuries   After being abandoned in the 14th century it lay hidden underneath a great layer of volcanic ash for hundreds of years.

borobudaur-temple

Borobudur Temple