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.

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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.

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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.

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Borobudur Temple

10 Famous Buddhist Temples Around the World: Part 1

If you are a wandering soul with a deep inclination towards travel, there are many very beautiful Buddhist temples throughout the world worth seeing in person.  These beautiful sites often include gorgeous statuary of the Buddha.  Although few original temples still stand from the date of construction, many still hold very ancient roots from rebuilding.  Here are 5 renowned Buddhist sites located about the world.

10) Haeinsa Temple: known as the ‘Temple of Reflection upon a Smooth Sea’.  This Buddhist temple located in South Korea is was first built in 1802.  Although a fire devastated most of the temple and its artifacts, a complete copy of Buddhist scriptures written upon 81,258 woodblocks was one of the few items to survive.  The temple was rebuilt to its former glory in the latter half of the 1800’s.

Haeinsa Temple in Korea

9) Wat Arun: the Temple of Dawn.  Wat Arun, located in Bangkok Thailand is an architectural masterpiece modeled after Mount Meru, the center of Buddhist cosmology.  It is one of the oldest landmarks standing in Bangkok.

8) Pha That Luang: the Great Stupa in Laos.  One of the most prominent landmarks in Laos, the tiered temple boosts several terraces, each representing a stage in the process of enlightenment.  Destroyed in 1828 it was later rebuilt by the French in 1931.

Pha That Luang in Laos

7) Jokhang:  Although not quite as extravagant as say Pha That Luang in Laos, Jokhang Temple in the holy city of Lhasa is one of the most important sites for Tibetan Buddhists.  Thousands flock in religious pilgrimage to the temple each year.  The temple was first constructed in the 6th century.  Although the Mongols sacked the temple on countless occasions, by way of miracle it still stands.

Jokhang Temple in Tibet

6) Todaiji:  the Great Eastern Temple.  Todaiji is one of the most famous Buddhist temples located in Japan.  Built in the 7th century by the emperor it was proclaimed to be the head Buddhist temple in all of Japan.  Few of the original buildings still stand although the Great Hall dates back to 1709 when it was rebuilt.

If travel is not in your near feature, you can bring home your very own handcrafted Buddha statute made by local artisans throughout Asia.  View all Buddha statues from Lotus Sculpture.

The Spread of Hindu God Ganesh into Buddhism

Many people are unaware that although a renowned Hindu deity, Ganesh is also worshiped by Buddhists.

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It is said that during the 10th century, merchants traveling from Asia began to worship Lord Ganesh.  As their devotion and teachings spread among the trading community, many other traders began to worship Ganesh as well.  His role as Remover of Obstacles was very much important to their journeys in trade as the hoped for safe voyages and safety from harm while at sea.  Lord Ganesh therefore became the primary deity associated with traders.  They would invoke his image before any other god whenever hardship would arise.

When Hindus began to spread across to the Malay Archipelago in Southeast Asia they took with them not only their culture but their particular fondness for Ganesh.  Statues were erected throughout the region in his honor.  Hindus migration further into Southeast Asia such as in Indochina, brought the practice of worship of Hindu deity’s right alongside Buddhists.  It is here that Buddhists alike began to adopt their fondness for Ganesh as Remover of Obstacles.  Even today in Buddhist Thailand Ganesh is worshiped as God of Success.  Within Mahayana Buddhism Ganesh is appears in the form of the Buddhist god Vinayaka.  His image often appears in Buddhist scriptures shown dancing.

The Two Schools of Buddhism: Mahayana & Theravada

Many do not know that there are two major schools of thought within Buddhism.  Just as Christianity is split into different sects such as Catholicism and Protestantism, so too is the Buddhist Religion.  These two differing schools are known as Theravada and Mahayana.

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Theravada Buddhism is a school of thought that stresses the need to follow the teachings of elders.  They believe that the longer practicing monks have gained more wisdom; therefore their teachings should be very highly regarded.  Younger Theravada monks are passed on with teachings of those that came before them.  The main goal of those who practice Theravada Buddhism is to become free of suffering.  Shedding the chains of suffering is the ultimate attainment in their eyes.  Typically Theravada is practiced in more eastern areas of Asia such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma.

Mahayana Buddhism on the other hand stresses the importance of following the Buddhas teachings to go out into the world and spread the Dharma to others.  They are much more teaching oriented, believing that one’s own worship is just as important as spreading wisdom on to others.  Mahayana literally translates to mean ‘the Great Vehicle’ which is metaphor for the spreading of Buddhist teachings throughout the world.  Mahayana monks are a vehicle for knowledge, passing that knowledge unto others.  These monks are known as Bodhisattvas.  Mahayana Buddhism is mostly practiced in countries such as China, Tibet, Vietnam, and Japan.

Although these schools of thought originate and are practiced widely in the Far East, both schools have made their way into the west.  Many westerners may choose one school over the other in their practice, or take principles and examples from both.  Both schools are centered around the same teachings but hold special importance on ways to live and practice, one focusing more on individual practice, and the other more on teaching to others.

Buddha as Wandering Ascetic & His Path to Enlightenment

After leaving his Fathers kingdom behind him in renunciation of his former plentiful life as a prince, Siddhartha Gautama began to drift from place to place as a devoted wanderer.  In search of the ultimate meaning of life he found and studied with the wisest men of the time.  But to his disappointment, no matter how far he traveled, not one knew the answer to ending the suffering that had so greatly affected him.

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As his frustration grew, Siddhartha turned to asceticism, an extreme life of deprivation, in hopes that he might find the answers he was looking for.  For six years Gautama starved and deprived his soul in search for meaning, hoping that these extreme measures may hold the truth.  But soon he found that this new extreme, a life of complete scarcity, nor his previous life of opulence held the answers he was so determined to find.  Gautama then decided to take the middle ground.  He began to eat and nourish himself again but sought a new path to enrich his soul.

One full moon day within the month of May, Gautama sat beneath a Bodhi tree in a state of deep and unhindered meditation.  He decided he would not leave his position beneath the tree until he was able to find the answers he had spent so long seeking.

He was tested constantly by the evil Mara who tried to steer him from his concentration and ultimate goal.  Mara sent upon him the temptation of women, the torment of torrential rain and lightning, and armies of weapon clad warriors.  But not one was able to sway him from his mission.  As he sat beneath the Bodhi tree, Gautama eventually realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it from one’s life.  It was then that he became the Buddha, or the Awakened one.

After reaching enlightenment, the Buddha sought to teach his ultimate wisdom to others so that they too may be free of suffering.  He went to five holy men and explained his realization, making them his most devoted disciples in spreading his knowledge upon the world.  For the next forty five years the Buddha and his disciples traveled throughout India teaching the Dharma to all those who would listen.