With regards to the arts, King Jayavarman VII was responsible for the construction of numerous temples in the Angkor region and in other provinces. King Jayavarman VII was further championed as the greatest king of Angkor for liberating and unifying the country. His legacy lives on today as many of the structures remaining today within Angkor Wat were built during his reign. At the center of Angkor Thom is the Bayon Temple, famous for its distinct 50 towers, each bearing the large faces of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshavara on all four sides. These faces are thought to be copied from the actual face of King Jayavarman VII, whose smiles are so gentle that it is often referred to as the Khmer smile. This great king was a devout Buddhist of the Mahayana sect.
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, plenitude 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!
“I am the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing, the Knower of the Way, the Opener of the Way, and the Preacher of the Way. Come to me, all you gods, men, and demons, to hear the law”.
~Lotus Sutra, Chapter Five~
Buddhism and Buddhist art has traveled a long way from its simple beginnings. In the earliest Buddhist art of India, the Buddha was not represented in human form. His presence was indicated instead by signs, such as an empty seat, footprints, or space beneath a parasol. It wasn’t until the 1st century AD, when Buddhism expanded outside of India, when the human image of one Buddha came to dominate the artistic scene. The Golden Age, otherwise known as the Gupta period, from fourth to sixth century AD, adopted an ‘ideal image’ of the Buddha. Gupta Buddha statues, popularized with their eyes cast down, as if in a meditation state, and enriched with a spiritual aura, became the model for future generations of artists.
Throughout history, artists have given their own spiritual interpretation of the Buddha statue, but a few physical non-human characteristics continue to represent the nature of the Buddha.
“The All-Knowing”: The Bump of Knowledge; the uppermost bump at the head of a Lord Buddha statue. This symbolizes spiritual wisdom and a fully-developed top chakra. Chakras are believed to be centers of the body which a person can collect energy. This bump is typically covered with spiral shaped curls of hair that symbolize enlightenment.
“The All-Seeing”: The Urna, commonly translated as the third-eye, is a circular dot positioned in between the eyebrows of a Buddha statue. It is viewed as an auspicious mark and symbol of the Buddhas enlightenment; his ability to see past our mundane universe of suffering and see the true nature of the world. Legend also says that Buddha had one strand of white hair in the center of his forehead, from which emitted rays of light to enlighten the world. Some traditions believe the location of the Urna is the sixth chakra – center of energy and wheel of light.
“The All-Hearing”: As the art of Buddha sculpture evolved, superhuman characteristics became standard traits carved into the Buddha image. Among them are webbed fingers, very long arms, and long earlobes. The elongated ears are typically present in any given Buddha statue. This is an expression of the highest degree of respect. Long earlobes came to be a symbol of all who achieves enlightenment.
Zen Story –The Most Important Teaching
A renowned Zen master said that his greatest teaching was this: Buddha is your own mind. So impressed by how profound this idea was, one monk decided to leave the monastery and retreat to the wilderness to meditate on this insight. There he spent 20 years as a hermit probing the great teaching.
One day he met another monk who was traveling through the forest. Quickly the hermit monk learned that the traveler also had studied under the same Zen master. “Please, tell me what you know of the master’s greatest teaching.” The traveler’s eyes lit up, “Ah, the master has been very clear about this. He says that his greatest teaching is this: Buddha is NOT your own mind.”
“The mind, the Buddha, living creatures – these are not three different things” – ~Avatamasaka Sutra~
Zen Story – Nature’s Beauty
A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen master. One day, when the priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.
When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. “Isn’t it beautiful,” he called out to the old master. “Yes,” replied the old man, “but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I’ll put it right for you.”
After hesitating, the priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. “There,” said the old man, “you can put me back now.”
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
Zen Story – Going with the Flow
A Taoist story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. “I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.”
“A Buddha is just someone with no concerns”
“You don’t preach Zen. Neither do you learn it.”
Zen Buddhism is a philosophy emphasizing that enlightenment and Nirvana are reached through deep meditation, intuition and spiritual contemplation, rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures. This new version of Buddhism developed into two schools of thought. One Zen belief is that attaining enlightenment is a gradual process, with the help of daily meditation and spiritual devotion. The other Zen notion is that enlightenment comes in an instant; a sudden understanding of one’s existing inner-Buddha. The intrinsic concept of Zen Buddhism is that everyone takes their own individual path to reach spiritual bliss and contentment.
Throughout history, many Zen-masters have emerged to teach students through storytelling with anecdotes based on interpretations of Buddhist perspective. These stories emphasize a spiritual awakening and push the mind into new ways of thinking and reflecting on life. Many Zen stories are inter-woven with Buddhist philosophies, such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
The Four Noble Truths:
- Life means suffering
- The origin of suffering is attachment
- The end of suffering is attainable
- There is a path to end suffering
The Eightfold Path:
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
Lotus Sculpture would like to share a collection of short stories, mostly Zen and Taoist tales, to awaken the spirit and bring peace of mind. The beauty of the simplicity behind the messages can be interpreted in many ways – the lessons you take from them are a reflection of who you are.
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” –The ~Buddha~
Zen Story –Sounds of Silence
Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said, “Oh, no! The candle is out.” The second monk said, “Aren’t we not suppose to talk?” The third monk said, “Why must you two break the silence?” The fourth monk laughed and said, “Ha! I’m the only one who didn’t speak.”
“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” –Taoist Saying
Zen Story –It Will Pass
A Student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just so wonderful!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
”Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself.” –Zen Master Dogen