Postures of the Buddha

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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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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.

The Noble Eightfold Path

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After achieving enlightenment, one of the first teachings of the Buddha was what he referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path or the Wheel of Dharma.  For those not yet familiar, this concept can be envisioned as a great wheel containing eight distinctive spokes.  All 8 spokes lead into one central hub in the middle just a a wheel on a bike.  The spokes represent the teachings and practices that will lead to this one central core, or enlightenment, and therefore the end to suffering.  These 8 central teachings are as follows:

1-      Right View- One must try to see the world through the same lenses of the Buddha, with compassion and deep rooted wisdom.

2-      Right Thought- One must live by the notion that every thought affects our well-being.  We must train our minds to think clearly and with the intention of doing good in order to build strong and resolute character.

3-      Right Speech- We must speak kindly and lovingly to every living being.  We must speak to every living being with respect and trust, regardless of their position or current state.

4-      Right Conduct- We must conduct ourselves in a manner of extreme integrity.  Our behavior should stand as mirror to our character and our intentions must match our actions.

5-      Right Livelihood- We must choose a profession that does good upon others, not harm.  We must not engage in activities that do not benefit the greater good of society.

6-      Right Effort-  We must put our best foot forward at all times and make a sincere effort to do our best in everything that we aim to accomplish

7-      Right Mindfulness- We must make it a constant habit to be aware of all our thoughts, words, and actions.

8-      Right Concentration- We must try to put our full attention on only one thing at a time, paying undivided attention to everything we do.

It is said that if one follows these eight noble truths we may learn the way to enlightenment just as the Buddha once did.  By doing so we have a chance at everlasting and complete happiness.

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?” Buddha

The Five Precepts of the Buddha

As with all the major religions, Buddhism provides some basic principles to follow in ones everyday living.  These principles need not solely apply to practicing Buddhists, but can be beneficial for every living being to keep in mind as they interact with the world.  After enlightenment, the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama,  wrote out some basic rules to be followed in daily practice which he called “The Five Precepts”.  The five precepts are as follows:

1)      No Killing- One must always have a divine respect for every living being.  Life in all its forms is something to be cherished and respected.  As the Buddha said:

“Life is dear to all beings.  They have the right to live the same way as we do.”

This even applies to those pesky mosquitoes that may spoil our outdoor activities.  Even the smallest being has a right to life.

2)      No Stealing- One must live their live with superior integrity with respect for every living beings property.  We would not want others to steal from us, so following the same principle we should not take from others what is not our own.

3)      No Sexual Misconduct- We must try to live with a pure intentioned nature, valuing our bodies and those of others with the utmost care and respect.  Our bodies are our temples and a gift from our ancestors.  Virtue is something to be cherished.

4)      No lying- We must always speak with right speech, as the noble eightfold truths hold.  This means speaking with honesty without blemishing the truth.  The Buddha believed if we all spoke only the honest truth, the world would be much more peaceful.  This even applies to correcting others when a misunderstanding may occur.

5)      No Intoxicants- The Buddha held dearly living a life of pure mind, body, and soul.  Subjecting oneself to intoxicants would obviously taint both our minds and bodies, therefore we must try not to put anything into our bodies that may hinder us.

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For practicing Buddhists, following the precepts to the tee can sometimes be a difficult task.  We must learn to put our best intentions forward and give them our best effort.  The precepts are not supposed to be easy, but challenge us in our paths to enlightenment.  For many this is a lifelong struggle, and learning experience.  The purpose of the precepts is not to enforce perfect behavior, but to learn from our mistakes and put forth our best effort to follow his teachings.  In doing so, we can grow ever closer to our most awakened selves.

Assassination Attempts on the Great Gautama Buddha

It is little known that during Gautama Buddha’s life on earth, he was not completely free of dissenters and discord.  Despite his serene and patient practice, Gautama was not without threat.  Just as every great spiritual or powerful leader in earth’s history, he faced jealous followers wanting to take his place in the world.    It is said that Gautama’s cousin, a monk by the name of Devadatta, was the worst of them all, attempting to take Gautama’s life on multiple occasions.  Legend has it, out of jealousy, Devadatta tried to undermine the Buddha and declared that he be given the chance to lead the sangha.  When this proved unsuccessful he tried to kill the great teacher to claim his following for himself.

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His first attempt involved hiring a group of archers to shoot at Buddha during his meditations, but as they approached the Buddha, they became overcome and began laying down their bows.  Instead of shooting, the archers now devoted themselves to him instead.  As one might imagine, this only served to anger Devadatta more.  In his next attempt Devadatta himself rolled a great boulder down a hill directly in Gautama’s path.  Luckily, the boulder split in two along the way with one half only grazing the divine Buddha’s foot.  Again diminished, Devadatta let loose a violent elephant to trample Buddha and everyone around him.  As all his murderous plots proved unsuccessful, Devadatta began to form breakaway following, attempting to recruit the Buddha’s followers for himself.  Although he managed to claim a handful, they all eventually made their way back to the Awakened one.

It is hard to believe that the great Awakened One could be met with disdain by any.  But just as every great spiritual leader, there were those who threatened to undermine his teachings.