The Life of a Buddhist Monk

Buddhist monk statue holding alms bowl

Click to view the Buddhist monk statue holding alms bowl

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 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.

Lessons from Zen Buddhism

“You don’t preach Zen. Neither do you learn it.”
~Zen Saying~

Large Meditating Japanese Garden Buddha Statue

Meditating Japanese Garden Buddha Statue

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

Bill Clinton: A New Face to Easternization of the West

“every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”
~Buddha~

It is not surprising that Americans have begun to feel spiritually starved as our endless quest for material possessions and technological advancements proves a bottomless unquenchable thirst.   As technology continues to make our lives easier, human interactions have been reduced to impersonal platforms as we all feel naked leaving the house without our smart phones and huddle in our living rooms texting rather than actually meeting with our friends and families.  We Americans continue to gain ever more time through technology, only to spend it away trying to fill our lives with more ‘things.’   As a way to cope with the added stresses of daily living, many of us have begun to search for relief.

Standing Fat & Happy Buddha Statue 20″ $230

Just a few days ago news broke that even Bill Clinton turns to meditation for mental relief and an overall sense of well being.  In an age of globalization where Westerners aim to spread their ideals, ideologies, and products across the world, so to do the ideas of the East infiltrate the West in unexpected ways.  Recently the UT San Diego estimated that over 1.2 million Americans practice Buddhism with other scholars estimating it to be even higher at around 6.7 million.  Even though still just a sliver of the American population the swelling numbers speak for themselves.  We all could benefit greatly from Buddha’s message for compassion for self and one another and the cultivation of inner peace.

As the Buddha put it “every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”  What will you do to quiet your anxious mind?  I choose to look upon the East for wisdom that has been lost in the west.   Bring a Buddha statue into your home and enjoy the added peace of Buddha’s messages into your heart.

Thailand; Passion for Buddha Statues

“I just love making Buddhas.”
~Jeuw~

Chaing Saen Buddha Statue

Large Thai Brass Buddha with Jeuw

I love meeting people with true passion. Passion for anything; painting, traveling, their children. Six years ago I was very fortunate to meet someone passionate about making Thai Buddha statues and his name is Jeuw.

In my first 4 years of traveling through Thailand I spent every waking hour of every day I was there looking for good honest people who make great Buddha statues for my budding business, Lotus Sculpture. Every year I was disappointed and had to settle for doing business with a factory who made quality, yet uninspired Buddha statues.

6 years ago while meandering through an amulet market in Bangkok I stumbled upon a great little shop full of beautiful Buddha statues that had both a sense of peace and radiated energy. They were not typical of the Buddhas sold anywhere else in the market. I was giddy from the start. Did I just find the people that I have been looking for the past 4 years? I stayed and enjoyed the day with the mother and wife of the owner who was away at the workshop. I made plans to come back the next day to meet the owner, Jeuw, and to go to see where he makes his Buddhas. When I met Jeuw I was outright ecstatic! He was young and passionate. In the hour and half drive to the outskirts of Bangkok to see his workshop I could feel that he was just as excited as I was. He was telling me about himself in his broken English and I was doing the same in my broken Thai.  One thing I remember from our first meeting was that he was not trying to sell me anything. He was continually pointing out the Buddha statues that he loved and that he was proud of making. “No one else has this style. I am the only one making this Buddha.” he kept saying. And he was right. No one else has his quality and style in making Buddhas. Jeuw’s father started the workshop 25 years ago and Jeuw just took over the day to day operations of the workshop. He was very happy to have their first and only foreign customer!

Besides the beautiful proportions and style of the Buddha statues Jeuw is a master of patina. He can make any statue have the most beautiful antique patina. I noticed this immediately that the color of his Buddhas was so authentic and stunning to look at. Even in his smaller Buddhas there is care given to the color of the piece. For this reason many known “Antique” shops in Bangkok purchase his Buddha statues. They sell his newly made sculpture as antiques to foreign tourists. I have seen many shops selling antiques in Bangkok that are not antique at all.

Enjoying dinner of the Khoa Praya river in Bangkok

Enjoying dinner of the Khoa Praya river in Bangkok

Six years later our relationship has grown immensely. Each year he shows me other styles he is making and Buddhas he had in mind for the future. Each night after our business is done we go out to a dinner on the Khoa Praya river in Bangkok and just talk Buddhas and life. One thing he reinforced to me was the passion he carries with him about Buddhas. “I just love making Buddhas.” He told me to start on my personal collection of Thai Buddha statues which I have done. He told me that there is no one else in Thailand who makes Buddhas like him. The younger generation has no interest in making Buddha statues and he feels that when he gets older there will not be anyone else who will carry on with his passion for the sculptures. I do hope he is wrong.

Lotus Sculpture has been blessed to have such a good person with Love for his Art and Lord Buddha supplying us with all our Thai Buddha statues. I’m looking forward to the next shipment of statues which should be arriving October, 2012.

Click here to view all Jeuw’s Thai Buddha statues.