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.
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.
“You don’t preach Zen. Neither do you learn it.” ~Zen Saying~
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:
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
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 Jew.
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, Jew, and to go to see where he makes his Buddhas. When I met Jew 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. Jew’s father started the workshop 25 years ago and Jew just took over the day to day operations of the workshop. He was very happy to have their first and only foreign customer!
“I just love making Buddhas. I’d make Buddhas even if I made no money.”
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.
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.
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” ~Chinese Proverb~
With summer in full swing, it is a pleasant time to enjoy nature and relax in your garden. A way to enhance and bring tranquility to any environment is to place a Buddha statue, particularly a portrayal of Buddha in a meditative state. The positive and peaceful energy of a Zen Buddha sculpture helps keep you in balance and harmony.
First, to accentuate your garden, and to create the best possible chi energy, the meditating Buddha should be seated on a pedestal off the ground. With the lotus throne, or padmasana, this position signifies gratitude and humility. Typically, the Buddha’s hands lies in his lap, one over the other, with thumb tips touching. This is known as dhyana mudra of meditation.
Another step is to plant with odd numbers in your garden to create balance and “yang”. Yang, which refers to the “sunny side”, is a masculine symbol and reflects the sun and day time. Since odd numbers are yang, they are considered auspicious, with a multiple of nine bringing the most positive energy.
Most of the large, stone garden Buddha statues at Lotus Sculpture are one-of-a-kind; created by artists in Bali. They are hand carved from lava stone, which is quarried from the volcanic mountains of Indonesia. The lava stone is a solid stone that is perfect for any type of location and weather conditions – hot or cold, wet or dry. The stone is versatile in that it can be colored in a wide spectrum of colors. It can also be polished or unpolished giving it a clean or rough feel. In humid conditions, when left untouched, it takes on a very mysterious, antique-look as you would see in the temple ruins of South East Asia.
Bali….I was amazed that I got through India without getting sick. In my 10 years of 15 trips to India, I have managed to get a wide range of illnesses ranging from ordinary bugs to full-on, 105-degree temperatures. I dodged the bullet on this trip! I was amazed! I jumped on the plane to Bali and patted myself on the back. Well done Kyle!
“My favorite days in Bali are spent on my motor scooter visiting the markets and being invited into homes in village workshops”
After arriving in Bali I sat down to a nice dinner at a respectable restaurant then quietly went to sleep that night. I awoke at 5 am with an acrobat in my stomach. Yup, sick off the first meal I ate in Bali! That is what I get for counting my blessings to early! I spent the next day going through the lava stone workshops of my friend Christian, looking for quality Buddha statues that his family has been producing in Bali for the past 20 years. He consistently has the best quality Buddha carvings as well as the best coloring for the statues. His artists can produce any color or texture in the stone. Each year I have seen a consistent improvement in the statues.
On previous trips, I have always shied away from Bali style Ganesha statues. I was so used to the refined lifelike appearance of Ganesh in my travels through India, that the more crude Ganeshas of Bali did not seem attractive to me. However, this year I opened my eyes and really saw the Bali style Ganesh for the first time and I liked what I saw. There is a quote that I love about Ganesh; “If you take home a stone and worship it in full faith, over a course of time you are bound to see the image of Ganesh.” I truly saw Ganesh in the stone! His fat almost tribal qualities are a perfect variation to the Indian style Ganesh. As usual, I bought too many of them! I can never say no to a good statue! In roaming thru his workshop I was consistently fighting back the desire to sit down and go to sleep or just fall over. But I made it through the day…then on to Ubud, the cultural center of Bali to visit my Buddha woodcarvers!
My favorite days in Bali are spent on my rented motor scooter cruising through the markets, stores, and back village workshops in Ubud. I must go to 30-40 shops a day. It is not easy to find quality wood Buddhas in Bali. There are hundreds of shops selling wood Buddhas however, over the years I have only found a small handful of artists who actually carve with a true feeling for the work they are doing. Two artists that consistently make beautiful Buddhas are Mr. Sayub and Mr. Wayan. Wayan and his son carve my large standing Buddha statues on a blooming lotus base. This year he has carved two of them for me. One 8 feet tall and the other 6 feet tall. The detail and time taken on the flowing robes of the Buddha set his Buddha apart from other standing Buddhas!
My other artist who I always look forward to seeing is Sayub. He makes small Buddha statues each usually with a very unique hand position. The thin fingers of each statue and minute detailing in the robes in my opinion crown him the current king of Balinese woodwork…at least for Buddha statues! I also managed to pick up some very large wood statues including a 7 foot Kwan yin, 8 foot meditating Buddha, and two other 7 foot standing Buddhas. After a couple of days of searching for Buddhas and cruising through rice fields on my scooter, it was time to return to the coast.
I noticed in the shops in Ubud that there was some new metal work in Bali and I was determined to find out where they were being made. The statues were of Hindu gods and goddesses in various forms.
The style was more similar in style to Cambodian Hindu and Buddhist statues with many arms and small weapons. I thus headed into Denpasar, the capital to check the markets. I knew I would not find the source here but I did find many shops that were selling the statues I was looking for.
After many questions to many dealers, I finally nailed down the source of the metal Hindu statues which I went to the following day. My search was rewarded and I choose some beautiful images. My favorite being a dancing Vishnu statue like no other I have seen before. The statue reminded me more of a Nataraja figure. I find it so fulfilling to start on a search for new sculpture mediums and designs and then achieve my goal. There is nothing like finding new artists!!!
By this time on my trip, I really needed a reward. I spent the past 23 days working, flying, scooting, exploring every day, and deserved a day off. I went to the quiet surf beach of Padang Padang and got a bungalow on the ocean and spent the next day surfing and enjoying the ocean and stillness. My body and mind appreciated the day of mental tranquility and relaxation! Here is a video I shot from my bungalow. Yes, it was paradise!
Then I was off to Bangkok, Thailand, and the last leg of my trip!
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