Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lhasa, Buddhist Trifecta

Its been a tragic week for the people of Tibet, with the demonstrations in Lhasa. His Holiness, the 14thDalai Lama has always advocated a non-violent approach to address the issues of Tibet Autonomy and independence from China.

What we think of as China is actually a myth. China consists of over 19 major ethnic groups within its borders. The more widely-known ethnic groups are the majority Han ethnic group in the Southern and Central regions of China, the Manchu ethnic group in the Northeast, the Mongol peoples of the North, and the Tibetans of the West. The Tibetans are a totally distinct people, with different genetic characteristics, from a different ethnolinguistic group, and different cultural traditions than the Han Chinese. The Han Chinese are a beautiful people with a rich culture and tradition, but we must honor all cultures and not advocate the subjugation of one culture by another. We hope and pray that cooler heads prevail to address the issues raised by the Tibetan people.

That being said, this week’s late post will feature a Buddhist Trifecta – identifying significant Buddhist sites from around the World, to highlight the preservation of culture.


1. What is Bodhgaya?

2. Where is the Reclining Buddha?

3. What is the Emerald Buddha?

1. Bodhgaya is located in Eastern India, and is where Gautama Buddha obtained Enlightenment. The site has several important structures, including temples, prayer mounds, and the Bodhi tree. It is unknown whether this is the actual tree (or a sapling from the tree) where Buddha meditated, however archaeological digs have revealed artifacts left from 200 A.D./C.E. These artifacts include coins, gold effigies, and other ritual items. The actual city is in the Gaya district of the India state of Bihar. The site is also known as Bodhimanga and contains the Mahabodhi temple, which is also considered an Axis-mundi or cosmic center of the universe.

2. The Reclining Buddha finds its home in the Wat Pho temple complex in Bangkok, Thailand. The Reclining Buddha is relatively new, constructed in 1824 as a part of King Rama III’s restoration efforts. The effigy is gilded wood, with Mother-of-Pearl inlays on its feet. The 108 inlays of its feet are told to represent the personality characteristics/ mythemes of a true Buddha. The Wat Pho temple complex is next to the Grand Palace (ceremonial residence of the King of Thailand) and the Phra Nakhon (home of the Emerald Buddha).

3. The Emerald Buddha is a statue housed on the grounds of the Phra Naknon temple complex in Bangkok, Thailand. The statue is actually Jadeite, not Emerald, but provides an auspicious connection between the Thai monarchy and the ancestral spirits of the Thai people. The origin of the Emerald Buddha is unknown, however legend says it was discovered in 1434, when a bolt of lightning struck a temple and revealed a curious jade figure under a layer of stucco. The monks discovered that the stucco hid the Emerald Buddha. Thereafter, the Emerald Buddha spent time in various provinces of Thailand and then founds its home in Laos. In 1778, the future king of Thailand, Rama I quelled an uprising in Laos and captured the Emerald Buddha. Returning it to Thailand, he vowed that he would honor the statue, to ensure the longevity of the monarchy and the Thai nation. All succeeding Thai Kings have been devout in the veneration and care of the statue. Three times a year, during an elaborate ceremony, the King of Thailand changes the garments of the Emerald Buddha.


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