Posts Tagged ‘Buddhist temple

17
Apr
11

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet: The Panchen Lama’s seat

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is seat to the Panchen Lama, the second most imporant leader of Tibet. It is one of the Six Big Monasteries of The Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat Sect) in Tibet.

Also called the Heap of Glory, the monastery is located at the foot of Drolmari (Tara’s Mountain) in Shigatse. Founded by the First Dailai Lama in 1447, the monastery’s structure was expanded by the Fourth and successive Panchen Lamas. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery covers an area of nearly 300.000 square meters (3.229.779 sq. ft.). The main structures found in the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery are The Maitreya Chapel, The Panchen Lama’s Palace and The Kelsang Temple.

Standing on the entrance of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery, visitors can see the grand buildings with golden roofs and white walls. The remarkable Thangka Wall which is nine floors high was built in 1468. The wall displays the images of Buddha on the 14th, 15th and 16th of May every year following the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. The images are so humongous that one can easily see it from Shigatse City. Visitors can find The Maitreya Chapel by strolling into the monastery on the west side of Tashi Lhunpo. You can tour the upper floors of the chapel using a wooden staircase to appreciate the superb skill of the Tibetans.

The Kelsang Temple is one of the oldest and biggest buildings in Tashi Lhunpo. It is a colossal compound. The Main Chanting Hall is a place for lamas to learn the sutras and listen to the Panchen Lama’s sermon.  Besides the grand palace and gigantic statues, the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery also treasures characteristic wall paintings. Because of the variety of shapes, resplendent colors and exquisite painting, the murals are considered to be another masterpiece of Buddhist art.

Advertisements
16
Apr
11

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar: The mountain of gold (part 2)

Gleaming in gold and decorated with diamonds, the huge Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is a spectacular work of Burmese temple architecture and is the holiest Buddhist shrine in Myanmar.

The legend of the Schwedagon Pagoda begins with two Burmese merchant brothers who met the Buddha himself. The Buddha gave them eight of his hairs to be enshrined in Burma. With the help of several nat (spirits) and the king of this region, the brothers discovered the hill where relics of previous Buddhas had been enshrined.  A chamber to house the relics was built on the sacred spot and when the hairs were taken from their golden casket, amazing things happened: there was a tumult among men and spirits… rays emitted by the Hairs penetrated up to the heavens above and down to hell… the blind beheld objects… the deaf heard sounds…the dumb spoke distinctly… the earth quaked… Mount Meru shook… lightning flashed… gems rained down until they were knee deep… all trees of the Himalaya, though not in season, bore blossoms and fruit.  Once the relics were safely placed in the new shrine, a golden slab was laid on the chamber and a golden stupa built over it. Over this was layered a silver stupa, then a tin stupa, a copper stupa, a lead stupa, a marble stupa and an iron-brick stupa.

Later, the legend continues, the Schwedagon stupa fell into ruin until the Indian emperor Asoka, a Buddhist convert, came to Myanmar and searched for it. Finding it only with great difficulty, he then had the jungle cleared and the stupa repaired. It is easy to see why the Schwedagon Pagoda is such a holy place for believers. Built on the site of the relics of previous Buddhas, containing the relics of the most recent Buddha, the site of miracles and of royal patronage, this is an important stupa indeed. Legend says, that the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2,500 years old, but archaeologists estimate it was first built by the Mon sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries (i.e. during the Bagan period). The pagoda emerges from legend into history in 1485, which is the date of an incription near the top of the eastern stairway that tells the story of Shwedagon in three languages (Pali, Mon, and Burmese).  It was around this time that the tradition of gilding the stupa began. Queen Shinsawbu provided her own weight in gold (fortunately she was a lightweight at 40kg), which was made into gold leaf and used to cover the surface of the stupa. The queen’s son-in-law, Dhammazedi, offered four times his own weight plus that of his wife’s in gold and provided the abovementioned 1485 inscription.

It has been rebuilt many times since then due to earthquakes (including eight in the 17th century alone); the current structure dates from the rebuild under King Hsinbyushin in 1769. After the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824, British troops occupied the Schwedagon Pagoda complex, which stands high over the city like a castle. In 1852, during the second war, the British occupied the pagoda for 77 years and pillaged its treasures. In 1871, King Mindon Min from Mandalay provided a new hti (the decorative top), flustering the occupying British. As a symbol of national identity, the Schwedagon Pagoda was the scene of much political activity during the Myanmar independence movement in the 20th century. Amazingly, the huge earthquake of 1930 (which destroyed the Schwemawdaw in Bagan) caused only minor damage to the Yangon stupa. But the following year, it suffered from a disastrous fire. After a minor earthquake in 1970, the main stupa was fully refurbished.

The great Schwedagon Pagoda stands on a platform covering over 5 hectares on a hill 98m above sea level. It can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city, and the citizens of Yangon literally live out their everyday lives in its shadow. The large platform that supports the great stupa contains a variety of other stupas, prayer halls, sculptures and shrines. A number of these are associated with eight “days” (Wednesday is divided into morning and afternoon), based on one’s day of birth. Each has an associated planet, direction and animal sign. FYI, the Buddha was born on Wednesday morning. One must always walk around (circumambulate) stupas clockwise, so visitors take a left from whichever entrance to the platform they’ve chosen.

15
Apr
11

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar: The mountain of gold (part 1)

Myanmar has been called The Land of Gold, and that is not surprising at all when you consider just how beautifully the capital city sparkles. Giant, golden and glittering pagodas will take your breath away in this friendly city. Myanmar is a densely populated land with a population of approximately 48 million people. The capital city of Yangon itself boasts a population of 5 million. The people of the land are predominantly Buddhist, though there are many other ethnic groups represented. All in all, there are 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar, each possessing their own proud culture and language. In the green, tree-lined streets of Yangon you will find all these hospitable people and places, and you will find other things as well. You will find food that has been described as some of the best in the world. And you will find the glittering and vast Shwedagon Pagoda, full of history, spirituality and lore.

Sitting high atop the sacred shrine of Singuttara Hill, housing relics of The Buddha and three Buddhas that preceded him, encased in gold and in jewels, the Shwedagon pagoda is a wonder to see. The beauty if the architecture and design will take your breath away, as will the sparkling, light catching jewels. This wondrous holy place, filled with history and legend, is not to be missed on your journey.

The origins of Shwedagon are lost in antiquity, its age unknown. Long before the pagoda was built, its location on Singuttara hill was already an ancient sacred site because of the buried relics of the three previous Buddhas. According to one legend, nearly 5000 years had passed since the last Buddha walked the Earth, and Singuttara hill would soon lose its blessedness unless it was reconsecrated with relics of a new Buddha. In order that such new relics might be obtained, King Okkalapa of Suvannabhumi spent much time atop the hill, meditating and praying. A series of miracles ensued, and eight hairs of the historical Buddha were, somewhat magically, brought to the hill. To enshrine the relics, multiple pagodas of silver, tin, copper, lead, marble, iron and gold where built one on top of the other to a height of twenty meters.

During the following centuries, passing from myth to historical fact, the pagoda grew to its present height of ninety-eight meters. Much of the continued construction of Shwedagon was actually reconstruction following disastrous earthquakes. During the 17th century the pagoda suffered earthquake damage on at least eight occasions. A particularly bad quake in 1786 brought the entire top half of the pagoda to the ground and its current shape and height date from the reconstruction of that time.

While much of the pagoda’s beauty derives from the complex geometry of its shape and surrounding structures, equally mesmerizing is its golden glow. The lower stupa is plated with 8.688 solid gold bars, an upper part with another 13.153. The tip of the stupa, far too high for the human eye to discern in any detail, is set with 5.448 diamonds, 2.317 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, .1065 golden bells and, at the very top, a single 76-carat diamond. Surrounding the pagoda are a plentitude of smaller shrines housing pre-Buddhist spirits called Nats, miracle working images, and even a wish granting stone. The entire temple complex radiates a palpable sense of beauty and serenity.

04
Apr
11

Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka: The cave of the Spirits of Knowledge

Polonnaruwa is located at a distance of 216 km from Colombo and it was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times. The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 AD to reunite the country once more under a local leader.

Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers. Its beauty was also used as a backdrop to filmed scenes for the Duran Duran music video Save a Prayer in 1982. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

 The ruins are also known as the ‘Cave of the Spirits of Knowledge’, and these are one of the most important Buddhist shrines. It takes the form of three colossal Buddha images carved out of a granite cliff. Most prominent is the standing image, 7m (23ft) tall, which was at one time thought to represent Ananda, the Buddha’s first disciple, but is now regarded as being a Buddha image like the others. Next to it is an enormous 14m (46ft) reclining Buddha. Two smaller, less skillfully carved Buddha images occupy niches in the rock nearby.

01
Apr
11

The ultimate goal of a Buddhist Monk is the attainment of Nirvana

A Buddhist monk dedicates his live to Buddha and to gain enlighten. At certain countries such as Myanmar or Burma and Thailand, Buddhist monks have a high level in the social life in every community.

There are many legends, and the main reason for a Buddhist monk is to comfort the people in his environ and try to help them in their spiritual life. In many Buddhist countries it is natural to ask a Buddhist monk from the next monastery if there are problems of almost any kind.

To become a Buddhist monk, and to be one, is a usual way of life in many Buddhist countries in particular in Asia where most of the kids move in a Buddhist monastery for a couple of days. Being a  novice is as a part of their childhood. The Buddhist monastery also function as a social network to integrate kids who lost their parents, and have no place to go and at the other end of the lifespan, to take care of the elderly. Becoming a Buddhist monk is not so easy, it takes a lot of preparation and suffering.

About 80 percent of Myanmar’s people are Theravada Buddhists, where great stress is placed upon individual achievement — one must work out one’s own salvation. All good Buddhists must traverse the slow and tedious path of purity with diligence and patience. Buddhism emphasizes love, tolerance, compassion and gentleness. In order to influence or determine their Karma all devout Buddhists and in particular Buddhist Monks, strive to make merit through good actions such as charitable deeds and to refrain from evil or bad deeds which will earn demerit. Karma is the law of cause and effect under which good begets good and evil begets evil in this or the next existence.

The Buddha established the Order of the ‘Sangha’ or ‘Bikkhu’ (monks) and the ‘Order of Bilkkuni’ (nuns) for men and women wishing to renounce the world and live a life of purity, austerity, perseverance and self-discipline. Not everyone is expected to lead the life of a Buddhist monk or a Buddhist nun to achieve one’s goal although one’s spiritual progress is expedited by this process. A lay follower can also become an ‘Arahat’ (Saint) and proceed to his or her final destination.

30
Mar
11

Ananda Pagoda Festival, a Festival in Bagan, Myanmar

Ananda Pagoda is probably the finest, largest and best preserved of all the Bagan temples. Ananda Temple suffered considerable damage in the earthquakes in history. The Ananda, built by Kyansittha in 1090, is on a larger scale than the Pahtothamya and the Apeyadana temples, and is significantly different in form. The temple is said to represent the endless wisdom of the Buddha.

Symbolizing the limitless wisdom of Buddha, there is a month long sanctified festival for the temple Ananda, the most beautiful one out of 2000 holy monuments in Bagan, Myanmar. It usually falls on January every year. The busiest day of the festival is on the full-moon day of the lunar month. Villagers and pilgrims around Bagan roll in the sacred site of Ananda for the consecration.

This is also the best time to see not only the ritual of Buddhists, but the festival is also meant for social gathering, reunification, propagation and perpetuation of the religion that is Buddhism. During the festival, walk around in a sea of vendors and shops that sell traditional Myanmar food-stuff and enjoy the local atmosphere in locality.

The most interesting aspect of this festival is the caravan of bullock-carts in the pagoda compound, camp under the shady trees. As the dawn breaks on the full moon Day of Pyatho the pilgrims are up and ready with their donations. The monks make their way between the donors lined up on both sides and all reverently place their donations in the monk’s hands. This they do with boundless piety. It does not matter if one’s donation is expensive or cheap but the merit lies in the heart of the donor. If the heart is pure the amount of merit will be as big as a banyan tree despite the small quantity or value of the donations. But impure hearts will only get merit the size of a banyan seed regardless of the amount of the donation.

When all is finished the families get ready to return to their villages and to prepare the fields for next year’s harvest. The dust clouds kicked by their oxen billow above the convoy of carts as they head home, meandering amongst the ruins. And for sure all are determined that next year they will come again and support the Buddhist sasana as their King had commanded.

20
Mar
11

Luang Prabang, Laos: Wat Xieng Thong or the temple of the golden city

Wat Xieng Thong is regarded as the most beautiful temple, not only in Luang Prabang but one of the most exquisite in all of Laos. The name Wat Xieng Thong means Monastery of the Golden City. Located close to the tip of the Luang Prabang peninsula, where the Nam Khan flows into the Mekong River, Wat Xieng Thong was built by King Setthathirath in 1560, during the golden years of Lan Xang Kingdom. It gracefully sloping roof and glass murals epitomise the classical Luang Prabang style of temple architecture.


Wat Xieng Thong was the principal Wat in Luang Prabang. It was patronized by the monarchy right up to 1975, when the monarchy was dissolved. It was here that the kings were crowned and granted their power. The sim of Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most richly ornate in Laos. The front façade and the columns within are richly stencilled with gold leaf. At the rear of the sim is a golden Buddha image. Going to the back of the sim, you can see a mosaic depicting the Tree of Life.

Adjacent to the sim of Wat Xieng Thong is a smaller building which the French called La Chapelle Rouge, and thus was translated into English as the Red Chapel. Housed within it is a unique reclining Buddha image with the robe curling outward at the ankle. This Buddha figure had even been exhibited at the Paris Expo in 1931, after which it was taken to Vientiane, and was only returned to Luang Prabang in 1964. On the outside of the Red Chapel is an interesting mural showing rural life in Laos.


A short distance diagonal from the sim, and facing the same courtyard, is another ornate structure. The façade is richly carved and layered in gold leaf. This structure houses the funerary chariot of King Sisavong Vang, built in 1960. The funerary chariot occupies almost the whole of the interior. On the carriage are replicas of the casket of the king, queen and the king’s brother. At the back of the building are a few Buddhist figurine in the standing pose.



The main entrance into Wat Xieng Thong is on the northwest at Thanon Manthatourath (Souvanhakhampong Road), facing the Mekong River. Alternatively, one may enter Wat Xieng Thong through Thanon Phothisalat (Sakarine Road), the main road in Luang Prabang, through a white stucco archway.