Buddhism is the one thing I like most about Asia but this subject is so much great and complicated and I’m not a master in it.So I decided that, at the moment, I’ll tell you as better as I can , only a few tips I discovered on a book misteriously found abandoned in a thai hostel, whose name is “ Without and within-questions and answers on Theravada Buddhism teaching”.
So…let’s start speaking about Buddha, that part of Buddhism that we can see and touch personally travelling in Asia ( as we saw here ).Let’s start to know our travel mate in this marvelous land. In Thailand, for example, where Buddhism is almost a state religion, you’ll have the possibility to visit beautiful temples and some common characteristics of this mysterious person (to a western eye) that will immediately catch your attention.
1) WHO WAS BUDDHA?
He was the son of a noble family belonging to the Shakya clan , born 2600 years ago in the north east of India, near Nepal’s borders.His name was Siddhartha Gautama and when he was 29 he left a life full of eases and privileges to look for spiritual salvation. Six years later ,after a meditation night beneath bodhi tree crosslegged, he realized total awakening becoming Buddha. He spent remaining 45 years of his life revealing Dharma, the route leading to the real nature’s existence to get rid of suffering. Buddha means the awakened.
2) WAS HE FAT OR THIN?
You will find different representations about Buddha, some where he is thin and others where he is fat but in the reality he was surely thin because he followed fasting purifying precepts…then…who was that fat man? That one probably is a distortion belonging to Chinese Buddhism. In fact he is PuTai, a Chinese Buddhist master whose name was distorted in Budai and after in Buddha. Anyhow , the fact that he was figured as a fat man doesn’t mean he surely was , probably it’s the representation of spiritual opulence.
3) WHY HAS HE LONG HEARS?
I’ve read many explications about it but the one I mostly consider true is that which says that it is because of a primary buddhist teaching, searching freedom from material attachments. Long hears represent memory about the fact that once Buddha was pulled down by richness but , by giving up it, his lobes are empty.
4) WHY HAS HE SUCH CURLY HAIRS?
This one too is a characteristic which will attract your attention, a strange hair style that , now again, has at least a pair of good explications. The first one tells that when prince Siddhartha decided to follow an itinerant monastic life, he cut his curly hairs with a knife and the result was this strange haircut. The more mystic explication, instead, tells that these curly hairs are not real hairs but 108 snails shells who gave their life to protect Buddha’s head during meditation under the sun. On the top of his head he has a strange bun, the Usnisa, an hair knot from where yogic energy comes out.
5) BUDDHA’S HANDS
You will notice that Buddha representations put a great attention on hands positions known as Mudra, because they have a great symbolic importance. Let’s see some: right hand with palm outward directed and fingers high as a STOP signal, this one invites faithfuls to confidence (Abhaya Mudra) ; both hands carefully leaning on womb with right hand’s back leaning on left hand’s palm (Dhyani Mudra) meditation mudra ; palms unified in front of Buddha’s chest (Anjali Mudra) , typical indian salutation… my yoga master will be proud of me.
6) BUDDHA’S POSITIONS
You will see Buddha in 4 fundamental positions: standing up, sitting, walking and lying down. First three positions represent everyday life scenes (teaching, meditation , protection), while the last one represents Nirvana reaching.
7) BUDDHA’S SYMBOLS
Near Buddha you will frequently find a 8 rays wheel, truth wheel, a Bodhi tree which is illumination tree, and lotus flowers , purification symbol.
So…these are only a few Buddha’s characteristics which you will frequently find traveling around Asia, the ones you will keep in mind even if you won’t learn more about Buddhism. I’d like to go further in learning more and more about what someone defines a religion and someone a philosophy , but before closing this brief chapter I would like to leave you a sentence from Mae Chee Kaew, a thai buddhist monk :
“Self honesty is the base of moral virtue.Know yourself , accept your faults and work to overcome them. Don’t hide nothing to yourself. But above everything don’t lie to yourself”
…if I didn’t bore you with so many notions and you are curious to hear more about Buddhism…