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Fast facts on Buddhism

Buddhism was founded in 520 BC.

The Buddha was born and raised as a prince living in the lap of luxury at Kapilavastu in Nepal about 2500 years ago. His name was Prince Siddhartha Gautama.

 At age 29 Prince Siddhartha renounced his family and a life of luxury.

The Buddha attained enlightenment under a bodhi (fig) tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, in eastern India.

Buddhism has three major divisions – Theravada, Vajrayana and Mahayana.

The three jewels in Buddhism are – the Buddha, the sangha (monastic community), the dharma (teachings of the Buddha)

According to Buddhism the three delusions that plague mankind are ignorance, desire and anger. The three virtues that can be developed to combat these vices are moral discipline, concentration and wisdom.

 

Interesting Buddhist Traditions

Flowers used in Buddhist worship signify that human life is not permanent but short lived like the life span of a flower.

Buddhists wedding ceremonies are not performed by monks. The ceremonies may go on for days at a stretch.

The creator of Zen Buddhism was a south-Indian prince, Bodhidharma, who became a monk. It is said he spent nine years staring at a wall in meditation. This wall was the wall of a cave in Mount Songshan, Hunan Province, China.

In Japan they have Bodhidharma “wish dolls” that have no eyes. When your wish comes true, you paint in the eyes.

Butter sculptures are an interesting feature in Tibetan Buddhism. Monks shape sculptures out of butter, constantly dipping their hands in cold water to keep the butter from melting. These sculptures are kept at family shrines and monastery altars as offerings.

Mounds of stones with the inscription ‘Om mani padme hum’ on each stone are a common sight in Tibet. On coming across such a mound, devout Buddhists walk around it clockwise, offer a prayer and then move on.

 

Spectacular Monuments

In Polonnaruwa (Sri Lanka) is a huge reclining figure of the dying Buddha, and beside him stands a 7.5 meter tall stone statue of his disciple, Ananda.

In Kandy (Sri Lanka), a temple is said to house a tooth of the Buddha. Legend has it that the tooth was removed while the Buddha lay on his funeral pyre.  Princess Hemamali smuggled it into Sri Lanka in 313 AD, hiding the tooth in her hair.

The famous “Emerald Buddha” is in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo temple. This tiny icon is carved from jade, and many wars have been waged for its possession. No one except the Thai king is allowed near it. The king conducts rituals at the temple housing the emerald Buddha throughout the year. The tiny green statue remains a tangible symbol of the Thai nation, and it is feared that removal of the image from Bangkok will signify the end of the present ruling dynasty, the Chakri dynasty.

The Borobudur Temple complex in Indonesia is constructed from lava rock. Its many terraced levels are inspired by the lotus flower, and it represents the Buddhist concept of the universe. 

In Lhasa, Tibet, is the famous Potala Palace where the Dalai Lama spent his childhood years. Today this magnificent, striking building is a state museum housing countless 17th century Buddhist artifacts such as thankas, murals, mandalas, and altars.

The world’s tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha is on Lan Tau Island near Hong Kong.

The largest Buddha statue in India is in the middle of a lake in Hyderabad, India. It is 18 meters tall and weighs 350 tons.

The world’s tallest Buddha statue carved out of a mountain is in Pattaya, Thailand. It is 130 meters high and 70 meters wide.

The second largest carved statue of the Buddha (71 meters high) is in Sichuan, China. It is carved out of the Lingyun Mountain. The statue is so big that a hundred people can sit in a row between its feet.