Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World
Recently, BBC aired a fascinating documentary about the travels of historian Bettany Hughes. In this documentary, she introduces BBC viewers to the seven wonders of the Buddhist world… and these are some of the most spectacular monuments built by Buddhists across the globe.
Although seven is not near how many more spectacular wonders there are in the Buddhist world, but for now, this is ok. I have blogged about many other places and wonders of the Buddhist world like Leshan Buddha, Kamakura, Jowo Rinpoche (Lhasa), Potala (China), etc, etc…..
All 7 wonders are unique and one-of-a-kind, and although the outlook of each seems different due to cultural influences, the temples are consistent in one aspect: A place to take refuge in the Three Jewels.
Watch the full documentary
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/buddhist-7-wonders-bbc.flv
1. Mahabodhi Temple, India
The Mahabodhi temple was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO on the 27th June 2002. It is one of the four holy sites related to the life of Lord Buddha, particularly the sacred Bodhi tree where Siddhartha Gautama meditated and attained Enlightenment on the full Moon day of Vaisakh Purnima (the month of May). In commemoration of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C. The original structure of the temple was completed in 7th century A.D. during the reign of Gupta kings.
The Mahabodhi Temple Complex consists of the main temple and six sacred places within an enclosed area, and a seventh one, the Lotus Pond, outside the enclosure. These seven places was the location where Buddha spent in meditation after attaining Enlightenment.
The most important of the sacred places is the sacred Bodhi tree, located at the west end of the main temple and is supposed to be the fifth direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree, which was earlier destroyed several times by man-made and natural disasters. It is here where the Buddha achieved Enlightenment and spent his first week in meditation.
Next to the Bodhi Tree is the Vajrasana (Diamond Throne), made of red sand stone in the 3rd century B.C. by Emperor Asoka. Venerable Ashwaghosa in his Buddhacarita revealed that this is the Navel of the Earth. Fa-Hien mentioned that all the past Buddhas attained Enlightenment here and the future Buddhas too will attain the enlightenment on this spot.
The Animeshlochan Chaitya (prayer hall), located to the north of the central path is believed to be the place where the Buddha spent the second week in meditation in standing posture gazing at the Bodhi Tree with motionless eyes.
Buddha spent the third week walking 18 paces back and forth in an area called Ratnachakrama (Jewelled Ambulatory) located near the north wall of the main temple. The raised platform with lotus flowers marks the spot where the Buddha kept his feet while walking.
The place where the Buddha spent the fourth week is Ratnaghar Chaitya, located to the north-east. Known as the Jewel House, the bUddha meditated here reflecting on the Patthana or the Law of Dependent Origination. A ray of six colors was said to have emanated from his body during that period and the Buddhists have designed their flag based on these colors.
The Ajapala Nigrodha Tree is the spot where the Buddha spent the fifth week in meditation and delivered a discourse on the equality of mankind.
The place where the Buddha spent the sixth week in meditation is next to the Lotus Pond, the Muchalinda Sarovar. While the Buddha was meditating, a severe thunder storm broke out and seeing the Buddha getting drenched, Muchalinda, the snake king of the Lake came out and protected the Buddha from the violent wind and rain with his hood.
The seventh week of meditation was spent under Rajayatna Tree. It was here where two merchants from Myanmar (known as Burma then) named Tapassu and Bhallika made offerings to the Buddha and took refuge in the Buddha and his teachings. They took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, but they could not take refuge in the Sangha because the Sangha was not constituted then. Due to this, they became the first lay devotees in Buddhism.
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/7-Wonders-of-India-Mahabodhi-Temple.flv
2. Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal
The Boudhanath stupa in Boudha, Kathmandu, is the largest stupa in Nepal and is the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. It was probably built in the 14th century. The temple became one of the most important centers of Tibetan Buddhism after the Chinese invasion in 1959, when thousands of Tibetans fled the country to Nepal. Today it still remains an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and the locals, as well as a popular tourist site.
The Boudhanath Stupa looks like a giant mandala and is closely associated with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, whose 108 forms are depicted around the base. The mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ is also carved on the prayer wheels beside the images of Avalokiteshvara. The nine levels of Boudhanath Stupa represents Mt. Meru; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightenment. The three large platforms at the base of the stupa, decreasing in size, symbolize Earth; and the two circular plinths supporting the hemisphere of the stupa symbolize water. The square tower at the top of the stupa bears the omnipresent Buddha eyes on all four sides. The question-mark symbol symbolizes unity, the one way to reach enlightenment through the Buddha’s teachings; and the third eye symbolize the Buddha’s wisdom. The square tower with 13 steps represents the ladder to enlightenment.
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/Boudha-Stupa-A-buddhist-stupa-in-Kathmandu-Nepal.flv
3. Temple of the Sacred Tooth, Sri Lanka
The Sacred Tooth of the Buddha is the most venerated object of worship for Buddhists,making the temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka the most sacred Buddhist site in the world. The city Kandy was declared as a world heritage by UNESCO partly due to this temple.
The tooth relic is kept in the upper floor in a chamber called ‘Vadahitina Maligawa’. The door to this chamber is covered with gold, silver and ivory. It is encased in seven gold caskets, studded with precious stones. The outer casket is studded by precious stones, offered to the tooth relic by various rulers.
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/Tooth-Temple-Kandy-Sri-Lanka-BBC-World-Wonders.flv
4. Wat Pho Temple, Thailand
Wat Pho temple, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, houses the largest Buddha in Thailand. It is the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand. A separate post was published recently with a more detailed explanation of the Wat Pho temple.
5. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is one of the greatest ancient temples in Southeast Asia. It was built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 A.D. Angkor Wat was declared a World heritage site in 1992 by UNESCO.
Angkor Wat required considerable restoration in the 20th century which was put on hold during the civil war between the 1970s and 1980s. Fortunately, relatively little damage was done during that period other than the theft and destruction of some statues.
Today, Angkor Wat has become a major tourist destinations, with approximately 600, 000 visitors every year.
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/Lost-Temples-Lost-City-of-Angkor-Wat.flv
6. Po Lin Monastery, Giant Buddha, Hong Kong
Po Lin Monastery in Lantau Island, Hong Kong was initially a small temple constructed by 3 buddhists in 1924. As the years passed, more structures were added, most notably the world’s largest Buddha.
The Big Buddha of Po Lin Monastery is also known as the Tian Tian Buddha. It is made of bronze, sits 34 meters tall, and weighs 250 tonnes. It took 10 years to construct the Big Buddha, and in December 1993, the statue was opened for public visits.
The Big Buddha is a major centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong as it symbolises the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion.
7. Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles
Hsi Lai Temple is the largest Chinese Buddhist temple and monastery in Los Angeles, California, covering over 15 acres of land. The temple belongs to a new Buddhist order called Fo Guang Shan, which combines the teachings of Zen with Pure Land Buddhism, and emphasizes Buddhist outreach and unity. Fo Guang Shan’s overall emphasis is on Humanistic Buddhism and unity among all Buddhist sects and schools.
The temple in L.A. began construction in 1978 and was completed in 1988. The stated goals of Hsi Lai Temple are to: nurture missionaries through education, promote Buddhism through cultural activities, and charitable programs.
The most important building in the temple is the main shrine, which is built in dedication to Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha. At the front of the shrine are three large Buddha statues: Shakyamuni Buddha in the center; Amitabha Buddha on the left; and Medicine Buddha on the right. The monks and nuns of the temple provide a variety of classes and special events. They also have weekly prayer services and meditation retreats in the monastery.
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