28 04 2012 SATURDAY LESSON 594 FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research
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Dhammapada: Verses and Stories
Verse 149 A Sight That Stops Desire
149. A Sight That Stops Desire
These dove-hued bones
scattered in Fall,
like long white gourds,
what joy in seeing them?
Explanation: In the dry autumnal season, one can see bones and
skulls strewn around. These dry grey-hued skulls are like gourds thrown here
and there. Seeing this, whoever will lust?
FIVE TYPES OF BUDDHIST STUDY
MAHAYANA AND HINAYANA COMPARED
ONE HUNDRED DHARMAS
Master Thich Thien Tam
Translated and edited by the Van Hien Study Group
Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada
Recitation does not consist of oral recitation alone, but also includes
contemplation and meditation. Therefore, within the Pure Land School, there
are, in addition to Oral Recitation, three other methods, namely: Real Mark,
Contemplation by Thought and Contemplation of an Image.
entails penetrating the Mind’s foremost meaning — reciting our own original
Buddha Nature. It is to contemplate the Real Mark Dharma Body of the Buddhas,
resulting in attainment of True Thusness Samadhi.
This method is really a Zen practice; however,
since the realm revealed by the meditational mind is the Pure Land, it also
qualifies as a Pure Land practice. This method is not for those of limited or
moderate capacities — if the practitioner is not of the highest capacity, he
cannot “become enlightened and enter” into it. For this reason, few
Pure Land teachers promote it and the proponents of the method are found
chiefly within the Zen tradition.
Incidentally, I would venture to say here that
while we are still treading the path of Practice, not having reached the stage
of Perfect Enlightenment, all Dharma methods are expedients; Buddha Recitation
is an expedient and so is Zen. According to the Three Pure Land sutras, Buddha
Sakyamuni provided the expedient teaching of the Western Pure Land, and urged
sentient beings to recite Amitabha Buddha’s name seeking rebirth there. With
this method, they can escape Birth and Death, avail themselves of that
wonderful, lofty realm to pursue cultivation, and swiftly attain Buddhahood.
Diligent Buddha Recitation also leads to Awakening, as in Zen; however, the
principal goal of the Pure Land School is rebirth in the Land of Ultimate
Bliss, while the degree of Awakening achieved is a secondary consideration.
Thus, the goal of Real Mark Buddha Recitation
falls within Pure Land teachings. However, from the standpoint of an expedient
leading to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it does not truly qualify as
a Pure Land method within the meaning of the Three Pure Land sutras taught by
Buddha Sakyamuni. This is, perhaps, the reason why Pure Land Patriarchs merely
referred to it to broaden the meaning of Buddha Recitation, but did not expound
This entails meditation on the features of Buddha Amitabha and His
Land of Ultimate Bliss, in accordance with the Meditation Sutra. (The
Sutra teaches a total of sixteen contemplations.) If this practice is
perfected, the cultivator will always visualize the Pure Land before him.
Whether his eyes are open or closed, his mind and thoughts are always coursing
through the Pure Land. At the time of death, he is assured of rebirth there.
The virtues obtained through this method are
immense and beyond imagination, but since the object of meditation is too
profound and subtle, few practitioners can achieve it. This is because, in
general, the method presents five difficulties: i) with dull capacities, one
cannot easily succeed; ii) with a crude mind, one cannot easily succeed; iii)
without knowing how to use expedients skillfully and flexibly during actual
practice, one cannot easily succeed; iv) without the ability to remember images
clearly, one cannot easily succeed; v) with low energy, one cannot easily succeed.
Very few can avoid all five pitfalls. Thus, upon
reflection, this method also belongs to the category of difficult Dharma doors.
method, the practitioner faces a statue of Amitabha Buddha and impresses all
the features of that statue in his memory — contemplating to the point where,
even in the absence of a statue, and whether his eyes are open or closed, he
clearly sees the image of Amitabha Buddha.
This method is also difficult, because it
requires a great deal of energy, a faithful memory and skillful use of
expedients. There are cases of individuals who have practiced it in an
inflexible way and have developed headaches difficult to cure. Moreover, upon
examination, this method of seeking rebirth in the Pure Land is not mentioned
in the sutras. It is merely a technique to assist in the practice of Buddha
Recitation, so that the practitioner can harness his mind and achieve right
thought. Still, if we practice this method in a pure, devoted frame of mind, we
can obtain a response, eradicate our bad karma, develop virtue and wisdom, and,
through an “illusory” statue of Amitabha Buddha, awaken to His True
Marks and achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.
method, the practitioner recites, aloud or silently, either “Nam Mo
Amitabha Buddha or “Amitabha Buddha.” The short form (Amitabha
Buddha) has the advantage of easily focusing the cultivator’s mind, while the
longer version facilitates development of a truly earnest, respectful mind conducive
to a response.
This method, taught by Sakyamuni Buddha in the Shorter
Amitabha Sutra, is the dominant form of Pure Land practice at the present
A brief examination of the four methods of
Buddha Recitation shows that the Real Mark [No. 1] and Contemplation of an
Image [No. 3] methods are not mentioned in the Three Pure Land sutras. They are
referred to only in the Buddha Recitation Samadhi Sutra and a few other
sutras or commentaries. Both of these methods are secondary expedients to
expand on the true meaning of Buddha Recitation; they are not recognized
methods traditionally taught by Pure Land Patriarchs.
The Real Mark method has the unique advantage of
teaching the profound and exalted meaning of Buddha Recitation. However, it is
too lofty to embrace people of all capacities and “strays” in the
direction of Zen. The Contemplation of an Image method is merely a subsidiary
technique and is not easy to practice. These two methods, therefore, are not
recommended for Pure Land practitioners. Likewise, the Contemplation by Thought
method [No. 2], although expounded by Buddha Sakyamuni and leading to immense
virtue, is reserved for those of high capacities. In the present Dharma-Ending
Age, few can practice it.
In conclusion, only Oral Recitation [No. 4]
embraces people of all capacities, leads to swift results and is easy enough
for anyone to practice. Oral Recitation, practiced earnestly and correctly,
will bring a response; in this very life, we can immediately see the features
of Amitabha Buddha and the adornments of the Western Pure Land and awaken to
the Original Mind. Even if we cannot attain True Mark in this life, we will
certainly attain it after rebirth in the Pure Land. For this reason, the
Thirteenth Pure Land Patriarch, Master Yin Kuang, wrote the following words of
reciting the Name will bring attainment of True Mark,
Without contemplation we will still see the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
masters have also commented:
Dharma methods, Pure Land is the short cut for attaining the Way.
Within Pure Land, Oral Recitation is the short cut.
this method is the most popular form of Buddha Recitation.
indicated above, Oral Recitation is the most common Pure Land method at the
present time. However, this method has many variants, to accommodate the
circumstances and capacities of the individual. A few of these variants are
this technique, the ear catches the sound as the mouth recites, examining each
individual word and each individual phrase, to make sure they are clear and
distinct, phrase after phrase. There are two ways of hearing, with the ears or
with the mind. Although the ears “hear deep inside,” the sounds do
not reside anywhere. The practitioner gradually forgets everything inside and
out — even body, mind, realm, time and space — with only the Buddha’s name
This technique of
“reflecting the name,” makes it easy for the cultivator to filter out
deluded thoughts and swiftly achieve one-pointedness of mind. The Surangama
Sutra expresses this very idea when it states, in the words of the
common method of concentrating the mind on its sense of hearing, turning it
inward … is most feasible and wise. (Wai-tao, tr. “The Surangama
Sutra,” in D. Goddard, ea., A Buddhist Bible, p. 260.)
method, as the mouth recites, the hand fingers the rosary. At first, thoughts
are tied to the rosary beads, but later on they gradually move away from the
beads, leading to the state of one-pointedness of mind. This technique
increases the power of recitation in the same way that a cane enables a mountain
climber with weak legs to ascend higher and higher.
With this technique, we should write down the
number of recitations per session or per day. This has the advantage of forcing
us to keep an exact count, eliminating the affliction of laziness. However, we
should take care not to be too ambitious, attempting to achieve too much too
soon, or our recitation will not be clear and distinct. The ancients, while
reciting the Buddha’s name over and over, did so in a clear, distinct manner
thanks to two factors: “correct understanding” and “correct
concentration of mind.” Elder Master Ou-I, the Ninth Patriarch of Pure
Land once taught:
is no better or loftier way to reach the state of one-pointedness of mind. At
first the practitioner should finger the rosary, keeping an exact count, while
reciting the Buddha’s name over and over in a clear, distinct manner, 30,000,
50,000 up to 100,000 times each day, maintaining that number without fail,
determined to remain constant throughout his life. Such recitation will, in
time, become second nature — not reciting being reciting. At that time,
recording or not recording no longer matters. If such recitation, accompanied
by earnest Faith and Vows, did not lead to rebirth in the Pure Land, the
Buddhas of the Three Periods (past, present and future) would all be guilty of
false speech. Once we are reborn in the Pure Land, all Dharma methods will
appear before our eyes.
If at the outset we seek too high a goal, are
over-confident and eager to show that we are not attached to forms and marks,
preferring to study according to the free and perfect method, we reveal a lack
of stability and depth in our Faith and Vows as well as perfunctoriness in our
Practice. Even if we were to lecture exhaustively on the Twelve Divisions of
the Dharma [all the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni] and become enlightened to
the 1,700 Zen koans, these would merely be activities on the fringes of life
advice is indeed a compass for the Pure Land practitioner.
technique consists of reciting silently or softly, with each breath, inhaling
or exhaling, accompanied by one recitation of the Buddha’s name. Since life is
linked to breath, if we take advantage of breath while practicing Buddha
Recitation, we will not be apart from Buddha Amitabha in life and at the time
of death, when breath has stopped, we will be immediately reborn in the Pure
Land. The practitioner should remember, however that once he has mastered this
technique, he should recite aloud as well as silently. In this way, the power
of recitation will be strengthened and the will to be reborn in the Pure Land
more easily developed. Otherwise, his resolve will not be earnest and he might
“stray” into the practice of the “Five Meditations to calm the
mind” of the Theravada tradition.
this technique, the practitioner recites softly, each word following the one
immediately before, each phrase closely following the previous phrase …
During this practice, through discretion and
patience, there are no empty time frames and therefore “sundry
thoughts” cannot intrude. The cultivator’s feelings and thoughts are
intense, his mind and mouth move boldly forward reciting the Buddha’s name; the
power of right thought embraces everything, temporarily subduing ignorance and
delusive thought. Thus, the light of transcendental samadhi breaks through and
From early times, Pure Land practitioners would
avail themselves of this method when their emotions and thoughts wandered or
were in a state of confusion.
this technique, the practitioner on the one hand recites the Buddha’s name and
on the other, “returns the light” and illumines his True Nature. He
thus enters into the realm of ultimate transcendental emptiness; what remains
is only the consciousness that his body-mind and the True Mind of the Buddha
have become one — all-illuminating and all-encompassing. At that time,
meditation rooms, cushions, gongs and all else have disappeared. Even the
illusory, “composite body” is nowhere to be found.
With this practice, even while our present
“retribution body” is not yet dead, silent illumination is attained.
Uttering the Buddha’s name, the practitioner immediately achieves the state of
samadhi. There is no swifter method for common mortals to enter the realm of
Unfortunately, we cannot understand or practice
this method unless we are of the highest capacity. Therefore, its scope is
rather modest and limited.
technique consists of making bows as we recite the Buddha’s name. Either we
recite once before each bow or we bow as we recite, regardless of the number of
recitations. The bowing should be supple yet deliberate, complementing
recitation, bowing and reciting perfectly synchronized. If we add a sincere and
earnest mind, body, speech and mind are gathered together. Except for the words
Amitabha Buddha, there is not the slightest deluded thought.
This method has the ability to destroy the karma
of drowsiness. Its benefits are very great, because the practitioner engages in
recitation with his body, speech and mind. A lay practitioner of old used to
follow this method, and each day and night, he would bow and recite an average
of one thousand times.
However, this practice is the particular domain
of those with strong mind-power. Lacking this quality, it is difficult to
persevere, because with extended bowing, the body easily grows weary, leading
to discouragement. Therefore, this method is normally used in conjunction with
other methods and is not practiced in exclusivity.
the inscription technique of Buddha Recitation, taking each ten utterances of
the Buddha’s name as a unit. Individuals with short breath spans can divide the
ten utterances into two subunits (five utterances each) or three smaller subunits
(two three-utterance units and one four-utterance unit). One rosary bead is
fingered after each group of ten utterances is completed.
With this practice, the mind must not only
recite, it must also remember the number of utterances. In this way, if we are
not diligent we must become so; otherwise, it will be impossible to avoid
This technique, in general, is an excellent
expedient forcing the cultivator to concentrate his mind and is very effective
with those subject to many errant thoughts. Elder Master Yin Kuang used to
recommend it to Pure Land practitioners.
recites, the practitioner contemplates the four colors of the lotus blossom
(blue, yellow, red and white), one color after another without interruption.
With his first utterance of the Buddha’s name, he visualizes a huge, blue lotus
blossom before his eyes, emitting a blue light. With the second utterance, he
visualizes a yellow lotus blossom, emitting a yellow light. The third and
fourth utterances are accompanied, respectively, by visualization of red and
white lotus flowers, each color emitting its own light. He then repeats the
visualization in the same sequence. As the flowers appear, he imagines a vague,
lingering touch of pure, soft lotus fragrance.
Ancient masters devised this method because many
practitioners in the T’ien T’ai School, despite using all available techniques,
found it difficult to stem their errant thoughts. This method uses various
forms and colors to focus mind and thought. These forms and colors take the
marks of lotus blossoms in the Seven-Jewel Pond of the Pure Land (”one
utterance of the Buddha’s name, one jeweled lotus blossom”), because the
lotus blossoms appearing in the Pure Land are inseparable from the lotus blossoms
created by the virtues of the reciting mind. At the time of death, the
mind-consciousness of the practitioner relies on these jeweled lotus blossoms
to achieve rebirth in the Western Pure Land.
If the Pure Land cultivator should discover that
he has an affinity with this technique, he should apply it and quickly enter
the Wonderful Lotus Blossom Buddha Recitation Samadhi.
method was specially designed for certain practitioners who, as soon as they
close their eyes to recite, suddenly see filthy forms and marks (ugly grimacing
faces, for example), or dark forms and colors swirling around.
With this technique, the practitioner, while
reciting the Buddha’s name, visualizes himself seated in the middle of an
immense, brilliant zone of light. Within that zone of light, when his mind has
quieted down, the practitioner feels bright and refreshed. At that time, not
only have deluded thoughts been annihilated, filthy, evil forms have also
disappeared. After that, right thought is reinforced and samadhi is, in time,
Although this is a special expedient to destroy
evil deluded marks, even the practitioner who is not in this predicament can
apply this method to clear his mind and enter deeply into the Buddha Recitation
methods of contemplation taught in the Meditation Sutra are very
important and lead to immense virtue, but they are not a popular expedient for
sentient beings in the Dharma-Ending Age. Nevertheless, since the ancient
masters did not wish to see the special benefits of the meditation method go
unused, they selected the easiest of the Sixteen Contemplations (Contemplation
of Amitabha Buddha) and combined it with Oral Recitation to form the
Contemplation of the Buddha-Oral Recitation technique. (Recitation is
predominant, with contemplation of the Buddha occupying a subsidiary position.)
Each day, after reciting the Buddha’s name, the
practitioner reserves a special period of time for concentrating his mind and
contemplating the Embellishments and Light of Amitabha Buddha. This method is
derived from Contemplation Number Thirteen in the Meditation Sutra, in
which Buddha Amitabha is visualized as some sixteen feet tall and of golden
hue, standing at the edge of the Seven-Jewel Pond. If the practitioner cannot
yet visualize the Seven-Jewel Pond, he can picture Amitabha Buddha standing
before his eyes in a zone of light, in open space, the left hand held at chest
level and forming the auspicious mudra, the right arm extending downward in the
position of “welcoming and guiding.”
To be successful in this meditation, it is
necessary, at the outset, to visualize the body of Amitabha Buddha in general,
then concentrate on the urna (white mark between the eyebrows). This mark is
empty and transparent, like a white gem with eight facets … The urna is the
basic mark among the thirty-two auspicious marks of the Buddhas. When this
visualization is successful, thanks to the affinity thus created between
Amitabha Buddha and the practitioner, other marks will appear clearly, one
after another. However, to ensure success, the practitioner should read through
the Meditation Sutra memorizing the thirty-two auspicious marks of
Buddha Amitabha before commencing his practice.
With this method, Buddha Recitation should be
primary, because if the practitioner does not succeed at visualization, he can
still fall back on recitation to ensure rebirth in the Pure Land. In truth,
however, recitation aids visualization and visualization complements
recitation, so that these two aspects work in parallel, leading the
practitioner toward the desired goal.
Although this technique is somewhat more
difficult than the others, if it can be accomplished successfully, immeasurable
benefits are achieved. It is therefore described here at the very end, to
foster diligent practice.
As stated earlier, these ten variants of Oral
Recitation are also the ten basic techniques to combat the various mental
hindrances faced by Buddha Recitation practitioners. Pure Land books discuss
several dozen variants. However, they are merely techniques using, inter
alia, a loud voice or a low voice at busy moments or at times of leisure.
They cannot as such qualify as methods of recitation. For this reason, the
author has singled out these ten basic variants of Oral Recitation to combat
the obstructions of drowsiness and mind-scattering. They are the methods best
suited to the majority of today’s practitioners. The cultivator can try them
out and select the one that fits his particular case.
SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Amitabha Buddha Recitation
Amitabha Buddha is also known as “Amitayus,” “infinite life.”
“Amitabha” means “infinite light.” He is the Buddha of the Western Land of
Ultimate Bliss. The three Pureland Sutras: The Larger Sutra on Amitabha, The Smaller Sutra on Amitabha, and the
Contemplation (visualization) of Amitabha Buddha Sutra.
Countless eons ago, Bhikshu Dharma Treasury made 48
inconceivable vows before Lokesvaraja Buddha. He vowed that his Buddhaland will
be the most blissful and pure; that all who are born there will advance
irreversibly to Buddhahood. Bhikshu Dharma Treasure is now Amitabha Buddha. The
lower realms of existence and suffering are not found in Amiitabha Buddha’s
pure land. It is filled with wondrous sounds and adornments.
A verse in praise by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua says:
Blowing winds and still waters expound the Mahayana;
Flocks of birds sing in chorus, elegant and resonant.
With proper faith, proper vows, and proper conduct,
Be mindful of the Buddha, be mindful of the Dharma, and be mindful of the
With vigor, perfect each of the levels of non-retreat.
In dhyana you may ascend through each of the nine grades
And meet in person Amita Buddha, your compassionate father.
Such a reunion with your flesh and blood brings happiness indeed!
Master Hsuan Hua explained the four methods of being mindful of
1. Mindfulness of the Buddha through reciting his name.
2. Mindfulness of the Buddha through contemplating his image.
3. Mindfulness of the Buddha through contemplation.
4. Mindfulness of the Buddha’s real appearance.
In the Avatamsaka Sutra, a verse says:
I vow that when my life approaches its end,
All obstructions will be swept away;
I will see Amitabha Buddha,
And be born in his Land of Ultimate Bliss and Peace.
The verse below is from the Venerable Master Hua’s lecture:
The King of All Dharmas is the one word “Amitabha.”
The five periods and the eight teachings are all contained within it.
One who single-mindedly remembers and recites his name
In samadhi will enter the Thus Come Ones’ place of quiescence.
A talk given by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua:
Speak one sentence more, recite the Buddha’s name one time less.
This is correct. Speak one sentence less; recite the Buddha’s name one time
more. This is also correct. If we understand this theory, then “when walking we
recite Amitabha and when sitting we recite Amitabha.” That is, when we’re
walking, we recite Amitabha; when we’re sitting down we also recite Amitabha;
when we’re standing we recite Amitabha, and even when we’er lying down, we
recite Amitabha. We recite constantly without the thought of reciting, and
without the thought of reciting and yet reciting to the point that the wind
cannot blow through and the rain cannot leak through; rather there is only the
thought of reciting the Buddha’s name and nothing else. Therefore it is said,
Recite the Buddha’s name continuously, reciting without a break. The mouth
recites Amitabha and makes things of a piece. This happens when one’s
recitations continue one after another, without stopping. When extraneous
thoughts do not arise, one attains samadhi. If you don’t give rise to false
thoughts, there is mindfulness, or proper perception. That is samadhi. For
rebirth in the Pure Land, your hope is not in vain. You will definitely be
reborn there. All you have to do is recite without the thought of
reciting, not reciting yet reciting, reciting Amitabha’s name through the
storms until even the sound of the bell is reciting, “Amitabha Buddha!” When
the waters flow and the wind blows, they proclaim the Mahayana. They are
reciting “Homage to Amitabha Buddha.”
If you can recite like this, I guarantee that you will be reborn
in the Pure Land as if not being reborn, not being reborn and yet being reborn
there. You will even forget about what grade of lotus you will be reborn
in. Since you do not remember, you certainly will attain what you deserve.
What you do not deserve, you cannot attain even if you wish to. Thus,
everything is made from the mind alone. However, this does not mean everything
you think will come true. You must have adequate spiritual skill. If your
spiritual skill is sufficient and you recite the Buddha’s name, you let go of
absolutely everything. If all day you detest the sufferings of the Saha world.
Everyday we experience the “evil age of the five turbidities.” That is, the
kalpa turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living
beings turbidity, and the life turbidity. These are turbid things. We are vexed
by these sufferings in the Saha World. One cuts off thoughts of mundane
defilements. Mundane defilements refer to lust between men and women. Once we
cut off lust, we can say that we have given up mundane defilements. Make
rebirth in Ultimate Bliss your mind’s essential aim. You must regard the wish
to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss as extremely important. Renounce
defiled thoughts and pure thoughts you will find. The absence of defiled
thoughts is pure thought. That’s the Pure Land practice. You may now ask
Q: Since the Pure Land is the one Buddha-vehicle, so that
when ten thousand people cultivate it, ten thousand people will be reborn
there, why are there three levels and nine grades of lotuses?
A: Although the Pure Land practice teaches that 10,000 out
of 10,000 people who cultivate will be reborn there, those who get reborn have
cultivated for a long time. Now their cultivation has matured, so they can
go there. It’s not something that is accomplished in just one lifetime. If
people encounter the Amitabha Sutra and recite Amitabha’s name, the Sutra says,
“It’s not just from the good roots planted with one Buddha, two Buddhas, three,
four, or five Buddhas” that one is able to encounter this dharma door. You have
planted good roots with limitless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, or
billions of Buddhas in the past, so you now can encounter this supreme Buddha
Dharma. Why are there nine grades of lotuses? People have different
faculties and natures. Some are vigorous and don’t have any doubts, so when
they sincerely do the Pure Land practice and recite the Buddha’s name, they can
be reborn in the highest grade. Such people have recited the Buddha’s name and
cultivated for a long time. If you are a beginner who has not recited much
and you want to be reborn there, you will be reborn in a lower grade of
lotus. When you get to the Pure Land, you continue to recite the name of
the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Your effort will definitely not be in
vain. If you contribute one portion of effort, you will receive one
portion of results. If you contribute ten portions of effort, you will receive
ten portions of results. Everything is fair. This dharma suits all beings
of different faculties, sharp or dull; it doesn’t discriminate between the
different grades. What’s the difference between those who have sharp faculties
and those with dull faculties? When they get there, they are all the same.
Some are reborn from a higher grade and some from a lower grade. Regardless of
what grade they are, they cannot fall to a lower state, since the three evil
paths do not exist there. All receive equal treatment, and none are
treated unfairly. However, if you don’t have enough spiritual skill, how
can you be reborn from the highest grade?
Q: The Venerable Master mentioned that when people are
reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, they will never fall to a lower
state again. So, is it possible for someone to hide inside the lotus flower and
never come out?
A: If you can hide in there, that would not be bad! If
you get a chance, you can try to hide inside there.
Q: The Three Sages of the Western Pure Land are Amitabha
Buddha, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva, and Great Strength Bodhisattva. Why
don’t we normally recite the name of Great Strength Bodhisattva? Also, I don’t
know anything about Great Strength Bodhisattva. We call them the Three Sages of
the Western Pure Land, but why does it seem like Great Strength Bodhisattva has
nothing to do with us?
A: It’s because people don’t have great affinities with
Great Strength Bodhisattva. Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva has the heart of
great compassion. Great Strength Bodhisattva has great power. Every time
he moves, the ground shakes, and people get scared and do not dare to get close
to him.The people in the Saha world are scared of earthquakes, so they are also
scared of Great Strength Bodhisattva. [The audience laughs]
Q: Should I focus on reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name, Guan
Shi Yin Bodhisattva’s name, or both?
A: If you like to recite Guan Yin Bodhisattva, Guan Yin
Bodhisattva will come to welcome you [to the Pure Land]. If you like to
recite Amitabha Buddha, Amitabha Buddha will come to welcome you. Reciting
either name is better than not reciting. It is only to be feared that you
forget to recite Guan Yin Bodhisattva, and also forget to recite Amitabha
Q: Can we skip the mother bead on the recitation beads that
we commonly use during Buddha recitation? Some people say that it can be
skipped. However, I heard others say that it helps us to concentrate.
A: Recitation beads help you concentrate and get rid of
your false thoughts. That’s their primary purpose. Whether you skip it or
not is not important. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s because you don’t
understand that you entertain such wrong ideas. This is a wrong theory that
confuses people. It sounds very interesting, like recitation beads that
can dance. [Audience laughs]. Buddhists need to believe in what’s true.
Recitation beads are used to concentrate. It’s to help you count recitations
and be mindful. If you truly recite the Buddha’s name, you don’t need anything.
“If you use your true mind to recite the Buddha’s name, you don’t need your
mouth. If you use your true mind to offer incense, you don’t need your hands.”
Each has his own affinities; everyone is different. You see
one person recite the Buddha’s name with recitation beads and get reborn (in
the Pure Land). Another person tries to use recitation beads, but isn’t
reborn. Each has his own causes and conditions. It was said that
10,000 out of 10,000 people who cultivate will attain rebirth. However,
sometimes 10,000 out of 10,000 people cultivate and don’t attain
rebirth. There are no fixed dharmas, but only fixed people. People can be
fixed, but not dharmas. If you cannot concentrate, then regardless of what
dharma you cultivate, you will be distracted by external states. If you
can concentrate, you will be single-minded and unconfused.In the Pure Land
practice, one relies on the power of the Buddha to be reborn in the Pure Land.
Even though we say we can be reborn through the power of Amitabha Buddha’s
vows, if you don’t recite, it won’t work. Even Amitabha Buddha cannot help
you. So, you need to use your own power. You need to “end your own birth
and death, just as you eat your own fill.” If you don’t recite the Buddha’s
name, then Amitabha Buddha has no way to help you. He wants to welcome you
(to the Pure Land), but you don’t want to go. Amitabha Buddha is compassionate
and hopes that all beings can be reborn in his Land of Ultimate Bliss and endure
none of the sufferings, but enjoy every bliss. But you fight with Amitabha
Buddha and say, “I don’t want to enjoy every bliss; I just want to
suffer.” In that case, even Amitabha Buddha cannot help you. He will
only worry about you.
THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Listen to Yourself: Think Everything
Dharma-door of Reciting the Buddha’s name works very directly. You need only to
concentrate your mind, and naturally you will attain the Buddha Recitation
Samadhi. There is no need to further investigate its meaning, or pile a head on
top of a head, looking for business when there’s nothing to do. Reciting to the
point of single-mindedness, when the water flows and the wind blows, all are
proclaiming the wonderful Dharma of the Mahayana. Of the mountains, rivers and
great earth, none are not our self-nature of True Suchness. The Buddha and I
have become one; the Buddha and I were originally not two. When the point is
reached of not reciting and yet reciting, reciting and yet not reciting, then
inside there is no body or mind and outside there is no world. Empty space is
smashed to pieces, the tracks of false thoughts have vanished. In lucid
stillness, the pure original source appears. Then one attains great ease and
comfort, great liberation, and great calm. One can certify to limitless life
and fulfill one’s vows of Bodhi. A verse says,
Concentrate on reciting the Buddha’s name,
in the country of calm dwelling;
With Amitabha’s great vows one goes to the West.
The three levels and nine grades of lotuses manifest;
The six paramitas and the myriad
conducts are perfected in a kshana.
Kuan Yin and Great Strength Bodhisattvas are our
With Manjushri and Universal Worthy,
we sail on the same Dharma boat.
Our compassionate father brings us back to our old
Originally, the world of Ultimate Bliss was our
TALKS FROM AMITABHA RECITATION SESSION
December 31, 1979
of the Saha World all like happiness and dislike suffering; hell beings like
suffering and dislike being happy; hungry ghosts like hatred and dislike
compassion; animals like stupidity and dislike wisdom, which is why they are
reborn in the path of the animals.
Although we people claim to like being happy and to dislike suffering, we do
not know how to get rid of suffering. Heavenly beings also like happiness and
state of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas there is no suffering and no happiness.
Both suffering and bliss are forgotten. Living beings are upside down: they
take what is right as wrong and what is wrong as right; they mistake black for
white and white for black. Do they know that they are upside down? Yes, they
do, but although they know it, they still go right ahead and do wrong. Although
they know what is illegal, they deliberately set out to do it. And although
they know what is right, they won’t do it.
for instance taking tea breaks during the Buddha Recitation Session. Now there
are special times to drink tea; you just don’t drink tea any time you feel like
it. People grow tired after reciting for a while so they go and drink some tea
to take a little rest and be lazy. If you are sincerely reciting the Buddha’s
name, how can you possibly think of drinking tea? You would have long forgotten
about tea, not to mention milk. You would have forgotten everything—even about
whether you’ve eaten or not, so how much more would you have forgotten about
says, “Reciting the Buddha’s name is too dangerous; you may even forget whether
you’ve eaten or not!” But that’s right where the kung fu (skill) lies!
People who really use effort won’t know whether they’ve eaten, whether they’ve
been clothed, or whether they’ve slept. They will have forgotten everything.
Above, they are not aware of heaven; below, they are not aware of the earth;
and, in between they are not aware of people. Everything has become empty. If
everything has become empty, how can you possibly think of taking a tea break
or drinking milk?!
my disciples dare not drink milk. If they do, their desire thoughts escalate to
the point that they cannot control them. Therefore, they go off milk. We eat
only in order to support our lives. We take food as medicine. If we do not eat,
we will perish, that’s why we must eat a bit of food. We sustain our bodies and
keep them from wasting away so that we can use them to cultivate with. You need
not concern yourselves with any special kind of nutrition or diet. Once you
ingest more nutritious food than you need, you’re in trouble—your thoughts of
sexual desire will not stop. How can those who truly use effort find time to
drink tea or milk? They don’t even find time to eat, to sleep, or to put on
clothes. In every moment they are concentrating on the Buddha’s name, “NamoAmitabha,”
without stopping. You recite when you’re asleep, you recite when you are awake,
to the point that this phrase of the six magical syllables, “Namo Amitabha,”
becomes indestructible. Stretch it out, you can’t snap it; chop at it, you
can’t cut through it; even if you use a sword or knife, you still won’t be able
to break it. Its strength is more solid than that of diamonds. There is no way
you can destroy this “Namo Amitabha.” That is what’s called the Buddha Recitation Samadhi.
should recite the Buddha’s name in this way, and you should recite the Sutras
in the same way; you should hold mantras in this way, too. In doing so, there
is no way you will be able to strike up any false thoughts. Cultivation is not
easy. Take a look at Kuo Chen (D.M. Heng Sure of Three Steps One Bow): why has
he vowed to not drink milk? Because he knows that milk is something fierce.
Once you drink milk, that streak of bull-like nature in you manifests. That
bull-like nature which arises is fiercer than a tiger!
you encounter food that is particularly nutritious, if your body does not need
it, if your body is not weak, then you shouldn’t take it. Once you take it,
you’ll have a lot of trouble. So it says, “Too much is equal to not enough”;
“having too much of something is as bad as not having enough. It is not the
word, act, and deed on the part of living beings is not outside of greed, anger
and stupidity. They use greed, anger, and stupidity to cultivate worldly
dharmas, and they use greed, anger and stupidity to cultivate transcendental
Dharmas as well. So when cultivating they are greedy for enlightenment. They
sit in Ch’an meditation for two-and-a-half-days, and they want to become
enlightened; they cultivate a Dharma for two-and-a-half days, and they want to
attain spiritual penetrations; they recite the Buddha’s name for two-and-a-half
days and they want to obtain the Buddha Recitation Samadhi! Take a look at that
gigantic greed mind. It is no less than the manifestation of the greedy ghosts.
should consider cultivation your duty; it’s something that you should do. There is no
need for you to be greedy; you need only cultivate. And after a while, when
your merit and virtue is perfected, you will naturally accomplish Bodhi. There
is no need to be greedy. Originally, you were meant to have success, but if
you’re too greedy, then you won’t be able to chew well or digest well. For
instance, when you’re eating food, you have to eat mouthful by mouthful; you
can’t stuff an entire bowl of rice into your mouth at once, to the point that
there is no space at all left inside your mouth! Then how will you be able to
chew or swallow? Eating is the simplest analogy for this situation. If you are
too greedy, you won’t be able to chew your food, much less swallow or digest
cultivating, you should act like nothing is going on. Do not be greedy; don’t
be obsessed with the things you wish for—you want to become enlightened, you
want attain psychic powers, and on and on. How can things happen so fast? When
you plant seeds, they must germinate, and then grow slowly; and even if they
sprout and grow, you cannot help the sprouts grow by yanking them out of the
earth. When the time comes, naturally they will mature, and your work will be
accomplished. The ancients have a saying,
When grinding an iron pillar into a fine sewing needle.
In due time it will be completed.
You can do it, but
you shouldn’t be afraid of the time it will take. In cultivation, you need to
get rid of your faults. What faults? If you like to drink tea, that is your
fault; if you like to drink milk, that is your fault; if you like to false
think, that is your fault. If you are greedy for comfort and leisure, then
there will be no response from your efforts. In applying effort, you cannot be
afraid of suffering, afraid of difficulty, or afraid of getting tired. Then you
may have some success.
keep on drinking tea and drinking milk, you stuff that stinking skin-bag of
yours full, so that it becomes big, fat and robust. What use is there in that?
No matter how fat you get, people won’t eat human flesh—you can’t sell it—so
why do you want to be so plump?
have to apologize to the people here. Why? Because I like to joke. All of the
fat people here upon hearing what I just said, shouldn’t immediately go on a
crash diet. If you do so, then it is just piling a head on top of a head and
looking for more trouble.
AMITABHA TALKS January
entire world is filled with natural disasters and calamities; it is covered in
blackness and there is no light. This is a sign that the human race is in
danger of extinction. The noxious vapors that come from killing are something
we’ve never experienced before to such an extent. We are familiar with the atom
bomb, the nitrogen bomb, all nuclear weaponry, and now there is the laser, as well.
If any of those weapons are used on a grand scale, the entire human race will
be wiped out. So the only think we can do now, is to cultivate according to the
Buddha’s teaching and invisibly dispel these calamities and disasters.
world is filled with black energy; black karma envelops us. In any place where
there are true cultivators, the disasters in that place will be lessened. If
many people come together to cultivate, their collective strength can dispel
these disasters and counteract the plunders, and invisibility eradicate this
noxious, evil energy and transform it into harmonious and auspicious energy.
But first, both feet must be firmly planted on the ground, and then you must
realistically cultivate according to the Buddha’s teaching.
Everyone should bring forth his or her true heart in reciting the Buddha’s
name. For every time you recite the Buddha’s name a ray of light shines through
empty space. If you recite very sincerely, then this light fills up the
trichiliochosm, so that the energy of the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds
will be auspicious and harmonious and the atmosphere of violence, defilement
and disaster will be dispelled and transformed.
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is the brightest place on earth, because the ten
thousand Buddhas all emit light that pervades the world. Here at the City of
Ten Thousand Buddhas, even if you strike up false thoughts, it has more merit
and virtue than doing the most meritorious things in the world outside. Why is
this? Because all those who live at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are
tending towards the Way of goodness. Even if they have false thinking at times,
those false thoughts are all good false thoughts; very rarely are they evil
false thoughts. That is why you can say that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
is the sun of the world and the moon of the world—it causes all living beings
to become cool and refreshed.
who live here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have all planted many good
roots and made vows in the past. They wish to change the world for the better,
to dispel and eradicate disasters and difficulties. Therefore, those of you who
live at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas must go towards the proper in every
thought, word and deed; do not flow with the dirt, do not be cheap and common.
The people who live here at the City are all good-hearted; evil-natured living
being cannot stay here for long. Sooner or later they will bring about their
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has welled up from the earth; eventually it will
become the center of World Buddhism, where Buddhist from every country can come
and cultivate together to investigate the Buddhadharma and to glorify the
Buddha’s teaching. Since you are able to leave the home-life here at the City
of Ten Thousand Buddhas, it’s certain that in the future you can become
Buddhas. Why? There is a saying,
Pavilions that are closest to the water
Catch the reflection of the moonlight first.
Since you have come
here early, you will obtain a lot of merit; those who come later…well, they
will have to wait a bit longer.
some people come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, they find it very
difficult to stay put. They feel there is not much going on at the City, that we
are pretty uptight and that there isn’t much entertainment. But you should
know, if you seek outside for entertainment, you will forfeit the genuine bliss
within. In this world, if you want the false, then you will lose the real; if
you want the real, you have to first put down the false. You cannot on the one
hand wish to cultivate a transcendental Dharma, and on the other hand be
unwilling to let go of worldly dharmas; with your feet straddling two boats—one
foot wants to go north while the other wants to go south—it isn’t possible.
now we are having a Buddha Recitation Session. You should enter deeply through
one door. Use your sincere mind, your true mind, your devout mind to cultivate
this Dharma-door; don’t waste a moment. You should know that “every inch of
time is an inch of life.” If you do not apply effort, you increase your
offenses; if you use effort, you can increase your good roots. You should
honestly recite the Buddha’s name; then you will not have wasted your time and
your life will not have been worthless.
Buddha Recitation Talk
Today is the first full day of the Buddha
Recitation Session. Those who have chanted the Buddha’s name before know of its
advantages. Those who have never recited before will not know what we are
doing. “Namo, namo, namo–what?”
“Well, what is Amitabha anyway?”
“But what are we doing? We recite while
we sit, recite while we walk, recite while we stand, and even when we lie down
to sleep our minds are still reciting.What use is it?”
I will tell you:
To bow in worship before the Buddhas
Eradicates offenses like the Ganges’ sands.
If you just bow once before the Buddhas, you
eradicate as much bad karma as there are grains of sand in the River Ganges.
You say, “As grains of sand in the River Ganges? Well, I’ve sung the
Buddha’s name so many times, certainly my offense-karma has been completely
You should be aware that from limitless eons ago, from the time when you first
became a human being until the present, your incarnations are uncountable. You
yourself may not even believe that you have past, present, and future lives. In
each life you were confused, muddled and unclear, and therefore, at present,
you don’t know how much bad karma you have amassed as a human being. There is
reason to fear that the bad deeds you have committed in one single life exceed
the number of sand grains in the Ganges. Although reciting the Buddha’s name
will eradicate offense-karma like the Ganges’ sands, you don’t know how much of
it exists. Fortunately, our bad deeds have no material form. If they did, each
individual’s karma would completely fill empty space. That’s the extent of your
offenses! But, because karma has no material form, empty space has yet to be
filled. So it says,
To bow in worship before the Buddhas
Eradicates offenses like the Gange’s sands;
To give a single penny
Increases your blessings without limit.
In supporting the Bodhimanda, those with
money give money. Those with strength give strength. Whether you give money or
strength, the merit and virtue are the same, and they help you to plant good
To recite the Buddha’s name but once
eradicates the grave offenses committed during ninety million eons of birth and
death. In America, where the Buddha-dharma is new, you now have the rare good
fortune to encounter this method. What’s more, you’ve met with a Good Advisor,
one who can teach you the method of Buddha Recitation. No one should casually
waste this precious time. Be very conscientious, work hard at your recitation,
and you will not have attended the session in vain.
Here we are bivouacked out-of-doors under the open sky, camping in the wilds
and reciting the Buddha’s name. When it rains we recite beneath this big tarp.
When the rain stops we recite while walking on a circular track. This is truly
an excellent method! We have not come to the pure mountain land for sport or
recreation, but only to recite the Buddha’s name. this is truly a subtle,
wonderful, and inconceivable environment. There are no sounds at all. It’s not
like San Francisco with its cars, buses, trolleys and planes
going, “rrrrrrrrr! rrrrrrrrr!”–all making a tremendous din. It’s
very natural here, and perfect for Buddha Recitation. So all of you take care
not to waste this precious time.
Deep in the mountains the air is fresh and
there is not the slightest trace of pollution. The Five Turbid Evil Worlds–the
Turbidity of the Eon, the Turbidity of Views, the Turbidity of Living Beings,
the Turbidity of Afflictions, and the Turbidity of the Lifespan–exist in
places crowded with people. This wilderness, by contrast, is the clear, pure
Land of Ultimate Bliss. IF you can cultivate in the Pure Land of Ultimate
Bliss, the power of the response of the Way will be completely different from
that of the noisy bustle of the city. Here, it is easy to enter samadhi, to gain
concentration, to obtain the Buddha Recitation samadhi.
As you recite the Buddha’s name:
Every sound of the Buddha’s name
is a sound of purity;
When every sound is recitation,
each thought is clear and pure.
When every thought is clear and pure
you obtain the Buddha Recitation samadhi.
As it is said,
One pure thought
is one thought of the Buddha.
When every thought is pure,
every thought is of the Buddha.
Beside us runs a small river, and the sparkling water recites the Buddha’s
name. As you listen to it, it says, “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” The
blowing wind also recites the Buddha’s name, proclaiming the wonderful Mahayana
Dharma. This state is the same as that in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. In the
Land of Ultimate Bliss:
The water flows, the wind blows
Proclaiming the Mahayana;
In the pools of seven jewels
Are flowers of every color
And waves of solid gold.
The lotuses which bloom in the pools made of the seven jewels are green-colored
of green light, yellow-colored of yellow light, red-colored of red light,
white-colored of white light. Green, yellow, red, and white, the lights shine
You say, “Dharma Master, you have been
explaining Buddha Recitation for quite a while now, but ultimately what is this
‘namo, namo’ all about? Namo what?”
“Namo” yourself! Don’t “namo” anyone else. Think of it this
way, “I have such good roots that I have learned to recite the Buddha’s
“Namo” means “to return my life and respectfully submit.”
This means to return your body, heart, and life and respectfully bow before
Amitabha Buddha. Say to yourself, “I take my body, heart, and life and
return in refuge to Amitabha Buddha.”
You ask, “Well, if namo means to return the life and respectfully submit,
what does ‘Amitabha’ mean?
Can you explain that?”
“Of course I can. Don’t be nervous. I’ll tell you in due time. If I don’t
finish this time, I’ll continue next time. And if I don’t finish next time,
I’ll continue later on. Don’t worry. I am determined to teach you what
“Namo Amitabha Buddha” is all about.
“Namo Amitabha” is Sanskrit. “Buddha” is also Sanskrit.
“Amitabha” means “limitless light.” Amitabha’s other name,
“Amitayus” means “limitless life.” When you recite the
Buddha’s name, you obtain a limitless lifespan. Because you return your life
and respectfully submit to the Buddha of Limitless Life, you may take the merit
and virtue you obtain by reciting and live as long as you please!
If you say, “I want to live to be ninety-nine years old,” then you
will certainly not depart at age eighty-eight. You will live to be ninety-nine.
You say, “But I want to live to be a hundred!”
You can do that, too. All you need to do is
recite the Buddha’s name sincerely. This includes all of us gathered here
today. I will now make a prediction: Those among you who want to live to a very
old age will certainly get to do so. Not everyone, mind you, but only those who
are sincere. Whoever recites sincerely will obtain that response and get his
“Amitabha” means “limitless light.” The limitless light is
the light of wisdom, the opening of wisdom. Whoever recites well can develop
great wisdom and a faultless memory. There’s no question about it.
“Amitayus” means “limitless life” and “Amitabha”
means :limitless light.”
The word “Buddha” is also Sanskrit. When I first heard the word
“Buddha,” it sounded like the Chinese phrase “bu da” which
means, “not big.” So I explain the term as meaning “not
With neither great nor small,
With neither come nor gone,
In numberless world systems
Buddhas shine light upon each other’s
The Buddha is not any bigger than we people are. Rather, he is just the same
size. However, he has become enlightened and returned to his inherent wisdom.
We are no smaller than the Buddha, and the Buddha is no smaller than we are.
But, because our hearts are not pure, because we have not discovered our
inherent wisdom or developed great wisdom, we are still common people.
The Buddha: One who is enlightened.
The living being: One who is confused.
When enlightened, one is a Buddha.
When confused, on is a living being.
To become enlightened is to become a Buddha. Before enlightenment one is just a
living being. When you become enlightened you gain nothing that the living
being doesn’t have. When confused, one hasn’t anything less than the Buddha has.
There is no increasing and no decreasing; it’s a question of whether you are
confused or enlightened. That’s where the difference lies.
I will illustrate this with a very simple analogy. Mind you, this is just an
analogy. Don’t take it literally, because it’s all hypothetical. The Buddha is
like a university professor–university professors are not Buddhas–you should
be clear about that point –and living beings are like students. Every student
can become a professor. Every professor can become a student. The Buddha is,
however, wiser than professors.
He’s even higher than a professor! Remember, this is a mere analogy which
demonstrates that the Buddha and people are the same.
“Then why should I chant the Buddha’s
name? Why doesn’t the Buddha recite my name?” you wonder, “Why should
I recite ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha?’ Why doesn’t Amitabha Buddha recite me, Tim
Testu? Why doesn’t he recite my name, ‘Testu, the Great?’” That’s a good
question. In fact, it’s got me stumped. I don’t know how to answer it, but I’ll
think up something: Ah! I know! It’s because you never made a vow to cause
living beings to recite your name. The Buddha Amitabha in the causal ground was
a Bhikshu named Dharma Treasury, and he made forty-eight great vows. In every
vow he said, “In the future, when my cultivation succeeds and I have
become a Buddha, my country will be one of ultimate bliss and purity. The
murkiness of the Five Turbidities will not exist in it.
All living beings in the ten directions who
recite my name will be led to rebirth in my land, where they may realize
Buddhahood. As long as one of them has not become a Buddha, I will not
accomplish the right enlightenment.” Because of the power of the vows of
Amitabha Buddha we have gathered here to recite–with different mouths but with
the same sound–”Namo Amitabha Buddha.” We are cultivating by relying
on the power of the vows of Amitabha Buddha. When we recite the Buddha’s name,
Amitabha Buddha knows about it. “Hey, I signed a contract with that living
being saying that if he kept my name in mind I would teach him to become a
Buddha. If I don’t guide him to Buddhahood now, the contract is nothing but a
lie.” And the Buddha hurries right over to guide you to Buddhahood.
Someone says, “But the Western Land of
Ultimate Bliss is so far away–hundreds of thousands of millions of
Buddhalands–how can I go there? Can I take a plane? How much will the ticket
cost? How much is the bus fare? Could I drive myself?”
Don’t worry about that. You can arrive in a single thought. You don’t have to
buy any tickets at all. In a single thought you can be reborn in the Land of
Ultimate Bliss. Hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands are not beyond
that one single thought.
We now recite “Namo Amitabha
Buddha” and there is nothing more important than this work. Don’t you see?
Last night it was raining and today the sky is clear. In a moment you are all
going to make a vow to stop the rain. The rain has got to stop because we are
working hard here at out cultivation. I myself don’t have the strength, but if
you collectively say, “IT IS NOT ALLOWED TO RAIN!…” For these few
days while we are cultivating, the least response we can expect is a clear sky.
Otherwise, it will be pitch dark at night, and the paths are very muddy. The
men don’t know this, but the women are really roughing it over there, sleeping
in the barn. They have to cross the river, and it is never certain whether they
are going to cross the water or whether the water is going to cross them. But
I’ll tell you:
When you’re confused,
the teacher takes you across.
When you’re enlightened,
you take yourself across.
When you become enlightened you take
yourself across; you carry your own flashlight.At just this moment Kuo Hang has
struck up a false thought. He wants to run into the mountains to live. Isn’t
that right, Kuo Hang?
Kuo Hang: Yes…
But you have to open your eyes. If you keep
your eyes shut, even if you have a flashlight, it will be useless. You’ll fall
down anyway. If it doesn’t rain, that proves you are all sincere. If it does
rain, that will prove that you are not sincere. It has nothing whatever to do
with me. It’s none of my business. The rain is you business.
(Remarks after the first hour-long evening
Since you’ve been sitting for a long time, if you like you may stretch a bit,
but don’t get in anyone else’s way. You’ll notice some people from Gold
Mountain are able to enter the sleeping samadhi, because they sleep sitting up
every night and so every time they sit down, they nod out. The people who just
arrived couldn’t do this.
In Pureland Buddhism Buddha recitation is important in order to seek rebirth in
Sukhavati. Normally Buddha recitation is reffered to ” Namo Amitabha
Buddha”. What if I do not chant Amitabha’s name but I chant and recite
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s( Guayn Yin) name, will the effect be less than
the effect of recitation of Amitabha’s name? If I chant Avalokiteshvara’s name
day and night and vow to seek rebirth in the Pure Land, can I be reborned
Or the only chant for rebith in Pure Land is ” Namo Amitabha Buddha”?
Please guide me.
This is a very sensitive subject and discussing about this is like opening a
Pandaora’s Box. But here goes anyway.
The historical Buddha DID NOT teach about pureland nor mention anything about
Amitabha. At best, it is a skilful means designed much later (around the year
150, which is about 600 years after the passing of the Buddha) to help lay
people develop an object of visualisation, which is much easier than
conventional mediation. It is based on some Pure Land Sutras like
“Amitabha Sutra” and “Immeasurable Life Sutra”. Although
they are claimed to be taught by the Buddha, they are in fact written and then
credited to the Buddha for credibility.
So that is history, now lets examine the belief abd practise of Pure Land and
compare that with some fundamental beliefs of what the Buddha really taught.
1. According to Pure Land Sutras, the Western Paradise is created via
Amithabha’s great vows. It was described as a place with no disease, beautiful
people, trees of gems etc. Such description would fit more of one of the
heavenly realms instead of a place of cultivation. Why would anyone who is
sincerely practising the Dharma be interested in a place where eveyrthing you
see is beautiful? How would precious stones of every kind suppose to help you
understand not to be attached to material wealth? Also, the historical Buddha
said that the only way one could attain enlightenment is as a human being
because only as a human being a life is neither too bad (like hell) or overy
pleasurable (like the heavens) that one is possible to tread on the Middle
Path. Does this so-called Western Paradise fits such description?
2. According to the Buddha, the 3 universal characteristics are, roughly
translated, (1) Suffering, (2) Impersonal and (3) Impermanent. Basically,
anything that is conditioned will have these 2 characterisitics because
“all that is conditioned is subject to decay, desolution and
death…”. The Western Paradise is “conditioned” by the vows of
Amitabha, so to say that it is “eternal” is contrary to what the
3. Pureland Buddhism is based on 2 practise, Faith and Devotion. These 2
qualities, while good as a lay person, is not conducive for a serious
practitioner. Faith is defined as a “strong belief that is based on
spiritual apprehension instead of proof”, which has no place in the
Buddha’s teaching. It is contrary to the very doctrine “Kalama
Sutra”. As for devotion, if you study the life of the Buddha, you will
realized that there is none more devoted to the Buddha than Ananda. And yet it
is his very devotion that hinders him from attainment. If is only after the
Buddha’s passing that he finally got enlightened. And now Pure Land requires us
to practise devotion to a “Buddha” who has no proof of
4. If you substitute Western Paradise with Heaven, and Amitabha Buddha
with Jesus Christ, you essentially arrive at the same destination. Many years
ago when I was in Singapore, a co-teacher attempted to prove me wrong and
decide to give a lecture comparing Pure Land and Christianity. He summarises
the differences between them as “Heaven is not permanent but Pure Land
is”, Heaven is reached through a messah but Pure Land is accessed through
devotion to Amitabha Buddha” etc. He has completely missed the point
because such comparisons is futile and is based on which perspective you take.
No matter what you attribute to Heaven or Pureland, it is simply speculations
but what can be determined is that they operate on the same principle. The
Buddhist teaching however is very different. If youdo something, and whether
you believe it or not, but as long as you do it, you will get the results. Thats
why Buddhism teaches “Ehi Passilo” which means “Come and see for
yourself” and not “Come and believe!”.
With all that said, chanting is a useful tool to calm and collect the mind. It
makes no difference if you are chanting “Namo Amitabha” or
“12345″ or “A-B-C-D-E”, the act of recitation itself will
have an effect on the mind and in the end, it is the concentration of the mind
that gets teh results, not what you chant.
Before I sign off, I also want to tell you that Avalokiteshvara is
nothing more than a personification of the one of the great qualities of the
Buddha, i.e. Karuna (Compassion). Chanting Avalokiteshvara is suppose to help
you reflect on the quality of karuna and in time develop this quality yourself
instead of bartering for an entry pass
It may be hard for you to accept but as the Buddha said, don’t take my word for
it, “Ehi Passiko!
28 04 2012 SATURDAY LESSON 594 FREE
ONLINE eNālāndā Research And Practice UNIVERSITY And THE BUDDHISTONLINE
GOOD NEWS LETTER by ABHIDHAMMA
RAKKHITA through http://sarvajan.ambedkar.org
84000 Khandas divided into 275250 as to the
stanzas of the original text and
into 361550 divided into 2547 banawaras containing 737000 stanzas and
All 84,000 Khandas As Found in the
the are 84,000 Dharma Doors -
84,000 ways to get Awakeness. Maybe so;
certainly the Buddha taught a
large number of practices that lead to
Awakeness. This web page attempts
to catalogue those found in the Pali Suttas
(DN, MN, SN, AN, Ud & Sn 1).
There are 3 sections:
The discourses of Buddha
are divided into 84,000, as to
separate addresses. The division includes all
that was spoken by Buddha.”I
received from Buddha,” said Ananda, “82,000
Khandas, and from the
priests 2000; these are 84,000 Khandas maintained
by me.” They are divided into
275,250, as to the stanzas of the original text,
and into 361,550, as to the
stanzas of the commentary. All the discourses
including both those of Buddha and
those of the commentator, are divided
into 2,547 banawaras, containing
737,000 stanzas, and 29,368,000 separate letters.
WISDOM IS POWER
Awakened One Shows the Path to
Attain Ultimate Bliss
Anyone Can Attain Ultimate Bliss
COMPUTER IS AN ENTERTAINMENT INSTRUMENT!
TOBE MOST APPROPRIATE!
Using such an instrument
The FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research And Practice UNIVERSITY has been re-organized to function
through the following
Schools of Learning :
Buddha Taught his Dhamma Free of
cost, hence the Free- e-Nālandā
As the Original Nālandā University
did not offer any Degree, so also the Free e-Nālandā
Main Course Programs:
THUS COME ONE
FOUR HOLY TRUTHS
TWELVEFOLD CONDITIONED ARISING
SIX SPIRITUAL POWERS
SIX PATHS OF REBIRTH
TEN DHARMA REALMS
FIVE MORAL PRECEPTS
FOUR APPLICATIONS OF MINDFULNESS
FOUR FORMLESS REALMS
FIVE TYPES OF BUDDHIST STUDY AND
MAHAYANA AND HINAYANA COMPARED
ONE HUNDRED DHARMAS
Level I: Introduction to Buddhism
Level II: Buddhist Studies
Level III: Stream-Enterer
Level IV: Once - Returner
Level V: Non-Returner
Level VI: Arhat
i.e, PraBuddha Bharath scientific
Philosophy and Comparative
International Relations and Peace
Business Management in relation to
Public Policy and Development Studies;
Languages and Literature;
Pictures of Amitabha
Buddha, The Buddha of Western Pure Land or the Land of Utmost Bliss:
There are some animated
pictures with extention file name GIF about Amitabha Buddha, li
Seated Vairocana Buddha.
bodhisattva, North Korea.
Buddhist sculpture are relatively rare. Many were lost or destroyed in various
invasions, internecine fighting, temple fires, or were smuggled out to Japan
during the colonial period. The relative scarcity of images makes it especially
difficult for scholars to completely understand the development of the art in
Korea. Images available for study are generally those that have been excavated,
the lucky survivors of peninsular tumult, or those images preserved in Japan.
Experts may, therefore, have differing opinions on the exact age or place of
manufacture for any specific image based on available information.
individual Buddhist sculpture has various characteristics and attributes which
art historians use as clues to determine when and where it was made. Sometimes
a statue will have an inscription or contain a document which attests to when,
where, and who made it. Reliable archaeological records which state where a
statue was excavated are also valuable clues for the historian. However, when
neither of these sources of information are available, scholars can still glean
important information on an individual statue by its style, the particular
iconography employed by the artist, physical characteristics such as the
material used to make the statue, the percentage of metals used in an alloy,
casting and carving techniques, and various other contextual clues.
in Korea are made from a variety of material: wood, lacquer,
metal, clay, and stone. Those that survive today are typically small bronze
votive images used for private worship and sculpture carved in granite, the
most abundant sculpting material available in Korea. Monumental images made for
state-sponsored monasteries and devotional objects the royal and aristocratic
families, for the most part, have unfortunately not survived. Although wood and
lacquer images were known to have been made in Korea based on historical
records and can be assumed based on surviving images in China and Japan, the
fragility of these materials mean very few have survived in Korea.
Buddhism, a religion originating in
what is now India, was transmitted to Korea
via China in the late 4th century. Buddhism introduced major
changes in Korean society. The complexity of the religious sutras sent to Korea
required the aristocrats who adopted the religion to become literate and
required the training and importation of literate scribes. Little evidence of
religious art exists in Korea before the introduction of Buddhism. Subsequent
to its introduction, the religion inspired the production of devotional art as
well as the beginnings of sophisticated temple architecture.
of the Buddha were probably first imported by monks sent from China and the
Buddhist sculpture of Korea is indebted to prototypes developed in India, Central Asia, and China. From these
influences, a distinctive Korean style formed. Korean Buddhas typically
exhibit Korean facial characteristics, were made with native casting and
carving techniques, and employed only some of the motifs that were developed
earlier in Buddhist art. Additionally, Korean
artisans fused together different styles from different regions with their own
tastes to form a native art tradition. Korean art is too often
incorrectly described in Western literature as merely a passive bridge
transmitting Chinese art to Japan. One area of Korean art where this is
decidedly not the case is in Korean Buddhist sculpture. Korean stylistic
developments and forms were greatly influential in the Asuka, Hakuhō, and Tenpyo periods of Japanese Buddhist sculpture when Korea transmitted
Buddhism to Japan in the 6th century.
sculpture remains an important form of art in Korea today.
Kingdoms period, seventh century
period (traditionally 57 BCE–668), fourth and fifth centuries
Buddha, Goguryeo Korea, late 5th century. Mural painting, eastern ceiling of
main burial chamber, Jangcheon-ri Tomb No.1, Ji’an, Jilin province, China.
Korea was divided into three competing states, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla,
whose boundaries ran from Manchuria to the tip of southern
Korea. A fourth polity in the south, Gaya also flourished during this
period but no Buddhist image can be definitively attributed to this state.
According to the Samguk
the two oldest extant histories of Korea, Buddhism was officially introduced to
Korea during the fourth century. In addition, the Haedong
states that monks from China were already in Korea prior to its official
reception. Sundo, a monk from Former Qin, a northern Chinese state,
was received by the king of Goguryeo in 372 and a Serindian monk, Malananda (Kr. Marananta), from
southern China’s Eastern
was received by the Baekje king in 384. Archaeological discoveries
have corroborated these assertions of the early introduction of Buddhism into
Korea with the discovery of Goguryeo
with Buddhist motifs and the excavation of lotus shaped roof tiles dated to the
4th century. The rulers of both Korean
kingdoms welcomed the foreign monks and immediately ordered monasteries be
built for their use. The construction of Buddhist images soon followed.
Ttukseom (McCune-Reischauer: Ttuksôm) Buddha (image), named for the area of Seoul
in which it was discovered, is the earliest statue of Buddha in Korea. Scholars date it to the
late 4th or early 5th century, around 400. The five centimeter tall
gilt-bronze statuette follows certain stylistic conventions originating in Ghandara (present-day Pakistan), which were later adopted
by China. These include the
rectangular platform upon which the Buddha sits which depicts two lions, a
common symbol of Buddha. Additionally, it displays the dhyana mudra,
a gesture of meditation, commonly found in early seated Buddhas of China and
Korea, where the hands are interlocked and rest on the lap. A 5th century mural
of Buddha found in a tomb just to the north of the modern border of North Korea
shares several stylistic similarities with the Ttukseom Buddha including the
depiction of the dhyana mudra, the fact that the robes cover both
shoulders of the body, and the depiction of two lions around the rectangular
stylistic similarities of this Buddha to those found in China lead most
scholars to conclude that the image is an import. The possibility remains
that the image is a Korean copy of a Chinese prototype. One reason to argue for a
Korean provenance is the fact that the rectangular base of the Ttukseom Buddha
is solid while Chinese examples are hollow, perhaps indicating a still
developing sculpture casting tradition in early Korea. The discovery of the
Ttukseom Buddha near the proposed site of Baekje’s first capital and major citadel suggests the figure may be
an example of Baekje sculpture. A very similar meditating Buddha discovered in
the later Baekje capital of Sabi (now known as Buyeo) supports this theory,
indicating these first images of Buddha were influential many years after their
introduction or had been preserved to be transferred to a new capital. Other scholars suggest that
the Ttukseom figure may be a Goguryeo piece because of the close stylistic
similarities the figure has with the northern dynastic art, a typical feature
of early Goguryeo sculpture.
Chinese examples shown below, one at the Asian
in San Francisco and the other at the National
in Taipei illustrate the similarities between early Korean and Chinese images.
A Serindian example from the 5th century also displays the dhyana mudra
and similar treatment of the robes in addition to also being example of the
confluence of cultures along the Silk Road from India to Ghandara to
China to Korea.
Chinese prototype of the Ttukseom Buddha at the Asian Art Museum, San
Chinese prototype of the Ttukseom Buddha at the National Palace Museum in
example at the Musee Guimet in Paris, France.
only other examples of Korean Buddhist sculpture from the 4th or 5th century
are some terra
fragments from Goguryeo. Some scholars believe that the paucity of extant
images from the earliest period of Korean Buddhism is due to the fact that the
religion was practiced by a small number of aristocrats and did not become
popular with the general population until the 6th century. Another reason for
the lack of early images may be because the site of the earliest period of
Baekje history is within the city of Seoul, an area so developed that it is
difficult to excavate, while Goguryeo archaeological sites are generally off
limits to South Korean scholars because they lie mostly in North Korea.
Seated Buddha images
and bodhisattvas from Wono-ri, Goguryeo, first half of the 6th c. Ceramic, h.
of bodhisattva 17 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Seated Buddha imagery remained popular during the 6th
century in Korea. As mentioned above, an archaic seated Buddha resembling the
Ttukseom Buddha was discovered in modern-day Buyeo, a city the Baekje king made
his capital in 538. This old style was soon discarded for newer influences. By
the second half of the 6th century while sculptors maintained the dhyana
mudra they opted to displace the rectangular lion throne iconography for
complicated drapery which were depicted cascading over the Buddha’s seat. A
seated Buddha at the National Museum of Korea while starkly different from its
chronological counterpart, the Kunsu-ri seated Buddha from Baekje, in style
shows that both kingdoms were adopting this new approach to seated figures. The
Goguryeo seated Buddha displays typical Goguryeo traits, such as the rounded ushnisha
and head and hands disproportionately larger relative to the body. The depiction of the folds of the robe over a now lost rectangular
throne are exuberant with no sense of following a set scheme.
A Baekje soapstone seated Buddha discovered at the
Kunsu-ri temple site in Buyeo displays the soft roundness and static nature of
the early Baekje style during the second half of the 6th century. Unlike the Ttukseom seated Buddha, the Kunsu-ri Buddha features the
robes of the Buddha draped over the rectangular platform and does away with the
lions common in earlier images. The symmetrically stylized drapery folds is
followed in later Japanese images, such as the Shakyamuni Triad in Hōryū-ji. Like the Ttukseom Buddha, the Kunsu-ri Buddha
follows early Chinese and Korean conventions displaying the dhyana
mudra. This particular mudra is notably absent in subsequent Japanese Buddhist
sculpture which perhaps indicates that the iconography was out of style in
Korea by the time Buddhist sculpture began arriving in Japan in the mid-sixth
century. The seated Buddhas of the late 6th century begin to do away with the
meditation gesture in favor of the wish-granting gesture and protection
gesture. An example of this kind of seated Buddha is the Paekche triad now at
the Tokyo National Museum and is followed by subsequent Japanese images, such
as the aforementioned Shakyamuni Triad (image) held at Hōryū-ji.
Seated Buddha, Goguryeo, second
half of 6th c. Gilt bronze, h. 8.8 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Seated Buddha, Baekje, second half
of 6th c. Soapstone, h. 13.5 cm. Buyeo National Museum. Treasure No. 329.
Pedestal, Baekje, second half of
6th c. Clay. Gongju National Museum.
Standing Buddha images
One of the oldest surviving Korean Buddhas discovered so
far is the Yŏn’ga (Revised
Romanization: Yeon-ga) Buddha, an image that
gives scholars a fair baseline for what images of the early 6th century looked
like. The Buddha, the only one of a thousand commissioned to have survived,
gets its name from the inscription on its back that mentions a previously
unknown Goguryeo reign period. While it was excavated in Uiryong in Gyeongsangnam-do, former Silla territory far from the borders of Goguryeo, the inscription clearly
states the statue was cast in Nangnang (present-day Pyongyang), Goguryeo. The statue is valuable because its inscription states a
site of manufacture and date of manufacture, generally agreed to be 539.
Additionally, the image is clear evidence that statues could move beyond
national borders to neighboring states.
The rather crude carving on the mandorla of the Buddha exhibits the motion and dynamism typical of Goguryeo art. The figure exhibits the abhaya (no fear) mudra in its upraised
proper right hand while the proper left hand displays the varada
(wish-granting) mudra. Both mudras are typical of early Korean standing Buddhist
sculpture and the folding of the last two fingers of the proper left hand to
the palm is commonly found in early Korean sculpture. The Yon’ga Buddha also
displays other attributes common to early Goguryeo Buddhas including the lean
rectangular face, prominent protuberances on the head (Sanskrit: ushnisha), large hands disproportionate to the body, an emphasis on the front
of the figures, fishtail flaring of the robes on the sides, and the flame
imagery on the mandorla.
The prototype of this Buddha derives from the non-Chinese Tuoba clan of the Xianbei people who established the Northern Wei dynasty in northern geographic China. An example of a Northern Wei
prototype, dated to 524, can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shown below. An Eastern Wei Buddha (image), dated to 536, is at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Both
images show the strong influence of the Northern Wei and its derivative
dynasties on Korean art. Most images inscribed with a date during this period
of history used the sexagenary cyle system; dates can be interpreted in more than one way by adding or
subtracting sixty-year cycles to the inscribed year. Scholars must date images
based on the context provided by other images. For example, the Yŏn’ga Buddha
is generally accepted to date to 539 because of contemporaneous images from the
Metropolitan Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania Museum, discussed
above, which date to around that time, 524 and 536 respectively. 60 years
before 539 would be a date too early for the Yon’ga Buddha while a date of 599
(adding sixty years) would make the image archaic and out of style.
Back view of the Yŏn’ga Buddha.
Click image to read a translation of the carved inscription.
Altarpiece dedicated to Buddha
Maitreya, Northern Wei dynasty (386–534), dated 524. Gilt bronze. Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
Standing Buddha, probably Baekje
period, first half of the sixth century. Gilt bronze. Asian Art Museum of
Tokyo. This statue may possibly be older than the Yŏn’ga Buddha.
Another view of the Asian Art
Museum of Tokyo standing Buddha.
Baekje, mid-6th c. Gilt bronze, h. 9.4 cm. Buyeo National Museum.
Baekje sculpture of the 6th century reflect the influence
of the native and foreign regimes ruling China during the period of Northern and Southern Dynasties. While Korean and Chinese records show direct diplomatic contacts
between Baekje and the Northern Wei dynasty occurred during this time period,
they pale in comparison to the numerous diplomatic missions between Baekje and
the southern dynasties of China. Further complicating the understanding of the
source of inspiration for Baekje Buddhist sculpture is the fact that the
southern dynasties were influential in the development of northern sculpture
and the fact that few images from the southern regimes have survived.
Another example of 6th-century sculpture is a triad now at
the Gyeongju National Museum. Like contemporaneous examples from Goguryeo, the
statue exhibits traits typical of the Northern Wei style, especially in the
depiction of the robes. Some similarities with Goguryeo-specific traits include
the fairly crude depiction of the flames in the mandorla, simplification being
a common trait in extant early sculpture. The roundness of the face, the smile of the central Buddha as well as the harmonious proportions, static
nature of the image, and a sense of warmth and humanity are features typically
associated with the Southern
Dynasties of China, and frequently occur in
features of Baekje sculpture as well. The warm climate and fertile environment the kingdom was situated
along with native sensibilities are credited as reasons for the Baekje style.
There are several other statues experts believe to be from
the early sixth century exist. One (standing buddha image), in the collection of the Asian Art Museum, is very similar to the Yŏn’ga
Buddha in size (18.6 cm Vs. 16.3 cm in height) and style. Small
differences between the two include the roundness of the face and the lack of
plumpness of the lotus petals of the base of the Asian Art Museum image along
with the more skillfully carved flame patterns and shape of the mandorla. No
inscription was carved on the back of the mandorla but the consensus of
Japanese experts dates the image to a time in the 6th century earlier than that
of the Yŏn’ga Buddha. The lack of inscription and the subtle differences in
styles means that the statue has not been attributed to a specific state in the
Three Kingdoms period.
Single mandorla triads
Triad, Three Kingdoms period, probably Baekje, late 6th c. Gilt bronze, h. 10
cm. Gyeongju National Museum.
The second early 6th-century image is a single mandorla
triad, a Buddha image flanked by two bodhisattvas who are grouped standing in
front of a single halo from the Korean Central History Museum in Pyongyang,
North Korea. This image has an inscription on the back of the mandorla that
scholars have interpreted to mean 539. Of the three images from the early 6th
century mentioned, this North Korean image is the most sophisticated in its
modeling of the Buddha and attendants. A famous triad from the Gansong Art
Museum nearly identical to the North Korean triad is usually attributed to the
Goguryeo Kingdom and is typically dated to 563, showing that styles from 539
were still popular more than two decades later. Finally, some scholars[who?]
suggest that a mandorla excavated in North Chungcheong Province should be dated to 536.
The single-mandorla triad was a very popular type of image
in the sixth century, with several whole triads surviving as well as figures
surviving without mandorla and mandorla surviving without figures. The Gansong
Art Museum type was particularly popular with copies in Seoul, Pyongyang, and
an independent central Buddha which was excavated in Buyeo whose current
whereabouts are unknown.
One of the most frequent types of images that were made
throughout the century are single-mandorla triads. The similarities between the
triads found in the former Baekje and Goguryeo kingdoms suggest that the
introduction of such images came from both Goguryeo itself as well as China. An
example of the influence of the Northern Wei style is the statue now at the
National Museum of Korea. This image, probably once a part of a single-mandorla
triad, has robes draped in the same style as the Yong’a Buddha. However, the
Baekje-specific modifications, such as the gentleness of the face, Omega-like
folds in the under robe, and a sense of stability exhibited in the
expansiveness of the robes as they flare out, clearly differentiate this image
from those from Goguryeo.
Buddhism was officially accepted by the Silla court only
in 527 or 528 although the religion was known to its people earlier due to the
efforts of monks from Goguryeo in the fifth century. The late acceptance of the religion is often attributed to the
geographic isolation of the kingdom, the lack of easy access to China, and the
conservatism of the court. However, once Buddhism was accepted by the court, it
received wholesale state sponsorship. One example of lavish state support is Hwangnyongsa, a temple which housed an approximately five-meter-tall Buddha. The statue was revered as one of the kingdom’s three great treasures
and was destroyed by the Mongols after surviving for 600 years. Excavations
have revealed several small pieces of the Buddha, and huge foundation stones
remain to testify to the great size of the statue.
Bodhisattvas, Goguryeo Korea, late 5th century. Mural painting, eastern ceiling
of main burial chamber, Jangcheon-ri Tomb No.1, Ji’an, Jilin province, China.
Bodhisattvas are beings in the Buddhist pantheon that have
attained enlightenment but have opted to stay on the temporal world to help
those who have not yet reached nirvana. One of the earliest depictions of a bodhisattva in Korean art is the
mural painting in the Jangcheon-ri Tomb No. 1 which dates to the late 5th
century. While most details are hard to see it is very clear that the figures
stand atop lotus blossoms and a crucial detail that many early bodhisattva
images have are the robes that sweep out from the sides of the figure like
fishtails. Bodhisattva images of the sixth century are rarely independent
figures. Most surviving images are those that were once attached as attendants
to a Buddha in a single mandorla triad. Occasionally single mandorla triads
were made with the bodhisattva as the main figure with two monks as attendants.
The stiffness of early Goguryeo sculpture is sometimes
attributed to the harsh climate of the kingdom which was situated in northern
Korea and Manchuria. The replacement of the typically elongated and lean face of Goguryeo
sculpture, exemplified by the Yŏn’ga Buddha and the Standing Bodhisattva with
triple head ornament shown below, with images with plump faces and gently
depicted robes, exemplified by the Wono-ri Bodhisattva, may reflect the
conquering of the Han
River valley from Baekje in 475  or the introduction of gentler climes. These changes probably
reflect, directly or indirectly, the influence of Baekje style or from Goguryeo diplomatic
contacts with the southern Chinese dynasties.
The provenance of the standing Bodhisattva with triple
head ornament is unknown. Based on common stylistic similarities, such as the
fishtail draperies, the large hands, and the two incised lines on the chest
indicating an undergarment (a southern Chinese convention) with the Yŏn’ga
Buddha, most scholars believe that it is originally from Goguryeo. The
Bodhisattva is only modeled in the front, another Northern Wei characteristic,
and the unfinished back has several pegs. These pegs have led some scholars to
believe that this Bodhisattva was once a central figure in a single-mandorla
Wono-ri Bodhisattva, Goguryeo,
first half of the 6th c. Ceramic, h. 17 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Standing Bodhisattva with triple
head ornament, probably Goguryeo, mid-6th c. Gilt bronze, h. 15 cm.
National Museum of Korea, Treasure No. 333.
Replica of a gilt-bronze crown
from Goguryeo believed to have once adorned the head of a bodhisattva image.
A standing Bodhisattva (image) now at the Buyeo National Museum was excavated from Kunsu-ri (Gunsu-ri) along with the seated Buddha.
The influence of Southern Liang art is particularly obvious in this image especially because an
analogous image survives in China. The standing Kunsu-ri Bodhisattva also
exhibits attributes very different from its contemperaneous Eastern Wei
prototypes, such as an emphasis on the headgear and broad face and different
iconographic styles employed. The smile of the image is a typical example of
the famous Baekje
smile commonly found on images from Baekje in both the
sixth and seventh century.
While in China the pensive iconography was typically a subordinate
image in a triad or was often small in size. In Korea, particularly exemplified
by examples from Silla, the pensive Maitreya became a central figure of worship
with several heroic-sized figures surviving. Pensive images were popular in the
other two kingdoms. In early Baekje pensive statues have a characteristic
parabolic drapery, a fragment of such a statue (image) is held at the Buyeo National Museum, and this style can be found in
Baekje images now in Japan and Japanese images influenced by the Baekje style.
A pensive image dated to the 6th century said to have been excavated in Pyongyang, now at the Ho-am Art Museum, is the only
surviving example Goguryeo and is evidence that stylistic elements from the
north were transmitted to Silla. Today, most surviving pensive images are from Silla.
The pensive pose involves a figure that has one leg
crossed over a pendant leg, the ankle of the crossed leg rests on the knee of
the pendant leg. The elbow of the figure’s raised arm rests on the crossed
leg’s knee while the fingers rest or almost rest on the cheek of the head bent
in introspection. As shown above, Prince Siddhārtha was typically depicted in a
seated position in the dhyāna mudra when depicted as meditating in early
Indian sculpture. A statue that can be dated to the 2nd or 3rd century in the
pensive pose from Mathura, it is believed, is the prototypical example of the pensive pose. In
China, bodhisattvas in the pensive pose are typically described via inscription
to be the pensive prince, i.e. Prince Siddhārtha meditating. Pensive
bodhisattvas in Chinese sculpture can also be seen as attendants to images in
the cross-ankle seated position, a pose associated with Maitreya in China. This
fact indicates that the pensive pose was not the iconography associated with
National Treasure no. 78.
Scholars still generally ascribe some Chinese pensive
bodhisattvas to Maitreya (Kr. Mireuk) based on iconographical evidence but no
inscription has ever been found to corroborate this hypothesis. Professor
Junghee Lee believes a strong argument can be made for the first association of
Maitreya to the pensive pose to have been formed in Korea. No pensive
bodhisattva from Korea has an inscription identifying itself as Maitreya
Bodhisattvaas well. However, the Maitreya cult was particularly influential in
Korea during the 6th and 7th centuries. The backdrop of continuous war during
the Three Kingdoms period created social conditions where the Korean people
were eager to look for a savior to end the war. These ideas generated unique
manifestations of Maitreya worship such as the one-of-a-kind floor plan of the Mireuk Temple in Baekje and the belief that members of the elite warrior society of
the Silla Kingdom’s noble class were incarnations of Maitreya. Noticeably,
pensive images become less popular during the early Unified Silla period and
were no longer made soon thereafter. Other Korean bodhisattvas can generally
identified on iconographic grounds so therefore images of the pensive pose are
identified as Maitreya. The inscription of a triple mandorla triad dated to 571 also invokes
the mercy of Matreya indicating a strong hold on Korean thought.
There are several examples of the pensive image made in
Korea that survive. One example (image) which has come under debate as to its origins (either Goguryeo or
Northern Wei) is believed to be one of two attendants to a central figure and
closely follows the Northern Wei style. A stone fragment from Mt. Puso (image) in former Baekje territory is indicative of the acceptance of
depicting the body narrowly and is an early example of the depiction of frontal
folds in concentric circles. This folding schematic can be seen in later
pensive images as well. Another example of a pensive Maitreya from the 6th century
is an item (image) now held at the Tokyo National Museum which is generally accepted to
be from 6th century Korea.
A major monument of Korean Buddhist sculpture, National
Treasure no. 78, is usually dated to the late 6th century. The figure
incorporates the style of the Eastern Wei. Although the style employed is
archaic, X-ray studies of the statue, suggests that it is the younger of the
two because of the sophistication of the casting, the bronze being no thicker
than one centimeter, the rarity of air bubbles, and the high quality metal. Some scholars have used the evidence of the x-ray photos to suggest a
later date for the treasure. Generally, scholars believe that the image was
cast in Silla based on the fact that there were several anecdotal stories
stating that the Japanese man who rediscovered the image had found them in the ruins
of a temple in what was once Silla. Professor Woo-bang Kang has argued that the
statue was made in Goguryeo, who he believes was the only state technologically
capable of casting the image, and was at one point brought to the south.
National Treasure no. 78 could also be a Baekje image because the Baekje
kingdom probably had sufficient casting expertise by the late 6th century and
several bodhisattva images associated with Baekje, particularly one in the
collection of the Tokyo National Museum (image), bear stylistic resemblances to the treasure.
Northern Wei Maitreya Bodhisattva
from the early sixth century with ankles crossed, the pose most commonly used
to identify Maitreya Bodhisattva in China during this time period.
Pensive Bodhisattva, Northern Qi
(550-577). Marble, ca. 575. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution,
Pensive Bodhisattva Maitreya,
Baekje, late 6th century. Gilt bronze, H. 5.5 cm; L.: 5.5
Pensive Bodhisattva Maitreya,
Silla, 6th c. Gilt bronze, h. 28.5 cm. National Museum of Korea, Treasure
Sixth or seventh century.
Sixth century, Baekje.
The Baekje kingdom’s style was particularly influential in
the initial stages of Asuka sculpture. It was in 552 that King Seong of Baekje sent a gilt bronze image of Sakyumuni to Yamato Japan according to the Nihon shoki. Most scholars, based on other Japanese records, consider a 538 date
to be more accurate. While it is impossible to know what this first Buddha in Japan looked
like, an image similar to the Yong’a Buddha, contemperaneous because it is
dated to 539, leads some scholars to speculate that King Seong’s proselytizing
image looked similar to it. Another Japanese source, the Gangōji
Garan Engi, however, identifies the image as
the “prince.” This suggests that the initial image was the prince
Sidhartha in the pensive pose on the verge of enlightenment, an iconography
popular in China. Images in the pensive pose are almost always associated with
Maitreya in Korea. However, another iconography associated with the prince
Sidhartha is the Buddha at birth. Since this source also lists items for a
lustration ceremony some scholars believe that the image was of the infant
Buddha. Although Buddhism was introduced into Yamato Japan at a relatively
early period, it was not until the 7th century that the pro-Buddhist Soga clan succeeded in eliminating its rivals to allow Buddhism enjoy the support
of the central polity.
A passage in the Nihon Shoki states that in 577 King Wideok of Baekje sent to the Yamato polity another Buddhist image, a temple architect,
and a maker of images. The passage clearly indicates that the Japanese still
needed Korean artisans skilled in metal casting techniques and knowledgeable
about specific iconography to construct images. In 584, a stone statue of
Maitreya and another image simply identified as a Buddha by the Nihon Shoki
were sent as part of a diplomatic exchange and are the last official, royally
commissioned Baekje images recorded to be sent to Japan in the 6th century.
Such exchanges, both official and unofficial, were integral in establishing
early Japanese Buddhist sculpture.
Many extant Baekje sculpture survive in Japan today.
Horyu-ji Treasure no. 151 (image) is accepted by virtually all Japanese authorities to be of Korean
origin  and was brought to Japan in the middle 6th century. The four rectangular cavities in the back of the statue is a trait
far more common in Korean than Japanese sculpture. The image was probably used as a private devotional icon brought by
Korean settlers. Hōryū-ji Treasure no. 158 (image), a pensive image is another image generally considered by Japanese
scholars to be from Korea and is dated on stylistic grounds to the mid-6th
century. The Funagatayamajinja Bodhisattva, probably once part of a triad, has
a crown with three flowers which was common early Three Kingdoms sculpture but
not extant in Asuka sculpture. The image is believed to have originated in
Hōryū-ji Treasure no. 196 (image) is a mandorla for a triad that
was made in Korea and can be arguably dated to the late 6th century, 594. The triad’s inscription contains phrases very similar to two Paekche
pieces, a Puyo triad (image) and a mandorla once part of a triad dated to 596 (image ). This mandorla incorporates the typical features found in older
Korean-style triads, including the odd number of Buddhas of the Past, the
floral scroll inside the inner halo, and the jewel found at the apex of the
Standing Buddha images
Standing Buddha images of the 7th century in Korea were
influenced by the art of the Northern Qi, Sui, and Tang polities in China. Additionally, there are Korean images from the 7th
century with unique attributes not found else where suggesting local
innovations in Buddhist iconography. Unfortunately, no Goguryeo sculpture from
the 7th century has survived or has yet been discovered. Two pieces that have
been attributed to the Korean and Mohe Balhae state may actually be from Goguryeo.The frontal focused images give
way to a more three dimensional rounded look.
An image type unique to the Silla Kingdom, and not found
in Paekche, Goguryeo, China, or Japan, is a standing Buddha at the National
Museum of Korea. The face is child-like and calm, the ushnisha is large and
virtually indistinguishable from the head. Interestingly, the robe is worn on
one shoulder, a style popular in India, and the image holds a jewel or lotus
blossom in one out stretched hand. Another interesting type of image is the
image of Buddha at birth. These images show Buddha naked except for a
ceremonial cloth around the waist. A type of iconography found in China or
Japan is the baby Buddha pointing one arm in the air and another to the earth
which illustrates that nothing in the heaven or earth was like the Buddha. This
iconography is believed to have originated in Korea and was influential in
Japan were later images are plentiful. Sillan figures continue to show the
influence of Northern
Qi style in the 7th century. This can be seen in the
tall columnar Buddha and a child-like Buddha which has many similarities to
recently discovered Buddha sculptures from Longxingsi, Shandong in China. The child-like Buddha shows typical Sillan sculptural
traits that are often found in stone work, namely the large head and youthful,
innocent air of the Buddha. Additionally, the iconographic details of the
statue, not found in Chinese sculpture, suggests that Silla had direct contact
with artists from southern India and Sri Lanka. Ancient records also support
this suggestion because several foreign monks were said to have resided in
Hwangnyongsa translating Buddhist sutras and texts. Pensive figures also continued to be popular.
Yangp’yong Buddha, Silla, second
half of the 6th c. or first half of the 7th c. Gilt bronze, h. 30cm. National
Museum of Korea, National Treasure no. 186.
Standing Bhaisajyaguru, Silla, first half of 7th c. Gilt bronze, h. 31 cm. National
Museum of Korea.
Single mandorla triads
Triad, Baekje 7th century. H. of Buddha 2.8 meters, of Bodhisattva 1.7 m., of
seated Maitreya 1.66 m. Yonghyon-ri, Unsan-myon, Sosan-gun, South Ch’ungch’ong
Province. National Treasure no. 84.
bodhisattva, Three Kingdoms period, first half of 7th century. Gilt bronze, h.
18.1 cm. Gyeongju National Museum.
The 7th century can be said to be a time of maturity for
Korean Buddhist sculptures because of the fine statuettes that have been
discovered and preserved. As discussed above, standing bodhisattva images from
the 6th century generally follow the Northern and Eastern Wei stylistic
traditions such as the long crossed scarves and the swooping scalloped curves
of the robes to the sides of images. During the second half of the 6th century,
northern China was ruled by the Northern Qi and then the Northern Zhou until the Sui Dynasty successfully ended the Southern and Northern Dynasties period in 581. The styles of these three regimes can be seen in
contemporaneous Korean sculpture and were influential in Korean sculpture of
the 7th century as well.
The style of the regimes that succeeded the Eastern Wei
regime emphasized the human form more fully. Instead of focusing only on the
frontal aspects of an image, Northern Qi sculptors emphasized the whole body
creating images that had a cylindrical shape. Increased realism of Northern Qi
statuary can also be seen in the details of robes, jewelry, and a new emphasis
on movement with the tribanga or thrice-bent pose.
A Korean example of these trends can be seen in a
bodhisattva in the collection of the Gyeongju National Museum. The bodhisattva
is in the tribanga pose.
Buddhist Monk. Three Kingdoms of
Korea period, Baekje. 6th c., circa 600. Gilt bronze, h. 10.2 cm. Asian Art
Museum, San Francisco. Gift of Namkoong Ryun.
Rare gilt-bronze bodhisattva from
the Baekje kingdom, 7th century.
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Silla,
6th c. Gilt bronze, h. 20 cm. National Museum of Korea, National Treasure
In Korea, the technically difficult pensive posture was
adapted by all three kingdoms and transformed into a particularly Korean style.
The cult of Maitreya was particularly influential in sixth
and seventh centuries of the Three Kingdoms period. Sillan kings styled
themselves as rulers of a Buddha land, the King symbolizing the Buddha. This
religious adaptation is also exemplified in the Hwarang corp, a group of aristocratic youth who were groomed for leadership
in the endless wars on the peninsula. The leader of the Hwarang was believed to
be the incarnation of Maitreya, a uniquely Korean adaptation of the religion. Maitreya, it was believed, would ascend to earth as the future Buddha
in 56 million years and this believe was incorporated into Silla’s desire to
unite the peninsula. Japanese records also suggest that Sillan images given to
the Sillan Hata Clan are the current Koryo-ji Miroku Bosatsu and the Naki
Miroku. The Koryu-ji Miroku, dated to 620-640, is stylistically a Korean
image, is made from red pine which is indigenous to Korea, and the technique of
carving inward from a single log is a believed to be an ancient Korean
wood-working technique. The Korean cult of Maitreya, and the major influence of Korean-style
pensive images on Japan in the Asuka period. Korean influence on Japanese Buddhist art was very strong during
National Treasure no. 83 is an example of the Korean style from the early 7th century. The
figure is said to have been found in Silla territory and is dated to the late
6th or early seventh century. It was probably commissioned by the royal family.
National Treasure no. 83, exhibiting stylistic influence
from Northern Qi, for a time, was believed to be from Baekje. However, recent
research strongly suggests, based on numerous pieces of evidence, suggests that
the statue was produced in Silla and scholarly consensus seems to agree on that
point. A similar stone pensive statue found in Silla territory and a head with
a similar crown excavated at Hwangnyongsa indicates an origin in Silla.
National Treasure no. 83 is also important because it illustrates the close
connection between Korea and Japan during this period. Koryu-ji’s almost
identical Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya Bodhisattva) (image), a national treasure of Japan, is now believed to
be of Silla manufacture because of the use of red pine, a wood used for Korean
sculpture, ancient Japanese records, and the use of Korean carving techniques.
Fragment of a bodhisattva
excavated from Hwangnyong
Temple with marked similarities with National Treasure
A later pensive image, now at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art is a particularly fine example of Baekje sculpture dated to the seventh
century. A chronologically contemporaneous figure from 7th century Japan shows
the influence of the Baekje style specifically in the handling of the torso,
the triple upright crown, and the locks of hair falling over the shoulder. The
example at the Metropolitan Museum can be dated to the mid-seventh century
based on the shape of the stool on which it sits (unseen here) and the removal
of a stylized piece of cloth that most pensive images rest their crossed leg
upon which is seen in earlier images. Another important Baekje pensive image: (image).
While bronze statues from the Three Kingdoms period are
rare, pensive bodhisattvas are relatively numerous. Most have been excavated in
the southeastern portion of Korea so most scholars believe they were cast in
Silla. Examples from the 7th century are usually well-proportioned and
developed, artisans having mastered the complicated techniques to craft pensive
images. The first example below shows a particularly beautiful example while
the second example shows an image where the head of the bodhisattva lowered
very deeply in thought. Although these examples follow National Treasure no. 83
or some unknown prototype by conveying a bare chested portrayal of Maitreya, no
two Korean pensive image has been shown to be identical indicating that
different masters creatively interpreted their portrayal of religious imagery.
Since Maitreya was viewed as a messianic figure, the absence of Maitreya
iconography absent from later Unified Silla art suggests the cult lost favor as
Korea was mostly united under one government and peace returned.
Semi-seated Bodhisattva Maitreya,
Baekje, mid-7th c. Gilt bronze. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Semi-seated Bodhisattva Maitreya,
Asuka Japan, 7th c. Gilt bronze. Tokyo National Museum.
Semi-seated Bodhisattva Maitreya,
Silla, first half of 7th c. Gilt bronze, h. 27.5 cm. National Museum of
Semi-seated Bodhisattva Maitreya,
Silla, early 7th c. Gilt bronze, h. 17.1 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Pensive bodhisattva, Baekje, 7th
c. Gilt bronze. Tokyo National Museum.
and attendants, Baekje, 6th–7th c. Gilt bronze. Tokyo National Museum,
Dedicated Horyu-ji Treasure no. 143.
Korean artists and style were still heavily influential to
the nascent Buddhist movement in Japan in the 7th century. While the official
introduction of Buddhism in Japan did occur in the 6th century, the religion
faced a hostile aristocracy and it was not until the seventh century that
Buddhism became an important part of Japanese culture. The Buddha at Asuka-dera,
the earliest dated Japanese image, was cast in 606 by Tori Busshi an immigrant
from Korea or China. The temple where the image is housed states that Tori Busshi was from
Korea. The image has been repaired numerous times so it is difficult to see if
any of its 7th century stylings are preserved. Another significant work by Tori
Busshi is the Sakyamuni Triad housed at the Hōryū-ji which dates to 623. Both
images bear some stylistic resemblances to images from the Northern Wei (image), popular
approximately a hundred years before which suggests such Northern Wei styles
were preserved in Korea for their reappearance in Japan. Although there are not
many analogues to the so-called Tori style that survive in Korea a stone
mandorla preserved in Iksan is one such example.
There are numerous other examples of Korean sculpture or
images influenced by Korean style in Japan. The Kanshoin pensive bodhisattva (image) has three traits that suggest it was an import from Korea or made by
a Korean immigrant in Japan. The strong constriction of the upper body, the incised line chiseled
into the eyebrow, and tassel on the front of the crown. Scholars currently debate whether Hōryū-ji Dedicated treasure no. 156
(image) is Korean in origin or made in Japan, influenced by Korean styles.
An inscription on its base can be plausibly attributed to either a 606 or 666
date. An early date would suggest a Korean origin because of the still
developing nature of Japanese sculpture at the time. By 666, plenty of
indigenous Japanese sculpture can be found. Some Korean traits include the
emaciated body, three-tiered crown and head knot, and the extreme stylization
of the drapery over the base. Either way, the image is an important example of
Korean traits in early Japanese art. The image is interesting too because part
of the inscription mentions Gaya, a group of statelets that were annexed by
Paekche and Silla in the sixth century, which may suggest that the image
preserves the style prevalent in the Nakdong River valley.
A single-mandorla triad, Hōryū-ji Dedicated Treasure no.
143 now in the possession of the Tokyo National Museum is a particularly fine
example of Baekje sculpture in Japan from the sixth or 7th century. The Korean origins of the statue are based on the round and warm
faces typical of Baekje style, the absence of an air of solemnity and austerity
typical of the Tori style, the casting technique which used nails instead of spacers, and the intaglio
effect on the bronze the artisan used to make the eyebrows, a typical Korean
technique. The Dainichibo standing Buddha, Sekiyamajinja Bodhisattva, Hōryū-ji
Treasure no. 165 may all be from Korea as well. Other possible examples of Baekje sculpture in Japan are the hidden
image at Zenkoji (image), the Kudara Kannon (literally Baekje Avalokiteshvara) at Hōryū-ji, and the Yumedono Kannon.
Asukadera Big Buddha.
Pensive Bodhisattva Maitreya.
Hakuho period or possibly Three Kingdoms of Korea period, 7th c. Gilt bronze,
h. with pedestal 31 cm. Tokyo National Museum.
After centuries of warfare, the Silla Kingdom, with their
Tang allies, managed to unify much of what is now North and South Korea under
the dominion of a single government in a period historians usually refer to as
Unified Silla. While Silla’s Tang allies were useful in helping the Silla
rulers destroy their rivals, the kingdoms of Baekje and Goguryeo, after their
mutual enemies were defeated the allies found themselves at cross purposes. The
Tang emperor, following the ambitions of his predecessors, wanted to
incorporate Korea into his empire while the Silla rulers vowed to maintain an
independent realm. By 676, people from all the Three Kingdoms had expelled the
Chinese from Korea and the Unified Silla state enjoyed a period of great
prosperity and relative peace that would last several centuries. Some of the
greatest Buddhist statues in Korean art history were made during this time.
858. Gilt bronze, h.2.7 m. Borim Temple, National Treasure no. 117.
Images dated to the Unified Silla period are relatively
more plentiful than their counterparts from the Three Kingdoms period. There
are several dated images which serve as important markers that show the
evolution of Korean sculpture during this era. The first set of important dated
images are a group of Buddhist stele excavated from former Baekje territory
with dated inscriptions. One of the most important examples, shown below, is a
stele dated to 673, thirteen years after the defeat of the Baekje Kingdom. This
image has an important inscription which states that the statue was carved by
artisans from the former Baekje Kingdom and funded by former Baekje
aristocrats. This image, and the others from group, suggest that Baekje
nobility were incorporated into the Silla political system so that they could
help their new overlords govern subjugated territory. The stele, reminiscent of
a single mandorla triad, has a close analogue to the famous Sakyamuni Triad in
the Horyu-ji cast by a Korean sculptor in 623. Not only does the stele provide
a clue that suggests that the Sakyamuni Triad may have been based on styles
from Baekje specifically, this suggests also that Silla art incorporated the
styles and practices of their conquered subjects in subsequent art.
706. Gold, h. 12 cm. National Museum of Korea, National Treasure no. 79.
The next two images, both Korean national treasures and
both made of almost pure gold, were probably royal commissions. The two were
excavated from a stone pagoda and an accompanying relic contains dates
describing the dates of internment for both statues. The first image, a
standing Buddha which could have been made as late as 692, the date of its
purported internment, shows that the style of the preceding Three Kingdoms period,
especially in the modeling of the robe, persisted several decades after
unification. The second image, dated to 706 is an exquisite and rare example of
a seated Buddha from Korea during this time period and the contrast in style
with its counterpart is quite striking. The seated Buddha incorporates the
latest styles from Tang China and is a beautiful example of the so-called
International Style practiced throughout East Asia. Interestingly, some small
discrepancies between the height described by inscription and the actual height
of the seated Buddha, along with the rough nature of the standing Buddha may
suggest the attributed dates are not entirely accurate.
Two granite images from the early 8th century, almost
entirely intact, depict Amitabha and Maitreya. Valuable inscriptions are carved
on the backs of the mandorla.
Granite, a common medium in the repertoire of Sillan
sculptors are seen throughout the Unified Silla period. At least one attempt at
the kind of grotto art popular in India and China can be found in Gunwi that
precedes the Seokguram Grotto. However, it is the central Buddha of the
Seokguram Grotto that is considered by many scholars to be the epitome of
Korean sculpture. Situated in the center of a complex, artificial cave, the
Buddha is surrounded by artful depictions of the Buddhist pantheon. According
to the Samguk yusa construction began in the middle of the 8th century
and the sculpture of the grotto, based on this source, can be tentatively dated
to that time. The style of central Buddha, including the covering of one
shoulder and the fan of folds between the two crossed legs, would be followed
by sculptors for the rest of the Unified Silla period and even by artisans of
the early Koryo dynasty.
The final dated image shown is a seated Vairocana Buddha
dated by inscription to 858. This Buddha is representative of the images of the
9th century, a time of political turbulence and the weakened power of the Silla
rulers in the capital. During this time powerful land owners far away from the
central government began to commission their own Buddhist images, as the
inscription on the Borimsa (McR. Porimsa) Buddha states. These regional images
began to reflect individual styles that differ starkly from the Kumseong
tradition in the capital. The Borimsa image, for example, has a thick nose
ridge, brow, and robes that differ from the Seokguram prototype. Additionally,
while images in the capital were still produced in prestigious bronze, regional
Buddhas begin to be made with iron, a material that was considerably cheaper.
The production of iron images differ greatly from their bronze counterparts
because iron images were cast piece by piece and assembled into a single image.
This technique results in visible joints were plates were connected together
and then probably hidden with thick layers of lacquer and gilding.
Dated 673 by inscription.
Circa 692, dated by inscription.
Dated 719 by inscription.
Dated 719 by inscription.
Circa mid-eighth century by
Standing Buddha. Unified Silla
period, 7th c., circa 700. Gilt bronze, h. 47.3 cm. Asian Art Museum of San
Francisco, Avery Brundage Collection.
Standing Buddha, gilt-bronze,
Unified Silla. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea.
Seated Buddha, early 10th c. Cast
iron, h. 150 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Seated Buddha, first half of the
8th c. Granite, h. 3.26 m. Seokguram, National Treasure no. 24.
Seated Vairocana, 9th c. Stone.
National Museum of Korea.
Seated Vairocana, late 9th
century. Iron, h. 112 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Standing Vairocana, 9th c. Gilt
bronze; 52.8 cm. Tokyo
National Museum, Ogura Collection.
Standing Bhaisajyaguru, middle 8th
c. 1.77 m. Gyeongju National Museum, National Treasure
Standing Bhaisajyaguru, 9th c.
Gilt bronze, h. 29.2 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Gatbawi Buddha, in situ
Daegu, South Korea
National Museum of Korea.
National Museum of Korea.
These two wooden Buddhas were
recently rediscovered to be one of the oldest examples of wooden sculpture
surviving from Korea. Haein Temple.
Bronze, a South Korean national
Seated bronze Buddha
The Silla Kingdom, backed by the powerful Tang Empire,
defeated the Baekje Kingdom in 660 and the Goguryeo Kingdom in 668 and ended
centuries of internecine warfare in Korea. King Munmu then defeated and drove out the Tang armies successfully unifying
most of Korea under the Unified Silla dynasty. The unification of the three
kingdoms is reflected in some early Unified Silla sculptures.
After a period of estrangement with Tang China, diplomatic
relations resumed and the so-called international style of the Tang heavily
influenced Korea as it did much of the rest of Asia. Buddhism was heavily sponsored and promoted by the royal court. The
early century of the Unified Silla period is known as a golden age of Korean history
where the kingdom enjoyed the peace and stability to produce fabulous works of
art. The central Buddha of the Seokguram Grotto, a UNESCO World
Heritage site, is recognized as one of the
finest examples of Buddhist sculpture in eastern Asia.
However, the political instability and weakened monarchy
of the late 8th century seems to have had an effect on artisans as Buddhist
sculpture began to become formulaic and lose vitality in the use of line and form. During the later days of Unified Silla, iron was substituted as a
cheaper alternative to bronze and was used to cast many Buddhas and one can see
regional characteristics creeping into the style of sculptures as local
warlords and strongmen began to break away from the orbit of the royal family
in Kumseong (now modern-day Gyeongju).
After the destruction of the Baekje Kingdom, elements of
Baekje style and early styles. A strong Tang Chinese influence affected Unified Silla art. The Korean Buddhist
sculpture of this period can be identified by the “undeniable
sensuality” of the “round faces and dreamy expressions” and
“fleshy and curvaceous bodies” of extant figures. .
Avalokiteshvara, 10th–11th c. Cast iron, h. 58 cm. Guimet Museum.
Treasure no. 45. Seated Amitabha, clay, 2.78 m. Buseok Temple.
Goryeo Dynasty succeeded Unified Silla as ruler of the Korean peninsula. Like
their predecessors, the Goryeo court lavishly sponsored Buddhism and Buddhist
arts. The early phase of Goryeo art is characterized by the waning but
influential effect of Unified Silla prototypes, the discarding of High Tang
style, and the incorporation of regionally distinctive styles which reflected
the influence of local aristocrats who had grown powerful during the declining
days of Unified Silla and also reflects the fact that the capital was moved
from southeastern Korea to Kaegyong (now modern-day Kaesong).
bronze life-size image of King Taejo, the founder of the Goryeo
Dynasty is technically not a Buddhist sculpture. However, the similarities of
the statue to earlier bronze images of the Buddha, such as the elongated ears,
a physical attribute of the Buddha, is suggestive of the relationship the
royalty had with the religion.
example of the lingering influence of Unified Silla art is the Seated Sakyamuni
Buddha at the National Museum of Korea which can be dated to the 10th century. This statue is
stylistically indebted to the central figure at Seokguram and some scholars
suggest that the statue is from the Great Silla period. Both Buddhas employ the
same “earth-touching” mudra which was first popularized in Korea by
the Seokguram image. The fan-shaped folding of cloth between the legs of the
Buddha, the way the clothing on the image was depicted, and the
“cross-legged seated posture” are all typical of Unified Silla
sculpture. The Buddha is the largest
iron Buddha surviving in Korea. It was cast in multiple pieces and today one
can see the different seams where the statue was pieced together. In the past
the statue would have been covered in lacquer or gilt to hide the joints.
Interestingly, the bottom of the nose, the ends of the ears, and the hands are
reproductions and not part of the original statue.
Eunjin Mireuk is example of early Goryeo sculpture demonstrating the rise of
regional styles and the abandoning of a strict interpretation of the standard
iconography of Buddhist images. The statue is believed to
be a representation of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva of
Mercy, although it is popularly known as Maitreya. The statue is over 18 meters
tall and took over 30 years to complete. The statue is valuable
because it demonstrates developments unique to Chungcheong-do and Gyeonggi-do. Additionally, some scholars
posit that these huge stones may have once been originally for Shamanistic
practices and later subsumed into a Buddhist image.
reliably dated Buddhist sculptures from the 12th and 13th centuries have
survived and so “it is difficult to assess the production of sculpture
related to” the rising popularity of Seon Buddhism (Ch. Chan,
Jp. Zen) and its association with the ruling military family of the
seated Avalokiteshvara in “royal ease” pose from the 14th century at
the National Museum of Korea shows the stylistic influence of Tibetan Lamaist
Buddhism which was favored by the Yuan Mongol court. However, some scholars have
suggested this statue is an import.
Early Goryeo (918–1170)
Sakyamuni Buddha, 10th c. Cast iron,
2.88 m. National Museum of Korea, Treasure no. 332.
Koryo dynasty iron seated Buddha. Now held at the Koryo Museum in Kaesong,
Buddha, early 10th c. Cast iron, h. 132 cm. National Museum of Korea.
Mireuk, 931–968. Stone, h. 18.12 m.
of Buddha, 10th–11th c. Cast iron, h. 37.4 cm. National Museum of Korea.
early Goryeo period. Hyang’un-gak.
bodhisattva, early Goryeo period. Woljeong-sa.
images from sixth and seventh c. Background images from Goryeo dynasty.
Middle Goryeo (1170–1270)
Buddha, 11th-12th century. Gilded wood, h. 62 cm. Musee Guimet.
Late Goryeo (1270–1392)
Avalokiteshvara, 14th century. Gilt bronze,
h. 38.5 cm. National Museum of
Avalokitesvara (Kr. Kwanŭm or Kwanseŭm), by Hyehui. Gilt-bronze, Joseon period,
1655. Beopjusa (McR. Pŏpchu-sa), Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea.
dynastic change from the Goryeo to the Joseon was a relatively peaceful one.
However, for the first time since Buddhism was accepted by the courts of the
Three Kingdoms, the religion fell out of favor with the king and his court. The
decadent royal patronage by the Goryeo kings and the growing power of the
temples and clergy led the Joseon kings to suppress the religion in favor of Neo-Confucianism. While some kings were
Buddhists in their private life, the government funds for temples and the
commissioning and quality of statues declined.
most Korean works of art, early Joseon sculpture fared poorly in the Japanese
invasions of Korea
from 1592–1598 and few survive today. The Japanese invasion is the dividing
line between early Joseon and late Joseon. The bravery of the many monks who
fought against the Japanese invaders was recognized after the war. While never
the official religion of the court, Buddhism enjoyed a resurgence and many of
the temples and statues that are seen in Koreatoday were built from the 17th
Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910)
Museum of Korea.
Buddha (middle figure), 1628. Gilt bronze, h. 12.6 cm. Monk (left), 1628.
Giltbronze, h. 9.7 cm. National Museum of Korea.
bodhisattva, 17th c. Gilt wood, h.64.8 cm. Harn
Museum of Art.
Buddha, 20th century. Gilt bronze, h. 33 m. Beopjusa.
Buddha, 20th century. Bronze. Seoraksan.
^ Best, “Yumedono”,
a b http://eng.buddhapia.com/_Service/_ContentView/ETC_CONTENT_2.ASP?pk=0000593748&sub_pk=&clss_cd=0002169717&top_menu_cd=0000000592&menu_cd=0000008845&menu_code=&image_folder=color_11&bg_color=2B5137&line_color=3A6A4A&menu_type=
^ Lena Kim
11. ^ Pak and Whitfield, pg. 66
16. ^ Pak and Whitfield, pg. 110
17. ^ Junghee Lee, pg. 344 and
18. ^ Pak and Whitfield, pg. 124
19. ^ McCallum, pg. 151–152
20. ^ McCallum, pg. 150
21. ^ McCallum states that Kuno
Takeshi described this statue had a “stupid-looking face” or
22. ^ McCallum, pg. 157
23. ^ McCallum, pg. 158
24. ^ McCallum, pg. 159:
Professor Junghee Lee has expressed reservations about whether this image is
actually from Korea.
25. ^ McCallum, pg. 173, 175
26. ^ McCallum, pg. 176, 178
28. ^ Junghee Lee, pg. 345
29. ^ Junghee Lee, pg. 346
30. ^ Junghee Lee, pg. 347
31. ^ The Korean origin of the
Koryu-ji Miroku is now accepted by Kuno Takeshi, Inoue Tadashi, Uehara Soichi,
and Christine Gunth. Junghee Lee, pg. 347
32. ^ Junghee Lee, pg. 348
33. ^ Junghee Lee, pg. 353
34. ^ Pak and Whitfield, pg. 112
35. ^ McCallum, pg 175
36. ^ McCallum, pg 175-176
38. ^ McCallum, pg 176
40. ^ Asian Art in the Birmingham
Museum of Art by Donald A. Wood
42. ^ Kim, Lena pg. 286
45. ^ Kim, Lena, pg. 287–288
The first known film about the life of Buddha was Buddhadev
(English title: Lord Buddha) which was produced by the well-known Indian
Phalke (1870–1944) in 1923. Two years later, another
important Buddha film was released, The Light of Asia (Hindi title: Prem Sanyas). This movie was made by the German filmmaker Franz Osten (1875–1956). Himansu Rai (1892–1940) played the Buddha. Its title suggests that the script was
based on the book The Light of Asia composed by the British poet Sir Edwin Arnold, which was issued by the Theosophical
Society in 1891. In fact, its contents
deviate deliberately from Arnold’s book. The film was a greater success in
Europe than in India. It gives a somewhat romantic picture of the life of
Buddha. Buddhadev as well as The Light of Asia were silent films.
On March 20, 1952, a Japanese feature film representing
the life of Buddha had its premiere, Dedication of the Great Buddha. Director Teinosuke
Kinugasa (1896–1982) directed the picture
under the Japanese film company Daiei Eiga. It was nominated for the 1953 Cannes Film Festival.
Another film about Buddha was a documentary film entitled Gotama the Buddha. It was released by the government
of India in 1957 as part of the Buddha’s 2500th birthday celebration. Rajbans
Khanna acted as director and Bimal Roy as producer. It got an honorable mention
at the Cannes film festival in 1957. It is a black-and-white film consisting of
beautiful images of natural environments, archeological
sites, reliefs and paintings, ancient ones from Ajanta as well as modern
ones accompanied by a voice over relating the history of Buddha.
There was a film Angulimal in 1960 that was not directly
on the life of Buddha, but was on the life of a dacoit and killer who used to
loot and kill innocent people and cut their finger and made a garland of such
fingers to wear in his neck, thus he got the name Angulimal (Angluli: finger, mala: garland). The film depicts the incident that
such dreaded dacoit once meets Buddha when Buddha was passing to a forest and
goes ahead to kill him, but was corrected by the compassion of Buddha.
The fifth film about Buddha was a Japanese one, Shaka,
produced by Kenji Misumi in 1961. It was shown in the USA in 1963 under the
title Buddha. On February 13, 1964 a Korean film about the life of the
Buddha had its premiere, Seokgamoni, the Korean translation of the
Sanskrit Shakyamuni, which in Mahayana Buddhism is the term for the historical Buddha.
In 1997 the Indian producer G.A. Sheshagiri Rao made a
Buddha film. It was simply entitled Buddha. This one did not roll in
cinemas, but it was only sold on dvd. This one is also the longest movie about
Buddha, as it consists of five dvds with approximately 180 minutes film each.
In 2008, K. Raja Sekhar produced another Buddha film
entitled Tathagata Buddha. The original film was in Telugu, but later it
was dubbed in Hindi. This film relates Buddha’s life story until its end, his parinirvana.
The film is available on DVD.
It is known that Buddhists in countries like Sri Lanka and
Burma abhor the very idea of any human being impersonating the Buddha in a
film. After its release in 1925 The Light of Asia was banned in Sri
Lanka and the Malay States (contemporary West Malaysia).[2
List of films on
the life of Buddha
Silent film by
Silent film by
Film by Teinosuke
Film by Kenji
Film by Il-ho
Italy / France
Film by Bernardo
Telugu film on
To be based on
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