In honor of Buddha’s Day, here are just a few of the Buddha’s I’ve come across in my travels.
For the month of March, Buddha’s Birthday was celebrated all across Asia in countries such as Nepal, India, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, etc… For some countries this is a month-long celebration; for others it’s less. In Korea, the auspicious day landed on a Friday (May 27) which meant three-day weekend for most of us. Preparations at Buddhist temples may begin several weeks with the stringing up of paper lantern decorations and displays. Making a pilgrimage out to a Buddhist temple is where you want to bask in the enlightening glow of colorfully lit lanterns and special events performances.
A short video clip of monk chanting at Bongeunsa Temple (Seoul).
Video is taken from my Samsung ST500 pocket camera
A quick side note about Korean Buddhism and it’s temple gate guardians.
All around the world, the look of Buddha takes on variations in aesthetics, cultural influence and practice. My favorite country for Buddha aesthetics is Thailand. But an interesting note about Buddhist temples in Korea are the intimidating figures welcoming visitors at the gate’s entrance. I won’t pretend to understand Korean Buddhism– when I first visited the temples here, I hadn’t a clue about why the temple’s entrance guardians always seemed to carry evil and grimacing faces. It certainly doesn’t inspire compassion nor is it very welcoming… But apparently, these formidable deities were purposely crafted with Mongolian features (perhaps this explains some of the Fu Man Chu features on some of the Buddhas in this country) and war-like gazes to frighten practitioners into observing their practice as sober, austere… not casual or light-hearted. Interesting…
Where did I spend my holiday?
I spent my holiday weekend where I spent my two earlier weekends …in Seoul, meditating on “cosmopolitan”. In any other country, I probably would’ve wanted to take in a meditation retreat or reconnect with my meditation center for the auspicious holiday , but for some reason, Korea doesn’t inspire me that way. Korea has several temple stays throughout the country, which will cost you roughly $50/night and I”m not sure if I really believe in that kind of payment for meditating on peace and goodwill.
Besides, my family visited me earlier that month and my meditation on human compassion really started when they arrived and injected me with it. There’s something immediately wonderful and centering about having my family visit in Korea. For my parents, this was their first trip outside of the States in roughly 25 years, so it was evermore special. Not only did I get my dose of wonder-love but my entire family helped me sort out my culture shock, by buffeting their own on this trip!
Buddha’s celebrations in Seoul