Tag Archives: Buddha

The Unexplained Mystery of Buddha Hair

Seated upon a stone bench in the corner of an ivy garden, this Buddha meditates with calm reflection of the peaceful and beautiful scene around him. It is very popular to position Buddha statues in gardens. They serve to remind the casual garden wanderer that the garden is a perfect place for personal reflection.

The Buddha statues you see in a garden are often varied in size, color and origin. The Buddha’s teachings traveled all over India and into China. From China it moved wherever the traveling missionaries/monks went.   Some took the teachings into the countries of the Southeast Asian peninsula, while others went through the Korean kingdoms into the Japanese Isles.

Thus, we find all sorts of versions of Buddha statues. Some are fat, some thin, some happy, some sleeping, and some wearing strange ornamentation on their heads. The key is that no one has any idea what the actual Buddha looked like.   We often forget in our technologically dependent civilization, that cameras and photography are not even 200 old years.   So, these statues are decent representations of people whom received the rank of enlightenment known as a Buddha.

This particular Buddha has the characteristic snail Buddha Statue in Gardenknots on his head. It is lost to history and speculation about what, if anything, the strange bumps actually represent. Historians know that the Buddha shaved his head after he became enlightened. According to a logical earthly artistic interpretation, the bumps therefore show the artists were artistically attempting to display the short curls of the Buddha as the hair grew back in.

However, since the Buddha is often seen in a spiritual nature, it makes sense that there is a story that covers this characteristic also. Indeed, there is a popular story of garden snails who martyr themselves to the sun while protecting Buddha’s shaved head from sunburn as he meditated in the garden one day.

It was also thought that upon enlightenment you would receive a cranial bump that signified your advancement into higher levels of thinking. One possible interpretation being that bigger thinking needs bigger brains that have bigger skulls. Therefore, the Buddha could have all these bumps to signify how spiritually advanced he was.

Regardless of your interpretation, the Buddha statue remains one of the focal points to most gardens. A simple reminder that harmony and peace should exist there.

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Sitting with the Roots of Buddha

I shot the photograph Roots of Buddha on a warm day with a cooling breeze coming off the ocean nearby.

It was a complete delight to stand under a tree with such a mystical quality. The thick roots branched in all directions away from the thick round trunk of this massive fig tree. The small leaves shooting from the thousands of branches in the canopy above letting the sun drift down to the exposed ground at its base.

The small patches of lichen, moss and mold growing on the exposed gray roots fascinated me. It was at this point I discovered that this tree is a Bodhi tree.

The old story of Siddhārtha Gautama, that esteemed teacher from the depths of Indian history flashed into my mind. He saw the world differently than most, and his reaction to the suffering he discovered both to the people around him and in his own heart drove him to try some ways to understand why the world was in such a mess.

The legends say that he finally sat under a tree like this one for seven days and meditated. The imagery of a learned man sitting under the branches of a fig tree with the cool breeze and leaves offering refreshment Roots of Buddhafrom the elements is invigorating. Imagine his back nestled between the branching roots created a force of living protection and inspiring peacefulness.

Siddhartha’s impressive internal discipline forced a need to challenge himself to the meditation on the interesting impermanence of the world around him led to his enlightenment as the Buddha. His unique understanding and cultivation of the noble truths inspire and continue to influence the world today.

All of this made possible by just sitting quietly under the roots of a fig tree, sitting under the Roots of Buddha.

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The Unpolished Bronze Buddha Bell Story

A large unpolished bronze bell is a common sight in areas of the Far East.  Displayed predominantly in temples and gardens where it produces beautiful musical tones when struck.

Making such a bell is never easy and requires the utmost skill and precision. In the ancient world the cost and difficulty in gathering the necessary tin and copper in sufficient quantities required great sacrifice on the part of the lord or temple to create or pay for the bell casting.

These bells would often go through rituals and purification ceremonies to placate the spirit of the bell to make it function for it’s patron temple or owner for years to come. The prevalent thought is the tone of the bell causes a piercing sound disruptive to negative energy and frightens away evil spirits.

Unpolished Bronze Buddha Bell
Bronze Bell

Story of a Temple:

An ancient story tells that one such temple decided a bronze bell would serve for the call to meditation.  So, the process of gathering donations from the lords of their kingdom began. Once funds became available, the bell soon hung in the temple square.

One monk, however, was not satisfied.  He was a vain and foolish monk who believed that the bell at his temple was above and beyond any other. He wanted everyone to know he was a monk at the temple with the greatest shiny bell.

So, under cover of darkness, the monk polished the  bell. It was an incredible undertaking and it took all night to just shine the outer cover of it.

Eventually, the monk retired to his quarters to catch a nap.   When he awoke to the loud peal of the bell an hour later, he could imagine the faces of other monks trying to figure out who had shined bell.  He was already beaming, and he hadn’t seen the bell in the light of day yet!

Imagine his shock when he passed by the bell on the way to meditation only to discover that the bell was just as dull as the day when it arrived. All of that hard work for nothing!

The monk could not understand why the bell remained dull. Yet he was still adamant to get the bell polished to the brilliance luster he so desired.

Night after night he attempted to polish the bell, and every morning he awoke to the same dull finish. Finally, in his frustration and  sheer exhaustion he admitted to the abbot what he had done.

The Answer:

The abbot nodded and listened to his story.  Then, taking pause and speaking in a hushed and calmed voice, the abbot told the downtrodden and overzealous monk that his arrogance was the culprit behind the bell turning dull every morning.

It seems that the bell spirit rejected being polished for the conceited and selfish reasons of the monk. The spirit decided being polished would only further cause more senseless pride.

The abbot reminded the young monk that the purpose of the bell was to clear the thoughts of the monks before they meditated. The spirit obviously felt the monk was insulting it’s Buddha nature by the polishing. It wanted to serve as a bell and not exist for reverence.

Thus, the bell had its way and was never polished. It continues to hang in the temple square and welcome the monks to meditation every morning with a strong peal of sound.  This sound reminding the monks to leave their ego at the door.