Tag Archives: Buddhism

This Tree is Better Than A Cold Shower

Ouch is a recent photographic work of the Floss Silk Tree. This tree naturally grows spikes along its trunk to protect itself from foraging animals.

I imagine it’s a very effective defense.   These peculiar trees grow in tropical and subtropical climates and reach heights of 40 ft.  They love to grow in the full sun and produce large pink or red flowers in the late summer or early fall.

Usually these trees are often grown in the United States only for the purpose of ornamentation of garden paths and some arboretums. However, in some parts of the tropics ranchers and farmers use this type of tree as a form of living fence post to hang barbed wire between and keep livestock from wandering.

This particular tree I captivated me by the way the tropical sunlight created a distinct pattern of contrast. OuchThe sunlight and shadow played off of each sharp tip spike in perfect harmony.

It does not take a lot of imagination to realize the level of pain caused by an unintentional collision with this monster would be. Trying to imagine why anyone would want to climb such a thing reminded me of a Thai and Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist legend from Southeast Asia.   Each culture has it’s own way of promoting certain values among its members and Asian culture is no different.

As with most the cultures in the world, Thai culture has a very negative outlook on the practice of adultery. As with most cultures, the Thai reinforce the notion that adultery is taboo and costs the offender greatly.

The legends state that upon death, an adulterer will face the servants of Yamaraja the Demigod of Death in hell. These demonic servants will force the adulterer to climb spiked trees using spears and knives into the waiting jaws of razor beaked eagles in the upper branches.

Not exactly what I would call a pleasant image. In fact, I think you’d agree with me that the imagery of that punishment works better than a seriously cold shower on the libido, if you know what I mean.   Yikes…

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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.

Like what you read about Roots of the 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.

Why Are Pagodas in Zen Gardens?

Why do they put pagodas in Zen gardens?  What is a Pagoda anyway?

To the western mind a pagoda is similar to a cathedral. During the Middle Ages in Europe the Christian Church had a problem.   The Crusades into the holy land produced a rather lucrative market for holy artifacts and relics of the various saints.  Worshipers felt that these relics provided healing, prosperity and happiness if people prayed in their presence.  So, Church leaders started building cathedrals, shrines, and monasteries as a constant reminder of God, his saints, and the power of the church.

A pagoda is an Asian counterpart. Buddhist missionaries and laymen built pagodas to help spread the teachings of Buddha. Various sized pagodas are found from Bangladesh to South East Asia and China through the Korean Peninsula to Japan.  These structures housed important ashes or sacred relic of the Buddhist traditions.

Thus, the ability to shrink one down and place it in a garden as a statue is as natural as finding a cross, or statue of a saint in a Christian meditation garden.  It is a reminder to focus on the teaching, stories, or ideas the garden represents.

Pagoda designs descend from and contain local cultural alterations in appearance from the early Buddhist stupas found in India.   Pagodas are a place of gathering and a physical reminder of the teachings of the Buddha.  It is worth noting that Taoists also use pagodas for their shrines and artifacts too.

Most pagodas are found inside temple complexes of varying sizes and contain various shrines.  The taller pagodas are generally fitted with a metal roof  “hat” that made them susceptible to lightning strikes.  This was often on purpose to give that extra dramatic “pow” of the divine when lightning struck the tower.

These structures last.  Their designs are well suited for extreme natural conditions such as typhoons, lightning, and even earthquake prone regions.  Only a major fire has any real chance of destroying these structures.

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I used both sites and a little history knowledge as references to this article.