Thursday, November 16, 2006

Buddhist Temples

The Buddhist religion began in Northern India and spread throughout Asia. It's followers revere nature and beauty and their Buddhist temples are always aesthetically pleasing. They are sacred places, devoted to the adoration of Buddha. Buddhism also has many followers in the western world and is particularly appealing to people who are looking for something outside the modern preoccupation with material things. There are therefore, temples all over the world and are sometimes found in unexpected places.

In addition to being places of worship, the temples are of great historical and architectural interest. They contain wonderful works of art and many are tourist attractions. It's important that non-Buddhist tourists remember that they are in a sacred place and must treat it with due respect. Some Buddhist temples are also study centers for the religion and others promote the craft traditions of the area.

There are several temples in China, including the Tanzhe Temple, which stands in the mountains near Beijing. The ancient city of Kyoto has the most number of Buddhist temples and shrines in Japan. To-ji, dating from the Edo dynasty, is a particularly impressive one, with a five-storey pagoda making it the tallest wooden building in the country. Tibet has several fine examples, including Sakya Monastery, founded in 1071. It's unusual because it was built in the Mongolian style. This is because it was paid for by Mongolia's leader, Kublai Khan. Not all temples are so old; Thean Hou in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia opened in 1989. Nan Tien in Australia is the largest temple to be found in the southern hemisphere.

The US has temples from New York City down to Tennessee. There are several in England and one in Scotland. Other Buddhist temples are in India, Thailand, Nepal, Singapore, Canada and Bhutan. Many temples around the world are still working temples with monks observing all the rituals. They can be heard chanting and using bells and gongs.

The story of the religion is often depicted by symbols, which are associated with the life of Buddha, and these appear in the Buddhist temples. The lotus is a common symbol, representing purity. Lions signify the royal bloodline of the Buddha and his footprint stands for the contribution he made to the world. The wheel, divided into spokes, is the different lessons within Buddhism and the Bodhi tree is where the Buddha achieved his path to Nirvana. All the temples are a fascinating insight into an ancient culture, which still reverberates today.