Do you know these four Buddhas? I got to know them during our recent trip. Hong Kong Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha) was the first one we visited and boy, he did not disappoint! He sat on top of a hill and we had to catch an aerial tram to go see him. When our tram approached the hill, his majestic silhouette appeared out of the fog. As we took a hike and climbed the steps up, he was there all along, getting clearer with every step and towering over us, with his one palm facing out as if to offer his blessings. Since he was the only Buddha we saw in Hong Kong, he was quickly named Hong Kong Buddha. His résumé was impressive too – he happened to be “the world’s largest seated bronze outdoor Buddha”. What was even more impressive was the number of people around him, praying with utmost concentration. There was a group of people in white clothes, sitting together on a platform away from the crowd but facing the Buddha. They were praying together with their eyes closed and heads slightly tilted down. The serenity and the sense of companionship surrounding them is what I remember the most.
The next one was Kamakura Buddha in Japan. Out of all the Buddhas we saw (and believe me, we saw a ton in two weeks!), I liked this one the most. He was very accessible, sitting in the open and yet very cozy as he was surrounded by families who were smiling and posing for the camera. He had the tips of his fingers closed together forming the infinity sign. The sign can be interpreted in many ways, but very simply it represents eternal love. I tried to explain the symbolism to my son but I wasn’t sure what he thought of it. This Buddha did not seem to have any agenda. He was just there in his own world, at ease and likeable. A board placed near him informed us that his base was repaired several years ago so that he could “move” on receiving shocks, thus making him earthquake-proof. Didn’t I tell you that this was just a very cool Buddha?!
And then as we roamed around, we saw them everywhere. Sometimes we would see a teeny Buddha in a corner of a garden. My son would struggle to get him in focus on the camera. Sometimes there would be a huge Buddha surrounded by statues of ferocious looking deity guards (by the way, each deity had one Hindu and one Japanese name, owing to their origin in Hinduism). Sometimes a Buddha would be too happy sitting right next to a Shinto shrine. Sometimes you would see several in a museum – collected from all around the world and with different facial expressions. And finally, as people stood in front of him and pressed their palms together, you would see a Buddha in their heart.
Back in the hotel room, I read up little more on THE Buddha – a prince who at the age of 29 years was exposed to the suffering in the world and decided to leave the palace, who abandoned his wife on the very day their son was born. Well, at least that’s what the stories say. He eventually founded a religion that now at about half a million followers happens to be the fourth largest religion in the world. Not to digress a whole lot, but I wonder if the people kneeling in front of the Buddha, people who do a hard day’s work to live a good life with their family know that on many occasions, they show an inner strength that far exceeds that shown by the prince. I don’t know if they see the inner Buddha. Maybe faith makes you not think about such things. I don’t know if they will agree. But Buddha would have agreed. He knew.
This post will be incomplete without the mention of two more Buddhas (duh, the title of the post does list four of them, so yeah!). As we were hopping from one garden to another temple, strolling through the street shops and buying souvenirs, my son declared that it was time we bought something for him.
After some searching, he settled on a little smiling Buddha. We bought it for him and he had a good time carrying his Little Buddha everywhere. The way he was playing with the Little Buddha though, it looked like the ninja figurines he had left back home had been duly replaced. :-)
After two weeks of touring different places, we returned home. The same day, my son was playing Lego and after making his usual spaceships and ninjas, he made a Buddha out of the lego pieces. He also showed me how he tried to make the infinity sign with Buddha’s fingers. We quickly clicked a picture and named him the Lego Buddha.
Thus a journey that started with Hong Kong Buddha, took us through Japan, showed us various faces of Buddha and ended with Little Buddha and Lego Buddha settled in our house and feeling quite at home.