Masterpiece Shakyamuni Buddha with Arhats, Garuda & Naga Kanyas

This is an absolutely beautiful rendition of Shakayamuni Buddha encompassed by an exquisitely carved torana (archway). The amount of detail for such a small piece is just absolutely staggering!  A true work of art!”
Brenda, Dharma Sculpture

Siddhartha Gautama was the son of Shakya King Buddhadana and Green Mahadevi. He was also called Buddha Shakyamuni or The Lion of the Shakya Clan. In the very center of this statue Buddha Shakyamuni is seen meditating in the “earth touching gesture” on an elaborate detailed carved lotus throne with a vajra carving. Below the vajra carving is a Naga (serpent). Nagas are the underworld guardians of treasures and concealed teachings. Shakyamuni is flanked by two of his chief disciples (arhats) namely Sariputra to his right and Maudgalyayana (also known as Moggallana) to his left representing the past and future Buddha.  His face is serene and a peaceful aura surrounds him. His left hand is on his lap holding an alms bowl.

Lord Buddha is seated in front of a torana or archway. Toranas are extremely common in Nepali Newari art.  As the ‘six-ornament’ enlightenment throne of the Buddha, its upper arch is decorated with mythological creatures, Garuda at its top and a pair of symmetrical Naga Kanyas and Makaras below. On its sides are a pair of young gods or devas, two hybrid antelopes or sharabha, two lions and two elephants.

As mentioned above, directly above Lord Buddha is an image of Garuda, the devourer of snakes. Garuda has a human upper body, large eyes, a beak, horns and hair that stands on end as well as bird’s claws and wings. Garuda is regarded as the deity that can cure snakebites, epilepsy and disease caused by Nagas. Garuda symbolizes the space element  and the power of the sun, which can dry up the waters. Therefore Garuda is the natural enemy of snakes , which he devours or controls. It is said that Garuda can detect a snake at a distance, swooping down from the sky to seize and devour it. In a similar manner, Garuda, just like the mind’s spiritual energy, can detect the arising of a snake-like delusion and can eliminate it instantly without any obstruction.

To Garuda’s right and left are Naga Kanyas, (Snake  Women). These engaging figures have a human torso and the body of a snake. The Nagas are serpents who in south and southeast Asian mythology are considered to be rain givers and guardians of the water and the riches of the deep. Naga Kanyas are the daughters of the Nagas. They are the goddesses of the three realms and pour their blessings of water on the worlds of the spirits, animals and humans. Though originally Hindu gods the figures of the Naga Kanyas were appropriated by Vajrayana Buddhism, images of Naga Kanyas appear in Tibetan, Nepalese and other tantric Buddhist art.

Below each of the Naga Kanya’s are Makaras, according to Buddhist tradition, these hybrids originated during the time immediately after the Buddha’s awakening when all hatred vanished from the world. During that time, animals that had been foe and prey mated with each other and produced such offspring as Makaras. Makaras have the lower jaw of a crocodile, the snout or trunk of an elephant, the tusks and ears of a wild boar, the darting eyes of a monkey, the scales and flexible body of a fish, and the swirling tail feathers of a peacock. They are the guardians of the toranas (gateways) and are a symbol of tenacious strength!

This sculpture is a one of a kind statue, handcrafted by the very talented artists of the beautiful Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal!
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Buddhist Pilgrimage: Lumbini, Birthplace of Lord Buddha

Images from left to right: 1) The grand and moated Sri Lankan Monastery contains statues and elaborate, colorful murals depicting the life of Buddha. 2) The Royal Thai Monastery was constructed in gleaming white marble and is designed in Thai style architecture. 3) A shrine inside the Myanmar Golden Monastery, a beautiful golden monastery that takes one on a journey to Myanmar. It stands as a symbol of peace and prosperity. 4) Wall mural of Buddha in dharmachakra mudra with disciples in the Mahabodhi Society Temple India, also located in the Lumbini Monastic Zone. 5) Lotus Flower Ceiling Mural, Mahabodhi Society Temple India, Lumbini Monastic Zone 6) World Peace Pagoda 7) Maya Devi Temple 8) Gate 5 Entrance, Lumbini Monastic Zone 9) Maya Devi Temple

Today we embarked on our Buddhist circuit tour from Kathmandu, Nepal. Our first stop is Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, which is said to be the foundation of world peace. Lumbini is located in the western Terai region of Nepal and it is a significant site for all Buddhists and peace lovers throughout the world. Our journey began by bus in Kathmandu at dawn. The bus ride from Kathmandu to Lumbini was quite comfortable although it was 8 hours long!! From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation throughout this expansive area.

The actual holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone in which only monasteries can be built. There are no shops or restaurants and only one hotel. The area is separated into an eastern and western monastic zone, the eastern having the Theravada monasteries and the western the Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries. There is a long water filled canal which separates the western and eastern zones with a series of brick arch bridges along the way.

Lumbini is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is known for its ancient values. The Mayadevi temple is the greatest attraction in Lumbini among all the holy sites of the Buddha.

Buddhism has a magical power to transform the lives of people forever. This power of transformation is beautifully illustrated in the life of Emperor Ashoka. After witnessing the bloody battle of Kalinga in Orissa, India, he dedicated his life to Buddhism. He didn’t only embrace Buddhism out of compassion but he spearheaded the mission of spreading the Buddha’s message of peace across his vast empire, reaching further to present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka albeit Buddha’s travels were confined within the boundary of Nepal and India.

The essence of Buddhism is embodied in the concept of the four-noble truths and the three-jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) via the eight-fold path to salvation and peace. Anticipating his death in his 80th year Buddha urged his followers, especially his chosen disciples, Sariputra and Ananda to continue his work after his imminent mahaparanirvana. Lord Buddha asked them to visit the four important places in his life, Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar as a reminder of his arduous journey in achieving its ultimate goal.

The Buddhas teachings, spiritual struggle, attainment of enlightenment, great meditations and message of peace and non-violence are as relevant to our life and times today as it was in his day.

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Dharma Sculpture’s Buddhist Pilgrimage

Buddhism is a philosophy followed by nearly 500 million people in the world. Though the concentration of Buddhist followers is high in south and southeast Asia, followers of Buddhism are scattered all over the world. They visit different Buddhist sites and learning centers, enhancing their knowledge of Buddhism and paying homage at places related with the life of Buddha. Buddhist followers treat sites associated with Buddha with great respect. Buddhist circuit tours that connect sites related to the life of Buddha scattered over Nepal and India are already popular among Buddhist travelers and tourists alike.

The Buddhist circuit is a route that follows the footsteps of the Buddha from Lumbini in Nepal where he was born, through Bodh Gaya (India) where he attained enlightenment, to Sarnath (India) where he gave his first sermon and Kushinagar (India) where he attained paranirvana after taking his last breath. The iconic route only includes places where the Buddha spent time and these places have important sites and monuments, all of which are over 2,500 years old and are revered by all Buddhist followers. The Buddhist circuit is an important pilgrimage destination for people practicing Buddhism, as well as other travelers interested in history, culture or spirituality.

Since we are currently in Nepal visiting our artists and procuring new statues we saw this as a good opportunity to visit all of these most holy Buddhist places. We will visit the main four mentioned above but not in that precise order. First we will visit Lumbini in Nepal, then Kushinagar, Bodhgaya and Sarnath (located in India). We will be posting updates on our blog daily as we reach and visit each destination.