Tuesday May 22, 2018

India’s Connection to Shaolin Temple in China : Here is Why it is the base of Buddhism!

Despite being crowded with tourists for the most part of the year, this world heritage site is filled with serenity and reflects discipline and efficiency in its becalming environment

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Shaolin temple-a buddhist temple in China. Pixabay
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  • Shaolin temple in China has become a brand, especially after the Hollywood blockbuster Shaolin Temple was released in 1982
  • The temple was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2010
  • The temple exhibits connections to home base of Buddhism, India

China, June 6, 2017: The home of Kung fu and Zen Buddhism- Shaolin temple is one of the most visited tourist sites in China with busloads of tourists visiting the place, every year.
Despite being crowded with tourists for the most part of the year, this world heritage site is filled with serenity and reflects discipline and efficiency in its becalming environment.

The green abundance of the Songshan Mountains and the red and black buildings around the temple arena blend beautifully to give a pleasing site to the visitors.

Based in Central China’s Henan Province, the temple provides stunning natural views along with a wonderful display of one of the most disciplined sports, Kung fu. No wonder, the tourists are ready to spend a few extra bucks to visit this place and be an audience to the harmonious combination of Mahayana Buddhism and China’s Taoism.

History

The temple has a 1500-year-old rich history in which it has been destroyed and resurrected many times. The origin of this temple can be traced back to the reign of Emperor Xiaowen, who had set up the monastery as an abode for Buddhabhadra, a wandering Indian Buddhist monk. Buddhabhadra is credited with laying the foundations for Kung Fu besides spreading Nikaya Buddhism, mentioned The Hindu report.

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Shaolin temple’s Indian Connection –
It is not known to many but Shaloin temple has an age old connection with India, the home base of Buddhism.

• It is believed that prominent Indian figure, Bodhidharma, arguably, steered the temple’s spiritual direction towards Zen Buddhism. Legends say that the monk belonged to present day Tamil Nadu or Kerala and landed up in China on the urgings of Prajnatara, his ageing guru.

• History of both the nations suggests that Zen Buddhism and Kung Fu are takeaways of a Sino-Indian spiritual fusion.

• China’s famous Buddhist grottoes also exhibit trans- Himalayan relations in their art and architecture.

• The Mogao grottoes, housed in hundreds of intricately painted caves, in dry Gobi desert, show the epic journey of Buddhism from India to China.

– prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram. Twitter: @NikitaTayal6 

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)