Three Buddha Hall

          

This main hall is located beside the right side of the giant statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. In the main hall there are three big statues of Buddha. Three Buddha statues symbolizing the Three Bodies and in Sanskrit it calls “Trikaya” where “Tri” means “Three” and “Kaya” means “Body”. The three Buddha is known as Sakyamuni Buddha in the middle, on the right side Amitabha Buddha and on the left Medicine Buddha. They are in the meditation posture sitting on a lotus throne symbolizing purity and life. Typically, lotus stems sprout at the bottom of a lake or river and grow upward through murky water.  The lotus blooms when the bud reaches the surface of the water, a process that is often compared to the Buddha’s journey through a world of pain and suffering toward the attainment of enlightenment.

The Three Great Buddhas in the front have names and attributes, but their real purpose is to remind us of the Buddha Nature in every sentient being.  Thus they are "special" in their function, but their nature is no more special than that of all things; it is just that they have realized (made real) that Nature.

 

Medicine Buddha

            Let's start our examination of the Three Buddhas with the figure on the right.  This is Bhaishajyaguru, better known as "The Medicine Buddha”.  He is holding a pagoda, symbol of the Buddha's body.  Pagodas developed from Indian stupas, which in turn developed from mounds of earth piled over a human being's earthly remains.  So the pagoda is a kind of reliquary wherein the Buddha's remains are deposited.

His history as Bhaishajyaguru hints at this possibility.  While still a Bodhisattva, he made Twelve Vows which were extraordinary in their depth.  The Vows are lengthy, but can be summarized as: (1) to radiate light to all beings; (2) to proclaim his healing power; (3) to fulfill the desires of all beings; (4) to lead all by the Mahayana way; (5) to reinforce all in observing ethics; (6) to heal; (7) to lead all to Enlightenment; (8) to change women into advantaged men in their next appearance; (9) to ward off false teaching and endorse the truth; (10) to save all beings from a bad rebirth; (11) to feed the hungry; and (12) to clothe the naked.  He resides over the Pure Land of the East.  Note that several of the Vows focus on healing both the bodies and the minds of devotees; thus, when he attained Buddha-hood, he was called the Medicine Buddha.

Amitabha Buddha

Amitabha Buddha is one of the most popular figures at Mahapanya Temple. In Chinese, "Amitabha Buddha" is pronounced "O-Mi-To-Fo" or "A-Mi-To-Fo."  This is used as a greeting and farewell, as a thanks and a blessing, by monastics and laity. It is also, of course, chanted in the Buddha Hall (also called the "Main Shrine").

The Amitabha Buddha is seated at the left side of the Hall.  He holds a lotus, which, among its many meanings, symbolizes potential.  The lotus is rooted in mud, grows up through water, and blossoms out into the air.  So we are born in this world and, through successive stages, reach our full potential.  Look above the Buddhas and notice the lotus motif in the architecture; this is continued throughout the Temple's corridors, etc.

Legend says that Amitabha was ages ago a king who heard the preaching of the Buddha of his age.  He renounced the throne and became a monk named Dharmakara.  He received instruction from the Buddha Lokeshvararaja, and resolved through forty-eight vows to find a Buddha-land.  Exploring many lands to assess their perfections, he then brought together the best traits of all to create Sukhavati, the Western Pure Land, where he now rules.  Anyone who chants his name with sincerity will be transported there upon their death.

 

Sakyamuni Buddha

Finally, we turn to the central figure in the Hall, and the Central Point of the Temple: the Shakyamuni Buddha, formerly Siddhartha Gautama.  His story is well known.  Born a prince in a small kingdom of northern India, he was protected from the less pleasant aspects of life.  After beholding an old man, a sick man, and a dead man (as well as a monk), he left the palace at age 29 and spent six years searching for The Answer.  Finally, sitting under a fig tree, he resolved to remain unmoved until he attained Enlightenment.  And so he did, through his understanding of Dependent Origination, the idea that everything arises in connection to everything else, and thus all things in this world are impermanent.  He returned to society and taught until his death (or "final Nirvana") at age 80.  He left behind a great body of teachings ("The Dharma") and a well-established monastic order ("The Sangha").  His teachings have remained relevant to this day.

In the Pilgrimage section, I have used various aspects of the Buddhas to distinguish one Buddha from another.  Briefly:

Amitabha is the Dharmakaya, representing the Mind

Bhaishajyaguruis theSambhogakaya, representing the Speech

Shakyamuni is the Nirmanakaya, representing the Body


Ksitigarbha Boddhisattva

The giant statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbhais located on left corner side of the temple premises which is in total 33 feet tall, the staff is 42 meters tall and it was imported from Taiwan. The lap is 12 meters wide.

Ksiti means “earth” and Garbha means “Store”. Earth symbolizes the ground where all beings rely and live whereas store signifies a treasure house, or a depository for treasures. This Bodhisattva possesses extensive loving-kindness and compassion. All sentient beings can, hence, rely on this savior and nurture the humankind’s noble qualities, just like beings rely on the earth for living. Moreover, this Bodhisattva owns unlimited treasure of Dharmas that can save and nourish every troubled and impoverished sentient being, due to unfulfilled dreams, careers, famine, disease, wars, etc. Thus, he is named the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.

 Ksitigarbha is one of the 8 principal bodhisattvasknown in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism. Manjushri, Avalokitesvara, Vajrapani, Sarva-nirvarana-vishkambhi, Akashagarbha, Samantabhadra, and Maitreya, are the other remaining 7 Bodhisattvas.

Kshitigarbha has a deep relationship with beings of the earth – humans, and especially with the hungry ghosts and hell beings. This is mainly because these ghosts and hell beings are the most difficult to rise into a more fortunate condition due to their previous unwholesome actions. Thus Kshitigarbha has been known as the Teacher of the Dark Regions because of his past vow to save them all.

Sakyamuni Buddha entrusted Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha the responsibility of continuing to save people after the Buddha himself passed away. During this period humans and other living beings have no Buddha to guide them on the path to enlightenment until the next Buddha, Maitreya, who will appear on earth several thousand years from now. Thus Sakyamuni Buddha entrusted Ksitigarbha to shoulder the responsibility of relieving people from their worries and guiding them to enlightenment.


Avalokiteshvara

The Kuan-Im Vihara is also situated within the temple’s premises, where one can see the five-meters-high statue of Kuan-Im flanked with her male and female disciples. They are carved from an aromatic, redolent wood from China.

The Sanskrit name, "Avalokiteshvara," means "the lord who looks upon the world with compassion" or according to another interpretation “the retarder of the cries of the world". Translated into Chinese, the name is "Kuan Shih Yin"or Quan Yin. Kuan:  Observe;
Shih:  The world / the region of sufferers; Yin:  All the sounds of the world, in particular, the crying sounds of beings, verbal or mental, seeking help.

This bodhisattva is variably depicted as male or female, and may also be referred to simply as Guanyin in certain contexts. The name Avalokiteshvara is made of the following parts: the verbal prefix ava, which means "down"; lokita is a past participle of the verb lok which means "to notice, behold, observe"; here used in an active sense; and finally Isvara, "lord", "ruler", "sovereign" or "master".

Avalokiteshvara is the embodiment of great compassion. She made a great vow to assist sentientbeings in times of difficulty, and to postpone her own Buddhahooduntil she has assisted every being on Earth in achieving Nirvana.

In her hands, she may hold a willow branch, a vase with water, or occasionally, a lotus flower. The willow branch is used to heal people's illnesses or bring fulfillment to their requests. The water (the dew of compassion) has the quality of removing suffering, purifying the defilements of our body, speech and mind, and lengthening life.

Avalokiteshvara is sometimes depicted with eleven heads, 1000 hands, and 1000 eyes on the palms of each hand. It is known as the One Thousand-Armed-and-Eyed Avalokiteshvara. Her thousand eyes allow her to see the sufferings of sentient beings, and her thousand hands allow her to reach out to help them.

Her six qualities are said to break the hindrances respectively of the six realms of existence: hell-beings, pretas, animals, humans, asuras, and devas. These six qualities are listed below.

1.       Great compassion

2.       Great loving-kindness

3.       Lion-courage

4.       Universal light

5.       Leader of devas and human beings

6.       The great omnipresent Brahman


Maitreya Buddha Statue

Maitreya, "The Friendly and Benevolent One," or "One Who Possesses Loving-kindness," is widely adored by the Chinese Buddhists for his willingness to grant help to those who direct their minds towards him. He is also known as Ajita, 'the Unconquerable One' and ranks equal with the other great Bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samanthabadra, Mahasthamaprata and Ksitigarbha. As the next Buddha-to-be he alone enjoys the distinction of being the only Bodhisattva recognized and popularly accepted by both Mahayanist and Theravada countries.

Although he is, strictly speaking, still a Bodhisattva of the ninth stage, the tenth being that of a fully Enlightened Buddha, he is often worshipped as a Buddha in anticipation of his becoming the next Blessed One in the future. Both as Bodhisattva and Buddha he now resides in the Tusita Heaven, where all the Buddha-to-be will always reside; pending their appearance as Buddha on earth to save mankind and thereby traversing the tenth and final stage or 'Bhumi', to attain Supreme Buddhahood for the sake of benefitting all sentient beings.

Generally the Chinese worship him for wealth and happiness and there are those who even believe strongly that he is able to bequeath them with children as one of his most popular forms is that with five children surrounding him. However the images of him that are found in the temples normally depict a fat genial laughing figure with a mountainous belly, in a sitting posture, and having a large bag beside him.

Maitreya Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the 1st day of the 1st moon of the Chinese lunar calendar which coincides with the Chinese New Year Day, a day of joy in which all families traditionally keep pure and holy by avoiding the eating of any meat.

Because of his appearance, many people choose to call him 'The Laughing Buddha'. The future Buddha, called Maitreya, always portrayed as a laughing Buddha, is waiting in Heaven to come to earth and continue Buddhist teachings.


Dragons Statue

   

Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspiciouspowers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck.

The dragon is a symbol of the Chinese nation. The modern poet and scholar Wen Yiduo (1899-1946) said that the dragon was a fabricated creature. The pictures of dragons people see today are all like what Wang Fu of the Han Dynasty depicted. He said: "A dragon has horns like a deer, a head like a camel, eyes like a ghost, a neck like a snake, a belly like a clam, scales like a carp, ears like an ox, palms like a tiger, and talons like an eagle.”

The Dragon is depicted with a horse's head and a snake's tail. It also bears “the three joints” and “the nine resemblances.” The three joints are head-shoulder joint; shoulder-breast joint; and the breast-tail joint. The nine resemblances are enumerated as the following: its horns resemble those of a stag; head that of a camel; eyesthose of a demon; neck that of a snake; belly that of a clam; scales those of a carp; clawsthose of an eagle; paws those of a tiger; and ears those of a cow. Upon his head he has a thing like a broad Holliness (a big lump), called [chimu]. If a dragon has no [chimu], he cannot ascend to the sky.

Chinese dragons were considered to be physically concise. Of the 117 scales, 81 are of the yang essence (positive) while 36 are of the yin essence (negative). Initially, the dragon was benevolent but the Buddhists introduced the concept of malevolent influence among some dragons. Just as water destroys, they said, so can some dragons destroy via floods, tidal waves and storms. They suggested that some of the worst floods were believed to have been the result of a mortal upsetting a dragon.

Many pictures of oriental dragons show a flaming pearlunder their chin. The pearl is associated with wealth, good luck, and prosperity.


The Thousand-Armed-and-Eyed Avalokiteshvara Statue

Known as “Jou Mae Kwan Im" in Thai, the Thousand-Armed-and-Eyed Bodhisattva is another manifestation of the Lord Avalokiteshvara. A statue of this Bodhisattva is placed inside the basement shrine of the Nine-Tier Pagoda. It is made of aromatic redolent wood from China.

Legend says, at the beginning of her Bodhisattva career, she vowed: "Should I ever become disheartened in saving sentient beings; may my body shatter into thousand pieces!" She was prompted to resolve this way due to her overwhelming great compassion and determination to rescue sentient beings from samsara. Because of this, she is also known as the Great Compassionate One.             
                In the course of her Bodhisattvahood, she transported (by giving the Dharma teachings) the beings of the three lower realms (hell, pretas, and animals), to the pure land, for three times. Expecting that by now the lower realms must have become empty of sentient beings, she looked down but to her dismay, she saw countless beings were still flooding the lower realms. In a moment of exasperation, she became so disheartened that she thought that it is impossible to help sentient beings. And true to her vow, her body shattered into 1000 pieces and she suffered great pain and agony. Despite this, she consciously beseeched the Buddhas for help.

Buddha Amitabha appeared before her and said, “O the child of a noble family, do not lament but renew your Bodhisattva vows.” In so saying this, all the broken parts of her body were joined together and the Buddha Amitabha blessed her with 1000 arms with an eye each on every palm. Then with renewed vows and vigor she set out to help all sentient beings attain nirvana.

Because of her multi hands and eyes, she is fully equipped with all the tools to guide the sentient beings nirvana. The only thing, we as devotee, need to have is faith in her and accept her as the only hope against hope in this era of degrading human qualities.


NIO GUARDIANS (BENEVOLENT KINGS) Statues

PROTECT ENTRANCE GATE AT TEMPLES

Kongorikishi and Nio are the two wrath-filled and muscular guardians of the Buddha, standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in China, Japan and Korea, in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. They are manifestations of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani protector deity and are part of the Mahayana pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with the historical Buddha to protect him.

Naraen Kongo also called Agyo in Japanese, is a symbol of overt violence: he wields a vajra mallet "vajra-pani" (a diamond club, thunderbolt stick, or sun symbol) and bares his teeth. His mouth is depicted as being in the shape necessary to form the "ah" sound, leading to his alternate name, "Agyo". Naraen Kongo is Narayeon geumgang in Korean, Nàluóyán jingang in Mandarin Chinese, and Na la diên kim cuong in Vietnamese.

Misshaku Kongo also called Ungyo in Japanese, is depicted either bare-handed or wielding a sword. He symbolizes latent strength, holding his mouth tightly shut. His mouth is rendered to form the sound "hum" or "Un", leading to his alternate name "Ungyo". Misshaku Kongo is Miljeok geumgang in Korean, Mìji jingang in Mandarin Chinese, and Mat tích kim cuong in Vietnamese. It is equivalent to Guhyapada.

        Buddhism began in India, and then became part of Chinese culture. Around 550 A.D. Buddhism was introduced into Japan through Korea. This non-native religion became an important part of Japanese culture during the Nara period (710-790 A. D.), especially among the aristocracy.

Hindu Gods incorporated into Buddhism as protectors against evil spirits. If you look at their mouths, you will notice that one has its mouth open and the other has its mouth closed, said to represent life and death, the beginning and the end. The most famous Nio can be found at the entrance gate of Mahapanya Vidayalai University compound. The Nio (Benevolent Kings) are a pair of protectors who commonly stand guard outside the temple gate at Mahayana Buddhist temples, one on either side of the entrance. In Japan, the gate itself is often called the Nio-mon (literally Nio Gate). At Shinto shrines, however, the Nio guardians are replaced with a pair of koma-inu (shishi lion-dogs) or with two foxes. These mythical and magical shrine guardians are commonly (but not always) depicted with similar iconography -- one with mouth open, the other closed

The Nio’s fierce and threatening appearance is said to ward off evil spirits and keep the temple grounds free of demons and thieves. In some accounts, the Nio were said to have followed and protected the Historical Buddha when he traveled throughout India. They have since been adopted by the Japanese into the Japanese Buddhist pantheon. Each is named after a particular cosmic sound. The open-mouth figure is called “Agyo,” who is uttering the sound “ah,” meaning birth. His close-mouth partner is called “Ungyo,” who sounds “un” or “om,” meaning death. Other explanations for the opened/closed mouth include: 

•              Mouth opens to scare off demons, closed to shelter/keep in the good spirits.

•              Represent Alpha & Omega, Beginning & End, and Birth & Death.

One with mouth open, the other with mouth closed.

They represent the Vajra god in two forms; one is masculine with mouth tightly closed; the other is feminine with mouth open.


Chinese guardian lions Statues

The statues of 2 white lions are located on either side of the stairs that lead to the main temple premises and they were carved on white marble by Vietnamese workers.

Chinese guardian lionsare known as imperial guardian lion or stone lions. They are believed to have powerful, mythic, and protective powers and have traditionally stood in front of ChineseImperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials. The lions are always created in pairs, with the male playing with a ball and the female with a cub.

Etymology

Guardian lions are referred to numerous manners depending on language and context. In Chinese they may be called:

  • Stone lion(Shíshī): reference in a secular objective manner and less commonly:
  • Auspicious lion(Ruìshī): respecting reference to the Tibetan Snow Lionor with context to good fortune
  • Fortuitous lion(fúshī): reference in context to good fortune
  • Buddha's or Buddhist lion(fóshī) reference in a religious context to the lion as protector of Buddha

Fossilized White Snake

            

The present “White Serpent Reliquary” was later offered to the Abbot by a man as the symbol of the Dragon. The man offered this because he dreamt a white serpent assisting the Abbot to develop the Thavara Temple.  The miracle of this reliquary which can cure diseases by her toxic saliva is well known.  This White Serpent Reliquary is preserved as the sacred sanctuary of the white she-cobra. Visitors can visit this reliquary in the Thavara Temple. Many tourists flock in every year to pay her respects, especially during the Annual Vegetarian Festival. The favorite flavors of the White Serpent spirit are flowers, oil and perfumes. When visitors apply aromatic oil or lotion to her, the serpent image will immediately look alive. This serpent have been aestivated for thousands of years until she was fossilized into a white stone. This could be the rare case in Thailand.

The fact about this was many years back one Businessman from Singapore prayed and wished before the “White Serpent Reliquary” containing the fossilized white snake, to be cured from his stomachache which had been troubling him for the last ten years.  Following this visit, he was cured and was convinced that the White Serpent saved him from an imminent death. Thus as a token of gratitude he devoted several millions of Baht to the building of the Nine-tier Peace Pagoda at the Thavara Temple.  And with additional financial contributions coming in the latter days, the Peace Pagoda saw off its funding strands. The construction was completed in 2006 (B.E.2549) and today it stands majestically tall overlooking the City of HatYai.


Paekong Shrine

The God of Land, commonly known as “Lord of Land”, “Land Master” or “Land Divinity”, may be the lowest-ranking and most unnoticed god of all divinities, but it’s one of the most-widely worshipped gods among the Chinese people. In the past, nearly all households enshrined the God of Land, with temples of various sizes dedicated to the god scattered in urban and rural areas, attracting a large number of pilgrims.

The worship of Land God stems from the worship of land in remote antiquity. In ancient agricultural society, land was held in high esteem, because it produces agriculture, food and clothing. At that time, earth was piled up and respected as a god, to whom offerings were given and homage was paid. The Chinese character “tu” (earth, land) is shaped like a pile of earth on the ground.

The earliest land god in China was called “she” and sacrificial ceremonies in honor of the god were called “she ji”. These terms were recorded in the Classic of Poetry. The earliest land god was just a symbolic earth pile. Along with the development of social life, the color of nature worshipping gradually faded away and a lot of social functions were given to the God of Land, which became more and more personified. The earliest personified land god was Jiang Ziwen of the Han Dynasty, who was worshipped as the Land God of the Zhongshan Mountain in the Three Kingdoms Period.

There’s a roughly unified image of the God of Land enshrined by the people. It’s a benign-looking old man with gray hair and white beard, wearing a long robe and a black hat. In folk culture, a spouse called “Land Grandma” or “Land Granny” has been created to accompany the God of Land.


Nine-Storey Peace Pagoda

This nine-storey pagoda is located at Mahapanya Vidayalai College campus, about 2km east of the center of Hatyai City-province of Songkhla, an International Buddhist college using English as the medium of instruction. It is constructed just beside Tesco Lotus.


Lord Brahma Statue

In Thailand, the Lord Brahma images are represented in many places and are highly venerated by Buddhists. Lord Brahma is known for his great merit (boon)-giving power.

 


The Biggest Resonant Bell

In 2004 (B.E. 2547), the biggest resonant bell of Thailand was installed according to the Mahayana Buddhism system of faith. In all temples, these kinds of bells are rung to assemble the Sangha for prayers and practices and the sound even invokes the gods and nature to bring peace and happiness in the area. As the ringing of the bell is heard, which is normally rung while chanting a prayer, it is taught by the Buddha, that even the hell beings will be relieved from the sufferings for a while. The larger the bell is, more powerful it becomes! In building this enormous bell, it was the present Abbot who had to travel up to Vietnam. The bell is 3.80 meters high, with a diameter of 1.80 meters. It weighs 5.5 tons. It is hung on the ceiling of the Floor VIII of the Nine-tier Peace Pagoda. The bell’s sound could be heard within the radius of a kilometer from the temple.


'Wei-To Pusa' or “Prawatphotisatawa” Statue

Wei-To is an important Deva or God in the Chinese Pantheon as his image is always present in all temples as the 'Entry Guardian'. He is the General-in-Supreme of the thirty-two heavenly generals who come under the Four Heavenly Kings and has earned such titles as the 'Protector of the Buddhist Faith', the 'Protector of Monasteries' and the 'Protector of Dharma Books'. In all temples where his image is found, he is always placed with his back to the statue of Maitreya Buddha (Mi-Lo Fwo) so that he faces the Main or Grand Hall known as the 'Tai Hung Pao Tien' where the main images of the temple is installed.

According to the teaching, Wei-To was a son of a heavenly king who was so virtuous that when Sakyamuni Buddha was entering Nirvana, he instructed the prince to guard the Buddha Dharma. Thus it became his duty to protect the members of the Sangha whenever they are disturbed in their cultivation by the retinue of Mara, the Tempter. And whenever a conflict arises among religious Orders, General Wei-to will discharge his duty to help bring about a peaceful settlement. His Sanskrit name is Skanda.

Quite often his images are also found in small shrines located at turning points of roads so as to afford protection against evil. It is very easy for people to be impressed with his looks, which has a military bearing. He is always portrayed as a young and good-looking man clad in full armor and headgear of a general, standing and leaning upon an impressive looking sword or gnarled staff with both hands, or he could be holding a scepter-shaped defensive weapon.

Just as Maitreya, who as a Bodhisattva has earned the mark of respect of a Buddha, Wei-To, though only a Deva or God, is very often addressed as a Bodhisattva or 'Wei-To P'usa'. This is attributed to the prediction that he will in the future become the Buddha Rucika or 'Lou-Chi Fwo' ' the last of the thousand Buddhas in our world period.

Wei-To is also referred to as Vajrapani, a very popular Bodhisattva among Tibetans for both them are worshiped as the Rain God and dubbed the Thunderbolt-Bearer. They are different since Wei-To is yet to attain enlightenment. His birthday falls on the 3rd Day of the 6th Month, which is hardly celebrated in a grand scale.


Chinese Cemetery

This graveyard is located on the left side of the small water pool or main entrance of Mahapanya Vidayalai College. These statues of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha are mainly built for storing bones and ashes left after cremation of a dead person.  There are 224 statues. The back of every statue has a square opening which is sealed after inserting the remains from cremation.

The Abbot of the temple made Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha statues for storing bones because Kshitigarbha is regarded as the care taker of hell beings and has a deep relationship with beings of the earth – humans, and especially with the hungry ghosts and hell beings. This is mainly because these ghosts and hell beings are the most difficult to rise into a more fortunate condition due to their previous unwholesome actions. Thus Kshitigarbha has been known as the Teacher of the Dark Regions because of his past vow to save them all.

 

                                                 sabbe satta avera hontu (may all beings be free from enmity and danger)

·         sabbe satta abyapajjha hontu (may all beings be free from mental suffering)

·       sabbe satta anigha hontu (may all beings be free from physical suffering)

·  sabbe satta dukkha muccantu (may all beings be free from suffering)

·                       sabbe satta sukhi attanam pariharantu (may all beings protect themselves joyfully)

                                   

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Mahapanya Vidayalai, 635/1 Thammonovithi Road, Hatyai, Songkhla, Thailand, 90110 Tel/Fax: +66-74-243558

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