"There is only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going
all the way and not starting." Buddha
It is hard to imagine the blissful ignorance of a sheltered life. With modern technology, it's almost impossible to escape the harsh realities of this world, but in ancient times, there once was a privileged young Indian prince who made it all the way to manhood before he discovered that life was not easy; nor was it fair.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born into a wealthy family in Nepal sometime in the 6th century. His early life, spent in a grand palace at the foot of the Himalayan mountains, was one of comfort and privilege.
The restrictions of this easy, but reclusive life only served to fire young Prince Siddhartha's curiosity, so he began to make tentative forays into the world outside the palace walls. The poverty, death and disease Siddhartha encountered shocked and disturbed him. Overcome with guilt and remorse, he abandoned his comfortable life and began a quest to lead a more spiritual life.
Buddha in a private garden in Toronto
Years of studying religious practice and meditation followed. When answers to his spiritual questions did not materialize, Siddhartha redoubled his efforts, fasting nearly to starvation and refusing even water.
Gradually, Siddhartha came to realize that deprivation was not bringing him any closer to spiritual clarity. So one day, Siddhartha sat down to meditate under a Bodhi tree. As he sat quietly meditating, an evil spirit visited Siddhartha threatening to lay claim the enlightenment he had struggled to achieve. Siddhartha touched his hand to the Earth and asked it to bear witness that enlightenment was indeed his own. In that moment, he achieved nirvana and became a Buddha or 'one who is awake'.
During the remaining years of his life, Buddha travelled widely sharing his wisdom. He taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which were to become the foundation of Buddhism.
A Meditation Buddha in a private garden in Mississauga, ON
As a symbol of peace and quiet mediation, a Buddha has become a popular garden ornament in recent years. For many, gardening offers a welcome refuge from daily stresses. It's a place to dig in the dirt and reconnect with nature in a very tactile way. It isn't surprising that a garden seems like a very appropriate setting for a statue that feels so calm and serene.
'Buddha' means 'Awakened One' or the 'Enlightened One'. Buddha statuary come in a variety of poses each illustrating spiritual qualities possessed by the holy man.
A Meditation Buddha sits with its legs crossed in a single or double Lotus pose. As a symbol of peace and tranquility, the eyes of these Buddhas are usually closed or half closed.
Buddha in a garden in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Each Buddha has specific hand gestures or mudras. When the thumbs and the finger tips of a Buddha touch forming an oval, it symbolizes the turning of attention inward. The elongated ears speak to a Buddha's gift for hearing even the smallest of sounds.
Buddha in a private garden in Mississauga, ON
The sleep of a Dreaming Buddha is filled with hopes for peace and a wish to live an enlightened life.
A Reclining Buddha expresses relaxation and a detachment from worldly desires. This Buddha is sometimes called the Nirvana Buddha because it is a depiction of Buddha entering a state of nirvana.
A Medicine Buddha holds a medicine bowl and offers a branch of a healing plant as a blessing. In traditional Buddhism it is believed that Buddha shared a knowledge of medicine with his followers.
A Garden Buddha sits on a bed of lotus blossoms, which are a symbol of purity.
Private garden in Dartmouth, N.S.
"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, but live in the present moment."
An open palm expresses compassion and acceptance. It also offers protection from fear.
But here's the thing. There is a somewhat decorative nature to the use of Buddha statuary in gardens and that has got me wondering: Is it in poor taste to take a figure, that for many people carries a religious significance, and use it in a largely decorative way?
Here's an example of where things can go amiss. I have read that placing a Buddha on the ground could be offensive to a Buddhist. A person of this faith would believe 'Enlightened One' should always be elevated even if it is only symbolically.
I find it hard to imagine that a person who places a Buddha in their garden would intend any disrespect. Surely this choice of statuary expresses a certain affinity with some core Buddhist tenants.
So here's my questions: Is there a place for religious sensitivity even in the garden. Or is life too short to worry about the possibility of causing offence?
I'd love to know what you think about putting a Buddha in a garden.
P.S. I will post the winner of the last book draw up next.