This is the continuation of my series of blogs showing different postures of the Buddha. This week we are looking at some more Standing Buddhas. Each of them depict an episode in the life of the Buddha. The first one is of the Buddha holding an alms bowl. This is when he went back to visit his father’s palace. The next morning he went out on an alms round. This image is for people born on Wednesday morning. In the image on the right, the Buddha is meditating over the corpse of a slave girl. In his left hand is a walking stick. He takes her shroud to use as robes for himself.
The image on the left is called “Receiving Grass Bundles”. The Buddha is standing straight with his left arm on his left side. His right hand is reaching forward with his palm facing the front. He is receiving bundles of grass to use as a seat while he meditates under the bodhi tree. The second image is called “Stopping the relatives from fighting”. His right arm is raised at chest level with palm facing forward. His left arm is hanging down against his left side. The Buddha has just returned from heaven and stops his relatives arguing over the rights of water running in a river between their properties.
The image on the left is important for people born on a Sunday. He is standing with his right hand placed over his left. For seven days after enlightenment, the Buddha sat and meditated under the tree. He then stood and faced the tree for a further seven days while he considered the suffering of all living things. In the second image he is standing with his hands pointing forward as if trying to stop something. This image is called “Stopping the Ocean” or “Causing the Waters to Subside”. It refers to an incident when the Buddha was invited to stay in a hut near the banks of a river that was about to burst its banks. The Buddha raised his hands which caused the water to subside. This image is similar to another called “Descent from Tavatimsa Heaven”. However, in that one, the thumb and index finger of each hand are joined.
I have saved an unusual Buddha image for last. The one on the left is “Buddha Thinking Deeply”. His arms are crossed at chest level. It tells the story of after the enlightenment of the Buddha and he returns to the Bodhi tree. He is wondering how he will explain to people the cause of all suffering. This image is for people born on Fridays. The image on the right is rather unusual. It is called “Bidding Farewell to Vesali”. It is unusual as he is looking back over his shoulder. He is taking a last look at Vesali as he know he will soon die and will never return.
In part one of this series of photos showing the different postures of the Buddha, I showed you two different ways he sat down cross-legged. Today I want to show you a more unusual way of sitting. They call it sitting in the Western fashion. But first, the Buddha image on the left. Here he is kneeling down with his left palm facing up on his left thigh. His right hand is placing the empty tray on the water. Like many of the images we see in temples, this is illustrating an episode in his life. This is where the tray manages to float upstream without sinking. The image on the right is the Buddha image for people born on Wednesday evening. This is my image though I don’t see it too often. The Buddha is receiving a honeycomb from a monkey and a water pot from an elephant. There is a good example of this image at Wat Pho in Bangkok.
Here are two more Buddha images showing him sitting in the Western fashion. These ones are not often seen. The first image shows the Buddha seated with his left hand in his lap and his right hand at chest level with the thumb and index finger joined to form a circle. This illustrates a miracle where the Buddha created a replica of himself. The second image shows the Buddha travelling in a boat. His hands are palm down on his thighs. Sometimes his right hand is open at chest level.
Here are two more different postures of the Buddha. The one on the left shows him standing. He is joining the three worlds of heaven, earth and hell. The one on the right shows him walking to Sangassa.
This last Buddha image for today is really unusual if you look closely at his feet. At first I thought it illustrated an incident where the Buddha was desperate to use the rest room. But apparently I was wrong. The Buddha is standing and making an impression of his right foot on the ground. This explains how we sometimes see Buddha’s footprints at some temples.
I will be continuing this series of different postures of the Buddha at thai-blogs.com soon. I have some more unusual Buddha images to share with you.
Whenever I visit temples in Thailand, I often take pictures of the principal Buddha image. But, quite often, Buddha images housed in the cloisters can be just as interesting. Traditionally, the Buddha images recount episodes from the Buddha’s life. Though, quite often, the same images are used again and again. However, if you look closely then you might notice some subtle differences. Take a look at these two classic images of the Buddha meditating. He is sitting cross-legged on a lotus leaf. His palms are facing upwards with the right hand on top of the left hand. Identical images? No, look more closely at how the legs are crossed. The one on the left is called the “heroic posture” and the right leg is on top of the left with both soles facing up. The right image is called the “adamantine posture” and each foot rests on top of the other thigh with the soles facing up. There is in fact a third way of sitting which I will show you later at thai-blogs.com.
Eating Rice Pudding and Accepting Rice Pudding from the Milkmaid
Resolving to Become a Monk and Considering Food in an Alms Bowl
Eating from a Bowl and Preaching his first Sermon
Always look carefully to see the position of hands and feet. Are the palms facing up or down or towards the viewer? The next time you visit a temple in Thailand, take a closer look at the Buddha images as many of them have a story to tell. I will continue this series of different Buddha images at thai-blogs.com soon.
I took all of these pictures at Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom. Another good place to study different postures of the Buddha is at the Marble Temple in Bangkok. Background information can be found in an excellent book called “Gestures of the Buddha”, by K.I. Matics, published by Chulalongkorn University Press.
There are literally thousands of temples around Thailand. However, you will only find a handful of them written about in the guidebooks. There are many beautiful and unique temples that don’t get a mention nor are they visited much by tourists. Last weekend I went to Wat Kratum Sua Pla which is in Prawet District, to the east of Bangkok. I go to this area a lot, though mainly for the shopping malls at Seacon Square and Seri Center. Another major attraction is the King Rama IX Park. There isn’t really much else, but I was really excited to discover Wat Kratum Sua Pla.
For me the highlight of this temple is the 80 Poses of Buddha Museum. If you are as fascinated as I am about Buddhism then you will love this place. There is a bilingual sign in front of each of the Buddha images which decribes the background for each pose. You may not realize it, but there are a set number of poses which have all been documented. When new Buddha images are made there are strict guidelines that have to be followed. I think normally there are only a handful of poses that we see in most temples. So, it is really interesting to see so many different and rare kinds of poses illustrating different episodes in the life of the Buddha. There were also some really unusual images. Like the standing on one foot image. The Buddha had placed one foot on the other foot in order to make a firm footprint. There were also a number of reclining Buddhas. I always thought they were depicting the final moments of the Buddha before he died. But, this isn’t necessarily true. They also illustrate other occasions. I will talk more about these in another blog.
Wat Kratum Sua Pla is also famous for the wax models of revered Buddhist monks such as Luang Pu Thong, Luang Pu Ophasi and Luang Pu Ruesi Lingdam. Then there are also two important shrines that attract many worshipers. They are the sacred Chao Pho Sua Shrine (above) and Kuan Yin Shrine. Another highlight for this temple is the fish sanctuary where you can feed the catfish. These guys are really gigantic. A word of warning. Don’t get too near when you throw them the fish food. They do thrash around quite a bit and you will get very wet. You will find the temple along On Nut Road. If you are starting at On Nut Sky Train Station, it is about 10 kms down this road. You also have to cross over Srinakarin Road. I have marked it on ThailandPhotoMap.com for you.