Jan 29, 2013

108 places to see before Nirvana is now available in Evergreen Buddhist Bookstore. Located near Chinatown, do grab a copy before buying the goodies and the decoration for this coming Chinese New Year :)

100 Eu Tong Sen Street #03-15/17
Pearls Centre Singapore 059812
Tel: (65) 62206360 Fax: (65) 62219284 Email: egbudcul@singnet.com.sg


Dec 1, 2012

Buy the book now!

After 5 years of preparing this idea of my book, it's now in hard copy for your wonderment!

For Singapore Readers, Contact me at 108b4nirvana@gmail.com to get a better deal!

Apr 21, 2010

Malaysia: Penang, Kek Lok Si, 極樂寺

The Kek Lok Si Temple (Penang Hokkien for "Temple of Sukhavati (Supreme Bliss)" is a Buddhist temple situated in Air Itam in Penang and is one of the best known temples on the island. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.

Mahayana Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals blend into a harmonious whole, both in the temple architecture and artwork as well as in the daily activities of worshippers.

The construction of the temple began in 1890 and was inspired by the chief monk of the Goddess of Mercy Temple at Pitt Street. With the support of the consular representative of China in Penang, the project received the sanction of the Emperor Guangxu, who bestowed a tablet and gift of 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras.

The primary benefactor of the Kek Lok Si Temple in 1906 was none other than Kapitan Chung Keng Quee.

In 1930, the seven storey main pagoda of the temple or the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, was completed. This pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base with a middle tier of Thai design, and a Burmese crown; reflecting the temple's embrace of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

In 2002, a 30.2m bronze statue of the Kuan Yin was completed and opened to public. It replaced the previous white plaster Kuan Yin statue which was damaged due to a fire a few years earlier. The bronze statue is located on the hillside above the pagoda while the head of the previous statue which survived the fire is preserved and placed on the right hand corner of the new statue.

As the fairly recent date mentioned above may suggest, the temple is still growing. Generous donations from the affluent Chinese community allow the construction of additional buildings. The current focus is to create an ornate shelter for the Kuan Yin statue. 16 carved dragon pillars are being built, the concentric roof will be inspired by classical Ming architecture, reminiscent of the roof of Prayer Hall for Good Harvest in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Most visitors approach the temple as they ascend a stairway, roofs of which provide shelter to a multitude of shops selling souvenirs and other - mostly secular - commodities. They pass by a so-called Liberation Pond, following the buddhist tradition of merit-making, turtles may be released into freedom, albeit a limited one.

The temple itself consists of several large halls for assembly and prayer, here, statues of Buddha, various Bodhisattvas as well as Chinese gods are being venerated. Intricate woodwork, often brightly painted and a plethora of lanterns add to the visual impression.

There is an inclined lift to carry pilgrims and visitors further uphill. On the elevated platform, you can find a pond filled with Koi and the towering statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, which can also be regarded as Avalokitheshvara, Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kek_Lok_Si

Apr 4, 2010

Thailand: Mae Hong Son, Wat Phra That Doi Kongmu

Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu on the top of Doi Kongmu Hill only 3 km to the west of the provincial town contains a relic of the Buddha and comprises two pagodas of Shan style. This temple reflects the strong influence of the Burmese. The highlights of this attraction are the two lavishly decorated pagodas.

The temple dates from around the time of the village's upgrade to a city in 1874. One of the huge chedis contains the ashes of a revered monk that were bought from Burma by two devotees. The other houses the ashes of Mae Hong Son's first governor, Phaya Singhanat Racha.

Constructed by Phaya Singhanatracha, the first King of Mae Hong Son, the hilltop temple offers a wonderful view of the town and surrounding mountains and valleys. Behind the two chedis, nestled into the base of the crown of the hill, is the large rambling open-fronted wiharn containing the altar. On the top the ubosot, a chedi and a standing Buddha at the top of the mountain.

A steep road leads further up to the crown of the hill where the ubosot is located. In front of the ubosot is a large slender standing Buddha image. A small chedi and several cenotaphs stand next to the ubosot. In front of the standing Buddha, a boat rowed by two monks and two lay people carries the Buddhist wheel.

Off to one side of the road to the top is a parking area lined with souvenir stalls to keep your shopping itch scratch and a tiny post office to send a post card to your love ones.

It takes only a few minutes to go by car to the hilltop or hours depending on your stamina to climb the stairs, which compensates you with panoramic view of the town and its beautiful surroundings. Reaching the temple on foot means taking one of two paths. From Wat Phra Non at the foot of the hill, a stairway leads halfway up the hill and then joins the other path which starts at Wat Muo Taw. This second path is a little easier, as it consists mostly of a zig-zag of ramps with only short stairways at the switch-backs. There are also covered rest stops at each corner.

Mar 31, 2010

China: Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, 靈山大佛 LingShan Da Fuo

Located at the south of the Longshan Mountain, near Mashan town of Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China, the Grand Buddha (simplified Chinese: 灵山大佛; traditional Chinese: 靈山大佛; pinyin: Língshān Dà Fó) is one of the largest Buddha statues in China and also in the world.

At more than 88 metres high, the Grand Buddha at Ling Shan is a bronze Sakyamuni standing Buddha outdoor, weighing over 700 tons. It was completed in the end of 1996.

The 5 stars treatment is in the Brahma Palace. Opulent decor blinded the devotees as if you're stepping into the heaven gazing the Buddha. The whole experience is surreal and what's big is really big.

Besides the Brahma Palace, the next interesting attraction should be the musical fountain that depicts the birth of Buddha. The lotus that opens and closes in the middle of the fountain makes it looks like you're in an amusement park, very entertaining!

All in all, fantastic is under-rated.


Mar 23, 2010

Korea: Gyeongju, Seokguram

The Seokguram Grotto is a hermitage and part of the Bulguksa temple complex. It lies four kilometers east of the temple on Mt. Tohamsan, in Gyeongju, South Korea. It is classified as Nationa Treasure No. 24 by the South Korean government and is located at 994, Jinhyeon-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsanbuk-do. The grotto overlooks the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and rests 750 meters above sea level. In 1962, it was designated the 24th national treasure of Korea. In 1995, Seokguram was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Bulguksa Temple. It exemplifies some of the best Buddhist sculptures in the world.

It is said to have been built by Gim Daeseong and originally called Seokbulsa (석불사, Stone Buddha Temple). Construction began in 742 when Gim Daeseong resigned his position in the king's court or in 751, the 10th year of the reign of King Gyeongdeok of Silla.

The main Buddha is a highly regarded piece of Buddhist art. It is 3.5 meters in height and sits on a 1.34 meter tall lotus pedestal. The Buddha is realistic in form and probably represents the Seokgamoni Buddha, the historic Buddha at the moment of enlightenment. The position of the Buddha's hands symbolizes witnessing the enlightenment. The Buddha has an usnisa, a symbol of the wisdom of the Buddha. The drapery on the Buddha, such as the fan-shaped folds at the crossed-legs of the Buddha, exemplifies Korean interpretations of Indian prototypes. Unlike other Buddhas that have a halo attached to the back of the head, the Buddha at Seokguram creates the illusion of a halo by placing a granite roundel carved with lotus petals at the back wall of the rotunda. The pedestal is made of three parts; the top and bottom are carved with lotus petals while the central shaft consists of eight pillars.

Accompanying the main Buddha, in relief, are three bodhisattvas, ten disciples, and two Hindu gods along the wall of the rotunda. Ten statues of bodhisattvas, saints, and the faithful are located in niches above the bas-reliefs. The ten disciples were disciples of Seokgamoni and are lined five on each side of the Avalokitesvara. Their features suggest a Greek influence. The two bodhisattvas are of Manjusri and Samantabhadra. The two Hindu gods are Brahma and Indra.

The Four Heavenly Kings guard the corridor. There are also images of Vajrapanis, which are guardian figures and they are on the walls of the entrance to the corridor, in the antechamber. Eight Guardian Deities adorn the antechamber.

Another notable figure is the Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It is on the back wall of the rotunda and stands 2.18 meters in height. This figure is the only one of the bas-reliefs facing forward, the others face the side. The Avalokitesvara wears a crown, is dressed in robes and jewelry and holds a vase containing a lotus blossom.

Two statues from the niches and a marble pagoda that was believed to have stood in front of the Avalokitesvara are missing from the grotto and are believed to have been looted by the Japanese.

It is now one of the best known cultural destinations in South Korea. A viewing of the sunrise over the sea is especially popular.

Mar 14, 2010

Thailand: Ayutthaya, Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol is located near the main Ayutthaya ruins and a short distance from the walls of Ayutthaya. It is famed for an impressively large statue of the Reclining Buddha inside the temple compound. Built by King U Thong (Ayutthaya’s first ruler) in 1357, the temple is also known as "Chao Phaya Thai Temple" and has a large Chedi that dominates the skyline. The Chedi was built in 1592 to celebrate King Naresuan’s single-handed defeat of the then Burmese Crown Prince after an elephant back duel. The size of the Chedi was intended to match that of Phu Khao Thong – a Pagoda purportedly built by the Burmese which is visible in the distance from the temple.

The temple became the home of Buddhist monks ordained and trained at the Monastery
of Phra Wanaratanathen in Ceylon (present Sri Lanka). The Sangha group was mainly
engaged in meditation. The king conferred the title of "Right side Supreme Patriarch” to the head of the group, Somdet Phra Wanarat. The monastery became known as “Wat Chao Phya Thai” - The Monastery of the Supreme Patriarch.

In 1592 King Naresuan (r. 1590-1605) defeated the Burmese Army at Nong Sarai by
killing the Burmese Crown Prince in single-handed combat on elephant. In the battle the King and his brother King Ekathotsarot got separated from their army officers. On return to Ayutthaya the King wanted to punish to death his officers, but the Supreme Patriarch intervened and requested the punishment to be suspended; which King Naresuan granted. “The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya” although, state nothing about the construction of the great chedi. It is assumed that, on this occasion, King Naresuan ordered the restoration and enlargement of the temple and the principal chedi. The chedi was named Phra Chedi Chaya Mongkhon. Presumably this celebration gave rise to the temple’s new name, Wat Yai Chaya Mongkhon - The Great Temple of Auspicious Victory.

This is a great site to visit and wander around so give yourself plenty of time for a visit.