Buddah question

Mar 8th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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Buddah question

I have a semi travel related question! I know that Buddhist prayer wheels are always spinned clockwise and you walk clockwise around a monument etc but someone today asked me what the real significance of that is and I really couldn't give a solid answer. Anyone know?
jules39 is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 12:42 PM
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You're supposed to keep your right shoulder towards the Buddha. I think the right side is considered more auspicious than the left, like your head is good and foot bad. However, in China they don't do this, you can go round either way, which can lead to nasty traffic jams at the back of the statues....
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 12:54 PM
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The simplest explanation is that on the prayer wheels are mantras (prayer hymns). To read it, they need to be turned clockwise.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 03:52 PM
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I've met a fair number of people in Thailand who think you're supposed to go counter-clockwise, so there is no hard rule. It's more about local customs and manners than anything to do with Buddhism. The practice of Buddhism in many countries (perhaps especially Thailand) has more to do with local superstitions than it does with anything Buddha taught.
MichaelBKK is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 12:59 PM
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BTW, my response is only about Tibetian Buddhism. Buddhism in "central" China doesn't have prayer wheels.

I don't know enough about the Thai/Burmese branch.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 04:44 PM
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Not common in Thailand, in fact I haven't seen one here but then again I haven't been to all the temples!
Hanuman is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 06:58 PM
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Buddhism isn't a homogenised religion as most think it is. The founder, Gautama Siddarhta, was born roughly 500 years before Christ. Through out the ages, it has evolved and fused with local cultures. Here are the offsprings ..

- China's Buddhism, a fusion of Confuscism, Taoism and Buddhism
- Tibetian Buddhism, karma-centric (hence, they are into circles and wheels), the most famous version. Thanks to Dalai Lama and Richard Gere.
- Sri Langka Buddhism
- Thai Buddhism, peppered with hindu Ramayana mysticism. Notice monks have their eyebrows shaved but this is not done anywhere else.
- Burmese Buddhism
- Japanese Shinto Buddhism

Nonetheless, wheels or without wheels, the core of Buddha's teaching is - taking the center path, or do everything in moderation.

That said, there are two earthy things common about Buddhism around the world - lotus flower and prayer oil lamp as symbolic items. Lotus bloom symbolises belief that there's goodness in everyone - something beautiful can sprung from murky depths. And oil lamp symbolises a ray of hope in the darkness moments.

My dad is a Buddhism purist. So I am used to get an earful everytime I ask about it.
TravelTwiddle is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 07:29 AM
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It's true that like any long-lasting religion Buddhism comes in many flavors. But the divide is really between Theravada (the Way of the Elders) and Mahayana (the Greater Vehicle).

Theravada Buddhists follow the earliest texts, hold that individuals are responsible for their own salvation (reaching nirvana), that only monks can be saved in this lifetime, and don't believe in gods or god-like beings. You can tell when you're in a Theravada country (Sri Lanka and southeast Asia), because the only statues in the temples will be of the historical Buddha.

Mahayana Buddhists have added bodhisattvas, the past and future buddhas, the buddha of compassion, the guardian deities etc. etc. You can tell Mahayana Buddhist temples (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam) because of all the statues of people other than the Buddha. Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Zen Buddhism, are forms of Mahayana Buddhism.

I agree that Buddhism as practiced by the laity in countries like Thailand seems to have added a lot of what we might consider superstition to the basic four Noble Truths and Eightfold Way, but I think that's natural.
thursdaysd is offline  
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