Many Buddhas

The Buddha statues on the altar always serve as a reminder of our own original Buddha nature. If you look closely you will notice many variations of pose and style. These variations are not meant to suggest separate individual Buddhas, but rather represent aspects of a unified whole. In our main dharma room is Shakyamuni Buddha (K. Sogamuni Bul). He is the historical Buddha, born prince Siddhartha Gautama of the Shakya clan in northeastern India in the fifth century BCE. The hand position or mudra, which is most often associated with Shakyamuni Buddha, is "calling the earth to witness." The right hand hangs over the right knee, with the fingers pointing towards the earth, while the left hand lays palm up in his lap. Just after his enlightenment Buddha was challenged as to his right to sit on the small piece of ground that he was occupying. He called the earth to witness his many good deeds of past lives and so justified his seat in that place.

In the pagoda we have a beautiful example of Vairocana Buddha (K. Birojana Bul), the Cosmic Buddha who spreads the light of Buddhist Truth in every direction. The Buddha who embodies the Wisdom of Universal Law, Vairocana is the central figure of a trinity that includes the bodhisattvas Manjusri and Samantabhadra, who attend him. Vairocana is usually depicted with his hands in the mudra of the "knowledge fist." The right hand forms the "diamond fist" and the left index finger, called the "diamond finger," is inserted into the right fist. The mudra of the "knowledge fist" dispels darkness. The left index finger represents the world of sentient beings, and the surrounding right hand, the protection of the world of Buddhas.

Amitabha Buddha (K. Amita Bul) emanates from the meditation of the primordial Buddha. He is the Buddha of Infinite Light and presides over the Western Pure Land. In India, where Buddhism began, people found relief from the extreme heat of the day when the sun reached the western sky. Thus, Amitabha's paradise came to be associated with the west. Amitabha has vowed to save all beings that call on him. He assists them by admitting them to his Pure Land, where they will have no hindrances to achieving enlightenment.

Bhaisagya Buddha (K. Yaksayorae Bul) is the Medicine Buddha. He provides relief not only from disease and misfortune, but also from ignorance, which is the greatest illness. Although Buddhas are not typically depicted holding anything in their hands, Bhaisagya Buddha holds a medicine bowl. Images of Bhaisagya Buddha closely resemble those of Amitabha except that Amita Bul is usually golden, while the Korean Medicine Buddha is almost always white. (In Tibetan iconography it is always blue.)

Maitreya Buddha (K. Miruk Bul), the Future Buddha, is the embodiment of love and compassion. He lives in the Tusita Heaven where he waits to be born on this earth. Most people are familiar with the Chinese Maitreya, the jolly, fat, laughing Buddha. The Korean counterpart is thin and easily identified in the "posture of reflection." He sits with his right elbow resting on his right knee. His right foot or ankle is on his left knee. The left hand rests on the right ankle or foot. His head is slightly inclined, suggesting contemplation. The index and middle fingers of his right hand are slightly inflected and just touch the face. We have a beautiful picture of a famous Korean statue of Miruk Bul at the Diamond Hill Zen Monastery.