Jade Buddha Temple, Bangkok, December 2015
Buddha with oval head
成都 昭觉寺 Chengdu, Zhaojue Monastery
Gyantse Kumbum, statue of Yum Chenmo / Prajnaparamita in one of the chapels
Here is some more information about Gyantse Kumbum, excerpted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palcho_Monastery:
The Palcho Monastery or Pelkor Choede Monastery or Shekar Gyantse is the main monastery in Gyantse, Tibet, next to the Dzong or fort. It is most notable for its Kumbum, which has 108 chapels in its four floors.
The Tsuklakhang, the main temple of the monastery was built 1418-1428 by Rabten Kunzang Phak, the second Prince of Gyantse, who was a devotee of Kedrub Je (1385-1438), one of Tsongkapa’s leading disciples later recognised as the 1st Panchen Lama. It became an important centre of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
In 1904, the town and monastery were attacked by British soldiers and, although most of the damage was later restored, bullet holes from this attack remain in the monastery to this day.
It was partially destroyed in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese rule.
It was ransacked again during the Cultural Revolution, but has since been largely restored.
…Architecturally, Pelkhor monastery is a fusion of Han, Tibetan and Nepali architecture. The most striking architecture in the complex, a symbol of Gyantse, is the Bodhi Dagoba (Tibetan name: Pelkhor Choede), popularly called as the ‘Kumbum’. It is a 32 metres (100 ft) high structure, a nine-tier building with 108 gates (108 interpreted as nine-tier structure representing space multiplied by the time element of 12 zodiac signs), and 76 chapels and shrines; out of the nine floors, the first five are square in shape while the rest are circular giving it a pyramidal appearance. It is also given the name “the Ten Thousand Buddha Pagodas”, as it has enshrined about ten thousand figures of Buddhas as images and murals. It has hundred chapels overlapping each other, which is called the ‘tower upon tower’ structure. The chapels have the finest display of Tibetan art in “vibrant colour and naturalistic style”; in the faces of the murals Chinese images are discerned. Three Buddhist sects namely, Sakyapa, Kadampa and Gelugpa are represented here. It is considered the largest of the three Kumbums in Tibet; the other two Kumbams are the Jonang Kumbum and Ching Riwoche.
A couple of photos that I like by other Flickr members are here:
Excavations of early temple structures at Sarnath, 13 km outside Varanasi
The First Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma
The Buddha began his first sermon by revealing the Middle Way between self-indulgence and asceticism:
Monks, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth into homelessness. What two? The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
And what, monks, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision… which leads to Nibbana? It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This, monks, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. (The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, p. 1844)
The Dhamek Stupa, c. 500 CE, said to mark the spot of the deer park where the Buddha gave his first sermon.
Mulagandhakuti Vihara, Buddhist temple at Sarnath, where a coffer contains relics of the Buddha
Bodhi Tree at Sarnath, grown from a cutting of the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya.
My driver and guide to Sarnath, Manoj. He was a student of Ayurvedic Medicine at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, and drove a cab in the summer. At the end of the tour he turned around and asked, “Are you happy?” Yes, I was.
My visit to Sarnath, site of the Deer Park (you can still see deer there) where Buddha delivered his first sermon to five monks, was short but sweet. My stomach had felt queasy that morning, so after a bland breakfast of idli and dal I hopped in an autorickshaw with my guide for the morning, Manoj. The ride was cool, but after entering the park the sunlight was relentless and dizzying, the heat intense. Add the ever-present “guides” that hound you every step of the way, and I wilted under the pressure.
Still, it was a moving experience. I closed my eyes, listened to the whispering breeze, imagined serene deer and green, cool grass, and felt quiet inside for the first time since coming to Varanasi. The visit lasted about 2 hours at most. I didn’t see the site’s most famous artifact, the Lion Capital of Ashoka, because the Archaeological Museum was closed that day, but I did see the massive and imposing stupa built over the supposed spot where Buddha had delivered that first teaching so long ago.
My mildly upset stomach would later become heat exhaustion and major intestinal trauma. What was left of my final day in Varanasi would mostly be spent looking up at the ceiling fan in my hotel room.
Sera Monastery, Lhasa – mural in entrance porch to the assembly hall