Buddhism is one of the most ancient belief systems in the world Buddhism is both a religion and a philosophy only your own understanding saves you from suffering it is practiced by over 350 million people today there are many people who feel attracted to a religion which empowers the human individual I’m going to travel to seven wonders of the Buddhist world seven wonders that give an insight to the long and rich history of Buddhism at each location I’ll meet Buddhists who will help me to understand a different concept that forms the core of Buddhist belief I’m going to explore how it started where it travels and some of the most spectacular monuments built by Buddhists right across the globe and to try to get to the bottom of the attraction of this philosophy for mankind foreclose on 2500 years Buddhism’s numbers grow year-on-year and i’ll be uncovering why as I experience seven modern and ancient wonders of the Buddhist world this is northeastern India where Buddhism began around 500 years before Christ millions of pilgrims come to this country and the sacred city of bodhgaya to visit the place where a young Indian prince underwent a life-changing personal transformation and came to be known as the Buddha I’ve studied the period in history when the Buddha lived for over 20 years and I just loved it because this was such a radical age this was a time when men like the Buddha and Socrates in ancient Greece turned the world of belief upside down instead of focusing on tradition and Convention and ritual they dealt with ethics and the possibilities of the human mind and I’m particularly fascinated to follow in the trail of Buddhism because as the philosophy has traveled through 25 centuries it marked out a path that leads directly from ancient society to the modern world this is maha bodhi the Great Awakening temple in Bodhgaya in northeastern India our first wonder of the Buddhist world the reason bod gar is here at all is because two and a half millennia ago one man had an internal personal revelation while he sat underneath the people tree it’s a very quiet simple beginning to end up with all the face that man was called siddhartha gautama and we’re told he renounced his privileges and family to embark on a rigorous quest a journey to understand the inherent challenges of the human condition sparked by the suffering sorrow and deprivation that he saw all around him it was a long and difficult journey Siddhartha renounced the comforts of the material world he meditated for weeks on end he broke with the status quo in a region that had been dominated by the old gods for the previous thousand years finally he achieved Nirvana what we loosely translator’s enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or the enlightened one the buddha according to buddhist scriptures made his way to this spot and determined not to move until he found an answer to the world’s suffering so it was here on one warm spring evening 2500 years ago that the buddha came to sit

we’re told that all night he was tormented by demons but then as the Sun began to rise in the east he found enlightenment the boat guy temple is the mecca of Buddhism it is where the Buddha attained enlightenment according to their belief and the Bodhi tree or a great-grandson of the Bodhi tree still grows there and so Buddhists go there to remember the great breakthrough that was the Buddha’s discovery of the true nature of the universe and inspired by the Buddha’s example you’ll find visitors here from every corner of the globe from the 90 or so countries where Buddhism still flourishes today what guy is one of the key sites for all Buddhist worldwide it starts as a magnet as a center point for Buddhists from around the world you could say it’s the place exactly where Buddhism started I’m not a Buddhist but if you ask anyone who’s involved in Buddhism they’ll tell you that it’s a very difficult philosophy to teach or to explain and that the very best way to understand it is to experience it and so by experiencing Buddhism I’m gonna try to get to the heart of a philosophy that can sometimes seem uncomplicated out of reach and I’ll start with the three key principles of Buddhism what are known as it’s three jewels the first is the life and example of Buddha himself all Buddhists are encouraged to model their approach to life on his the most important single point in the Buddhist teaching and one which distinguishes it very sharply from other religions is that the Buddha taught that each of us is entirely and solely responsible for our own lives and our own salvation no one else can be responsible the Buddha didn’t claim any divine status nor did he profess to be a personal Savior he called himself a guide and a teacher his message appealed to people of all social classes in ancient India to merchants to farmers and to the untouchable caste the Buddha in the course of his spiritual awakening rejected a good number of aspects of Hinduism he rejected some philosophical components of Hindu beliefs he was very critical of the position of the Brahmins or priests in society at that time which was a very elitist position he was similarly critical of the caste system he positioned himself as a result outside the caste system the Buddha spent his remaining years traveling through deep forests across mango groves from village to village the curious would bring food and clothing for the philosopher and his band of followers and in turn he encouraged them to reconsider the purpose and point of life to recalibrate their moral compass although the Buddha didn’t establish a church or temple system as such over time the significant locations in his life were gradually turned into shrines originally but Gaea was just a pastoral sanctuary he marked out with a stone balustrade 200 years or so after his death but by the sixth century AD a full-blown temple the mahabodhi temple marked the spot what four hundred years after the first temple that was built here for the worshipping of the Bodhi tree was replaced by this kind of a temple built to enshrine the iconic image of Buddha which had gained currency by that time the temple particularly the mahabodhi temple is representative of how important Buddhist temples where and how you know now this idea of building a temple to enshrine statues started from here as Buddhism’s travel through the centuries perhaps inevitably it’s taken on more the aspect of a religion with temples and pilgrims and a religious hierarchy you could be forgiven for mistaking Buddhism as one of the great God driven faiths of the world but there is a key difference by putting such an emphasis on a system of personal

morality and breaking with the conventions and traditions and rituals of the past in many ways the Buddha was one of those men who gave us the modern worlds and although he never denied that there were gods he simply said you don’t have to rely on the gods to make everything okay according to Buddhist sources having seeded a radical new world view the Buddha died at the age of 84 his body was cremated but his bones remained unburned they were distributed amongst the various tribes rulers and kingdoms who are now starting to follow the Buddhist way and who honored its founder by building monuments or stupas over his remains in Katmandu the capital city of Nepal stands the Bowdoin Art stupa our second wonder of the Buddhist world it was first built in the fifth or early 6th centuries ad then rebuilt and restored a number of times finally as this giant enclosed tomb in the 14th century it is the largest in the Indian subcontinent a sacred place for thousands of Buddhists throughout the world here at botan art I’m going to find out more about the three jewels of Buddhism Buddhism consists as far as Buddhists are concerned in three things which they call the three jewels and those three things are closely connected the first is the Buddha the founder of their religion the second is called the Sangha and that is the community of monks and nuns the third is called the Dharma the Dharma refers to the preaching the teaching of the Buddha in other words it’s what the Buddha discovered and it’s also the truth as you walk around the button up here you always have this sense that you’re being watched and that’s because the Buddha’s all-seeing eyes are always staring down at you that squiggle in the middle of his face incidentally is not his nose it’s actually the Sanskrit character for the number one to represent a kind of unity in the Buddhist faith something you won’t find represented up there are the Buddha’s ears and there is a particular reason for that we’re told that the Buddhists said you never wanted to hear that he was being lawyers and of course that is what is so unique about Buddhism this is a religion without a central authority figure instead there’s just this credo that man is his own Lord master that mankind itself can control humanity’s destiny it’s not atheistic because they do believe in the existence of certain gods and angels and so on but they simply don’t believe that those beings have the universe under control and therefore they cannot save us from suffering they themselves lead saving from suffering from a future time when they cease being gods and they become being so vulnerable to pain and suffering at the burden art stupa one of the many people who come to circumambulate and to pay their respects to the buddha it’s a knee choying a buddhist nun famous throughout Nepal for her sweet singing voice she is in fact known as the singing nun this is a very highly spiritual place we consider it’s a holy place and we believe that all the great relics of the Buddha’s are in the stupa and then it was a very special religious spot and every people every people who comes around here are always reciting mantras and really focusing on meditation they do the circumambulation frustration to keep the physical health healthy and the mind to be energy clean chanting mantras as well as doing prayers so trying to put yourself in a very good positive discipline this is a very very highly blessed place amy is originally from Tibet thousands of Tibetan Buddhists now live in Nepal as refugees the brand of Buddhism here is as much Tibetan as it is Nepalese flexibility and diversity has always been one of Buddha’s and strengths the Buddha himself said there should be no one official Buddhist language instead Buddhists are encouraged to focus on the universal relevance of the Buddha’s wisdom there are some people here who’ll tell you that buried deep in that stupa

we can be able to prove that but what is sure is that this is the biggest stupa in the whole of the Nepal and one of the largest in the world it is immensely impressive but do you know what’s significant about it actually it’s not how it looks but what it means because this was built to represent something very special for the men who created this this was nothing less than an incarnation the simplest upma is very interesting because it takes the elements of earth water fire wind and space know different shapes that represent those and they put them in a kind of ideal aesthetic form and so the idea is that the Buddha’s mind is the awareness that the universe is the ideal environment for human being to achieve freedom from suffering around the Buddha gathered men who shared with him a common vision and goal gradually this group came to be a formalized community a body that took its name from the old aristocratic councils of the day the Sangha the Buddhist Sangha became a monastic tradition comprising ordained monks and nuns and it’s one of the three jewels of Buddhism my first experience of the Sangha came up what felt like an ungodly hour at Bowden art every morning just after dawn monks of all ages gathered to perform the first of many rituals of the day the Sangha is one of the oldest continuously active spiritual organizations in the world what’s being recited here is a Tara puja it’s a charm there aims to ensure a kind of liberation from suffering and it’s really interesting because Tara is thought to be a female manifestation of the Buddha’s wisdom something which is incredibly potent this isn’t just an abstract idea of wisdom this is thought to be able to be healing to actually be stronger than medicine itself the Sangha includes women and was set up to allow those who wish to practice Buddhist teachings a disciplined environment and maximum time to focus on the philosopher’s ideas free from the responsibilities and distractions of a domestic or conventional lifestyle a few miles outside Kathmandu Annie the singing nun runs her own nunnery it’s a refuge for girls many as young as 10 the age both sexes can embark on the life of a Buddhist novice I have here mostly girls from families who are facing some difficulties obviously poverty and then other thing is the fathers are a little bit very ignorantly carried away with the alcoholic behavior as well as very abusive behaviors and who doesn’t think that it is good to send their girls to school so I try to collect them here and give them as much as I can give them controversial for its time was the inclusion of women among the ranks of the Sangha the Buddha allowed women to become nuns to lead a life devoted to spiritual development like Buddhist monks nuns are expected to remain celibate pure since they are one of the three jewels of Buddhism not just Buddha’s foot soldiers but an incarnation of the belief system itself so I’ve learnt about two of the three jewels of Buddhism the Sangha and the life of the Buddha but what about the third jewel the Dharma or teachings you can have to help me out a bit how do you describe Dharma but what does Dharma mean to you according to my understanding what Dharma is to do whatever you do very practically skillfully for benefit of the all beings without causing any harm and for their bit well-being including oneself and all is Dharma very minor Hindu bow the whole sick is

along managing her a magic taco should data very much on this occasion Dharma means the purity of heart Dharma means peace and harmony well-being of all human society other special ways that you can achieve Dharma are there rules and regulations that show you what to do we are taught what causes suffering and what can cause suffering and how to avoid causing suffering in life one’s own life and when you implement those teachings I think that is what really contributes towards one’s own well-being and others will be and I think that is considered Dharma in the Buddhist context the word Dharma refers above all to the teachings of the Buddha as he rediscovered them in the process of his progress towards enlightenment the reality of the Dharma which holds you free from suffering is what they take the route of the word Dharma which means to hold and the Buddha said Dharma holes are being free from suffering coming here to Nepal it has been relatively straightforward to identify two of the jewels of the triple jewels of Buddhism the Buddha himself both ideas about him and his image absolutely everywhere as is the Sangha and here in Kathmandu there are monks and nuns of every street corner but what has been harder to pin down is the Dharma itself the belief system the philosophy the religion whatever you want to call it of Buddhism maybe it’s unrealistic of me to expect there to be one single definition for such a broad concepts and the Buddha himself said the Dharma was like the salt of the oceans of the world a universal taste so the Buddha implied that Dharma could be tasted anywhere by anyone but the question for me as a historian is how that taste of the Buddhist Dharma could become universal practically how Buddhism established itself as a global belief system Buddha’s teachings were charismatic and radical for their time but as with all big new ideas they needed a groundswell of popular support or a patron or both to gain a firm foothold and to really fly well there was grassroots interest in what he had to say it was about 200 years after the Buddha’s death that Buddhism got a major boost in 250 BC the ruthless all-powerful emperor Ashoka who controlled most of ancient India proved Buddhism’s greatest ally by the memory of the Bloods that he’d acquired on his hands as a result of the company’s thrust of his rise to power and he decided to turn to the goat and in order to realize that ambition vigorously promoted Buddhist ideals right across the Indian subcontinent according to Buddhist tradition in the centuries following Ashoka sponsorship of Buddha’s ideas the philosophy evolved into at least 18 different schools one of these the Thera Veda still survives today and is mainly associated with South and Southeast Asia another came to be called the Mahayana the great vehicle way now most often found in north and east asia ashoka by embracing buddhism put a particular emphasis on the consequences of his actions on what he thought and how he lived in the world on his karma karma is a word well known in the West today it has its roots in early Indian belief systems but the value of karma became a fundamentally important Buddhist concept and one that I’m going to explore at the temple of the tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka our next wonder of the Buddhist world Sri Lankan Buddhists believed that the Tooth Relic was brought to their country

around 300 BC safeguarding the relic became the responsibility of kings and over the years the custodian ship of the relic came to symbolize the right to rule the Buddha is said to have given two legacies to future generations the body of his teachings the Dharma and also relics of his physical body itself which are now scattered in shrines right across the globe and one of the most precious is kept in here in the temple of the tooth that really makes the presence of the Buddha more graphic to people so it gives them a power actually many Buddhist temples around the Buddhist world have little relics piece of bone or something just like in Europe you have relics of the saints so it’s a way of making the person’s presence feel more immediate that gives the temple more power as a magnet to draw the worshiper the shrine stands right at the center of a paved courtyard the ceiling is decorated with moon stones and floral designs there are ivory reliefs on the doorways the inner chamber contains the Tooth Relic and other sacred objects and all around there is a brightly painted corridor monks conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple rituals are performed at dawn at noon and in the evening the truth is in this upper chamber in a casket of gold and is only revealed to a chosen few the sacred relic is symbolically bathed with a herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers this holy water is believed to contain healing properties and is distributed among those present once a week mothers gather at the temple with their babies all these doll babies are waiting to be taken in to be blessed by the priest so that they have Buddha’s power with them for the rest of their lives they’re given a little white piece of strewed to wrap around their wrist which shows that the Buddha is with them from now until they done and it’s sorting very important they get the Buddhist blessing right at this early stage because everything that they do from now on all their intentional actions think what they say and what they do their karma karma is one of the main concepts of Buddhism it’s a belief that any of our intentional actions both thought and deed will be mirrored by something similar happening to us in the future so if you harm someone someone will harm you this principle of cause and effect can bring consequences that are either good or bad depending on what it is that you’ve done because Buddhists believe we have many lives this good and bad karma can generate consequences both throughout this life and long into the next karma is what you do the word literally means deed or action but the Buddha said that all karma that matters is what is morally good or morally bad and you decide what to do now we must remember that for Buddhists your life goes on beyond what we normally think of as this life in fact you are reborn an infinite number of times until you manage to bring that to an end Buddhists use a metaphor to help explain what karma is they say that if you sow thistle seed then you can’t expect apple trees to grow and that is very clear it’s the basic principle of cause and effect and as a historian I know that that principle has real validity we are all affected by our past and our past and our present together informs our future so when the Buddha said that we should be mindful of our intentional actions of our Kharma and that our highest authority is

our conscience then he was making real sense and he was also clarifying something about what it is to be human of course the issue is that karma can be both good and bad and in Sri Lanka the fallout of action and reaction of cause and effect has been brutally tested in recent years for nearly three decades the country has been locked in a violent civil war in which close on 100,000 people have been killed Sri Lanka is only now emerging from this debilitating conflicts between the Hindu Tamil minority and a Buddhist singer Li’s majority the temple of the tooth was badly hit and partially destroyed during the war it’s now been fully restored Buddhists believe this cycle of death and destruction can be broken they assert that by following a certain path it’s possible to break out of a continuous round of life and death and rebirth which in Buddhism has a name samsara and samsara is the concept I’m going to investigate now as I move to the next wonder of the Buddhist world once Buddhist ideas had flourished in Sri Lanka Sri Lankan monarchs sent emissaries to adjoining kingdoms in Southeast Asia to carry the Buddhist message by the 11th century theravadan Buddhism was well established in Thailand and here in Bangkok close on 90% of Thais and now Buddhists the reason the Buddhism has thrived so vigorously and tenaciously here is because right from its very outset it’s had the support of Thai kings and a king here can aspire to be a Buddha himself and there was one king it was actually a monk for 25 years before he came to the throne every time the royal family builds a new palace for itself it will also construct next door a monastery and a temple complex as a kind of outward sign of its righteousness and commitment to the Buddhist cause and here in Bangkok the temple complex is certainly fit for a king this is what PO our next wonder of the Buddhist world it’s the largest and oldest temple complex in Bangkok it’s home to more than 1000 but our images the complex includes a temple a working monastery in a large courtyard with a forest of stupas thick with exquisite handmade lotus motifs and hidden within its own palatial Hall the golden reclining Buddha the gold Buddha is 141 feet long and 49 feet high started in 1788 it took over five years to build this is one of the most damning gobsmacking works of monumental art I’ve ever seen I have to say I love its audacity I love the fact that it says look at me look at what mankind can do when he manipulates raw materials to create a thing of beauty because here there are thousands of fragments of mother-of-pearl used and 153 plates of gold but what it doesn’t seem to me to say is that this is an incarnation of the middle path and that essential Buddhist notion that extremes and excesses should be avoided at all costs because there’s no doubt that this is a thing of opulence it’s enormous it’s gorgeous it’s very sensuous in history of Thailand there are a lot of large-scale reclining buddha’s built all over central part of Thailand because to build reclining budda it’s not a very easy process because most of the reclining budda it’s not made from casting is made from bricks plaster or cement is considered very respectful

image so it must be decorated with a very valuable materials and of course the most valuable materials for decorating the image of Lord Buddha should be gold gold in Buddhism symbolizes the Sun of fire the most valuable of metals it’s accorded a sacred status through its association with Surya the Sun God of the Hindu Pantheon for Buddhists in Thailand and other South Asian countries Gold is an element that signifies homage a gift of gold is the ultimate demonstration of one’s piety the meritorious act of putting gold leaf on the surface of the Buddha skin is to commemorate the living Buddha who had a kind of golden like aura or radiance they believed but gold in its association with wealth and might it’s also the way the time onyx have used a showy form of piety to forge a strong relationship between Buddha’s ideas and the power of the state it was King Rama the Third’s who had the statue of the reclining Buddha opulently restored at the height of his reign in the mid 19th century it’s called a lion pose says he lay there in the lion pose as he was preparing to die he’s described that he lay down on his right side and he rested his head on his right hand there’s a reason that this butter has got such a serene smile it’s because he’s achieved enlightenment nirvana it means that he’s escaped what Buddhists call samsara an endless cycle of life of birth and death with passion and desire and delusion that can only lead to pain and suffering samsara effectively constitutes a cycle of birth and rebirth and as long as we are in samsara we are reborn innumerable times moving from one existence to the next we can be reborn as a human being as the divinity or you can be reborn as an animal etc tell me what you think samsara is for me it’s not just the physical picture of you know the circle of being born and aging and dying for me it’s it has something to do with the state of mine as well that you have to deal with your bad emotions if you you have problems you feel suffering you have feel frustrated you don’t know how to deal with it but this is just a small sample so bad things that happen to you you just keep going on and on and on you know you can find a real peace or happiness the Wheel of Life is a common visual depiction in Buddhism ever time Buddha started to teach many understood life is a relentless cycle where all were born grew old died and were reborn in another life it was an eternal morass from which there was no release but Buddha felt that an escape was possible he taught that through one’s actions karma and through a way of life that was characterized by wisdom morality and compassion fire meditation and the triumph of the minds over craving desire and excess it was possible to achieve enlightenment Nirvana he believed that this enlightenment would empower ordinary people to break free from samsara this idea gives Buddhists funerals a distinctive character those present mourn their loss but also hope that thanks to their beloved’s good karma the dead are at least one step closer to enlightenment that they have the chance of a rebirth as a better being who one day can escape samsara what goes around comes around that’s what I believe this body it’s just like a house that we ran for a while after we die we have to find a new place to live it’s impermanent it’s just temporary so good Buddhists believe that we should do our best in this life to guarantee the better place after we die Buddhists say that there is only one certain way to break free from samsara

to eliminate the desires and passions and the distractions of everyday life now of course that is very easy to say and it’s very hard to do so over the centuries Buddhists have employed specific rigorous methods to break free from all of this from the troubles and the temptations of the real world and to set themselves on the path to enlightenment to Nirvana and that is the truly radical thing about the Buddhist example his belief that each and every one of us has the capacity to achieve liberation to achieve our own enlightenment it took the Buddha years to arrive at this radical belief ideas he developed through his own personal experience in particular an intense form of meditation and it is Buddhist meditation that I’m now going to experience in our next wonder of the Buddhist world Buddhism continued to spread throughout the medieval period come the 13th century and Buddhism was flourishing in the Khmer Kingdom modern-day Cambodia the temple complexes here at Angkor are our fifth wonder and core Walt began life as the sacred palace complex of a Khmer Emperor who in fact favored Hinduism over Buddhist ideas these aren’t just buildings that have a grand ambition the whole complex is said to be a symbolic representation of Hindu cosmology the original temple honored the Hindu god Vishnu and incarnates the center of the physical and spiritual universe a mythical mountain a series of five rectangular walls represent other mountains and the moats here evoke the cosmic ocean this place reeks of a combination of earthly and divine power and of the close-knit relationship between gods and Kings and of course it was a belief in that relationship that inspired the creation of this complex in the first place but some people it was just too exclusive too strictly hierarchical and Buddhism offered a solution it was the Khmer Emperor giovanna in the seventh who converted to Buddhism and his regime marked a clear dividing line with the old Hindu past before 1200 art in the temples mostly portrayed scenes from the Hindu Pantheon after his conversion Buddhist scenes begin to appear as standard motifs during his reign there was a focus on building libraries monastic dwellings public works and more earthly projects accessible to the common people so history in Cambodia takes a humanists turn and as Buddhism rises in popularity you finds images of the Buddha and his followers emerging everywhere in the architecture in gates in walls and in temples so now Angkor showing the world a more human face the ankle complex is a prime example of the classical style of Khmer architecture by the 12th century Khmer architects had become skilled and confident in masonry facing the monuments with intricate sandstone blocks Angkor Wat is famous for the harmony of its world-class design architectural e towers shaped like Lotus buds are characteristic half galleries broaden the passageways other galleries connect enclosures and terraces appear along the main pathways of the temple the walls are decorated with bas-reliefs showing Hindu mythological figures and detailed narrative scenes this one depicts the churning of the oceans other elements of the design have been destroyed by looting and the passage of time they included gilded stucco gold on some figures and elaborate carved ceiling panels and doors this was the largest sacred building in the world although there is an eerie crumbling Beauty to this place now you have to try to

imagine it in its heyday all this stonework would have been brightly painted and in this corridor there have been many hundreds of statues of the Buddha wrought that’s a precious gold the light from the statues would be reflected back from the walls which were been studded with emeralds and sapphires and rubies and outside there would have been crowds of mungus their eyes closed in meditation their faces lit by the glow of torches made out of jungle resin since Buddhism is primarily an educational system meditation is a key component of that educational system meditation is the way you become viscerally and directly aware of all these deep connections and connectedness to the universe and you have to become directly aware of it to become free of being controlled by unconscious processes and that freedom is liberation that freedom is near honor I’ve been invited by a group of trainee Buddhist monks to experience meditation for myself members of the Sangha can spend hours each day meditating the way they sit the position of their hands is copied from the practice of the Buddha himself they are still and concentrate on their breathing not doing anything to alter the way they breathe not worrying about whether they’re doing it right or wrong clearing their minds of thoughts of feelings of fear and of the distractions of the outside world just following the breathing and becoming one with each breath I can’t say I’ve managed to completely block out the sound of the world going on and it feels hard to stay there still for so long but if someone were to ask me if I had any anger in my head or my heart right now I would have to say there is none the Pali Canon advises that there are particularly good places to meditate a mountain a hillside a rock cave a cemetery the open fields open forests the root of a tree deep in the jungle and this place certainly fits some of those criteria but I have to say I think I’m probably gonna carry on meditating in my own sweet way for a while and I’m not quite ready yet to do the deep breathing in the lotus position but still I have huge respect for the practice of meditation not least because it is a firm vote of confidence in the power of the human mind it suggests that in order to transcend the difficulties of this world we don’t just need to appeal to a higher divine authority that can look to our own consciousness well certainly the people of Cambodia have had more cause than most to find internal resources to deal with the troubles that the world has thrown at them Cambodia has suffered some of the worst violence and genocide of the last century between 1968 and 1976 over three million Cambodians were killed in the war that engulfed Vietnam and other countries of Southeast Asia this was then followed by the terror and genocide unleashed by the Khmer Rouge a communist movement that ruled Cambodia for four years the Khmer Rouge dealt particularly viciously with Buddhism thousands of monks were slaughtered and monasteries were destroyed and if people tried to hold on to their beliefs they were often tortured and killed but gradually as the nightmare is beginning to fade Buddhism is finding its feet here again and when you come to Angkor you’ll find little active fires like this tucked away into corners in Cambodia Buddhism is slowly reasserting itself this country which had experienced such horrors is now peaceful an ankle which had been brutalized by the Khmer Rouge regime is now a world tourist site once again it’s been very moving coming here to Cambodia because this place has been the home to the most dramatic twists and turns and the fortunes of Buddhism for centuries Buddhism was the philosophy of choice for both the Kings and the people and

then thanks to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge there was a chance that it was going to be eradicated virtually but gradually gently it is now making a comeback and there’s even a possibility that this place which was once the biggest and most active buddhist complex in the world could be that again sometime in the future while in Cambodia Buddhism is emerging out of the darkness of the Khmer Rouge regime Buddhism in mainland China and here in Hong Kong is also reasserting itself an ancient tradition reappearing in modern society Buddhism is on the rise once again partly perhaps because it’s positive attitude feels well suited to an emerging superpower particularly popular is the Zen form of Buddhism little surprise given that Zen although now typically associated with Japan started off life in China and I’m going to explore Zen in one of the places in the world where it is most vigorous Hong Kong our sixth wonder is the giant Buddha that overlooks this great Asian city this mammoth bronze statue was completed in 1993 it symbolizes the relationship between man and nature people and religion well the building of the giant Buddha in Hong Kong was a reassertion of an old Buddhist tradition of constructing massive Buddhist images and the monks who initiated the project in Hong Kong had visited Japan and they visited various sites in mainland China and seen medieval massive images of Buddhas and this was something they were trying to recreate into on top it’s the only statue of Buddha to face north towards Beijing and is named Tian tan after the Temple of Heaven in that city when Buddhism first starts out it seems that people actively choose not to represent the Buddha figuratively but then as the philosophy passes through regions like Afghanistan which had a really strong Greek influence thanks to the invasion of Alexander the Great it becomes the done thing to represent the Buddha in human form now once the belief system enters China a new tradition gains popularity but not just to represent the Buddha in human form but to do so on a monumental scale and that’s an art form that’s now being revived here in Hong Kong everything about this statue means something the Buddha is sitting in a lotus position which shows that he was like the beauty of a lotus flower emerging from the muddy waters of a pond his face is that beautiful round shape which is supposed to be a reflection of the perfection of the moon and his head is domed which tells us just how wise he is and his hands are interesting because the right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing this is the Buddha’s vow that he will release the entire world from its suffering and on his chest he’s got that so-called swastika symbol now of course the swastika was unfortunately appropriated by the Nazis even though they call it the wrong way around but what it actually means is the power of the universe so this tells us that the Buddha’s compassion and wisdom is available to all the Buddha statue sits on a lotus throne on top of an altar it’s surrounded by six smaller bronze statues they’re shown offering gifts like fruit and incense gifts that symbolise different aspects of Buddhist philosophy all virtues which are necessary to achieve enlightenment the giant budda is part of the po lin monastery and temple complex set up nearly a hundred years ago by three ven masters Zhen has developed as a part of Mahayana Buddhism the school of Buddhism practiced in China and other northern Asian countries Zen Buddhists believe that all people have the qualities that the Buddha had and emphasized that these can be developed and were not unique to the Buddha only

the aim of Zen is to discover this quality within each person through meditation and practice of the Buddhist teachings the ultimate goal is to become a completely enlightened Buddha meditation has always been central to Buddhism but here in China a new brand of meditation was born and it took its name from a Sanskrit word Dhyana which is actually very hard to translate but means a kind of alert productive state of mind in China it was called Chan and when it travels sort of Japan it becomes the same it’s a school of Buddhism which lays enormous emphasis on certain kinds of meditative practice what you try to do is purely to empty your mind it has a sort of ideology that rational thought is not going to get YouTube the Enlightenment or Nevada it’s practiced here in a small secluded monastery minutes away from the giant Buddha formal silent meditation is central to Zen and is practiced by both the laity and the ordained together some people find the concept of Zen quite difficult to grasp so how would you define it so a sin means we never separate our life and our practice then there’s like 24 hours when you are standing sitting walking lying down so never separate you know our everyday life and our practice cannot suffer there’s not two thing sin also means inside inside you know online and outside the object inside outside for me become one that’s them so if you’re not making that separation between Zen practice and everyday life does that mean that when you do everything when you sweep the floor or prepare food that or clean something but that actually it is an act of Zen itself don’t means what are you doing now you know so somebody might get an item and while that eating meal washing bowed all these we design to help people to be in the moment and maybe at that moment you might become clear and your life becomes clear this is called water bowl meditation and the purpose is to carry the water without spilling a single drop now the idea is that you can do this through the application of Zen because if you think you’re carrying a bowl of water then you’re bound to shake and lose some but if you clear your mind completely you will complete the task successfully in the West a lot of people have heard of sin it is something that’s quite popular G thing has partly because people’s lives are so demanding and and Zen offers a kind of our way out from that I think not only the West are very busy now Asia is more busy it’s very like money orientated everybody worry about the living so it’s very important now my know-how to relax and to be living at this moment and to keep clear so if you can live in this present even there’s a some problem up here it’s okay you know you have this clear mind and you are not agitated I think these are very important in practice or for for everybody Zen practitioners today don’t like to

use specific words to limit what the Zen is but if you want to find a definition for the practice probably as close as you’ll get is that this is something that really believes in the power of intuition and in a kind of productive simplicity now I can see that cherishing intuition living for the moment living day by day with a clear mind is a very productive way to spend your time perhaps it explains why of all brands of Buddhism Zen has become particularly attractive to those who live in are demanding 21st century then and it’s ancestor Chan is a very practical form of Buddhist wisdom it encourages a process of rediscovery by living simply the same tradition emphasizes that enlightenment is possible here and now is it then very different from other forms of Buddhism Zen means pointing directly to our mind means right now wake up you know and be clear what are you doing now actually our minor is not complicated is our thinking with our life very complicated so then is a tool to help us to bring back our mind to our everyday life and be simple then like all Buddhist practice turns philosophy into a tool to help in day-to-day life meditation is used to bring about a tangible outcome either in the understanding of the world or in our ability to deal with it and with the suffering we see all around and feel within us one thing that struck me is that whatever the regional variations of Buddhism issues of suffering a right at the core of the philosophy now that is really interesting because in general over the last two and a half thousand years cultures of the East have actually been very unabashed about suffering but they don’t mind putting its center stage whereas in the West these are issues that we can sometimes try to brush under the carpets in the modern age for instance we’ve been accused of trying to cheat death itself but just look at that statue there’s the Buddha promising to deal with all the suffering in the world so it does make you wonder what future Buddhism has as a global belief system what’s going to happen when ideas of the East which put suffering to the fore start to take root in the West Buddhist ideas and philosophy have become increasingly popular in the fast-paced and highly competitive world of California New Age concepts mixed with the counterculture of the hippies in the 1970s have made words like karma and Nirvana commonplace Buddhism offered a spiritual life and an emphasis on morality without being too authoritarian but isn’t initially spread into the West and especially the west coast of the United States in the 19th century thanks to Japanese and Chinese laborers brought in to work on the railways in Los Angeles the first Buddhist temples were set up at the turn of the century today the city is home to one of the largest Buddhist temples in the West che lie temple at Hacienda Heights our seventh wonder of the Buddhist world here I’m going to try to understand what has to be the most important Buddhist concept the ultimate goal for Buddhists never honor the planning and construction of the temple in the 1980s was met with suspicion and resistance from local communities the building of the temple its current location survived six public hearings and 165 explanatory sessions finally in 1985 the temple was granted a building permit it was completed in 1988 I tell you what there is definitely a wealth of here and that is Buddhist I’ve never seen so many there must be what ten thousand or something at least on these various Buddha’s right here big and small and if you look at all the Buddha’s you may find some names there it’s a Chinese practice that the people make an offering and then to have the name or the family there is their Buddha

can it’s also a form of supporting the temple and they come in and they say I have a Buddha in there it’s like the connection between the Buddha outside and the Buddha inside one of the American Buddhists who come to the temple is mario.c he became a Buddhist six years ago there are some who’d say that the attraction of Buddhism for many Americans is that it’s pleasingly mystical it comes from the east but at the same time it ties in with a kind of anything-goes materialist lifestyle have you don’t mean any disrespect by this but I have some friends who use Buddhism and Eastern religion Eastern philosophy and they sort of mix it up with new-age and that’s okay if it works for them that’s fine but my concern is that it is that sort of anything goes you know it’s a free market in spirituality so whatever I’m saying or thinking today is fine because we have these core teachings in Buddhism it keeps us in check so we don’t sort of go into anything that if it feels good it’s okay we’re really trying to avoid that this Buddhism gave me a discipline without the necessity of a God to reward me or punish me there has been a tenfold increase in the number of Buddhists in Europe in America over the last 40 years most observers put the figure at between two to three million practicing Buddhists in America with a number of Buddhist sympathizers estimated at over 10 million the shale I temple is one example that the modern expansionism of Buddhism many Buddhists come to the shale eye temple for worship others come to practice meditation in the West there’s recently been great interest in yoga as simply as a way to keep fit and as a form of meditation yoga has its roots in Indian traditions that predate both Hinduism and Buddhism and it’s sometimes used by Hindus to assert mind over matter for Buddhists yoga’s key purpose is to achieve personal enlightenment it is a very ancient philosophy Buddhism but in some ways do you think it’s very suited to American life because it does have this kind of can-do attitude it’s very suited to America one reason is that we’ve been materialistic we’re we’re known for it and I found in my experience it doesn’t get you to where you want to be and I can’t believe that I’m alone in that I can’t believe that it offers reasons why that is I’m sure other people like me who can’t understand why all this stuff didn’t make them happy would be looking for something else so I’m not surprised that it is popular it’s not against any other religion and it’s not against science it’s very in line with everything the temple then offers American Buddhists lots of reasons to visit but if you’re a devotee of Buddhism then one of your main motivations for coming here is to seek enlightenment nirvana now I’d love to be able to tell you that I’ve got a textbook definition for what nirvana actually is but considering the Buddha himself said that it was beyond words beyond logic I suspect is gonna be quite a tricky concept to pin down Nirvana certainly is a state of mind and it’s a state of mind in which you have abolished strong emotions of very much wanting things or very much hating things or being confused it’s a state of mind which you attain and at that moment and thereafter you and enjoy a kind of blissful calm and that path is the end of that path Nirvana is that your goal yes nirvana enlightenment full understanding awakening those are all terms that are very similar and to me it’s understanding the truth understanding what this is what it really is how confident are you that Nirvana is a goal you can attain I am cautiously optimistic how about that there are people that say that it’s very possible and these are people that are very smart people and I’m following

their advice and I think it can be done I think it can be done like so much in Buddhism Nirvana clearly has to be experienced not explained but for Buddhists the journey to get there the path you take seems to be as important as the arriving Buddhists will tell you that Nirvana has no fixed points in time or space and that’s actually a little ironic because one of the few accepted fixtures of the Buddhist story is where the Buddha himself found enlightenment we’re told that that took place in northern India under the spreading branches of a people tree which is where my quest had started that bug Gaea at this spot where it said Buddhist philosophy really began 2500 years ago in this journey I’ve explored key facets of Buddhist belief and got a little closer to understanding something vital about the core of Buddhist philosophy the Dharma the Dharma is simply the way the world is and we can all best live our lives if we follow a path that allows us to deal with the world as passionately as compassionately as positively and as wisely as possible now whatever the permutations and interpretations of Buddhism that seems to me to be pretty simple and pretty enlightened I’ve learnt about karma how mindful actions impact on our lives about samsara the cycle of life birth and death about meditation about Zen and the final goal for all Buddhists never Hana I’ve seen some of the most beautiful architecture inspired by Buddhist ideas and how after 25 centuries Buddhism still attracts millions across the globe a philosophy that is rooted in its ancient past and yet gives character to the modern world how Buddhism places the responsibility to realize the truth on all of us as Buddhism traveled it transforms the cultures that came into contact with just as it too was transformed you wonder if the Buddha could ever possibly have imagined the impact that his ideas would have on human history particularly given the one thing he was certain about was that impermanence and change were the only things that were definite in this world and just listen to this it’s one of his most poetic epithets social you think of all this fleeting world a star at dawn a bubble in a stream a flash of lightning in a summer cloud a succoring lamp a phantom and a dream well the Buddhist dreams of 2500 years ago are still with us and they’ve been made incarnate in one of the most tenacious belief systems of all time and in some of the most iconic and beautiful monuments in the world tomorrow night on bbc2 a tumultuous true story retold keira knightley ma fine star in the duchess at 9:00

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