The Use and Symbolism of Buddhas in Gardens
Buddhas in Gardens
Statues and images of the Buddha have been placed in the grounds of temples and gardens since ancient times and gardening has strong associations with Buddhism:
It is believed that;
The Soil of the garden represents the fertile ground of Buddha’s Mind. A Sangha (Pali for Buddhist community) is the same as community of plants in the garden. Dhamma (teachings of the Buddha) is the expression of wisdom that is in the Temple – Garden.
If a garden can be regarded as a mind then:
Paths represent the ways to enlightenment. The soil represents the state of our own internal Karma. It’s planting represents fertile and blossoming ideas. The changing seasons represent of the changing moods of the mind. Eastern tradition also suggests that the Buddha should not face south, as this is associated with Yama, a Hindu god and judge of the dead. North is the preferred direction when placing Buddha statues in the garden.
Pure Land Buddhism
The making of Buddhist gardens in Japan was inspired by Pure Land Buddhism movement which originally came from China. It has as its centre piece the Mandala showing the Buddha with a temple and a garden – it has inspired the making of gardens with equivalent symbolism.
Zen Buddhism believes that by making a fine garden can contribute to enlightenment and contentment. This requires skill, artistic judgement and a deep understanding of nature combined with constant attention. So gardening can be a deemed a religious activity.
They should generally have:
- A beautiful place for sitting quietly or for meditation.
- Numerous Paths for the practice of walking meditation.
- A lotus pool containing a Buddha statue.
- A place for the feeding of fish, birds or animals.
Ten of the World’s Most Beautiful Buddhist Gardens
1. Totekiko Temple Gardens, Kyoto Japan
Totekiko is one of the five gardens at the Ryogen,Temple Kyoto, Japan. It was laid in 1958, and is said to be the smallest Japanese rock garden. It is a small enclosed garden, composed of attractive simple boulders placed on raked sand. These rocks are surrounded by concentric gravel circles and are connected by parallel ridges and furrows. The garden briefly receives the sun at around noon each day, and it is sometimes covered by snow in the winter. The garden represents a Zen saying, that the harder a stone is thrown in, the bigger the ripples will be.
The temple also includes three other gardens, Isshi-dan, Koda-tei, and Ryogin-tei – which is a moss covered garden which is claimed to be the oldest in Daitoku-ji.
2. Imperial War Museum Peace Garden, London UK
This beautiful and peaceful area is located in the park in front of the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth. The garden aims to encourage world peace and promote non violence. Its Tibetan name translates as “The Garden of Contemplation”. The design and decoration uses many Buddhist symbols. A tall pillar has in four languages the Dalai Lama’s message about the importance of choosing non-violence.
The garden’s layout is based on the eight spoke Buddhist Wheel representing the Noble Eightfold Path. There are eight stone seats in a circle representing the eight principles in the Noble Eightfold Path. When you sit here you can focus on the centre of the garden. Around the outside of the area is a trellis and plants from the Himalayas. This garden consciously represents the elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water and the space is often visited by Tibetan Buddhist teachers when visiting London.
3. The Mahabodhi Temple Gardens, India
This temple is built at the actual place where the Buddha reached Enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi Tree. Almost all activity at the Temple takes place in the large garden surrounding this huge stone spire. This is full of tall, shady trees and little lawns, monuments and marigolds. The holiest place at the Mahabodhi Temple is outdoors under a Bodhi Tree. This Bodhi Tree has been grown from cuttings from a series of earlier Bodhi Trees, which came from the original Bodhi Tree under which Buddha sat and meditated 2,500 years ago. Buddhists from all over the world come to visit this sacred spot
Some people come and sit near the Bodhi Tree on their own and some come in groups of Buddhist pilgrims from the same country. Throughout the Mahabodhi Temple garden you see people worshipping. The Bodhi Tree itself is where all Buddhist meditation began. All around the Mahabodhi Temple you see people practicing Walking Meditation – walking slowly along the paths which lead round the Temple garden always doing so in a clockwise direction.