Mural Paintings - The Life of Shakyamuni Buddha
The historical Buddha was born on April 8, 565 BC as Prince Siddhartha Gautama, son of Suddhodana, King of the Shakya cian, and Mahamaya (Lady Maya) in the town of Kapilavatsu.
Mural panel paintingAlthough Siddhartha was born into a family of privilege, the Prince sought to understand why life included those who were less fortunate. After several years of ascetic practice in the quest to understand, he found the reasons while sitting under the bodhi tree. This day of enlightenment was December 8 in his 35th year. He then set forth to teach others and passed on his message for a period of forty-five years. The Buddha passed away on February 15, 486 BC.
Soon after the dedication of the temple. Mr. Hideya Chiji of Japan offered to paint a mural on the life of Shakyamuni Buddha for the Hondo (main hall). The Temple gratefully accepted this generous act of Dana. With help of his son, Yasuhiro, he spent a year and a half on the mural. On May 16, 1971, the murals were unveiled and dedicated with a special service. The eight panel mural painting is the only set of its kind in the United State and has attracted many artists and sightseers.
In January 1969, a letter of inquiry was received from Dr. Ryogon Fukuhara of Ryukoku University in Japan as to the possibility of placing a mural wall painting in the new Betsuin Temple that was in the process of being constructed. Accompanying the letter was a letter of introduction to Japanese painter, Mr. Hideya Chiji of Kaizuka city in Japan who had expressed his desire to undertake the task of painting the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. However, the Betsuin Temple at that time was faced with financial problem of how to meet the deficit cost in the construction of the temple. So naturally their reply was because of these reasons they felt they could not undertake such a costly project at this time.
Dr. Ryogon Fukuhara then enlightened the Betsuin further as to the true intentions of Mr. Hideya Chiji by saying that the painter was a self-sacrif icing individual and he had previously undertaken such a similar painting project at a Japanese Temple in Bombay, India. The project had taken him three years to complete and the entire cost was borne by him. When completed he presented the painting gratis to the Japanese temple. In this same spirit he desired to undertake this project and his one wish was to place on the canvas the true spirit of a life of an artist. The Betsuin upon receiving the summary of his intentions had the matter placed the Board of Directors for approval. The Board of Directors approved the project unanimously and Mr. Chiji and his son Yasuhiro arrived in Los Angeles, a day after the formal dedication of the new temple on November 17, 1969.
From that day the work of mural painting continued with the spirit of wishing to serve the Betsuin. Mr. Chiji and his son opened each working day by copying a part of th6 Buddhist scripture with the Japanese brush. This was the traditional way of purification by which one's mind and body is brought into a perfect concentration, before undertaking the work. Finally after one and half years of work he completed the work of bringing on canvas, beautifully in color, the Life of Buddha. The mural painting will cover the entire wall in the Hondo and will stand out beautifully for a long time.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. Hideya Chiji and his son, Yasuhiro, for their wonderful mural painting which has made the Betsuin Hondo a spiritual center where the Buddhist in America, who are daily blessed in the blessings of the Original Vow of Amida Buddha, will see clearly with their spiritual eyes the greatness of Shakyamuni Buddha through the mural paintings created by Mr. Hideya Chiji.
Since the publication of mural painting at the Los Augeles Buddhist Temple booklet has been completed may I take this opportunity in thanking our Betsuin members and friends who helped out irl this publication and also to our printers in Japan for the work well done. I hope that this mural painting in Betsuin will continue to inspire the people in America just as the one in Horyuji in Japan.
by Reverend Ryuei Masuoka, Rinbam
DREAM OF A WHITE ELEPHANT ENTERING HER SIDE FORECASTING PRINCE'S BIRTH
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in the year of 2537 as a Prince of Shakya kingdom which covered the area from what is now known as Southern part of Nepal to one section of Northern India. At the age of 29, he left the castle in search for the Truth and at the age of 35, he attained the Supreme Enlightenment and became a Buddha. Until his passing into Nirvana at the age of 80, his practices and teachings became the beacon of light for the entire world and even today after 2600 years the teaching still continues to be the shining light for all mankind.
The winter season passed in the Shakya kingdom and spring arrived with all of its splendour and one night of full moon in late April, Queen Maya dreamed that the Buddha Bodhisattva in form of a beautiful six tusked white elephant entered her body from her right side. This dream forecast the coming of the prince who would be either a ruler of all men of Four Seas or one who would forsake the household life to embrace a religious life and become a Buddha and a world's saviour.
BIRTH OF BUDDHA
The expectancy of the birth of royal child fast approached and according to the custom, the Queen Maya decided to return home for birth. While on her way she stopped at Lumbini Garden to rest. This was April 8th, and as the sun appeared over the horizon she reached out her right arm to pluck a sala branch when the prince was born. Without any assistance whatsoever, the prince upon birth is said to have taken seven steps and at every step the seven jeweled Lotus flower blossomed forth to greet the occasion.
The prince stood on the seventh Lotus blossom and pointing to the heaven with his right hand and with his left hand pointing to the earth declared, "Heaven Above, Heaven Below, I alone am the World Honored One". Which meant that he was the most superior amongst all of the heavenly beings and upon receiving limitless Life and Death he would benefit all forms of life in this world.
The day was marked with celestial music from above and birds sang while others danced with joy, and sweet fragrants from the flowers scattered in the air, all heralding the happy day.
EXPERIENCE OF LIFE THROUGH THE FOUR GATES
THE PRINCE LEAVES HOME AND CASTLE
AFTER SIX YEARS OF ASCETIC PRACTICES HE LEAVES THE MOUNTAIN
RECEIVING OFFERINGS OF BOWL OF MILK
The prince in his youthful days was deeply troubled by what he had witnessed upon leaving from the different castle gates of West, East and South. He saw what men had to endure sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death... But when he left the last North gate he happened to come upon a holy man who sat in peace and utter calmness ... It was then that he decided to renounce his princely life and never return again to the castle life. He knew that he would through the merits of his practice, spring free his troubled mind from the five fetters of human being.
One night of full moon, he ordered Channa to bring his favorite horse, Kanthaka, and together left the castle for the mountains before the break of the day. Before reaching the mountain he bade Channa and Kanthaka farewell and alone went into the Himalaya mountains to seek for the Path of Truth. For six years the prince practiced all of the known austerities of his days to the extreme, often times subjecting himself to the precipice of near death. He found that he was nowhere closer to the Path of Truth and Emancipation and finally he decided to come down from the mountain and seek for other ways of deliverance.
He descended the mountain and begun his new life of bathing in the great river of Naranjara and after receiving some food in form of milk from Sujata, the wife of a neighboring land owner, he set steadfast steps toward the foot of Bodhi Tree. The five ascetics, who had accompanied the prince on his long journey of practice on orders from the authorities, decided to abandon the prince after coming to the conclusion that he had given up the practice of exertion for life of luxury.
CONQUEST OF MARA AND ATTAINMENT OF ENLIGHTENMENT
As the morning star shone in the light of dawn, the prince was determined not to leave the spot until he had conquered all evil forces and had found Perfect Enlightenment. The prince meditated under the Bodhi Tree, covered with grasses and leaves. Thus he entered into the last phases of meditation. It was a long, long search, day after day, and he was tormented in spirit and body by forces of lower human nature barring his way of Bodhi. The forces led by Mara, the Great Ensnarer, the Power of Illusion, led a fierce thrust at the prince and failed. Then came the beautiful daughters of Mara, daughters of devil, sent to entice the prince with their charm and beauty, but the prince was steadfast in his aim and refused to leave the seat of enlightenment, On the 49th day of February 7, he perceived the working of Twelve Ninclanas, the Twelve Link in the Chain of Existence, and in the same night, early in the morning he broke through the chain of source of Illusion, Avidya, and as the morning star shone in the light of the dawn he had gained the Supreme Light of Wisdom and attained Enlightenment. He was Buddha, the Supremely Awakened One.
It is said that at this time the earth quaked six times and the Gods of earth offered sweet flowers,and clouds hung across the heaven. The heavenly maidens offered beautiful music and made offerings of flowers in expressing their joy of this occasion. From this day the Pipala Tree has been called the Bodhi Tree or Tree of Enlightenment. The place of Enlightenment is called Buddhagaya.
THE SETTING IN MOTION OF THE WHEEL OF THE LAW
The Buddha who had become Enlightened as the result of many years of physical and mental practices decided to share his fruit of Enlightenment with the Five ascetics who had abandoned him when he broke his austerities. He found them at Deer Park in Benares. At first when they saw him in the distance they agreed not to receive him but as he came upon them they could not resist the power that radiated from him and instead they received him with respect and listened to the explanation of his Enlightenment with deep interest. And they were led to the opening of their eyes to the Truth. They became his disciples and the first to be in Brotherhood (Sangha). This memorable occasion is called the "The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of the Law" Thus once the news of his setting in motion of the wheel of the Law spread swiftly it caught on like fire amongst men of great fame and high caste and thus Buddha was to start his long journey of propagation of his teachings.
TREATMENT FOR PEOPLE AFFLICTED WITH SICKNESS AND THE HAND OF COMPASSION
GION SHOJA (JETAVANA VIHARA) BUILT
CALMING OF INFURIATED ELEPHANT INSIDE THE CASTLE
The Elders,who had seen the Buddha setting in motion of the wheel of the Law and at the same time seen him offering the hand of compassion in form of treatment to those who were aged and sick,also took upon themselves in making numerous offerings and extending their helping hand in helping the Buddha. One of the Elders was Suclatta of the Sravasti kingdom who decide& as his offerings the construction of a vihara in the kingdom of Sravasti. He approached Prince Jeta, the owner of the garden and asked him if he could buy the whole land. Jeta, the Prince, first refused but findingSudatta insistent in his demands,said at lastthat if hecouldcover the whole ground with gold, he would be willing to part with the garden. Suclatta 'rejoiced and began to spread his gold and Jeta seeing this and knowing that he would not stop at anything for the sake of the Buddha and was determined, accepted only one half of the gold saying "Yours is the land, but mine are the trees; I will give my trees as my share of my offering to the Buddha." The offerings for the building of Jetavana Vihara was given jointly and was called, Gijugikkodoku-on, (Jetavananathapindadarama) in short, Jetavana Vihara (Gion Shoja).
Devaclatta, brother-in-law of the Buddha, was jealous of the growing fame, day by day of the Buddha and determined to clescredit his name before his followers. One day he gave intoxicating liquor to the elephant in the castle and had him released into the crowd while in the intoxicated condition. Devadatta took this opportunity in telling the crowd that the fault was with the Buddha, for as long as the Buddha carried out this action the trouble will not stop and just about this time the Buddha accompanied by his disciples walked into the tension filled castle.
The Buddha without showing any fear approached the wild elephant and touched the head of the animal with a lotus flower. The infuriated elephant became gentle in the presence of the Buddha and showed no signs of violence and bowing down paid his respects to the Buddha. Devaclatta's plan was foiled and his name remains today as the symbol of evil evermore.
MAHAPARINIRVANA (THE PASSING OF THE BUDDHA INTO NIRVANA)
The Buddha knowing that his passing was fast approaching stopped in at the garden home of Cunda, a blacksmith, living in the outskirts of the capital of Pava. This he did while making the rounds of preaching the Law. At the home of Cunda he partook an offering of food offered to him by the head of the family. Later the Buddha became ill from eating the mushroom but decided to push on to Kushinagara, his destination. He arrived at the Sala forest and directed his disciples to lay down a couch between the twin Sala trees. He was placed down on the couch with his head toward the north, and sleeping on his right side with his hands as pillow he delivered his last message to his disciples who had assembled at the grove upon hearing the sad message. It is said that the flowers in the Sala grove turned to full bloom, the sad music was heard to come from the heavens above and the birds sang and others remainded quite as if to sense the sad happening. The Buddha was never to rise again and his 45 years of setting the wheel of Law into motion came to an end at the age of 80 on February 15th 'night.
AMIDA BUDDHA'S PURE LAND AND HEAVENLY MAIDENS
The place where the sun rises symbolizes birth and where the sun sets is called death. Why death is indicated in the direction of the west is that this is the most suitable way in which to indicate the Realm of Pure Land (Jodo) where all life returns. Therefore, beginning with Amida residing here with innumerable Bodhisattavas as Kwannon and Seishi,who has adorned the realm with all of their virtues, and since the realm surpasses all of the millions of Buddha Land it is called Gokurakujodo or Sukhavati (Highest Joy or Name of the Pure Land of Amitabha).