Every Buddhist temple has an image or statue of Buddha. Buddhist temples are built to represent the five elements. The square base of the temple represents the Earth. The peak at the very top represents wisdom. Between these two extremes, there are four other shapes that the remaining parts of the building can take.
The temple usually has three floors. The ground floor is called the basements or subterranean level. It contains the kitchen, bathrooms, and storage rooms. The first floor is called the galleries. This is where most of the important rooms are located: the priest's house, the monks' dormitories, the library, etc. The second floor is called the garbhagriha. This is where the main shrine resides with all its bells and candles. Above it is a small room called the amalaka niche where flowers and oils are kept for use in temple rituals.
Buddhist temples were also used as shelters for refugees during times of war and persecution. Today, they continue this role by providing shelter in time of need such as natural disasters or illness.
There are many different types of buildings used in Buddhist temples. Some are large monasteries that contain hundreds of rooms! Others are smaller temples that only have one or two rooms!
A Buddhist temple is a site of worship for Buddhists, or Buddhist adherents. In various areas and languages, they include constructions known as vihara, stupa, wat, and pagoda. Temples in Buddhism depict a Buddha's pure land or pure atmosphere. Many are richly decorated with sculpture and painting.
Buddhist temples present an important aspect of daily life for Buddhists. They are places of meditation and prayer, where monks carry out their duties, and laypeople come to make offerings and be blessed by religious leaders. Temple grounds also contain memorial services for those who have died, libraries containing sacred texts, and living quarters for priests and teachers.
In Asia, especially India and China, many towns and villages have Buddhist temples on them. These often play an important role in social life, helping people through difficult times, such as when a family member dies. Families will sometimes build their house with a small room just for praying to the gods. These rooms are called gyoji-zasho, which means "sacred rooms".
In addition to these sites within towns and villages, there are large numbers of isolated temples all over Asia. It is here that some of the most famous sites are found including Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar (Burma).
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A basic Buddhist shrine comprises the same three statues whether you are a guru, monk, or home practitioner of Buddhism. The most frequent picture of Buddha, the original Buddha, Shakyamuni, is in the middle. To his left and right are figures that represent his teachings -- Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, is known as the "Awakened One" to his left, and his disciples are called "Sangharamas" (companions) to his right.
There are many other deities in Buddhist shrines, such as Bodhisattvas who have reached enlightenment but not yet become gods; they help humans achieve nirvana and become enlightened themselves. There are also Arhats (individuals who have completely abandoned all desires and are thus free from the need for liberation), angels, and goddesses.
In Tibetan Buddhism, where it is common for there to be hundreds of statues in a temple complex, the number one choice for representation is usually the Buddha. However, since religion is personalized, a shrine owner can choose to include others if they so desire. For example, if someone has practiced Buddhism for many years and wants to show their respect by including their teacher in their shrine, they would select another figure to place on top of their statue rack.
Buddhist shrines often include a statue of the Buddha or (in the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools of Buddhism) one of the several bodhisattvas. They frequently include candles as well as offerings like as flowers, clean water, food, and incense. In Japan, they are usually made from wood but can also be made from stone.
Shrines to protect travelers are common in Asian countries with large populations of pilgrims. Sometimes called "holy gates," these shrines are found on roads where there are dangers from traffic or crime. The most famous example is the Kuan Yin Pavilion in Hong Kong. Built in 1975, this shrine to the Goddess of Mercy has become a popular tourist attraction. There are similar shrines in other cities around China as well as in South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand.
In addition to protecting travelers, these shrines offer up prayers for safe journeys themselves. So not only do they provide sanctuary, but they also pray for their visitors.
There are many different types of Buddhist statues used in shrines. Some are made of gold or silver while others are just clay models painted by artists who know nothing about metal work. But whatever their material composition, all Buddhist statues have something in common: they are representations of human beings, but not ordinary people.
The shrine chamber, which houses one or more Buddharupas, is the most significant section of a Buddhist temple. A shrine is any area where an image of the Buddha is used in devotion, and many Buddhists keep shrines at home. Candles, flowers, rosaries, and incense are brought by Theravada Buddhists. The Mahayana tradition allows for the use of music and theater in addition to these items.
Behind the shrine chamber is the hall where monks chant sutras (sacred texts) daily. Other important buildings include the library, which contains sacred books that are kept under lock and key; the bakery, where rice and other offerings are prepared for the shrine; and the cemetery, where the remains of monks and others who have died serving Buddhism are buried.
Buddhist temples serve three main purposes: place of worship, community center, and school. A temple may be built by a monastery or individual. Many monasteries have their own village outside of which all their activities take place. These villages usually consist of a church or chapel, a school, a hospital, a kitchen, etc.
Even if they are not built by monasteries, temples often include several rooms where monks can live and study. They usually have only one door through which everyone enters and no exit except by death or escape into freedom.
In time, followers come to believe that God is present in some form within the temple.