The Dharma reveals the Buddha's understanding of life. The Buddha instructed countless people, but he, himself, wrote nothing down, just as Jesus wrote nothing down. They both lived a complete life. His disciples remembered his talks and recited them regularly. These talks were collected into books called Sutras. There are many Sutras, so Buddhism does not have just a single holy book, like the Christian Bible or the Quran of Islam.
The first Sutras were written on palm leaves in Pali and Sanskrit, ancient Indian languages. They have been gathered together in a collection called the Tripitaka, which means 'three baskets'. It is divided into three parts.
Sutra Pitaka~Sutras and their explanations
Vinaya Pitaka~Rules for monks and nuns
Abhidharma Pitaka~The psychology and philosophy of the Buddha's teachings
Buddhists treat Sutras with great respect and place them on the highest shelves in the most respected areas.
Buddhist symbols have special meanings that remind us of the Buddha's teachings. The main room or building is called a shrine or a Buddha Hall. In the front of this room, there is an altar. There are many beautiful things on the altar. Here are some of them.
Some people believe that Buddhists worship idols, but this is not true. Buddhists bow or make offerings of flowers and incense in reverence to the Buddha, not to the image. When they do so they reflect on the virtues of the Buddha and are inspired to become like him. Buddha images are not necessary, but they are helpful. The most important thing is to follow the Buddha's teachings.
There are many different kinds of Buddha and Bodhisattva images that show different qualities. For example, a statue of the Buddha with his hand resting gently in his lap reminds us to develop peace within ourselves. A statue with the Buddha's right hand touching the ground shows determination.
Traditional offerings are to show respect to the Buddha.
Flowers- are offered as reminders of how quickly things change
Light from lamps or candles- symbolizes wisdom
Incense- reminds one to be peaceful
Water- represents purity
Food- reminds us to give our best to the Buddhas.
The instruments used in ceremonies and meditation are called Dharma instruments. Each instrument has a specific use. For instance, the wooden fish is hit to keep rhythm
Bells- gives signals in ceremonies and meditation
Drums-announces ceremonies and keeps rhythm
Gongs- announces ceremonies and activities
Wooden fish-keeps rhythm while chanting
The lotus flower represents enlightenment described in the poem.
The lotus has its roots in the mud,
Grows up through the deep water,
And rises to the surface.
It blooms into perfect beauty and purity in the sunlight.
It is like the mind unfolding to perfect joy and wisdom.
The Bodhi Tree:
The Bodhi Tree is a pipal tree, a kind of fig tree found in India. After the Buddha attained enlightenment under this tree, it became known as the Bodhi Tree, the Tree of Enlightenment. It is located in Bodhgaya, where people visit to pay their respects to the Buddha. Although the parent tree is no longer alive, its grandchildren are still there.
The Buddhist Flag:
As the Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi Tree after his enlightenment, six rays of light came out from his body and spread for miles around. The colors were yellow, blue, white, red, orange and a mixture of all the colors. The Buddhist flag was designed after these colors.
Stupas and Pagodas:
Stupas and pagodas are monuments where the relics of the Buddha and high monks and nuns are kept so that people can show their respects. These relics are jewels that remain after cremation.