Buddhist temples can now be found in most countries of the world as Buddhism has spread across the globe to become a major world religion and philosophy. Over the last 2500 years, Buddhism has undertaken many modifications, until today when there are three main branches of the religion and each has its own Buddhist temple for followers. Buddhism has extended from its roots in India to almost every corner of the globe, and everywhere it is practised has a Buddhist temple for devotees to worship in. Despite Buddhism being a distinct and specific religion with eastern origins, many people in the modern day west have adopted some of its practical and philosophical aspects and now include them in their social and religious practices, even attending Buddhist temples to worship. Although the date of Buddha's birth is still disputed, most religious historians are able to agree that Buddhism has its origins in the north of India in the 5th century. The literal translation of Buddha is "Enlightened One" and after observing suffering in the world, Buddha set out to discover the antidote. Using meditation it is said that he attained enlightenment, a state which marked the end of suffering. Find your own Nirvana in any of these 10 Amazing and Revered Buddhist Temples.
1. Wat Arun
The famous Wat Arun Buddhist Temple is one of Bangkok’s most iconic images, the unique khmer tower decorated with shards of porcelain and surrounded by 4 smaller prangs make the Bangkok skyline instantly recognisable. Although the interior is less memorable, it is still worth the effort of taking a boat taxi across the river to visit.
2. Pha That Luang
By far the most important ancient building in Laos, Pha That Luang is symbolic of both Buddhism and sovereignty. Legends tell us that Indian missionaries built the huge gilded and domed temple to house a piece of Buddha’s breastbone. Despite modern excavations never having found any evidence to back up the legend, this Buddhist temple remains a must see attraction for all visitors to the area.
The Jokhang Buddhist temple is in the centre of Lhasa which is renowned as the world’s Tibetan spiritual centre. The temple itself is the oldest remaining earth/wood building and ornately decorated with traditional Tibetan features and gives tourists an authentic taste of Tibetan culture. The temple is regularly used to host religious and political activities and remains a hugely important centre for Buddhism and Buddhist activities in Tibet as well as being a stunningly beautiful building.
One of the most significant and well known of Japanese Buddhist temples is Todaiji in Nara. Although very little of the original temple remains, it is still the biggest wooden building in the world and houses a huge statue of Buddha. The temple has always been and remains an enormously popular and sacred attraction; it is also home to an influential Buddhist school.
Local Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhists have made pilgrimages to Boudhanath for centuries and in recent decades many refugees have settled in the area. Boudhanath temple’s most iconic and famous feature is the eyes on each side of the stupa. The Himalayan culture is very much in evidence and nuns and monks can be seen walking and chanting on most days.
The Mahabodhi Buddhist temple was built in the place where legend has it that Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bodh Gaya and is considered to be the most sacred place in Buddhism. The site includes 6 sacred places and a lotus pond as well as the main temple; it was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2002.
7. Shwedagon Pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda is Burma’s holiest Buddhist shrine; and one of the most holy anywhere in the world. The story of Shwedagon origins has been lost in history but it is generally believed that the pagoda was initially built to house strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy artefacts. The main stupa of Shwedagon is entirely coated in gold and appears to shimmer in sunlight.
Also in Burma, the Bagan area has the largest concentrations of Buddhist temples, stupas and pagodas to be found on the globe. The temples have all been built along the river Ayerwaddy and were inspired by the caves that the Buddhist monks lived in in years gone by. The Bagan Buddhist temples are much simpler in design than those found elsewhere in the world but people still make pilgrimages to worship or simply gaze in awe and their magnificence.
Java is home to the largest Buddhist temple anywhere in the world, it is estimated that the construction of Borobudur used 2 million stone blocks and features 72 stupas, all of which encase a statue of Buddha. The temple lay abandoned for centuries and remained hidden in jungle undergrowth until it was rediscovered and restored to its former glory, the temple has subsequently been granted world heritage site status by UNESCO.
Haeinsa temple in Korea is hidden away from the rigours of modern life by the mountains which surround it. However, it remains a place of pilgrimage to thousands of Buddhists each year. Haeinsa is home to the oldest collection of woodblock Buddhist scriptures anywhere in the world and its monastery has been home to the monks who study the scriptures for generations.
You don’t need to be a practising Buddhist to be inspired by these wonderful Buddhist temples or to gaze in awe at the artefacts and relics of days gone by which are just as relevant and fascinating today as they ever were. If you happen to be lucky enough to be in the vicinity of these 10 Amazing and Revered Buddhist Temples, any of them are worth adding to your itinerary.
Top Photo Credit: yakthai.