The craziness and the humidity of the city had us seeking out quiet and solace. We went to visit some friends upstate and took advantage of visiting the Chuang Yen Monastery in Kent NY. We were so happy we did. We were surrounded by quiet and beauty. Our main goal was to visit the “Giant Buddha” that we heard about.
Walking up the Bodhi Path, you are greeted on each side by multiple gods. They are in a variety of poses with many adorned with coins left by visitors. It’s a lovely contemplative walk up to the pagodas and the Great Buddha Hall that houses the Giant Buddha.
I was curious about the different poses and I found this great explanation from www.straightdope.com:
…mystic hand gestures called mudra (Sanskrit for “seal” or “sign”) are also a big deal in Buddhism. The five most common.
- Teaching mudra. Also called “turning the wheel of law.” Used by the historical Buddha when preaching, the right hand is in front of the chest, palm outward, thumb and forefinger forming a circle. The left hand is beneath the right hand, also with thumb and forefinger touching, but palm inward. Variation: right hand at shoulder level pointing up and the left at hip level pointing down, both with palm outward and index finger and thumb forming circles; sometimes called the “reasoning” mudra.
- Fearlessness mudra. Upraised hand lifted above thigh, palm facing out, fingers pointing up, usually with middle finger slightly forward; means “fear not” and is a sign of protection.
- Welcoming mudra. Right hand pointing downward, palm facing out, often with middle finger slightly forward; means welcome, blessing, or charity.
- Meditation mudra. Found mostly on seated images. Both hands in lap, palms upward, usually right on top of left but sometimes fingers curled, thumbs touching to form a circle; indicates a state of, well, meditation.
- Earth-touching mudra. Statue in lotus position, with right hand hanging over right knee, palm inward, fingers (or just forefinger) touching the earth; left hand in lap, palm upward, sometimes holding a begging bowl. Symbolizes the Buddha “calling the earth to witness” his victory over temptation.
When I walked into the main temple, I was unprepared for the greatness of what I was about to see. Sitting approximately 37 feet tall, the impressive Buddha sits serenely on a giant lotus flower and is surrounded by thousands of other buddhas.
We finished with a visit to the pond. There it seemed that hundreds of carp lived there. A beautiful statue of Kuan Yin (the Goddess of Compassion) stood watch at the entry. It was a great day. I definitely would recommend visiting the monastery as a day trip. Thanks Annamarie and Dirk for taking us there!