We recently took our elder daughter to nearby Chuang Yen monastery. As we were walking up from the car park to the Great Buddha hall we were looking at the statues on both sides of the walkway. I had previously taken pictures of a couple of them and now it occurred to me that it might be a nice little project to take a picture of each of them – eighteen in all.
I was originally going to call this ‘Eighteen Buddhas’, thinking that each of the statues was of the Buddha, but in a different pose. Then my wife remarked that the number eighteen must have some significance so I looked it up and found that it did.
As Wikipedia says:
The Eighteen Arhats are depicted in Mahayana Buddhism as the original followers of the Buddha who have followed the Eightfold Path and attained the Four Stages of Enlightenment. They have reached the state of Nirvana and are free of worldly cravings. They are charged to protect the Buddhist faith and to await on earth for the coming of Maitreya, a prophesied enlightened Buddha to arrive on earth many millennia after Gautama Buddha’s death and nirvana. In China, the eighteen arhats are also a popular subject in Buddhist art, such as the famous Chinese group of glazed pottery luohans from Yixian of about 1000.
And, indeed, each of the statues had, at its base, a stone plaque describing the follower to which it referred. In subsequent posts I’ve used these descriptions – broken English and all.
And I changed the post title to “Eighteen Arhats”