Modern temples are usually very bright and colourful, with three main features. There will be a shrine room with a main Buddha image and many other images, either statues or wall paintings telling the story of the Buddha’s life. There are also gigantic statues of the Buddha to make him look massive.
Horns may be blown; there may be the chanting of mantras over and over again. The robes are richly coloured. There may be candles, both in front of the images and around the shrine room. There may also be incense burning. Tibetan Buddhists use prayer wheels. Mantras are written out on paper and tucked into prayer wheels. Small prayer wheels are carried in the hand. Larger ones are fixed and people turn them with their hand as they pass, reciting a mantra.
A temple is made up of a few different buildings. Firstly there is the temple itself. This is a very ornate building where the Buddhists will meditate, pray and worship. Secondly is the building that the monks live in.
The walls of the temple will be elaborately decorated with images from the Buddha’s life and in some temples the walls will also picture events from recent times. In the temple that I visited in Birmingham, the walls had images of nuclear war heads, old prime ministers and technology. The ceiling of the temple pictured the Buddha in the different meditation positions.
As I turned to leave the temple, I noticed two dragons “guarding” the exit. We were told that these were a “warning” as to the dangers of what would happen to you in your next life if you did not follow the noble eight fold path in the daily undertakings of your life.
2. How is it used and why is it important?
Offerings are made at the shrine as a mark of respect to the Buddha. Usually, seven different types of offerings are made at the shrine – two bowls of water, essential for drinking and washing, symbolise hospitality. Other offerings are white flowers, incense, lamps, perfume and food. These represent the five senses.
Most worship inside the temple will take place as meditation. The temple is always clean because a Buddhist will always remove their shoes before they enter and to also show their respect.
When a Buddhist meets the Buddha’s statue they will usually bow from kneeling position with their hands held together at head, lips and chest. Basically this will show respect towards the Buddha.
All of these are important because they will have to show their respect to the Buddha and thank him and to show that they follow him and his teaching and to demonstrate their commitment.