Tag Archives: Buddhism

Amsterdam

So, Amsterdam, where have you been all my life?

I have actually been to Amsterdam a few times before, but only changing flights at Schiphol so I had never actually seen the famous city. I rectified that last weekend with my wife and in-laws (my sister in-law is lucky enough to live in this amazing city).

img_6476v4

It is, of course, the city that never should have been. A city reclaimed from the sea, with a web of famous canals below sea level while the city itself is propped up by pillars.

The famous canals curve round to feed (or, more accurately, be fed by) the Amstel and the mighty IJ – defined by some as  a river and others a lake, whilst it looks like a narrow strip of sea to me from the map. The Amstel not only gave its name to the beer, but to the city itself.

img_6445v5

The Amstel

amsterdam-v3

img_6507v2

nightamstelv2

bikelightv2

img_6658v2

img_6707v1

Amsterdam is also famous for bicycles (millions of these!), and art…

The Rijksmuseum is impressive.

img_0723v2

The Rijksmuseum

The Vermeer’s are exquisite , the Rembrandt’s are sublime, and there are some other hidden gems in this huge gallery that drew my attention but wouldn’t, perhaps, be featured in any highlight guide of the museum.

From the titillating (this painting of a young woman removing her stocking and exposing her thighs was seen as so outrageously erotic when first unveiled, it was partially painted over)…

img_0729v4

Woman at her Toilet, Jan Havicksz. Steen, 1655-1660

… to the spiritual. I was captivated by this chap (below). His name is Ajita. He is one of the legendary Arhats or lohans, a Buddhist sage tasked with preserving the doctrines until the time when the teachings can be understood. He is listening carefully and serenely to a sutra being recited. In an age where we struggle to listen, I think many of us could learn from Ajita.

ajita-v2

A lohan, anonymous. China, c.1200-1400

I drooled over the museum’s library…

img_0727v4

Rijksmuseum library

…and even got some satisfaction for my main interest…

img_0728v2

Drake Pintail, Rochus van Veen. 1682

Amsterdam is, of course, famous for one or two other things as well. All I will say on those matters is that if the salesperson in a coffeeshop tells you that a ‘space-cake’ is for sharing between two, don’t eat a whole one!

coffeeshopv2

Coffeeshop, Amsterdam

Story of a Buddha

Peace Pagoda

Battersea Park in London contains one of three Buddhist Peace Pagodas in the UK. It was built in 1985 in the same year as the 100th birthday and death of Nichidatsu Fuji, a Nichiren monk, who founded the movement, Nipponzan-Myōhōji, which built these monuments to peace around the world. He was a also a friend of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Pagoda contains three large golden images taken from the life story of Gautama Buddha, or simply, The Buddha. I’m sure everyone remembers at least fragments of the life of the Buddha, but in case not…

Siddhartha Gautama

Around 2,500 years ago, there was a young Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived a sheltered life. At the age of 29, he finally encountered the realities of ageing, sickness, and death outside of the confines of the palace.

This moved him profoundly, some say to depression and he initially searched for ways to overcome the suffering of life and death. He gave up his princely possessions and left his family to become an ascetic – basically a religious beggar.

He took the ascetic lifestyle so seriously that he nearly starved to death.

Shakyamuni 1

Eventually he sat beneath a Pipal tree, now known as the famous Bodhi tree, and vowed not to move until he had discovered the Truth about life and death.

He is said to have meditated for 49 days until he reached a state of enlightenment. From that moment, he became known as Gautama Buddha, or Shakyamuni Buddha (Shakya being the name of the district he was from).

Shakyamuni 2

Shakyamuni lived a long life and taught many hundreds of people who became his followers. His teachings were eventually written down as the Sutras and his followers became known as Buddhists.

The final image shows the point at which Shakyamuni died, aged 80, surrounded by his followers.

Shakyamuni 3

In three months time I shall marry a Buddhist in a Buddhist ceremony.