The Happy Buddha of Bethany

Maitreya Buddha of Bethany

When you arrive at the Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden in Bethany you will be greeted by a giant stone-carved Buddha who sits smiling contentedly near the entrance at Ski Hill Road. It was beneath this 13-metre high Maitreya Buddha, otherwise known as ‘Happy Buddha’, that a colourful ceremony took place on June 19, 2017. ‘Maitreya’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘maiti’, meaning friendliness.

The ceremony marked the consecration of the statue and was conducted by Venerable Masters who had travelled from the Cham Shan Temple in Toronto, the US, and even from China. Still under construction, it is not expected to be finished for another 20 years, and is described as “a bridge where East meets West.” Eventually, the Garden will become the largest single Buddhist complex outside of China and the only one of its kind in Canada.

The Garden is part of the Canada Cham Shan Temple project to recreate the Four Great Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China. Mount Wutai is China’s Sacred “Five Terrace Mountain” – the highest in Northern China – and is dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjusri.

One of the goals of The Buddhist Association of Canada is “to provide amiable places for cultivation, to purify the mind and bring about social harmony,” and for those of us who enjoy meditation, this is certainly an idyllic Bodhisattva of Compassionsetting in which to practise.

What exactly is Buddhism?

Although Buddhism began in India, its teachings spread to Korea, Japan, and China. The Buddha is not a ‘god’ – he was a man (born as Siddhartha Gautama in Nepal approximately 2,500 years ago) who achieved enlightenment. The word Buddha means ‘awakened one’.

Buddhism teaches us how to live in peace, joy, and harmony, and that we are fundamentally no different from an awakened Buddha; we all have the Buddha ‘nature’ within us. The Buddha ‘nature’ can be described as “the empty, clear or radiant, and open mind” which exists within all sentient beings.

Buddhism is not a religion that requires one to ‘join’. The practice is about freeing ourselves from suffering and learning how to be liberated from things like cravings, greed, addictions, envy, anger, fear, and ignorance. In other words, it’s about practising being happy.

And who doesn’t want to become happier? As the Dalai Lama says, “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.”

By Moira Gale
Photos by Moira Gale

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