The Compassion of the Leshan Giant Buddha Statue
The Leshan Giant Buddha statue was the brain child of a Buddhist monk named Hai Tong. However, the purpose of the statue was not only for material ambitions. Hai Tong wished to transcend the material world and use Buddhist virtue to ease the suffering of sentient life.
The intended beneficiaries of the Leshan Giant Buddha would be the ancient sailors of China’s inland waterways. For many centuries, countless sailors had lost their lives on the rivers which flowed off the Tibetan Plateau into Sichuan Province China. The monk Hai Tong had great compassion and he endeavored to pacify this dangerous passage.
Therefore, the Leshan Giant Buddha location is in the side of a cliff overlooking the confluence of the three most dangerous rivers in the province.
By constructing a big Buddha statue imbued with such incredible beauty, Hai Tong hoped to improve the karma of the traveling sailors. Additionally, the big Buddha statue would improve the propitious flow of Qi energy along the river passage.
Leshan Giant Buddha History
Construction was begun in the year 713 ACE during the time of the Tang Dynasty. Unfortunately, funding for the Leshan Giant Buddha statue project was threatened during the early years of construction. As a result, Hai Tong is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his unwavering commitment to its completion.
Although funding for the project was to eventually be restored, Hai Tong would die before its completion. Fortunately, the giant Buddha statue would finally be completed by the disciples of Hai Tong in 803 ACE.
The miraculous qualities of the giant Buddha statue were very effective in accomplishing the objective of Hai Tong. As such, the water flowing through the river passage became calm and safe for the ships passing below.
Miracle of the Leshan Giant Buddha Statue
Ironically, the enormous amount of rubble that was deposited into the river during construction had altered the flow of the rivers. As a result, it calmed the dangerous water and made passage safe for the ships.
In present times, the view from the riverside cliffs is filled with serenity and indeed the water remains calm many centuries after it was completed.
Leshan Giant Buddha Location
Visitors are well advised to take the Leshan Giant Buddha tour from Chengdu, China. The drive to the Leshan Giant Buddha from Chengdu is about 150 kilometers and takes about 1.5 hours by car.
Additionally, the big Buddha statue is within the Leshan Grand Buddha scenic area which includes temples, walking trails and a beautiful natural environment. Also, there are an abundance of hotels and restaurants located nearby.
Was the Leshan Giant Buddha Really a Buddha?
Visitors to this destination may find it interesting that this iconic “Buddha” statue is actually a Bodhisattva. However, in Mahayana Buddhist belief Bodhisattvas carry great significance – especially this one.
Indeed, a Bodhisattva is someone who could have achieved enlightenment. However, in a gesture of great personal sacrifice they vowed to delay entering the state of Nirvana e.g. Hai Tong. Instead, they will indefinitely delay their awakening and assist others to achieve the highest level of spiritual accomplishment.
Who was the Leshan Giant Buddha?
Mahayana Buddhism is predominant in China and therefore Bodhisattvas are central to their beliefs. However, the Leshan Giant Buddha is a depiction of a very important Bodhisattva named Maitreya.
Maitreya, is known as the future Buddha who will come to the earthly realm in the future and achieve enlightenment. Additionally, he will come at a time when the human race has long forgotten the Dharma teachings of Gautama Buddha.
As such, it is prophesied that Maitreya will replace Gautama Buddha and he is the Buddha of the future. Therefore, Maitreya is left with the enormous task of leading all of sentient life to their awakening.
Leshan Giant Buddha Statue Facts
The Leshan Giant Buddha statue is 71 meters tall and after over 1,400 years it is still the most impressive big Buddha statue in the world. Furthermore, it is the largest pre-modern Buddha statue still existing.
Meitreya is believed to be waiting in the highest Buddhist heaven (Tusita) for his time to return. It is believed that he sits upright on a throne because he is in a constant state of readiness. Therefore, he can rise to depart quickly when called.
As such, our gold Maitreya statue is the only Buddha or Bodhisattva who is depicted seated in a chair. This is in contrast with other Buddhist sculptures which are depicted reclining, standing, walking or in different variations of the lotus pose. Most commonly, they are seated in full lotus pose.
It is also of note that some of the ancient Maitreya statues (including this one) are not depicted using any mudras. Perhaps this practical matter factored into Hai Tong’s thinking because the stone face of the cliff was so unyielding. Therefore, it would have been extremely difficult to depict the Leshan Giant Buddha with any of the common Buddhist mudras.
Nonetheless, Maitreya is a most significant feature of Mahayana Buddhist beliefs. As such, he is well suited as the subject of Hai Tong’s monumental Leshan Giant Buddha statue.
In China, a 10th century incarnation of the Maitreya Bodhisattva is believed to be Budai or “Happy Buddha”. Happy Buddha is still immensely popular in China as a symbol of prosperity and wealth.
The unwavering compassion and resolute dedication of Hai Tong has changed the course of history and saved many lives. As a result, the Leshan Giant Buddha Statue is #1 on my list of the world’s best Buddha statues. Plus, this is surely one of the world’s coolest travel destinations!