by Robert Brow ( Aurora, Ontario, April 2008

 My wife Mollie and I lived for a year In Varanasi (old Benares).  Very
 close to the stupa in the deer park where Buddha (c.560 - c.480 BC)
 preached his first sermon there is a magnificent Buddhist temple with
 a statue of Buddha. Buddha himself would have been horrified at being
 worshiped in the form of an idol. As opposed to original Buddhism,
 which proved too severe for ordinary people, Mahayana (the great
 vehicle) deified Buddha (as Adi Buddha). He is pictured as taking
 birth in a series of Bodhisattvas before and after the incarnation of
 Buddha himself. The severely ascetic monastic life of the Sangha (a
 group of monks forming a monastery) was usually abandoned in favor of
 simple faith in Buddha and other Bodhisattvas. Faith was nourished by
 contemplation and prayers to a big statue of Buddha in a temple.
 Instead of the original Buddhist ideal of losing all desire to merge
 in the Absolute, salvation was by faith (which may suggest Christian
 influence). There was also a personal heaven to be enjoyed. Mahayana
 Buddhism had originated in India, but it mostly disappeared under the
 influence of the very popular Bhagavad Gita and Hindu Bhakti (devotion
 to a personal God). It flourished in China before the Communist
 revolution, and also in Korea, and Japan before it was weakened by

 Robert Brow

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