When we lived in Kuala Lumpur, I really enjoyed walking around the neighborhood and taking in the sites. We lived by Little India, which was filled with all sorts of Hindu shops and temples, and also by a little Buddhist section of town, so there were always really interesting things to see.
One day I decided to just wander and see where my feet took me and I ended up at this cute little Buddhist temple from 1895 that I’d never known was there before. The main gate is known as the Sanchi Main Gate, after the village of Sanchi in India, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This gate has a similar architectural style to the structures in that village, but it’s less elaborate and of a more contemporary design.
One of the things I love about most religious sites is that they have such beautiful features. I really like the fountain at Maha Vihara.
The flower in the center of the fountain is a lotus blossom. You’ll actually see these a lot at Buddhist sites. Lotus blossoms are an important symbol of faith to Buddhists and the symbology is that the mud the lotus flower roots into is the materialism of the world while the water the flower grows through is our experiences and the blossom flowering above the water is a person basking in the light of enlightenment. It’s actually a pretty neat allegory.
Also on the grounds is a tower with a Buddha statue. I haven’t been able to find any information online about when this was built or how tall it is, but it’s still really neat.The building the tower is attached to is a school, though it is also used for other things. There is a multi-purpose hall on the ground floor, the Buddhist Institute Sunday Dhamma School is on the first and second floor (second and third to Americans) and there are also a library, resource center and kindergarden rooms.
Outside that building there is also a playground for the children. It was neat seeing the mix of old-style toys and a few of the more modern ones.
Going past the toys you’ll come to an outdoor shrine area with a few Buddhas encased in glass. This is one of the areas where people can pray to the Buddha or leave offerings of flowers and fruit.
The place I thought was really neat was the International Buddhist Pagoda.
When I was first wandering around the area, I didn’t think I could go inside. I’m a bit on the shy side and didn’t even try to door, but a girl and her friend who were there praying came over to me and began talking to me about the temple complex and asked if I’d been inside the pagoda. When I said I hadn’t, she started gesturing fervently and told me I HAD to go inside. So, I went inside with her. They were doing maintenance work inside, but that didn’t distract too much from how amazing the room was.
The lighting was really bad and it was hard to get good pictures with the glare on the glass, but it was just so neat being able to see Buddhas that were from so many places.
After getting my fill of the beautiful Buddhas in the pagoda I wandered around the grounds for a bit.
This stupa was built in memoriam of the Venerable Dr. Kirinde Sri Dhammanada Nayake Maha Thera.
Venerable Dr. Kirinde Sri Dhammanada Nayake Maha Thera was the head monk of Maha Vihara from 1952 until his death in 2006. He was also the foremost Theravada monk in all of Malaysia and Singapore during that time.
These pots are located outside the main shrine area. They are for devotees to light incense sticks and then pray before entering the shrine.
The red building is the main shrine.
Inside the main shrine are three depictions of Buddha. My guide told me that each one represents a different stage in the Buddhas path of enlightenment.
Both of these Buddhas are in different styles of the abhāya mudrā position, which signifies fearlessness in the face of adversity. My guide told me that standing representations of the Buddha are indicative of his life and his quest for enlightenment.
My guide said that a seated Buddha is representative of the Buddha’s life after he became Enlightened. The hands are in the bhūmisparśa mudrā position, which is known as Calling The Earth to Witness. This pose is a depiction of the moment of enlightenment for the Buddha. It represents unshaken strength and the truth of his commitment to liberation, which helped overcome the darkness challenging him right before he entered the Light.
This statue depicts the Buddha in the last moments prior to the dying one last time before entering Nirvana. It is called the mahāparinabbāna pose.
After walking through the different meanings of the statues and their hand positions, my guide talked to me a bit about Buddhism and how much she loves it. She told me she comes to this temple every afternoon to pray and that if I would like to receive a more in-depth tour, to give her a call and she’ll set up a time to show me around the entire complex and explain everything to me.
I’m a bit sad that I never took her up on that. Life happens and time goes by so fast when you’re not paying attention and 4 months later we were moving back to the US. But I did learn a lot and I really enjoyed visiting the Maha Vihara Buddhist temple. It’s amazing what interesting things you can find just by wandering around in your own neighborhood.
Have you ever wandered somewhere familiar and found something new?