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         Buddhism was founded about 2500 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama in a region of what is now India and Nepal. He was a  prince, but he renounced the comforts of princely life in order to seek insight into the cause of human suffering and how to overcome it. Finally, in meditation, he woke up to the true nature of himself and the universe. Siddhartha became known as the Buddha, which means, the enlightened or awakened one. He dedicated himself to teach others what he found: that the cause of human suffering is excessive desire and attachment and that one must break the shackles of deluded thinking, anger, and aversion in order to become free of this suffering and realize one's true nature.
       Since that time, many schools of Buddhism have developed in South and East Asia and have transmitted throughout the world. They include various forms of teaching, ritual, and spiritual practice, but all hark back to this original insight. In a sense, all Buddhist schools are like universal social welfare institutions: they are dedicated to help human beings and all other beings to find enlightenment and relief from suffering.
     In this section of the Gallery, you will find images that relate to Buddhism in East Asia and the United States. Most of the images are from South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. Many are full of rich color, intricate designs, and significant iconography. The images indicate various cultural nuances. Some also show influence from other traditions like Taoism and shamanism. Buddhists often teach that religious images and teachings are meant to direct and encourage practitioners in pursuing the path to enlightenment, as the Buddha did, and not to become stuck in them.
     Of particular note are images of Bodhisattvas, who are described in the Mahayana (Great Vehicle) branch of Buddhism as beings who have awakened to their true nature but retain existence in order to help other beings on their journey to enlightenment. For example, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva (Sanskrit; also known as Kwan Yin, Chinese; Kannon, Japanese; Kwanum, Korean) expresses compassionate help to all beings. Sometimes Kwan Yin is depicted with eleven heads and a thousand eyes and hands, perceiving and reaching out to help all beings. Another popular Bodhisattva is Kshitigarbha (Sanskrit; also known as Ti ts'ang, Chinese; Jizo, Japanese; Jijang, Korean) who helps beings deal with the death transition time and other periods of crisis. For some believers, these beings are understood as actual entities who can be beseeched for help. For others, they are metaphors of qualities inherent in everyone's true nature of wisdom and compassion. Or, they may be both. Another important figure representing service is Bhaisajyaguru, the Buddha of healing and medicine. He  is known for bestowing worldly benefits on sentient beings such as eliminating pain and sickness and providing comfort. Bhaisajyaguru (Sanskrit; also known as Yao shih, Chinese; Yakushi Nyorai, Japanese; Yaksa Yorae, Korean) means "Medicine Teacher Buddha". The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, is sometimes referred to as the Great Physician because he diagnosed the cause of human suffering (i.e. attachment to desires), prescribed the cure (i.e. cessation of attachments and desires), and provided the method for cure (i.e. the Eightfold Path for life involving, for example, correct knowledge, meditation, and conduct).
     Buddhism includes various kinds of educational, social service, and environmental programs. In East and Southeast Asia, many Buddhist denominations and temples offer a variety of formal and informal supports. For example, the Tzu Chi Foundation (see related images in the China/Hong Kong subfolder) is a Buddhist philanthropic organization that originated in Taiwan and spread around the world. See their website at 
http://www.tzuchi.org/The movement for socially engaged Buddhism bridges east and west. For more examples of socially engaged Buddhist activities see the following website: http://www.dharmanet.org/engagedhome.htm.
     In Japan, educational facilities were founded in Buddhist temples. The first public school  that admitted commoners was built on Toji temple's land in 828 by the famous monk Kūkai. Additionally, terakoya (literal meaning: temple schools) were private educational institutions for commoners established during the Edo period (1603-1868). These originated from earlier educational activities at temples.