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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXIII NO. 6, July 1-15, 2013
Buddhist shrine in Adyar
By Chithra Madhavan

Buddhist Shrine, Theosophical Society.

On the verdant campus of the Theosophical Society, close to the Adyar River, is a temple for Gautama Buddha – a haven of peace and tranquillity. Although the seeds for the construction of this shrine were sown in 1883, it was completed only in time to be consecrated during the Golden Jubilee convention of the Theosophical Society in December 1925.

The design of this shrine was, in the words of C. Jinarajadasa, the fourth President of the Theosophical Society, "a combination of two styles, both contemporaneous, though one is at Buddha Gaya and the other in Nepal. The base of the shrine, with its rounded arches and pillars, is taken from Buddha Gaya, while the cornices and the dome are from a Buddhist temple in Nepal." A souvenir to commemorate the centenary of the Buddhist shrine was published in February 1983.

The shrine is a small but elegant structure, white in colour, with beautiful wooden doors carved with motifs like the lotus and swastika and seven stone steps with elephant-head balustrades leading to the sanctum. The exquisite grey stone image of the Buddha from the eastern parts of India enshrined here was a gift of Dr. Annie Besant, the second President of the Theosophical Society. The Buddha is seen here as the Teacher of Dharma, with his palms in the Dharmachakra Mudra, turning the wheel of Dharma. Above his head is an inscription in Tibetan characters: "He taught the cause of all things as also the means of cessation."

Plaque near Bodhi tree, Buddhist Shrine, Theosophical Society.

Opposite the temple is a lotus pond, on the banks of which is a magnificent peepal (Bodhi) tree planted by President Jinarajadasa on the 75th anniversary of the Theosophical Society. It is a scion of the original Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. A small marble plaque states that this sapling from the tree at Bodh Gaya was planted on December 24, 1950.

Near the Bodhi tree is a small structure which housed an ancient Buddhist gong that used to be struck at 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening, recalling the six remembrances of the Buddha which are etched nearby on a black stone slab:

To the parents as the East, where rises the light,
To teachers as the South, whence rich gifts come,
To wife and children as the West, where gleam colours of love and calm,
To friends and kinsmen and all men as the North, where stars are firm-fixed,
To servants and dependents as the earth beneath which humbly nourishes all,
To Devas and holy ones above, around which all moves.

A Zen Memorial Stone, donated by the Institute of South Indian Buddhist Studies and Jogetsu of Japan, was unveiled on October 5, 2009. On it is an image of Bodhidharma, the great Buddhist monk of the 6th century C.E. and the first patriarch of Zen. The plaque states that, according to Chinese Buddhist tradition, Bodhidharma was born the third prince of the Pallava dynasty at Kanchipuram.

Sitting near the lotus pond, by the side of the Bodhi tree in front of the Buddha shrine, enveloped by silence, is an experience to be cherished.

Bodhi tree, Buddhist Shrine, Theosophical Society.

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In this Issue

Railways attempt to discard their heritage
Call to participate in Madras Week-2013
Stormwater drains... mixed responses
A Centre for Excellence in Cancer care
Buddhist shrine in Adyar
The cerebral Army Chief
Regret over leaving him in a subordinate post
The master leg spinner

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Madras Eye


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