The Buddha Museum was built to enshrine the Buddha's tooth relic, symbolizing the everlasting presence of the Buddha Dharma in the world.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun went to India to preside over the Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony in 1998. To show gratitude for the contribution that Fo Guang Shan has made in spreading Buddhism, Kunga Dorje Rinpoche entrusted Master Hsing Yun with the Buddha’s tooth relic that he himself had kept and protected secretly for thirty years. He expressed his hope that a memorial could be built in honor of the tooth relic to enhance the spread of Buddhism throughout the world.
There are only three Buddha’s tooth relics in the entire world. They are considered treasures for Buddhists.
Buddha’s tooth relics are considered great treasures. They truly represent the body of the Buddha and worshiping the Buddha's tooth relic is considered the same as worshipping the Buddha himself. It is not only a treasure for Buddhist practitioners, though, but relevant to humanity as a whole.
The Buddha’s tooth relic, a type of bone relic, is a solid crystal. After the Buddha entered para-nirvana, his body was cremated, and relics were found in the ashes. These relics, the result of Buddha’s nurturing of discipline, concentration, and wisdom, embody an enormous field of merit.
According to the sutras, the merits of enshrining relics are as follows:
1. One will stay away from the Eight Difficulties and do not fall into the Three Lower Realms.
2. One will be reborn in a wealthy family.
3. One’s beneficial activity and wisdom will only grow.
4. One will be reborn in the pure land.
5. One will be capable of becoming a Brahma King, Sakra, or Cakravartin in future lives.
6. One will reach perfect Awakening.
Only three Buddha’s tooth relics have survived in the world for more than 2500 years. One of those is in the Buddha Museum in Taiwan, an other one in Sri Lanka, and the third in Beijing, China.
This shows how rare the Buddha's tooth is. Not worshipping the Buddha’s tooth relic when you visit the Buddha Museum, is like going to a mountain full of treasures but returning empty-handed.
The Buddha Museum Took Nine Years to Build
A majestic layout with Eight Pagodas in the front, Big Buddha at the back, Vulture Peak in the south, and Jetavana Grove in the north.
To enshrine the Buddha’s tooth relic, Venerable Master Hsing Yun founded the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum in Dashu district in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. A grand ceremony was held to commemorate the laying of the foundations of the Buddha Museum in 2003. After nine years of construction, the museum was opened to the public on December 25th, 2011.
The Buddha Museum is over one hundred hectares in size and took nine years to build. Apart from the main building, the site also incorporates eight pagodas in front, the Big Buddha in the back, Vulture Peak to the south, and Jetavana Grove to the north. Going through the main entrance, visitors will first arrive at the Front Hall. Visitors will pass the Eight Pagodas, the Grand Photo Terrace, and the Bodhi Wisdom Concourse to get to the Main Hall, above which towers the Fo Guang Big Buddha.
The Main Hall is a majestic structure that is 50 meters high and covers an area of 14,190 square meters. It is covered with yellow sandstone, in traditional Indian Stupa-style. Erected on the four corners of Main Hall are the Four Noble Truth Stupas. The stupas are enshrined with Avalokitesvara, Ksitigarbha, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra Bodhisattvas. The Main Hall has a basement level and three floors above ground. In addition to enshrining the Buddha’s tooth relic, the Main Hall also has the Great Enlightenment Auditorium, which can accommodate an audience of up to two thousand and features a multifunctional display space.
There are 48 underground palaces under the Main Hall, one of which will be opened every one hundred years and filled with items containing historical, intellectual, contemporary, and commemorative objects, donated by people from around the world. These donations from the public make the Buddha Museum an important cultural landmark that stores memories of human beings, here, in Taiwan.
The Bodhi Wisdom Concourse
In front of the Main Hall is the 100-square-meter Bodhi Wisdom Concourse. It is covered with rust stone and basalt. There are 22 bas-reliefs depicting stories from the Buddha’s life and 22 Buddhist Verses written by Venerable Master Hsing Yun in One-stroke Calligraphy, lining the walls on either side of the Bodhi Wisdom Concourse. At the square we find eighteen Arhat statues. In addition to the ten disciples of the Buddha and the great Arhats who are mentioned in the Amitabha Sutra, there are also the three female Arhats - bhikkhunis Mahaprajapati, Utpalavarna, and Bhadra Kapilani, as well as the Dragon-Subduing Arhat and the Tiger Taming Arhat. The statues are vivid images, either sitting or standing, all wearing the kasaya, robes worn by fully ordained Buddhist monks and nuns. The Grand Photo Terrace in front of the square features thirty-seven steps, representing the Thirty-Seven Factors of Enlightenment.
The Eight Pagodas, Representating the Noble Eightfold Path
The eight pagodas on either side of the Bodhi Wisdom Concourse represent the Noble Eightfold Path. Their names are: the One Teaching Pagoda, the Two Assemblies pagoda, the Three Goodness pagoda, the Four Givings pagoda, the Five Harmonies pagoda, the Six Perfections pagoda, the Seven Admonishments pagoda, and the Eightfold Path pagoda. They are all square - seven story towers, 38 meters high, built with reinforced concrete, featuring a yellow sandstone base, marble walls, bird-shaped roof tiles and stone railings.
The central area, with four pagodas on each side, is the Great Path to Buddhahood. The North and South walkways, flanking the Great Path to Buddhahood, are each 254 meters long. Along these walkways we can see black granite walls - the Wall of Benefactors, in recognition of the donors who have helped realize the construction of the Buddha Museum. The walls are also inscribed with numerous Dharma Verses by Venerable Master Hsing Yun. The Front Hall is located at the entrance of the Buddha Museum. It has a basement level and two floors above ground. There are reception services, souvenir stores, and vegetarian restaurants to meet the needs of all visitors.
The Fo Guang Big Buddha is situated behind the Main Hall. With a total height of 108 meters - the Buddha statue measuring 50 meters, the Fo Guang Big Buddha is the tallest copper-cast seated Buddha statue in the world. The “One Million Heart Sutras in the Buddha” event generated millions of the Heart Sutras, all preserved in the Main Hall of the Buddha Museum, which are dedicated as a prayer for world peace.
The Eight Pagodas fronting the Bodhi Wisdom Concourse represents the Noble Eightfold Path.
What Comes from All Directions, Supports Undertakings in All Directions.
The Buddha Museum -- A Museum for Everyone
The Buddha Museum fuses both the traditional and the modern: The yellow sandstone that makes up its exterior lends it an atmosphere of remote antiquity, but on the inside the technology is completely modern. The Buddha Museum comes equipped with the facilities to assist in spiritual cultivation and the attainment of wisdom, as well as serving as a site for culture and education. The goal of enshrining the Buddha’s tooth relic was to create activities that show the Buddha’s compassion and wisdom in a way that people can experience concretely. Through their homage to the Buddha’s relic, people could recognize their own true Buddha nature.