Eighty-Eight Buddha Surrounding the Southern Platform 八十八座佛塔繞南台

Eighty-Eight Buddha Surrounding the Southern Platform

八十八座佛塔繞南台

The South Platform is dedicated to the wisdom Manjushri Bodhisattva. Around the South Platform, numerous Buddha stupas stand tall, creating a magnificent landscape. Can you count how many stupas there are? There are a total of precisely eighty-eight stupas, a highly auspicious number.

So, why are there eighty-eight stupas on the South Platform? What special significance do these stupas hold?

In fact, the benefactors who initiated the construction of these stupas were among the first to donate to the establishment of Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden in Canada. Back then, Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden was nothing more than vast, untamed mountains and wilderness, devoid of any development. The merit of these benefactors, centred around their unwavering trust in Venerable Dayi, led them to decisively donate these stupas. With the merit generated by these eighty-eight stupas, Venerable Dayi was finally able to gather the initial funds needed to start the construction of the monastery.

As time has passed, many of the donors of these stupas have already passed away. Venerable Dayi is deeply grateful to these dedicated benefactors who made great aspirations. Therefore, he made a vow that, during the inauguration of Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden, every donor of the eighty-eight stupas would be invited before the stupa they donated, allowing them to witness the tremendous contribution they made and to express gratitude towards them.

What is special about the design of these eighty-eight stupas? All of the eighty-eight stupas are seven-tiered structures, standing at around 3 meters in height, commonly referred to as "seven-tiered pagodas." The bottom three tiers are hexagonal bases adorned with lotus relief carvings on all sides. On the front, there are inscriptions of the eighty-eight Buddhas' names and the names of the donors who contributed to the stupa. Above that is the upward-reaching lotus section, followed by tiers that recede like stairs, leading up to the bell-shaped stupa body. Within each tier, there are niches enshrining the images of the eighty-eight Buddhas, symbolizing the heart of the Buddha. The stupa finial, representing the Buddha's head, is composed of seven levels of discs and a jewel, creating a profound symbolism that captures the essence of Buddhism. These stupas are exquisitely carved, uniquely creative, and meticulously structured, making them masterpieces of ancient stupas.

In Buddhism, the Eighty-Eight Buddhas are comprised of the Fifty-Three Past Buddhas and the Thirty-Five Present Buddhas. The names of the Fifty-Three Past Buddhas can be found in the " Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on Visualizing the Two Bodhisattvas Bhaisajyarāja and Bhaisajyasamudgata," while the Thirty-Five Present Buddhas are mentioned in the " Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on the Inquiry of Upali Regarding Determination of the Vinaya." These Eighty-Eight Buddhas can serve as objects of confession and purification for sentient beings. Therefore, people can turn to them with repentant hearts, expressing their desire to mend their ways.

The "Sutra of Circumambulating the Stupa for Merit on the Right" states: "All heavenly dragons, yakshas, spirits, and others draw close and make offerings when one circumambulates to the right of the stupa." Circumambulating stupas enables all sentient beings to be free from descending into unfortunate realms, allowing them to encounter the Dharma and be shielded from harm. Pilgrims who come to the Eighty-Eight Buddha Stupas on the South Platform can walk around them with joined palms, concentrating their minds, leaving behind afflictions, freeing their spirits, and ultimately achieving supreme enlightenment. This is akin to what is expressed in the "Lotus Sutra": "If a person with scattered mind enters a stupa or a temple, and even utters the name 'Namo Buddha,' they have already achieved the path of Buddhahood!"

This is the story of the South Platform and the Eighty-Eight Buddhas.

南台是智慧文殊師利菩薩。在南台的周圍有許多佛塔林立,風景壯闊,大家可以數一下看看有多少座呢?一共有不多不少整八十八座佛塔。非常吉利的數字。

那麼,南台為什麼是八十八座佛塔呢?這批佛塔又有什麼特殊的意義呢?

其實這批佛塔的功德主都是最早捐建五台山的人。當初,加國五台山還是一望無際的荒山野嶺,除了荒山之外什麼都沒有。南台的這些功德主憑著對達義大和尚的充分信任,他們果斷地捐了這些塔。因為有了這八十八座佛塔的功德金,達義大和尚終於籌集了開山建寺的第一筆啟動資金。

時光荏苒,現在這些塔的捐贈者,其中有很多人已經往生了。達義大和尚特別感恩這些發大願心的功德主,所以大和尚發了一個願,五台山開園之際一定要讓每一位八十八佛塔的捐贈者都來到他們捐贈的佛塔面前,讓他們看到當年他們所做的巨大貢獻,以此來感恩他們。

八十八佛塔的造型設計有什麼特別之處呢?我們所看到的八十八佛塔都是七個層級,高度在3公尺左右,即世稱的「七級浮屠」。最下三層為六角形基座;基座上四面飾以蓮花浮雕;正前方為八十八佛尊號銘文,以及捐建佛塔功德主的芳名;再上為仰蓮;腰部以上逐層收分如階梯,上覆缽形塔腹,中設有龕門,供奉八十八佛尊像,象徵佛的心臟部位;而塔剎象徵著佛的頭部,塔頂上面由七級相輪和寶珠剎組成,巨大的塔身蘊含著深厚的佛教內涵,佛塔雕刻精湛,獨具匠心,結構嚴謹,為古塔之精品!

佛教中的八十八佛是五十三佛加三十五佛。五十三佛名見《觀藥王藥上二菩薩經》,是娑婆世界的過去佛;三十五佛出自《決定毘尼經》,是現在十方世界中佛。這八十八佛都可以為眾生作懺悔主,因此,人們可以向他們申述自己改悔過惡的願望。

《右繞佛塔功德經》雲:「一切諸天龍,夜叉鬼神等,皆親近供養,斯由右繞塔。」繞行佛塔能使諸天龍免於墮惡趣中,得以值遇佛法,所有眾生悉不能害。朝聖至南台八十八佛塔,同修們可合掌繞行佛塔,止心一處,拋開煩惱,釋放心靈,乃至成就無上正覺。這如同《法華經》中所說:若人散亂心,入於塔廟中;一稱南無佛,皆已成佛道 !