For many people, Buddhas of Three Times is a vague concept. Because this set of statues usually only appear at temples and there are very few Buddhists worshiping at home.
But the truth is that the symbol of the Buddhas of Three Times is the source of many wise teachings in Buddhism. It represents the integrity of the buddhas of the ten directions from the past, present and future.
So, what are Buddhas of the three times and who do they include? Lotusbuddhas.com would like to synthesize information related to this set of statues so that readers can better understand the meaning and layout when worshiping Buddhas of Three Times at home.
Who are Buddhas of Three Times?
Buddhas of Three Times refer to three Buddhas who represent past, present, and future times. Amitabha Buddha represents the past, Shakyamuni Buddha represents the present, and Maitreya Buddha represents the future. This also demonstrates the boundless and immeasurable nature of Buddhas in the ten directions of the universe.
1. Amitabha Buddha represents the past
Amitabha Buddha (Sanskrit: Amitabha – Amitayus, Chinese: Amituofo) is a Buddha frequently mentioned in Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, particularly in Pure Land Buddhism, which is a branch predominantly practiced in the East Asia region.
According to these scriptures, Amitabha Buddha possessed infinite merit from performing good deeds in countless previous lives. Therefore, he was cited by Shakyamuni Buddha as a prime example of enlightenment practice in the past, before Shakyamuni Buddha’s own era.
2. Shakyamuni Buddha represents the present
Shakyamuni Buddha, a real historical figure, is considered to be the founder of Buddhism as we know it today. He was born as Prince Siddhartha, the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya, into the Shakyamuni royal family.
According to Theravada Buddhism, he was born on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month (April 15) in 624 BC. According to Mahayana Buddhism, he was born on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month, in Lumbini garden which is located between Kapilavastu and Devadaha in Nepal.
Throughout his life, Shakyamuni Buddha dedicated most of his time to teaching the truth and providing insight into the nature of life. His teachings, which have been passed down through the centuries, continue to serve as a guide for many Buddhists around the world today.
3. Maitreya Buddha represents the future
According to Buddhist scriptures, Maitreya Buddha is the future successor of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Maitreya (Sanskrit: Maitreya, Pali: Metteyya) is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth, attain full enlightenment, and teach the Dharma to sentient beings when the Buddhist teachings have been forgotten.
Maitreya Buddha is considered the embodiment of joy and happiness, and many Buddhists refer to him as “The Laughing Buddha.” His smile is said to help neutralize hatred, afflictions, and stress in life.
Some people interpret “Times” as referring to the world or the Buddha realm in the Buddhist universe, which includes:
- The Pure Land of the Medicine Buddha in the East
- Amitabha Buddha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss in the West
- The Saha world of Shakyamuni at the center
However, the Buddhas of Three Times do not include the Medicine Buddha, who reigns in the East among the Five Directions Buddhas. Therefore, interpreting the Buddhas of Three Times as representing the world of Buddhas from East to West, from right to left, or from top to bottom is entirely incorrect!
The meaning of worshiping Buddhas of Three Times
Buddhas of Three Times are also known as the “Eternal Dharma Body of Three”. This means honoring the true, miraculous, and eternal forms of the Buddhas that exist throughout space and time.
If you are a devout Buddhist who goes to the temple often or observes closely, you know that worshiping the Buddhas of Three Times is rare at home. This is because most Buddhists follow the Pure Land school, and the symbolism of the Three Saints Buddhas including Amitabha Buddha, Mahasthama-prapta Bodhisattva, and Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is more popular.
However, there are still a few Buddhists who worship the Buddhas of Three Times at home with the intention of drawing experience from the past, focusing on the present moment, and moving towards a better future.
Every day, Buddhists often chant sutras and vow to live according to the teachings of the Three Buddhas. They wish to have boundless compassion like Amitabha’s vows, transcendental wisdom and practicality like Shakyamuni Buddha, and thereby aim to live a fulfilling, happy life in the future, like Maitreya Buddha’s smile.
In addition to reminding us to live according to the Buddha’s teachings, worshiping the Buddhas of Three Times statue at home also brings health and peace to the family. Recently, feng shui stores have added the Buddhas of Three Times set to the list of feng shui items that bring luck and peace to the owner. This is an ancient Asian worship custom that should be preserved.
How to arrange Buddhas of Three Times on the altar at home
In order to meet the needs of so many Buddhists who seek to worship, spiritual workshops have created a variety of products on the market. However, worship is not a simple matter, especially when it comes to the Buddhas of Three Times statue, which is usually only worshiped at temples and rarely at home. Therefore, if you want to invite the Buddhas of Three Times to your home for worship, you must keep a few things in mind regarding the layout:
- The altar should be placed towards the main door and away from places like the toilet, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, or the bottom of stairs.
- The saints should not be placed together with the Buddha altar, as they are considered to still be in the six paths of reincarnation and have not yet been fully enlightened. Devoted Buddhists will understand this taboo and follow it when worshiping the Buddha.
- Good quality wood should be used to make the Buddhas of Three Times statue.
- The Buddha altar should be placed in the highest place, on the ancestral altar. However, it should not be placed too high so that it is easy to burn incense or clean.
- During the full moon or festival, the homeowner should only display flowers or fruits and avoid offering votive papers or salty food on the Buddha altar. Bowls and utensils should also only be used for worship, not for everyday use.
- The Buddha altar should not be combined with the ancestors’ altar. According to the concept, the Buddha is the teacher of all sentient beings throughout the ten directions and three realms. Even the deceased need the Buddha’s blessings, so they should not be placed on the same level as the ancestors’ altar.
- Worshipping the Buddha involves wholeheartedly turning to the Buddha and vowing to practice according to the Buddha’s teachings.
Before being invited back, the Buddhas of Three Times statue must be chanted by a monk and an opening ceremony must be performed. After that, the homeowner should choose an auspicious day and month to worship the Buddha. During this time, the homeowner should fast and practice pure vegetarianism, chant, and meditate on the teachings of the Buddhas of Three Times.
Where can we buy Buddhas of Three Times?
As mentioned earlier, there are several Buddhas of Three Times statues available in the market today that have diverse origins. Some spiritual shops import statues with sophisticated designs and extremely charismatic features from Taiwan and China. Additionally, religious product factories in Vietnam have also produced beautiful statues that are imbued with Vietnamese culture and traditions.
One such reputable Buddha statue production facility in Hanoi, Vietnam is Phuc Minh. Here, you can find Buddhas of Three Times statues made of various materials such as stone, bronze, porcelain, plastic composite, wood, or stone powder imported from Taiwan.
Usually, the Buddhas of Three Times statue is custom-made to ensure meticulous detailing and high quality, which shows respect for the three Buddhas. Compared to bronze, sculpture, or relief, stone powder and composite have a slightly lower price. To avoid confusion when buying statues for worship, Buddhists should note that the set of Buddhas of Three Times statues has the shape of three Buddhas sitting cross-legged in meditation with different hand postures.
The difference between the Buddhas of Three Times and the Three Saints Buddhas
If you are new to Buddhism, you may be confused between Buddhas of Three Times and the Three Saints Buddhas. Or maybe you think it’s one.
However, as Lotus Buddhas described above, Buddhas of Three Times is a symbol representing the buddhas of three different spatial dimensions. The Three Saints Buddhas represent the three Buddhas and Bodhisattvas residing in the Western Pure Land, in which Amitabha Buddha is the cardinal.
The worship of Buddhas of Three Times is considered to honor the merits of the Buddhas who have brought peace and prosperity to sentient beings from the past, present to the future.