Thursday, April 14, 2011

Big Wild Goose

While in China, I visited the "Big Wild Goose Pagoda."

It is an impressive tower, originally built with five stories
in 652.  It collapsed after 50 years and was rebuilt with ten stories in 704.  In 1556 an earthquake damaged the pagoda and it was reduced to the current seven stories.

The pagoda and various buildings on the grounds of this Buddhist Monastery commemorate the travels and work of a famous Chinese Monk named Xuanzang.

Xuanzang lived in the 600's and traveled to India to aquire a complete set of the Buddhist scriptures.  His journey took over 17 years and involved many adventures.  When he came back, he translated the scriptures into Chinese.
Inside the Temple
It is interesting to me that Xuanzang's work in bringing the complete Buddhist scriptures to China are contemporary with the arrival of Christianity in China in 635.  (This is also around the time that Islam was being developed in the Arabian peninsula - but Islam didn't come to China until much later.)
Man Burning Incense & Praying

At the temple many of the people were tourists like ourselves, but there were also those who were participating in Buddhist worship.  This involved burning incense, bowing and praying, and lighting candles.

Lighting Candles & Incense
While the setting is different, it occurred to me that the practice is not all that different from the practice of some groups that call themselves Christian.

The golden images, the saints, the incense, the bowing, the candles, the pilgrimages are all hallmarks of religion based on human works.  It makes no difference at all if the image is of Buddha or Jesus or Mary.  The underlying premise is that by our act of worship I am earning the favor of the Deity.

Biblical Christianity recognizes that salvation cannot be earned.  Salvation in the Bible is a gift of God's grace through the completed works of Jesus Christ - both His sinless life and His atoning sacrifice of Himself for sinners.
Woman Bowing and Praying at the Incense Trough

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