What Does a Buddha Sculpture Mean?

What Does a Buddha Sculpture Mean?

What Does a Buddha Sculpture Mean?

The Buddha sculpture is a symbol of the Buddhist religion. It has been revered for centuries as an object of contemplation and inspiration.

In Buddhism, it represents enlightenment achieved by overcoming worldly desires and egoism. The sculpture signifies the importance of self-reflection in achieving inner peace.

History of Buddha Iconography

Artistic iconography of the Buddha first appeared between the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. in India, the geographic origin of Buddhism.

As Buddhism spread into Southeast Asia, artistic representations of the Buddha began to appear in Thailand and Laos, as well.

These first icons of the Buddha were not created until centuries after the death of Siddhartha Gautama, and they were never intended to represent the physical attributes of the man.

Instead, each image represents the spirit of the teachings of Buddha. In this way, these icons possess a soul or a spirit.

The artists who create the statues must be in a state of spiritual connectedness in order to represent the spirit of the teachings of the Buddha. 

Buddha Sculpture FAQs

What does the Buddha statue symbolize?

Wisdom, understanding and fulfilling destiny are represented in the Teaching Buddha statue. The Teaching Buddha represents the life of Buddha after his enlightenment when he gave his first sermon.

Is it disrespectful to have a Buddha statue?

Besides being totally disrespectful, it's bad luck to place Buddha in a bathroom. Also the statue should never face one. Dust accumulating on or around the statue is disrespectful. It will bring filth into your own life.

Who is the female Buddha?

She appears as a female bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, and as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the "mother of liberation", and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements.

Which Buddha is for money?

Laughing Buddha

ManyFeng Shui masters referred to the Laughing Buddha as the Buddha of Wealth. This is because the image of the Laughing Buddha is believed to attract unlimited prosperity and abundance of wealth.

Why is the Buddha smiling?

When he discovered it, he became known as the Buddha, the enlightened one, enlightened enough to forge a path out of suffering into bliss (which is why he is very often depicted as a smiling Buddha). Some of these Buddhas did laugh to achieve, transmit or express enlightenment.

Symbolism And Meaning Of Buddha Statues

gray-buddha-statue

Buddha statues are representative of the teachings and travels of Gautama Buddha.

Each statue features common physical attributes, poses, and postures that define its purpose and meaning. 

The hand gestures of the Buddha, called mudras, indicate teaching, meditation, enlightenment, and wisdom.

Similarly, the postures of the Buddha each have a specific meaning. Buddha is most often represented in three positions: sitting, standing, or reclining.

Though less common, there are a few representations of the walking Buddha, as well.

Reclining Buddha

Also known as the Nirvana Buddha, the Reclining Buddha represents Buddha in the final hours on earth before death and entering into Nirvana.

Buddha is depicted lying on the right hand side on top of a table.

It is due to Buddha’s enlightenment that he was able to evade the birth, death, rebirth cycle and enter into Nirvana.

The reclining Buddha features the Buddha lying on his right side with his head supported by a pillow or his propped up hand and elbow.

Though this representation of the Buddha can indicate sleeping or resting, it is most commonly a representation of the final moments at the end of the life of the Buddha.

Called parinirvana, this transitional state occurs only to those who have reached enlightenment, or nirvana, during their lifetime.

Those who achieve nirvana are released from samsara, the cycle of rebirth, and karma. Instead, when they die, they reach nirvana-after-death or the eternal Self.

The reclining Buddha is an iconographic representation of the Buddha lying down during the moment of his Mahaparinirvana.

It is one of the popular iconographic patterns in Buddhism as they represent the historical Shakyamuni Buddha during his last moments of illness.

With reclining Buddha statues, the Buddha is seen lying on the right side facing west while his head is supported by his right hand.

The reclining Buddha statues are not supposed to induce the state of sadness to the followers but rather the reclining Buddha should be taken as an object of encouragement that all beings have the potential to be awakened or enlightened and release themselves from the suffering which is characterized by the cycle of rebirth.

The serene and smiling expression of the Buddha in the reclining Buddha statue portrays the compassion and calmness that comes with enlightenment.

Sitting Buddha

The sitting Buddha is the most common representation of the Buddha. These Buddha statues can represent teaching, meditation, or an attempt to reach enlightenment. Hand gestures, or mudras, are essential in determining what a sitting Buddha means.

For example, the bhumisparsha mudra, or the position in which the Buddha rests his left hand palm up on his lap and his right hand palm down, fingers toward the earth indicates that the statue is calling the earth to witness.

There are three different positions of the sitting Buddha: virasana, vajrasana, and pralambanasana.

Virasana, also known as hero’s pose or half lotus, depicts the legs crossed over each other and the sole of one foot is turned upward. Vajrasana, also called the adamant posture, lotus, or diamond, depicts the legs folded over each other with both soles of the feet turned upward.

Pralambanasana, also called the European Sitting Pose, depicts the Buddha seated upright in a chai

Standing Buddha

The standing Buddha is indicative of being stationary, with both feet planted firmly side-by-side.

During this position, the Buddha has stopped, and the reason for this halt can be determined by the mudra of the hands.

Most often, the standing Buddha is repelling conflict or rising from meditation to teach the Four Noble Truths after reaching nirvana.

Notably, the feet of the Buddha are planted firmly on the ground, indicating the Buddha is ready to begin traveling and teaching.

By contrast, when the soles of the feet are facing upward, as in vajrasana, the Buddha is in the receiving position, during meditation.

Walking Buddha

The Walking Buddha represents grace and internal beauty. Buddha has the right hand raised and facing outward and the left hand swings beside the body with the left foot behind.

This statue has a graceful appearance, depicting Buddha’s return to earth after delivering a sermon in Heaven.

The Walking Buddha’s right hand depicts a gesture of reassurance.

The walking Buddha is the least common of the Buddha postures, seen almost exclusively in Thailand. It features the Buddha standing, with one foot placed in front of the other with the robe shifted to one side, as if in motion.

This position indicates inner peace and grace. The Buddha is often considered to be either beginning his journey to teach or returning from heaven after delivering a sermon.

Though most often the walking Buddha is said to have already reached nirvana, there are some depictions of the walking Buddha wearing shoes.

These shoes mean that, though the journey toward enlightenment has begun, the shoes are preventing him from connecting with the earth.

He needs to remove his earthly desires before he is able to reach enlightenment.

Signifies grace and internal beauty, and in Thai, we call this "Phra LeeLaa". Right hand raised, facing outward, left hand dangles along left side of body. Standing with right foot behind, starting to raise off the ground.

This statue is particular to the Sukhothai period in Thailand. It represents a time when the Buddha was returning to earth after delivering a sermon on the Dharma in Heaven, and was being accompanied by Lord Indra and Lord Brahma. 

Protection Buddha

This depiction of a seated Buddha with the right hand raised and facing outwards has two common meanings.

The first is that of the Protection Buddha, as the raised right hand symbolically represents a shield.

The second meaning, Overcoming Fear, is closely related to the first (since one who is receiving protection would be less fearful).

The main features of this pose, aside from the raised right hand, is that the Buddha can be depicted either sitting or standing, and the left hand may either be extended outward or palm up in the lap.

This statue signifies courage and offers protection from fear, delusion and anger.

Protection Buddha sits with his right hand raised and facing outwards. This hand pose symbolises a shield.

The pose can also represent a second meaning of overcoming fear. Normally, the Protection Buddha is sitting or standing with the left hand either extended out or the palm in the lap. Protection Buddha means courage and offers protection from fear, delusion and anger. 

Meditation Buddha

In this pose, Buddha has both hands face up in the lap with legs crossed in a Double Lotus pose or a Single Lotus pose.

Buddha’s eyes are also normally half-closed or fully closed as the statue represents focused concentration.

The profile of the statue is also shaped similarly to a triangle to represent stability.

This Buddha statue is great for people looking to create peace and calm in their lives. It’s also the perfect addition to a space in your home where you like to relax and unwind.

This statue is for people who are either looking for peace and calm in their lives, or for those who wish to improve their own meditation skills.

People will often buy a Meditation Buddha if they want to set up a "serenity room" or a corner of their house where they can sit in calm for a little while and unwind.

In this pose, the Buddha is depicted with both hands in the lap, face up, and the legs are crossed, either in a Double Lotus pose (with the ankles of each leg tucked behind one another in a locked position), or in a Single Lotus pose (where one leg rests on top of the other leg).

Occasionally, an alms bowl is placed in the lap as well.

As this statue generally represents focused concentration, the eyes of the Buddha are either depicted as halfway closed, or closed nearly all the way.

The silhouette of the statue is shaped - more or less - like a triangle, which represents stability.

Many of the largest Buddha statues in Japan, such as the Great Kamakura Buddha Statue at Kotokuin Temple, and large statues in Korea are in the Meditation Pose.

This pose is also known as the Amithabha Buddha, which means Boundless Light.

Laughing Buddha 

laughing-buddha

Have you been wondering why the Laughing Buddha - also known as Happy Buddha, Prosperity Buddha, Ho Tai or the Fat Buddha - is fat?

This might answer your question! The Laughing Buddha is actually not the Buddha at all.

The Laughing Buddha is an admired Chinese Monk who was well known for his Buddhist sermons and extremely popular because of the bag full of gifts he brought for the children who learnt the Dharma.

You could say he is like a Buddhist Santa Claus.

The Laughing Buddha is depicted in a number of ways including with his arms up above his head reaching towards the sky, holding a sack over his shoulder or simply sitting with his stomach out, waiting for a good old rub.

The Laughing Buddha represents happiness, good luck and plenitude.

In western culture, the laughing Buddha is probably the most widely recognizable and used.

It's also known as the good luck, prosperity or abundance Buddha.

It depicts Buddha in his later years as happy and with a large belly from an abundant lifetime.

He'll either be in a sitting position or standing with his hands over his head supporting a real or imaginary Ru-Yi pot.

This statue is affectionately dubbed Happy. It's tradition to rub his belly to ensure even greater luck is bestowed upon you.

Earth Touching Buddha

The most common pose you will find in Thai temples is with the legs crossed, the left hand in the lap, and the right hand pointing to the ground with the palm facing inward toward the Buddha.

This posture is known as Calling The Earth to Witness, and it is the definition of the moment of enlightenment for the Buddha.

It is the story of how the Buddha, after six years, finally was at the verge of enlightenment. Unfortunately Mara, the Demon of Illusion, tried to dissuade The Buddha from the final last steps.

The Buddha meditated all night to overcome the fears and temptations sent by Mara, and then called the Earth Goddess to witness that the Buddha achieved enlightenment in order to share with the rest of the world.

Witnessing that, the Earth Goddess wrung her hair, releasing flood waters that swept away the Demon Mara and all the temptresses he had released.

Medicine Buddha

The Medicine Buddha is depicted in paintings having blue skin, but whether shown in statue or painted form, the right hand is held facing downward with fingers extended toward the ground, palm facing outward toward the viewer, a bowl of herbs rests in the left hand upon the lap.

It is believed by the Tibetans that the Buddha was responsible for delivering the knowledge of medicine to the people of the world, and in fact the right hand facing outward signifies "granting a boon" (meaning, giving a blessing) to mankind.

This is a common hand gesture amongst both Buddhist and Hindu statues.

The Medicine Buddha is venerated by those seeking health, and is more commonly found in the Buddhist temples and communities of Nepal and Tibet. 

With the right hand facing downward, fingers extended towards the ground, palm facing out and a bowl of herbs resting in the left hand, the Medicine Buddha is responsible for delivering medicinal knowledge.

The right hand facing outwards is the Buddha giving a blessing to humankind. The Medicine Buddha is perfect for those seeking good health.

Teaching Buddha 

teaching-buddha

This statue signifies wisdom, understanding, and fulfilling destiny. Both hands are held at chest level, with thumb and index fingers forming a circle.

The right hand is turned palm in, while the left hand is turned palm out.

As do most images of the Buddha, the Teaching Buddha depicts a particular moment in the life of the Buddha, namely, the first sermon the Buddha gave after reaching Enlightenment.

This sermon was to a small group of disciples who had previously scorned the Buddha. This is a statue that is particularly appropriate for those who are either studying or are interested in learning more about spirituality.

The phrase DharmaChakra is hard to translate. The word Dharma means "the way of righteousness," while the word Chakra is usually translated as the "Universe" or as the "cosmos."

Taken together, this phrase generally is interpreted as, "putting the cosmic law of righteousness in order," or "turning the wheel of cosmic righteousness." 

Three Wise Buddhas (See No Evil Buddha)

It is no surprise most things in Buddhism are always done in three. The number 3 refers to the trinity, a symbol of divine protection, help and guidance. It also refers to the three training of discipline, concentration and discrimination.

These statues of laughing Buddha portray the three wise monkeys and the proverb associated with being the good mind , speech and action.

  • Hear not evil Buddha: The Kikazaru monkey covers his ears to hear no evil.
  • See no evil Buddha: The Mizaru monkey covers his eyes and sees no evil around.
  • Speak no evil Buddha: The Iwazaru monkey, who covers his mouth to speak no evil.

Buddha statues for home and garden can be also used in feng shui applications to enhance your personal directions as well as energize weakened sectors of your life.

It's important to understand the symbols of each statue design so you can optimize the chi energy it attracts. 

Contemplation Buddha

Represented by the Buddha holding both arms against the chest with palms facing in and the right arm on the outside of the left, Contemplation Buddha symbolises silent determination and tolerance.

Contemplation Buddha is for anyone looking to increase spiritual confidence. It also promotes humility.

Conclusion

Buddhism is a religion that originated in India and spread to East Asia. Though it has many different sects, the fundamental teaching of Buddha was about finding enlightenment through living an ethical life.

This might sound like common sense, but for Buddhists these teachings are interpreted as not only moral guidelines for everyday life, but also spiritual practices.

The sculptures you see throughout temples and homes represent this journey toward enlightenment- they symbolize the path we must take on our own individual paths to reach Nirvana (or nirvana). 

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