What Does a Buddha Statue Represent?
Statues representing the likeness of the Buddha are ubiquitous in the West, increasingly touting the traditions of Eastern philosophy.
Buddha statues come in every size, from majestic stone sculptures gracing Buddhist temples and Zen gardens to the palm-sized plastic figurines you find in Chinatown. Believers of the Abrahamic religions may mistakenly interpret images of the Buddha as proof of idol worship.
Buddhists do not assign mystical or divine properties to statues or carvings of the Buddha. Buddhists do not worship the Buddha at all.
Nor is the Buddha deified in the Buddhist tradition. Buddhists do not consider the Buddha a god, but rather a human being who sought and achieved enlightenment -- freedom from suffering -- and then bestowed his wisdom upon his followers in the form of teachings.
While the Buddha is indeed the founding figurehead of the Buddhist tradition, he is never elevated to the status of a deity. Because Buddhism does not hinge upon a belief in a supreme being or god. It is not considered a religion but rather a way of life compatible with other major faith traditions.
Buddhists find that gazing upon the image of the Buddha gives them a clear role model in their paths toward enlightenment. Aspirants gain inspiration as they contemplate the qualities embodied by the Buddha during their lifetime.
In societies with no written language, specific teachings and wisdom were conveyed in the rich symbolism present in different statues. Buddha statues can be seen sitting or standing, smiling or laughing, and with his hands in a number of different gestures called mudras.
These postures and gestures all carry different symbolism and relate to different qualities embodied by the Buddha, including grace, balance, compassion, wisdom, determination and courage. Each of these Buddhas also has a unique name.
The length of the Buddha's hair, the modesty of his vestments, his size, and the accessories and props with which he is presented are all testaments to the Buddha at different phases in his life.
You need not consider yourself a Buddhist to procure a likeness of the Buddha for your home or place of business. The Buddha is recognized as a symbol of peace of mind.
Some psychotherapists and alternative healers place statues of the Buddha in their lobbies and waiting rooms to encourage an atmosphere of well-being and calm. A glimpse of the sublime Buddha, with his eyes gently closed and his lips curved into a subtle smile, may inspire you to deepen your practice of inner peace.
Reasons to Have Buddha Statue
Buddhism is one of the most popular religions all over the world. Having originated in the Indian subcontinent back in the 5th and 6th centuries BC by Gautam Buddha, Buddhism spread across Asia and is a dominant religion in countries like Japan, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tibet.
The teachings of the Buddha have gained widespread popularity due to globalization, making it one of the major religions in the world.
The popularity of Buddhism has been one of the reasons for many queries and curiosity regarding the Buddha. One of the most frequently asked queries is about Buddha statues.
This is because not all Buddha statues are the same; different Buddha statues have different shapes, sizes, gestures or mudras, and presentation styles.
These variations are not just for the sake of decorations, but they hold certain meanings and origins as per the teachings of the Buddha.
Why Buddha Statues?
The Buddha statues or Buddha images are not only the physical representations or depiction of how Buddha was physically but are the symbol of Buddha's teachings, fortune, inner peace and motivational factor for every human being.
It is believed in the Buddhist world that chanting or praying in front of the Buddha statue gives one some sort of inner satisfaction, which in turn gives peace to the mind, heart and soul. As Buddha is not just a name but a title, Buddha statues represent how one can attain the full understanding of life in the deepest way possible.
A Buddha statue triggers and reminds one of his or her vows to preserve his or her spiritual and meditation practice.
At the same time, Buddha statues purify the mind, build up the serenity within oneself, and motivate to overcome the negative emotions of fear, greed, jealousy, and hatred, uplifting the mind and focusing the attention on the reality of the materialistic world.
Therefore, the followers of Buddhism have a strong belief about a Buddha statue as the most important source of communicating self-discipline and peace of mind.
Similarly, it is widely believed that having a Buddha statue in and around the house helps a person bring out the best possible outcomes in terms of the spiritual journey and the positive aura among the ones around the statue.
Buddha statues for meditation
Buddha statues also emulate the air of motivation among meditation enthusiasts.
Many people who are very passionate about meditation have owned at least one Buddha statue as they look up to the Buddha as the source of inspiration to pursue their meditation goals.
It is believed that Buddha statues help one focus on meditation, ultimately helping him or she achieve the higher heights of meditation as the Buddha himself attained enlightenment by practising meditation.
Buddha Statues as a gift
Another reason for getting Buddha statues is as an item of gifts for his or her loved ones who are passionate about Buddhism, Buddha, antique statues or meditation.
Moreover, one cannot deny how useful a Buddha statue can be as a decorative item in a living room or a garden.
No wonder Buddha statues are some of the most gifted items worldwide due to their ability to motivate and inspire people in their quest for attaining inner peace and happiness.
People worldwide visit various Buddha statues galleries, whether they be a physical gallery or online Buddha statues gallery, to search for the perfect Buddha statue as a gift for their loved ones.
The Meaning Of Laughing Buddha Statues
Laughing Buddha statues are perhaps one of the most loved artefacts.
They are commonly seen in homes, offices, hotels, gardens, restaurants, shops, museums, and temples.
They are made of wood, metal, porcelain, and stone or painted in colour and line.
The Laughing Buddha is a symbol of happiness, contentment and prosperity. He is called 'Budai' in Chinese. Figures of the Laughing Buddha at the Salar Jung Museum are popular with visitors.
According to Chinese tradition, 'Budai' was an eccentric Chinese Zen monk who lived during China's later Liang dynasty (907-923 AD).
He was a native of Fenghua, and his Buddhist name was Qieci (Chinese: Pinyin). He was considered a man of good and loving character.
Some Buddhist traditions consider him a Buddha or 'Bodhisattva', usually Maitreya (the future Buddha).
His large protruding stomach and jolly smile have given him the common designation "Laughing Buddha". In Japanese, 'Budai' is pronounced as 'Hotei'.
It means 'cloth sack' or 'glutton'. It is believed that if one rubs the belly of Buddha, it brings good luck and wealth.
The Laughing Buddha is also seen as one of the seven Japanese Shinto Gods of luck.
In Thailand, 'Budai' is sometimes confused with a widely-respected monk, 'Sangkachai'. ‘Sangkachai’ was a Budhist ‘Arhat’ (Arahant in ‘Pali’) during the time of Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha praised Angkachai for his excellence in explaining Dharma easily and correctly.
He was one of the Eighteen 'Arhats' of Buddhism. However, two points distinguish 'Sangkachai' from 'Budai'. While Sangkachai has a trace of hair on his head, 'Budai' is bald. And while 'Budai' covers both arms and leaves the torso uncovered, Sangkachai wears robes folded across one shoulder.
Chinese temples have figures of the Laughing Buddha located at temple entrances.
He is often worshipped as a God of good luck and prosperity. The Lingyin temple in Hangchou has a Laughing Buddha carved out of camphor wood, over 60-feet tall and gilded with one hundred ounces of gold leaf.
The Lama temple in Beijing has the largest Laughing Buddha, carved from a single piece of wood.
Taiwan's Treasure Cognition temple at Taichung houses the country's largest Laughing Buddha, with his bald head touching the ceiling. Called 'Fat Buddha' in English-speaking countries, 'Hase Buddha' in Nepalese, the Laughing Buddha is all about blurring the cultural divide between West and East as he brings good luck to all.
How to Identify a Buddha
The earliest surviving representations of the Buddha date from hundreds of years after his death, so they are not portraits in the usual sense.
Buddha images vary greatly from place to place and period to period, but they almost always show these conventional features:
- Symbols of radiance. These may be a halo around the head or whole body, a flame at the top of the head, or a gold-covered surface.
- Superhuman physical characteristics such as very large size, a lump on the top of the head are sometimes said to indicate extraordinary wisdom, fingers all the same length, or special markings on the palms and the soles of the feet.
- Long earlobes stretched during the years when the Buddha-to-be, as a prince, wore heavy earrings.
- Monk's robes. Monks wore a sarong-like lower garment and one or two upper garments, each made of a sheet of cloth wrapped around the upper body, sometimes leaving the right shoulder bare.
Special positions and gestures
The most common position is seated with the legs crossed or interlocked. Common hand positions are:
- right hand over the right knee (symbolizing the Buddha's calling the Earth as a witness during his victory over negative forces)
- right hand held up with palm out (symbolizing giving reassurance)
- hands held at the chest with fingers turning invisible wheel (symbolizing setting in motion the "wheel of the doctrine"—that is, preaching)
The Meaning of Buddhism
The teaching founded by the Buddha is known, in English, as Buddhism. But, it may be asked, who is the Buddha?
A Buddha has attained Bodhi, and by Bodhi is meant wisdom, an ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection that man can achieve through purely human means. The term Buddha means enlightened one, a knower.
Buddhists believe that a Buddha is born in each aeon of time, and our Buddha—the sage Gotama who attained enlightenment under the bo tree at Buddh Gaya in India—was the seventh in succession.
Gotama was born the son of an Indian king in modern Nepal 623 years before Christ. The wise men of the kingdom foresaw that he would become either an emperor or a Buddha. His father, wanting him to be an emperor, kept him utterly secluded from all unpleasant things so that he might not become wise by seeing life.
But the gods knew that Gotama must become the Buddha, so they visited Earth in various forms to let him see them. On three successive days, while on his way to the royal park, Gotama saw an old man, a sick man, and a corpse, and thus he learned that men—all men—must suffer and die.
On the fourth day, he saw a monk; from this, he understood that to learn the way of overcoming man's universal sorrow, he must give up worldly pleasures. Accordingly, in his twenty-ninth year, he renounced his kingdom and became an ascetic.
Gotama wandered about the countryside, a seeker after truth and peace. He approached many a distinguished teacher of his day, but none could give him what he sought. So he strenuously practised all the severe austerities of monkish life, hoping to attain Nirvana. Eventually, his delicate body was reduced almost to a skeleton.
But the more he tormented his body, the further away he was from his goal. Realizing the futility of self-mortification, he finally decided to follow a different course, avoiding the extremes of pain and indulgence.
The new path he discovered was the Middle Way, the Eightfold Path, which subsequently became part of his teaching. By following this path, his wisdom grew into its fullest power, and he became the Buddha.
As a man, Prince Gotama, by his own will, love, and wisdom, attained Buddhahood—the highest possible state of perfection—and he taught his followers to believe that they might do the same. Therefore, within himself, any man possesses the power to make himself good, wise, and happy.
All the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one word: Dhamma. It means truth, that which is. It also means law, the law which exists in a man's own heart and mind. Finally, it is the principle of righteousness. Therefore the Buddha appeals to man to be noble, pure, and charitable, not to please any Supreme Deity, but to be true to the highest in himself.
Dhamma, this law of righteousness, exists not only in a man's heart and mind. It exists in the universe also. All the universe is an embodiment and revelation of Dhamma. When the moon rises and sets, the rains come, the crops grow, the seasons change, it is because of Dhamma, for Dhamma is the law of the universe that makes matter act in the ways revealed by our natural science studies.
If a man lives by Dhamma, he will escape misery and come to Nirvana, the final release from all suffering. It is not by any kind of prayer, nor by any ceremonies, nor by any appeal to a God that a man will discover the Dhamma which will lead him to his goal.
He will discover it is only one way—by developing his character. This development comes only through control of the mind and the purification of emotions. Until a man stills the storm in his heart, until he extends his loving-kindness to all beings, he will not be able to take even the first step toward his goal.
Thus Buddhism is not a religion at all, in the sense in which the word is commonly understood. It is not a system of faith or worship. In Buddhism, there is no such thing as belief in a body of dogma that must be taken on faith, such as belief in a Supreme Being, a creator of the universe, the reality of an immortal soul, a personal saviour, or archangels who are supposed to carry out the will of the Supreme Deity. Instead, buddhism begins as a search for truth.
The Buddha taught that we should believe only that which is true in light of our own experience, that which conforms to reason and is conducive to all beings' highest good and welfare.
Men must rely on themselves. Even though he may "take refuge in Buddha," the expression used when a man pledges himself to live a righteous life, he must not fall victim to a blind faith that the Buddha can save him. The Buddha can point out the path, but he cannot walk it for us.
The truth which the Buddhist sees when he looks around him is the truth of cause and effect. Every action, no matter how insignificant, produces an effect; every effect in its turn becomes a cause and produces still further effects.
Therefore, it is meaningless to inquire for a First Cause. A First Cause is inconceivable; rather, cause and effect are cyclical, and this universe, when it dies and falls apart, will give rise to another universe, just as this one was formed from the dispersed matter of a previous universe.
The origin of the universe, like that of every person or thing in it, is dependent on the chain of previous causes, which goes on and on in an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. This is the principle of dependent origination.
What of the soul? The Buddha taught that there is no soul or self, and he used the metaphor of the cart. What remains if you take away the wheels and axles, the floorboards and sides, the shafts, and all the other parts of the cart? Nothing but a cart's conception will be the same when a new cart is built.
So the uninterrupted process of psychophysical phenomena moves from life to life. Each life passes instantaneously from death to a new life, and the new life is the effect of the causes in the old life.
A candle flame at this instant is different from the flame that burned an instant ago, yet the flame is continuous.