Why Do Buddhists Have Statues?
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, different gestures or mudras and styles of presentation. 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 as well as meditation practice.
At the same time, Buddha statues purify the mind, builds up the serenity within oneself and motivates to overcome the negative emotions of fear, greed, jealousy and hatred, hence uplifting the mind and focusing the attention on the reality of the materialistic world.
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 to bring out the best possible outcomes in terms of the spiritual journey as well as the positive aura among the ones that are around the statue.
Buddha Sculpture FAQs
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.
What Does The Buddhist Statue Represent?
The statues represent not only the many different physical Buddhas but also the Buddhist teachings of inner peace, protection and meditation.
There are jolly laughing Buddhas, serious Buddhas, and sometimes just the Buddha head.
Is It Bad Luck To Buy A Buddha Statue For Yourself?
Buying a discounted Buddha is great, maybe even a sign that he's already bringing you prosperity via the savings.
However do not bargain over the purchase price to get the salesperson down. It is considered disrespectful, bad form, and bad luck.
Who Is Tara In Buddhism?
Tara is the supreme savior and goddess of mercy in Vajrayana Buddhism, best understood as a female counterpart to a bodhisattva.
She stands gracefully, extending her open hand is a gesture of granting boons (varada mudra) to devotees.
Can Buddha Be Female?
Women and Buddhahood.
Although early Buddhist texts such as the Cullavagga section of the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon contain statements from Gautama Buddha, speaking to the fact that a woman can attain enlightenment, it is also clearly stated in the Bahudhātuka-sutta that there could never be a female Buddha.
Can Buddhist Have Multiple Wives?
For Buddhists, marriage is generally viewed as a secular, non-religious activity. ... Gautama Buddha was married.
He never set any rules for marriage—such as age or whether marriage is monogamous or polygamous—and never defined what a correct marriage should be. Tibetan Buddhists practice polygamy and polyandry.
Buddha Statues For Meditation
Buddha statues also emulate the air of motivation among the meditation enthusiasts.
Many people who are very passionate about meditation are known to 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 to be focused in meditation, ultimately helping him or her to achieve the higher heights of meditation as the Buddha himself attained enlightenment by practicing meditation.
Buddha Statues As A Gift
Another reason for one to get Buddha statues is as an item of gifts for his or her loved ones who are passionate about Buddhism, Buddha, antique statues or meditation.
One cannot deny how useful a Buddha statue can be as a decorative item in a living room or in a garden.
No wonder Buddha statues are some of the most gifted items around the world due to their ability to motivate and inspire people in their quest for attaining inner peace and happiness.
People all over the world visit various Buddha statues galleries whether they be a physical gallery or online Buddha statues gallery so as to search for the perfect Buddha status as a gift for their loved ones.
Do Buddhists Worship Buddha Statues?
In society, maybe you have heard that Buddhists are idol worshippers, worshipping the statue of Buddha for something good like money, health, fortune, etc.
The people who said that truly haven’t learned Buddhism. Even if they have learned, they haven’t dug into Buddhism.
They only learned the “skin” of it. They can easily judge that Buddhists kneeling in front of Buddha statues were worshipping.
However, there are also misunderstandings among Buddhists about Buddhism.
They might consider the statue of Buddha as an object of request.
So, there are 2 causes of why some people said Buddhists are idol worshippers. One is that they haven’t learned Buddhism accurately.
The other one is that some Buddhists admit that they worship Buddha statues which is a misconception in Buddhism.
Recently, I have browsed through a nice Youtube video containing an Indonesian Buddhist monk preaching about why Buddhism is his choice (he is not a Buddhist before). One part of his discourse that attracted me is about Buddha statue worshipping.
He said that the statue of Buddha is not an object/place of asking for something. If it is, when there is an earthquake rocking a temple, the statue will jump and run to save itself. Yeah, it is funny but it makes sense.
If someone can ask for money for the statue, then he won’t go to work again. His daily work is only kneeling and worshipping in front of the statue and the money will appear by itself in front of them.
But that never happened and won’t happen.
If someone can ask for healing to the statue, then it is useless for others to become a doctor or medical officer.
They will lose their job because everyone can be healed by only worshipping the statue. The other funny part of the video is, if that happened, the monk said that the statue has taken a medical major in university.
Again, that never happened and won’t happen.
If the statue can give you healing, money, fortune, or everything you want, this world will be a heaven. No more work and no more sweat. And that doesn’t make sense and is impossible.
So, what is the Buddha statue for? The Buddhist monk said that the Buddha statue is a sign or symbol of struggling.
In life and to have a good life, everybody definitely has an ambition and life goals. In order to achieve them, he/she must work hard.
The same as Siddharta Gautama who was willing to leave the castle and give up luxury.
He worked hard to seek a solution to cure suffering, aging, illness, and death. He struggled (the scripture states that he has ever closed to death) until he got enlightened and became a Buddha.
The hard work of Buddha that resulted in a path called Noble Eightfold Path should motivate others to work hard and achieve their ambition.
So, it is clear that Buddhists are NOT idol worshippers. If they are, they have misconceptions about Buddhism and they should be informed about the teachings of Buddha.
Clearly, Buddhists that are kneeling in front of Buddha statues are not worshipping.
Instead, they are reviewing the Dharma and powering their faith to the Noble Eightfold Path and also to be motivated by the Buddha to achieve their ambition.
What Buddhist Sculpture Means For Your Collection
Capturing centuries of some of the finest artisan-made, handcrafted works from many regions of Asia, Buddhist sculpture appeals to collectors who have an admiration of Asian culture, those who are interested in its historical meaning, and those who simply love the aesthetic.
For Buddhists, Buddha sculptures serve as visual imagery intended to narrate the various aspects of the Buddha’s life and lessons.
Buddhism emphasizes qualities such as compassion, seeking personal development, and taking responsibility for one’s actions.
Having a Buddha statue in your home can help practicing Buddhists to focus on these teachings daily.
It might also be used as an object of worship by placing small offerings such as flowers or food around the statue in order to honor the Buddha.
The placement of a Buddhist statue in the home or at work can serve as an often needed reminder of teachings that can be easily applied to your everyday life, even for non-Buddhists.
Buddha sculptures are cultural and social icons for Buddhism. Well-known examples have positive meanings for common people’s lives, and they are perfect for home decoration.
Today’s Market: A Focus On Buddha
Depictions of Buddha have a history of notable sales in the auction world. Some of the most popular examples that fetch high prices include Guanyin (kwan-yin), a popular goddess in Chinese folk religion, laughing Buddha (Budai), admired for his happiness, and Gautama Buddha.
Chinese Buddhist bronzes are bringing top dollar on the market today. However, there’s also a strong collector interest in Gandhara Buddhist sculpture.
Some of the most in-demand materials in Buddhist sculpture are gilt bronze examples, Chinese particularly, and copper alloy Indian and Himalayan examples.
These tend to fetch higher prices because of their durability, while sculptures from the Chinese Ming and early Qing dynasties are among the most sought-after at auction today, perhaps because of the powerful roles they played in China’s history.
In contrast, Gandharan Buddhist sculpture is often made of carved stone.
In October 2013, Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold a gilt bronze figure of a seated Buddha from the Ming Dynasty for $30 million.
If you’re interested in collecting Buddha sculptures yourself, don’t let that price tag deter you—there is a wide range of prices for these works on the market, based on quality and rarity.
Emergence Of Buddha In Sculpture
Understanding the rich history and iconography of Buddhist deities and their role within the Buddhist religion can help inform your search.
In the earliest Buddhist sculpture, Buddha was not represented in human form but rather through symbols such as footprints or an empty seat.
It is believed that sculptures of Buddha were not first created until 400-500 years following the death of Guatama Buddha, in the subcontinent of India.
When images of Buddha began to emerge around the first century CE in India, artists were greatly influenced by Roman statues, made possible by the trade routes that connected the East with the West.
This Buddha appeared reminiscent of Apollo: youthful with hair arranged in waves, and clad in a robe adorned with heavy classical folds.
As Buddhism evolved in southern India, these Hellenistic elements were combined with Buddhist symbolism such as serious faces, jewelry alluding to Buddha’s noble past as well as Bodhisattva’s noble heavenly status.
From the fourth to sixth century A.D., the Gupta period developed in northern India.
These sculptures focused on an “ideal image” of the Buddha by combining select traits such as tiny individual curls for the Buddha’s hair, with luxurious forms such as dramatic drapery folds taken from Gandhara sculpture, or the transparent sheaths created by Mathura artists.
Combined with their unsmiling, downward glances, this image of the Buddha came to represent a certain spiritual aura and served as a model for future generations of Buddha artists from various regions.
It is widely believed that Buddha allowed images of himself, so long as those images provided the opportunity for reflection and meditation. Because of this, virtually all Buddhist temples and monasteries contain Buddha sculptures.
Buddhist sculpture is created by specially trained and dedicated artisans who follow meticulous guidelines dictating proportions and other details of the Buddha, further adding to its uniqueness.
Local ritual texts that serve to “enliven” the image of the Buddha are the manuals for these artisans.
When India’s artisans first began creating these sculptures, they worked with perishable materials such as brick, wood, thatch, or bamboo.
As the religion spread rapidly throughout Asia, they began to adopt stone, a more durable material.
Soon, stone railings and gateways covered with relief sculptures were added to Buddhist shrines.
It was not long before even more durable materials such as bronze and metal were also widely used, in an effort to make these sculptures more long-lasting.
These sculptures range from simple stone depictions to more elaborate medieval endeavors.
In all regions, Buddha sculptures are used to recall specific incidents during his travels and teachings. Like Gandharan and Indian sculptures, those in Laos and Thailand often include an usnisa (protuberance at the top of the skull), with a serene facial expression.
Elongated earlobes are also common, calling attention to the Buddha’s renunciation of a princely life when he was weighed down by material possessions.
Hand gestures, or mudra, play an important role in how Buddha sculpture is represented, and certain gestures are favored depending on region.
In Laos and Thailand, charity is represented by the extension of the lowered, open right hand and fingers, while the hand touching the earth alludes to the Buddha’s enlightenment.
Sculptures of Buddhist deities and Bodhisattvas may share certain characteristics with that of the Buddha, such as elongated earlobes, while also having some more distinct attributes.
Each deity is associated with a particular vehicle such as a bull, lion, or bird, making them easily recognizable.
Deities may also carry certain objects that further help to identify them. Avalokiteshvara often carries a lotus, while Bodhisattva Maitreya carries a water vessel.
Below are just some of the most commonly found symbols and gestures in Buddhist sculpture:
- Lotus flower: a symbol of good and pure things
- Conch shell: an emblem of power and authority
- The wheel: signifies the Eightfold path set forth by the Buddha, as well as the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. It also signifies the wheel of law
- Parasol: The parasol, or umbrella, casts a shadow of protection and is also a symbol of royalty
- The endless knot: the interaction of opposing forces
- Golden fish: the two sacred rivers of India, Ganga and Yamuna
- Victory banner: an emblem of the Buddha’s enlightenment and the triumph of knowledge over ignorance
Quality & Authenticity
It’s important for collectors to become familiar with the history of Buddhist sculpture in order to help validate the authenticity of an object.
For instance, stucco material was favored in Gandhara as well as Thailand, and bronze and copper alloys in Nepal.
Above all, the buyer should always look for great quality.
Quality considers a variety of aspects, including the rarity of the subject, the skill of the artist, and the attention to stylistic modeling such as detailed hands, jewelry, and drapery.
The biggest thing is to be fairly cautious or fairly skeptical, particularly if something is claimed to be a fabulous example which has traditionally, or more recently, brought lots of money at auction.
For example, if you are seeing a gilt bronze Buddha from the early Ming Dynasty that has an imperial mark selling for $2-3,000, you should approach it with skepticism.
Lastly, it’s important to keep conditions in mind and remain realistic.
While bronze and stone are durable materials, other materials such as stucco are more difficult to preserve as they are more vulnerable to water damage and weathering elements.
“Be sure to keep them in dry areas at room temperature, and avoid direct sunlight.
What’s to come for these historic works of art? The same general art market rule applies to Buddhist sculpture: there will always be demand for the highest quality examples.
These are beautiful works of art, and like any beautiful work of art, there will always be an interest in them. The craftsmanship and technique that goes into making them is truly remarkable. Even if the marketplace weakens, the best examples will retain value or even increase in value. We suspect the market for the greatest examples will remain strong throughout 2017.