Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Why Buddhists worship statues

It is often said by believers of another faith that Buddhists worship statues, in the sense that they believe that Buddha statues actually are the Buddha or that they have some inherent power. It concerns iconography and they are concerned why Buddhists pray to idols. But such ideas are incorrect. Buddhists do not 'worship' Buddha statues any more than Christians worship the cross or Muslims the Kabba, which they face when they pray. Like the cross, the Buddha statue is seen as a symbol that helps create devotion, uplifting the mind and focusing attention.

Venerable Pema Chodron's explanation on whether Buddhists are worshipping statues.

"Not at all! A piece of clay or bronze or jade is not the object of our respect and worship. When we bow before Buddha images, we are recalling the qualities of the enlightened beings. It is their impartial love and compassion, generosity, morality, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom that we are showing respect to.   

Ven Pema Chodron
The statue or painting serves to remind us of the qualities of the Buddha, and it is the qualities, not the clay, that we are bowing to. We need not have a statue in front of us in order to bow to or respect the Buddhas and their qualities. For example, if we go to a place far away from our family, we think about them and feel much love. But we also like to have a photo of them with us to remember them better. When we look at the photo and feel love for our family, we are not loving the paper and ink of the photo! The photo merely strengthens our memory. 

It is similar with a statue or painting of the Buddha. By showing respect to the Buddhas and their qualities, we are inspired to develop these extraordinary qualities on our own mind streams. We become like the people we respect. When we take the love-kindness and wisdom of the Buddhas as our example, we strive to become like them".

From the root text of Manjugosha, Bodhisattva Manjushri seek the Buddha's advise, “At the moment, the object for sentient beings to make offerings and collect merit is you. After you pass away, what can they do? Please give advice.”

The Buddha giving teachings to Manjushri, Samantabhara, Sariputra
Then the Buddha said, "There is not the slightest difference if my four surrounding beings (getsul, getsulma, gelong, gelongma) make offerings to me now or make offerings to my statues (in the future). It is equal in merit and ripening aspect (result)".

To Buddhists, the teachings of the Buddha are the only medicine healing sentient beings’ suffering and its causes: delusions and karma; and it depends on the existence of holy objects such as statues, stupas and scriptures of Buddha. This is due to the blessings of the Buddha. 

Undeveloped (ordinary) beings do not know this and that is why there are no Buddha statues in their world. Why are there no statues?  In the outlying barbarian countries and where the teachings of the Buddha have degenerated (stopped). Therefore non-Buddhists and animals do not see Buddha statues. 

The statue is a manifestation of Buddha. It is said that even if you meet the actual Buddha, by doing prostrations or making offerings, the merit and result are not greater than circumambulating, prostrating, making offerings or offering service to a holy representation of Buddha. The best way is also to support the building of holy objects, such as temples, monasteries, stupas, statues, and printing of Dharma text etc...

 His Holiness the Dalai Lama prostrates before a statue of Buddha at his residence in Dharamsala, India. 
It is only one time that one is able to meet the Three Rare Sublime Ones; 
It is extremely difficult to see them for hundreds and thousands of eons. 
Besides seeing, it is difficult to even hear the holy name for hundred and thousands of eons. 
When every talent and effort of the capable (human)being, 
Actually attempt to make offerings all the time to your wish-fulfilling jewel 
The guru, rare sublime one, is the tip of the banner of devotion and respect. 
Attempt the method to completely fulfill all the temporal and ultimate wishes of sentient beings 
From whom unceasing enjoyments, peace and happiness come(one receives).

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