Buddha statues are not idols?..

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Wesley1982 » Wed Jul 11, 2012 3:14 pm

How are Buddha statues not idols?..
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby plwk » Wed Jul 11, 2012 3:47 pm

What is your definition of an idol?
Here's one opinion on the matter...Are Buddhists Idol Worshippers?
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Hickersonia » Wed Jul 11, 2012 3:49 pm

Just my two cents:

For it to be an idol, a person would have to see it as, itself, having some sort of power (to act on a worshiper's behalf) or worthiness of reverence when, alternatively, one might only see it as a representation of that which is worthy of reverence.

In other words, whether a statue is an "idol" or not could only be inferred by the mental state of the person using/looking at it. I would not call it an "idol" as long as there is no confusion as to what the statue really is, a form made up of substance that will eventually be destroyed and reconstituted as something else.

Does that help any?
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby befriend » Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:42 pm

because we dont worship it, we honor it.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Wesley1982 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:59 am

A statue of the Buddha is pretty much the same thing as a statue of a saint or virgin mary.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby pilgrim » Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:06 am

Wesley1982 wrote:A statue of the Buddha is pretty much the same thing as a statue of a saint or virgin mary.

or a photo of a loved one you carry in your wallet.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Viscid » Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:11 am

Buddha statues are sometimes idols, sometimes just statues.

Children in Buddhist countries will see their parents bow and pay great respect to statues and grow up to believe that The Buddha and statues of him have some sort of inherent magical sacredness. That's idolatry, and it's not commonly overcome. Most native Buddhists are indeed just idol-worshippers.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby pilgrim » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:26 am

Viscid wrote:Buddha statues are sometimes idols, sometimes just statues.

Children in Buddhist countries will see their parents bow and pay great respect to statues and grow up to believe that The Buddha and statues of him have some sort of inherent magical sacredness. That's idolatry, and it's not commonly overcome. Most native Buddhists are indeed just idol-worshippers.

I've travelled a bit in Asia and that's not my perception. The closest one may get is that many Asians make merit by making offerings to the Buddha rupa, but that is not worhipping the image itself. But I really don't get this whole hang-up about idolatry. So what if people worship idols? This Abrahamaic instilled fear and superstition is so deeply ingrained in western culture.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby SamKR » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:41 am

pilgrim wrote:I've travelled a bit in Asia and that's not my perception. The closest one may get is that many Asians make merit by making offerings to the Buddha rupa, but that is not worhipping the image itself. But I really don't get this whole hang-up about idolatry. So what if people worship idols? This Abrahamaic instilled fear and superstition is so deeply ingrained in western culture.

:goodpost:
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby pegembara » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:56 am

Idols are not only physical objects. Some idols are mental. Praying and worshipping a mental idol is no different from doing so to physical ones.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Alobha » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:15 am

Wesley1982 wrote:How are Buddha statues not idols?..


because it's just an object, made out of materials like stone or bronze or gold. One does not take refuge in stone, bronze or gold.
The statue is just that. The perception linked to the form of a buddha statue is another matter.

That's why people can destroy Buddha Statues, but they can't destroy the Buddha you take refuge in.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Viscid » Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:15 pm

pilgrim wrote:So what if people worship idols? This Abrahamaic instilled fear and superstition is so deeply ingrained in western culture.


You're right. Westerners aversion to idolatry comes from the commandment: 'You shall not make for yourself an idol.' This aversion was probably reinforced with protestantism, the enlightenment, empiricism and all that other nonsense.

It's difficult to really know what's going on in Asian Buddhists heads when they're giving puja-- you can't generalize that they're either idol-worshippers, 'ideal' worshippers or merely doing what their culture pressures them into.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Wesley1982 » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:14 pm

There might be a difference between the Historical Buddha and the modern one. W
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby cooran » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:20 pm

Hello alll,

This might be of interest:

Dharma Data: Buddha Statues

No representations of the Buddha were made for about four or five centuries. It is sometimes said that prior to this time it was 'forbidden' to make statues or pictures of the Buddha, but this is unlikely and there is no evidence of such a prohibition. A more likely explanation is that until then symbols of the Buddha (stupas, footprints, an empty throne etc.) and written descriptions of him were deemed sufficient. Whatever the reasons, the first Buddha statues were produced in about the 1st or 2nd century AD in Bactria (Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) perhaps as a result of Greek influence, and in Mathura. There is no standard way of representing the Buddha which may differ according to the artistic inspiration, the tastes or the iconographical canons of the different cultures in which they are produced. Some features however are common to most statues. The Buddha is depicted in one of several postures- standing, sitting in meditation or lying down. Statues sitting in the so - called 'Western fashion' are usually not of the Buddha but of Maitreya. Statues lying down are not of the Buddha sleeping, as is commonly supposed, but of him dying. The hands of the Buddha statues are shown in different gestures (mudra), each indicative of important things the Buddha did and which we should do also.

The hands nestled in the lap suggest meditation, held in front of the chest suggest teaching the Dhamma, one hand held up with the palm facing outwards suggests the giving of confidence or fearlessness. The ear lobes of the Buddha statues are nearly always shown elongated, this is indicative of renunciation in that while a layman, the Buddha wore large ear plugs which he stopped wearing when he became a monk, but which left his ear lobes stretched.

It is often said that Buddhists worship statues, in the sense that they believe that Buddha statues actually are the Buddha or that they have some inherent power. But such ideas are quite 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 etc. the Buddha statue is seen as a symbol that can be seen as helpful in creating devotion, uplifting the mind and focusing attention.

D.L. Snellgrove, The Image of the Buddha. UNESCO/ Kadansha, 1978.
B. Rowland, The Evolution of the Buddha Image (np) 1963
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/dharmadata/fdd35.htm

with metta
Chris
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby ground » Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:42 am

Wesley1982 wrote:How are Buddha statues not idols?..

How can a piece of wood or stone be an idol? A piece of wood or stone can however be the focal point of your imagination if it appeals to pre-conditioned ideas by means of colors and forms.

Kind regards
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby gavesako » Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:27 pm

See this relevant title:


Becoming the Buddha:
The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand
Donald K. Swearer



Becoming the Buddha is the first book-length study of a key ritual of Buddhist practice in Asia: the consecration of a Buddha image or "new Buddha," a ceremony by which the Buddha becomes present or alive. Through a richly detailed, accessible exploration of this ritual in northern Thailand, an exploration that stands apart from standard text-based or anthropological approaches, Donald Swearer makes a major contribution to our understanding of the Buddha image, its role in Buddhist devotional life, and its relationship to the veneration of Buddha relics. Blending ethnography, analysis, and Buddhist texts related to this mimetic reenactment of the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he demonstrates that the image becomes the Buddha's surrogate by being invested with the Buddha's story and charged with the extraordinary power of Buddhahood. The process by which this transformation occurs through chant, sermon, meditation, and the presence of charismatic monks is at the heart of this book.

Known as "opening the eyes of the Buddha," image consecration traditions throughout Buddhist Asia share much in common. Within the cultural context of northern Thailand, Becoming the Buddha illuminates scriptural accounts of the making of the first Buddha image; looks at debates over the ritual's historical origin, at Buddhological insights achieved, and at the hermeneutics of absence and presence; and provides a thematic comparison of several Buddhist traditions.

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7753.html



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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:30 pm

pilgrim wrote:But I really don't get this whole hang-up about idolatry. So what if people worship idols? This Abrahamaic instilled fear and superstition is so deeply ingrained in western culture.


Very true; it could be from the first two commandments of the 10 Commandments; both deal with having no other gods, not worshiping any other gods, not making any idols or graven images. And it is punishable by death if these commandments are broken. Many convert Buddhists, although not following their birth religions, have that so deeply ingrained that some are still reluctant to bow to statues, but as others have stated it is just a statue and symbol, nothing wrong with bowing to it.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Kamran » Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:41 am

This is why I don't have an altar. It does not feel right to me, even though I understand that the bowing is for respect, I don't want it to seem that I worship the Buddha, or possibly even slip into that pattern of thought myself.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Wesley1982 » Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:50 pm

I don't know about you but that's one big Buddha.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Uilium » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:57 pm

What's the difference between honor and worship? :meditate:
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