Buddha statues are not idols?..

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

Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby dagon » Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:24 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 disagree with the statement and believe that the logic for this statement is flawed or at least based on limited information.

In traditional households in Thailand children grow up seeing their parents show respect to the grandparents by use of wai and other conduct. This is consistent with the culture and the dhamma – what does the Buddha say we owe our parents?

Thai kids are taught to respect and show respect to teacher by wai and other conduct – what is the Buddha if not the best and most respected teacher.

Thai kids are brought up seeing their parents, grand parents pay respect to the Buddha and the other Monks by wai and other conduct. Naturally you should show respect to those who are respected by those you respect.

My adopted thai kids (along with my wife) wash my feet the first time that I enter the house to say welcome to a most respected and welcome person. When the village marriage happens the same thing happens to me after I have got through the three gates. This means the same thing as before but because of the nature and formality of the occasion it gives me recognition that I am their father. However that recognition and me accepting that means that I have accepted the family role and owe the appropriate obligations as the house holder as stated in the Pali Cannon.

If my daughter had her way she would wash my dam feet every time I come back into the house – inconvenient is a polite description that could be used. Her view is that she is showing respect and recognition for my role and what she thinks I bring to her life. So we compromise and it is only if I have been away for a while that she does it. i normally let her wai to me; however if I tell her that I do not want her to pay me respect then that is a very effective way of showing disapproval for an action and would result in her going to her room and crying.

So can someone please tell this poor Asian born not convert person what I or the family is doing to teach the kids idol worship by bowing to a representation of the Buddha out of respect for the Buddha and Dhamma

metta

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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby Sekha » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:02 am

dagon, pardon me if I am being wrong, but as you explain it, it seems to me your daughter thinks you "have some sort of inherent magical sacredness," which you seem to acknowledge by saying "she is showing respect and recognition for my role and what she thinks I bring to her life".

Also, I would say there is a deep difference between paying respect to a person in flesh and bones and paying respect to that person through a statue. Because a statue cannot be interactive. For example, if you went away for some time and your daughter would bow down every day to a statue of you and yet she would not work properly at school nor do her homework, since you would not be there to counsel her, her showing respect to your statue wouldn't make actual sense.

This is what happens with the people who show respect to Buddha statues but who don't follow his advices, as for example not giving money to the monks, or simply even observing the 5 precepts properly.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby dagon » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:57 am

Sekha wrote:dagon, pardon me if I am being wrong, but as you explain it, it seems to me your daughter thinks you "have some sort of inherent magical sacredness," which you seem to acknowledge by saying "she is showing respect and recognition for my role and what she thinks I bring to her life".

Also, I would say there is a deep difference between paying respect to a person in flesh and bones and paying respect to that person through a statue. Because a statue cannot be interactive. For example, if you went away for some time and your daughter would bow down every day to a statue of you and yet she would not work properly at school nor do her homework, since you would not be there to counsel her, her showing respect to your statue wouldn't make actual sense.

This is what happens with the people who show respect to Buddha statues but who don't follow his advices, as for example not giving money to the monks, or simply even observing the 5 precepts properly.


I am sorry that my English confused you, apologies

you are right my daughter would not give money to monks - she knows better than that
she does give dana in the form of food to the monks every morning
she does follow the precepts well for a 10 year old
she does study, meditate .....
she does show respect to parents, teachers, and older people - she does show even more respect than that to the Triple jewels
and contrary to what Viscid thinks she does not worship idols
there are many other kids that are like her (ok I do think she is special, lol)

If I labelled the following statement honestly I am sure to breach the TOS

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."


Do you believe that such statements are justified?
Should we make such sweeping generalisation?

metta
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby chownah » Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:23 pm

I think that Viscid left out the word "some" which if used would change the quote to "Some children in Buddhist countries.........etc."........and I think that some children in Buddhist countries do grow up worshipping the Buddha image to one extent or another. My view is that the difference between those who show respect for the Buddha and those who show respect to the statue is in what their parents and society teaches them as they grow up and learn what all that bowing is really about.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby dhammafriend » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:00 pm

OK I'm way late on this but can someone please tell me what the heck is 'idol worship' in an Asian context.
No living Asian tradition has any prohibitions against visual representations of sacred persons, deities etc.

The whole concept of 'idol worship' is a MONOTHEISTIC TABOO. It cannot be applied as a critique of what Buddhists do
or any other peoples for that matter. Its like trying to condemn an apple for not being an onion!

Anyone posting here accusing people of idol worship, please go to your nearest mosque / church, light a match, throw it onto a Quran / Bible.
Then watch your theory collapse. My apologies if this sounds harsh but I think you get my point with above analogy.

Metta
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby kmath » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:27 am

dhammafriend wrote:Anyone posting here accusing people of idol worship, please go to your nearest mosque / church, light a match, throw it onto a Quran / Bible.
Then watch your theory collapse. My apologies if this sounds harsh but I think you get my point with above analogy.


I missed the point. What was it?
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby chownah » Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:34 am

dhammafriend wrote:OK I'm way late on this but can someone please tell me what the heck is 'idol worship' in an Asian context.
No living Asian tradition has any prohibitions against visual representations of sacred persons, deities etc.

The whole concept of 'idol worship' is a MONOTHEISTIC TABOO. It cannot be applied as a critique of what Buddhists do
or any other peoples for that matter. Its like trying to condemn an apple for not being an onion!

Anyone posting here accusing people of idol worship, please go to your nearest mosque / church, light a match, throw it onto a Quran / Bible.
Then watch your theory collapse. My apologies if this sounds harsh but I think you get my point with above analogy.

Metta

Way back in this thread I asked for a definition of what an idol is and seems like you are proposing a wide definition including things that are considered sacred. Your point is well taken.....religious and patriotic people of all stripes tend to idolize many things. I think there is a difference between idolizing a symbol and holding a belief that some object holds a soul or spiritual entity which the devotee worships.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby dhammafriend » Tue Dec 10, 2013 7:08 am

Way back in this thread I asked for a definition of what an idol is and seems like you are proposing a wide definition including things that are considered sacred. Your point is well taken.....religious and patriotic people of all stripes tend to idolize many things. I think there is a difference between idolizing a symbol and holding a belief that some object holds a soul or spiritual entity which the devotee worships.
chownah


To make my question / point even more clear, please explain to me why 'idol worship' is 'bad' beyond the fact that it contradicts right view. (even this is debatable)
Once again the whole critique of idol worship is a monotheistic concern, Buddhists from a western culture need to take a long hard look at their cultural conditioning.

And who is to say that objects cannot be inhabited by supernatural entities? (not that I personally believe this)
And once again, how is this 'bad' beyond the fact that it keeps Buddhists from right view.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby chownah » Tue Dec 10, 2013 8:24 am

dhammafriend wrote:
Way back in this thread I asked for a definition of what an idol is and seems like you are proposing a wide definition including things that are considered sacred. Your point is well taken.....religious and patriotic people of all stripes tend to idolize many things. I think there is a difference between idolizing a symbol and holding a belief that some object holds a soul or spiritual entity which the devotee worships.
chownah


To make my question / point even more clear, please explain to me why 'idol worship' is 'bad' beyond the fact that it contradicts right view. (even this is debatable)
Once again the whole critique of idol worship is a monotheistic concern, Buddhists from a western culture need to take a long hard look at their cultural conditioning.

And who is to say that objects cannot be inhabited by supernatural entities? (not that I personally believe this)
And once again, how is this 'bad' beyond the fact that it keeps Buddhists from right view.

Since the structure of your post is as a reply to me I will answer from my perspective and say that I think that I have not posted anything that indicates that I am of the view that idol worship is bad and also I have never expressed the view that supernatural entities could not inhabit an object.

As to whether idol worship contradicts right view (I am assuming right view with remainder since I think it is clear that it has no place with right view without remainder), I think it depends on what is meant by worship.

I think the critique of idol worship is not only a monotheistic concern....for example atheists of all sort might be concerned....and I am reasonably certain that certain kinds of idol worshipers are concerned that other idol worshipers are worshiping false gods/idols.

I think that ALL Buddhists would benefit by taking a long I hard look at their cultural conditioning.

How this is 'bad' beyond possible right view violations is that IF the object being worshipped does not have some entity therein ensconced which has the power to effect that which the worshiper assumes it can effect, then the process of worshiping can be seen as an empty ritual and as such is best discarded if one is striving for stream entry.

Also, it seems that you are more forgiving of the supernatural based sort of idol worship and less forgiving of the Western form of sacredness sort of idol worship but maybe I am not reading you clearly.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby dhammafriend » Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:29 am

I think the critique of idol worship is not only a monotheistic concern....for example atheists of all sort might be concerned....and I am reasonably certain that certain kinds of idol worshipers are concerned that other idol worshipers are worshiping false gods/idols.

You're grasping at straws here dude.

I think that ALL Buddhists would benefit by taking a long I hard look at their cultural conditioning.

Amen to that!!

How this is 'bad' beyond possible right view violations is that IF the object being worshipped does not have some entity therein ensconced which has the power to effect that which the worshiper assumes it can effect, then the process of worshiping can be seen as an empty ritual and as such is best discarded if one is striving for stream entry.

Silabattaparamasa (attachment to rites & rituals) is a given for any putthujana (whether he is Muslim, Buddhist etc) The point of practice is to see through that.

Also, it seems that you are more forgiving of the supernatural based sort of idol worship and less forgiving of the Western form of sacredness sort of idol worship but maybe I am not reading you clearly.

No, not more forgiving, just that at the end of it, its basically the same : Silabattaparamasa. Regardless of what the 'reasoning' behind it is. As for the western view, how is an object that is sacred by association any more sophisticated or better ? Please explain, or do I misunderstand you here.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby chownah » Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:39 pm

dhammafriend,
You do misunderstand me. Neither is better or worse in my view, but I do think that there are differences between the two while it seems you tend to lump them together.

You say I grasp at straws but isn't a westerner who criticizes 'idol worship' of the supernatural type but engages in 'idol worship' of 'sacred' objects just one kind of idol worshiper who is concerned that another idol worshiper is worshiping false gods/idols? Isn't someone who worships the flag of their country just an idol worshiper? Do you see anything wrong with worshiping the flag of your country?.....or that it is any better or worse than worshipping a stone idol?

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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby dhammafriend » Tue Dec 10, 2013 3:07 pm

You do misunderstand me. Neither is better or worse in my view, but I do think that there are differences between the two while it seems you tend to lump them together.

I think we both agree here, sorry I misunderstood. Yes both can be points of wrong view or attachment.I do recognize the difference but feel they ultimately lead to the same defilement. So I 'lump them together'

You say I grasp at straws but isn't a westerner who criticizes 'idol worship' of the supernatural type but engages in 'idol worship' of 'sacred' objects just one kind of idol worshiper who is concerned that another idol worshiper is worshiping false gods/idols? Isn't someone who worships the flag of their country just an idol worshiper? Do you see anything wrong with worshiping the flag of your country?.....or that it is any better or worse than worshipping a stone idol?

Yes I agree with what you say here, but try and show some people of Western culture that they have sacred cows and they go nuts! The point of my post was as follows:

To make clear that the term 'idol worship' is a monotheistic cultural assumption, not an eternal truth valid for all time.
To then also bring to light that all human cultures 'do it', Abrahamic or not. They just don't use statuary but its just as tough to see through.

Personally, in a perfect world I would not even use that term on a Buddhist forum as it's actually an insult that is still used by Westerners towards other cultures to this day believe it or not. Thanks for the clarification Chownah.
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Re: Buddha statues are not idols?..

Postby SarathW » Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:36 am

The answer to this question is depends on the person’s mental development.
I remember as a child, I was worshipping many idols including Buddha’s statues.
Now I an adult with some knowledge and see that in a different angle.
There are many Buddhist adults who have never grown out of their childhood conditioning.

I am pretty sure Buddha did not resemble to any of the statues we see now days.
I think he should been more like Bikkhu Bodhi.
:)

Only a person who attain Sotapanna stage will completely eliminate this fetter.
:buddha1: :buddha2:


Some info regarding the OP:
A Buddhist venerates an image of the Buddha, recollecting the supreme qualities of the Enlightened One, and aspires to acquire similar virtues. At that time faith (saddhaa) in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha becomes the predominant mental state. This faith, reasoned and rooted in understanding, inspires the mind with confidence and determination to pursue the practice. This is the principle behind the veneration of the Buddha image, which the uninformed call "idol worship."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el322.html
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