"Unlocking the Mystique of Buddha Statues: Essential for Spiritual Practice or Mythical Notions? Delve into the Realities!"

In this discourse, our aim is to delve into a particular quandary faced by those embarking on the Buddhist path – the appropriateness of crafting and venerating Buddha images. This concern is especially prevalent in the initial stages of Buddhist practice, where questions arise regarding the creation and worship of Buddha statues and images.

Within certain Buddhist traditions such as Vajrayana, the Buddha statue is not merely an inanimate object; it is consecrated with spiritual power and they blessing with many mantra. Sri Lanka, steeped in the Theravada tradition and culture, has given rise to various perspectives on the placement of Buddha statues. Contemplations arise: Should a Buddha statue adorn the interior of one’s dwelling? This article seeks to scrutinize the alignment of these practices with the teachings of the Buddha.

Crucially, it must be grasped that the Buddha and Arahants never sought adulation or worship from others. These enlightened beings never advocated prayers in their honor. The respectful acknowledgment of the virtues of one who has attained detachment and tranquility, expressed through thoughts and words, however, constitutes a virtuous deed with positive karmic repercussions.

An illustrative anecdote from the life of the Lord Buddha serves to emphasize this point. One morning, while seeking individuals in need, the Buddha’s compassionate gaze fell upon an elderly woman of low caste destined to pass away that very day. Through the wisdom of "Chuthupapata," (see people’s death and afterlife according to kamma) the Buddha foresaw her imminent rebirth in a lower plane of Narakaya/ Niraya.

In a display of empathy, accompanied by his monastic retinue, the Buddha approached the ailing woman. Moggallana Arahantaka Bhikkhu addressed her and introduce Buddha to her;

"Chandali Vanda Padani Gotamassa Yasassino

Thaneva Anukampaya Attasi Isisuttamo

Abhippasadhe Manang Arahanthamhi Thadini

Khippan Panjalika Vanda Paritthan Thava Jeetham"

emphasizing that expressing reverence for an arahant (Fully Accomplished One) by recalling their virtues is an act that yields positive karma (Punya). The lesson here is clear: veneration should stem from recognizing the qualities of the individual rather than fixating on the image or its features.

When selecting a Buddha statue, the focus should be on choosing one that facilitates the cultivation of “Buddhaness” (Buddhanussati), rather than being swayed by concerns about its empowerment or color.

The inception of Buddha statues dates back to approximately 400 years after the Buddha’s demise, during the reign of Kanishka in India, inspired by Greek art. The evolution of Buddha statues has been influenced by cultural trends throughout history. Presently, Buddha statues vary globally, with depictions ranging from a round figure in China to a princely portrayal in Gandhara art.

In Sri Lanka, the depiction of the Buddha in Buddhist art has undergone changes in body proportions, reflecting regional and temporal trends. It is imperative to recognize that the evolution of Buddha statues corresponds to fashion, and fixating on the physical representation may lead one astray from the essence of Buddhism.

The Maha Parinirvana Sutra underscores the Buddha’s instruction to perceive him through the Dharma. Whether or not one possesses a Buddha statue, the guidance is to connect with Lord Buddha through Dharma and Vinaya (Teaching and code of conduct).

Expressing gratitude to the departed Buddha can be accomplished through honoring physical relics scattered worldwide. Remembering the virtues of the fully awakened Arahntaka monks and nuns associated with these relics accrues positive karma. Similar to the Indian tradition of honoring belongings of a person by recollecting their virtues, worshiping specific sites like Vajirasana in Bodhigaya or Ananda Bodhi in Jethavanarama is encouraged.

The crux of the matter is to remember the merits of the Buddha and arahant monks and nuns, regardless of the form of worship, and cultivate those virtues within oneself.

In conclusion, possessing a Buddha statue does not define one’s Buddhist identity or spirituality; practicing the Dharma does. The Buddha emphasized the significance of cultivating “Buddhaness” through meditation, specifically the recollection of his qualities. Whether walking, standing, sitting, lying down, working, or resting, the continuous reflection on the nine qualities of the Buddha in Pali ensures a steadfast connection with the Dharma;

  • Arahant – Fully Accomplished One,
  • Sammāsambuddho – Fully Enlightened and Find 4 Nobel Dhamma By Himself by Nobel Experiment ,
  • Vijjācaranasampanno – Perfect in True Knowledge and Conduct,
  • Sugato – Complete the beautiful eight-fold path and Nirvana,
  • Lokavidū – Knower of All Worlds and Separated from All Worlds,
  • Anuttaro purisadammasārathi – Incomparable Leader of Persons to be Tamed,
  • Satthā devamanussānam – Teacher of Divines (Deva & Brahamma) and Humans,
  • Buddh‌o – Fully Enlightened and Teach the Path of Enlighten
  • Bhagavāto – Blessed One with above all qualities.

interesting observations there - thank you.

you may be interested in this discussion:


it refers to a jataka story where the buddha responds to ananda’s question about whether a shrine can be constructed of him.

the translation of the original pali appears to be something like:

No, Ānanda, not a shrine of physical relics; that kind is made when a Buddha enters Nirvāna. A representative (symbolic) shrine is baseless and is merely selfish attachment. But the great bo-tree used by the Buddhas is fit for a shrine, be they alive or be they dead.

that passage appears to state then, that:

  • a shrine of bodily relics (the buddha’s body parts and physical use items) is appropriate after a buddha’s death

  • however, shrines that are symbolic or representative (i.e., statues and paintings) are not appropriate because they are really just self-based attachment

  • the bo true is however always suitable as an object of veneration of the buddha

this seems to have been the way the buddha was revered in the centuries immediately following his death. only with the manufacture of statues in greece did the practice of representative buddha images come about.


From the Buddhadasa’s speech to students in 1966 (Question #19 - “Where can we find the Buddha?”)