What are the benefits of 'worshipping' the Buddharūpa if he already passed into Parinibbana?

Pardon me if this question sounds a bit ‘harsh’ but I was wondering this since:

  1. I’ve heard from other Buddhists that the Buddha gives instructions on the canon on how to build an image of him in order for us to worship after he’s no longer around. First of all, is this true? I assume the benefits here is the generation of merit.

  2. When I was in Sri Lanka the vast majority of lay people (and even some monastics!) I met were praying to the Buddha statue / Stupa so they could ask for things such as a job or a wife or health. In the Suttas it’s said that after the Buddha passes away into Parinibbana he’s in a state of neither existence nor non-existence so how could he help these people or even ‘hear’ them in the first place if such a thing is possible?

  3. If there are benefits of doing so (even if just mentally which is very good) then what should be the correct mindset/intention when doing the chanting and such towards the Buddharūpa? Because I assume that asking for a car for example would not be a wholesome thing :laughing:. I assume it would be best to contemplate impermanence or death for example?

With Metta.

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Not true. But the Mahaparinibbana Sutta does suggest building stupas, and honoring the Buddha after his passing. Other suttas extol the virtues of “recalling the Buddha” and remembering his excellent qualities, for example. And some suttas list physical attributes among those qualities.

I suggest this essay on Buddhist “prayer” — while certainly some Buddhists treat the Buddha as a God, there’s a subtle distinction between e.g. aditana and theistic supplication

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In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta it says:

DN 16:5.12.4-7:
And for what reason is a Realized One worthy of a monument?

So that many people will inspire confidence in their hearts, thinking: ‘This is the monument for that Blessed One, perfected and fully awakened!’ And having done so, when their body breaks up, after death, they are reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.

It is for this reason that a Realized One is worthy of a monument.

This is not a Buddha statue, but a stupa, a monument.

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No, it is not true.

There is no such a teaching he could help or hear in the worshipping.

The correct mindset/intention is “thanks” to the Buddha for his Dhamma, i.e. the arising of dukkha and the way leading to the ceasing of dukkha.

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In Theravada tradition, Kāliṅgabodhi Jataka (Jataka no. 479) recounts how the Buddha advised Ananda to plant Bodhi tree in front of the gate of Jetavana monastery so that people can show reverence to the Buddha when he is going around to teach Dhamma:

When the Tathagata had set forth on pilgrimage, for the purpose of gathering in those who were ripe for conversion, the citizens of Savatthi proceeded to Jetavana, their hands full of garlands and fragrant wreaths, and finding no other place to show their reverence, laid them by the gateway of the perfumed chamber and went off. This caused great rejoicings.

But Anathapindika got to hear of it; and on the return of the Tathagata visited Elder Ananda and said to him,—“This monastery, Sir, is left unprovided while the Tathagata goes on pilgrimage, and there is no place for the people to do reverence by offering fragrant wreaths and garlands. Will you be so kind, Sir, as to tell the Tathagata of this matter, and learn from him whether or no it is possible to find a place for this purpose.”

The other, nothing loth, did so, asking, “How many shrines are there?”

“Three, Ananda.”

“Which are they?”

Shrines for a relic of the body (sārirīka cetiya), a relic of use or wear (pāribhogika cetiya), a relic of memorial (uddesika cetiya)

“Can a shrine be made, Sir, during your life?”

“No, Ananda, not a body-shrine; that kind is made when a Buddha enters Nirvana. A shrine of memorial is improper because the connection depends on the imagination only. But the great bo-tree used by the Buddhas is fit for a shrine, be they alive or be they dead.”

“Sir, while you are away on pilgrimage the great monastery of Jetavana is unprotected, and the people have no place where they can show their reverence. Shall I plant a seed of the great bo-tree before the gateway of Jetavana?”

“By all means so do, Ananda, and that shall be as it were an abiding place for me.”

It is the uddesika cetiya where the Buddha images or statues (Buddharupa) belong to. According to Jataka story quoted above, udessika do not have any physical connection to the Buddha, but still serve as objects of reverence because they were created in his memory. Originally udessika were secondary to pāribhogika and sārīraka, but with the influence of Greco-Buddhism, statues of the Buddha were produced in great numbers, followed later by paintings and other images. Nowadays, the Buddha statues become primary Buddhist objects of veneration.

In northern Buddhist tradition, the canonical source for veneration of Buddha images is found in Chinese Ekottarika Agama chapter 36 sutra no. 5 (EA 36.5). It recounts story of King Udayana (Pali: Udena) who fell ill because of he did not see the Buddha, who went to the Tavatimsa heaven to teach Dharma to his mother, for a long time. The king’s attendants made the king a five-foot-high sandalwood Buddha statue so that the king recovered from his illness. The Buddha then approved the statue as object of veneration for the future generation. According to Chinese Buddhist tradition, this is the first Buddha statue made in the Buddha’s lifetime and current models of Buddha statues are based on this first statue, but the historicity of this story is doubtful because there’s no archeological evidence that Buddha images is made in the Buddha’s lifetime.

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Is “nothing loth” a typo?

I don’t think so. The English Jataka translation provided in SC site is done in early 20th century which many English words used in that time is archaic now. “Nothing loth” means “willing(ly), not reluctant(ly)” according to Collins dictionary and is frequently used before 20th century:

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Recollection of the Buddha (not necessarily with a statue) is intended to engender a sense of the dhamma and give rise to a feeling of joy:

[1] “There is the case where you recollect the Tathagata: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’ At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Tathagata, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Tathagata. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.”—AN 11.12

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