Of Buddha-Images of Buddha-Nature


There are many Buddha images around the world, and they come in all shapes, sizes and materials. We will always choose the one we feel close to for enshrining at home – one that is appealing to look at, that we feel close to. Non-Buddhists often accuse Buddhists of idol-worshiping. To them, paying homage before a Buddha image is like worshiping an inanimate object, which they see to be senseless. Today at class, Shian mentioned that when we look at Buddha images, we should be looking for inspiration, so as to become like an actual living Buddha.

As a matter of fact, any Buddha image should serve as a reflection of our ‘true self’ – our Buddha-nature. Buddhas in person will definitely radiate the greatest loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity at its maximum capacity. Though Buddha images usually do not radiate the same magnitude of these qualities, a well-made one should arouse the rise of these qualities in us. How so? When we gaze upon a Buddha image, what comes to mind ought to be his great virtues and wisdom. Does this not kindle our hidden virtues and wisdom too? And with this ‘awakening’, how can we not prostrate with utmost sincerity and gratitude? Not doing so, are we not denying the Buddha-nature within us?

So much about the effect of Buddha images on us. What about our very own image? Once, I had a dream of waking up from a nap. As I proceeded to the bathroom to wash up, I saw no face reflected in the mirror. And I tried to see my body with my eyes, I realised I was without a body as well. In that instant of panic, I was jolted wide awake. It kept me pondering why for the longest time. Why an empty reflection and an non- existent body? I had blogged about this dream years ago but now have a different perspective about it…

In this deluded world of ours, what we hold dearest is probably our body, which makes it one of the hardest and final things to let go. But the dream wasn’t about emptiness, for true emptiness is not physical emptiness. What I learnt from the dream was the high degree of attachment I had to my body. Hopefully, in due time, I can let go of it in time and be reborn in Pureland. So, the next time we see ourselves in the mirror, may what we see be our Buddha-nature… not merely our samsaric illusory self. Amituofo!

2 thoughts on “Of Buddha-Images of Buddha-Nature

  1. The real “idol” worshipping is attachment to pieces of paper with pictures of presidents and numbers on them (read: money). Many people (Buddhist and non-buddhist alike) are dreaming of better paying jobs, better houses etc. I often give myself excuses that the world is materialistic and have to work, giving religion a lesser priority. Because money takes my mind away from the real “God”, hence, money can be seen as a “false god” or “idol”.

    Besides money, as pointed out in this article, attachment to physical beauty is also “idol” worshipping. We worship ourselves by making ourselves better looking. The Buddha taught us the middle path of everything. So in my opinion,
    1) anyone could be guilty of idol worshipping too.
    2) it’s ok to have money or looks, but not too engross with them.

    If buddha images are not idol objects, could we dipose of broken or craked ones like ordinary trash?

  2. Interesting take on the primary idol-worshipping being self-focused!

    Money is useful if it is used wisely to help better the world. Looks are useful if they are used to attract to help others compassionately. Yup, but even so, they shouldn’t be attached to till they cause needless suffering. (The Middle Path does not mean being moderate in everything, as some things shouldn’t be done at all.)

    Buddha images are best given to those who will treasure them, so as to not waste them. If damaged, repair can be considered. If beyond salvage, there’s a recent post at https://moonpointer.com/new/wp-wall-guestbook (by Jilexin) on how to handle them. They should not be disposed like trash because it might express disrespect or be seen as so by others, including unseen beings. Amituofo :-]

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