Symbolism And Meaning Of Buddha Statues

September 03, 2017

Symbolism And Meaning Of Buddha Statues

The Buddha Statues, for the most of people are the main subjects of curiosity as they have different gestures, poses and style of presentation.

Although Buddha statues may differ artistically between cultures, some features and meanings remain the same. Common characteristics among Buddha statues include the Buddha standing, sitting or lying down; hands held in various gestures hold particular significances to an event in the life of the Buddha.

Let’s have a closer look at different types of Buddha statues, their meanings and origins.

1. Protection Buddha

This depiction of a seated Buddha with the right hand raised and facing outwards has two common meanings. The first is that of the Protection Buddha, as the raised right hand symbolically represents a shield. The second meaning, Overcoming Fear, is closely related to the first (since one who is receiving protection would be less fearful).

The main features of this pose, aside from the raised right hand, is that The Buddha can be depicted either sitting or standing, and the left hand may either be extended outward or palm up in the lap. This statue signifies courage and offers protection from fear, delusion and anger.

buddha figure

2. Meditation Buddha

Another of the more common figures is of the Buddha in Meditation. This statue is for people who are either looking for peace and clam in their lives, or for those who wish to improve their own meditation skills. People will often buy a Meditation Buddha if they want to set up a "serenity room" or a corner of their house where they can sit in calm for a little while and unwind.

In this pose, the Buddha is depicted with both hands in the lap, face up, and the legs are crossed, either in a Double Lotus pose (with the ankles of each leg tucked behind one another in a locked position), or in a Single Lotus pose (where one leg rests on top of the other leg). Occasionally, an alms bowl is placed in the lap as well.

meditation buddha

As this statue generally represents focused concentration, the eyes of the Buddha are either depicted as halfway closed, or closed nearly all the way. The silhouette of the statue is shaped - more or less - like a triangle, which represents stability.

Many of the largest Buddha Statues in Japan, such as the Great Kamakura Buddha Statue at Kotokuin Temple, and large statues in Korea are in the Meditation Pose. This pose is also known as the Amithabha Buddha, which means "Boundless Light."

3. Laughing Buddha 

In western culture, the laughing Buddha is probably the most widely recognizable and used. It's also known as the good luck, prosperity or abundance Buddha. It depicts Buddha in his later years as happy and with a large belly from an abundant lifetime. He'll either be in a sitting position or standing with his hands over his head supporting a real or imaginary Ru-Yi pot (vessel or bowl of plenty). This statue is affectionately dubbed Happy. It's tradition to rub his belly to ensure even greater luck is bestowed upon you.

happy buddha

4. Earth Touching Buddha

The most common pose you will find in Thai temples is with the legs crossed, the left hand in the lap, and the right hand pointing to the ground with the palm facing inward toward the Buddha. This posture is known as Calling The Earth to Witness, and it is the definition of the moment of enlightenment for the Buddha.

buddha figure

It is the story of how the Buddha, after six years, finally was at the verge of enlightenment. Unfortunately Mara, the Demon of Illusion, tried to dissuade The Buddha from the final last steps. The Buddha meditated all night to overcome the fears and temptations sent by Mara, and then called the Earth Goddess to witness that the Buddha achieved enlightenment in order to share with the rest of the world. Witnessing that, the Earth Goddess wrung her hair, releasing flood waters that swept away the Demon Mara and all the temptresses he had released.

5. Medicine Buddha

The Medicine Buddha is depicted in paintings having blue skin, but whether shown in statue or painted form, the right hand is held facing downward with fingers extended toward the ground, palm facing outward toward the viewer, a bowl of herbs rests in the left hand upon the lap.

It is believed by the Tibetans that the Buddha was responsible for delivering the knowledge of medicine to the people of the world, and in fact the right hand facing outward signifies "granting a boon" (meaning, giving a blessing) to mankind. This is a common hand gesture amongst both Buddhist and Hindu statues.

medicine buddha statue

The Medicine Buddha is venerated by those seeking health, and is more commonly found in the Buddhist temples and communities of Nepal and Tibet. 

6. Teaching Buddha 

This statue signifies wisdom, understanding, and fulfilling destiny. Both hands are held at chest level, with thumb and index fingers forming a circle. The right hand is turned palm in, while the left hand is turned palm out.

As do most images of the Buddha, the Teaching Buddha depicts a particular moment in the life of the Buddha, namely, the first sermon the Buddha gave after reaching Enlightenment. This sermon was to a small group of disciples who had previously scorned the Buddha. This is a statue that is particularly appropriate for those who are either studying or are interested in learning more about spirituality.

teaching buddha statue

The phrase DharmaChakra is hard to translate. The word Dharma means "the way of righteousness," while the word Chakra is usually translated as the "Universe" or as the "cosmos." Taken together, this phrase generally is interpreted as, "putting the cosmic law of righteousness in order," or "turning the wheel of cosmic righteousness." 

7. Walking Buddha 

Signifies grace and internal beauty, and in Thai, we call this "Phra LeeLaa". Right hand raised, facing outward, left hand dangles along left side of body. Standing with right foot behind, starting to raise off the ground. This statue is particular to the Sukhothai period in Thailand. It represents a time when the Buddha was returning to earth after delivering a sermon on the Dharma in Heaven, and was being accompanied by Lord Indra and Lord Brahma. 

standing buddha

8. Reclining Buddha

The reclining Buddha is an iconographic representation of the Buddha lying down during the moment of his Mahaparinirvana. It is one of the popular iconographic patterns in Buddhism as they represent the historical Shakyamuni Buddha during his last moments of illness. With reclining Buddha statues, the Buddha is seen lying on the right side facing west while his head is supported by his right hand.

The reclining Buddha statues are not supposed to induce the state of sadness to the followers but rather the reclining Buddha should be taken as an object of encouragement that all beings have the potential to be awakened or enlightened and release themselves from the suffering which is characterized by the cycle of rebirth. The serene and smiling expression of the Buddha in reclining Buddha statue portray the compassion and calmness that comes with the enlightenment. 

reclining buddha figure

9. Three Wise Buddhas

It is no surprise most things in Buddhism always done in three. The number 3 refers to the trinity, a symbol of divine protection, help and guidance. It also refers to the three training of discipline, concentration and discrimination.

These statues of laughing Buddha portray the three wise monkeys and the proverb associated with being the good mind , speech and action.
Hear not evil Buddha: The Kikazaru monkey, covers his ears to hear no evil.
See no evil Buddha: The Mizaru monkey, covers his eyes and see no evil around.
Speak no evil Buddha: The Iwazaru monkey, who covers his mouth to speak no evil.

see no evil buddha

Buddha statues for home and garden can be also used in feng shui applications to enhance your personal directions as well as energize weakened sectors of your life. It's important to understand the symbols of each statue design so you can optimize the chi energy it attracts. 



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