Whether it is for Chinese or Zen decoration of your interior, for spiritual purposes or relaxation (as for meditation) or as part of your religious beliefs, choose a Buddha statue perhaps sometimes complicated, given the many existing Buddha styles and forms and the abundance of the offer on the market...
So we will see together the few principles and concepts, well known in Asia but much less in Europe, that will allow you to “well” choose your Buddha statue.
Yes! First of all, you must know that there are different Buddhas (or Buddhas, because the 2 spellings are correct!). In other words, not all Buddha statues represent the same person. Buddha means “the Awakened” in Sanskrit, and describes a person who has reached the Awakening (bodhi).
There are however Buddhas that are much more popular than others and whose performances are most widespread. Here are the four best known...
The “Rigging Buddha,” sometimes called Budai, Ajita, Milefo, Pusa or Pu-Tai, in fact, is not a Buddha! This character, which is typical of the Chinese world, is the result of the mixing of several different characters...
In China, having a “great heart” is often represented symbolically by having a “big belly”... This is how one represents the “God of Prosperity” in Taoist religion (a character whose statue adorns many Chinese shops, in Asia or the West! ), a benevolent and kind character who helps others get rich and happy – including having enough property to feed many children!
In Buddhism there is a “bodhisattva,” that is, a “future Buddha,” which will be the successor of the Buddha of our time – the founder of the Buddhism we know, which is called Gautama. When this future Buddha becomes a Buddha (in a few billion years...), it will be called Maitreya, which means “the Benevolent,” and the period when it will live will be an era of happiness and wealth, material and spiritual!
As Maitreya seemed very close to the “God of Prosperity” they already knew and worshipped, the Chinese Buddhists ended up giving Maitreya the same attributes – a big belly, a jovial laughter, sometimes also children around him playing – while, usually, the Buddhas are rather depicted thin, in meditation, and with a little mysterious smile!
He was also confused with a Buddhist monk called the “Snowsack Monk,” Qici, who was reported to have lived in China about a thousand years ago and became very popular. He was an original character, who spent his life on the roads with a besace on his shoulder and did good wherever he passed, in a very unconventional way... He was considered a “terrestrial incarnation” of the future Maitreya Buddha. That’s why we also find representations of the future Maitreya with a bag on his shoulder!
Buddha Gautama: From his real name, Siddhartha Gautama, also called Shakyamuni Buddha (or Sakyamuni), he is the founding father of Buddhism. Siddhartha was an Indian Crown Prince who renounced the throne and his princely life to devote himself to spiritual search to find a solution to the 4 main sufferings of beings: birth, disease, old age, death.
Its representation is very codified and always the same, regardless of periods or countries... So it is easily recognized! There are 32 major features and 80 minor features, the main of which are: a protuberance on top of the skull (sometimes represented as a bun), a clump of hair between the two eyes, long arms that descend to the knees, wheel marks in the palm of the hands and on the plant of the feet... It is always dressed very simply, as a “a” monk, of a kind of toga that falls into elegant folds; he also keeps from his youth as prince long earlobes, distorted by the heavy jewelry to which he has renounced... He is usually seated on a sort of throne in the shape of lotus flower.
Sometimes he is represented very skinny, as an ascetic – at the time when he had not yet become a Buddha, he believed that mortification could be the solution... but he finally gave up!
Guan-yin is the Chinese depiction of a "future Buddha" whose Indian name is Avalokitesvara (it is also called Guanshiyin, Kwun Yum in Hong Kong, Kwannon or Kanzeon in Japan and Kuan Eim in Thailand). He is considered to be the personification of compassion because he decided to delay his entry into the "nirvâna" until all beings are able to enter it themselves... In the Far East (China, Japan, Vietnam), he is very often represented in a female form because, as a mother attentive to the happiness of his children, he wants to help all beings escape suffering; often Also, it is represented with several heads and very many arms, to symbolize this concern which manifests itself in all directions and in all possible ways!
He may be sitting on a dragon (energy symbol) or on a lotus, such as Buddhas, but usually with a foot on the ground, because he is willing to stand up to respond to the demands. Or he is standing and often holds a vase in his hand, to pour a soothing balm on all human wounds.
The Amitabha Buddha (which literally means “Infinite Light”) is also called Amitayus (which means “Infinite Longevity”). In the Far East, these two names were combined into one: Amita-Fo (Amida in Japanese; Fo is the pronunciation of "Buddha" in Chinese). While Buddha Gautama has now disappeared “in nirvâna” and one cannot hear his teachings anymore, Amida is present at present, but in another universe, located west of ours! This universe, in which there is no passion or suffering, is considered a “Pure Earth”... It is called “the Blessed One”!
Although Amida lives in another universe, one can speak to him so that after death, he may be born again in his “Pure Earth” and thus be able to reach the Awakening by listening to his teachings. He is very popular in the Far East because he said that it is enough to pronounce his name with faith, even once in his life, even if one is a great criminal... to be able to be born again to him; he thus represents benevolence and the fact of feeling accepted and protected, whatever one does! He is the hope of a better post-death life and a great future consolation. Thinking of him is enough to appease fears... He is often confused with the Gautama Buddha, as he is represented with the same specific characteristics to all Buddhas.
Now that we have made knowledge of the main Buddhas, we will see the meaning of their posture.
In order to choose its Buddha statue well, there are some rules and principles to observe, in order to ensure that the statue is an authentic and quality statue.
That's it! I think we just reviewed the most important aspects in order to find out how to choose his Buddha statue. As with the malas necklaces and Buddhist and Tibetan bracelets (malas), there are certainly some principles to be respected, but the choice of a statue is above all a personal choice. In other words, your statue must make you vibrate and make you feel a special feeling...
If you do not have your Buddha statue yet, you will undoubtedly find your happiness among our selection of buddha statues from Chinese and Asian crafts.
Credit: I take advantage of it to thank theBuddhist Studies Institutes, for his help with the rereading of this article!
Representation of the most popular Buddhas:
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