Author Topic: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?  (Read 20489 times)

RedLantern

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Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« on: March 07, 2012, 08:44:29 AM »
Buddhist revered the image of the Buddha as a gesture to the greatest,wisest,most benevolent,
compassionate and holy man who has ever lived in this world.The worship of Buddha really mean
paying homage,veneration and devotion to him and what he represents.and not to the stone or
metal figure.The serenity pf the Buddha images influences and inspires them to observe the right
path of conduct and thought.
If people can keep the photograph of kings,queens,great heroes,prime ministers there is no reason
why Buddhist cannot their beloved Guru's photo or image to remember and respect him.
What harm is there if a Buddhist too offer flowers ,incense and etc to their beloved Guru who devoted
his life to help suffering humanity?
Therefore it is not idol worship but ideal worship.

vajratruth

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2012, 02:33:35 PM »
In Buddhism, the statues serve a number of functions. Namely, given the fact that the human mind is easily distracted, the statue and other icons such as the Stupa and Mandala, serve to help us focus with the right train of thought. Seeing the Buddha statue and the hand gestures, and various accompaniments instantly remind us the qualities of the Buddha as well as jog our memory as to what we have learned.

For instance, when we see Manjushri holding a flaming sword, it does not mean that Bodhisattva Manjushru actually wields a sword but rather how the knowledge and application of dharma cuts away of ignorance, delusions and attachments.

So Buddhist do not bow to a statue as such but to the qualities that is represented in the statue i.e Compassion and Wisdom. The practice of showing respect to a Buddha statue also plants the desire for us to also develop those same qualities.

triesa

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2012, 04:50:17 PM »
Many may think buddhists are idol worshippers, because as buddhists, we do place a lot of importance to statues.

But there are good and logical reasons for this :

1) Buddhists make prayer and offerings to statue on their altar,  we are avtually making offerings and prayers to the qualities the buddha/diety represents so that one day we will be become the perfectionist of the one we make prayers to.

2) Buddhists like to make BIG statues, I have been asked many times, why do temples have such huge statues, are we promoting others to just pray to big statue?  And it must be a waste of money also. Well, lets put it this way, size does matter and protray certain status or importance. Give you an example, the house of the prime minister is big, even his car is big, what does this simbolize? It means that the prime minister is seen as an important person and his status warrant such a house or a car.

So when we make big statue of a buddha/diety, it also draws the same reason in the eyes of the normal people, that this buddha/diety must be important and require such a magnitude to represent him.

However, the real meaning of making big statues to worship is actually for the collection of merits. The bigger the buddha statue/image we can make or afford to offer, the more the merits we collect.

3) There is also a common phenomena that non buddhists may mis-understand why we are prostrating to lamas or gurus. They think we are really idolizing these lamas.  As a matter of fact, when we make prostration to lamas/gurus, we are not prostrating to them as a person, but to the dharma knowledge he has and is going to disseminate  to us.

I hope I have clarified some common mis-conceptions of buddhists being idol worshippers here.

pgdharma

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2012, 10:44:25 AM »
Buddhists are not idol worshippers. When we prostrate to the image of the Buddha, we are actually prostrating to the qualities of the Buddha that one day we may achieved those qualities.So we should show respect to those qualities.  When we make offerings to a Buddha, it is a practice of cutting away miserliness and practicing generosity. For beginners or for people who visualization is not strong, having a Buddha image is to help them focus better.

rossoneri

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2012, 11:13:17 AM »
There are many objects/ signs/ colors in the world which represents/ symbolizes/ indicates the various form of messages. What will appeal to us is depending on one experiences or perhaps lifestyle. Look, if you were think of an apple, what else do you think of? Beside the eatable one does it reminds you about somebody and the qualities of the various products. Does it have an emotional value to you? And ultimately making an imprint for you to get one of those.

As a human being we need constant reminder be it secular or spiritual. So by using the same method, a Buddha statue act as an constant reminder of the existence of such believe and qualities but in this case the end result or rather the product is the ultimate Enlightenment.

So are Buddhist Idol worshippers? Definitely not!

Midakpa

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2012, 06:19:47 PM »
Before the Buddha passed into parinirvana, he advised that one could regard his statue as the actual Buddha. So Buddhists do not think that they are worshipping an idol, but the actual Buddha himself. The image of a Buddha represents all of the Buddha's qualities. In fact Buddhist art is inspired by the Buddha, who manifested enlightened knowledge through his form, speech and actions. Merely by viewing the Buddha's form, one is inspired to strive for enlightenment.

It is said that during Buddha's time, the artists could not draw by directly looking at the Buddha's face due to the radiance that overwhelmed ordinary perception. They had to draw from his reflection mirrored in a river. According to one account, the first painting of the Buddha was commissioned by King Bimbisara who wished to present it to Udayana, ruler of another kingdom. The Buddha asked that symbols of the twelve links of interdependence be added below his picture, together with a written description of the teaching. King Udayana meditated on the teaching and gained deep insight into its value and invited Buddhist monks to spread Dharma in his country.

Buddhist art is very rich in symbols. They are actually images of enlightenment. They are very useful for spreading the Dharma especially to lay people in remote places who may not have access to the sacred texts.

Positive Change

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2012, 08:16:26 AM »
We Buddhist are certainly not "idol worshipers"... Why? Well, to idol worship means to revere the statue or idol as the object of one's worship. And it is exactly that... making an object into something far more than it should be.

As Buddhist, we have the image of the Buddha and our Guru on our altar not because we "worship" them but we hold what they represent dear to us as a reminder in achieving our spiritual goals. Offerings are made not to the image or statue but to the representation of the 3 jewels they represent.

Sure one look at a Tibetan Buddhist altar and some may think otherwise because of lack of understanding and pure ignorance. But we cannot blame them too as we need to educate the people around us on the subtleties of our practice. We cannot assume people would "get it" and if they don't, they are wrong... Not very Buddhist right!

Tammy

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2012, 09:36:22 AM »
Interestingly, Catholics use statues in their spiritual practice almost similar to Buddhists do:-

"Catholics use statues, paintings, and other artistic devices to recall the person or thing depicted. Just as it helps to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the example of the saints by looking at pictures of them. Catholics also use statues as teaching tools. In the early Church they were especially useful for the instruction of the illiterate. Many Protestants have pictures of Jesus and other Bible pictures in Sunday school for teaching children. Catholics also use statues to commemorate certain people and events, much as Protestant churches have three-dimensional nativity scenes at Christmas."

The above was extracted from the following website:
http://www.catholic.com/tracts/do-catholics-worship-statues


Hence, my conclusion: many people make baseless accusations. They point fingers without getting their own facts right! This is dangerous! Also, I think everyone should stop questioning other people's faith, instead of wasting time finding faults with other people, they should just concentrate on their own practice!

Om Mani pemeh hum


Down with the BAN!!!

Q

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2012, 09:01:09 AM »
I get this all the time. People make passing remarks on how Buddhists worships 'statues' without having any idea or knowledge on what it is about. Classic ignorance.

It is not only non-Buddhists that have this opinion, even some unlearned Buddhists thinks they're worshipping the Buddha statue, some even call the Buddha 'God'. Just by calling oneself a Buddhist don't have much meaning to it. Worshipping the Buddha statue and paying homage to the Buddha's qualities with the thought of achieving it through knowledge/wisdom of the Dharma is 2 very very different things, so different it's not even worth comparing.

Jessie Fong

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2012, 12:04:10 PM »
I have had friends asking me why I have statues on my altars? Why am I praying to statues? These are questions posted by friends/visitors who do not understand. When we explain the reasons for having a statue (or more) on our altar and they see our point of view, then it all gels together.  My friends from another faith agree that they are also not praying to statues.

I believe this misconception arises because not enough explanation is given for others' understanding.


thor

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2012, 02:44:13 PM »
Haha I like that... ideal worship not idol worship.


I think it can seem that Buddhists are idol worshipping. For someone who is not aware, watching a Buddhist prostrate or pray to a statue seems like just that - that we pray to statues. You can't really blame them, who would know that we are venerating the qualities of the Buddha instead?

Interestingly, Taoists also pray to statues, offer incense and ask for help from the gods. Are they idol worshippers then? In fact, what really is an idol worshipper? What is idol worship?

According to Wikipedia:
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God.

Now, this definition, and the negativity it connotates is evidently Christian in nature. I am not Christian bashing, but the disdain for idol worship started in the Bible as far as I know.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship...Man commits idolatry whenever he honours and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money etc."

Therefore, whether or not we have statues and altars, the fact that Buddhists pray to Buddha is already idolatry.

I for one, particularly like this definition which I find hilarious (taken from http://www.submission.info/perspectives/monotheism/idolworship.html):
A simple definition of idol worship is to believe that anything beside God can help us, or to hold something as more important to us than God. Thus if we hold our property (for example) as more important than God /or give our jobs more time and attention than God - we are committing idol worship. Unfortunately, the majority of people who believe in God commit this gross offense without even realizing it.

If you read the above carefully, you would see that Buddha is teaching us not to "idol worship", through teachings on non attachment and impermanence. And as the author puts it, most Christians and in fact most people today, are idol worshippers as they put many other worldly concerns before the pursuit of spirituality.

So who is idol worshipping now??



negra orquida

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2012, 03:31:37 PM »
Actually, there's nothing wrong with idol worshipping Buddha.. why not? If it is ok to idol worship pop stars and movie stars and football stars, why not an enlightened being?

The "problem" arises when the less-informed think Buddhists are idol worshipping statues, which Jessie Fong correctly pointed out that it is because of lack of education, or lack of initiative to find out more.  If you think about it, all (the major) religions have some sort of "item" that they "worship", e.g. the Muslims revere the Quran, which is a book; the Christians have picture and statues of Jesus and Virgin Mary and their saints; the Hindus have images and statues of their Gods... So why are Buddhists singled out to be idol worshippers?  People would only say that if they don't believe that the being which the item represents does not exist.

In any case, it is important for us to teach newbies on the symbology and purpose of having statues.  Besides symbolising the qualities of the Buddha, having statues or images of Buddhas is very helpful for amateur practitioners to visualise the deity when doing tantric meditations / basic practices.  So in a way, we can say that the statue is a tool or platform for us to connect with (the qualities of) the Buddha and to do our practice.

Quote
2) Buddhists like to make BIG statues, I have been asked many times, why do temples have such huge statues, are we promoting others to just pray to big statue?  And it must be a waste of money also. Well, lets put it this way, size does matter and protray certain status or importance. Give you an example, the house of the prime minister is big, even his car is big, what does this simbolize? It means that the prime minister is seen as an important person and his status warrant such a house or a car.

So when we make big statue of a buddha/diety, it also draws the same reason in the eyes of the normal people, that this buddha/diety must be important and require such a magnitude to represent him.

However, the real meaning of making big statues to worship is actually for the collection of merits. The bigger the buddha statue/image we can make or afford to offer, the more the merits we collect.

would also like to add that the bigger the statue, the more imprints it can leave on more beings, e.g. bigger statue, more people can see it even from very far away.  Makes it easier for more beings to be planted with imprints (just the same as how companies would spend more to have bigger sized advertisements).

Tenzin K

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2012, 10:11:12 AM »
We worship the Buddha as a personal expression of our individual practice and a reminder of the enlightened
qualities we wish to attain. We focus our prayers and meditation with the Buddha image because we might not able to visual the Buddha at the beginning stage.

Having the Buddha image and making offering to blessed representations of the enlightened beings. This is to help us to gain merits to support our spiritual practice. The Buddha doesn’t need all theses but is us that due to our negative karma that we are unable to focus and we need an aid to assist for our meditation. 

sonamdhargey

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2012, 03:52:20 PM »
It depends, Some Buddhist are Idol worshippers because they do not know any better. They thought that by having an altar with Buddha Statues and by offering incenses  and food offering and asking for worldly gains will get them worldly gains. Can't blame them, but that is how much they know about Buddhism. But at least they are asking the Buddhas for help instead of some spiritual beings. So in that pretext, it is idol worshipping. But there's nothing wrong with that because it is Buddha we are talking about. There is no harm.

Positive Change

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Re: Are Buddhist Idol worshippers?
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2012, 10:58:22 AM »
Quote
2) Buddhists like to make BIG statues, I have been asked many times, why do temples have such huge statues, are we promoting others to just pray to big statue?  And it must be a waste of money also. Well, lets put it this way, size does matter and protray certain status or importance. Give you an example, the house of the prime minister is big, even his car is big, what does this simbolize? It means that the prime minister is seen as an important person and his status warrant such a house or a car.

So when we make big statue of a buddha/diety, it also draws the same reason in the eyes of the normal people, that this buddha/diety must be important and require such a magnitude to represent him.

However, the real meaning of making big statues to worship is actually for the collection of merits. The bigger the buddha statue/image we can make or afford to offer, the more the merits we collect.

Another reason why one makes big or larger statues is to ensure the blessings of the image of the Buddha is far reaching too. For example, a large 10 storey high statue of a Buddha can instill blessings at sight or at the very least plant Dharmic seeds in their mindstreams.

I believe the reason for such large statue is for the "exposure". I believe the merits of creating such a large statue are also tied in to how many people are actually blessed by the image. It brilliant to construct an image of a large Buddha statue but it is more meritorious if the statue is able to benefit people far and wide... what better way then?