By Amy Underdown, London, UK
The art of gift-giving can be a difficult one to master, especially when global companies across the world pedal out meaningless and empty presents that we give just for the sake of it. We all know the feeling of receiving another pair of birthday-themed socks from your grandparents or plastering a plastic smile on our faces as we hand our friend the sweet hamper that looked much better online. It’s very easy to forget how meaningful gift-giving should be. This is why Buddha statues are an excellent choice, because it is not just simply gifting our loved ones a beautiful and authentic piece of art, it is also providing an experience and a chance for positive change. Understanding what it means to bestow such a gift means that it can be done respectfully and successfully.
First and foremost, Buddhism is welcoming to all. Whilst it is a religion, it is also a philosophy and a state of mind, meaning you can gift a Buddha statue without the expectation that the recipient is strictly Buddhist. Buddhists themselves are not expected to regularly visit temples because their meditative sanctuary can be cultivated in their own space. All of this means that a Buddha statue can bring clarity to clouded minds and a peaceful state of self within the home and to anybody that requires its aura of positivity (a far better gift than a subscription to a life coach… or a cheaper alternative to flying across the world to a Buddhist temple!) Better yet, even if you are still concerned about the religious nature of statues, a Budai (Laughing Buddha) is still the perfect gift, as it does not embody the Buddha himself and encourages prosperity rather than definitive spirituality.
Moreover, gift-giving and charity are inherent to Buddhism. Known as dāna, this generosity was advocated by the Buddha who said, ‘If you knew as I know the benefit of generosity, you would not let an opportunity go by without sharing.’ Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as regifting the dusty bath bomb you received in a poorly organised Secret Santa or giving away your last Hershey’s Kiss. Whilst these may (or may not, in the case of the bath bomb) be gratefully received, Buddhism also teaches that we must abandon greed and that our generosity should be founded in virtue. Fortunately, giving a Buddha statue fulfils both briefs, as it grants the recipient a chance to explore the teachings of the Buddha. A Meditation Buddha or a Contemplation Buddha, for example, can present the opportunity for true reflection and confidence. The different poses on the Buddha mean that you can select the perfect fit for your giftee.
This is why Buddhists believe that the greatest gift of all is Dharmadana, the gift of the teachings of Buddha, because by bestowing such a gift the recipient’s whole lifestyle and outlook can be positively impacted. A disclaimer must be put forth that a Buddha statue is not transformative all by itself otherwise therapists across the world would be immediately put out of business. However, a Buddha statue does indeed represent an opportunity for change and provides an aura of wellness that can encourage and nurture a fresh mindset. This critical facet of Buddhism is implied in the gift-giving Buddha statue, who uses the Varada mudra. This mudra is characterised by the outstretched and open-palmed left hand, which is intended to demonstrate giving, compassion and generosity.
When carried out with good intentions, gifting a statue of the Buddha is therefore ideal for all parties. The recipient is given the opportunity to appreciate Buddhism and cherish positive spirituality, whilst you fulfil one of the most important mainstays of Buddhism itself.