Buddha - Antique Thai Style Bronze Rattanakosin Buddha Head Statue - 68cm/27"

Symbolism And meaning Of Buddha statues

By Amy Underdown, London, UK

Siddhartha Gautama, who came to be known as the Buddha or the Enlightened One, taught his beliefs and spread his knowledge over a span of 45 years. Nearly 2500 years later, Buddhism remains one of the largest religions in the world. It is perhaps no wonder, then, that the Buddha is depicted in many various ways across art and sculpture. The perfect way to create a positive space for meditation in the home, here we have broken down the symbols and meanings of the different types of Buddha statue and all their different positions, so that you can find which type of Buddha statue is best for you and your practice of Buddhism.

Teaching Buddha

Depicting the moment when the Buddha delivered his first sermon following his enlightenment, the Teaching Buddha reflects one of the key moments in Buddhism: the instance of the Four Noble Truths being communicated for the first time. The right hand position (mudra) of the Buddha symbolises the spinning wheel of dharma, with the left hand joining to create an infinite symbol of prayer.

This type of Buddha statue is perfect for anyone wishing to focus on their spirituality and learn more about Buddhism.

Teaching Buddha

Laughing Buddha

This is arguably one of the most recognisable statues in Buddhism, seen throughout homes around the world. Perhaps shockingly, this statue doesn’t represent the Buddha himself at all, but rather Budai. The Budai was actually a Chinese monk from the 10th century…

Rubbing the voluptuous belly of this statue is said to bring happiness and prosperity into the home… no wonder it is such a popular choice!

Meditation Buddha

Meditation Buddha is always found in a double or single lotus pose, a position that has come to represent a meditative state across the world. It is said to reflect balance and stability through the triangular silhouette, with the triangle of the Dhyana mudra symbolising the unity of the triple gem: the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha, as well as holding a mystic fire within.

This kind of statue is ideal for those who are looking to infuse peace and calm into their lives through a stronger focus on meditation.

Meditation Buddha

Reclining Buddha

As the name suggests, this position depicts the Buddha lying on his right side. This represents the Buddha in his last few earthly hours prior to his entry into Nirvana, a state called ‘paranirvana’.

This depiction of the Buddha in his final earthly moments should encourage a strive for harmony within the self.

Medicine Buddha

Often seen holding medicinal herbs and plants, as well as delivering a blessing to humankind, the Medicine Buddha is perhaps never more important as after a worldwide pandemic.

Bringing good health and medicinal knowledge, the Medicine Buddha is ideal for those seeking a positive change in their wellbeing and protection.

Calling the Earth to Witness Buddha

The Calling the Earth to Witness Buddha, also called the Earth Touching Buddha, portrays the Buddha on the brink of Enlightenment. It depicts the moment in which Siddhartha Gautama was nearly overcome by the demon Mara, but was able to resist. As a witness to this strength in rejecting the material world, the Buddha called upon the earth goddess, who washed away Mara with a flood. 

This statue is perfect to bring into the home in order to stay focused on Buddhism and overcoming earthly obstacles.

Enlightenment Buddha

Contemplation Buddha

The Contemplation Buddha can be seen both sitting and standing. It is distinguishable by the position of the hands, with both arms crossed against the chest. The right arm should always be above the left and the palms faced into the chest.

This statue is intended to symbolise determination, humility and tolerance and is therefore perfect for those seeking to heighten their spiritual resolve.

Walking Buddha

The Walking Buddha is a rare depiction and one of the least common positions of the Buddha as he is shown in physical motion. It is often said that he is travelling to or from Heaven in order to deliver a sermon.

As one of the main teachings of Buddha is to reject material attachments, this statue encourages the recognition of internal beauty and grace.

Standing Buddha

As well as walking, there also exist statues of Buddha simply standing. There are two common poses for the Standing Buddha: the gift-giving (Varada) and protection (Abhava) Buddhas.

Depending on the different statues in this instance, these depictions are intended to encourage generosity and fearlessness.

Standing Buddha

These make up a comprehensive list of the most important types of Buddha statue and show the different positions of the Buddha in art. For more detailed descriptions of the hand positions and poses of the Buddha, feel free to read our piece [The Meanings Behind the Buddha’s Positions.]