Antique Sukhothai Style Standing Bronze Protection Walking Buddha Statue - 58cm/23"

What Does the Walking Buddha Mean?

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 discuss the meaning behind the 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.

The 'Walking Buddha' is a striking Thai iconic invention emerging in bronze sculpture around the 14th century.

Known , during the Sukhothai period as cankrama (‘walking back and forth’) it refers to the pacing of Buddha during the third week after his Enlightenment ¹. 

The Walking Buddha is often seen as a visual representation of Buddha’s descent from Tavatimsa Heaven, as well as increasing the accessibility of the Buddha to the devotee by appearing to move towards him, with his right hand raised in the fear-abiding gesture. 

When Shakyamuni renounced his princely life he dismounted from his horse, Kanthaka, for good to become a peripatetic teacher. Buddhist texts describe his constant wandering from city to city in the course of his teaching exemplifying the important role that the act of walking had upon the Buddha's life. 

It is all the more remarkable that there are no Indian prototypes of 'Walking Buddhas'. In the context of walking, the footprint also has an important connotation, first emerging in Gandharan schist sculpture as a substitute symbol. 

A Sukhothai bronze image in the National Museum Bangkok shows a 'Walking Buddha' leaving a footprint behind, literally leaving his mark as a symbol of spiritual conquest.

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

Walking Buddha

¹, cf. H. Woodward, The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand, 1997, p. 160ff