By Amy Underdown, London, UK
The Buddhist way of life is becoming increasingly popular. Given the tumultuous period that many of us have experienced as a result of the pandemic and more, perhaps it is no surprise that people across the globe are seeking new ways to discover inner peace – and finding it in Buddhism.
As a global philosophy dating back over 2500 years, one of the most approachable way of embracing Buddhism is to bring a Buddha statue into the home. This is especially true of those who live a far throw away from any Buddhist temple. Having a statue in your own space is said to replicate the same sense of worship as you would discover within a temple. With this in mind, Buddha statues are therefore used for meditation and to help guide their owner on a spiritual journey.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to exactly how a statue is utilised for the best of the individual. In fact, there are many different reasons why someone might choose to bring a statue into their home, which will also impact which kind of statue they choose, as different statues carry different meanings. These meanings are communicated through the different positions of the Buddha, as well as the intricate hand positions or mudra.
A Meditation Buddha seems like a good place to start, as this type of Buddha echoes the sentiments of many when considering why they should buy a Buddha statue. The Meditation Buddha is sat in the instantly recognisable lotus pose, which many of us instinctively associate with Buddhist meditation. The Meditation Buddha also includes a Dhyana mudra, where both hands are placed in the lap facing upwards, with the right hand resting on the palm of the left. The top of the thumbs touch in order to form another triangle shape, which mirrors the triangular silhouette of the entire statue.
As the name suggests, this statue is used by individuals looking to improve and guide their meditation practice. Oftentimes, owners of this type of Buddha statue will meditate in its presence and use the statue to channel their negative thoughts away, thus cultivating an optimal space for a meditative state. This is therefore a very practical interpretation of how to use a Buddha statue to perfect a critical component of the philosophy.
Others may use Buddha statues as a visual reminder on Buddhist best practice and how to intertwine this into everyday life. As mentioned, many people have turned to Buddhism as a means of finding inner peace or to help them overcome the obstacles presented by the modern world. Whilst meditation can certainly play a key role in this, the placement and presence of some statues may be enough to encourage individuals to take on the day with a Buddhist mindset and reflecting the truths which the Buddha communicated in his sermons.
The Varada or Abhava Buddhas are good examples of such reminders. Both seen in a standing position, these two statues are said to inspire generosity and fearlessness/confidence respectively. The embodiment of these traits demonstrates how a Buddhist statue can be used to infuse everyday life with values that are critical to both Buddhism, but also to us as positive human beings.
Other types of statues may be used in a more hopeful way, with the idea that meditating or living life according to their spirituality may bring individual’s good fortune in different ways. The Medicine Buddha, for instance, could be brought into the home in order to encourage good health and wellbeing (particularly important given the pandemic!) Or the Laughing Buddha, one of the most recognisable art forms in Buddhism despite not representing the Buddha himself, which is said to bring prosperity, wealth and happiness if you rub his giant belly.
There are many other types of Buddha statue, a more comprehensive list of which can be found here. But the ultimate key to all of this is to remember that spirituality is a very personal journey, and this is reflected in how somebody chooses to use their Buddha statue. As long as individuals treat their statues with the warranted respect, it is completely down to each person as to how they use a Buddha statue to enhance their experience and understanding of Buddhism.