The Buddha Image: A Foundation for Attachment

Topics: Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, Four Noble Truths Pages: 4 (1246 words) Published: December 4, 2013
Madeline Brisbane
Buddhism Course Assignment
11/16/11

The Buddha Image: A Foundation for Attachment

According to Freedburg, the author of The Power of Images, a figure resembling human form “enables the reconstitution of life” and makes “the absent present and the dead alive” (p. 11)1. An image preserves the aura of the person it resembles, and therefore allows for an eternal essence to remain after death. Within the realm of Buddhism, images of the Buddha serve a wide variety of spiritual and practical purposes. For some, keeping a Buddha image in their home is a sign of respect. Others find it comforting and peaceful to look at a Buddha image. In some parts of the world, specifically Southeast Asia, the Buddha image is a symbol of supernatural power and protection, and is essential to the efficacy of rituals. If a ritual fails to succeed in the absence of a Buddha image, then there must be an interdependency between images and ritualistic success. And if an interdependency exists, then the entire concept contradicts the Buddha’s teaching of non-attachment because the ritual becomes attached to the presence of a Buddha image. Through an analysis of the origins and evolution of the use of Buddha images and relics in Southeast Asia, it would appear that an obsession with the presence of a Buddha image has emerged, conflicting with Buddha’s teaching about non-attachment. As the second Noble Truth states, attachment is the origin of suffering. Therefore, to foster an interdependency between images and ritualistic success would go against the most fundamental values of Buddhism. In order to maintain the most basic ideals of Buddhism, the Buddha image must only serve as a reminder of the Buddha’s presence rather than as a necessary component of practicing rituals effectively. To image the Buddha is not a modern concept; the Buddha must have always been imagined through stories, myths, and symbols. However, there are many legends surrounding the origins...
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