Zen Wisdom 222


The idea of worship is a key issue. In the minds of some people, the images and statues of the Buddha can take on supernatural powers. It seems that many people view the statues as an extension of a deity. Would Shih-fu expound further on this point?


This belief does exist among people who do not have a deep understanding of the Buddha's teachings. They view the statues as an extension of a deity, and they worship these statues in order to get responses and gain benefit from the Buddhas. In this sense, the Buddha statues do function as deities for many people.

From the standpoint of Buddhism, it is acceptable for people to worship statues and Buddhas as if they were deities, because Buddhas exist everywhere, and their purpose is to help sentient beings. So, if there are requests from sentient beings, then Buddhas will respond. However, this is only one viewpoint.

Sentient beings who ask Buddhas for responses receive benefit not only from Buddhas, but from the making of the requests themselves. If people have a desire to fulfill or attain something, they can accomplish it because of their own desire, just as your own voice, because it projects inward as well as outward, can cause you yourself to respond. It is a product of your own effort.

For serious practitioners, who have a deep understanding of the Buddha's teachings, Buddha statues are just a tool of practice. When they want to express gratitude, or practice concentration, the Buddha statue serves as a focus for their attention.