While some people advise that you should not keep a Buddha statue if it is broken or chipped, many others believe it is okay to keep a chipped statue—as long as you, the owner, is fine with doing so.
Either way, there is valid rationale for why people choose to keep or send the broken statue to a temple. The real answer, as with many other things, is to listen deeply to your heart & soul. But for now, let's check out some ways we can properly & peacefully handle this without feeling guilty.
Chipped or Broken Buddha Statue: 5 Ways to Handle
1. Send the Buddha statue to a temple
This way of handling a broken Buddha statue is still quite controversial. Whether big or small, many people have the idea of sending the statue back to a temple. Their rationale for doing this is that it would complete the life cycle of the statue, which usually starts its life from a temple.
On the other hand, many other believe that it is a sign of disrespect sending something broken or damaged to a respected place like a temple. This may also depend on whether the temples accept the broken piece or not. But then again, you may want to ask yourself this question:
Why would I want to send it away to a temple? Will it add any value to the serene place or is it just because I want to get rid of something I don’t like or I think is unlucky for me?
If you think sending the statue to a temple may serve the community better in terms of sharing the peacefulness and teachings, then it may be a good idea. The statue’s service for you has done and it is a good time to let it go. This way of thinking puts the community first and considers whether it can help them or not.
If, however, you just want to throw your statue away just because you think it looks ugly or might bring you bad luck, it is not the best decision to send it to a temple with that thought in mind.
If you don’t want it yourself, why would you give it to someone else without considering whether they need it or not. What if the bad luck that you think of gets multiplied? This way of thinking puts yourself in the center and may not be the most altruistic way to decide.
So, if you think the statue can help a place and the people there, donate it. Otherwise, keep it for yourself.
If you're still hesitant, how about we turn to the next option:
2. Decorate the statue with some natural plants
If the damage is not too severe, you can try some creative solutions of decorating flowers or plants around the Buddha statue. Lotus is a go-to choice for many people. In other places, people use lilies, daisies, and even some fruits like mango or grapefruits.
If you don’t have fresh flowers available, you can try some artificial plants options. They last forever and don’t require a lot of maintenance. Placing a thurible or incense pot around the area can help hide a few scratches from view. But if you're a bit crafty, let's see if we can:
3. Paint the chipped part
You can try painting the chipped part if you are quite handy. If you are not very handy, it may make the chipped part worse.
Otherwise, it is a good idea to get some help from your handy friends or family members. If none of that works for you, you can try contacting a professional painter for help.
People use spray paint for larger chipped area. If the area is small, some acrylic paint and a brush will get the job done. In any case, have you ever thought that you would still:
4. Keep the Buddha statue
This way of handling a chipped or broken statue is more suitable for folks who truly value the inner core and are not easily shakeable by this and that opinion. The reasoning for this decision is that this is part of the natural process.
If we view the world through the lens of impermanence, then a broken or chipped statue may just be something impermanent that gets an opportunity to stay with you.
Some people even see this as beautiful. In a thousand or a million statues, only one or a dozen may have a chipped or broken part here and there. This is what makes it uniquely rare, this is what makes it its own. It doesn’t happen to every statue or statue owner. If many people think that a broken statue is bad and just throw it away, the chance of uniqueness here even increases.
On another angle, a chipped statue may mean an aged statue. Just like the wrinkles on people's faces when they age, these natural lines of time show a rich history behind this statue and how long it has been with us through many chapters of our lives.
This is why we see many ancient sites or statues are left untouched. Even if they decide to do some renovations to them, they are very careful not to mess with the natural beauty of things and allow the universal natural forces to take care of the rest.
When none of the above options seem to work in your case, maybe we can just:
5. Replace the statue with another one
Again, as we have said earlier, this answer truly lies within you. If you feel that a beheaded statue is completely unacceptable, you may consider replacing it with another one.
In situations that you receive a broken statue upon arrival or a statue as a gift for your friends has unwanted scratches, you may also replace it with another one.
As always, do think about what you will do with the old broken statue. Do not just throw it away like some piece of old furniture as it might not be the most respectful way to handle it.
Some people even advise smashing the statue and placing the ashes in a vase. Other people advise that you can find a nice, big tree in a garden or some place nearby and place your statue there under the tree.
Any of which ways, at least we should have respect for the old and the new statue. It would be considered quite disrespectful if we just throw the statue away without very much consideration of at least one next step for it.
But here's the real question:
Does a broken or chipped statue mean anything?
Very often, a lot of us who find our Buddha statues broken or chipped in places have concerns about whether this is good or bad.
The most common concerns people have are:
• It may be an unlucky / bad luck sign
• It may be disrespectful
• Guests may see and think that we are not careful enough
If you go through the list above, you can see one common theme in all of the concerns. And that is our fear. Let's go through this together one by one:
It may be an unlucky / bad luck sign?
In response to the concern that a broken statue may be an unlucky sign, we need to remind ourselves that Buddhism is not a superstition. The true essence of Buddhism, or more accurately a non-theist philosophy, is non-attachment. It transcends all ideas and notions.
When we first have a Buddha statue at home, it is a visual reminder to help us achieve inner peace and mental clarity. It is the essence that you get out of Buddhism and the teachings that truly matters—not necessarily the representation.
People age with time, just as things deteriorate with time. A statue that may have been chipped here and there is a sign telling people that this is an aged statue.
And the owner must have it for a long period of time, which means it is even more meaningful. It has been with the owner and their family through many ups and downs and it is still around.
In a way, you can look at your chipped statue through the lens of your old photographs, which may have turned yellow or have been chipped away at the corners. But they still hold the best memories.
It may be disrespectful?
The only thing that is disrespectful is that you listen to the Buddha’s teachings and then go do things that you know are against what you have learned or seem right.
A broken Buddha, on its own, does not mean that you are disrespectful of the teachings or the tradition.
On one standpoint, it is only a natural phenomenon. It does not mean that one does it on purpose with negative or bad intentions.
Guests may see and think that we are not careful enough?
Even though we try very hard not to think too much about what other people say about us, we do need to admit that we care to a certain extent. This concern shows that we may be afraid that we will look bad in the eyes of others.
Very often, when a guest sees a broken statue, they will have a natural reaction like this: Why are you keeping a broken statue at home? Is it bad? Why don’t you replace it?
In these situations, many people do not like losing face in front of their guests or want to look as if they are careless and disrespectful people.
If we can push through that feeling, a very good explanation of how much that statue means to our family, and why we still have it around no matter the condition may enlighten and even entertain the guests. Or maybe a more simple answer: It has become a part of us.
What will you do with a broken statue?
Whichever ways you choose to handle your broken or chipped Buddha statue, as long as your soul or conscience feels at ease with doing so, you are fine.
You know that you truly care about and respect the Buddha’s teachings, then you won’t be easily influenced by words that do not ring true to your inner core values.
You understand that the statue is a visual representation to keep you on track during rough times. You respect and appreciate the universe as events unfold.
As long as you stay true to what you think of yourself, you will be able to make the best course of action. We don't know everything. Let us know if there are any parts that need correction. Peace.
Responses to Readers' Questions
I purchased two Buddha statues from an online consignment.... They both arrived decapitated.... I do not want to throw them away.... I was considering gluing their heads back on....
--> It is possible if you believe gluing the heads back on is the best way for you. But does the glue stick the statue's material well? They are still beautiful because they are yours and you have chosen to let them be around with you. Peace & love, ZG.
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