Many Non-Buddhists choose to keep a Buddha statue at home & get some as gifts for their friends. It may be because:
• True Buddhism transcends all notions, including religious ones.
• Buddhism and religions like Gnostic Christianity share similar elements.
• A Buddha statue can be a symbol guiding us to clear thinking, calmness, and deterrence from doing harm
• It visually teaches kids abstract ideas & sparks conversations with guests
• The statue shows the owner’s appreciation and respect even though they are not in the tradition
Join us for an exploration with the first start of:
The Essence of Buddhism
Buddhism, although commonly regarded as a religion, goes much deeper than that. Some people refer to it as a philosophy for good reasons.
At the heart of the Buddha’s teachings, we find an invitation to look deeply into ourselves and the world around us.
In that sense, Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help every individual, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, understand ourselves better and develop more compassion.
When we understand more insights within ourselves, within the other person, neurotic behavior, anger or violence fades away. Compassion is then born.
Put another way, Buddhism is a finger pointing to the moon, it cannot be mistaken for the moon.
Any suffering caused by fanaticism, intolerance, or idolatry of the doctrines goes against the essence of Buddhism. It is not something to tightly cling to, fight, kill, or die for.
True Buddhism transcends all notions. It is in this emptiness that we free ourselves from notions and ideas. This insight takes us beyond fear, suffering, anxiety, birth, and death.
Like a match, when we are enlightened, the fire catches on and burns up the match itself into emptiness.
Being awakened, we can be in closer touch of our true nature and free from theories or perceptions.
For a moment, have you ever thought that Buddhism and early Christianity may share something in common?
Buddhism and Gnostic Christian Tradition
Although it is not apparent that Buddhism and Christian traditions share similar elements, a deeper look into some long-hidden sources of early (Gnostic) Christianity shows how closely these two resonate with each other.
In 1947, a villager in Upper Egypt unearthed an astonishing collection of ancient Christian gospels and writings. Professor of New Testament at Harvard, Helmut Koester, dates the found Gospel of Thomas back to 50 C.E.—about 20 years before the New Testament gospels were penned.
With the diversity of stances in the early Christian movement, the words of the Gospel of Thomas emphasize knowing oneself to understand the depth of things. This idea is similar to the Buddhist teaching of looking deeply into oneself.
While the New Testament speaks of Jesus as the only path to salvation, The Teaching of Silvanus offers a different perspective by inviting one to knock upon oneself as a door to self realization.
One reason why these Gnostic Christian texts (era 50-150 C.E.) were rejected by the majority of church leaders was the belief of their possible confusion and destabilization to the church members.
Still, as Jesus says, “Love your brother as the apple of your eye”, comparative study of Buddhism and Gnostic Christianity has just really begun.
With this in mind, non-Buddhists with deep respect, understanding, and appreciation for their own and Buddhism traditions can incorporate other elements in their practice to deepen understanding and develop compassion.
This may just be a reason why non-Buddhists keep a Buddha statue at home. But maybe there's some more.
Purpose of Keeping a Buddha Statue at Home
Buddhists or lay people in the tradition are not required to go to the pagodas or monasteries frequently. Therefore, many have Buddha statues in their own shrine rooms, altars, or yards at home.
By doing this, Buddhists and non-Buddhists can pay homage to the Buddha at home in their own time, setting and mood. In practice, the use of the Buddha statues varies from person to person.
Many kneel or sit in front of the statue to meditate and calm the mind (Samatha). Some recite different Sutras (teaching in the form of aphorism or short statements of belief) and pray. Some laypeople keep the Buddha statue, although controversial, for decorative purposes (more on this in a moment).
In a way, we can say that the Buddha statue is a symbol to remind us of the nature of reality, to help calm us during stressful times, to make us think twice before doing things that could harm other people.
Meditating or counting beads with the presence of a symbol offers emotional support that helps you open a conversation with yourself. Doing so helps clear our minds during turbulent times, lessen our suffering, and keep us on the track that speaks true to our hearts.
People with kids at home can also teach their kids abstract ideas more visually with a figure at home. It is also a good conversation starter for guests coming over to the house. For you, it is your own temple to help you think things through and make the best decision.
Keeping a Buddha statue at home will be useless if you, the person, are not present. Being present, in this case, means you are there in the present, in the now with all of your mind, heart, and soul.
Breathing in, I know that I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I know that I’m breathing out.
The present moment.
The wonderful moment.
As promised, let us see whether or not it is okay to keep a Buddha statue as a decoration.
A Buddha Statue as a Decorative Item
Generally, it is okay for non-Buddhists or Buddhist laypeople to keep a Buddha statue for decoration at home. You don’t have to do meditation, chanting, or praying if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.
Although a Buddha statue is a symbol inviting us to deeper insights, it has nothing to do with an alternate religion. Keeping a Buddha statue for decoration, in the same way as keeping an artistic statue of David or of any beings or things you admire, shows your appreciation and respect.
With that respect in mind, you would know how to place the statue accordingly. You can think of how you would place a picture of your loved one, Mother Mary, or a Crucifix.
If the statue sparks the curiosity of some guests or your family members to stop for a moment and ask about it, it has already offered meaningful value for that reason alone.
A Home in My Heart
Buddhists or non-Buddhists, accurate understanding coupled with mutual respect and compassion can help us reconcile conflicts within ourselves & others. Besides having a temple of your own, keeping a Buddha statue can help show younger ones more visually these abstract concepts.
It would be meaningless if you didn’t put your heart, mind, and soul to the practice. For non-followers, it would be enough if your decorative Buddha statue gets passers-by to stop, ask some questions, or simply just have a good inhale of the beautiful fragrant flowers. Umm.
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