Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Paying Homage to our Great Buddha

There is a big argument going on saying that Buddha never said to pay homage to his images.

True! A Buddha does not have such a low character or is full of defilements to ask others to pay reverence to his images.

Though Buddha has never said to revere his images, he accepted homage with compassion because he knew that devotees acquired merit by doing so.

One day, attaining the ‘Great Compassionate Attainment’, our Gautama Buddha looked at the world to see who needed his help that day and saw a feeble old woman from the ‘Rodi’ clan about to die and reborn in hell. Our Gautama Buddha went and stopped in front of her without saying a word. Seeing the silent intention of the Buddha, Arahanth Moggallana asked the old woman to pay reverence to the Buddha. She worshiped Buddha with joy and Buddha proceeded in his journey without saying a word. The old woman died that day and went to heaven instead of hell because of the merit she acquired by paying homage to our Great Buddha.

Once Arahanth Sariputhra said,   “Gods & human beings pay homage to the unrivaled, peerless Buddhas. But the Great Buddhas do not attach themselves to those venerations.
It is a characteristic of all Buddhas.”

There is a custom regarding the honoring of the deceased nobles in the humane society. Erecting mausoleums, statues, monuments and offering flowers and wreaths, incense, and venerating them is that custom. People do this to show their gratitude and respect to the late Greats. No noble person asks others to venerate them.

The first thing Buddha taught this world was gratitude. That was why he stood looking at the ‘Asathu Bo Tree’, which gave him shelter, for one whole week just after attaining Enlightenment. He showed it not by words, but by action.

By paying homage to our Great Buddha we too show our gratitude to that great person who showed us the path to Eternal Bliss (Nirvana) and in turn acquire merit because he is unequal in virtue & compassion; because he is the supreme human being.

According to the provenance of the “Kalinga Bodhi’ jathaka story, when Reverend Ananda asked our Great Buddha regarding the sacred objects of worship / shrines on behalf of our Great Buddha which devotees can revere in the absence of him, (at the coaxing of Baron ‘Anathapindika’), our Great Buddha said that there are three types of sacred objects of worship / shrines (Chethiyas).

1)      Bodily objects of worship (Sharirika Chethiyas) which means the relics left after cremating a Buddha.
2)      Consumable objects of worship (Paribhogika Chethiyas) which means the sacred objects used by our Great Buddha like his robes, alms bowl, belt,……..etc and the sacred Bo Tree under which he attained Enlightenment.
3)      Monumental objects of worship (Uddeshika Chethiyas) which means images, statues and relic-less dagabos built on behalf of our Great Buddha.

These three ‘Chethiyas’ are stated in the commentary of the ‘Nidhikanda Sutta’ as follows:

“The tri sacred objects of worship / shrines (Chethiyas) are Bodily objects of worship (Sharirika Chethiyas), Consumable objects of worship (Paribhogika Chethiyas) and Monumental objects of worship (Uddeshika Chethiyas). The sacred Bo Tree is the Consumable object of worship (Paribhogika Chethiya); the Buddha statues are the Monumental objects of worship (Uddeshika Chethiyas) and the dagabos built enshrining relics of our Great Buddha is the Bodily objects of worship (Sharirika Chethiyas).”

But, one must understand that it is not essential to have an object of worship/ shrine to pay homage to our Great Buddha. What one needs is only devotion & great reverence for our Gauthama Buddha.

Paying homage to our Great Buddha gives us merits. These merits help us to achieve the final bliss “Nirvana”. Therefore, it is acceptable to pay homage to our Great Buddha.

 (From, dated January 16, 2013)