Bhutans religion | Buddhism | The image of the Buddha

The image of the Buddha

An important innovation of the Mahayana Buddhism was to develop a new understanding of the appearance of the Buddha, as described in the Saddharmapundarika Sutra. Very soon the human image of the Buddha receded into the background in favour of a mystical one. If the Buddha had been a physical appearance, his teaching should have been finished with his death.

In the first centuries after its establishment, in the fifth century B.C., Buddhism was a doctrine of redemption only. The human being strove to leave the cycle of rebirths by himself. A path of meditative practice, as shown by the Buddha, should lead there.



After new philosophical developments had taken effect in the Mahayana Buddhism, the historical Buddha was joined by further Buddha figures. Thus, the Buddha changed from teacher of a path of redemption to a supernatural being who is venerated as the highest being.

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The development of Buddhist philosophy also resulted in a change in the Buddha's image. The historical Buddha, illustrated bare of any decoration, concentrated his teaching on showing a way of attaining release from the cycle of rebirths. Later on, Buddhism produced a great number of gods worthy of veneration.
Photo by Christian Schicklgruber