Buddha Statues

Buddha statues come in dozens of different postures, many of which are unfamiliar to Westerners and rarely displayed on the main shrines of monasteries and temples. Each of these postures commemorates an incident in the life of the Buddha and constitutes a dedicated act of recollection. Thai tradition has evolved an association of these postures with the calendar, often corresponding to the times these incidents are understood to have occurred in the Buddha's life. If one knows these associations, the conventions of the calendar and the passing of time create a skilfull means for reflecting on a wide range of the Buddha's qualities.

Buddha Statues by Day of the Week

Days of the Week

Sunday

'Offering his Eyes' – a standing Buddha statue with arms composed and eyes slightly downcast.

After the Buddha was enlightened, he spent several weeks enjoying the bliss of his liberation. At one stage he spent seven days simply gazing at the Bodhi tree that had sheltered him on the night of his awakening, 'offering his eyes' to the tree in gratitude.

OfferingEyesBuddha.jpg

Monday

'Stopping the Floodwaters' – a standing (or walking) Buddha statue with arms held out in front with palms facing forward.

When the Buddha began to teach, one of the first groups he chose was an order of fire-worshipping ascetics. Their leader overestimated his own accomplishments and was unreceptive to the Buddha. The Buddha began demonstrating his own power and might, culminating in this incident: rain poured down and flooded the entire area until the ascetics got in a boat to go and rescue the Buddha – but they found him holding back the floodwaters on all sides and calmly walking back and forth on dry ground. At this point they were all won over and became receptive to his teaching.

StoppingtheFloodBuddha.jpg

Tuesday

'The Lion's Posture' – a reclining Buddha statue lying on the right side, feet together and head propped up on the right hand.

The Buddha would return to his dwelling late in the evening and assume this posture while he would receive

LionsPostureBuddha.jpg

devas, nāgas and other classes of beings who would come to him for teaching. Only very late at night would he finally rest.

Wednesday

AM

'Alms Round' – a standing or walking Buddha statue holding an alms bowl in his hands.


The Buddha would take his alms bowl into a nearby village or town every morning to receive alms and give people the chance to be generous to a Buddha.

PM

'At Pariḷeyyaka' – a Buddha statue sitting in the western style with an elephant and a monkey offering him food.


One time a dispute broke out amongst a group of monks who would not listen to the Buddha's advice on how to settle it. The Buddha left, ordering that no one could come with him, and spent a rainy season of blissful seclusion in the Pariḷeyyaka forest. A great bull elephant and a monkey would come to offer him food there.

AlmsroundBuddha.jpg
ParileyyakaBuddha.jpg
EnlightenedBuddha.jpg

Thursday

'Becoming Enlightened' – a Buddha statue sitting in meditation in the 'half-lotus' posture.


This represents the Buddha sitting in meditation under the Bodhi tree while knowledge arose in his mind on the night of his awakening.

Friday

'Reflecting on the World' – a standing Buddha statue with hands crossed over his heart.

After the Buddha was enlightened, he was inclined to think that what he had realised was so subtle and profound that nobody else would understand. A Brahma divinity came to him and implored him to teach since there were beings "with little dust in their eyes" who would benefit. The Buddha is said to have assumed this posture while he surveyed the world in his mind, assessing the minds and the maturity of people in the world. He then decided that he would teach.

ReflectingBuddha.jpg

Saturday

'Sheltered by a Nāga' – a Buddha statue sitting in meditation with a great nāga sheltering him.


While the Buddha was enjoying the bliss of his liberation shortly after his awakening, he was sitting in meditation when the heavens opened up and a great thunderstorm began crashing down. Undeterred, he continued meditating and the great nāga Muccalinda came and spread out his hood over him, protecting him from the elements as he meditated.

NagaBuddha.jpg

"Every Day"

'Diamond Samādhi' – a Buddha statue sitting in meditation, sometimes with the right hand forward touching the ground, with legs crossed in the 'full-lotus' posture.


This represents the Buddha's perfection of meditation.

DiamondSamadhiBuddha.jpg