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Buddha statues in East and West

By Gaurav Manandhar at
Buddha statues in East and West
"Different perceptions of Buddha statues in different cultures of the world i.e eastern and western culture"

The fact that Buddhism has been slowly finding its way to new regions and countries in the west despite of the fact that the religion was founded by the spiritual leader named the Buddha 2500 years ago in India, is not a surprise at all. The religion is based upon the teachings and Buddhist principles. The religion had slowly spread from India to various countries in the east like Burma, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos and others after Emperor Ashoka's trade relations flourished in the region. This helped Buddhism to be embraced by the locals of these nations in a smooth manner without hampering the local tradition or culture. Therefore, we can rather say that Buddhism, unlike any other religion, did not force the locals to embrace the tradition and culture of its home but it adapted itself to the local culture making it revered by more and more people as the time passed by. As the development of Buddhist arts like Buddha statues had already started in India, it slowly started to flourish in those countries with their own peculiar and unique artistic styles and characteristics. Buddhism, while do not encourage people to worship idol, the Buddhists in these region still view Buddha statues as the object to pay respect to the Buddha. Similarly, many Buddhist monasteries and temples in the countries of Asia consider the Buddha statues as the symbol of inspiration for many young monks, nuns and practiced monks alike. People in the eastern part of the world not only consider the Buddha statues as the iconographic representation of the Buddha's physical self, but also as an object which represents principles of Buddhist teachings through many peculiar characteristics like hand gestures, better known as Mudras of Buddha statues.

Along with many beliefs, it is considered that the Buddha statues are the bringer of good luck and prosperity in many Asian countries. Therefore, it is a common sight if you see any statues of Buddha around any homes, restaurants, offices and public areas. Similarly, the Buddha statues are revered by many people as the symbol of the Buddha himself in these regions.

In the same way, the western culture has a bit similar but different approach to Buddhism and Buddha statues. Though intersection of Buddhism with the western civilization have remained occasional for thousands of years, the European colonization of Buddhist countries in Asia during the 19th century introduced the detailed knowledge and information of Buddhism to the large number of people in the west. In the latter part of the 19th century, Buddhism came into attention as a result of which the first conversion to Buddhism was recorded for the first time in history.

With the growing interest in Buddhism, it was natural that the western interest towards Buddha statues was seen, yet there are hardly any statues which were crafted in the western half of the world though they are revered around the western world as the symbolic representation of the awakened one. Even the meditation enthusiasts and practitioners in the west also take the Buddha statues as the object of inspiration as the Buddha himself attained enlightenment by practicing meditation. Therefore, we can say that the people of the west, who are more lenient towards the eastern culture are more likely to be admirers of the Buddha statues.