Monday, July 15, 2013
WHAT MAKES A BUDDHA IMAGE GENUINE?
Of course this is a rather hypothetical question for a Buddhist! It is actually a non-existing question for a Buddhist because every Buddha image is genuine! Even going back to the earliest scriptures we can read "whoever sees me (the Buddha) sees the Dhamma; whoever sees the Dhamma sees me (the Buddha)". The Buddha image and the Dhamma are cohesively conjoined. There is no such thing as a Buddha image which does not represent the Buddha or the teachings of the Buddha.
However, in the case of the "overturned" Buddha image, displayed in the city of Munich as "art", the officials want to make us believe that the image shown here is not a "genuine" Buddha. Their attempt to influence the public can be seen like a golden thread from the flyers placed next to the exhibition, through the statements from the city's cultural department and officials, all the way to the way the press reports about it.
It says the artist "positioned a Buddha statue reminiscent of an over sized souvenir article" and that "the statue poses the question of authenticity. Far from being a ritual or cult object...". It also claims the artist Han Chong, a Malaysian now living in London, was a Buddhist himself. Well, shame on him if he even claims to be a Buddhist, because no practising Buddhist would ever even dream about representing the Buddha in this way.
I dislike to be lectured about my beliefs by non-Buddhists! Who do they think they are? I am not going to tell a Muslim when when to start Ramadan or how to properly pray. I am not going to lecture a Christian how to observe their holy days. So, why are they (the city, the artist's agency and the press) trying to lecture me and other Buddhists on what we can believe and what we can worship?
In one of the city's popular newspapers, The Abendzeitung (evening paper) Mr. Volker Isfort reports on 3. July 2013 about the turning public opinion about the "fallen" Buddha image. He writes "Der unecht anmutende goldene Farbton der Skulptur und ihr einfaches Design erinnern an typische Souvenirartikel", which translates to "the non-genuine apparently golden colour tone of the sculpture and its simple design remind us of a typical souvenir item". Who is this Volker Isfort, if those are really his words and not the provided text from the artist and the city of Munich's officials? How did he become an expert in Buddhism and Buddhist icons?
The Buddha displayed as here as "art" is the same Buddha image I pray to at home. As far as I could see it even has all of the Buddha's typical features. To me, there is no difference between this Buddha image and those in a temple. The only difference might be that it was not consecrated but by the fact that we Buddhists see it as a Buddha and pay our respect to it, it is now a genuine item of worship. The claim that the "apparently golden colour tone" makes it look "cheap" does also not count. And how can it be "over sized"? The artist has obviously never even been inside a temple or observed large Buddha statues in his own homeland, which are by far bigger. And since when did the colour of a Buddha image matter? I have them in white, gray, golden, black, yellow-golden and I have recently even seen pink, green and blue images during a temple ceremony. However, if Mr. Isfort had done any kind of research he would have found that the Buddha images colour is usually golden because according to legend the Buddha was born with limbs that shone like the sun. It just all sounds like a real lame argument to make a wrong thing right and justify this shameful piece of art in the city of Munich.
So, please don't lecture us Buddhists on size, form and colour of our Buddha images. A Buddha image is a Buddha image and they are all genuine. Whether made in Dresden or in China and elsewhere in Asia!