In quite a few depictions of the Buddha in artwork, he appears androgynous.

Does this represent something significant in terms of a Buddhist message or ideal, or is this just an artistic style?

Example One Example Two

  • It might be helpful if you could identify which specific features of these depictions appear feminine or androgynous to you. – senshin Jun 21 '14 at 23:53
  • @ senshin, The faces portrayed above look feminine to me while the bodies look masculine. But as qweilun pointed out below, impressions arise in the mind of the viewer. In any case, I don't dislike them but was curious if there was any meaning to this depiction. Thank you for helping me improve this post. :) – Robin111 Jun 22 '14 at 0:44
  • In the sutras, there are lists of the 32 marks of a Buddha. I suppose if one were to follow them literally, you could end up with a feminine face. "#32 His eyelashes are beautiful and long, like those of a bull, with each hair distinct." – MatthewMartin Jun 30 '14 at 2:37
  • Yup, that Buddha has huge eyelashes. – MatthewMartin Jun 30 '14 at 2:37

It's an artistic style. The impression of androgyny is arising in the mind of the viewer (not necessarily every viewer), and part of its cause is our arbitrary cultural standard of how men and women should look.

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A young lady named Kisa Gotami, seeing prince Siddhartha in the street, uttered:

“Nibbuta nuna sa mata - Nibbuta nuna so pita Nib buta nuna sa nari - Yassa’ yam idiso pati.”

It means:

“Peaceful is the mother who has such a son. Peacefull is the father who has such a son. Peaceful is the wife who has such a husband.”

So you can imagine how the artwork should look like.

India's first prime minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru once wrote in his writings, that, while he was in prison, he hung a photograph of the Buddha, and he stated that this particular Samadhi Buddha statue(in Anuradhapura) photograph brought him much happiness and solace when he was in the cell.

You can also study the 32 major and 80 minor physical characteristics of the buddha to get an idea.

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This is a feminine depiction even in Asian culture. I asked some Thai colleagues why some Buddha images look very feminine and I loved the answer. They said Buddhism negates duality. So the Buddha cannot look only male or only female. They must incorporate both. They are both. Isn’t that a wonderful explanation? It is also consistent with Buddhist philosophy.

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