When I read this article on the tallest statues in the world, I was struct by how many of them were of important Buddhist figures: of the fifteen tallest statues six are of Guanyin (Kannon/Avalokiteśvara), five of the Buddha, and one of Kṣitigarbha, for a total of twelve out of the top fifteen!

Why are such tall statues built? What significance does the height of these statues have in the religious lives of Buddhist adherents?

Or are these statues not built for true religious purposes, but as an unofficial competition between nations, just like they compete over the tallest skyscraper? Nine out of the fifteen were built in the 21th century. Who commissions these statues? Statues of this size would be beyond the budgets of most temples.

See also: this question on why precious metals are used for Buddhist statues.

  • For what it's worth, on other SE sites (like Politics.SE and Skeptics.SE) questions about intent are off-topic because they're unknowable. "Why did politician X do action Y?", for example, requires you to read or guess their private intention. Those sites do allow you to ask questions about the public record, e.g. "What reason did politician X say, for doing action Y?". It's not clear whether you're asking here about people's private intentions or their public reasons. A question about "unofficial competition" for example might be difficult or impossible to answer truthfully, don't you agree? – ChrisW Nov 2 '18 at 12:33
  • 1
    @ChrisW The abundance of very tall statues makes this a distinguishing feature of Buddhism - no other religion has so many. That there are 12+, in many countries, from different branches of Buddhism, suggests there's a common thinking behind it. If there was one giant statue commissioned by a single rich king your point about unknowable intent would be spot on. But because there are so many, my assumption is it's not just coincidence, and I expect people have written about their reasons for building them. It would be like asking why Christian Cathedrals are usually aligned to the east. – curiousdannii Nov 2 '18 at 12:42
  • 1
    OK, so you're asking "What's the general, public reason?" with an especial emphasis on "Why big?". Like I think that Christian doctrine could explain why cathedrals are built and why they're aligned eastwards. The tallest Christian churches are comparable in size to the tallest Buddhist statues, fwiw. – ChrisW Nov 2 '18 at 12:52
  • @ChrisW Yep, that's right. It could be for devotional reasons, larger being more beautiful, like the answers to the precious metals question explained. It could be to attract believers to the location, either on pilgrimages, or permanently. The monetary donations required to build them could be signs of devotion, so bigger means a more devout community. These are just guesses of mine so they could all be way off. – curiousdannii Nov 2 '18 at 12:58

See "Many motives, many fruits" and others in Generosity,dana, caga - Path to freedom, if wishing freedom rather than seek issues to protest.

Very useful practice to overcome envy and stinginess is the practice of mudita.

As for objects of veneration and the benefits see Respect: Physical Objects

[Note: this tiny building of Dhamma is not thought for any commercial use, trade, stakes or exchange for wordily gains]

| improve this answer | |
  • Uh, what? I'm not protesting, envious, or stingy. I can't see in those links an answer to the question either. – curiousdannii Nov 2 '18 at 12:03
  • 1
    You are a fast reader... (2 min for about 20 pages at the surface... "also cheating?") and there was a "if" in the protested sentence... @curiousdannii schmunzel – Samana Johann Nov 2 '18 at 12:04
  • 1
    It's conventional on SE sites to quote a little of what you link to ... not so that SE can acquire the content, but so that the reader can see why the hyperlink is helpful and relevant to the question, and to make it clear which bit of the referenced text especially answers the questions. I guess that Suchness might have posted because of the OP's comment, "I can't see in those links an answer to the question" ... a quote might have clarified where the answer to the question is, in the links. – ChrisW Nov 4 '18 at 0:46
  • 1
    Also there are various topics on this site and different users are more and/or less interested and/or knowledgeable about different aspects. I don't know but people asking questions about statues might be more interested in culture or society than dhamma, or something like that. Anyway, the question is specific -- not "why do people give?" but "why are so many statues so big?" – ChrisW Nov 4 '18 at 0:49
  • 1
    The answer seems to have nothing to do with the question. – user14119 Nov 11 '18 at 12:49

Why do people have statues for the Buddha?

From DN16, the Buddha explained to Ananda, why it is beneficial to have a stupa for a Tathagata (a Buddha):

And why, Ananda, is a Tathagata, an Arahant, a Fully Enlightened One worthy of a stupa? Because, Ananda, at the thought: 'This is the stupa of that Blessed One, Arahant, Fully Enlightened One!' the hearts of many people will be calmed and made happy; and so calmed and with their minds established in faith therein, at the breaking up of the body, after death, they will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness. And so also at the thought: 'This is the stupa of that Paccekabuddha!' or 'This is the stupa of a disciple of that Tathagata, Arahant, Fully Enlightened One!' or 'This is the stupa of that righteous monarch who ruled according to Dhamma!' — the hearts of many people are calmed and made happy; and so calmed and with their minds established in faith therein, at the breaking up of the body, after death, they will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness. And it is because of this, Ananda, that these four persons are worthy of a stupa.

I would therefore extrapolate that the purpose of the statue of the Buddha is similar to the purpose of the stupa of a Buddha, which is, to be an inspiration for peace of mind and happiness.

Today, people in USA remember Martin Luther King, people in India remember Mahatma Gandhi and people in South Africa remember Nelson Mandela. They may have photos or statues of these revered persons put up in public places and treated in a respectable way. The statue of the Buddha is no different. They are there to serve as icons of inspiration.

The Buddha, at least from a Theravada perspective, is no more supernaturally reachable through prayers and rituals, than King, Gandhi or Mandela.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Okay, but you haven't in the slightest addressed my actual question, which is about the statues sizes. – curiousdannii Dec 2 '18 at 14:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.