I was rared in the Monotheistic traditions and my question is basic. It concerns iconography and the reason why Buddhist pray to idols.
Arguably, Buddha himself was suspicious of being venerated. And it would be nice to know how contemporary Buddhist rationalise the practice.
It is intriguing to see the Tibetans do their prostrations and in manner not unlike Orthodox Christians (whose influence on Islamic prayer worship has been remarked).
I’m going to quote Pema Ch√∂dr√∂n for the rest of this post:
‚ÄòNot at all! A piece of clay or bronze or jade is not the object of our respect and worship. When we bow before Buddha images, we are recalling the qualities of the enlightened beings. It is their impartial love and compassion, generosity, morality, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom that we are showing respect to. The statue or painting serves to remind us of the qualities of the Buddha, and it is the qualities, not the clay, that we are bowing to. We need not have a statue in front of us in order to bow to or respect the Buddhas and their qualities.
For example, if we go to a place far away from our family, we think about them and feel much love. But we also like to have a photo of them with us to remember them better. When we look at the photo and feel love for our family, we are not loving the paper and ink of the photo! The photo merely strengthens our memory. It is similar with a statue or painting of the Buddha.
By showing respect to the Buddhas and their qualities, we are inspired to develop these extraordinary qualities on our own mind streams. We become like the people we respect. When we take the love-kindness and wisdom of the Buddhas as our example, we strive to become like them’.
So what do you think? Does this seem like a reasonable explanation to you, or do you think this is still justification for worshipping idols?