sekha wrote:Buddha statues and therefore the ritual of bowing in front of them was strictly forbidden by the early Sangha.
cooran wrote:I can't find any evidence of such a prohibition - can you give a link to support your statement?
Let us first read what they say in the link you provided:
No representations of the Buddha were made for about four or five centuries. It is sometimes said that prior to this time it was 'forbidden' to make statues or pictures of the Buddha, but this is unlikely and there is no evidence of such a prohibition. A more likely explanation is that until then symbols of the Buddha (stupas, footprints, an empty throne etc.) and written descriptions of him were deemed sufficient. Whatever the reasons, the first Buddha statues were produced in about the 1st or 2nd century AD in Bactria (Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) perhaps as a result of Greek influence, and in Mathura.
Of course, there is no evidence available today. This was about 2000 years ago and we have no written document remaining from that time. But the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, and resorting to this kind of logic already reveals this standpoint has a weak potential for self justification.
I first learnt about this when I visited the Sanchi Stupa a few years ago:
They [carvings at Sanchi] showed scenes from the life of the Buddha integrated with everyday events that would be familiar to the onlookers and so make it easier for them to understand the Buddhist creed as relevant to their lives. (...) On these stone carvings the Buddha was never depicted as a human figure. Instead the artists chose to represent him by certain attributes, such as the horse on which he left his father’s home, his footprints, or a canopy under the bodhi tree at the point of his enlightenment. The human body was thought to be too confining for the Buddha.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanchi#Satavahana_period
What we have here is a situation where there are integrated scenes depicting the life of the Buddha so that people would "understand the Buddhist creed as relevant to their lives". I can hardly imagine a situation in which a representation of the Buddha as a person would be more called for, and yet it is never used. It appears to me quite clearly that the explanation according to which this happened because it was forbidden to represent the Buddha is the only one that makes sense. In any case, I think it is dishonest to consider that this explanation is "unlikely" to be true.
I also think it is dishonest to say that "symbols of the Buddha (...) and written descriptions of him were deemed sufficient", as if people at the time would not have found it more telling to include the Buddha as a person in those scenes.
And the reason for such a bias is quite evident: the attachment to statues nowadays is so strong that whatever temple would decide to prohibit Buddha statues and the rituals that involve their presence out of respect for the early Sangha would very soon loose a lot of followers, which means loosing a lot of power, influence and money. In many cases, if not most cases, that would even be a case of non-survival.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraelihttp://www.buddha-vacana.org
As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59