THE CHINESE BUDDHIST PANTHEON  



Much abuse or unkind remarks have been heaped upon Chinese
Buddhists accusing them as being idolators because of their use
of images in their temples. Accusations of such nature only re-
veal the ignorance of those who made them as the principle of
the use of images in places of worship should be viewed as sym-
bolical and not idol worship. It should be stressed that all the
images that are found in the temples or home shrines only serve
as reminders of their respective qualities. For example, when a
Buddhist kneels down before the image of the Buddha, he does
not worship the holy image but brings to mind the great com-
passion of the Enlightened One who has taught him the way to
liberation.
Idolatory is not what Buddhists practise and only the unkind
person will choose to deride the use of holy images in the tem-
ples. He should have the wisdom to realise that no religion in
the world can do away with symbolism, whether they be human
or otherwise, for without symbolism, identification would be
quite impossible. e world, in fact, cannot exist without sym-
bolism and it can safely be said that only civilisations as old and
advanced in culture as China are able to bring forth symbolic
images such as those produced by the Chinese people. e im-
ages used in the Chinese temples are therefore useful aids to
generating faith and devotion in the minds of the believers and
are objects worthy of reverence.


Upon entering the front hall of the temple, one is met with the
idea of `protection' from the celestial beings and as one stands
before the Buddha's image, one is reminded of Sakyamuni's com-
passion, benevolence and wisdom. Looking at the Bodhisat vas'
images he sees their particular at ributes so that Kuan Yin's im-
age instantly reminds him of her infinite mercy, compassion and
other gentle qualities. Many a troubled mind have found solace
and comfort upon looking at the sweet image of Kuan Yin. Even
the animals which are portrayed with the deities have their own
symbolic meanings. us Fu Hsien's great white elephant indi-
cates purity, caution, strength, gentleness and a weighty dignity
while the lion of Wen-shu represents honour, boldness, bravery
and a fresh, eager and advancing spirit as well as the wild and
almost untameable spirit of the unruly mind which one must
eventual y subdue in order to gain wisdom and enlightenment.
In the Arhat's images one sees those who have perfected them-
selves by ridding their worldly passions and earned the freedom
from samsaric sufferings. Such is the symbolism of the Chinese
Buddhist images which one should know of instead of jumping
into wrong conclusions, which are the causes of il -wil . ere-
fore when a Buddhist bows before a holy image and makes his
offerings, one should know that this is but an act of respect and
veneration to the Buddhas and Bodhisat vas.

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