Which Buddha to choose for your living room? The flashing Buddha-headed fountain in the garden, good idea or pure bad taste?
The reasons that lead you to integrate the Buddha into your home are many: memory of a trip to Asia, attempt to create a soothing environment, gift from a hippie grandmother, gift found by a distant uncle on for-sale.co.uk… But the interior design has its rules and Buddhist decoration is no exception. Here are five tips that should help you avoid slip-ups.
Knowing how to recognize fake friends
Buddhist iconography is overwhelming. There is indeed no Buddha, but twenty-eight! The word written without capital letters refers to the state of those who have broken the infernal cycle of reincarnations. Buddhas can be recognized by certain physical signs: long ears, tufts of hair between the eyebrows (no, it’s not a mole), cranial protuberance (no, it’s not a bun)… Practice identifying these signs carefully, this will help you avoid embarrassing confusion. And remember: bodhisattva = jewelry covered + dressed as a prince + looks like the Buddha (normal it is one, who delays his awakening to stay on Earth and guide humans); monk = dress + shaven head; Ganesh = elephant head.
Learn the gestures that save
If his face remains impassive, it is because the Buddha speaks with his hands (and because he has rid himself of all human passion). Care should therefore be taken to take into account the mudrâ (position of the hands) when making interior design choices. A Buddha performing the gesture of absence of fear, abhayamudrâ, will reassure the guests who come through your door, while the gesture of argumentation (vitarka) of the Buddha in your living room invites them to the conversation.
On the other hand, one should avoid using a reclining Buddha in his decoration: the parinirvana Buddha is about to experience the total extinction of his being. We therefore abstain, although Christians have never seen any problem in having the image of an agonizing person in their midst.
Do not play with fire (or water)
The city of Savati was a witness to the “miracle of duality”: water and fire sprang simultaneously from the body of the historical Buddha, who wanted to silence his opponents. Can we see in the many models of Buddha fountains sold in garden centres a kind of homage? Do the plastic LED lamps in the image of the Blessed bear witness to a distant memory of this prodigy? Whatever the answer, we will remember that the Buddha hated miracles and we will move on.
Limit the return to land
The association between Buddhism and the plant world seems quite natural, when one considers that the historical Buddha received Enlightenment under a fig tree. Buddhists also have the habit of comparing the human soul to a lotus flower: born from the vase, it grows until it reaches the light and blooms into an immaculate flower.
However, the return to nature has its limits: if the stone Buddha placed under a tree or hidden in wild grasses can have its place in your garden, we invite you to avoid the Buddha head planter. Please, please.
And finally, to conclude
It is important to remember finally that the Buddha was initially never represented… for the good reason that he had expressly defended him! And it is true that between its embarrassing tendency to associate Buddhism and personal development, the even more embarrassing confusion it maintains between the different Asian religions (all labelled “Zen”) and the abuse of plastic… Buddhist theme decoration has far too many defects for your interiors.