I had been attracted to imagery of Buddha since young and my 1st Buddha statue was made of plastic, bought with pocket money.
When I was conscripted to military service and learnt that my locker is my only private space, I decided to bring my Buddha along to military service.
While my platoon mates have semi nudes in their locker, mine was like a mini shrine.
I was beginning to explore Vajrayana Buddhism and by mistake I attended my 1st initiation ceremony of VAJRAPANI.
Woah! Super cool man!
That’s my 1st reaction when I saw his image and immediately knew I had to have this image in my locker too.
Somehow, VAJRAPANI attracted the attention of a gangster from another platoon. That guy was constantly getting into fights and spending time in military detention.
He was curious about VAJRAPANI and that was how I managed to share a bit of Buddhism with him.
Apparently, imagery can be a powerful communication tools. I am sure the ancient enlightened master had deployed this tool to spread Enlightenment to different parts of the world.
When Buddhism spread to China, the artist of that time created beautiful art of bodhisattva in Chinese attire. Especially the Tang dynasty. In Tibet, we see images of Bodhisattva in Tibetan attire with Indo style influence.
While a Buddha image usually depict him in monk’s robe, the bodhisattva images has more space for creativity.
The ideal of a bodhisattva is to perfect one’s various virtues so that one can become a perfected Buddha like Sakyamuni Buddha.
For example, the perfection of compassion is depicted in various artistic representation. When Avalokiteshvara was introduced to China, this bodhisattva of compassion was initially a male and probably clothed in fashion from India.
Then Avalokiteshvara had a transformation in China. Compassion is depicted in a female form.
In the form of Princess Miao Shan, compassion appears as a compassionate female.
But why is she still clothed in ancient Chinese attire in 2017?
Not that she care; but if we wish to promote active compassion manifesting in daily life and also encourage people to be like Guan Yin, identify themselves with the ideal of compassion in action; then shouldn’t she be dressed more up to date?
Can compassion be found in a modern world? Is compassion encouraged in the corporate office? Didn’t the sutra states that Guan Yin manifest in different form for the benefit of different people? If so, why is Guan Yin not depicted wearing power suit and blouse with high heels to match? Guan Yin can revert back and become male.
Can compassion manifest in a selfless CEO who forsake his/her pay so that he/she can keep more people in employment?
We have been worshipping Guan Yin wearing ancient Chinese costume, will we have problem chanting and performing devotional duties if Guan Yin is now wearing Prada?
If Buddhist are not attached to form, and if we are not idol worshipper and if we really worship Guan Yin because she represents compassion, then will we still have the same spiritual “high” if Guan Yin is now wearing modern clothing?
This question had been at the back of my mind for a number of years.
What do you think?