(paṭimāpūjā) is the practice of worshipping
and praying to statues, regarding them to be God or some
revered person. While statues are used in some Buddhist pūjas,
no informed Buddhist believes them to be the Buddha himself, nor do
they ‘pray’ to these statues. In the 7th century the Chinese monk
I-tsing wrote: ‘Although the Great Teacher has attained Nirvāṇa
images of him still exist. These can be venerated as if he
were still in the world.’ No one who has made even the slightest
effort to understand Buddhism or Buddhist rituals could believe that
Buddhists are idolaters. And of course there have been people who
have made an effort to understand. A Muslim work called Dabistan
composed in India in the late 15th century says:
‘Strangers to their (Buddhists’ and Hindus’) faith
might think that they look upon the statue as the deity but this is
certainly not the case. This is what they believe – that the statue
is only a representation of the deity, for the deity itself has
neither shape nor form.’ The English Christian Robert
Knox who spent many years living in Sri
Lanka in the 17th century wrote this of the Sinhalese attitude to
Buddha statues: ‘
As for these images, they
say they do not own them to be Gods themselves but only Figures
representing their Gods to their memories, and as such, they give
them honor and worship.’ Those today who continue to insist that
Buddhism is a form of idolatry are guilty of either willful ignorance
or deliberate dishonesty.



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