Buddhist belief in Images, Holy Water, Holy Thread, Talismans and Amulets


Photo from Thairath.co.th

Society in general is better educated now than it has ever been in the past, but in spite of vast advances achieved in the field of scientific knowledge, many people still suffer from fear, suspicion and insecurity. The root cause of these states of mind stems from ignorance, uncertainty, and craving. Because of our ignorance of the non-existence of a permanent self, we believe in our ego and this belief gives rise to craving. We are filled with insatiable desires and fear of losing that we will face ‘bad luck’.

So what do we do? We turn instinctively to our animistic past and depend on special talismans and amulets (eg. The Jatukarm Ramathep talisman) to protect us. The Buddha has clearly stated that external objects are not strong enough to protect those whose minds are weak and confused. Our only security is to take refuge in our knowledge of the truth and in our realization of the true nature of the self and other phenomena. Once we understand that there is no reality in a self that can be harmed, we become secure and confident. No harm can come to him who is unafraid, or unselfish.

However, it does not mean that Buddhism condemns the use of certain religious objects like a pendant of the Buddha image to give us a sense of security. Many great men had found solace and comfort by contemplating on the serene and calm image of the Buddha. The first Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru said that when he was imprisoned by the British, his only source of comfort was a tiny Buddha image, which he had with him.

Of course, the image itself had no magical power. But what it symbolized was the great qualities of the Buddha who had himself remained calm and unaffected by the attacks made against him by his enemies and it was this symbol that reminded Nehru of his own strength with which he could face adversity calmly.

We too can carry images of the Buddha or inscriptions of the sutras around with us to give us confidence. Many sutras end with the invocation: “By the power of this truth, may victory be mine” or “may happiness be mine.” This shows that as Buddhists we do not believe in the animistic power of images or talismans, but that they are to be regarded as mere aids, which could help us to gain confidence in ourselves.

In the same way, some Buddhists also go to temples, to collect bottles of holy water and pieces of string over which the sutras have been recited with great concentration. These also give psychological strength and confidence to the user because they remind him of the truth which was uttered in the sutras and which recall the words of the Buddha.

This is based on “Buddhism For The Future, “by Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda.

Photos for a comment below. Buddha statues representing the day that you were born.




Related Posts:

The Jatukarm Ramathep Fever

The Legend of Jatukam Ramathep

Laser Art of The Jatukarm Ramathep lucky charm

7 thoughts on “Buddhist belief in Images, Holy Water, Holy Thread, Talismans and Amulets”

  1. Is it OK to have a statue of a Buddha head inside the house? I’ve been thinking of buying one from G.O.D. shop because they look adorable.

  2. I actually wrote a post on this called Buddha Mantle, I think it’s okay because you probably like the serene looks of the Buddha, but make sure it’s placed where it’s respectable, not sitting on the floor or in the bathroom, should be above your waist level, that way you can’t crossed over the Buddha’s head.

    This is part of the post, “I’ve noticed that more and more westerners are using Buddha statues as art, decorating their house in Zen style, whether it’s out in the garden, inside a house, some even use it as a hat, or coat rack. I don’t know how some Buddhists feel about this, but I feel a bit sad that people misused the Buddha statues, to the point of abusive, in my humble personal opinion.”

  3. Ok noted. It makes me wonder how influential Buddha really is. We had this activity last summer at the BIG BUDDHA and for some reason, I got curious. I learned that the Buddha hands signs has deep meaning and that Buddhist are vegetarians (the MONKS, I believe). Now I want a Thai wooden Doll (as big as me) for my small flat. They say, it gives you goodluck. I’m a Feng-shui believer.

  4. Hi K, Buddha’s is a very well known symbol’s of happiness, wealth, kindness, and innocent contented joy. Buddha’s should never be placed on the floor or in a fireplace as this is a sign of disrespect. Place your Buddha at least 4′ from the floor in a high position. Treat him with respect and he will reward you handsomely.

    As far as Buddhists being vegetarian, I think its individual basis as to the reasoning of becoming a vegetarian but not because of any religion. All monks are not vegetarian, they only eat 1 main meal before noontime and can’t eat a meal after that but can drink coffee, tea, water and such. They can have breakfast. There’re certain day(s) of the month that they might not eat any animal products (not just monks, this can be any Buddhists.)

    When you’re talking about Buddhist being vegetarian, you might be thinking about Chinese Vegetable Festival, for 10 days of every year, Chinese abstain from eating any types of animal product. The Chinese communities all over the world observe this custom. This is to announce to people that the time for showing gratitude to the animal kingdom has come. There’re many Chinese people living in Thailand and therefore it’s big there, it’s called ‘Gin Jae’, I believe it’s in the fall but not sure of the date. I think to become 100% vegetarian, it’s by personal choice and has nothing to do with being a Buddhist, I’m not a vegetarian.

    I’m not very familiar with the Buddha hand sign, and can’t seem to find any information on it. What you said made me think of the 7 days of Buddha’s statues, one representing each day of the week or the day that you’re born (see photos above.) Assume that you were born on a Monday; a Buddha statue of Monday has his hand out as if to warn you or stop you from doing something, this means that if you were born on a Monday, then you have the gift of keeping the peace, you’re a very giving person. The day that you’re born tells a lot about you as a person, if I find more information on this, I’ll post it later.

    This is by Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda on a Buddhist belief:

    “Free to think freely to understand the truth – the Buddha has given full freedom for man to think freely without depending on the concept of a god, a Buddha, or any teacher to understand the truth. That is freedom. According to some western thinkers, Buddhism is known as ‘the religion of freedom and reason’. Freedom however must be guided by reason. Otherwise, people can abuse that freedom. For instance, if a government gives full freedom for people to live or to do anything according to their free will I am sure that within twenty-four hours, they can ruin the whole country. That is the danger of giving freedom with first developing reason in the minds of people.

    The Buddha emphasizes that freewill is not a gift from any external source. It is intrinsic to us. Human behavior, human character, humanistic minds are characteristics, which are developed over many life times. Whether we are cultured or uncultured, civilized or uncivilized, religious or irreligious, good or bad, wicked or kind, depends on our mental habits which we developed life after life in the past. These characteristics are not given by anybody.

    Why should we not depend on anybody? If we are going to stop our evil, wicked, selfish thinking fearing that there is somebody to punish us, we will never give a chance for our mind to cultivate understanding, kindness, compassion. People also sometimes do-good deeds or provide some service to others in expectation of a big reward. If this is the motivation, they will not develop sympathy, understanding according to the true meaning of these words. They become selfish avoiding evil deeds to escape punishment or do good to get rewards. This is selfishness. The Buddha did not advocate this. If heaven and hell were both closed down, how many people would remain religious? Buddhism however encourages moral behavior without reference to heaven or hell. This is the uniqueness in Buddha’s teaching.”

  5. I saw a man the other day sitting with his hands in a commom position with his forefingers touching his thumbs and his three other fingers outstretched but what was unusual to me was that he had his arms crossed in front of his chest…. could you tell me if that was significant or was he just more comfortable? I can’t find anything on the internet to explain it. Thankyou.

  6. Hi Patti, It’s difficult for me to picture what you’re describing about the hands, most prayer hands, you’d place your arms across your chest, then hands meet at center to form an upside down Y letter, fingers pointing not quite 45 degree angle away from your body; some would place their fingers and thumbs in an odd position but I think it’s just a personal preference; makes me wonder if what you’re referring to is something similar to this photo. or this second one.

Comments are closed.