Types of Buddha Statues: Their Meaning and Importance

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Table of Content:

  • Introduction to Buddha statues and their significance in Buddhism

  • Different Types of Buddha Statues

  • Symbolism and Meaning of Each Buddha Statue

  • Materials Used in Making Buddha Statues

  • Importance of Placing Buddha Statues in Your Home

Gautama Buddha led an extraordinary life, leaving behind a pathway to liberation that is practical and action-oriented. What sages for thousands of years were saying in grand prose, the Buddha was able to distill into simple fables and easy-to-understand protocols that work to bring us out of the cycle of Samsara. As Buddhism reached across the globe, many adherents have made astounding art depicting the Buddha. And with so much variety, you might be wondering about different Buddha statue meanings. There are so many kinds of statues of this great teacher available - especially on such a large platform like Exotic India — that it’s worth taking the time to learn a bit about each. We’ve produced this helpful guide to help you understand the Buddha statues you see. As with any religious art, every detail is specifically meant to give new insights into the truth about existence and our place in it.

Buddha Statue Meaning

When looking into the meaning of a Buddha statue, it is important to understand the cultural context it comes from. For Mahayana (Tantric Buddhism), there are five forms - called the Dhyani Buddhas. These are displayed in the Five Buddha Mandala, with one in the center and four placed in each cardinal direction. Each Buddha statue's meaning will depend on which they are represented in the mandala.

Vairocana (The Resplendent One)


Newari Embossed Vairocana Buddha (Brocadeless Thangka)

These statues depict the cosmic form of the Buddha, who sits in the middle of the Five Buddha Mandala. These are often enormous in size, showing that all enlightenment has a single source. The Vairocana Buddha statue meaning also embodies the idea of emptiness — that all things are really an illusion. Vairocana Buddha will often be seated on a lotus petal on top of lions, with white as a dominant color.

Akshobhya (The Immovable One)


Newari Embossed Akshobhya Buddha (Brocadeless Thangka)

The meaning of Buddha statues depicting Akshobhya focuses on the teacher who sits in the East. Akshobhya Buddha is unmoved by anger or aggression, so unshakeable is his enlightenment. When he was incarnate, his teacher told him to resist negative emotions, so he made a vow to never be angry or aggressive to any sentient being. The color blue is associated with Akshobhya Buddha, and he is often holding the Vajra in his lap.

Ratnasambhava (Jewel-Born)


Dhyani Buddha Ratnasambhava - Tibetan Buddhist (Brocadeless Thangka)

This Buddha statue meaning is tied to purifying oneself from pride, and his image celebrates equality — meaning the belief that all things are equally devoid of truly existing, and all things share a buddha-nature. He sits to the South, usually holding a jewel that grants wishes. This Buddha’s color is yellow, and he holds the mudra of supreme generosity in his right hand and the mudra of meditation in his left.

Amitabha (Infinite Light)


Amitabha sits to the West. He once was a king, but he abdicated after learning the teachings of the Buddha. After transcendence, he created a buddha-field — a kind of purified realm — called Sukhavati. By his example, we are now all capable of being reborn there. This Buddha is attributed to the color red.

Amoghasiddhi (Buddha of Fearlessness)


Newari Embossed Amoghasiddhi (Brocadeless Thangka)

This Buddha statue meaning regards karma, and he sits in the North. He shows us that the foundations of Buddhism are absolute and unchanging. In life, his hateful cousin sent a raging elephant to murder him, by Amoghasiddhi merely held out the mudra of fearlessness, saving his life by bringing the elephant back to its senses. Amoghasiddhi’s color is green, and he holds the crossed vajra, which indicates stability. His right hand, appropriately, makes the mudra of fearlessness.

Meaning of Buddha Statues Across Cultures

Across all the many cultures that Buddhism has reached, there have been many different interpretations. Each one represents its own meaning of Buddha statues in those cultures.

For the Hindus, Buddha is the 9th reincarnation of Vishnu. All 10 of Vishnu’s avatars are shown as the Dashavatara, sometimes made up of individual statues and sometimes altogether as one. These Buddha statue meanings carry with it the full weight of Vishnu incarnated as the teacher Guatama who asked the world to follow ahimsa or the path of non-violence.

In Sri Lanka and China, he is often shown as Budai — a historical Chinese monk who is famously depicted with a large belly, a Buddha statue meaning the happiness and jocularity of liberation. Many around the world confuse the Budai for Guatama, but in fact they are different Buddhas.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Buddhists have their own interpretation, which has developed since the introduction of the religion in the 2nd century.

And of course, in Tibet, Buddhism merged with the Bon religion to merge into a very popular and aesthetically stunning version. Wherever we find the practice of the religion, we will find a Buddha statue meaning more or less the same thing, though the form will be different. In fact, one of the most astounding things about Buddhism has been its ability to adapt to a variety of new cultures. Wherever it meets spiritual seekers, they reinterpret the visual presentation to match their own societies, always adding to the amazing legacy of art that the Buddha has given rise to.

Find Beautiful Buddha Statues at Exotic India

Exotic India has a wide selection of gorgeous artwork from genuine artisans in India. You can find depictions spanning all the different Buddha statue meanings, as well as just about any other spiritual path from the subcontinent. Check out our amazing selection today and enjoy these works that reflect the depth and beauty of Indian culture and identity.


Key Takeaways:

  1. Buddha statues come in various types, each with its own unique meaning and significance.

  2. The standing Buddha statue symbolizes protection, fearlessness, and overcoming obstacles.

  3. The sitting Buddha statue signifies meditation, concentration, and enlightenment.

  4. The reclining Buddha statue represents the Buddha's final moments before his death and attaining Nirvana.

  5. The laughing Buddha statue is a symbol of joy, prosperity, and good fortune.

  6. Each Buddha statue has its own cultural significance and may be used for various purposes, such as meditation, prayer, or decoration.

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  • Such a lovely piece of writing. The writer has invested a lot of time and effort into his research. The many types of Buddha sculptures and their significance are fully discussed. Thank you for contributing.
    Antique Buddhas May 15, 2022