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The Merit and Virtues of Making Buddha Images

The Dharma Flower Sutra -
Chapter 2: Expedient Devices
A simple explanation given by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


- Sutra -

Those who, for the Buddhas,
Have erected images,
Carving all their myriads of marks,
Have realized the Buddha Way.

They may have used the seven gems,
Or bronze or copper, white or red,
Wax, lead, or tin,
Iron, wood, or clay,
Or, perhaps, lacquered cloth,
In making Buddha images;
Persons such as these
Have realized the Buddha Way.


Those who, for the Buddhas have erected images. Those who, as an offering to the Buddhas, have made images, by carving all their myriads of marks, all of the fine characteristics of the Buddhas of the ten directions, have realized the Buddha Way. They have become Buddhas.

They may have used the seven gems; gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, or carnelian, or bronze or copper, white, or red, wax lead, or tin, iron, wood, or clay, or, perhaps, lacquered cloth in making Buddha images. Persons such as these have realized the Buddha Way. There are eleven kinds of meritorious virtues derived from making Buddha images:

1. In every life you will have clear vision.
2. You will not be born in evil places. Your friends and neighbors will all be good people.
     You will not meet up with evil people or evil beasts.
3. You will always be born in a noble family. You will be born into a household, which is wealthy and honored.
4. Your body will be purple-golden in color.
5. You will possess an abundance of wealth.
6. You will be born in a worthy and good family.
7. You can be born a king. Now, there is no Emperor, but you could be the President. It amounts to the same thing. Or, if you insist on being an Emperor, you can find a country with a monarchy and be born there.
8. You can be a Wheel-turning sage king. That is even higher than being President. As a Wheel-turning sage king, if you cultivate, you can become a Buddha.
9. You can be born in the Brahma heavens and live for an eon. You can be a king among the gods.
10. You will not fall into the evil paths. Those who make Buddha images will not fall into the hells, the animal realm, or the realm of hungry ghosts.
11. In future incarnations you will still be able to revere the Triple Jewel. You will be able to take
     refuge with the Triple Jewel. You will not fall.

Hearing these eleven meritorious virtues, if we have the strength, we should make more Buddha images. If you make Buddha images, your appearance will be perfect and full. Why is the Buddha’s appearance so perfect? It is because during the three great asankhyeya eons he cultivated the Way. He made countless Buddha images.  During the first asankhyeya eon, he encountered 75,000 Buddhas.  During the second, 76,000 and during the third, 77,000. If he met with that many Buddhas, of course he made more Buddha images than that. Who knows how many he made? That is why his appearance is so full and perfect. But, in making images, we should not think, “I will make a Buddha image and then I will be very handsome, and people will fall in love with me.” That is not a proper motive. We should cultivate blessings and wisdom so that in the future we can realize Buddhahood.  Persons who have made such images have all realized Buddhahood.


- Sutra -

Those who painted bright Buddha images,
Adorned with the marks of their hundreds of blessings,
Whether they did it themselves or employed others,
Have realized the Buddha Way.

Even children who, at play,
Who with a straw, a stick, or pen,
Or even with their fingernails,
Drew images of the Buddha,
People such as these,
Gradually accumulated merit and virtue,
Perfected the heart of great compassion,
And have realized the Buddha Way.
They teach only Bodhisattvas,
And rescue countless multitudes.


Although previously the text said that one might make Buddha images out of lacquered cloth, the precepts discourage the use of lacquer, as it has an unpleasant odor.  The precepts also say that one is not allowed to sit in front of a standing Buddha image, or recline in front of a sitting Buddha image.

Those who painted bright Buddha images, adorned with the marks of their hundreds of blessings. The Buddha images are adorned with the many blessed marks of the Buddhas. Whether they did it themselves or employed others, have realized the Buddha Way. They have all become Buddhas.

Even children who, at play, who with a straw, a stick, or pen. Perhaps they draw a Buddha image with a straw, or with a stick of wood, or perhaps they draw one with a color crayon, or even with their fingernails, or perhaps, playing in the mud, they traced out a Buddha image with their fingernails. Drew images of the Buddha. Long ago, in Si Chuan, there was a person who recited The Vajra Sutra. As he recited it, he would write it out in empty space with his hand. He stood in the same place everyday and recited and “wrote it out” in this way.

Later, when it rained, the rain did not fall in the spot where he had written out the Sutra. This happened every time it rained. Those who had opened their Buddha Eyes saw that, even though the man had written out the Sutra in empty space, the gods and dragons and the eightfold division were there protecting the Sutra and not allowing the rain to fall on that spot. Later a temple was built there. So you see, all he did was write it out in the air with his hand and he received such a great response. This really happened. It is recorded in a work entitled
The Efficacious Events of the Vajra Sutra.

People such as these, mentioned above gradually accumulated merit and virtue, perfected the heart of great compassion and have realized the Buddha Way. They have realized supreme enlightenment. They teach only Bodhisattvas and rescue countless multitudes. The Buddha guides Bodhisattvas and Hearers to turn from the small towards the great and seek the Bodhisattva Dharma, and then to turn towards the Buddha Vehicle, liberating limitless and boundless living beings.