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The purpose of Buddha’s picture

The purpose of Buddha’s picture
The history of Buddha’s picture goes back to the time of the Buddha, when disciples requested the Buddha’s permission to paint the image of the Buddha for the first time. Disciples were worried that without a picture of the Buddha, in the near future, no one would be able to visualize the Buddha. It is very important for Buddhist students to have a clear image of the Buddha in order to develop focus and cultivate merit through making offerings and so forth. As one can learn from the life story of Buddha Shakyamuni, the Buddha is adorned with 32 major marks and 80 minor signs, and there is also a brilliant light which radiates from the Buddha’s body. For this reason, no one was able to look at the Buddha directly as we do with each other. Thus, the purpose of this original painting was to provide an aid to help disciples visualize the Buddha perfectly. Initially, when the painter was painting the picture, the Buddha stood close to the pond and the painter was able to see the reflection of the Buddha’s image in the water, so the artist was able to draw the Buddha clearly without any difficulty. This is the story of how the first picture of the Buddha came about and its purpose. 
Today, many of the paintings of Buddhas and tantric deities have come to be treated as simply pieces of art, which is not in keeping with the reason for having these images. In addition, strictly in Tantrayana, there are special restrictions concerning these images. One is not allowed to display or show these tantric tangkas in public. The reason is that, instead of preserving or propagating the Tantrayana tradition, showing these pictures of tantric deities to the uninitiated who do not understand their significance might engender disrespect and serve as a source of non-virtuous actions. Thus, as I have understood from other gurus, one should keep such images hidden from the public and only display them in shrine rooms for the purpose of one’s own practice. This is my opinion, and one can always request advice from other qualified teachers.