In Theravada Buddhism, the image of the historical Buddha, Gautama, is of primary significance. Such depictions are objects of veneration and role models, showing the Buddha both as a divine figure and an actual human being, the very incarnation of the virtues and attributes his teachings promote. As such, these likenesses serve as repositories of cosmic power that are capable of fulfilling wishes, and as potent reminders of the “way of truth” and “right action.” For Burmese Buddhists, creating, donating, or buying a Buddha image confers great merit, particularly if it is a large one, which explains why so many are seen across Myanmar.
The Asanas and Lakshanas
The Buddha is always shown in a stylized pose, or asana, which may be reclining, sitting, stand ing, or walking. His body must always show the 32 lakshanas, physical attributes seen as outer man- ifestations of inner spirit ual power. Drawn from the ancient Indian con cept of the Mahapurusha, or Cosmic Being, these include a wide chest and smooth golden skin (legend says the Buddha was born with limbs that shone like the sun).