If you talk about Buddhism, you inevitably talk about the images of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, amulets, and auspicious symbols. However, one of the most common misconceptions is that all Buddhists believe in the power of wearing amulets and other Buddhist images.
Front side of my Kuan Yin Pendant
Well…that’s the straight answer and it is outwardly the correct answer but not entirely correct other. Let me present it to you the best way I can.
The past years and more recently saw the rise in popularity of the WISH FULFILLING AND BUDDHA’S BLESSING MANTRA PENDANT (this is no longer available for request) and more recently the VAJRAPANI RUEL(1). The Wish Fulfilling and Buddha’s Blessing Mantra pendant cannot be considered as an amulet. The truth is I really don’t know how to call it, but technically speaking, and strictly speaking it is also not a Feng Shui Charm, what it is simply a collection of images of what I think are the essential images of Buddhas, Mantras, and other Buddhist symbols. I combined them together, ask a jeweler to make it into a pendant and it proved to be quite effective. What it is simply is the collection of the images, I believe one of the reason that it has become so powerful is “there is strength in numbers”.
The Vajrapani Ruel on the other hand is a very powerful amulet, perhaps as mentioned one of the most powerful amulet in the Buddhist pantheon. Although strictly speaking it is not an amulet but a ruel. It was last made about half a century ago. If you wish to know more about it you can read about it by clicking on the following – THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL AMULET IN THE BUDDHIST PANTHEON CALLED VAJRAPANI RUEL.
The Vajrapani Ruel looks simple, maybe even rustic, but this simple amulet is packed with a special talisman paper inside, with various ingredients, which includes Namtso Salt, soil, various herbs and plants, crystal, and a relic from a high lama. It’s important to put the ruel inside a amulet holder or something sturdy as to not ruin it. If the cloth had tear which exposes or spill the ingredients inside, the ruel becomes useless.
But let us go back to the question whether all Buddhists believes in the power of amulets. Until very recently I believe that all school or lineage of Buddhism do believe in the wearing amulets, or even wearing images of the auspicious symbols and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Until I met a Zen master.
The very first thing this Zen master shared with me is that amulets don’t work, images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas doesn’t carry any special power. Zen Buddhism is like the protestant of Christianity; they are quite strict and simple with their belief. That is comparatively speaking with other schools or lineage of Buddhism. If you look at their temple or monastery, it is so much simpler, but they still have and pay tremendous amount of respect to the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or other dharma instruments or symbol. They even have special clothes to wear when attending a puja, and once worn, this clothing, which looks like a robe can’t be worn inside the toilet, there’s even a proper way of walking once the robe has been worn. On the other hand, when told this Zen master about the story how a Vajrapani Ruel(2) help eradicate the bad karma of a young monk, this Zen master loved the story asked my permission to share it with others but slightly change it by avoiding to mention the part where the Vajrapani Ruel(3) is mentioned.
Are they then contradicting their own teachings by paying so much respect to the dharma instruments, and Buddha and Bodhisattva images and then teach people not to believe this will help them. It seems to be so. However, if you look deeper, it is not actually the case. They believe what they say and they practice it. How?
The truth is images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other Buddhist images or symbols or simply that symbols. It is our intention and acceptance of what it represents that puts meaning into it. This representation is not exclusive to human, but other sentient beings and heavenly beings see that representation as well. And that makes it effective.
But Zen Buddhism masters are very cautious in drawing attention to the power of these symbols or images because they’re very cautious that they may lead people to do the wrong kind of attachment. Wrong understanding of something leads to wrong views, which leads to false belief.
I pointedly ask the Zen master about wearing of Buddhist images, this Zen master refused to used the power to be associated with the pendants, but this Zen master did say that there is merit in wearing these images, and that the merit gathered is also associated with the virtue that the Buddha or Bodhisattva or dharma instrument represents. Note though that this was a much longer conversation and it was not presented in black and white. But ultimately this Zen master acknowledged that there is merit and that sometimes these merits depend on the nature of our intention. Merit is the term used in Zen Buddhism about gaining some ‘luck’ in a certain act.
So to answer the said question. Do all Buddhists believe in the power of wearing images of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and other dharma or auspicious symbols? No. But then again, there is merit to it, which will bring some blessings. So maybe it’s a yes. The intricacies lie in the fact that it depends on your intention and how much are you attached to the superficial benefits.
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