5 Things You Didn’t Know About Buddha Statues

Buddha statues are an integral part of the Asian culture and design aesthetic. Each one on display at Elements East is hand-selected and truly loved by our team before it even reaches Milwaukee! Often, our customers have questions about Buddha. What does he represent? Why is he positioned differently in different statues? Why does one statue look nothing like the next? Well, we’re here to help you understand the historic and spiritual meaning behind Buddha.

1. Laughing Buddha

silver laughing BuddhaThe Laughing Buddha may be the most familiar to many of our customers. But, he also provides the most confusion! This depiction isn’t actually “The Buddha” (more on that in the next section). He is “A Buddha.” In Buddhist tradition, the term “Buddha” is used to describe anyone who has attained enlightenment through spiritual practice and meditation.

The Laughing Buddha is said to be a depiction of Hotei, a Chinese monk who lived in the Ling Dynasty. He is associated with luck and good fortune in many Asian cultures. And, he’s most often depicted as a round, happy figure. If you’re inspired to bring happiness, abundance, wealth, and prosperity into your home, the Laughing Buddha is a wonderful choice. Some even say that he makes problems disappear. This statue makes a lovely gift, and lifts the spirits of those who interact with it.


2. Meditation Buddha

meditation Buddha with red mala     wooden meditation Buddhas     meditation Buddha with singing bowls

Next, let’s move from “A Buddha” to “The Buddha.” The statues pictured here actually depict Siddhartha Guatama, a spiritual teacher from northern India. Siddhartha Guatama was a prince, who renounced his privilege to seek enlightenment. Later, his teachings became the foundation of Buddhism. You’ll find this version of Buddha in a number of different poses. The variety of hand gestures are called mudras. Mudras are symbolic in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, which are said to guide sacred energy flow through the body.

When you find a statue with his hands folded in his lap, forming a triangle, you’ve found a Buddha who will promote meditation and a higher spiritual connection. He’s forming the Dhyana mudra, which creates a circle of energy and a spirit of cleansing. By connecting with a Buddha statue in this position, even just by inviting it into your space, you’ll open a connection to deep peace, calming, and serenity.

3. Enlightenment Buddha

enlightenment Buddha     enlightenment Buddha hands closeup

The hand position depicted by this statue is called the Bhumisparsa mudra. Often, this has been translated to mean touching the earth, or “calling the earth to witness the truth.” It’s said that this was the gesture The Buddha made when he achieved enlightenment. One hand facing down toward the ground, and one resting on his lap.

As the story goes, when Siddhartha was nearing enlightenment, he was confronted by Mara, the Demon of Illusion. Then, throughout the night, Mara presented temptations and instilled fear into him. Despite these challenges, Siddhartha chose to meditate all night, and called upon the Earth Goddess for help. Finally, seeing that he had reached enlightenment, the Earth Goddess unleashed a flood that swept Mara away, forever.

A Buddha statue in this position represents unshakable strength and commitment. It’s a symbol of overcoming obstacles. If you’re into feng shui, this Buddha should be placed at the center of your home, or near the main entrance.

4. The Four Faces of Buddha

joy Buddha     serenity Buddha     sorrow Buddha     anger Buddha

Four faces of BuddhaThis is a common Buddha statue, representing the Laughing Buddha or Hotei. Notice that the expressions on the four faces depict joy, serenity, sorrow, and anger. These are said to be the four life experiences that we must have at some point along the way.

Yet, the point of this Buddha statue isn’t to discourage. It’s intended to be a reminder that our feelings are impermanent, and in order to experience joy and serenity, we must also move through sorrow and anger. What a beautiful gift a tiny four-faced Buddha can make. It’s a steady reminder that better days will come again.


5. Buddha’s Head

stone Buddha head statue     three Buddha head statues     white Buddha head statue

Statues of only The Buddha’s head show him post-enlightenment. This depiction represents wisdom and knowledge. Although the disembodied head may seem like a strange way to pay homage to the enlightened one, symbolically, this shows the disconnection between the mind and body.

The physical attributes on this Buddha statue are interesting, and do pertain to other statues you may find. His half-closed eyes represent a state of meditation, looking inward to the self as well as outward to the world. The portrayal of curly hair indicates that he has renounced his prince-hood by cutting off his top-knot. You’ll also notice a faint smile, indicating The Buddha’s serenity and nobility after enlightenment. A Buddha head statue is a wonderful reminder of balance and a path toward seeking the truth.

As you can see, when it comes Buddha statues, you’ll find history, spirituality, and personality in each and every one. These beautiful representations come in all shapes and sizes, from only a few inches tall, to the grand monuments you find in China. If you’re interested in learning more, or would like to find the right statue for yourself or as a gift, visit us at 191 n broadway in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. We also offer in-home design consultations, and host wonderful events each month. We hope to see you at Elements East soon!


Scroll to top