|Buddha-Shaped Ceramic Air Freshener|
Yesterday (Saturday), at the last monthly rosary prayer gathering for the year, my daughter and I received ceramic air fresheners as gifts from my friend. Daughter's air freshener was shaped like a cat and I showed a picture of it in the previous post. Mine is shaped like a seated Buddha. It has a pearlized finish, with vent openings cut into the folds of the robe, and contains some vanilla scented air freshener inside.
It is said that the Buddha didn't want any images of himself. For years after his death, the rock carvings and paintings that depicted the life stories and teachings of the Buddha in the caves and temples used symbols such as the leaf of the pipal tree (Ficus religiosa) which is a type of fig tree under which he is supposed to have sat during Enlightenment or attainment of Buddhahood, a lotus, which represents purity since the flowers bloom above the water, unsullied by the murky mud in which the plants grow, or by an eight-spoked wheel, which represents the wheel of Dhamma (Pali) or Dharma (Sanskrit), which was set in motion by his teachings (the eight spokes represent the Eight-Fold Path or the Middle Way).
However, after several years, images of the Buddha began to appear. Today, statues of the Buddha or pictures depicting him are quite common in the temples and in Buddhist homes, where such statues and images are considered as icons.
And, apparently, in non-Buddhist homes, too, because I am seeing more and more Buddha statues or figurines is the stores, these days. Some of them appear to be garden ornaments (even the dollar store has them, in their garden section), some appear to be more decorative and found in the decor sections. In fact, last Christmas, one of my cousins gave me a clear "crystal" (plastic) statue of the Buddha, that she found in a home decor section of a store, as my holiday gift. Maybe some non-Buddhists buy them to give an Eastern-inspired, perhaps meditative, feel to a room? I am highly amused by it, of course, because how many religious icons can be considered as decorative and evocative of a place?
To be quite honest, when I first received my gift, I wasn't quite sure what to think of it. Personally, I would never consider giving my Catholic friends air fresheners shaped like Jesus or Our Lady. A statue, maybe, for their altar, but not something like an air freshener or the salt and pepper shakers that I have seen pictures of online. To me, that seems a bit profane. But, after talking it over with my daughter, I realize that I was being too sensitive. I am sure my friend saw the air freshener (she gave air fresheners to all in the prayer group), saw that it was Buddha shaped and probably assumed that I would like it.
I appreciate my friend taking the time and effort to personalize our gifts - a cat for my daughter who loves cats, a Buddha for me who is a Buddhist. I know the maker of the air freshener didn't intend for it to be a religious icon, but I placed my gift in an elevated place, on top of the tall bookcase in the family room, as I would any icon of the Buddha, where it will serve the dual purpose of freshening the air in the room while being a religious icon, as well. Thanks to my friend, I'll have a good smelling Buddhist home!
Would you give an object like a planter, or an air freshener, or salt and pepper shakers that are shaped like a religious icon? If you received one, what would you think?