A statue is not the Buddha
by Lin Zi Yi, Shandong, China, The Buddhist Channel, Nov 26, 2007
In the article, "Killing the Buddha in Pakistan’s Swat Valley" by Gary Leupp, DissidentVoice.org, November 21, 2007, there is a great teaching within this paragraph, spoken by Mullah Omar:
“I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. In fact, some foreigners came to me and said they would like to conduct the repair work of the Bamiyan Buddha that had been slightly damaged due to rains. This shocked me. I thought, these callous people have no regard for thousands of living human beings - the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha. This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddhas’ destruction.”
The teaching is obvious, and it has nothing to do with the degradation, or even disrespect of Buddhism by the Muslim religious cultivators. It specifically places the focus of living beings over that of a piece of rock. Mullah Omar gets right to the point here.
He basically says why are people hell-bent on maintaining images that do not need to eat, sleep and have no consciousness in respects to living beings, while there are people dying in wars, dying of hunger, murder, etc.
This is one of the reasons the Buddha did not agree to statues being created in an "image" of how the Buddha may manifest. People would rather spend money to fix a statue, than buy a starving person food, give a dog, freezing in the winter, a home for a night.
A statue is not the Buddha. It doesn't represent the Buddha. It may hold likeness to a being who was once in a posture of meditation, standing or sitting, but it is only a tool to remind oneself to keep diligent on the path of cultivation. That means, when there is a choice to either give money to someone who hasn't eaten, and or fix a statue, it is more of the mind of the Buddha to give money to the hungry.
This man, Mullah Omar, is 100% in right views when he states, "...the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they (foreigners) are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha (referring to a statue of rock). This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddhas’ (rock statue) destruction.”
There is no sutra, no teaching, that states specifically to disregard living beings for the sake of Buddhist images. It is irresponsible and not virtuous to put images before actual living beings. The act of violence of blowing up the face of the statue will indeed result in unpleasant outcomes, but it also results in good outcomes. Its unfortunate that people misunderstand the Buddha Dharma to an extent that they regard an image to be the actual Buddha and place it above the wellbeing of living beings.
The acts of Mullah Omar are the Buddha's teachings in a nutshell, Selflessness, and regards for all LIVING beings. It is Humanitarian services before self interest.