Does Aversion At Buddha Images Create Negative Karma?

Question: When I visited a temple, the Buddha statue there seemed to stir up some aversion in me, as its face did not look peaceful or compassionate to me. Does this feeling create negative karma? The fierce statues of Dharma Protectors do not give rise to such aversion though.

Answer: Unfortunately, some statues can indeed be crafted not so ideally. Some look more appealing only at certain angles and/or in certain lighting conditions too. That said, if this ill perception does not arise in others’ minds, it might be particular to you, being a matter of personal preference and/or due to karmic conditioning.  

Even if a statue is not so pleasant to generally many, the feeling of aversion is what arises later as a habitual reaction, not really due to the statue itself. It need not arise if the statue is just seen as it is. For example, it does not make sense to give rise to aversion when we see unpleasant human faces around. This only gives you needless suffering, that might even make the affected suffer.

Giving rise to aversion in terms of an unhealthy sense of hatred does create some negative karma in the moment. As long as you do not cling to, or build on the aversion, it is just a fleeting feeling. However, if the image still disturbs you, you can recall your preferred Buddha image (or be mindful of a Buddha’s name sincerely) till there is peace of mind, as repentance for the aversion too.

Probably because the Dharma Protectors’ images are better crafted to portray what they are meant to, they were appreciated as such, with no aversion; while there was expectation of the Buddha image to look especially kindly instead. When you visit again, you can still prostrate reverently without look directly at the image, or while visualising your ideal one. You can also test yourself, to see if you will give rise to the same aversion, by looking with as much calm equanimity as you can. 

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