Four Queries On Buddhist Images & Ancestral Tablets

[1] Is It Inauspicious To Keep A Damaged Buddhist Image?

Question: Is it inauspicious to keep a Buddha or Bodhisattva image with a defect, such as a missing finger at home?

Answer: The defect is but a reminder of neglect, that it should be repaired. Enquiries can be made at places that sell such images for repair. What ‘inauspicious’ is to deem it as inauspicious, to be rid of, just for a small defect that occurred with natural wear and tear, or even personal unmindfulness. Note that countless museums worldwide house ancient images with defects too, in their original discovered conditions to display and honour them, with no disastrous effects.

[2] Must Ancestral Tablets Be With Buddhist Images?

Question: Must an ancestral tablet only be placed with a Buddha or Bodhisattva image?

Answer: If the deceased is suspected to still be around the tablet, it is of course better to do so – to remind the deceased to be mindful of the Buddha or Bodhisattva to reach Pure Land. However, there should be direct words of guidance offered too, for more efficiency of instruction, followed by the appropriate chanting to demonstrate the practice to be done. For the long deceased who are unlikely to still be around, it is not crucial for the tablet to be with an image. Note that even in temples, there are hundreds or thousands of tablets, with only a few Buddha or Bodhisattva images present.

[3] How To Remove Buddha Or Bodhisattva Images?

Question: If a Buddha or Bodhisattva image is to be removed, must there be monastic chanting? How should the image be handled after?

Answer: The image if damaged, is best repaired and kept. If not wished to be kept, it should still be repaired, before offering to those who appreciate it. If in a better condition, the image is more likely to be accepted by others too. This is to ensure the image’s original purpose is upheld for as long as possible. Temples can be enquired by phone, as to whether they accept such images. If the image is to be removed, monastic chanting is not a must, as one can simply be mindful of the Buddha’s or Bodhisattva’s name respectfully during removal.   

[4] Should Ancestral Tablets Without Buddhist Images Be At Temples?

Question: Should an ancestral tablet without a Buddha or Bodhisattva image be ‘cremated’, with a uniform replacement kept at a temple, where there is chanting, for dedication of merits?

Answer: If the deceased is suspected to still be around the tablet, and if there is no one who offers guidance and merits at home, it is of course better to do so. Note that burning of the tablet is not a superstition, just to return it to the elements beyond recognition, as others who come across an abandoned tablet might feel disturbed.

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