Even a statue of the Buddha is only a statue until it’s consecrated. In the Theravada tradition, monks hold ceremonies to consecrate images with the power of the Buddha’s words. During the ceremony, the image is raised on a platform and surrounded by monks who tie white string from themselves to the statue while chanting the life story of the Buddha. The white string serves as a conduit for their words—descriptions of the Buddha’s physical attributes and elements of Buddhist doctrine transmitting the Buddha’s power (but not the Buddha himself) into the statue.
In northern Thailand, the most common time to see Buddha image consecration is at the conclusion of the rains retreat in October, but this ritual can happen at any time. The date is set by the lay sponsor in consultation with the temple abbot and might align with the opening of a new vihara (monastery) or ordination hall. The ritual of a large Buddha statue emplaced as the main image in a hall usually takes place between sunset and sunrise. The recitation of texts and duration may vary depending on the number of monks, the temple, and the number and status of lay sponsors, but all these rituals relate the story of the Buddha’s nirvana, instructing both the image and the followers present in the life of the Buddha.
Adapted from Living Theravada: Demystifying the People, Places, and Practices of a Buddhist Tradition by Brooke Schedneck © 2023 by Brooke Schedneck. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.
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