Mon, 29 Nov 2021 Today's Paper

Should we use flowers in venerating the Buddha?

6 March 2021 02:01 am - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Can the use of flowers in Buddhist religious activities justified both in terms of environment and religion?

Did Gautama Buddha wish or compel that he be worshipped with flowers after his Pari Nibbana?


Almost all Buddhists visit temples and perform religious rites where the first act is offering flowers toa Buddha statue, in the belief to gain merit to enter Nibbana – On Poya Days millions of flowers are offered and at the end of the day, it is heartbreaking to see, these flowers being dumped in garbage pits later.

What is worse, annually a festival is held at the Ruwanweli Chaitya, where lorry loads of flowers are taken as an offering and later dumped in some abandoned area.

It was seen and reported recently, some Buddhist monks sanctified a tree by wrapping a sacred yellow robe to protect it from being felled. 

While appreciating this gesture, I go beyond. Have these Buddhist monks, as a matter of fact, all Buddhists, realize that they are committing a grave sin, as they seem to be ignorant of what the flower contributes to nature and humans. 

The flower in full bloom, attracts insects, bees, butterflies etc. Produce nectar, on which these insects feed to satisfy their hunger, while at the same time helping the flower to pollinate. 

The sweet scent purifies the air. After pollination, the flower produces seeds, which in turn produces another plant. It will be seen when a flower is plucked as an offering or for some decoration, we deprive the insects, bees etc. of their food and eventually, they would die of starvation. 

It is well known that a number of birds and insects are fast dwindling and some have already become extinct. 
The same goes for environmental pollution as well. I pose this question to all Buddhists: 

Did Gautama Buddha wish or compel that he be worshipped with flowers after his Pari Nibbana?
The answer is very clear as stated in the Maha Nibbana Sutta where it says -to quote from a book 
LAST DAYS OF THE BUDDHA – The Maha Pari Nibbana Sutta – “Yet it is not thus, Ananda, that the Tathagata is respected, venerated, esteemed, worshipped and honoured in the highest degree. But Ananda, whatever Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni, layman, abide by the Dhamma, lives uprightly, in the Dhamma, walks in the way of the Dhamma, it is by such a one that the Tathagata is respected, venerated, esteemed, worshipped and honoured in the highest degree. Therefore, Ananda, thus should you train yourselves” the gain of the last words of Tathagata to Ananda 
“It may be Ananda, that to some among you, the thought will come ‘Ended is the word of the Master, we have a master no longer ‘But it should not. Ananda, be so considered. For that which I HAVE PROCLAIMED AND MADE KNOWN AS THE Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone”.

Then again on attaining Enlightenment, Gautama Buddha, as stated in Buddhist Chronicle, - Sath Sathiya- as a mark of gratitude, he gazed at the Bo-Tree, for one week, for sheltering him. 

Surely, he could have brought exquisite flowers from the Himalayan forest or from Thusitha Bhavana to pay homage. If that was the manner which the Noble Teacher had adopted to pay gratitude, then why not we do the same, gaze at a statue of Buddha with head bowed and clasped hands?

The next question arises as to how this practice or ritual came into the Buddhist veneration of Buddha. It is recorded that an Indian monk named Buddhagosha came to Sri Lanka, resided at Maha Vihara, Anuradhapura, to study and translate the Tri Pitaka. 

Going back to India, to popularize Buddhism, he had introduced this Hindu and Brahmin, practice of garlanding the statues of their deities with flowers to Buddhism. 

The other is that our ancient kings married Indian Princesses who were Hindus and to please them, built Hindu Kovils next to Buddhist temples, thereby the offering of flowers became an accepted Buddhist ritual.

With this background, and being convinced, it will be possible for present-day Buddhists to do away with this practice of offering flowers and follow what the Blessed One did to pay homage or gratitude by gazing. 

It needs great will-power and determination, of our Buddhist Maha Nayakas to convince the innocent misled Upasaka and Upasikas, and it has to be done by our Buddhist clergy and Buddhist Organizations such as the YMBA and ACWBA.

It is also a very delicate subject for world organizations, concerned with the environment, Climate Change, Wild Life etc., to interfere as it is a religious matter but a try by educating the young intelligent is, I am sure will have some impact. 

The present educated generation is moving away from old religious and other tribal practices and beliefs, seeing the advancement in science and technology, disproving them.  

To conclude here is what Bertrand Russel said “The fact that an opinion or an act has been widely being held is no evidence whatever that it is utterly absurd.


  Comments - 3

  • ARUNA S K W Sunday, 07 March 2021 09:56 PM

    Compared to quantities of annual bloseming of flowers, the flowers used for venerations (both Hindus and Buddhists) are neglegible in quantities. No matter used for veneration or any other purposes, flowers won't last. We are seeing so many so called knowledgeable budhists with somewhat of intelligence but with no wisdom, and talking about pety matters. Without touching the religeous aspects, we can have scientific approaches to address the green and eco issues challanging the ecosystem and socio-economic- sustainability.

    Non Anonymous Sunday, 07 March 2021 10:54 PM

    What a joke!

    Kumar Monday, 08 March 2021 08:13 AM

    Most Buddhists go to the temple to offer flowers, food etc. and recite gathas that simply state Buddha's kindness and think it is a meritorious act,? is it. There is no attempt follow the doctrine. Buddhist are very good at building Buddha statues spending millions.

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