T HE Buddha possesses thirty-two features. All of them represent the physical aspect. Thirty-one of them, from the lowest, the markings of the thousand-spoked wheel on the sole of each foot, up to the unseen crown of his head,1 belong to the category of visible and non-coextensive physical attributes.2 They can therefore be depicted in tangible form, such as pictures or statues. The remaining feature, the pure and far-reaching voice, belongs to the category of invisible and coextensive physical attributes.3 It therefore cannot be captured either in a painting or in a wooden image.
Since the Buddhas passing, two kinds of images, wooden and painted, have been made of him. They possess thirty-one features but lack the pure and far-reaching voice. Therefore, they are not equal to the Buddha. They are also devoid of the spiritual aspect. The Buddha in the flesh is as different from a wooden or painted image as the heavens are from the earth, or clouds from mud. Why, then, does The Epilogue to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra state that both the living Buddha and a wooden or painted image made of him after his passing bestow equal benefit? Indeed, the Jeweled Necklace Sutra absolutely declares that a wooden or painted image is inferior to the living Buddha.
When one places a sutra in front of a wooden or painted image of the Buddha, the image becomes endowed with all thirty-two features. Yet even though it has the thirty-two features, without the spiritual aspect it is in no way equal to a Buddha, for even some human and heavenly beings possess the thirty-two features. When the Five Precepts Sutra is placed before a wooden or painted image having thirty-one features, the image becomes equal to a wheel-turning king. When the discourse on the ten good precepts is placed before it, the image becomes equal to the lord Shakra. When the discourse on emancipation from the world of desire is placed before it, the image becomes equal to the king Brahma. But in none of these cases does it in any way become equal to a Buddha.
When an Agama sutra is placed in front of a wooden or painted image, the image becomes equal to a voice- hearer. When one of the common teachings on wisdom,4 which were preached at the various assemblies held during the Correct and Equal and the Wisdom periods, is placed before it, the image becomes equal to a cause- awakened one. When one of the specific or perfect teachings preached during the Flower Garland, Correct and Equal, or Wisdom period is placed before it, the image becomes equal to a