Making a Buddha in Burma: Photos of Devotion

two women making a buddhaWomen polishing a Buddha

Three or four blocks of a street in the busy city of Mandalay are devoted to sculptors working on Buddha statues.  On the east side of the street men wield power tools carving out the basic shapes of Buddhas sitting, standing or lying down.  On the west side the women refine and polish the statues before they are distributed to temples or individuals who have purchased the sacred icons.  Men and women cross back and forth checking on the work and chat with their friends and family members.

Although I had permission to take photos I felt as if I was an intruder.  Did I understand their devotion and concentration?  The last thing they probably imagined was that our faith was mutual and that I hoped to share the beauty of their work with the world.  

Everyone one making a buddha is also working on the project of becoming a Buddha.  Below I share a passage of a conversation between Subhuti and the Buddha on what that might look like in our everyday lives.


Four Burmese making Buddhas

Sculpting Many Buddhas


Making a Buddha with power tools

      Power tools to shape a Buddha


Finishing touches on a Buddha


 Buddhas for sale in the Scupture Park



Subhuti asked: “What does buddha mean?”

The Buddua answered: “Buddha is reality. One who thoroughly comprehends all the factors of existence is a buddha.”

Then Subhuti asked: “What does enlightenment mean?”

The Buddha replied: “Enlightenment is a way of saying that all things are seen in their intrinsic empty nature, their Suchness, their ungraspable wonder.  Names or words are merely incidental, but that state which sees no division, no duality, is enlightenment.”

Subhuti asked: “if one wants to know emptiness, how should one do it?”

“The one who wants to realize emptiness should adore reality, develop a skill in living in the world, and cultivate friends of the same mind.  Skill can only be developed in the presence of reality, not otherwise.  Endowed with skill, the person gives without the idea of a giver and lives in the realization that all the factors of existence have no ultimate substance.”

The Buddha, from the Prajnaparamita Sutra 

translation by Anne Bancroft, The Buddha Reader


More inspirational words and photos at