Depictions of the Buddha vary greatly, depending on the artist's tastes and intentions. Different positions, hand gestures and clothing are symbols of his various teachings or life stages. Among these many variations, the Buddha's long ear lobes almost never change. They symbolise his life's journey.
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The Buddha was born Siddhartha, the son of a privileged royal family. Religious art curator Ray Williams told writer Sara Bullard, "In that culture, wealth would be displayed with heavy earrings, and yet at a critical moment in his young adulthood, Siddhartha forsook his wealth, shaved his head, gave away his jewels and went out into the world on a spiritual quest."
As a monk, the Buddha renounced his wealth, including his heavy ear adornment. According the Buddhist Studies website, "...the Buddha wore large ear plugs which he stopped wearing when he became a monk, but which left his ear lobes stretched."
The Buddha's elongated ear lobes symbolise a primary Buddhist teaching, which is to seek freedom from material attachments and worldly burdens. Ray Williams says, "The long ears are a reminder that he was once dragged down by wealth, but his ear lobes are empty, because he renounced that wealth."
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