The Dharma Chakra Mudra,
‘The Turning of the Wheel of Dharma‘,
Circa 400 CE, Sarnath Museum, India
‘If someone would for a hundred thousand eons
Constantly look at the Tathagatha
Without relying on Ultimate Reality
But only seeing the World’s Saviour
That person is attached to Form
and enlarging the Net of Ignorance and Illusion
Tied up to the prison of Birth and Death
Deluded, he does not see the Buddha.‘
The Avataṃsaka Sūtra
The Self-Eating Expression: ‘I am not the Buddha’, was in fact taken to its sacrilegious point of doubt by some who questioned whether there ever was a Buddha in flesh and blood. A fair question given the substance of the Teachings.
If the questioner was annoyingly insistent, the response of the Scholar-Monks was set to the standard template of the Chatushkoti [tetralemma]:
‘The Buddha existed; did not exist; both existed and did not exist; neither existed, nor did not exist’.
Siddhartha Gautama would have chuckled.
The earliest depictions of the Buddha were in fact uniformly aniconic: prints of the feet, an empty chair, an umbrella. Human depictions came much later.