Questions like,

  • Why does the Buddha look feminine (It's the long lashes, one of the 32 marks)
  • Why does the Buddha have long ears (I think we're going to get 32 of these questions, maybe there should be a canonical one and the others closed as duplicates)
  • Name this Buddha (I think we've already got 3+ Hotei questions)

I'm personally hoping that iconography questions are on topic, but that the Hotei and 32 mark questions get closed as duplicates after a suitable canonical answer is posted.

Were iconography to be off topic altogether, than some altar maintenance/puja questions and diety visualization questions could get bumped off topic. While the 32 mark and "name-this-fat-guy" questions seem to be from people with a superficial interest in the topic, "How to do I visualize Fudo Myo (ie. what does he or his statues look like)" is a matter of soteriological importance.

  • Long ears isn't even one if the 32 characteristics, iirc. Jul 4, 2014 at 13:16
  • Yup, I checked, you're right. Jul 4, 2014 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


Iconography should be on topic and one of the reasons would be the importance of iconography in Vajrayana tradition where meditating on Yidams (or one would say visualising Buddha forms) is a core practice. There are countless of Buddha forms and their colours, attributes and ornaments are not coincidental or artist's form of expression but they all have a deeper and systematic meaning. Same for Mandalas, Refuge Trees or altar arrangements. The questions like 'Why one form of Chenrezig has 4 arms while the other one has 1000?' would be perfectly valid with (hopefully) detailed answers explaining the meaning of postures, attributes, etc.

As for the 'long-ears' questions - well, I would say that there is a finite number of such questions so sooner or later they will just stop cropping up. We as a community can upvote other, better questions, so the long-ears won't catch a lot of attention in the long run.

  • 1
    +1 I agree. I've commented that the "long ears" question could perhaps have been better by making it one about iconography (as opposed to anatomy), but I personally learned a lot about Buddhism from hearing experts at museums where Buddhist art was on display. Art carries meaning just as written commentaries do, so I think it would be a shame to exclude it.
    – tkp
    Jul 4, 2014 at 17:00

I would rephrase the "Why" questions though to "What is the significance of X" (long ears, green skin color etc.)

In general our "What is X", "Why is X", "How does X work" questions gotta get more specific. I'm working on a list of question types and how each should be phrased. Might be too ambitious a project but we shall see.

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