The Commander further asked, "What use are those statues made of clay and wood? Isn't it a waste of money?" The Master answered, "The Buddha said that the marks of Dharma are just its symbols, the latter being used to represent the Dharma. Without representation through marks, the Dharma would not develop. Moreover, its expression brings about an attitude of reverence and awe, without which there are no evil deeds from which people would refrain, and no good deeds which they would perform. Calamity and chaos would result. Consider how they carved the statues of the sage Confucius upon Ni Ch'iu Mountain and how Ting Lan sculpted a wooden image of his deceased parents21. These Images in the ancestral halls of China, as well as the copper ones from various other countries, serve as a place of reliance for the heart of man. They can foster an attitude of reverence, the effect of which is inconceivable. But in an ultimate sense, if one sees that all marks are no marks, one sees the Tathagata." Li was pleased and invited the Master to sit and chat, and called for tea and cakes.
It was said:
He changed evil into good.
21. Ting Lan was a famous filial son who
lived in the Han Dynasty. His parents died when he was still
too young to serve them. Upon growing up, Ting Lan fashioned wooden
images of his parents and paid his respects to them through their statues.
Morning and night he lit incense and bowed before the statues, as if
they were his live parents. However, his wife got tired of
this affair and one day, in jest, stuck a needle into the finger of
one of the wooden statues. The wooden statue bled.
When Ting Lan returned home, he saw to his dismay that the wooden
statues were weeping tears. Upon questioning his wife, he
found out the reason. Then he divorced his wife.