In Muharram, which is a yearly Mohammedan sacred festival, they make these mementos…from past memories, fourteen hundred years old. They cannot make Mohammed’s image, that is prohibited. We don’t know how he looked. We have some idea of Jesus; perhaps it is not very true because photography was not available then. Perhaps it is more imaginative than real, because the people who made the pictures must have tried to do their best, and they must have created the picture to look like a prophet. Whether the man looked like a prophet or not is questionable.
I know of Jewish sources which say that Jesus was only four foot five inches high. Not only that, he was very ugly; not only that, he was a hunchback. Perhaps this is just enmity, perhaps there is some truth in it. Perhaps both are imagination – one of the enemies and one of the friends – and between the two the real is completely lost.
I am absolutely certain that Buddha never looked like his statues because those statues were made five hundred years after him – after Buddha had already been dead for five hundred years. After those five hundred years, Alexander the Great visited India. The image of Buddha is closer to the face of Alexander the Great than Buddha himself, because the face is Greek, the nose is Greek, the eyes are Greek. Buddha’s statue does not look like a Hindu statue.
When Hindu sculptors saw Alexander they got the idea, a good model. Alexander was really a beautiful man. To make Buddha in Alexander’s image was very easy; and there was no proof that he looked otherwise.
If you see the Buddhist monasteries and temples in China, you will see a different Buddha, because the Chinese have their own idea of beauty. It may not appeal to you, but that is your problem; it appeals to them. For example, the nose should not be so pointed and so long, it should be flat. Nobody in the whole world likes a flat nose, but what to do? Chinese have flat noses, and they are one fourth of the whole world: out of every four people one is a Chinese.
I have heard of a man who had three sons, and he said, “Now we have to stop.”
His wife said, “Why?”
He said, “The fourth is going to be Chinese. I have read it: out of every four men, the fourth is a Chinese. From a very reliable source I have read it. I am not going to have any more children. Three and we stop – we don’t want any Chinese in the house.”
If you go to Japan you see a totally different Buddha. If you put a Japanese Buddha and an Indian Buddha together, you cannot believe these two statues are of the same man. You can stretch your imagination as far as possible but there seems to be no possibility that these two statues can be of the same man. The Indian Buddha’s belly is in, his chest is out. The Japanese Buddha is just the opposite: his chest is in, his belly is really sticking out.
Now, no Indian can accept that this is beauty. Alexander was an athletic personality, well-trained, well-polished – and athletes have always liked the belly down and the chest forward, just like a lion. And this Japanese Buddha looks like a strange fellow with such a belly: a laughingstock. And his head is also Japanese, his face is also Japanese.