I think we must have heard that people say that Buddhists worship idols. such statements only reflect the misunderstanding of the persons who make them. The dictionary defines an idea as an image or statue worshiped as a god. As we all know that Buddhists do that believe that the Buddha was a god, so how we possibly believe that a piece of wood or metal is a god?
All religions use symbols to represent their various beliefs. In Taoism, the ying-yang diagram is used to symbolize the harmony between opposites. In Sikhism, the sword is used to symbolize spiritual struggle. In Christianity, the fish is used to symbolize Christ’s presence and a cross to represent his sacrifice. In Buddhism, the statue of the Buddha reminds us of the human dimension in his teachings, the fact that Buddhism is human-centered rather than god-centered, and that we must look within, not without to find perfection and understanding.
Therefore, to say that Buddhists worship idols is as silly as saying that Christians worship fish or geometrical shapes.
- This is based on A Good Question Good Answer, by the Ven. S. Dhammika