Earth-touching Buddha

This semester I took History of far Eastern Art, as a project assignment we had to visit a museum, I chose the freer gallery of art in Washington D,C. I visited the section ” Encountering the buddha, Art and practice across Asia.” In this section you found “collections of Buddhist art from Afghanistan, India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan(web).”

My experience at freer gallery of art was great, I was able to learn a lot more from the Asian art we have gone over in class, I was able to recognize familiar art work in person. My favorite exhibition was The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine room” I felt such felt such peace with the “Sonorous chanting of Tibetan monks (web).” In the shrine room, there is over 200 objects related to the Tibetan Buddhism from the Himalayas. I saw different buddahs such as “Medicine buddha Bhsishajyaguru, Mind Palace Bodhisattva (bosatsu) and much more.

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In class we have learned about buddhas and their importance “The Buddha was born a prince in a kingdom on the border of Nepal and India in the fifth century BCE. Troubled by the inevitability of disease, aging, and death, he abandoned royal life to become a holy man. Six years of extreme self-discipline did not reveal a way to end the pain of existence. Finally, he sat under a tree, determined to acquire insight. His meditation led to the profound realization that attachments to impermanent things cause suffering. Through this enlightenment, he earned the designation Buddha, or “Awakened One.” The Buddha then taught others the path to overcome sorrow. In the centuries following his death, the Buddha’s teachings, or dharma, spread across Asia and became the foundation of Buddhism in all its forms. His life and image became central to Buddhist practice throughout the world (web).”

The buddha I choose was Gautama Buddha. In the Freer Sackler museum it was named the historical Buddha. The buddha is originally form central Tibet, in the 14th century. At first glance this buddha is seated straight with his legs crossed and his left-hand rested cross his stomach with his right hand positioned down to his knees with the tips of his fingers moving passed his knees. He looks every comfortable, in position of meditation. I as a start learning more about this buddha I come to realize that the position the buddha is seating is a recognizable position for buddhas through out Asia. “Across Asia often depict the historical Buddha with his left hand resting in meditation and his right hand towered to touch the earth. The gestures signal his victory over death and desire- the impediments to profound spiritual knowledge (Gautama Buddha, Freer | Sackler).” This Buddha with his hand gestures symbolize enlightment. The Buddha is made of hollowed-cast copper. This particular buddha was made for an altar in Tibet. In Tibet gold was a symbol of high value because it was very shiny and radiance. The process to make the copper gold is called gilded. It needed skilled and precision to be able to perfectly executed the gold all over the copper. “A mixture of gold and mercury was applied to the surface and heated until the mercury evaporated, and the gold adhered to the copper. The glided surface was then polished with a smooth stone, and the eyes, mouth, and hair were painted (Lentz).” His curly hair was painted blue and his lips painted red. The buddhas is dressed in a pigmented robe that dresses down to his knees very simple like covering most of his body except for the right hand a shoulder and right-side chest is left undress. One way you can identify he is a buddha is by his urna on his forehead and ushnisha on his head, making him superhuman. His elongated ears are long because he left his lavage life style of jewelry and riches to become the ascetic. His head is heart shaped with his eye narrow and his nose is straight. His mouth is small with a grin.

The Gautama Buddha reminds me to the Pagan buddha that was originally made in Pagan Burma. Buddha seated in Bhumisparsha mudra” The most obviously resemblance would be the famous Bhumisparsha seating position “earth-touching position.” The Pagan worship the buddha seated in the bhumisparsha mudra because he was a symbol of enlightment. This buddha was cast in a copper alloy. “this piece reflects the powerful influence of eastern India and particularly the adaptation of a stylistic current in the Bodh Gay? region”( Wladimir) The buddha has classic pagan features like the heart-shaped face. The eyes are narrow the nose strong and straight. His body seem relaxed with his legs crossed and his left hand coming across his stomach and his right hand with the notorious hand resting on his knees with the tips hanging below his knees symbolizing earth-touching. His robe is simple covering his left arm and with no designs leaving his right arm and chest exposed. His earlobe hanging low without touching his shoulders and his urna right in the middle of his forehead. The ushnisha is the same color copper to the rest of him.

Both the these buddhas are very much similar to each other. They are both inspired by Bodh Gay? religious, with the buddha seated in bhumisparsha position, the earth-touching gesture buddha. Both buddhas are made out of copper. With the Pagan buddha the copper aollyed is made out of bronze, most of the buddha is bronze made. In the Gautama buddha the copper was gilded in gold and the ushnisha was painted blue. The ushnisha in the Burma buddha was left in the bronze color. The robes are different also, the Burma robe is simple with no deign except with left shoulder robe has slight writing. In the Gautama the buddha as pigments on the robe giving it crease like texture and look to it. Both the earlobe hang low without touching the shoulders. The both have heart shaped head with a sharp straight nose. It was interesting how different artists portrayed the same Buddha into different sculptures.

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