Archives for posts with tag: buddha

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfigurine

W120xD100xH480, Burma

This is a figurine of the Buddha with an alms bowl standing on a lotus flower.

In Theravada Buddhism, “pindacara” a daily alms collection of food “pindapata” is practiced by the monks (and nuns).  The word for monk “bhikkhu” means one who lives on alms, while “pindapata” means dropping a lump.  The monks would leave their monastery, in a group they walk barefooted in single file according to seniority, their robe formally arranged covering both shoulders.  The route will go through the village house by house, accepting but never requesting food that is dropped into the bowls.  This figurine, the Buddha, is leading figurine of a group which consists of monks of different heights which unfortunately is not with us.

Monks in Burma

the second film has a more in depth view of a monk’ life.

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elephant

L330xW200xH400mm, Hong Kong

We have now associate the term white elephant to large and redundant project that is exhausting to maintain, e.g. the Olympic bird nest stadium or even Downton Abbey.

The white elephant first gained its sacred reputation from the appearance in the dream of Queen Maya (mother of Buddha).  In the dream, Queen Maya was carried by our spirits to a lake in the Himalayas where she was bathed and pampered.  Then came a white elephant holding a white lotus flower and circled around her 3 times.  It is believed that the buddha took the form of a white elephant to be reborn on earth.

This sacred animal became a symbol of justice and power for the kings of the Southeast Asia and that it offers peace and prosperity.  Temples, palaces were build for his home; musicians, cooks for its entertainments, etc.  The white elephant is a rare, in today’s terms, it is albino (a genetic disorder which lacks pigments in the skin).  In the old days, as they are rare, the king would use them as the highest reward.  This would be a blessing if one has the means to sustain the up keeping of the sacred elephant but otherwise a curse and this is where the meaning of the modern idiom comes from.

Thai Buddha

W100xD70xH220mm, Thailand

Mudras are symbolic hand gestures, without the use of words it communicates the mind’s idea which is more powerful than language.

This is a Buddha statue in the Bhumisparsha Mudra posture, with his right hand resting on knee while reaching toward the earth and the left hand lies on the lap facing upward.  This gesture is also known as the “earth witness” which is the most iconic image of Buddhism.  This gesture symbolizes unshakability and steadfastness; the legend goes just before Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened to become the Buddha, demon Mara called upon his armies of monster to attacking, hoping to scare him away from his meditation under the bodhi tree.  Siddhartha stayed unshaken and  continued his mediation.  The demon claimed the enlightenment for himself and called for his monsters to give witness to his superior spiritual achievements, Mara then asked Siddhartha if anyone could give witness for him.  Siddhartha simply extended his hand to reach the ground and the earth responded and giving witness for him.  Mara was defeated at his own challenge and vanished.  The next day Siddhartha Gautama enlightened to become the Buddha himself.   The serene expression of this figurine best captured this moment of enlightenment.

Here is a monk practicing more mudra gestures.

print

W220xL300mm, China

The title of this wood block print is called “Buddha of the West Sky”, referring to Siddhattha Gotama of India.  The idea of the West Sky is complex, in the early days the sun is believed to be a godly object; raising from the east, watching us on the day and going away and setting on the west.  It is believed that while we sleeping the sun will be watching over in the west sky.  With Buddhism introduced to China from India, a country to the south west, India, the West Sky, is the place where the truth, the important scripts are.  Monks, notably Xuanzang (depicted in the novel the Monkey King), went to India to find enlightenment.  The West Sky symbolizes a cleansed soul and mind, a nirvana world.

W180xD150xH250mm, China

This is an iron figurine of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha (Dayuan Dizang Pusa).  Bohisattva Ksitgarbha is one of the four bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism along with Samantabhadra, Manjusri and Avalokitesvara.  Between the period of the death of Gautama Buddha and the rise of Maitreya Buddha, Ksitgarbha is responsible for the enlightenment of all the beings in the six worlds.  He vowed not attain buddhahood until the hell is empty of all beings.

In this figurine Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is holding a cintamani, a wish filling jewel, which came from the palace of the sea dragon.  The cintamani has a capacity of relieve suffering and illness, a symbol of virtue of the Buddha.

Ci Zhou KilnW70xH200xD120mm, China

Today, for Something New Something Old pottery, we have something old.  A figurine of a boy holding a lotus made in the Ci Zhou kiln.  On further research, the boy’s name is Mo He Yue, the Chinese folk portrayal of the Buddha Siddhattha Gotama’s son – Rahula.  Rahula was born before Prince Siddhartha was enlightened to become the buddha, being raised by the his mother and grandfather King Suddhodana.  When Rahula was 7 year old, the Buddha returned to the palace, on the 7th day his mother Princess Yasodhara told Rahula to ask his father for the inheritance of the crown since the Buddha has already renounced his duty as the prince.  The Buddha knowing the crown goes with the worldly life is full of trouble, so instead gave his son spiritual enlightenment.  The Buddha asked his disciple Sariputta to ordain Rahula who later became one of the arhants.

Since the Tang dynasty, figurines of Mo He Yue have been used for the worship for the Qi Xi festival (7th of lunar July).  However, the Qi Xi festival has nothing to do with Buddhism but a celebration of love between a cowboy (Nin Lang) and a weaver girl (Zhi Nu).  

The love story goes something like this; a poor boy called Nin Lang who live with lived with his brother and the wife.  The sister in law was not keen on having a boy hanging around and had a cunning plan.  She asked Nin Lang to herd 9 of her cows but on his returned claimed that there were 10, if Nin Lang didnt manage to find the 10th cow he will not be allowed home again.  Nin Lang found a sick yellow cow on the hill, he nursed him carefully until the cow regained its health.  The cow was very grateful and revealed that he was actually a saint who has been strike down to earth.  The cow became a buddy of Nin Lang and told him  a place on earth where the female saints would hang out and there Ning Lang met Zhi Nu.  The 2 soon fell in love with each other and had a twin.  The Queen Mother of the West (the supreme head of all female saints) found out this forbidden sin, a earthy being having children with the saint, and escorted Zhi Nu back to heaven.  Seeing that Nin Lang became very sad at the departure of his wife, the cow told Nin Lang that after his death, his skin could be used to make a pair of shoes that could bring Nin Lang to heaven so he could find Zhi Nu again.  Years later, the shoes were made, Nin Lang flew to the sky and saw Zhi Nu at a distance.  The Queen Mother of West throw a hair ornament which became the milky way separating the two again.  Moved by their love, the pica pica birds formed a bridge to help them cross the milky way.  The Queen Mother of West touched, made an exception for them, once a year on the 7th of lunar July, the 2 are allow to meet on the pica pica bridge.  This story is of course a conception of the early Chinese astronomy; Nin Lang being Altair, Zhi Nu being Alpha Lyrae, the yellow cow – the Aldebaran and of course the Milky Way.

Since the Tang dynasty there has been the worship of the 2 lovers, in particular Zhi Nu, the weaver of colourful clouds in the sky.  It is believed that the girls would pick up her skillful hands. Now what has Rahula, the son of the Buddha got to do with the 2 lovers.  It has to do with other custom of Qi Xi, as it is a night of the union of the lovers, baby figurines were made as a symbol of conception of the much desired baby boy.  By Tang dynasty, with the arrival of Buddhism from India, these baby figurines were made into Rahula who is gifted and grown to be an arhant, an image of a son everyone wished for.  Rahula, being left behind by the Buddha at birth but eventually enlightened and preached by the Buddha.  This reunion fulfilled the void left behind the by separation of Nin Lang and Zhi Nu.

Slowly, the figurine changed from their role of being worship to being admired and by Sung dynasty when technique of molding was made popular, the Rahula (Mo He Yue) figurine became a toy.

W150xD120xH370mm, Thailand

This is a Buddha statue in the Bhumisparsha Mudra posture, with his right hand resting on knee while reaching toward the earth and the left hand lies on the lap facing upward.  This gesture is also known as the “earth witness” which is the most iconic image of Buddhism.  This gesture symbolizes unshakability and steadfastness; the legend goes just before Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened to become the Buddha, demon Mara called upon his armies of monster to attacking, hoping to scare him away from his meditation under the bodhi tree.  Siddhartha stayed unshaken and  continued his mediation.  The demon claimed the enlightenment for himself and called for his monsters to give witness to his superior spiritual achievements, Mara then asked Siddhartha if anyone could give witness for him.  Siddhartha simply extended his hand to reach the ground and the earth responded and giving witness for him.  Mara was defeated at his own challenge and vanished.  The next day Siddhartha Gautama enlightened to become the Buddha himself.

W220xL300mm, China

This is a wood block print of the Skanda, Wei Tuo, a guardian of Buddhism (leader of the 32 celestial guardians).  He has been worshiped in Chinese temples since the Sung dynasty, his statue is often placed behind the Maitreya statue.  It is believed that when the Buddha passed away and cremated, the demons came and robbed away his relics.  Wei Tuo chased and caught up with them and got back the relics, he was honored to be the guardian.  Though Indian in origin, Skanda was adapted into the Chinese culture as a courageous warrior and guardian and even has a Chinese name as Wei Tuo, but his task has never altered.

W100xD100xH200mm, China

Today, the 8th day of lunar April, is the birthday of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama).  According to the legend, on the night when Siddhartha was conceive, his mother Queen Maya has a dream.  In her dream there was a white elephant with 6 tusks holding a lotus flower went circling around her 3 times and then entered her right side.  The next morning Queen Maya told King Suddhodana the story and the King summoned the wise men to decipher the dream.  It was predicted that the child would become a great king or a Buddha (the enlighten one).

This is a wooden figurine of the Buddha, the third eye (spiritual awakening) of the Buddha is represented by the inlay of a tiny pearl.

If you happens to be in Hong Kong click here and join in the celebration.