HOME PAGE PHOTO: This is an image of a ceiling painting in one of the caves at Ajanta. Some of the earliest Buddhist art in India. Click below for more info.
From Wikipedia: “The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state of India are about 29 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. The caves include paintings and rock cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotion through gesture, pose and form.”
You know you are in Scotland when…
You come across blue bells in the forests.
You know when you are in Scotland when…
When you look across a field of buttercups and see Tinto Mountain.
You know you are in Scotland when…
You look over the landscape and see wind turbines.
You know you are in Edinburgh when…
You look up and see Edinburgh Castle.
You know when you are in Edinburgh when…
You look north and see the Firth of Forth.
You know you are in Edinburgh when…
You go to Henderson’s to eat. Henderson’s is the place to go for vegetarian/vegan food.
Speaking of gun control. Yes, monks with guns. Who would of thought? I thought these images would be a good myth buster. We in the Western countries, or should I say the non-Eastern Asian counties, really get our Buddhism distilled which doesn’t represent, or resemble the Buddhism of Asia so much.
Here’s a good article: Monks With Guns
This is who I share the Sugar Shack with. From left to right: This is a Chinese rendition of Vairochana Buddha, the primordial Buddha. The Buddha that embodies emptiness. The hand mudra is the uttarabodhi mudra which signifies supreme enlightenment and unity with the One Source. Next is Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Chan/Zen. Why did Bodhidharma go to Rose Apple? -Don’t ask, its complicated. Last but not least is Bodhisattva Avalokitashvara.
This building, one of three, is part of Rose Apple in Vermont, my current hermitage. It is known as the Sugar Shack. Why Sugar Shack? Because it once was a real sugar shack. Clear? Perhaps not for those who don’t live in this neck of the woods. A sugar shack is a building for making maple syrup. Yum. The windows at the top on the roof would be opened to vent the heat and the steam from the vats. It was converted years ago into a meditation hall. It also has a small room used as a bedroom, of where I am currently living. It is one of my favorite spaces on the planet.
No, this is not a Nazi Buddha. Nor is this an image of a Buddha statue in one of the local headquarters of the American Nazi Party, nor the National Vanguard, nor the White Aryan Resistance. In actuality, the swastika is an image that has been around for for some time. The earliest use was found in a Late Paleolithic archaeological site in Ukraine, dating back some 15,000 years. Since then cultures around the world have used the simple image. Its meaning? It depends on the culture and the use. For example, among the Navajo people the symbol is not a “swastika” but is called “whirling logs,” referring to a specific myth story. In Buddhism, however, the swastika, and it is a “swastika” because the word is Sanskrit, represents a number of things: The footprint of the Buddha, the Dharma Wheel, and the continuous cycle of Samsara.
Here are some links:
East Meets West. Yes, of course this is an image of the Buddha but who is that standing next to him? It’s none other than Heracles – yes, the Heracles of Greek mythology. Here he is standing aside the Buddha as his protector. This image is from one of the Gandhara sites in Western Pakistan. It dates back to the 2nd century. People got around back then, more than we would think. Gandhara is known for its Buddhist archaeological – historical treasure trove. It is also known for the Greco-Buddhist stylization of its many images. This merging of cultural elements are usually attributed to Alexander the Great’s great empire and the influx of the Greeks and their culture.
East Meets West 2. Buddha standing image, 2nd century, Gandhara, Pakistan. Probably one of the most aspect of the Buddhas of Gandhara is that they are the earliest images of the Buddha. Before this period the Buddha was represented by images such as umbrellas, Dharma wheels, elephants, Bodhi trees and even footprints. This image too has several Greek stylization elements to it. I’m tempted to let you guess. Ok, I’m convinced, I’m going to let you guess. If you are up for it email me an answer and I’ll list it here: Off the top of my head I can point out four.
East Meets West 3. This is an image of Bodhisattva Maitreya, the future Buddha, from the famed Gandhara sites in Pakistan. It is a blend of Central Asian, Greek and Buddhist traits. What really stands out is how machismo the image is. A very big departure of the Chinese Avalokita statue (below). I saw this piece at the Guimet Museum in Paris. If you are ever in Paris, after munching on your baguette, you really should go and visit. One of the largest collection of Buddhist art, especially Central Asian Buddhist art. It is tres magnifique. As most of the other Gandharan works, it dates back to the 1st -2nd century.
Oops! How’d this get here. Oh well – since it’s here: This is a photo of my nephew Ryan, his wonderful wife Jennie and the girls, Makenna (next to me) and Harper visiting me at the monastery.
This image is from the Sanchi Stupa located in, well, Sanchi, India. The stupa’s beginning dates back to the 3rd century BCE, when it was commissioned by the Buddhist King, King Ashoka. Over the centuries more elements to the stupa complex were added. This was also the dawn of Buddhist art in India. At that time the Buddha was not represented in human form. Instead, for reasons we can only speculate on, the Buddha was represented by objects, such as umbrellas, foot prints, Dharma wheels, and this case a Ficus religiosa, commonly referred to as the Bodhi Tree, the tree the Buddha sat under when he attained his great enlightenment. In this image the Buddha, represented by the tree, sits among his followers.
Referenced in the post: A Tree, a Memory, and a Path
I came across this piece at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco last year (2016). If you visit San Francisco or live there the museum is a must-see. Seriously, the collection is incredible. This figure is Chinese and dates back to 338. Made of bronze the statue stands at 39.4 cm tall (that’s about 15 1/2″ in Americanese). It is the earliest Chinese sculpture of the Buddha anywhere in the known universe. Historians tell us that based on historical evidence Buddhism migrated into China about the 1st to 2nd century.
I really don’t remember how I got this photo but it is one of my favorites. It has been sitting around in my external hard drive for some time now. I do know, however, it was taken in France, in a shopping mall near Plum Village. I think it is the E.Leclerc at Bergerac. It says so much in so many ways, both humorous and tragic at the same time.
Queen Maya’s Dream First to second century, Gandhhara. H 7.6″ by W 12.8,” British Museum. Gandhara was an ancient kingdom located in the modern day eastern Pakistan, home of the first statues of the Buddha. Most don’t know this but the first statues of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were influenced by Greek. A very influential Buddhist center of its time. Queen Maya was the Buddha’s mother. One night Queen Maya had a dream of a white elephant holding a white lotus in its trunk. The white elephant circled her three times and entered her side. The next day she discovered that she was pregnant. The white elephant has many meanings: Nobility, purity, strength, prosperity. Some believe that the white elephant in Queen Maya’s dream was the Buddha himself.
Victory Over Mara 19th century, Mongolia (?). Ground mineral pigment on cotton. This comes from the Rubin Museum of Art Education Blog. If you are ever in New York City and are interested in the colorful Buddhist art from the Himalayas and Vajrayana Buddhism, the Rubin Museum of Art is the place to go. This is a depiction of the demonic Mara attacking the Buddha with his forces as the World Honored One attains Enlightenment. Mara and his forces represent all the negative, unwholesome and unbeneficial mental and emotional qualities that obstruct our inner peace and freedom. Our hero stood firm and victorious in his meditative practice.
Vikings! As much as I really like images of the Buddha I picked this one not so much because of the image. No, I picked this one because of where it was found. I found this one on the internet but the original was found in a viking archaeological site in Sweden –underbar! It is referred to as the Helgo Buddha. Helgo is an island not far from Stockholm. The site dates back to 6th to 11th centuries. The small buddha measures just over 3 inches tall to about 2 1/5 inches wide and is made of bronze. The image itself is believed to have been made in the 6th century in the northern Pakistan-Indian boarder. How did it travel from here to there? – an extensive trade network. People really got around more than you would think back then. First, there is the Silk Road network then there is the extensive viking trading network. After its long journey the figure now restfully resides in the National Historic Museum in Stockholm. If the museum is as awesome as its website- gotta go there.
Guanyin of the Southern Sea (Chinese, wood, 11th-12th century) This is a very iconic piece that is well known and loved. This piece can be found in Kansas City, yup, Kansas City. I had visited the city a couple of years ago. Terrific place, and yes, Buddhism is there. There’s more to the midwest than most coastals know. Kansas City, besides the great jazz scene (but I don’t know much about that being a monk and all), has what I think are world class museums. This beautiful piece from the past can be found at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Which also has a very large collection of Henry Moore’s works, a favorite of mine. Guanyin began as Avalokitesvara in India and Central Asia and transformed through cultural transmission to become a transgendered figure. Avalokitesvara of India and Central Asia is a he. Avalokitesvara, or Guanyin, of China is a she.
The Fasting Buddha The Fasting Buddha piece can be found at the Lahore Museum in Pakistan. This “minimalist” depiction of the Buddha dates back to about the 3rd century Pakistan. Its nomenclature pretty much tells it like it is. In the story of the Buddha’s life there was a period that he practiced some pretty harsh stuff. At one point, it is told, in his quest for enlightenment, he fasted on one grain of rice a day. A new Hollywood diet in the making? As he neared death he discovered that, in fact, it was not the way to enlightenment. So, those interested in the path – don’t go there, its been done.
Referenced in the post A Tree, a Memory, and a Path