Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Buddha Religious Context

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- Differences Between Buddhas
- Buddha Number Sets
- Study Guide
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- Buddhas: Tantric Outline Page
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- Buddha Names Glossary
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- Buddhas, Who Are They? Outline Page
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In Mahayana Buddhist religious belief there are Four Bodies of a Buddha: 1. nirmanakaya, 2. sambhogakaya, 3. dharmakaya and 4. svabhavikakaya. The four can also be understood as aspects or dimensions of a fully enlightened buddha. The last two of the four are abstract concepts and are not typically represented in art. The first two of the bodies are commonly represented in art. Nirmanakaya, the first of the buddha bodies is depicted by the usual form of a buddha such as Shakyamuni, Amitabha and Medicine Buddha and constitutes the first of the Eleven Figurative Forms in Himalayan and Tibetan art. In their standard appearance and in a religious context they are referred to as 'nirmanakaya' meaning they are depicted as monks with the ushnisha on the crown of the head, dot (urna) on the forehead and three lines marking the neck, etc. As sambhogakaya buddha representations they typically appear in Peaceful Deity (bodhisattva/god/deva) appearance with a youthful form, sixteen years of age, adorned with jewel ornaments crowns, and silk-like clothing - typical of Indian heavenly gods. Peaceful Deity appearance does not depict an ushnisha, urna, line under the next or monastic attire.

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Jeff Watt 12-2019

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).