- Art History
- Religious Context
Shakyamuni Buddha (Tibetan: sha kya tu pa, sang gye. English: the Enlightened One, Sage of the Shakya Clan), founder of Buddhism. In Theravadin, or Foundational Buddhism, Shakyamuni is the only Buddha. In Mahayana Buddhism there are many Buddhas mentioned. Some are described in detail with complex narratives and literature while others are only referenced by name.
Sanskrit: Buddha Shakyamuni Tibetan: Sang gye sha kya tu pa
Formal in appearance, Shakyamuni Buddha typically gazes forward with partially closed eyes and the blue-black hair on the head is piled in a tuft on top with a single gold ornament adorning the crown. Between the eyebrows is a white dot (urna) and adorning the neck are three curved horizontal lines. The earlobes are long and pierced. With the right arm bare the right hand is extended across the knee in the earth touching gesture (mudra). The left performs the gesture (mudra) of meditation - palm upward in the lap. Across the left shoulder is a saffron coloured patchwork robe. A similar lower garment is tied at the waist with a cloth belt. The legs are folded in vajra posture.
"Born in the Shakya race through skillful means and compassion; destroying the army of Mara who was unable to be destroyed by others; with a body radiant like a mountain of gold. Homage to you, King of Shakya." (Tibetan liturgical verse).
A Buddha, in Buddha Appearance, is known for having thirty-two major and eighty minor distinguishing physical characteristics (marks) based on the Indian cultural description of a Universal Monarch (Chakravartin) - the highest and most developed male form. Only a few of these 112 marks are depicted in art such as the ushnisha on the top of the head, the urnakesha between the eyes, three curved horizontal lines on the neck, a Dharma Wheel impression on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Vajra Posture: a Buddhist term referring to a seated position where the feet are placed sole up on the thigh of the opposite leg; right over left. In the West this posture is almost universally referred to as the lotus posture because that is the name used by the major Hindu traditions and in Hatha Yoga, subjects which are generally more familiar to Western audiences. The location of the Buddha's enlightenment in India, now called Bodhgaya, is called Vajrasana in Buddhist literature. The posture the Buddha sat in while reaching enlightenment is the vajra posture, and the highest meditation (samadhi) that is accomplished on reaching Buddhahood, in this vajra location and seated in vajra posture, is vajra samadhi.
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Jeff Watt 9-99 [updated 3-2011, 1-2017, 12-2019]