Seated Buddha Reaching Enlightenment
Brass with colored pigments
H. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm); W. 10 7/16 in. (26.5 cm); D. 8 5/8 in. (21.9 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Oscar L. Tang, Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang and Annette de la Renta Gifts, 2012
Not on view
It was believed that seeing the perfected form of the Buddha would be equivalent to apprehending the dharma (teachings) and would provide the devotee with immediate access to enlightenment. Only a handful of Tibetan images of the Buddha survive from the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries; this brass sculpture is one of the most exceptional. While drawing on formal precedents established at the Buddhist centers of north India, evident in motifs such as the folds under his crossed ankles and the sharp lines of his eyebrows, the Tibetan artist sensitively rendered the figure in ways that transcend mundane appearance, showing him as an ageless figure with skeletal structures, tendons, veins, and other mortal aspects associated with flesh and blood de-emphasized or omitted entirely. The high ushnisha (an extra brain, shown as a bump on top of his head) is common to both the north Indian and Tibetan traditions, but in this Tibetan example emphasis is placed on flames of enlightened knowledge that emerge from the top.
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