Scene from the Life of the Buddha


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 226

This cycle of paintings shows key scenes from the life of the Buddha, Shakyamuni, who was born a prince in ancient north India. Beginning with his birth, his discovery of suffering and confrontation with his own privilege, and continuing through events of his post-enlightenment, these images are a reminder that suffering is the essence of life but that the Buddha’s teachings offer a way out.

In the canonical iconography of the life of the Buddha, he first meets an old man, then a sick one, then a corpse, and finally an ascetic on an excursion from his princely palace. Becoming aware of suffering as the essence of human life, the prince is inspired to abandon his life of plenty to seek the truth. However, in this work, a birth scene at the lower right replaces the customary meeting with the ascetic. The scene of a birth is rare and is probably based on the Lotus Sutra, which preaches four essential sufferings.

On view for rotations 1 and 2

#8806. Excursions from the Four Cardinal Gates: Encounter with the Four Sufferings of Birth, Old Age, Sickness, and Death from the Life of Buddha

Scene from the Life of the Buddha, Section of a wall panel mounted as a hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk, Japan

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