Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Buddhas Return

We have far too many Buddhas, I know.  If one must have a vice, collecting Buddhas seems to be relatively benign.

There are basically three poses that Buddhas are presented in:  standing, seated and reclining.  The position of their limbs and hands, and any decoration is highly symbolic.  They are from all over the Buddhist world, mostly Asia, India and the Far East, and each region and period has different styles and characteristics.   Buddhas are carved from many materials - we have bronze, wood, papier mache, alabaster, jade and petrified mastodon tusk. I have seen Buddhas made of silver and gold, but sensibly, none of ours are.

Some Buddhist cultures, particularly from China, also have statues of Bodhavistas - holy beings that have achieved enlightenment but rather than remain in the state of Nirvana, appear on Earth to support those still struggling.  We have a couple of examples of Quan Yin, a famous Chinese Bodhavista, sometimes known as the deity of Love and Compassion.

There are also monks, although not as common as Buddhas, which I am particularly fond of.  I began by collecting monks, rather than Buddhas, because they seemed more at my level, aspiring, as it were.  And I like bronze, so the first monks were bronze ones. 

We have standing monks (about 1 metre) holding begging bowls which lift off:

They are perched on stylised lotus flowers and were part of a group of five (I could only afford two).  They face their Buddha, who has a modified 'flame of enlightenment' which I think means the group is from Shan, Burma. It is not possible to date bronze, but this group is probably about 40 - 50 years old.  The Buddha is taller than the monks, also raised on a lotus flower,  In our house he stands on a small stool to raise him further:

The Buddha's right hand is lifted in a gesture (known as a Mudra) that means warding off fear and protection from evil.  His begging bowl is also separate.

Most of our Buddhas are from Burma, and most of the Burmese ones are from Mandalay.  I chose them because of their serene faces.  Buddhas from Thailand tend to be more slender, with more austere faces, while Buddhas from Laos are particularly etiolated.

I am not a Buddhist but have a great deal of respect for Buddhist philosophy and beliefs, and never would intentionally offend a Buddhist (except through my ignorance).

This Buddha (smuggled here in my luggage on a trip back from Malaysia) is gilded wood, from the mid 20th century.  He is also a Shan Buddha.  This style is known as a 'royal' or 'crowned' Buddha, also sometimes as a 'winged' Buddha.  He is accompanied by two seated bronze monks which are about 25 centimetres tall (not including the stands). 

The Buddha is in a seated position, with his right hand pointing down, 'calling the earth to witness'.  This is my favourite Mudra.  He has a particularly appealing face, I think.

Even within the pose of reclining Buddhas, there is a lot of variation and meaning in the position of the head and arms.  This example is a Mandalay Buddha, of bronze inlaid with flecks of glass and partially gilded.  It is the only Buddha I have seen that is so sinuous and lithe.

The shape of his hair, in a smooth, rounded knot, is typical of Mandalay Buddhas.  The exquisite face is also a marker of the Buddha being from Mandalay. This Buddha is a little over 1 metre long.

There are another four Buddhas here with us in exile, and several more 'at home' in storage.  I will show you some more later.

Marius and I are blessed with a very peaceful happy marriage (twenty five years and counting ...) which in a small way I attribute to the Buddhas we share our house with:  it is impossible to be cross or argue in front of them.



jabblog said...

These are delightful - thank you for sharing. I didn't know anything about the styles differing from country to country. Your winged Buddha looks very young - his face is a boy's face. Your Mandalay reclining Buddha looks almost seductive - I love the feet!

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