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Mahayana Buddhist Iconography

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Silvia Martínez Cano

on 12 October 2013

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Transcript of Mahayana Buddhist Iconography

El budismo en Asia continental
Mahayana Buddhist Iconography
Eight Auspicious Symbols
Endless Knot
Dhama Wheel
Lotus Flower
Conch Shell
Pair of Golden Fish
Victory Banner
Treasure Vase
The Bodhi Tree
Noble Eightfold Path
More Symbols
Adopted by early Buddhists as an emblem of the Buddha’s enlightenment, heralding the triumph of knowledge over ignorance and the attainment of happiness.

Also represents Buddha’s triumph over Mara who personifies hindrances on the path to spiritual realization.
Pink Lotus: reserved for the highest deity, the supreme lotus
The rim represents the element of limitation and training in concentration
The hub is the axis of the world and stands for training in moral discipline
The eight spokes denote the Eightfold Path and the application of wisdom in regards to emptiness
The hanging skirt represents compassion.
Sign of spiritual power in positive sense
Signifies the interaction of opposing forces in the world.
Since the knot has no beginning or end it symbolizes Buddha’s infinite wisdom
Often placed on gifts and cards.
Sign for tendrel – way in which reality exists
Before Buddhism arose the pair of fish represented the two sacred rivers of India, the Ganga and the Yamuna.
In Buddhism this symbol represents good fortune, happiness, unity, and fertility.
Represents the spiritual abundance of the Buddha, a treasure that did not diminish, however much of it he gave away.
Symbolic meaning is associated with storage and satisfaction of material desires
Associated with supernormal abilities
Sign of fulfillment of spiritual and material wishes
Symbol of purity or of pure and of divine origination
Every important deity is associated in some manner with the lotus.
White lotus: spiritual perfection and total mental purity
Red Lotus: purity of the heart, love, passion and compassion
Blue Lotus: victory of the spirit of the senses, wisdom
Symbol of protection, power, and royalty
The dome symbolizes wisdom
Represents a 'Palace of Purity'
A magic sphere cleansed of spiritual obstacles and impurities
It is a visual aid for concentration and introversive meditation practices.
Mudras: Symbolic Hand Gestures
Buddha’s Footprint
Venerated in all Buddhist countries
Bear distinguishing marks - either a Dharma wheel or cakra at the center of the sole
Legend holds that during his lifetime the Buddha flew to Sri Lanka and left his footprint on Adam’s Peak to indicate the importance of Sri Lanka as the perpetuator of his teaching
Buddha also left footprints in all lands where his teachings would be acknowledged
Om Mani Padme Hum
Means ‘Hail the Jewel in the Lotus’
Mantra of Avlokitesvara, the Protector from danger.
Those who recited this mantra will be saved from all dangers and will be protected.
Found on rocks, prayer wheels, stupa walls, paths, mountain passes, and the approaches and exits of villages.
Buddhist Flag

The Middle Path
Turning the Dharma Wheel
Turning the Dharma Wheel while in Meditation
Bestowal of Supreme Accomplishment
Pressing the Earth
The combination of colors represents the universality of Buddha’s teachings
Universal Compassion
Purity and Liberation
The Bodhi tree is the fig tree under which the Buddha sat on the night he attained enlightenment. It is a symbol of the Buddha's presence and an object of worship. King Asoka’s daughter, the nun Sanghamitta, took a cutting of the tree to Sri Lanka where it still grows in the island's ancient capital of Anaradapura.The original at Bodh Gaya was destroyed by King Puspyamitra during his persecution of Buddhism in the 2nd century BC.
Veneration to you with your head like a protecting parasol,With eyes like the precious golden fishes With neck like a precious, adorned vase of good fortune,With speech like a right-turning Dharma shell,With a mind infinite with wisdom like the never ending knot,With a tongue open like the auspicious pink lotus,With a body proclaiming triumph over the attacking armies of Mara,With feet that tread the path of dharma like the auspicious wheel.
It is an emblem of power, authority and sovereignty whose blast is believed to banish evil spirits, avert natural disasters, and scare away poisonous creatures. 

Shells which spiral to the right in a clockwise direction are a rarity and are considered especially sacred.

Shell stands for fame of Buddha's teachings which spreads in all directions, like sound of conch shell
Buddha In Art
Buddhist Monks
performing Mudras
Gandhara Buddhas
Hands overlap, palms upward (dhyana mudra)
Gandhara was Hellenized in culture and art
Greco-Roman influence evident in statues
Body forms
Draping of toga-like garment
First Buddhas in Human Form
First appeared in 1st century, CE
This immense shift in iconography may have come about because of changing perception of Buddha himself
Buddha increasingly became regarded as a divinity and not just as an enlightened mortal anymore
Buddha’s followers desired images of him to worship
Early images came from Gandhara and Mathura
Gandhara Narrative Reliefs
Robust, powerful males with broad shoulders and open, staring eyes
Carved from red sandstone
Wear monk’s robe with right shoulder bare
Lack jewelry/signs of wealth
Robe appears almost transparent, revealing full, fleshy body beneath
Buddhist Imagery in Mathura
One of first pictorial narrative cycles where Buddha appears in human form was from Gandhara
Depicts Buddha’s birth at Lumbini, the enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, the first sermon at Sarnath, and Buddha’s death at Kushinagara
Roman reliefs served as stylistic models for this
This flag was created by Colonel Henry S. Olcot to mark the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon in 1880.
It was accepted as the International Buddhist Flag by the 1952 World Buddhist Congress.
Colonel Olcott designed a flag from the six colours of the aura that he believed shone around the head of the Buddha after His Enlightenment.
Right View
Right Intention
Right Concentration
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livlihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Comparison of Gandhara and Mathura Buddha
Combined Gandharan monastic robe covering both shoulders with soft, full-bodied Buddha figures with clinging garments of Mathuran sculpture
Sculpture at Sarnath
Smooth, unadorned surfaces conform to Indian notion of perfect body and emphasize figure’s spirituality
Gupta Dynasty Buddha
"All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?" - Buddha
body attributes and characteristics that indicate Buddha’s superhuman nature
Palms of hands/soles of feet imprinted with wheel
Buddhist Symbols
Elongated ears
Halo/sun disk behind his head
Ajanta Cave Sculptures
Buddhist imagery throughout interior of chaitya hall

Carved on mountainside at Ajanta in India

Ajanta had been site of Buddhist monastery for centuries
Ajanta Cave Sculptures
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