Buddhist Legacy

Published : Oct 05, 2012 00:00 IST

Shrine, Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar. The temple is built at the spot where the Buddha gained Enlightenment, near Gaya in Bihar. The present structure dates back to the mid-5th century C.E. Xuanzang, when he came to India in the 7th century, described Bodh Gaya as "the centre of the Buddhist world". One of the four holiest places for all Buddhists, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Monuments.-

Shrine, Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar. The temple is built at the spot where the Buddha gained Enlightenment, near Gaya in Bihar. The present structure dates back to the mid-5th century C.E. Xuanzang, when he came to India in the 7th century, described Bodh Gaya as "the centre of the Buddhist world". One of the four holiest places for all Buddhists, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Monuments.-

Early Buddhism was founded on the Buddhas sublime message of love and self-discipline. This philosophic vision of life found representation in mighty stupas, impressive gateways that stand before them, and great caves hewn out of rocks, which together form perhaps the greatest art ever created in the world.

This feature includes photographs of early Buddhist sites and art in India, from the 3rd century BCE until the 2nd century C.E. These are deeply revered sites closely linked to the life of the Buddha: places from where he gave the sublime message of love and self-discipline. Early Buddhism was born out of this philosophic vision of life.

We see the art which was created for this faith. It is filled with the dignity of human and other beings engaged in right conduct (as the Buddha had said). It is also an art which recognises the joy and the fruitful abundance of nature. The Buddhist philosophic view treats the material world around us as maya, or illusion. The high purpose of life (and of art, as stated in the ancient treatise on art-making) is to lift the veils of illusion to help us to see beyond. The spell of maya is powerful and very difficult to overcome. We remain caught in this illusory world, full of desires. It is desires that lead to pain.

The power of maya is fully recognised in this art, which shows us the fertility of the illusory natural order around us. In fact, the first deity of Buddhist and of Indian art is Maya, the personification of the force which creates the illusory world around us. Maya is seen in the form of yakshas and yakshis. As the yakshi touches the tree above her, it bursts into blossom and fruit: such is the magic of maya.

The art of this period is deeply philosophical and may be among the finest ever created in the world. The stupas remind us of arupa, the formless eternal. Impressive gateways stand before the stupas. Great caves hewn out of the living rock bring before us the majesty of the spirit within us.

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