Absence of the Buddha Image in Early Buddhist Art

Absence of the Buddha Image in Early Buddhist Art

Product ID: 17745

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Author: Kanoko Tanaka
Publisher: D K Printworld
Year: 1998
Language: English
Pages: 271
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8124600902


It is next to impossible today to even think of Buddhism without the presence of the Buddha image! The image of the Buddha, in truth, has not only come to symbolise the essence of Buddhism but is also a brilliant expression of the cultural/artistic achievements of the Buddhists since ancient times. Surprisingly, the Buddha image developed at a later stage of the evolutionary process; after the parinirvana of the Buddha, the Buddhists for a considerable time beheld the Buddha and experienced him in their own minds without taking recourse to the Buddha image itself. In Absence of the Buddha Image in Early Buddhist Art, Dr Tanaka, a well-versed scholar, has for the first time ever explored the absence of the Buddha image in Buddhist art — particularly in the period from third century bc to late first century ad — in order to rediscover the significance of this phenomenon.

Dr Tanaka observes Bharhut and Sanchi sculptures to point out the most essential motifs and elements of stupa-art design — the visible facts pertaining to the absence of the Buddha image. The author studies the religious, philosophical, artistic and political significance of the visible facts, highlighting the concept of the empty throne as the motif representative of that absence. She applies the empty throne concept to the sanctuaries of monotheistic religions, and thus undertakes a comparative study of Buddhism and other religions, particularly, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism to suggest that present-day discussions on the linkage between religions can centre on this theme.

The dexterous handling of the topic combined with the author’s use of first-hand research material makes this an erudite study. The directness in the author’s approach and the unwavering eye on the theme sustains the interest throughout. An abundance of visual material, i.e., drawings and photographs, and tables immensely aid in analysis of the visible facts.





1. Introduction
2. Visible Facts
The Role of ‘Stupa-Art’ (Fine Arts Dedicated to the Stupa)
A Rediscovery of ‘Vedika-design’
The Importance of ‘Stupa-motif’ in Stupa-Art
Simplicity and Impersonality of ‘Stupa-Motif’ - Lack of Lamentation - Always with Worshippers - Notice Boards of Donation
The Basic Composition of Stupa-Art
Unification of Relief-Frames (Stages) - Role of Buddhist Monuments (Stage-Setting) - Motifs of Early Buddhist Art - Devotees Performing on Stage (Personage) - The Atmosphere Common to All the Scenes (Stage-Effect)-Supplement
A Consideration of the Visible Facts
Its Accomplished Spatiality - Its Flexible Temporality - Its Essential Monumentality - A Reference to the Motifs of Early Christian Art
3. Possible Interpretations
The Religious Aspects
In the Context of Supa-Art - The Aniconic Situation of Vedic Rituals - General Interpretations on the Usage of Buddhist Monuments - The Digha Nikaya (Brahma-Jala Sutta, 73) - The Sutta-Nipata (1069, 1073, 1075) - The Anguttara Nikaya (in Chinese Version; Taisho., Vol. 2, pp. 657, 664) - General Comments on the Interpretations of (D), (E) and (F)
The Artistic Aspects
Stupa-Art as One of the Buddhist Rituals - Its Dramatic Essence - An Example of Theatrical Intrepretation: A Drama in Memory of ‘Bhagavato Dhamacakam - A Conversation of King Vidudabha
The Political Aspects
4. The Concept of the Empty Throne
Its Meaning for Buddhist People
Its Categories in Comparative Religion
The Empty Throne in Buddhism - The Empty Throne in Zoroastrianism - The Empty Throne in Yahwism/Judaism - The Empty Throne in Christianity - The Empty Throne in Islam - The Empty Throne in Sikhism
A Discovery of its Modernity
5. Conclusion
A List of Visuals
A Guide to the Visuals