What does an emaciated Buddha statue mean?

Shaka Nyorai: The historical Buddha

Shaka Nyorai The historical Buddha

The founder of Buddhist teachings lived in northern India in the fifth century BC, where he was born as the prince of one of the then numerous kingdoms. According to the Buddhist view, he was a Buddha - Buddha (skt.) बुद्ध "The Enlightened One", jap. butsu (hotoke) 仏 or Budda 仏 陀; -, so an "enlightened one", which is why he is also referred to as "the Buddha" or more precisely as the "historical Buddha". (According to the Buddhist view, Buddhas already existed in the distant past, and the future will also produce more Buddhas.) In Japan this historical Buddha is known as Shaka Nyorai - Shaka Nyorai 釈 迦 如 来 jap. Name of Buddha Shakyamuni; - revered. Shaka - Shaka 釈 迦 Buddha Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha; also Shaka Nyorai; - is the short form of his Sanskrit name Shakyamuni - Śākyamuni (skt.) शाक्यमुनि "The sage of the Shakya clan", Gautama Siddhartha, Japanese Shaka 釈 迦 or Shakamuni 釈 迦 牟尼; - ("The sage of the Shakya house"), Nyorai (skt. Tathagata - Tathāgata (skt.) तथागत "The One Who Has Come", honorary title of a Buddha, Japanese Nyorai 如 来; -) is, as already mentioned, a Buddha title.

Life

Buddha as a prince (Image: Nara National Museum). Siddhartha, the future Buddha, enjoys the good life of a prince. The illustration comes from one of the oldest illustrated versions of the Buddha Vita from the Nara period.

According to Buddhist tradition, Shakyamuni grew up in carefree luxury, but rejected all noble privileges and possessions after he was confronted with the sufferings of mankind (old age, disease and death) for the first time as a young man, and initially sought his salvation more rigorously Asceticism. His goal was to move away from being “attached” to this world (samsara - Saṃsāra (skt.) संसार "constant flow", cycle of rebirths, this side, Japanese channel 輪 廻; - ) to solve. Later, however, he also saw asceticism as a kind of attachment and strived for the “middle way” between renunciation and desire, so as not to get entangled in earthly passions. Thereupon he experienced enlightenment and from then on went as a Buddha preaching with a crowd of disciples through northern India. In the 80th year of life the Buddha passed away and stepped straight into nirvana - Nirvāṇa (skt.) निर्वाण “extinguished, extinguished”, place of redemption from all suffering, Japanese Nehan 涅槃; - a.

Common subjects of the Shaka depiction

In the early days of Japanese Buddhism, Buddha Shakyamuni was often depicted (see the famous Shaka Triad, Shaka sanzonShaka sanzon釈 迦 三尊 Group of three consisting of Buddha Śākyamuni (Japanese Shaka Nyorai), flanked by two companions (mostly bodhisattvas shown in a slightly smaller size); -, of the Hōryū-ji - Hōryū-ji 法 隆 寺 Temple in Ikaruga near Nara, founded in 607; wtl. "Temple of the Prospering [Buddha] Law"; -), but already in the Nara - Nara 奈良 capital and seat of the Tennō, 710–784 (= Nara period); also: Heijō-kyō; - -time he was from the already mentioned Nyorais, Amida - Amida 阿 弥陀 Buddha Amitabha; Main Buddha of the Schools of the Pure Land (Jōdo-shū or Jōdo Shinshū); - and Dainichi - Dainichi 大 日 Buddha Vairocana, the "cosmic Buddha"; wtl. "Great Light" or "Great Sun"; -, but also from Yakushi Nyorai - Yakushi Nyorai 薬 師 如 来 Buddha of Medicine; skt. Bhaisajyaguru; -, the "Healing Buddha", surpassed in importance. Thanks to the continued importance of the Lotus Sutrasūtra (skt.) सूत्र “thread”, discourse of the Buddha, canonical writing, jap. kyō 経 or kyoten 経 典; -, in which Buddha Shakyamuni has the central role, he stayed above all for the Tendai - Tendai-shū 天台 宗 Tendai school, Chinese Tiantai; - - and Nichiren - Nichiren-shū 日 蓮宗 Nichiren School; Collective names for Nichiren Buddhism, but also names of a specific school within today's Nichiren Buddhism; not to be confused with Nichiren Shōshū, founded in 1912; - Schools are still important.

Shaka Nyorai is usually shown on statues with his right hand raised (Mudrā - mudrā (skt.) मुद्रा "Seal", prayer gesture, jap. inzō 印 相; - meaning "do not be afraid", semui-insemui-in施 無畏 印 Mudra of fearlessness; -) and drooping left hand with the palm facing outwards (mudrā of "oath-filling", segan-insegan-in施 願 印 Mudra of oath fulfillment; -) pictured. As such, he avoids dangers and fulfills the requests of believers. The mudrā of turning the wheel can hardly be seen on Shaka statues in Japan, although it is symbolically related to his first sermon (= setting the wheel of the Buddhist Dharma in motion) Dharma (skt.) धर्म law (of the universe), teaching (of the Buddha), jap. 法; - ) stands. But also the combination Semui-in / segan-in fits the act of preaching.

Shakyamuni at his birth (Tanjōbutsu) (Image: Foundation J.-E. Berger). This statue of Buddha Shaka Nyorai (Skt. Shakyamuni) functions in a ritual that is traditionally held in honor of the Buddha's birth on the eighth day of the fourth month. The Nihon shoki According to this, such a ceremony first took place in Japan in 606.

An interesting figure that does not appear in other Nyorais is the depiction of Shakyamuni at his birth. Legend has it that he took seven steps immediately after giving birth and then announced that he was Lord of the world and that this was his last rebirth.

A central motif of pictorial representations of the Shaka Nyorai is his demise or the entry of the historical Buddha into nirvana. He is shown in a relaxed, lying position among his disciples and numerous heavenly beings. The relaxed posture and the peaceful facial features at the onset of death were and are an important indicator for Japanese Buddhists whether the deceased has entered nirvana or paradise (gokurakugokuraku極 楽 paradise; identical to the Pure Land ( jōdo); -) found or not. This aspect is also always taken into account in the biographies of important monks. By the way, Buddha Shakyamuni is said to have laid down with his head facing north to die, which is why the deceased are still laid out in this way in Japan today (burial).

Entry of the Buddha into Nirvana (Image: Kongōbu-ji "Butsu nehanzu".Kokuhō no bi (National treasures of Japan) # 20 (2010), pp. 4-5.). Standardized representation of the death of the historical Buddha (Skt. Shakyamuni): Surrounded by bodhisattvas, students, deities and animals, the Buddha breathes out his earthly life in a grove of shala trees in order to enter nirvana. According to traditional beliefs, he is taller than anyone else, has an eternally youthful appearance and golden skin even at the age of eighty. Representations of this kind were made for Buddhist celebrations on the day of Buddha's death (February 15). The present picture is the oldest and most famous example of this genre in Japan.
4 death of Shaka (Butsu nehanzu, Heian time)

Sometimes there are also depictions of Shakyamuni, emaciated to a skeleton, during his ascetic exercises (although he later revoked this path).

In Buddhist iconography, a precise canon of forms has emerged over the centuries regarding the appearance of a Buddha. Accordingly, like all Buddhas before and after him, the historical Buddha had all his life the appearance of a young man who possessed the 32 characteristics of a Buddha. According to some sutras, he is said to have been physically much larger than ordinary mortals. The oversized representations of Buddhas (Daibutsu - Daibutsu 大 仏 Great Buddha; monumental Buddha statue; -) are therefore not to be seen as a symbolic expression of its size but as realistic images (in the artist's consciousness).

References

Related topics

images

Sources and explanations for the images on this page:

  1. Shakyamuni at his birth (Tanjōbutsu) (Image: Foundation J.-E. Berger). This statue of Buddha Shaka Nyorai (Skt. Shakyamuni) functions in a ritual that is traditionally held in honor of the Buddha's birth on the eighth day of the fourth month. The Nihon shoki Such a ceremony was said to have taken place in Japan for the first time in 606.
  2. Entry of the Buddha into Nirvana (Image: Kongōbu-ji "Butsu nehanzu".Kokuhō no bi (National treasures of Japan) # 20 (2010), pp. 4-5.). Standardized representation of the death of the historical Buddha (Skt. Shakyamuni): Surrounded by bodhisattvas, students, deities and animals, the Buddha breathes out his earthly life in a grove of shala trees in order to enter nirvana. According to traditional beliefs, he is taller than anyone else, has an eternally youthful appearance and golden skin even at the age of eighty.

    Representations of this kind were made for Buddhist celebrations on the day of Buddha's death (February 15). The present picture is the oldest and most famous example of this genre in Japan.


glossary

Names and technical terms on this page:

  • Buddha (skt.) बुद्ध^
    "The enlightened one", yeah. butsu (hotoke) 仏 or Budda 仏 陀
  • Daibutsu 大 仏^
    Great buddha; monumental Buddha statue
  • Dainichi 大 日^
    Buddha Vairocana, the "cosmic Buddha"; wtl. "Big Light" or "Big Sun"
  • Dharma (skt.) धर्म^
    Law (of the universe), teaching (of the Buddha), jap.
  • Hōryū-ji 法 隆 寺^
    Temple in Ikaruga near Nara, founded in 607; wtl. "Temple of the Prospering [Buddha] Law"
  • mudrā (skt.) मुद्रा^
    "Seal", prayer gesture, yep. inzō 印 相
  • Nara 奈良^
    Capital and seat of the Tennō, 710–784 (= Nara period); also: Heijō-kyō
  • Nichiren-shū 日 蓮宗^
    Nichiren School; Collective names for Nichiren Buddhism, but also names of a specific school within today's Nichiren Buddhism; not to be confused with Nichiren Shōshū, founded in 1912
  • Nirvāṇa (skt.) निर्वाण^
    "Extinguished, extinguished", place of release from all suffering, Japanese Nehan 涅槃
  • Saṃsāra (skt.) संसार^
    "Constant flow", cycle of rebirths, this side, Japanese channel 輪 廻
  • Śākyamuni (skt.) शाक्यमुनि^
    "The sage of the Shakya clan", Gautama Siddhartha, Japanese Shaka 釈 迦 or Shakamuni 釈 迦 牟尼
  • sūtra (skt.) सूत्र^
    "Thread", discourse of the Buddha, canonical writing, jap. kyō 経 or kyoten 経 典
  • Tathāgata (skt.) तथागत^
    "The One Who Has Come", honorary title of a Buddha, Japanese Nyorai 如 来