Face to face with the absent Buddha The formation of Buddhist Aniconic art
Sammanfattning: Early art in Buddhist cultic sites was characterized by the absence of anthropomorphicimages of the Buddha. The Buddha was instead represented by different signs, like awheel, a tree, a seat and footprints. This study emphasizes the transformation this artunderwent from simple signs to carefully made aniconic compositions representing theBuddha in a narrative context.Buddhist aniconic art has been explained by a prohibition against images of theBuddha or by a doctrine that made it inappropriate to depict the body of the Buddha.This study rejects such explanations. Likewise, the practice of different meditationalexercises cannot explain this transformation. Instead, it is important to understand thatearly art at Buddhist cultic sites consisted of simple signs belonging to a shared sacredIndian culture. This art reflected a notion of auspiciousness, fertility and abundance.The formation of Buddhist aniconic art was indicated by the connection of these auspi- cious signs with a narrative tradition about the life and teachings of the Buddha.The study emphasizes the importance Sakyamuni Buddha played in the formation ofBuddhist art. The Buddha was interpreted as an expression of auspiciousness, but hewas also connected with a soteriological perspective. Attention is also focused on thefact that the development of Buddhist art and literature was a gradual and mutualprocess. Furthermore, Buddhist aniconic art presaged the making of anthropomorphicimages of the Buddha. It was not an innovation of motive for the Buddhists when theystarted to make anthropomorphic images of the Buddha. He was already there.
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