Buddhist art has been created for more than two millennia throughout parts of Asia which includes China, Japan, and India. These distinctive forms were created to guide followers of Buddha (also known as the Awakened One) in their religious practices.
Many of them depict Buddha himself during episodes of his life. Some of them, on the other hand, depict bodhisattvas (those who have taken a vow to seek enlightenment). This kind of art reminds them of the Buddha’s teachings whose message always revolves around compassion and a way to relieve suffering.
What do Buddha’s teachings say?
Jeff Durham, an associate curator of Himalayan art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, stressed the role of Buddhist art in the Western world. He insisted that this kind of art is designed to reflect and project a certain mental state. These Buddhist arts meant to change one’s mind from a state of obsession to one of peaceful friendliness.
Despite the broad geographic reach of such religion, the century-long remains consistent. One’s actions, or karma, define our destiny. Buddha taught the samsara, the cycle of death, and rebirth that our mental attachment to earthly concerns has caused. With meditation, one’s disciplined mind can release us from the endless cycle of suffering.
Solving the mystery of the universe
One of the most favored representations of Buddha depicted one of the key moments in his life: The Buddha triumphing over Mara. The ninth-century Indian stone sculpture shows the Buddha seating in meditation. At the very moment of awakening, or enlightenment, he realized the causes of suffering in human life and understood that meditation could release humans from such suffering.
Ultimately, the Buddha went into a meditation technique still practice today called the Vipassana. Before that, he resolved:
“My bones may break, my blood may dry up, but I will not move from this position until I have solved the mystery of the universe.”
Determined, he didn’t rise until he found a meant to banish every kind of suffering.
Buddha defeating Mara
To read the sculpture, let’s focus on the gesture he makes with his right hand. The demon Mara (who in Buddhist cosmology gets to associate with desire) tried to challenge the Buddha. Mara, then, demanded a witness to his awakening. The Buddha touched the Earth itself, calling it to testify to his enlightenment. When the Earth testified, “I am your witness,” it drove the demon away.
This provides a great example of artwork that doesn’t remind us of an episode of Buddha’s life. However, it includes his teachings, too. The writing around the Buddha’s head reads, “Everything has a cause.” The Awakened One realized that at his moment of enlightenment, nothing in the world gets disconnected from anything else.
Buddha’s teachings in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic
Buddha, then, pointed out that our minds remain the only cause for samsara. Basically, the Awakened One’s message revolves around causality connecting everyone together. This contrasts with the deterministic belief that our fate remains out of our hands. It is and if nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic that we currently experience shows us that we are all connected.