Buddhist art is the artistic implementations that are perused by Buddhism. It includes art media which idolize Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other forms of remarkable Buddhist figures, both ancient and mythical.
Buddhist art explains the scenes from the lives of all of the mandalas and other graphic that helps to practice as well as physical objects connected with Buddhist practice, such as vajras, bells, stupas and Buddhist temple designs.
Buddhist art originated on the Indian subcontinent following the historical life of Siddhartha Gautama, 6th to 5th century BCE, and thereafter evolved by unity with other cultures as it spread allover Asia and the world.
Table of Contents
- 1 - The Brief Synopsis Development Of Arts In Buddhism
- 2 - Representation Of The Arts In Buddhism
- 3 - History Of Buddhist Arts
- 4 - Nepalese Influence In Art Of Buddhism
- 5 - Different Phases In History Of Buddhist Art.
The Brief Synopsis Development Of Arts In Buddhism
There are two lines of development to be discussed, Indian and Tibetan, Firstly, when in this universe the lifespan of human beings was in decline from its original length of one hundred thousand years, there appeared a king named Jiktul.
When one of his subjects, a brahmin boy died, the father approached the king with the supplication. It is due to your not ruling this kingdom in accordance with the dharma that my son has met with this untimely death.
The king went forthwith from the brahmin to Yama, the lord of the dead, in whose awesome and blazing presence he rendered homage and demanded, Please give me back the life of this brahmin’s son.
The lord of the dead replied, It was not my doing, but the exhaustion of his own karma.
With the king insisting, Give him over! and the lord of death replying, It is not fitting to do so, they quarreled to the point of blows.
Thereupon, the god Brahma appeared, saying, When an individual’s karma is exhausted, no blame can be attached to the lord of death.
However, draw me a likeness of this brahmin youth The king drew an exact likeness of the boy, which Brahma blessed causing it to come to life and sending back to his father the brahmin.
The king and the lord of the death were dumb- founded and awestruck. Henceforth, the king was given the title of the first artist at one point, he visited the realm of the Brahma gods to request instruction in the graphic arts.
The ruler of the Brahma gods and Visvakarma both impressed upon him the importance of these arts with the words, Most excellent of the mountains is Sumeru foremost among the egg-born is the eagle supreme among men is the emperor likewise, foremost among skills are the graphic arts and 0 king, in this way all other skills and crafts depend upon the artist’s.
They based (their present action of) correct proportion mainly upon the ideal form of a universal monarch, and set forth the faults of lack of division and the gain and merits of correct proportion, and so on. The science of arts and crafts developed from this, with the first human proponent being King Jiktul.
Representation Of The Arts In Buddhism
Two kings of Magadha, Bimbisara and Utrayana, were in the habit of exchanging presents. At one point, in response to King Utrayana’s presentation of a priceless gem mounted among smaller stones, King Bimbisara conceived the idea of presenting his ally with a painted portrait of their teacher, Lord Buddha.
But the artist was so overwhelmed by the splendor of the Buddha that he could not draw when looking at him directly. When the circumstances was presented to the Buddha, he said, Let us go together to the bank of a clear and limpid pool whereupon the Buddha sat himself by the bank of the pool, while the artist sketched his drawing based upon the reflection on the water’s surface, surrounding the central figure with designs symbolizing the twelve nidanas.
When Utrayana merely glanced at this portrait for the first time, he had an intuitive understanding of reality. This particular style became known as ‘the image of the Sage taken from water.
History Of Buddhist Arts
The art of Buddhist sculpture began with Anathapindika (a wealthy patron), who one day invited the Buddha and his monks to a noonday meal.
When he noticed that the Buddha had declined the invitation and was not leading the assembly, he asked the Teacher for permission to have erected a statue made of precious substances, complete in every detail this became known as the precious Teacher.
When the Blessed One had departed for the Trayastrimsha heaven, the king of Varanasi had made a sandalwood image of the Buddha for his personal devotions.
It is said that when the Buddha descended again to the human realm from the gods sphere, this statue took six steps in welcome whereupon the Blessed One ordered it, “Go to China to sanctify that country”.
This statue, known as The Sandalwood Lord, is supposed to have flown through the air to China.
Rahula, Vairocana and Visvakarma
Later in his life, the Blessed One himself gave permission for images to be made of his likeness, in order to guide holders of extreme views.
Rahula (the Buddha’s son and one of his disciples) fashioned a statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni’s Sambhogakaya form, Vairocana (known in Tibetan as rnam snang gangs chen mtsho), made from many precious jewels from the naga realm.
At another point, Sakra, the lord of the Trayastrimsa gods, was preparing to erect a statue of the Teacher in precious metals and jewels, but Visvakarma (the celestial artisan) was unable to determine correctly the measure of the Teacher’s foot thinking of the Buddha and praying to him, he arrived in the Teacher’s presence.
Together with a number of divine artisans, he then fashioned several images of the Buddha at various stages of his life at eight, twelve, and twenty-five years of age.
The Teacher himself adored these statues by bathing them in his radiance. The statue of him at age twenty-five was taken to the gods realm, that of him at age twelve to China and that of him at age eight to Nepal.
They remained in those places for many years, after which the latter two were brought to Tibet and enshrined in the temples of Rasa and Ramoche.
After the parinirvana of the Teacher, there were few exceptional artisans among ordinary human beings, so many divine artisans emanated as humans.
Barhmin Artist from Magadha
In the city of Magadha, there appeared three brahmin brothers the eldest, named erected a temple and an image fashioned of precious stones at Sarnath near Varanasi, where the Buddha first taught the middle brother, Lekgval built a temple and an image of the Teacher, made of earth from the great eight holy places of Buddhism, at the Bamboo Grove in Raj agrha and the youngest, the brahmin Gaywa, created an image of the Teacher at the moment of his attainment of supreme enlightenment, in the sanctuary at Bodh Gaya.
From the time of these three brothers, traditions of buddhist painting, sculpture, and temple design became widespread, and buddhist patrons commissioned many statues and structures. All of this activity took place within one hundred years of the Teacher’s parinirvana.
The reign of the buddhist king Ashoka, many artisans who were nagas (serpent gods) or yaksas (non-human troll-like creatures), that is of non-human or semi-divine origin, developed innovative styles in the forms of statues and stupas these were represented by the structures at Bodh Gaya, and the stupas erected at major buddhist holy places.
In later times, during the reign of King Sangyay Chok, an artisan named Bimbasara introduced marvelous styles of sculpture and painting which were reminiscent of those of earlier divine artists.
His numerous followers became known as the lineage of divine artists, and he himself, having been born in Magadha, was called the artist from the central country.
Artist Trengdzin from Maru
Again, during the reign of King Ngangtsul appeared an artist from the region of Maru, known as Trengdzin, who was incredibly skilled in buddhist iconographic art.
His style of painting and sculpture, which resembled that of the yaksa artists, became known as the western style or the heart of the west.
Artist Dheman from Varentra
During the reigns of King Devapala and Sridharmapala an artist from the region of Varentra named Dheman and his son, Vitsali, appeared.
These two developed numerous styles in casting, relief work, and sculpture, which bore resemblance to the styles of naga artists.
Father and son established two distinct styles of artistic expression, the son establishing himself in Bengal their followers created works of art throughout India, but the style became known as that of the God of the East, regardless of the artisan’s origins.
In painting, the father’s school became identified as the eastern school and the son’s as the central school.
Three Artists Jina, Paranjaya and Vijaya
In the lineages of Pukon and southern India, three artists Gyaliis ra (rgyal ba, Skt. Jina), Shenlay Gyalwa (gzhan las rgyal ba, Skt. Paranjaya), and Nampar Gyalwa (rnam par rgyal ba, Skt. Vijaya) developed styles of painting and sculpture which were widely imitated.
Artist Songtsen Gampo
First came the Chinese influences in the graphic arts Songtsen Gampo the religious king of the Land of Snows during the early seventh century A.D.
Songtsen Gampo was an accomplished innovator in many fields realizing the necessity of taking the Chinese princess Kongjo as his queen in order to facilitate the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, he employed various means to arrange the union.
When she was escorted to Tibet, in advance were brought a statue of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha and other very sacred images, as well as medical texts as a kind of introduction of buddhist doctrine.
There are numerous references to this in the dynastic records and the royal biography of Songtsen Campo.
Nepalese Influence In Art Of Buddhism
The Nepalese influences were introduced during the reign of King Triral (khri ral pa can), who was born in 1410 B.E.
During the early part of his life, when the temple of Tashi Gaypel (bkra shis dge phel) was being built, he summoned many Nepalese artisans and put them to work constructing the temple. Due to this impact, the Nepalese style developed in central and western Tibet.
1889 Buddha’s Parinirvana
One thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine years after the Buddha’s parinirvana. Orgyen Lingpa revealed some texts explaining graphic design from their place of concealment at Cristal Cliff in Yarlung.
However this tradition developed very little, was engaged into the two earlier traditions (of Chinese and Nepalese styles), and never emerged as a distinct style in its own right.
A teacher named Taktsang Lotsawa made a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, where he made a print of the central statue there by soaking it with saffi on water and pressing cloth over the surface it is said that his miraculous powers caused this cloth print to extend its hands in blessing to those who viewed it.
This print was used as an example for Tibetan artists, but this style became mixed with the Gardri and Menri schools.
1984 Buddha’s Parinirvana
In 1440 A.D one thousand nine hundred and eighty- four Years after the Buddha’s parinirvana by Menla Dondrup who was born in Lhodrak Menthang.
He was very learned individual, he left his homeland due to differences with his wife and went to Tsang province.
There he met an ardst named Dhopa Tashi Gyatso who was an expert in the Nepalese style. After studying painting with him, Menla Dondrup revised the standards of proportion for the various religious motifs, composition and design, and developed new pigments and texture techniques.
This new style he developed and spread was called Mend, or the style of Men. Some refer to his as the Southern style, since Menthang was a town of Lhodrak in southern Tibet they assign the name on the basis of which major region of Tibet was the source of the tradition.
The most commonly accepted desiznation, though, is Menri. It appears that this style was carried on by Menlo_ Dondrup’s son and his nephew, Shilra.
At about the same time, Khventse Chenmo msen brtse chen mo, who was born in Gangkar Gangto gangs dkar sgang stod, developed a style which digressed from previous artistic traditions.
These two styles, Menri and Khvenri mkhven bris became distinct traditions. In 2189 B.E., that is in 1645 A.D., the incarnate master Choving Gvaiso rhos dbvings rgya mtsho was born in the province of Tsang in south central Tibet.
His style became based on the Menri, with innovations in style, pigment, and texture, so that the school which developed was given the name of Mensar, or the new Men it is also called the Tsang style after his birthplace. This style became very popular in western Tibet.
The incarnate artist Namka Tashi was born in upper Yarlung in 2044 B.E., or 1500 A.D. In accordance with the prophecy of the eighth Karmapa hierarch Mikyo Dorje that this person was his emanation who would extend his influence, Namka Tashi studied with Konchok Penday, who was himself considered an emanation of the Chinese princess Kongjo from Konchok Penday, he learned the strict proportions as laid down by the sharli of India.
He was also instructed by the fifth Sharmapa hierarch, Konchok Yenlak and the fourth Gyaltsap Rinpoche Drakpa Dondrup, to paint in a distinctive style.
This style was to be based upon numerous examples the Chinese scroll-painting offered to the fifth Karmapa hierarch Deshin Shekpa by the Ming emperor Yung Lo of China the masks drawn by a crowd of artisans witness to the miracle when Rangjung Dorje showed his face in the full moon to the emperor-which masks are called dashelma and a Chinese thangka or scroll-painting called Terwa Rawama depicting the sixteen arhats of early buddhist tradition.
Furthermore, they directed, this style was to incorporate elements from three countries the forms to be in accordance with the Indian standards, the coloring and textures to be by the Chinese method, and the composition to be in the Tibetan manner.
The artistic tradition which Namka Tashi thus established based upon these instructions became known as the Karma Gardri, or the camp style of the Karma.
The word camp in the name refers to the custom of the early Karmapa hierarchs, particularly the seventh Chodrak Gyatso, of taking retinues of hundreds of people and travelling from place to place with needed items and baggage loaded on horses and mules.
At resting points camps of felt tents were used as lodgings due to the size of these tents, the temporary settlements were referred to as the huge religious encampments of the Karma, or the huge barrackes which adorns the world.
The custom and traditions which developed from this became the so-called ‘camp culture’, and in particular the painting was known as the camp style.
Different Phases In History Of Buddhist Art.
The arts of sculpture and casting developed in several phases. During the reign of King Songtsen Gampo, the temple of Rasa Trulnang and the images of Tradruk were built in 1186 B.E.
Images dating from this period were executed by Indian and Nepalese artisans, and some are of natural origin. In 1354 B.E of King Trisong Detsan reign, Guru Padmasambhava came to Tibet from India and oversaw the construction of Mingyur Lhung vi drupa temple at Samye and during Trit Ralpachen (khri ral pa can)’s reign, the temple of Tashi Gavpel was constructed.
On both these occasions many Nepalese artists were summoned to work on the projects, and from their influence sprang the traditions of sculpting in clay mixed with medicinal herbs, and casting in such precious metals as bell-metal and copper.
Two later developers of these arts were the incarnate craftsman Leuchungpa and Payma Kharpa and in 1700 A.D.
The Deaf Mute of E and the incarnate artist Baptro, both considered to be divinely inspired, encouraged a style which employed the traditional foinis of India.
In these arts of sculpture and casting, there is no difference between the styles of Gardri and Menri.