Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia

Beyond Death and Desire

Artists across Asia often depict the Historical Buddha with his left hand resting in meditation and his right hand lowered to touch the earth. The gestures signal his victory over death and desire—the impediments to profound spiritual knowledge.

In recognition of his special status, Buddha images are consecrated through rituals that imbue sculptures and paintings with a sacred power. Consecration is not permanent, however. When displayed in a museum, objects are typically appreciated for their aesthetic or historical importance rather than their sacred presence.

The Historical Buddha
Central Tibet, 14th century
Gilt copper with pigment
Purchase—Friends of Asian Arts in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S1997.28

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