The Mediation Through Concentrating on One Sculpture – the Seated Buddha with fragments of attendants
Meditation is an important part of reaching enlightenment in the Buddhist doctrine. Through the process of mediation, the believer will meet with Buddha in its spirit and eventually reach enlightenment. (Neave, Dorinda., Blanchard, Lara C., & Sardar, Marika., 2015) During the Kushan period at Mathura, India, where the Buddhism flourished, the sculptures used the well-known local red sandstone to create their religious images in order to help the audience meditate in front of the god. The Seated Buddha with fragments of attendants, exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, is one of the examples of this artistic practice. This paper analyzes how the Seated Buddha with fragments of attendants exemplified the artistic styles, composition, and rendered details to help the audience meditate.
The idealized body and simple lines of the Buddha create a stiff image of the god that helps the audience to focus on the spiritual quality of the Buddha while meditating in front of the sculpture. The Buddha wears a robe that covers the left side of his body. The viewer can see the clear imprinted lines that refer the border of his robe on his chest and two legs. On his left arm, the imprinted lines turn into low relief that function as the patterns on his robe. Apart from those features, the Buddha’s body is simple and free from other decorative schemes, showing the extremely idealized body of the Buddha. His body is rendered in an unrealistic fashion, too. If the viewer observes that the robe is covering the god’s body, the pronounced and deep hollowed belly button and the popping out breast show the unrealistic rendering of the body. Since if a body is really clothed, the Buddha’s breast and belly button should not be detailed in the sculpture. These features help the viewer move away from the god’s simple physical form, and not focusing on the materialistic features of the Buddha, but concentrating on the Buddha’s spiritual qualities.
The detailed rendering of the facial features of the Buddha, which is different from the simplified depiction of the god’s body, emphasizes the god’s head and the important meaning that those features convey about the Buddhist doctrine. While looking peacefully, the audience is drawn by the smile on the Buddha’s face. The eyes are wide open, looking forward. Even though many conventional Buddha features are lost nowadays, it is not hard to imagine the ushnisha, which symbolizes wisdom and spirituality and his attainment of enlightenment; the soft snail-curled hair; and the nimbus that shows the divine status of the Buddha. The contemporary audience can still find the elongated earlobes, which remind the viewer that the Buddha used to be a prince that gave up all his wealth to reach enlightenment. The Abhaya mudra on the Buddha’s hands means “no fear,” showing the Buddha giving reassurance and protection to his followers. (Neave, Dorinda., Blanchard, Lara C., & Sardar, Marika., 2015) The detailed wheel of law iconography can also be found on the image’s feet, together with the other iconography, the audience is able to focus on the doctrine of Buddhism and find peace easily while meditating in front of the sculpture.
The technique of carving the two attendances that stand on the two sides of the Buddha in the lower relief helps the audience to focus on the Buddha while meditating in front of this sculpture. As the viewer moves to the side of the sculpture, s/he can see the significant difference in the depth of the relief sculpture, as the Buddha is in the most depth and the two attendances on his sides are carved in lower relief. Using the contrast between the high and low relief compromises the viewing experience from the sides of the relief sculpture, as the viewer cannot read all the important attributes of the god from the sides. This means that this sculpture can only be best viewed from the frontal side. Thus, it helps the mediation by limiting the viewing experience so that the viewer will always face the frontal side of the Buddha image, comprehending his doctrine, rather than walking around the sculpture in movement.
The sculptor used the hierarchy of scale in the composition to help the audience identify the most important figure in the sculpture in order to help them meditate. The size of the Buddha is almost twice as big as the attendances on the sides. They are also put in the further distance to the viewer than the Buddha, showing their lower ranking and lower importance of the central image. Apart from the horizontal composition, the Buddha is also emphasized by elevating on a platform that raised the image vertically. Even though damaged, the Buddha appears to be taller than the two attendances; thus, showing his importance on all dimensions. These techniques help the audience identify the Buddha fast and easily during mediation.
The sculpture created an idealized body for the Buddha with the detailed rendering of his facial features and simplified body features that helps the audience to look into the spiritual qualities of the Buddha, instead of attracted by its physical appearance, while meditating. This sculpture used hierarchy of scale, the contrast of high and low relief technique and a raised platform to emphasize the importance of the central figure in the imposition, guiding the viewers’ eyes toward the Buddha. Overall, this sculpture, produced in the center of Buddhism in the late first century and early second century, exemplifies the artistic styles, composition, and rendered details that the sculpture used to help the audience concentrate on the Buddha during the meditation.
Neave, Dorinda., Blanchard, Lara C., & Sardar, Marika. Aisan Art. Chapter 1: The rise of citiees and birth of the great religions: early Indian art. Published by Pearson Education, Inc., 2015