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Current time:0:00Total duration:9:39

Video transcript

for me the special thing about a Buddha image is often the smile that beautiful transcendent smile and behind the smile is the story of how the Buddha got to the smile he was seeking transcendence from human suffering and all part of this journey from growing up in a life of luxury and then leaving the walls of his palace and encountering four things that changed the course of his life forever a corpse a sick man a holy man and an old man and through that he realized that life is full of suffering he realized that the beautiful body of a prince was really a receptacle for pus and urine and excrement the body would be diseased it would grow old and these things were impermanent where was released where was happiness where was salvation and what we see in this statue is the moment of realization suffering comes from desire desire can be transcended by right acts and right thought we see the smile of liberation on his lips we see the hand pointed to the earth calling on the earth to witness his enlightenment it's useful to remember that the worshiper would look up the Buddha is sacred the statue is placed high in relation to us and smiles down on us and gives us a sense that we too can overcome pain and suffering of the world and get into a transcendent place we can see that he grew up in a life of luxury the elongated ears which reveals that he would have worn really heavy earrings but the years been something else besides yes the lobes are distended yes Loubs held jewelry but he also has ears that mark him is a particularly special person we can see various laksana which represent Buddha's enlightenment the urna between his eyes represent the moment of spiritual awareness and the loose nisa on the top of the head the moment of enlightenment and also often we see the Buddha sitting on a lotus flower a symbol of getting beyond pain and overcoming obstacles to achieve goodness because the lotus flower lives in the mud and eventually cleanses itself to become beautiful he is he often portrayed in the robes of a monk somebody who has left the world going to live in the Buddha story in the forests throughout Asia a monks often live in mountain monasteries they have withdrawn from the stress and strain of normal everyday social life and the pain that it engenders among us and this is a Thai statue and if you look you see the lithe body of a beautiful Southeast Asian prince you see the grace of the hands that might even make you think of the way dancers dance in Thailand so even though it's a classic Buddha it's fairly recent and not from India Buddhism is a traveling religion Buddhism went north and Buddhism went south northern Buddhism sometimes known as Mahayana Buddhism the Buddhism of the greater vehicle tera vaada Buddhism well there've Auden's claim the original form for Tara Vaughn's enlightenment is an individual project buddhism also went north and their enlightenment is a more collective project Buddhism is a more collective project one of my old professors used to say theravadin Buddhism that is like getting to Nirvana by private car Mahayana is getting to Nirvana by public bus I think I'd prefer public bus we'll see how different statues reflect the tastes and the characteristics of people living in all of the different places where Buddhism traveled another Buddha totally different also recognizable as a Buddha but look at those elaborate robes in the hair and the facial features yes there's a good reason why this statue looks the way it does and it's a great example of how Buddhism traveled this is a statue from Gandhara Gandhara in Pakistan on the AfPak border that area that's so fraught today and if you look at the statue you see the facial hair the features suggest something of people who live in that part of the world but look at those flowing robes those might recall a Greek statue the reason for that people think is because this was the easternmost extent of Alexander's Empire this was a part of Asia that had very close ties to the greco-roman world and a place where styles of sculpting probably were influenced by those traditions this Buddha's not calling on the earth to witness his enlightenment it's a whole different mudra a whole different posture and yet he's still in the lotus pose he has the long ears and he has that meditative expression on his face so now moving to Japan this is an entirely different representation of the Buddha to me it's a bit austere almost a bit intimidating the black robes and the staff in his hand although recognizable because of the lotus flower that he's standing on on the long years this is a Japanese figure a very elegant very austere one as you've said but this is G so the Bodhisattva and he's actually a very benign figure it's again this idea of enlightenment via the big bus Bodhisattvas help us we're down here in the world of pain and there are beings who put off their own transcendence to be there for us the most popular figure of this Guan Yin a female Bodhisattva who in many respects resembles a mother now Gesu is sometimes identified with Guanyin he again swing back to the masculine side but she said she saw us there in the world of the dead to help people get through he's not an underworld judge he's not a punishing figure Jesus says come huddle under my cloak and I'll help you but he is associated with death and the underworld in a positive sense because we've all got to go there and we need somebody on our team in Japan he is often associated with children a protector of children you see shrines to Jews Oh in neighborhoods and those are usually folksy figures they're a little bit more approachable than this very austere statue and he is a protector of dead children there will be Jews Oh shrines in Japanese temples and there will be a lot of little Jizo figures that represent the children themselves and people will leave candy and toys for them they're very very poignant places my goodness what a radical change the fat happy laughing Buddha that we see all around New York City all around the world in shops in the back of taxicabs and there's a good reason for that because this is a Buddha associated with good fortune with fertility and by extension wealth this is the Buddha that helps you when you're dealing with this quirky market maybe makes things turn out in your favor this is the Buddha of the future there are many Buddha's many enlightened beings Prince Siddhartha the Buddha we think of as the Buddha was actually only one this particular Buddha Maitreya the Buddha of the future is a being who is an apocalyptic figure he signifies changing times and as a consequence he seems very magical he's also inspired by a legend of a monk that lived a thousand years ago ho tai who traveled around carrying a sack this Buddha would have also carried a sack quite often delivering goods to people candy too children as the legend holds rice to adults for their field almost a Santa Clause type of figure and in the historic existence of the monk bull died people probably thought ah the boot of the future is among us and so the legend of the monk gets equated with the idea of the boot of the future you find people rubbing the Buddha's belly for prosperity for wealth for happiness and this is a wonderful example of how religion becomes responsive to people's needs how people take ideas from different places and transform them and make them their own caused them to speak to themselves to their own needs to their moment