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Humanities 2018, 7(4), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040092

Images of the Crowned Buddha along the Silk Road: Iconography and Ideology

Art Department, Pacific University, Forest Grove, OR 97123, USA
Received: 9 August 2018 / Revised: 4 September 2018 / Accepted: 10 September 2018 / Published: 21 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Further Explorations Along the Silk Road)

Abstract

The interpretation of early Buddha images with a crown has long been a source of debate. Many scholars have concluded that the iconography of the crown is intended to denote Śākyamuni as a cakravartin or universal Buddha. A few have suggested it represents a sambhogakāya Buddha in Mahāyāna Buddhism. This art historical and Buddhological study examines the visual record of early crowned Buddhas along the Silk Road, focusing on the iconographic signifiers of the crown, silk items, and ornaments, and interprets them within a broader framework of Buddhist theoretical principals and practice. Not only is this a visual analysis of iconography, it also considers contemporary Buddhist literary evidence that shows the development of the iconography and ideology of the crowned Buddha. As a result of this examination, I propose that the recurring iconographic evidence and the textual evidence underscore the intention to depict a form of sambhogakāya Buddha as an early esoteric meditational construct. Moreover, many Buddhas perform one of the two mudrās that are particular to the esoteric form of Vairocana Buddha. Therefore, the iconography also signifies the ideology of the archetypal Ādi Buddha as an esoteric conception. View Full-Text
Keywords: crowned Buddha; Buddhism; Vajrayāna; sambhogakāya; Vairocana; cakravartin; Silk Road; Paṭola Śāhi crowned Buddha; Buddhism; Vajrayāna; sambhogakāya; Vairocana; cakravartin; Silk Road; Paṭola Śāhi
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Twist, R.L. Images of the Crowned Buddha along the Silk Road: Iconography and Ideology. Humanities 2018, 7, 92.

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