Monday, January 30, 2012

Bactrian Greeks, the Bamiyan and Avukana Buddha statues

Bactrian Greeks, the Bamiyan and Avukana Buddha statues

The Avukana Buddha statue and inset, the Bamiyan Buddha statue

The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Rajitha Weerakoon discusses the Greek connection with colossal Buddha statues

Around 30,000 Greek bhikkhus had arrived in Anuradhapura from the monasteries of Alasanda (the city of the Yonas, Alexandria in present Afghanistan) according to Geiger’s Mahavamsa (chapter XX1X (39)) to participate in the inauguration of the construction of the Mahaseya (Ruvanveliseya.) The Greek bhikkhus led by Yonamahadharmarakkhita Thera had been part of 96,000 foreign bhikkhus who had arrived from several ancient Indian states and Persia for the ceremonial event.

Evidently, Buddhism had been the vibrant force behind Sri Lanka’s interaction with foreign countries in early history and as studies reveal, Bactrian Greek (Indo-Greek) influence in days gone by has had a lasting impact on Sri Lanka.

Professor A.D.T.E. Perera of the Department of Philosophy, University of Mexico and former Editor of the Buddhist Encyclopaedia writing a scholarly essay on “Colossal Buddha Images of Ancient Sri Lanka” had stated that Bactrian Greek art influenced the sculpture of colossal images of the Buddha in Sri Lanka.

Bactrians, on leaving NW India spread out from Kabul to Punjab after their defeat by Chandragupta in the Mauryan Period. But having been attracted to the new Buddhist doctrine while they were in NW India, they, after their shift, sculpted imposing images of the Buddha in standing position in the Bamiyan Region in Afghanistan which were destroyed by the Taliban a few years ago.

These images Professor Perera states led to the ideas pertaining to the turning out of colossal statues of the Buddha in Sri Lanka. The first attempt was the carving of the Avukana Buddha Image in the ancient Rajarata.

Bactrian images of the Buddha in the Bamiyan region in Afghanistan Prof. Perera traces may have been a veritable source of inspiration to the early artists who crossed the Kabul valley which linked the Southern branch of the Great Northern Highway referred to in the early Buddhist and Indian texts as “Uttarapada” – the trade route of the then known world which bridged the East and the West on commercial, political and cultural levels.

Traders, pilgrims and even men of learning had crossed the region in search of various fortunes. Prof. Perera says that Sri Lankans too may have had links with this ancient world known as Gandhara which covered a vast area extending beyond NW India and it was such religio-cultural-trade contacts that had prevailed between Sri Lanka and the Gandhara region that may have led to the invitation to be extended by King Dutugamunu to the Greek bhikkhus to participate in the inauguration of the construction of the Mahaseya.

According to the essay, archaeological researchers and art historians distinguish a close similarity between the Avukana image with that of the Bamiyan. The Bamiyan region had been referred to in early Buddhist Prakrit as Vokkana, Avakana or Vakana. The name Avukana it is surmised had been derived for the colossal statue in Sri Lanka from the name of the Bamiyan region.

Bactrian Greek Buddhist artists had been very active in the 2nd or the 3rd centuries BC in the Bamiyan region in West Asia and the Buddha images silhouetted against the vast sandy valley bearing a calm and serene composure may have been an awe-inspiring vision for the travellers who passed by. The images had stood at 112 and 172 feet respectively and were housed within their own chapels.

The 43 feet tall Avukana Buddha image depicts the abhaya mudra with the right hand raised towards the right shoulder indicating that the devotee is protected from all fears (bhaya.) The raised left hand is touching the left shoulder with the palm turning towards the Buddha – a gesture seeking the Buddha to release the devotee from sentient bondage (samsara). The back of the image is not separated from the rock boulder out of which the figure is hewn.

Professor Perera however states that the Maligavila Buddha image, 52 feet in height with its lotus pedestal, was considered as one of the world’s tallest standing images sculpted in ancient times. It was discovered in southern Sri Lanka fallen with broken limbs and beaten by the elements. This may have been due to the fact that the image carved on limestone was sculpted on the round. It may have fallen unlike other images since it was separated from a living rock. The third colossal Buddha image which Professor Perera had discussed was found at Sasseruva close to Anuradhapura. Sculpted in high relief with the back cleaving to the living rock boulder, the image was either badly weatherworn when it was found or left unfinished by the sculptor. Although it falls short of the elegance of the Avukana image, it bears the same features with regard to stylistic concepts, the hand posture, the method of wearing the “civara” with the right shoulder kept bare and the drapery delineated by parallel ridges as followed by sculptors of the classical period.

These Buddha images are dated to around the 4th – the 6th centuries in the present era. All colossal Bamiyan statues had been sculpted by those who advocated Mahayana Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism it is believed had its birth in the Bamiyan part of the Gandhara region. Professor Perera states that the concept of portraying the Buddha in super human qualities – as a saviour of all human and divine beings was followed wherever Mahayana Buddhism spread.

The concept of the bodhisatvas belonging to the Mahayana pantheon eventually had found its way into the ensemble of architectural compositions of colossal sculptures in Sri Lanka. Close to the Maligavila Buddha image, a huge bodhisatva image had been disovered. And in the group of colossal sculptures at Buduruvagala, the primary image of the Buddha is flanked by bodhisatva Avalokitheshvara of the Mahayana pantheon with Goddess Tara. On the other side is the bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta with his consort Prajna – all referred to as acolytes of Buddha Amitabha who resides in Sukhavati.
The colossal Buddha in parinibbana manca (death bed) sculpted in the Polonnaruwa period does not belong to the Mahayana pantheon. But Professor Perera says that the concept had gained currency even after the fall of Anuradhapura and hence the Polonnaruwa images belonged to the last lap in the classical period of Sinhala art.

The Greeks’ entry to the Buddhist theatre in India could be traced to the invasion of Alexander in 334 BC when he captured some parts of the NW India extending as far as the Indus. With the conquest and setting up of Greek settlements, his Greek garrison and a host of camp-followers had poured into NW India who may have been assimilated into the Indian populace. These Greeks, fascinated by the new Buddhist doctrine introduced about 200 years earlier, had embraced Buddhism. Some had joined the Bhikku Order.

Although Alexander’s rule in India ended with his death 18 months later, Greek influence continued for several more centuries. It is recorded that Emperor Dharmashoka (about 273-232 BC) in the Mauryan Period sent Greek Bhikkhus such as Dharmarakkhita and Mahadharmarakkhita Theros to Syria, Egypt, Macedonia, Cyrene and Epirus as emissaries of Dhamma.

In the pre-Graeco period, the image of the Buddha in India was represented symbolically by His Footprints, a lotus, the Bodhi, the Dharmachakra, the Caitya etc. From the Greek-Indian fusion rose the Graeco-Buddhist art of Gandhara when Greeks contributed to the sculpted work of the Ashoka Pillars and to the commencement of the Mauryan art with Buddha image carved.

In the earliest sculptures excavated in the Gandhara sites, the Greek influence is seen in the representations of the Buddha where the Buddha had been elevated to a God. The Bactrians who had spread out from NW India and Kabul to Punjab and West Asia progressed into portraying the Buddha figure in superhuman qualities which brought about the origins of the titanic image of the Buddha. With the spread of Mahayana the concept too spread.

Besides the colossal images of the Buddha, Greek influence on early literature is discussed by Professor Merlin Peris in his book titled “Mahavamsa Studies Greek myths in Ancient Tradition” where he discloses an element of Greek mythology in certain anecdotes related in the Mahavamsa.

Elaborating on his statement he says that L.S. Perera, A.L. Basham and G. C. Mendis in the “University of Ceylon, History of Ceylon” had commented on the affinities which could be seen in Vijaya-Kuveni affair with that of the Greek adventure of Odysseus with Circe in Homer. Professor Peris says that besides, the Greek myth Jason and Medea is emulated in the killing of the yakshas with Kuveni’s help and the dismissal of her and her children for a royal marriage (men are afraid of enchantresses.)
Greek story motifs Professor Peris says may have found their way into the “Attakatha Mahavamsa” (pre-Mahavamsa literary work) before being incorporated by the Mahavamsa author when he wrote on the reigns of our earliest kings.

Professor Peris sees motifs of the Greek myth of Danae in the episodes of Ummadacitta, certain early heroes and the sacrifice of Viharamahadevi. However, while Professor Peris’ interpretation of incorporation of Greek story motifs in the earliest literary tradition gives food for thought, Greek impact on Sri Lankan religio-culture illustrates the fact that Sri Lanka had been very much in the international whirlpool.


I-Me-Mine-Ego-belief is Death Bondage!

Belief in an Ego is a Bondage linking to Death!

At Savatthi the Blessed Buddha once explained:

Bhikkhus, the uninstructed ordinary person regards his form as self, or self
possessing a form, or form as inside self, or self as inside a frame of form...
This, bhikkhus, is called an uninstructed ordinary person, who is bound by
bondage to form, who is bound by inner and outer bondage, who neither
sees the near shore, nor the far shore, who grows old in bondage, who dies
in bondage, who goes from this world to the next other world in bondage...
Such one regards feeling, perception, mental construction & consciousness
as a self or self as having feeling, perception, construction & consciousness,
or feeling, perception, construction & consciousness as being inside the self,
or a self as if hidden inside feeling, perception, construction & consciousness!
Such one, Bhikkhus, is called an uninstructed ordinary person, who is bound by
, clinging, & inner chains to feelings, perceptions, mental constructions,
and consciousness... Such one, Bhikkhus, bound by both inner & outer bondage,
neither sees this near shore, nor the far shore, who grows old in bondage,
who dies in bondage, will pass on in bondage to the next world, still in bondage!

When Bound by an Ego concept one is linked to a future of repeated Death!

On Selflessness, Soullessness and No-Self Anti-Egoism:


The Grouped Sayings by the Buddha. Samyutta Nikāya 22:117 III 165

Have a nice & noble day!

Friendship is the Greatest!
Bhikkhu Samāhita _/\_ ]


Curtain rises on a new Chinese dynasty at the Nelson

Curtain rises on a new Chinese dynasty at the Nelson

JILL TOYOSHIBA | The Kansas City Star Colin Mackenzie, the senior curator of Chinese art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has organized the renovated Chinese galleries around the theme of the tomb.


If you haven’t made the acquaintance of the Chinese art collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, for decades one of the museum’s hallmark departments, now is the time.

On Jan. 27, the museum will open four renovated galleries of Chinese art, enlivened by new cases, fiberoptic lighting and works that have never been displayed.

Newcomers and regulars alike will enjoy this quietly spectacular installation, centered on the theme of the tomb.

“The Chinese wanted to take it all with them,” said Colin Mackenzie, the Nelson’s senior curator of Chinese art.

And they did take it all — food, furniture, clothes, vessels, games, grooming and cooking items, money and wine.

A “Case with Tomb Miniatures” features small models, known as mingqi or “luminous objects,” of everything the deceased would need, from back bolsters to riding boots.

“They’re symbolic,” Mackenzie said. “It’s really the quest by the Chinese to find some way of making life go on. It’s all about recreation of life in the tombs for eternity that reflects a person’s life and status.”

Friday’s opening coincides with the Chinese New Year, which began Jan. 23 and is celebrated for 15 days. The Nelson plans a big celebration, with lion dancers, yo-yo demonstrations, a dragon hunt and more.

Dragons, a quintessential Chinese symbol of divine power, weave through the new display the way they writhe around of “Pair of Ceremonial Finials” from more than 20 centuries ago.

They can be tricky to identify.

In the finials, it takes some patience to extricate the dragon images, which appear upside down, their tails at the top.

The outlined dragons that appear on a pair of Western Han Dynasty tomb doors have a curlicue energy and elegance. In contrast, Alice in Wonderland meets Hello Kitty in the flower-studded dragon with a feline face that appears on one of a pair of Southern Song porcelain funerary urns.

Perhaps the most fetching example is a gilt bronze “Striding Dragon” from the Han Dynasty. He’s a tiny little guy, with a jaunty fierceness.

Bronze beginnings

Renovation of the four galleries has been going on for two and a half years, and two of them — the Chinese Temple gallery and the main Chinese gallery — have been open to visitors since June 2010. But with the completion of adjacent galleries focusing on ritual bronzes and tomb luxuries, the scheme is complete. Visitors can take a roughly chronological tour of collection highlights from the Neolithic period to the 14th century.

The earliest pieces are the ritual bronzes, made to serve as intermediaries with powerful ancestors.

The gallery features roughly two dozen of them — amphoras and ritual cooking vessels, wine buckets and libation ewers — with gorgeous, centuries-old patinas encrusting mysterious images of mythical animals and intricate abstract designs.

“This represents the beginning of China,” Mackenzie said.

Printed quotations on the walls above the cases — “This month there will be great rain;” “The king reading the cracks said ‘auspicious’ ” — relate to a small display of “Fragments of Divination Bones,” originally belonging to oxen or turtles.

During the Shang Dynasty, members of the elite sought answers from the ancestors by interpreting the cracks in the bones, which occurred when they were touched with a hot poker.

A bronze ax head from the Shang Dynasty introduces another aspect of ancient Chinese culture.

“We know it was used for decapitating victims,” MacKenzie said, “because it has pictograms that actually show someone’s head being cut off by an ax.”

The same case also features a ceremonial dagger ax made from jade, and a little carved jade sculpture of a cicada.

Also new to the public is a gallery devoted to “Luxury and the Tomb” during the first century of the Han Dynasty. The display chronicles the shift from simple wood-lined pits to more elaborate royal tombs featuring fired clay bricks and stone slabs.

“Casing Slab of a Tomb Chamber” is decorated with lively scenes of figures and animals, arranged in three tiers. The groupings vary in formality and playfulness, from the fanciful animals and acrobat in the top tier, to the graceful dancer and musician in the middle section and the purposeful officials on horseback at the bottom.

The items placed in the tombs included wine cups made of wood and coated with black and red lacquer. The display includes a striking one from the Qin Dynasty, decorated with abstract designs that have a distinctly modern feel.

Earthenware versions of multistory watchtowers also were placed in the tombs. One example features little figures perched on every tier. Another, with elaborate painted designs, is inhabited by a single man, probably the owner, who gazes out from a first floor balcony.

Children will enjoy a trio of three-dimensional animal scenes, including a “Pig Pen and Latrine.”

The “Luxuries” gallery also includes the museum’s treasured “Ritual Disc with Dragon Motifs,” billed as “one of the most famous Chinese jade carvings in existence.”

Foreign influences

The reinstalled main Chinese gallery explores some fascinating subthemes under the rubric of the tomb. Many objects speak to the foreign influences that came into China along the Silk Road, which stretched from Rome through Central Asia to China.

In fact, the lions that we think of as Chinese, and that often appear as guardian figures for the tombs, came from India, and were part of a vast array of Buddhist influences that flooded into China beginning in the 1st century.

The Sogdians, a merchant people from present-day Uzbekistan, also influenced China, when they came into the country and adopted Chinese burial practices and brought a few of their own..

From the 5th to the 7th centuries, a fashion for mortuary beds with exposed corpses replaced the traditional wooden coffin, a practice that may have begun with the Sogdians, Mackenzie said.

A display of tomb furniture includes a “Facade of a Mortuary Bed,” with a design scheme that incorporates Central Asian influences as well as lotus petals and lions from Buddhism.

Foreign influences also can be seen in the images of horses. They take on a different appearance after the 2nd century, reflecting the Chinese importation of Ferghana horses during the Han Dynasty.

This Central Asian breed was bigger and sturdier than the Chinese horse. The Chinese eventually went to war with Ferghana to have unlimited access to the horses, which played an important part in China’s battle with Mongolian tribes during the 2nd century.

A lively display of colorful Tang dynasty tomb figures, arranged on two tables on either side of a central aisle, includes horses as well as two-humped Bactrian camels from Central Asia.

People with Central Asian features, including elaborately dressed guardians, robed officials, and the grooms that attend the camels, dominate this figural grouping. Housed in a separate case, an unfired earthenware sculpture of a Central Asian woman breast-feeding her baby while rousing her camel, suggests that at one point, anyway, the Chinese apparently regarded Central Asians as rather vulgar.


The Buddhist influence on Chinese art continues in sculptures of luohans, who served as spiritual exemplars, and bodhisattvas, who served as intercessors. “Guanyin of the Southern Seas,” the museum’s most popular Buddhist sculpture, is the dramatic focal point of the Chinese Temple Gallery, which has been improved with lighting that allows visitors to see the coffered ceiling with carved dragons.

And the ceiling has quite a story.

It came from the Zhihua Temple, Mackenzie said, which survives in Beijing — the only remaining example of Ming Temple architecture.

The Nelson got the ceiling after it had been sold to a coffin maker’s shop. Laurence Sickman, who bought Chinese works for the museum from the early 1930s until his retirement as director in 1977, spotted it and worked to get it, Mackenzie said.

In Beijing, a huge digital photo of the ceiling, taken at its Nelson location, has been substituted for the lost original.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to

sourse: Buddhist Art News

Attitude of gratitude

Gratitude appreciates all assistance!

The Buddha indeed pointed out Gratitude as an important mental quality:
These two people are hard to find in the world. Which two?
The one who is first to do a kindness, and
one who is grateful and thankful for any kindness done.
Anguttara Nikāya 2.118

I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay:
Which two? Your mother and father. Even if you were to carry your mother
on one shoulder & your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, & were
to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, & rubbing their limbs,
and they were to defecate and urinate right there on your shoulders, you
would not thereby repay your parents. Even if you were to establish your
& father in absolute sovereignty over this great earth, abounding in
the seven treasures, you would not in that way repay your parents!
Why is that? Mothers and fathers do much for their children. They care for
, they nourish them for long, and they introduce them to this world.
But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes
in faith; rouses his immoral mother & father, establishes them in virtue;
rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity;
rouses his unwise mother & father, settles & establishes them on a new level
of understanding: It is in this way that one truly repays one's mother's and
father's many and longstanding services and sacrifices.
Anguttara Nikāya 2.32

Parents, compassionate to their family, are called Brahma, first teachers,
worthy of gifts from their children. So the wise should show respect,
them with food and drink, clothing & bedding, and anointing, bathing,
washing their feet. Performing these services to their parents, the wise are
praised right here and after death rejoice in heaven. Itivuttaka 106

If this is what you think of me:
The Blessed One, is sympathetic, is seeking our well-being, teaches us this
Dhamma out of sympathy, then you should train yourself in being in harmony,
cordial, and without conflict and train in yourselves cultivation of all the 37
fine mental qualities: The 4_Foundations_of_Awareness, the 4 right efforts,
4_Feet_of_Force, the 5 Abilities, 5 powers, the 7 Links to Awakening,
& the
Noble_8-Fold_Way. Majjhima Nikāya 103

A Tathagata is worshipped, honoured, respected, thanked & shown gratitude
any follower, who keeps practicing the Dhamma in accordance with true
Dhamma, who keeps practicing masterfully, who lives in and by the Dhamma!
Digha Nikāya 16

We will undertake & practice those qualities that makes one a contemplative,
that all those who helped us by services of robes, alms-food, lodging, and
medicines will bring them great fruit and great future reward.
Majjhima Nikāya 39

In Pali, the word for gratitude = kataññu literally means to have a sense of
what was done for one in the past, even when long ago. Remembering all help!
A network of kindness and gratitude is what sustains whatever goodness
is, and ever will be in this - otherwise destitute & impoverished - world!

Thus: Thank you for reading this!

Source (edited extract): The Lessons of Gratitude by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

Gracious is Gratitude! Thanx to all Hydro Donors J

Have a nice & noble day!

Friendship is the Greatest!
Bhikkhu Samāhita _/\_ ]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

“Kusa – Paba” from today

by Buddhist art news

Thursday, 26 January 2012 13:07

"Kusa - Paba" a movie based on a buddhist theme is on show from today (26) onwards at EAP cinemas.

The movie unfolds a story of one of Prince Siddhartha’s previous births, one in which he was born with a disfigured face and had to woo the most beautiful princess in the land. Renowned art personality Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne brings the story to the wide screen. The script which is penned by Dr. Tissa Abeysekara is believed to be the last film script he had worked on before passing away.
The Kusa Jathaka is the 523th Jathaka story in the 550 Jathaka book. Indian folktales came to Sri Lankan with Arahant Mahinda Thera’s visit.

Versatile artiste Jackson Anthony will be portraying King Kusa’s role.Pooja Umarshanker plays the role of Paba in the movie. The locations are in Ranminithanna Tele Cinema Village. Kusa Paba is the first Sri Lankan film made in Ranminithanna.

“Transforming Minds: Buddhism in Art” will run from February 10 to May 20 at the Asia Society Hong Kong.

The Asia Society Becomes the First U.S. Museum to Open a Satellite in China

Aerial view of Asia Society Hong Kong, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

January 25, 2012

by Janelle Zara
New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects are slated to open a project next month that’s spent ten years in the pipeline: The Asia Society Hong Kong, the first American museum satellite ever to open in China.

“It’s a major new building initiative that allows us to extend our reach into Asia with a physical complex,” Asia Society director Melissa Chiu told ARTINFO. “We all know that Asia is growing in political and economic importance, and so by opening a building in Hong Kong it’s a major architectural statement about Hong Kong’s past and future. We’re also able to make a statement about the growing connections between the U.S. and Asia.”

The architecture firm’s designs for the first official home of the Asia Society Hong Kong, founded in 1990 by local community leaders, transformed a campus of four heritage buildings dating back to Hong Kong’s English period. Built by the British army in the mid-19th century, the buildings were used as explosives magazines to process and package gunpowder. After being turned over to the Navy and subsequently to the British government for storage use, they were left vacant in the 1980s. As some of the few remaining traces of England’s presence in the city, they hold an importance place in its cultural history.

In this $49.5 million project, the architects restored and re-adapted the four buildings and added a fifth, taking into consideration its surroundings. Contrary to the Hong Kong’s numerous, tightly-packed skyscrapers, the complex sets itself apart by emphasizing its horizontal space, at its highest rising only two and a half stories. Resonating with the Society’s goal of bridging together the old and the new, and East and the West, the architects also built a double-decker footbridge connecting the new building with the heritage building. The magazines have been converted into an exhibition space, a theater, lecture halls, and a gallery, and the new building features a store, café, rooftop garden, and permanent exhibition illustrating the facility’s transformation.

Following the vision of John D. Rockefeller, who found the Asia Society in 1956 to promote the understanding of Asian culture, the 11th (and first overseas) location’s will feature inaugural exhibition, “Transforming Minds: Buddhism in Art” showcases 6th-century relics from Rockefeller’s collection of Asian art together with work by contemporary Asian and Asian American artists like Michael Joo, Mariko Mori, and Zhang Huan. This will be the first time most of the works will be shown in Hong Kong.

sourse : Buddhist art news

Dear Dhamma Friends & Supporters:

Dear Dhamma Friends & Supporters:
The ongoing upgrade of the Micro-Hydro-Power-plant here at the Hermitage is progressing well!
Transformers, rectifiers and regulators have arrived from USA. The second pipe-line has been
digged down and reinforced, where mud-&-stone-slides are prone to occur.
However more cement work is needed and some remaining bills
needs to be paid. A further ~ 800$ is therefore needed.
Donations for this Noble Purpose facilitating the
Daily Dhamma sharing is very Welcome below.
Quite Many Thanx in Advance!
Some pictures of the process:

Many Thanx in Advance!



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May Many Beings Become Thus Happy Thereby!

Cypress Hermitage's Alternative Energy installations photos are here:

An anonymous appreciation will be acknowledged here:

About Generosity (Dāna): The First Mental Perfection:

Have a Nice, Noble, & Easy Day :-)

Friendship is the Greatest!
Bhikkhu Samāhita _/\_

Many Thanx in Advance!