Besides the lotus-seat symbolic of cosmos in aggregate representing all three cosmic regions – the earth, water and sky, that the Great Master pervades, this image represents his three forms, One in absolute Buddhahood, he who has overcome temptations, greed and all that evil stands for, he who has discovered the light within, and he who redeems the mankind from all miseries, torments and ailments. The image combines Dhyani-Buddha – Buddha in meditation : the All-knowing One, Bhaisajya-guru – the Medicine Buddha : the Compassionate, and Buddha in Bhumi-sparsha-mudra – the earth-touching posture, the Liberated. With a well composed face, largely shut eyes and sublimity enshrining his entire being this form of the Master is sometimes defined as Yoga-Murti Buddha, one beyond oneself – beyond whatever bound or defined. ‘Yoga’ in the Buddhist context is not the same as in Hindu where it is a ritual practice aimed at uniting with the Supreme or with the deity the practiser is devoted to. This is not the Buddhist way. The Yoga-Murti Buddha is not one who unites or merges with the Supreme but in him manifests the absolute cosmic existence – past, present and future, the state of Absolute Buddhahood.
The cross-legged sitting posture with up-turned soles of the feet, as has this magnificent image, often defined in India’s iconographic tradition of the divine images as 'padmasana' – lotus posture, is identified in the Buddhist, as also in the Jain, traditions as the ‘Yoga-mudra' – a meditative posture. In Buddha’s early images such posture is associated with his three forms : ‘Bhumi-sparsha-mudra’, fasting Buddha and ‘Dhyani-Buddha’, though contextually hardly of any significance for in these forms the acts that the Buddha performs or the stages he passes through alone are significant. ‘Yoga’, as part of the Buddhist spiritual practices, as also the corresponding ‘yogasana’ posture of the Buddha’s image, evolved in late Vajrayana Buddhism around the ninth-tenth centuries as a potential means to make the body flexible, supple and youthful, and sometimes for representing absolute Buddhahood – the state of total extinction of worldly experiences, all acts and all material contexts, the state of ‘Nirvana’ while still in life.
The meaning of the image apart, in aesthetic beauty, modeling, plasticity and balanced anatomy the image is simply unparalleled. The lines, whether defining the figure’s apparel, iconographic features, body-parts, the pedestal’s top or the series of lotuses upholding it, seem to flow like ripples of a brook, melody of a reaper in a distant field, or rhythm emitting from a dancer’s feet. The image pursues same iconographic model and attains same levels of perfection – sharp nose, large lotus-eyes in meditative trance, cute lips perfectly aligning to nose, round face with slightly protruding chin, triple-folded neck, ears with large earlobes …, as reveal in the fifth-sixth century Sarnath Buddha images. The image seems to be wearing a long textile-sheet with fine gold borders serving with its extra length as both, ‘sanghati’ as well as ‘antariya’, besides a part of it lying stretched like a lotus on the top of the seat.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.<