From the Jacket
Maitreya is not just one of the myriad divinities of the Buddhist pantheon; he is revered by the devout as the Buddha of the fifth world cycle, the Ultimate Buddha, the Much-Awaited Deliverer, who will descend on the earth, in human form, sometime in the distant future and lead people to both enlightenment and the final nirvana. The cult of maitreya, however goes as far back as to the second century, and even beyond, when perhaps, his images in varying anthropomorphic forms, came to be chiseled alongside the earliest sculptural representations of the Buddha and bodhisattvas.
Here is the first iconological study to exclusively focus on the Maitreya phenomenon is almost the whole range of Buddhist sculptural art. Exploring the historical evolution of the Maitreya cult, the book admirably highlights the different phases of Maitreya iconography with an indepth analysis of the images from various regions of the Indian subcontinent- Gandhara, Kasmir, Mathura, Sarnath, Nalanda, Orissa, Western Deccan and South India. Dr. Inchang Kin has skillfully combined his extensive field work with diverse literary sources to contextually explore some of the problematic issues to their last thread like, for instance, the genesis of Maitreya cult, its nature in the Pre-Christian era, and its role in Hinayana, Mahayana and Yogacara Buddhism. Also spelling out the symbolism of Maitreya iconography, the study specially underscores the iconographic attributes that help not only identify Maitreya, but also distinguish the Buddha of the Future from other Bodhisattvas.
Together with a generous supplement of visual material comprising over 240 photographic reproductions with an extensive bibliography and index, the book is invaluable to art historians, connoisseurs/ specialists of Buddhist sculptural art and scholars and Buddhist studies.
This research deals with the origin and development of the belief in the future Buddha Maitreya and the gradual evolution of iconographical exploration into Indian Buddhist art in general, but it keeps the Bodhisattva concept and icons in focus and lends special emphasis to study of the images of Maitreya. An iconological study is one in which works of art are analysed from a historical perspective, bringing out their changing symbolic meanings within the context of their religious, philosophical and social setting. In this study, a description of the iconographical features of each relevant sculptural school has become unavoidable, and these have further led to an interpretative analysis of each of the symbols and attributes which has ultimately thrown light upon the differing meanings of the icons. One of the major aspects of this study is its insistence on bringing out intra-regional differences and similarities, and the changing meaning of the icons in relation to changing periods.
The primary source for the study is largely the vast collection of sculptural materials themselves, the insufficiency of the textual sources, particularly while dealing with the ancient period, has been acutely realized, and this could be overcome only by a comparative method, which meant a detailed and careful examination of various iconographical elements as manifested in different schools of sculpture. Such a comparing and contrasting has in fact resulted in analytical insights. Most of the sculptures discussed in the work had been collected from actual fieldwork; however, some of them are from published sources as well.
I have tried within my limited means to refer to all the available books and published articles on the subject and these have immensely helped me in different ways, or at least have enabled me to start thinking. I take this opportunity to record my indebtedness to all the scholars whose researches have enlightened me from time to time.
I express my deep gratitude to Dr. Shivaji K. Panikkar who guided me throughout my research with his immeasurable care, personally as well as professionally, I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Ajit Prasad, lecturer, Dept. of Archaeology, M.S. University, Baroda, for having found the time to go through my manuscript and for his friendly help at times of need. I am grateful to Dr. Parul Dave Mukherjee, Reader, Dept. of Art History ad Aesthetics, M.S. University, Baroda, who helped me in reading the Sanskrit texts. I am indebted to Shri Sanjoy Mallik, J.R.F, Dept of Art History and Aesthetics, M.S. University, Baroda. Who has always generously offered his help. I am also thankful to Prof. Lokesh Chandra who kindly agreed to write the Foreword to this book in spite of his busy schedule. Finally I am grateful to my loving parents whose love for me and belief in me lent me overwhelming confidence and support in the course of this research.
Let Maitreya's love and magnanimity be upon all of us!
About the Author
Born in Korea, Dr. Inchang Kim received a Master's Degree in 1987 and a PhD in 1995 from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda. During his long stay in India, he actively participated in various seminars on ancient Indian art and archaeology and traveled extensively to all the excavated Buddhist sites and museums. He has founded an institute in Korea with the aim of promoting history of Buddhist art.
Dr. Kim has done yeoman's service to the understanding of the evolution of Maitreya in the land
of His origin, that is, India. The family name Kim means 'gold' and it is the first character of the
Chinese title of the Suvarna-prabhasa-sutra 'The Sutra of Golden Light'. The Kims relate
themselves to a Princess from Ayodhya who arrived in Korea in AD 48 aboard a ship and became
the Queen of the founder of the first Korean state of Karak. She established the first national
capital and named it Gaya. Thus Dr. Kim is both golden effulgence as well as inherits a
consciousness of India that journeys back two thousand years. It is but meet that he should shed
light on the theogonic development of the complex personality of Maitreya that celebrates the
ascetic Tathagata, his pare form in sambhoga-kaya, the solar cults with their wine rituals (in
a narrow-necked kundika), the academic traditions represented by the flat-top Roman cap of the
Popchusa image, or sitting in bhadrasana in the royal fashion of BactrialBhadra with both legs
pendant (as distinguished from the lotus posture), or with the stupa in his chignon again an
emblem of royalty. To Dr. Kim the historical evolution ofMaitreya in India is a voyage to a beyond
within, to Self-being, to the light of Dharma's eyes. The Korean people have been inspired by
Maitreya throughout history. The pensive images of Maitreyanatha are coeval with the period
of the consolidation of the Korean state. Maitreya cult was practised at the Silla court by young
aristocratic warriors who formed a fraternity known as the Rwarang ‘Perfumed Followers of the
Dragon-flower'. This name is an allusion to the nagapuspa tree under which the bodhisattva
Maitreya will become a Buddha. They had an enormous importance in the government both
during the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla dynasty. They were responsible for national unity.
The Buddhist kingdom of Silla accomplished the unification of the Three Kingdoms and formed
the nation-state of Korea for the first time in history. This tradition is alive to the present. In
1991, Koreans dedicated the world's largest bronze image of Maitreya at Popchusa monastery.
This 100 feet high statue embodies the aspirations of the Korean people for national re-
unification. The Popchusa was originally built in 553. Two centuries later, in 776, monk Yulsa
created a 40 feet high gilt bronze Maitreya for national prosperity and unity. During the eye-
opening ceremony in April 1991, three rainbows appeared in the clear sky. "Isn't this a sign that
we can even move heaven when we are truly devoted? When we build an image of Maitreya in
our hearts too, all lives on earth will turn into lotus flowers, and the very world around us will
become a pond of joy" (Chief Abbot Yu).
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