Dhyani Buddha, or Buddha in meditation, represents one of the most significant phases of his life when descending deep within him he discovered 'the light' and was the Enlightened One. When quite young, Gautam, the prince of Kapilavastu, renounced the world, retired to forest and engaged himself in penance such as recluses had been performing those days. His fame as a muni soon spread in the region around. As he belonged to the clan of Sakyas, he was popularly called the Sakyamuni. This, however, did not satisfy him, as it did not lead him to the truth, which he was seeking. He, hence, went to a number of the known teachers, Kalapa Arada, Ramputra Rudraka and others, one after the other, in quest of truth and learnt from them what they had to teach and resorted to further penance as they guided him to perform. But, the young Sakyamuni soon realised that what they taught was not that which he was looking for. He hence sought their leave and bidding them farewell moved ahead in his search for the truth. When travelling along the bank of river Nairanjana, he came around the village Uruvila. Reaching the site, he felt that something from within compelled him to stop wandering and seek the truth within him. He decided to stay there, meditate and search within him instead of wandering outside. The determined Sakyamuni sat down in the padmasana posture under a Banyan tree meditating upon truth. He remained seated there for long six years and got up only after he was Enlightened.
This metal cast represents the tradition as well as the innovation. Buddha's images came in prevalence around the first century A.D., that is, some five to six hundred years after his birth. Obviously, they did not record his real likeness but innovated rather a personality model that corresponded to his ideals and principles. This gave birth to iconographic prescriptions and standards of modeling. The subsequent art traditions continued to follow by and large this same iconographic cult. Hence, as regards his various postures, likeness and broad features there prevails an amazing continuity, but, at the same time, various schools, from the early Gandhara to late Pala, added to his images their own characteristics also. Thus, the entire tradition comprises largely of innovations. This image borrows its basic model from this same early tradition, but in its costume it is close to Nalanda, in facial features to Sarnath, in coiffure to Mathura and in over-all grandeur to Tibetan images. Serenity and the divine composure, enshrining his face, aptly define the Buddha in his divine bearings.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.