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This seated image of Lord Buddha, a brass-cast anodized as copper – the outward golden glow transformed into oceanic depth, a complete change of perspective, which truly defined the spirit of a Buddha image, represents him as Yoga-Murti Buddha, the Buddha in Yogasana. In Hindu tradition the term ‘Yoga-murti’, applicable to both Shiva and Vishnu, is a commonly used phrase, though in context to Buddha, only rarely. As reveals early Buddhist texts, in his actual life Buddha is not known to have ever practised Yoga. Ordinarily ‘yoga’, literally meaning union, has two dimensions. It relates to kindling of ‘kundalini’ – inherent female energy rising through ‘chakras’ – centres of energy located in spinal column, and join the male energy located at the centre of the head. In another form, ‘yoga’ defines one’s union with the Absolute by penance and practice. In context to Buddha neither applies.
In early sculptures Buddha’s images have ‘yogasana’ type posture in ‘Bhumisparsha-mudra’ – invoking mother-earth to be his witness, fasting Buddha, and ‘Dhyani-Buddha’ – Buddha in meditation, though in these forms the seating posture is hardly significant. In ‘Bhumisparsha-mudra’ the gesture of touching the earth with the forefinger of his right hand, his emaciated figure in fasting Buddha form, and meditative trance in Dhyani Buddha form are the central features of their iconography. ‘Yoga’, as part of the Buddhist practices, as also a true ‘yogasana’ posture defining a form of Buddha, evolved in late Vajrayana Buddhism around the ninth-tenth centuries.
The ‘yoga’ was perceived on one hand as a potential means to make the body flexible, supple and youthful, and hence, fit for various practices, and on the other, as the absolute Buddhahood for it defined the state of complete cessation of sorrow, suffering, or even happiness – the total extinction of worldly experiences, and of all acts and all material contexts. All other forms of Buddha reveal some act or body posture symbolic of an act. The Yoga-murti’ Buddha does not reveal any. It is a form beyond act – the state of ‘Nirvana’ while still in life. It is the state of ultimate sacrifice, detachment, renunciation of worldly life, asceticism, fearlessness and all things, even the noblest, a state which makes the soul quiescent, calm, serene, solid and stable, balanced, unperturbed and undisturbed. The ‘Yoga-murti’ Buddha is the absolute Buddhahood, the epitome of ‘inner worship’ and complete realisation of one’s own potentials beyond which there is nothing. In the Buddhist context the ‘yoga’ is a form of ‘Nirvana’ in which body does not cease existing but ceases to have any kind of ties, even with oneself.
This magnificent image of Lord Buddha represents him in ‘Yoga-mudra'. The position of his lotus-like looking feet placed upwards is often defined in divine iconography as 'padmasana' – lotus posture. His well composed face, largely shut eyes and sublimity enshrining his entire being – Yoga-murti, the image of ‘yoga’, represent him as one beyond oneself, beyond all things and all bonds. A pot in his lap is unusual, though unlike the images of Hindu or even Buddhist deities that hold one attribute or other in their hands, in this Buddha image the ‘pattra’ – pot, is placed on his palms, not held in them. A fire-pot, it symbolises absolute sacrifice and hence complete cessation, not merely of worldly desires but also all experiences and bonds – an artistic addition to the Yoga-murti form. In the Buddhist tradition a ‘pattra’, if carried by a seated monk in his lap, signified his supreme rank in the Order. Maybe, the artist conceived the Yoga-murti form of Buddha with a pot for suggesting his attainment of absolute Buddhahood, the highest rank in the Order.
The body-garments of the seated image lay scattered in fine surges all over the top of this 'pitha'. A broad sash is tied around his waist. As fine is his 'Uttariya', a large shawl, suspending from his shoulder. Both, the body garments and 'uttariya' have a rich border and are elegantly embroidered with a motif looking like ‘tri-ratna’ mark. The left one is covered up to the wrist with the 'uttariya'. The shoulders are wide and broad and there rise upon them a well defined neck. The recessed belly and broad chest are in conformity to the norms of Indian iconography and further add to the aesthetic beauty of the figure.
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.