|Welcome to the EverLife Art Gallery.
This area provides the Center with a middle path that, like Buddhism itself, opens to and
embraces all surrounding sections. It is the perfect spot for a gallery of Buddhist art.
We hope that youll find the featured exhibits profoundly inspiring and enlightening.
When youre done here, be sure to look up at the skylight in the gallerys
ceiling. Itll take you into the cosmos of Buddhism.
#1: Sakyamuni at Vulture Peak
#2: The Tower of Abundant Treasures
Sakyamuni Preaching at Vulture Peak
Spot in India where Sakyamuni taught the Lotus Sutra
8th century Chinese silk embroidered banner
Height: 7' and 10-7/8"
Location: Cave 17, Dun-huang, China
When Siddhartha, a former Indic prince who had abdicated the throne of the Sakya
clan in order to embark on a spiritual quest, attained limitless enlightenment, the
achievement earned him the venerated title of Buddha (Enlightened One). For the next 40 -
42 years following his personal breakthrough, the Buddha, also known as Sakyamuni (Sage of
the Sakyas), taught a large volume of sutras containing progressively sophisticated
doctrines that aimed at helping his disciples unravel the Truth of the Reality of All
Existence. Having reached the age of 72, the Buddha announced that the time had come for
him to reveal his pinnacle teachings. At that time he was staying at the City of Royal
Palaces on Mount Grdhrakuta (Mount Vulture Peak) along with a large assembly of devoted
disciples. It is from this elevated stage near the southern face of the Himalayan
mountains that for the next 8 years (up to 3 weeks before his passing at the age of 80)
the Buddha preached the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings, the Lotus Sutra and the Sutra of
Universal Virtue. These three constitute the preface, main body, and postscript of the
text known as the Threefold Lotus Sutra. In the central portion of the mythic sutra, the
Buddha transforms Mount Vulture Peak into the Land of Tranquil Light a transcendent
space representing the pure state of Perfect Enlightenment. It is in this metaphysical
place that the Ceremony in the Air is unveiled. Consequently, the transformation of Mount
Vulture Peak into the buddha-land is a metaphor denoting that the Lotus Sutra possesses an
inherent visceral power to reform the mortal plane (i.e., mortal state-of-being and
corresponding experiential sphere-of-existence) into an enlightened realm. In other words,
it figuratively denotes that this sermon offers the means for unearthing the absolute,
pure eternal illumination that characterizes lifes subcognitive primordial state
(i.e., buddha-nature or original enlightenment) so that it may break through the surface
of mortal existence and rise to the highest level of enlightened wisdom and joy.
The 8th century silk embroidery exhibited here depicts Sakyamuni preaching the Lotus
Sutra at Mount Vulture Peak. The Buddha is shown standing on a floating lotus platform in
iconic fashion with a stiff right arm and an open palm aimed downward. This gesture seems
to be introducing an unseen multitude of Selfless Volunteers, his eternal disciples, just
before they emerge from below the ground. He is flanked by bodhisattva aides; at his feet
two lions stand guard; the miniature figures below him denote his Indic followers (i.e.,
mortal beings). The colorful halos and auras used here denote the influence on Buddhism of
Hindu styles established in India and exported to China starting from the 7th Century.
Note that this rendition of Vulture Peak is not illustrated as a typical triangular-shaped
mountain. Rather, the sacred protuberance is depicted using a fantastic collection of
multicolored rainbow rocks strewn behind and around the Buddha figure.
Scene from The Lotus Sutra: the Two Buddhas Sakyamuni and
Abundant Treasures Aloft in the Grand Tower
Vision from the Lotus Sutras Ceremony in the Air
7th Century Japanese bronze relief tablet
Size: 32-3/4" x 29-1/2"
Location: Hase-dera Temple, Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture, Japan
(displayed in the U.S. at the Japan Societys "Enlightenment Embodied"
exhibition, May 15 - July 6, 1997, New York; a Japanese national treasure courtesy of
Japans Agency of Cultural Affairs).
Of the 24 chapters of text that compose the Lotus Sutra, one grand scene spans chapters
11 - 22. These 12 chapters feature the Ceremony in the Air a surreal gathering of
countless numbers of beings in a sacred space of infinite expanse prepared by Sakyamuni
Buddha for the purpose of revealing his ultimate identity. All that precedes this section
may be considered a build up to this event and all that follows lends to the support and
confirmation of the revelation made in the Ceremony. The Lotus Sutras Ceremony was
imparted in metaphoric language, which, like a dream, conveys through its visual symbolism
the culminating doctrine of all the profound insights the Buddha had taught during his
50-year teaching course. The ceremony begins with the sudden, silent arrival of a
miles-high, bejeweled tower that parks itself in the sky. The floating tower is soon
surrounded by all the buddhas from every universe that constitutes existence. They have
assembled in order to participate in verifying the truth that the Buddha is about to
reveal. Apparently, the tower is an ancient mortuary belonging to an extinct buddha by the
name of Abundant Treasures. Long ago this buddha had made a vow to reappear within this
mammoth structure whenever and wherever any buddha would preach the Lotus Sutra. As such,
he represents that the Lotus Sutra is the final and quintessential teaching of all buddhas
who ever existed, now exist or ever will exist. From inside the tower, the voice of
Abundant Treasures is heard calling to Sakyamuni to join him. Sakyamuni walks across the
sky of pure wisdom and opens the massive doors with one finger. As the inside of the tower
is revealed an audience of Sakyamunis disciples is astounded to find that they can
see a virtual image of Abundant Treasures seated therein. After taking his place upon the
lion throne (seat of enlightenment ) next to the ghostly figure representing boundless
wisdom, Sakyamuni declares that he wishes to bequeath his teachings for the future
consumption of humanity. When he calls upon those capable of transmitting the Lotus Sutra
to people in a far-off age thousands of years hence, countless numbers of enlightened
beings suddenly emerge from below ground and ascend through the air until all are present
at the Ceremony. The Buddha introduces them as Selfless Volunteers who have promised to be
born in a future Age of Decadence when they will offer the gift of Perfect Enlightenment
contained in the Tower of Abundant Treasures.
This exquisite work of art is likely to be the oldest extant depiction of the Ceremony
in the Air. It dates from a time when Buddhism was fairly new to Japan also a time
when the Lotus Sutra enjoyed a high degree of respect in China due primarily to the work
of Zhi-yi (c. 538 - 597 C.E.), a brilliant scholar and chief monk of the monastery on
Mount Heavenly Terrace (Chi. Tian-tai). He founded the first Lotus Sutra school some 100
years before this tablet was created. Officially, Japan first encountered Buddhism in the
6th Century (either in c. 538 or c. 552) when the Japanese Imperial court received a
formal delegation of Buddhist priests sent by the ruler of the nation-state of Pakeche
(present-day Korea). A copy of the Lotus Sutra was included among the gifts they presented
to the Japanese emperor. By the end of the 6th Century Japan came under the sovereignty of
Prince Shotoku (c. 574 - 662) who at age nineteen was designated the nations Regent.
At about the same time Emperor Wen Ti of the Sui dynasty in China lauded the teachings of
Zhi-yi, after the latter had proved the Lotus Sutra to be the Buddhas supreme
teaching at a debate held among the major Chinese Buddhist sects of that time in the
presence of the emperor. Zhi-yis treatises deciphering the Lotus Sutra may have
found their way to Prince Shotoku when his cultural envoy arrived at the Chinese imperial
court of Yang Ti (c. 607). Afterward, the Prince developed an abiding personal interest in
the Lotus Sutra and in due course became its devoted student. Believing that he could use
it as a guide for transforming Japan into a great civilization, Shotokus
achievements included the establishment of the nation's first Buddhist temples, education
centers and hospitals. Hence, the Lotus Sutra gained a position of prominence and respect
early in the evolution of Buddhism in Japan. However, the sutra did not gain a temple
dedicated exclusively to it until the Eighth Century, when a determined Buddhist priest,
Saicho (c. 767-822), also known as Dengyo, studied Zhi-yis work in China and
returned to Japan to found the Heavenly Terrace/Lotus Sutra sect (Jpn. Tendai/Hokke).
Apparently, the tablet exhibited here precedes his formal establishment of Lotus Sutra
Buddhism in Japan. The inscription at the bottom of the relief states that it was created
for an unnamed emperor of Japan who presumably received it during one of the following
years: c. 674, 686, 698 or 710. This places the tablets origin between the time of
Prince Shotoku and the establishment of Japans Lotus Sutra sect. Although this piece
is of Japanese origin, it evokes a style characteristic of Chinese Buddhist art. The
facial features of the buddhas and bodhisattvas appear innocent, almost childlike, and the
heads are somewhat too large due to a double perspective used by the artist looking
down from the top of the tower and looking up from the areas below the tower. A
combination of metalwork techniques were used to forge this iconography. The main body of
the piece had been cast in bronze; the upper half was affixed with clusters of
hammered-out bronze buddhas; and the lower portion, where heavenly beings are playing
musical instruments, was incised by a chisel.
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