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Buddhism in its early centuries didn’t have much visual representations of Buddha as the art symbolism came in following years. India and China outlaid early enhancements of Buddhism. The first century AD was the initial period when interpretations of visual representations started to gain popularity for the teachings of Buddhism. In fact first 600 years of the Buddhism lot depended on the art of Buddha for the preaching of Buddhism.
The major art of Buddha that was used in early teachings included wheels, empty thrones and footprints. Visual representations of Buddha in the form of pictures were the main source of interpretations where his gestures portrayed his way of living and his habits in the context of his personal life (Swearer, 2004). These early human visual representations took place first in the northern India which showcased Buddha being a part of the picture. His various gestures in the pictures symbolize the basics of Buddhism. The mostly used human representation includes Buddha standing or seated in a lotus position. In these positions he sometimes cradles the begging bowl and showcases the gestures of fearlessness. The begging bowl symbolizes Buddha no love for the worldly objects. It portrays the importance of no connection with the money or something else that could distract him from being enlightened (McArthur, 2004). This legend states that someone gave him rice in the golden bowl when he sat under the Bodhi Tree so that he could eat something. The person who gave him this bowl thought of Buddha as the divinity of the tree. Buddha divided the rice into 49 equal pieces, one for each day and then threw away the golden bowl in the river (McArthur, 2004). The Begging Bowl is now the symbol of the Buddhist monks which is used for collecting money and food. The gestures of fearlessness of Buddha portray the peace of the Buddhism religion. In many human representations he is standing tall known as Abhaya in Sanskrit. The Abhaya symbolizes various important points in Buddhism including peace, friendship and fearlessness. In the human representations he is unarmed and ready to stand by against all kinds of forces. The representation shows the stop sign which in Buddhism wants the people to stop by to listen to what Buddha states before taking any action (Grayson, 2002). This by no means describes the fear of the army but the bravery by which Buddha stands in front alone to the powerful enemy. Thus today’s Buddhism looks into these gestures as the solidarity issues of the religion. Different religions have interpreted this gesture differently according to their interest but as the character of Buddha has become cleared, this gesture only meant for the peace for all and the fearlessness against the enemies.
The Buddhist art was the mixture of the cultures of India and the period of the Greek entering these areas. The iconic images represented sculptures of humans to transfer the information. The footprints of Buddha are another important sculpture that symbolizes the peace and serenity of the followers. Long before the human representation of Buddha, the footprints were considered respected all through India and now known Sri Lanka. The footprints symbolized the reality of Buddha and his presence in the universe. Some legends also believe that his seven early steps in his life described his spiritual domination of the entire universe. The footprints of Buddha in their early showcasing also include various ancient symbols according to the cultural aspects of the areas where it started to spread (McArthur, 2004).
The lotus was also used in the early preaching of Buddha and it still symbolizes the nonattachment of the Buddhism from the materialistic world (Lee, 2003). The lotus grew in the mud beneath rivers and then pops up in the river fresh symbolizes the hunt of man to leave the world and enter spirituality. Lotus in one word describes the motive of Buddhism.
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Another sculpture of Buddha includes his hand like touching something. The teaching of Buddhism describes this touching as his power on the whole universe as he touches the earth from his hands. This action is most commonly called as the earth witnessing when he summoned the earth goddess to witness his enlightenment as he sat under the Bodhi Tree (Lee, 2003). His portrayal of theses gestures outlines how he uses his wisdom to make certain decisions and his action of meditation for his purity.
One important factor of the Buddhism is the way it uses the cultural aspects of the regions where it spreads. Whether it was the Central Asia or the South Eastern Asia, the representation started to include the cultures of that area (Huntington, 1990). Importantly by this feature it was easy for the people to understand the realities of the religion and they can easily symbolize what Buddha wanted them to learn. The monks were very successful in realizing this feature and implemented it in all of their teachings and preaching keeping Buddha as the manifold creature.
The paintings of the Buddha also have been craved in the caves where he meditated and lived to gain his purity (Foltz, 1999). These paintings were then used by the monks in various temples to show people the strengths of Buddhism. The eyes of Buddha are his power of omniscience (Swearer, 2004). In various temples in Nepal, the eyes are situated on all four sides so that proclaiming the fact that he is looking in all the direction and there is nothing that can hide from him. He is overlooking his people by his strengths. In fact these eyes have become the symbols of the country itself. Nepal is the majority Buddhism country apart from China and Thailand and India lost this religion when Islam and Hinduism prevailed in these areas in the first 10 centuries of AD. Another feature of this painting is the third eye which symbolizes the wisdom of Buddha (Huntington, 1990).
In the cases when Buddhism prevailed in the different areas of the world, the main issue remained the same. Whatever differences were present in the cultures of the area, the symbolism remained the same so that the uniformity of the teachings of Buddha should be learnt by the people in the same way how Buddha wanted it to be. When India lost the Buddhism for Islam and Hinduism, China became the forefront of Buddhism. The Buddhist monks started to meditate in the areas which are part of China (Foltz, 1999). Therefore the most of the paintings and sculptures that are present in the current time symbolizes the cultural aspects of China. Though the start was from India, but in reality the influential aspects of the religion remained in China. For the same cultural attraction of Buddhism is related the color symbolism which is mostly associated with Tibet and have originated by the influence of Buddha as he remained in India and to gain more insightful of the symbol, the Chinese people took it in their own personal way. The five color patterns that are used in Tibet focus on the five different mindful states of Buddha and then for the Buddhism followers to follow. These five colors are the five areas where the Buddhism followers can change into according to the circumstances they face.
The wheel of dharma was first turned by the Buddha and showcases the law of Buddha. Buddhism believes in transformation from impurity to purity by the actions of meditations and the learning through the teachings of Buddha (Huntington, 1990). Thus as this wheel rotates it symbolizes the transformation which Buddha has in his life and how the followers should take responsibility in transforming from something bad to good (Foltz, 1999). That is, to forget the ways of materialism and get back into the way of spirituality and purity where people can help others. The wheel is showcased in the form of sculptures and in the paintings as well to obtain better understanding.
In the end the pillars of Buddhism also known as Eight Auspicious Symbols described the main eight aspects which must be followed by all the Buddhism to remain in its circle. The eight auspicious symbols symbolize their strengths as they group together against the enemy forces or against those who are against them (McArthur, 2004). Buddhism follows the path of peace and never looks to initiate the war. Even if this happen they try to solve their issues with some different aspects. Thus theses eight symbols dictate how the Buddhism followers must abide by in their lives for peace and power.
On the whole, the religion today is based on the teachings of Buddha in the practical forms of sculptures and paintings. The symbolization of the Buddha has a great impact on the people all around the world and followers of other religions try to enhance their knowledge of spirituality by taking account into the Buddha. China and India have symbolized the way of Buddha in a very effective manner.