Four identities in Shakyamuni's last life - a re-examination of early Buddhist images

Thursday, December 17th 2020, 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Online Event, 2400 Ridge Rd Berkeley, CA 94709

Join us on Zoom for CARe's last event of the semester! Dr. Dessi Vendova, our Post-Doctoral Fellow in East Asian Art & Religion will be discussing her research on Buddhist imagery from India, Central Asia, and China. By examining several early textual versions of the Buddha’s life (extant in Sanskrit, Pali and Chinese), Dr. Vendova proposes a new approach and novel interpretive outlook to image identification of early Buddhist images.

By textual analysis and close reading of narrative depictions of the Buddha and his body, Dr. Vendova notices four distinct bodily “identities” seemingly intentionally set apart by the texts’ authors. Examination of the visual material suggests a correlation between texts and images and those four basic visual body representations correspond to the “identities” found in the Buddha's life story. She posits that these four identities are closely related with four meditative and transformational episodes, each with distinct visual representations.

This classification and re-identification is crucial for re-identifying early bodhisattva images. Dr. Vendova argues these images are, to a large extent, representations of the Bodhisattva Siddhartha and connected with the mainstream Buddhist cult of the Buddha Shakyamuni, rather than other, “generic”, bodhisattvas.

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