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  • Thumbnail for Head of a Transcendental Buddha
    Head of a Transcendental Buddha

    The following information is from the museum label: "The Five Transcendental Buddhas are manifestations of five aspects of the Buddha's nature. Each embodies a different sort of wisdom, such as equanimity or accomplishment. This concept developed primarily in Mahayana Buddhism and suggests that it is possible to reach enlightenment through a variety of spiritual paths. In central Java, where their worship was popular, the Five Transcendental Buddhas are often depicted together in temples. Because only the head of this Buddha remains, it is difficult to identify which of the five it represents." -- medium: Andesite -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 188.1997) -- A broader note on the development Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia: "Three main schools of Buddhism developed over time, each concerned with the path to salvation, the path to freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth. - "Hinayana Buddhism holds that salvation lies in monastic life and the teachings of the historical Buddha, who guided others by his own example of enlightenment. Hinayana art usually focuses on depicting the Buddha's life and image. This school, often known as the Southern Tradition, flourished in India but was adopted in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia by the medieval era. - "Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism are often called the Northern Traditions. Mahayana Buddhism asserts that there are a variety of paths to enlightenment, and Mahayana artists create images of the Five Transcendental Buddhas in order to visualize the five holy qualities that led to salvation. During the medieval period, Mahavaya Buddhism became popular in China, Korea, and Japan. At the same time, Vajrayana Buddhism matured in Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia with the establishment of new relationships between Buddhist and local deities. Vajrayana art varies widely in content and style, reflecting the blending of many religious traditions."