Buddhist attitudes of peace, mindfulness and care for all living creatures have come to be the concern of many groups in the West. Buddhist believe that all things should be looked after: the earth, plants, birds, insects and animals (The Buddhist World). Buddhist art has grown organically within cultures in which the religion flourished, incorporating iconography and styles. Thus, the earliest Buddhist art partakes of symbols and styles from pre-existing Hindu (e.g., yogic postures) and East Roman art (figures set in architraves), with constant reference to the life story of the Buddha. Scholars have sought a cause for the introduction of human figures in Buddhist art around the 1st century BCE from the cultures of the era (What is Buddhist Art?).
These images relate to the theme of the gallery because they depict the Buddha. Images and sculptures of the Buddha were primary focuses in Thai art in the early 6th-18th centuries (McIntire). In one of Buddhism's iconic images, Gautama Buddha in Buddha Calling the Earth to Witness sits in meditation with his left palm upright on his lap, while his right hand touches the earth. Demonic forces have tried to unseat him, because their king, Mara, claims that place under the Bodhi tree. As they proclaim their leader's powers, Mara demands that Gautama produce a witness to confirm his spiritual awakening. The Buddha simply touches the earth with his right hand, and the Earth itself immediately responds: "I am your witness." Mara and his minions vanish. The morning star appears in the sky. This moment of supreme enlightenment is the central experience from which the whole of the Buddhist tradition unfolds (Why the Buddha Touched the Earth). The Buddha was frequently depicted with the crown and jewelry of a king, such as the Standing Crowned Buddha. These attributes could indicate the mystical identity of all Buddhas, past and present; they could stand for the attainment of nirvana; and, in addition, they could refer to a miracle involving the magical transformation of the Buddha in order to convert a heretic king (Standing Crowned Buddha).
For over 2500 years Thailand has been under the peaceful shelter of Buddhism. The Buddha's teachings (Dharma) color almost every aspect of life within the kingdom, uniting the people into a harmonious, peace-loving society. Images of the Buddha were originally created as an object of worship and as a means of spreading the Buddha's message. Accordingly, the images were designed not simply to represent the Buddha's physical characteristics but his teachings too. Overtime, and in different locations within the kingdom, the specific form of Buddha images has undergone subtle changes, creating visibly different characteristics that reflect the cultural values, craftsmanship and the influences of neighboring countries of the period (The Buddhist World).
"The Buddhist World: Spread of Buddhism to the West." BuddhaNet. BDEA, 2008. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
Ciliberto, Jonathan. "What Is Buddhist Art?" Buddhist Art News. The Coraline Theme, 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
McIntire, Jennifer N. "Khan Academy." Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.
Stanley, John, and David Loy. "Why the Buddha Touched the Earth." ECOBUDDHISM ::. EcoBuddhism Project, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
"Standing Crowned Buddha." Artwork of the Day. The Art Walters Museum, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.