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Ancient Designs (Buddhist Art in NYC)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an excellent collection of Buddhist art. Some images are designed better than others. A standout image in this collection of Buddhist art is the gilded bronze statue of Shakyamuni from early Tibet. Although ancient, this small statue conveys the meaning in a way that is easy for everyone – Buddhists and outsiders alike – to understand. Here you see the Buddha in gold to represent his cosmic knowledge. Many Buddhist statues are made with gilded bronze because it ages well and to beset the Buddha with gold, as mentioned before, represents the cosmic knowledge he holds. The Buddha makes the gesture, known as a mudra, called the Bhumisparsa which means to invoke the Earth itself as the witness to the truth of the Buddha’s words.

Another ancient work in this collection that is not as easy to understand is the Avalokiteshvara from Northeastern Thailand. Avalokiteshvara is the Buddha of Compassion who will listen to your pleas. In this Thai image of Avalokiteshvara, it’s not easy to read the statue as Avalokiteshvara for an outsider because it just looks like a man with four arms in a standing stance. Avalokiteshvara should have been adorned with more regal robes to address who he is. His headdress should also have been more elaborate because right now, the crown is not ornate enough to be read as Avalokiteshvara. More arms may have also been necessary. Overall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art showcases some interesting statues with varying degrees of design success for the Buddhist worshiper.