This Burmese manuscript displays the structure of the Buddhist universe - the heavens, the hells, and places associated with the Buddha. In this scene, the pillars represent Mount Meru, the universe’s central axis, and its surrounding seven mountain ranges. Ananda the cosmic fish encircles the base of Meru in the surrounding ocean. On Meru’s peak is the heavenly home of the god Indra (Sakka), where the Buddha once preached to his mother.
The Buddhist art of central Thailand was associated with the prosperous kingdom of Dvaravati. Its patrons created large-scale public art, which served as an expression of state identity, represented by the most monumental works in this exhibition: stone Buddhas, sacred wheels of the Buddha's Law, and narrative steles and reliefs. | Dharmachakra (Wheel of the Law), 8th century. Central Thailand. Lent by Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand (11/2524). #LostKingdoms
Buddha Preaching on Winged Grotesque with Attendants, 7th–early 8th century. Central Thailand. Lent by Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, Ayutthaya, Thailand (2/5CH) | Among the most enigmatic Buddhist icons created in the Dvaravati style in the seventh and eighth centuries are the triad scenes of the Buddha with two attendants preaching while riding through the air on a winged grotesque, as recounted in various texts. #LostKingdoms
Mahapratisara, the Buddhist Protectress, 10th century. India (Bihar). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift, 1991 (1991.108) | Female bodhisattvas like this Tara were becoming increasingly important to the Buddhist communities of North India. In her lower left hand she holds a palm leaf manuscript suggesting she may have been understood as a manifestation of this text or the very embodiment of Buddhist ideology. #Buddhism
The Drathang monastery, which was founded in 1081, has some of the most elaborate and best preserved early wall paintings in Tibet. Here the Buddha wears carefully depicted textiles and is surrounded by celestial attendants. The distinct treatment of these figures suggests that at this time many regional workshops were active in Tibet.
Six-Armed Avalokitesvara Expounding the Dharma: Folio from a Manuscript of the Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom), early 12th century. India (West Bengal) or Bangladesh. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2001 (2001.445j) | Palm leaf manuscripts housed in the great north Indian monasteries were important for the spread of doctrine and many were brought by monks to Tibet. This text assembles the totality of Mahayana doctrine…