Enlightened – The Realm of the Buddhas


Enlight­ened The Realm of the Buddhas From 20 November 2020

The Buddha seated on a lotus throne is one of the oldest and to date best-known representations of Buddhism.

Buddhists in a temple in Thailand © Peter Thiele, Berlin

At present, more than 380 million people identify as Buddhists. In some countries, such as Thailand, Buddhism is the majority religion. Images of the Buddha are to be found across the globe and enjoy great popularity.

Buddha Shakyamuni as a prince, Tibet, 16th c. Metal, fire-gilded, semi-precious stones © Museum der Kulturen Basel, IId 13889, collected by G.W. Essen, purchased 1998

The model for this statue is in the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, Tibet. It is one of the rare cases in which Buddha Shakyamuni is shown as a prince: he is wearing the regalia and precious robe of a worldly ruler. But, at the same time, his calm and inward-looking expression is a sign of meditative contemplation.

Buddha Shakyamuni, Sri Lanka © Peter Thiele, Berlin

Up to this day, Buddhist teachings are very much alive and the source of many new images of the Buddha. Practically everyone knows what a Buddha looks like. What significance and function do Buddha images have? Who was the Buddha and what is his message? The emergence and spread of Buddhist teachings are reflected in the many depictions of the Buddha up to the present.

Taibai once asked Baso: “What is Buddha?”
Baso replied: “Spirit is Buddha.”

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