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The Buddha triumphing over Mara
Place of Origin: India, probably Kurkihar, Bihar state
Date: approx. 850
Materials: Basalt
Style or Ware: Pala
Dimensions: H. 33 in x W. 17 1/2 in x D. 9 1/2 in, H. 83.8 cm x W. 44.5 cm x D. 24.13 cm
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: South Asian Art
Collection: Sculpture
Object Number: B60S598
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 2

Description

Label: After many lifetimes of spiritual and intellectual preparation, the Buddha-to-be neared the achievement of enlightenment, and thus of buddhahood, as he sat meditating under a tree. The demon Mara, an embodiment of death, violence, and uncontrolled passions, approached at the head of a monstrous army, intending to put a stop to the enlightenment. Mara and the Buddha-to-be repeatedly challenged each other’s power and past accomplishments. Finally, the Buddha-to-be said,

“ ‘Mara, who is witness to your having given donations?’ Said Mara, ‘All these,’ and he stretched out his hand in the direction of his army. Then Mara said, ‘Who is witness to your having given donations?’ The Buddha-to-be replied, ‘I have no animate witnesses present. However, the great seven-hundred-fold donation I gave in my immediately previous existence will be testified to by the solid earth.’ And drawing forth his right hand from beneath his priestly robe, he stretched it out towards the mighty earth. And the mighty earth thundered, ‘I bear you witness’ with a hundred thousand roars. And the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.” (Adapted from Henry Clark Warren’s 1896 translation of an ancient Buddhist text.)

This sculpture was made in northeastern India, very near where these events are supposed to have occurred. Buddha images seated with the right hand reaching down at the knee to touch the earth commemorate the victory of the Buddhato- be over the forces embodied in Mara and the success in overcoming the last obstacles to attaining buddhahood.

The inscription on the base says that the sculpture was donated by a senior monk named Prajnaprabha. The inscription on the halo gives the “Buddhist creed.”

The Buddha has explained the cause of all things that arise from a cause. He, the great monk, has also explained their cessation.

When this formula was inscribed on a sculpture it was thought to empower the sculpture as a transmitter of the Buddha’s teaching.

For two thousand years a shrine called the Mahabodhi (the “Great Enlightenment”), at Bodhgaya in northeastern India, has marked the exact spot where the Buddha’s victory over Mara and achievement of enlightenment were thought to have occurred.

This temple and its present-day use is the holiest site in the Buddhist world.

More Information

Inscriptions: On base: "This is the pious gift of senior monk Prajnaprabha". On halo: "Buddhist creed"
Exhibition History: "Indian Stone Sculpture ", SFO Airport, 11/15/1985 - 3/1986

"Leaves from the Bodhi Tree: The Art of Pala India (8th-12th Centuries) and Its International Legacy", Dayton Art Institute (11/11/1989-1/14/1990), Walters Art Gallery (2/17/1990-4/15/1990), Newark Art Museum (5/19/1990-8/26/1990), Smart Gallery, University of Chicago (10/9/1990-12/2/1990)
Label: After many lifetimes of spiritual and intellectual preparation, the Buddha-to-be neared the achievement of enlightenment, and thus of buddhahood, as he sat meditating under a tree. The demon Mara, an embodiment of death, violence, and uncontrolled passions, approached at the head of a monstrous army, intending to put a stop to the enlightenment. Mara and the Buddha-to-be repeatedly challenged each other’s power and past accomplishments. Finally, the Buddha-to-be said,

“ ‘Mara, who is witness to your having given donations?’ Said Mara, ‘All these,’ and he stretched out his hand in the direction of his army. Then Mara said, ‘Who is witness to your having given donations?’ The Buddha-to-be replied, ‘I have no animate witnesses present. However, the great seven-hundred-fold donation I gave in my immediately previous existence will be testified to by the solid earth.’ And drawing forth his right hand from beneath his priestly robe, he stretched it out towards the mighty earth. And the mighty earth thundered, ‘I bear you witness’ with a hundred thousand roars. And the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.” (Adapted from Henry Clark Warren’s 1896 translation of an ancient Buddhist text.)

This sculpture was made in northeastern India, very near where these events are supposed to have occurred. Buddha images seated with the right hand reaching down at the knee to touch the earth commemorate the victory of the Buddhato- be over the forces embodied in Mara and the success in overcoming the last obstacles to attaining buddhahood.

The inscription on the base says that the sculpture was donated by a senior monk named Prajnaprabha. The inscription on the halo gives the “Buddhist creed.”

The Buddha has explained the cause of all things that arise from a cause. He, the great monk, has also explained their cessation.

When this formula was inscribed on a sculpture it was thought to empower the sculpture as a transmitter of the Buddha’s teaching.

For two thousand years a shrine called the Mahabodhi (the “Great Enlightenment”), at Bodhgaya in northeastern India, has marked the exact spot where the Buddha’s victory over Mara and achievement of enlightenment were thought to have occurred.

This temple and its present-day use is the holiest site in the Buddhist world.
Inscriptions: On base: "This is the pious gift of senior monk Prajnaprabha". On halo: "Buddhist creed"
Exhibition History: "Indian Stone Sculpture ", SFO Airport, 11/15/1985 - 3/1986

"Leaves from the Bodhi Tree: The Art of Pala India (8th-12th Centuries) and Its International Legacy", Dayton Art Institute (11/11/1989-1/14/1990), Walters Art Gallery (2/17/1990-4/15/1990), Newark Art Museum (5/19/1990-8/26/1990), Smart Gallery, University of Chicago (10/9/1990-12/2/1990)
Resources:

Video: The Buddha Triumphing over Mara: Form and Meaning in Buddhist Art (Part 1 of 2): http://youtu.be/gsGtplSi17M
Video: The Buddha Triumphing over Mara: Form and Meaning in Buddhist Art (Part 2 of 2): http://youtu.be/cKs46lmPeAw

Susan Huntington, of Ohio State University, gives a talk about the Asian Art Museum's statue of the Buddha triumphing over Mara. Lecture presented by the Society for Asian Art February 13, 2015.