A SILVER AND COPPER-INLAID BRONZE FIGURE OF SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA TIBET, 13TH – 14TH CENTURY
Himalayan Art Resources item no. 68454
The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet: Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, October-December 1999.
Arte Buddhista Tibetana: Dei e Demoni dell' Himalaya, Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin, June-September 2004.
Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2005-2017, on loan.
Casting the Divine: Sculptures of the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2012-2013.
Franco Ricca, Arte Buddhista Tibetana: Dei e Demoni dell' Himalaya, Turin, 2004, fig. 33.
Compare the facial features; the use of inlay at the eyes and embellished hem; the gently swelling torso and the overall physical proportions with another thirteenth century bronze figure of Shakyamuni, see Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, vol. II, p. 1172, cat no. 313B.
Having vowed to remain in meditation until he penetrated the mysteries of existence, Shakyamuni was visited by Mara, a demon associated with the veils and distractions of mundane existence. The Buddha remained unmoved by the diversions with which Mara sought to deflect him from his goal. According to some traditional accounts, Mara’s final assault consisted of an attempt to undermine Shakyamuni's sense of worthiness by questioning his entitlement to seek the lofty goal of spiritual enlightenment and the consequent freedom from rebirth.
Aided by spirits who reminded him of the countless compassionate efforts he had made on behalf of sentient beings throughout his numerous animal and human incarnations, Shakyamuni recognised that it was his destiny to be poised on the threshold of enlightenment. In response to Mara’s query Shakyamuni moved his right hand from the meditation position in his lap and touched the ground, stating ‘The earth is my witness’.
This act of unwavering resolve caused Mara and his army of demons and temptresses to disperse, leaving Shakyamuni to experience his great enlightenment. The thunderbolt sceptre (vajra) that appears on the lotus throne before the figure refers to the adamantine site (vajrasana) at Bodh Gaya, which is said to have been empowered to expedite his enlightenment.