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Buddha Image as Perceived in the Mind

The Buddha image, which completely revolutionalised, by its great dynamism, unimaginably diversified iconography, massive scale and unique spiritualism, the art scenario in ancient India, seems to have evolved upon human mind during the lifetime of the Buddha himself, although this image of mind took some six hundred years to emerge into stone or clay like mediums. As the Buddhist tradition has it, even during Buddha's lifetime, the idea of making his images persisted in his devotees' minds. The widely quoted legend of king Udayana, commissioning Buddha's image to represent the Great Master during his absence and that of Anathapindaka praying Buddha to allow at least the images of Bodhisattvas, suggest that his followers contemplated the possibility of covering their Master's absence by his anthropomorphic representations even before the Mahaparinirvana.

Buddhism was a wide spread phenomenon even in the Buddha's lifetime and every place and person, devoted to this new path, cherished the desire to feel the presence of the Master. May be, the managers of the new faith thought of making his absence good by his images. There reflects in the subsequent iconic cult of the Thousand Buddha a prior tradition of thought, which sought symbolic multiplication of his presence, a Buddha for each of his devotees and for each corner of the earth where the Dharma was pursued.

Buddha, however, seems to have discouraged it, or at least, there prevailed conflicting views, as to whether Buddha, the pure existence, the Dharma-kaya, which the Buddha was, be allowed to be transformed into a material medium. It seems the latter of the two views prevailed and, despite that Buddhism related themes and episodes from Buddha's life were sculpted, making of the Buddha's image remained forbidden till quite late. Obviously, the Buddha image, an entity different from Buddha himself, which had evolved in human mind during Buddha's lifetime itself, could not be immediately transformed into a material medium.

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