Gift of James W. Alsdorf
Mr. and Mrs. James W. Alsdorf, Chicago, Illinois; given to the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1955.
This devotional object depicts Vairocana, the Cosmic Buddha, who creates and maintains all phenomena. The iconography is based on that of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The elongated earlobes reference the heavy earrings worn by the prince before he renounced his worldly wealth; the protrusion atop his head is called ushnisha, and it signifies enlightenment. Other physical traits include the “all-seeing” third eye, or urna, at the forehead, the three fleshy rings of the neck indicating the three states of existence, and the monk’s robe, or uttarasanga, which shows his religious devotion. The Wheel of Law symbols on the soles of Vairocana’s feet are reminders of the teachings of the Eight-Fold Path, which the Buddha and his followers practice to attain Nirvana.
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