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#1785 - Sunday, May 2, 2004 - Editor: Gloria  


The two come when there
Is a notion of oneness,
So oneness also must
Not be adhered to.
When a single thought
Does not arise,
The myriad things
Are without defect.

- Seng- ts’an (d.606)

~  ~  ~

Having forgotten all involvement,
One is silent and still,
Yet divine wisdom by
Nature is incisively penetrating.
Dark and incognizant,
It still shines and illumines.
While conforming to
Primal and true emptiness,
One all the while perceives
With precise exactness.

- Yongjia Xuanjue (665-713)

Putting The Ocean in a Bowl - The Origin of the Buddha Image
Article of the Month - April 2004  

The Image of Shakyamuni Buddha from Seiryoji, Kyoto, Japan, AD 987, said to be based on king Udayana's first image of Buddha.   Two Phases of Buddhist Art  

Buddha visiting the city of Kapilavastu:
Sanchi, 2nd - 1st century B.C.



Whatever of the Buddhist art survives today is divisible broadly into two phases, the early (4th century BC - 1st century AD) and the late (1st century onwards). The early phase may be identified as pre-iconic and the late as post iconic. The sculptural panels at Sanchi stupas, carvings in a couple of caves at Ajanta and the remains from Amaravati and other ancient sites define the pre-iconic phase of the Buddhist art. The art of this early phase comprises of the renditions, which depict events and episodes from the life of Buddha, various stages of his attainment of Enlightenment and preaching of Dharma, but such narratives do not have any of his iconic representations.


Buddha Image: Kushana style: 2nd century A.D.


It is only during the second phase of Buddhist art that the anthropomorphic images of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas appear. [...]

A theory discovering Buddha's presence in the depiction of his absence is a psychology based assumption. It has been argued that absence, when depicted powerfully, as powerfully reminds of the absent one and thus the absence itself becomes his presence. This dimension of the absence is quite valid in context to the personally known persons. The Buddha, after he was Enlightened, moved from one place to the other and taught the Dharma for long forty years. Thousands of his devotees had the divine experience of seeing the Great Master. Truly, such ones could realise him even in his absence. But, this is a psychological perception, not the vision of a sculptor working with stone as his medium. The sculptor does not convert a materially present phenomenon into a non-presence. He, on the contrary, discovers the non-present into the visual medium and material forms. Besides, such stylistic excellence or innovation could not be a unanimous or universal feature to prevail for over five hundred years. [...]

The Buddhist Tradition from Non-Image to Image

There is no denying the fact that early Buddhist art did not have Buddha's anthropomorphic images. There seems to operate behind it some kind of injunction, but such injunction could not be a one-time taboo-like thing made expressly. In all likelihood, the artists, working as per the Buddhist tradition itself, saw Buddha more in the Dharma rather than in a human form. This tradition begins with Buddha's attainment of Enlightenment. It is a moment of transcendence. The Sakyamuni leaves and the Buddha emerges. With the Light emerges the Buddha and with the Light emerges the Law, the Dharma. Thus, the Buddha is the Dharma and the Dharma is the Buddha, and there is nothing that divides them. The Buddha, before he merged into Dharma, was a living organism, the jeeva-kaya, whatever its name, Gautam, Bodhisattva or Sakyamuni. After he was the Enlightened One, the Buddha, an entity beyond death and birth, beyond time and space, he was the pure existence, the imperishable Dharma-kaya. The anthropometry could span and the art could depict the jeeva-kaya but not the Dharma-kaya, which was beyond both.

This also explains why the Buddha allows Anathapindika (in the Vinaya of Sarvastivadins) for making the images of Bodhisattvas, as the Bodhisattvas represented but the jeeva-kaya. The Dharma-kaya, the fragrance of the Law, could not be translated into a form. In Samyutta Nikaya (iii, 120), the Buddha says," who sees Dharma, sees me, who sees me sees Dharma". The Buddha thus equated the Dharma with the Buddha. The Buddha probably wished to be seen in the Dharma, and not individually. Thus, after the Buddha and the Dharma were one, an image, a thing perishable and with little expanse, could not represent him, for the image could capture his anatomy but not him who as Dharma was a reality beyond time and space. The ocean could not be contained in a bowl. 


This article by Prof. P.C. Jain

"This American Life" 
on Public Radio International (PRI)  


We also hear from a man who stopped producing testosterone due to a medical treatment, and found his entire personality was altered. (9 minutes)

Act One. Life at Zero. The interview with a man who lost his testosterone continues. He explains that life without testosterone is life without desire. Desire for everything--food, conversation, even TV. And he says life without desire is unexpectedly pleasant. The man first wrote about his experiences, anonymously, in GQ Magazine. (7 minutes)    

Editor's note: The rest of the show is optional, but the first 15 minutes is truly worth a listen.  

  Dear Fellow-reader:  

The May issue of the TAT Forum is now on-line at   This month's contents include: Peace of Mind Despite Success (part 6) by Richard Rose | Going Within: The Object of Attention by Bob Cergol | What Have We Lost? by Bob Fergeson | Morning by Gary Harmon | Prologue to The Little Book of Life and Death by Douglas Harding | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Two Baby Goats by Shawn Nevins | Your Task by Hakuin | Humor   Your Task

The self is simply a bundle of perceptions. Perceptions themselves, their organs, and things perceived are without substance, as the Heart Sutra tells us. Yet at the same time, the self is the agent of realization and the setting of serious practice. The Buddha pointed out that it is difficult to be born a human being and difficult then to find the Buddha Dharma. Indeed. When you reflect on the infinite number of happenstances that coalesced to produce you, then you understand how unique, how precious, how sacred you really are. Your task is to cultivate that precious, sacred nature and help it to flower.

Hakuin Zenji (1689-1796)





Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something –
for the ear bone


is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long –
and thought: the soul
might be like this –
so hard, so necessary –


yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don’t we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it


lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts –
certainties –
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.

~ Mary Oliver ~  

(Why I Wake Early, 2004)  

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