In the ruins of a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, archaeologists have discovered a stone statue that seems to represent Prince Siddhartha before he founded Buddhism.
The stone statue was discovered at the Mes Aynak site in a ruined monastery in 2010, but it has not been until now that it has been analyzed and described. Gérard Fussman, a professor at the Collège de France in Paris, details his study in 'The early iconography of Avalokitesvara’ (Collège de France, 2012).
Measuring 28 centimeters tall and carved in slate stone (a stone that is not in the area), the statue represents a prince with a monk. Based on a bronze coin found nearby, Fussman estimates that the statue dates back to 1,600 years ago. Siddhartha lived 25 centuries ago.
The prince stands sitting on a round wicker stool with his eyes looking down and with his right foot on his left knee. He is "dressed in a dhoti (garment), with a turban, wearing pendants, earrings and bracelets, sitting under the foliage of a pipal tree. Behind the turban, two long rubans flow from head to shoulders”Fussman writes in his new book. "The turban is decorated with a rich frontal ornament, without any human figure”.
The monk stands to the right side of the prince, with your right forearm upright. In his right hand the monk holds a lotus or palm flower (now broken) and on the left some kind of round object.
Based on the iconography of the figure, especially the pipal leaves, Fussman believes that the prince is Gautama Siddhartha Sakyamuni, who is said to have attained enlightenment, became a Buddha (someone of divine wisdom and virtue) and founded the religion of Buddhism. The figure shows him at an early point in his life when he had not yet begun his fateful journey to enlightenment.
According to the story, Siddharta's father wanted him to follow an earthly path and tried to keep your son locked up in the palace.
“Lotus pools were made for me at my father's house just for my use; in one, there were blue lotus flowers, another white and another redSiddhartha says in ancient writings attributed to him. "A white umbrella was put over me day and night so that I didn't worry about hot or cold, dust, sand or dew.”. (The translation is from Rupert Gethin's book 'The foundations of Buddhism ', Oxford University Press, 1998).
The prince's life could change when he ventured out of the palace and saw the real world. “As soon as he left the palace he began to be pessimistic"Fjussman tells LiveScience,"because knowing these people he understood that everyone works, everyone can get sick, everyone dies”. He grew disenchanted with palace life and left, becoming a poor ascetic.
Fussman says that the figure supports the idea that there was a monastic cult in ancient times dedicated to Siddhartha before his enlightened life. The idea was proposed in 2005 in an article published by Gregory Schopen in Est and West of the University of Los Angeles (UCLA). Schopen found evidence of the cult when he studied the Tibetan version of the monastic code, Mulasarvastivada vinaya.
“It is a cult centered on his image that consisted of a procession through the region and in the citySchopen writes. "A cult linked to a cycle of festivals that celebrate four moments, not in the biography of Buddha, but in the life before the enlightenment of Siddhartha”.
A part of the code authorizes carrying the image of Siddhartha (referring to Bodhisattva) on a cart.
Whether or not the figure was discovered in a chariot, Fussman says that the representation of Gautama Siddhartha Sakyamuni before he became Buddha is one more proof of the existence of this cult. “Here's an example of it too, ”he says in an interview,“ Buddha before becoming Buddha”.
Excavations continue in the Mes Aynak deposit as scientists explore the complex in an effort to save the objects before the area is disturbed by copper mining.
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