Asian art

Spread of Buddhism

spread of buddhism

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A number of the world’s great religions were born during the sixth and fifth centuries BCE.Zarathustra founded Zoroastrianism in Iran;Laozi, the founder of Daoism, and Confuciuslived in China; Mahavira, the great teacher of the Jain religion, was one of the Buddha’scontemporaries in India. Some consider the fifth century BCE more likely than the sixth for theBuddha’s birth, partly because the earlier date creates a hiatus between his teachings and subsequent events.

pha that luang stupa laos

Legend has it that during the Mauryan period(324-187 BCE), with the support of King Ashoka(c. 271-231 BCE), the new philosophy spread throughout India and beyond – to Sri Lanka,Myanmar, and the region to the west. Ashokaexpounded his conversion (following a period of war) throughout his extensive Indian empire in the form of edicts and beneficent acts. His edicts have been found from Afghanistan in the north to Karnataka in the south and Orissa in the east. In the millennia to follow, Ashoka, who styled himself a cakravartin (one who turns the wheel of the law in a secular sense), served as the model for subsequent Buddhist rulers.

Following the Buddha’s death, five hundred of his followers met in a great council in Rajgriha(the first of six) to codify sutras (texts) and vinaya (rules) for the sangha (monastic community). In the early Buddhist schools, his followers sought personal release from suffering, or the ideal of the arhat (worthy one), a being who has attained released from the cycle of rebirth. Over time, sectarian differences arose and separate schools developed. The term Hinayana Buddhism was devised by the later Mahayana Buddhists to describe the early schools of Buddhism; another term associated with the Early schools is Theravada, the form of Buddhism practiced in Southeast Asia today. The first is generally considered derogatory (it means “lesser vehicle”), and the second refers to the single extant school of Buddhism that follows the Pali canon. A more appropriate term than Hinayana might be the Early Buddhist Schools, or nikayas.

seated buddha

We know little of the early Buddhist Pali canon prior to the first century BCE, so it is difficult to say when sectarian differences arose. By the second century CE, so called Mahayana literaturehad developed, a more inclusive doctrine that suggested a path to enlightened for a broader segment of society beyond monastic community. One of its primary tenets relates to thebodhisattva, a being who could attain nirvana but who remains in this world to help all sentient beings. (One might distinguish two types of Boddhisattvas, humans who have embarked on the path, and celestial bodhdhisattvas, who have lived thousands of years before reaching the exalted state). This belief resulted in an expansion of the Buddhist pantheon, with a multitude ofBoddhisattas populating the myriad Buddha worlds. Texts also multiplied, many of which the Early Buddhist schools did not accept as the word of the Buddha, since they were written after his passing. A scholarly community, the Mahayana monks wrote extensive commentaries explaining these texts.

Traditionally, scholarship has tended to identify three schools ofBuddhism, the hinayana, theMahayana, and the tantric school (alternately called esoteric,Vajrayana or Mantrayana Buddhism). The earliest tantric texts were written by the sixth century CE. More closely related toMahayana than to Early Buddhism, tantric practiced differed my incorporating means by which one could attain enlightenmentquickly. This classification of three schools is imperfect, as there is overlap and shared belief among them. Certainly during the early period, practitioners of Early,Mahayana and tantric Buddhismcoexisted in monasteries.

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Furthermore, none of these so called schools of Buddhism has remained static, each adapting, growing, and continuing to contribute to the wealth of Buddhist literature and practice. Recent scholarship has begun to move away from this tripartite classification of Buddhism. The fact that all monks were ordained into one or another of the Early Buddhist schools, or nikayas (a practice still followed in Tibet), and then after their ordination may have followed practices that relied onMahayana sutras or Vajrayana tantras, indicates a less rigid categorization than scholars previously believed.

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Our collections of Buddha statues and arts

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

1,750 euro
Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

275 euro
Antique bronze Mandalay Buddha statue

Antique bronze Mandalay Buddha statue

1,150 euro
Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

300 euro
Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

2,250 euro
Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

300 euro
Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

600 euro
Antique wooden Burmese temple

Antique wooden Burmese temple

1,250 euro
Bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

Bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

175 euro
Old bronze Nepali Lokeshwor

Old bronze Nepali Lokeshwor

750 euro
Antique bronze Thai Buddha on Naga snake

Antique bronze Thai Buddha on Naga snake

1,650 euro
Antique bronze Burmese Mandalay Buddha

Antique bronze Burmese Mandalay Buddha

950 euro
Large antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

Large antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

1,250 euro
Antique Thai bronze Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique Thai bronze Rattanakosin Buddha

300 euro
Pair antique Burmese Nat statues

Pair antique Burmese Nat statues

950 euro
High quality Nepali bronze Buddha statue

High quality Nepali bronze Buddha statue

1,300 euro
Old bronze Nepali Padmasambhava statue

Old bronze Nepali Padmasambhava statue

300 euro
Special antique bronze Shan Buddha

Special antique bronze Shan Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Buddha statue

Antique bronze Thai Buddha statue

950 euro
Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

275 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

700 euro
Antique bronze Mandalay Buddha statue

Antique bronze Mandalay Buddha statue

850 euro
Antique bronze Thai monk statue

Antique bronze Thai monk statue

1,550 euro
Old bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

Old bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

1,550 euro
Special Burmese crowned Buddha statue

Special Burmese crowned Buddha statue

4,250 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

1,750 euro
Early antique Burmese Buddha statue

Early antique Burmese Buddha statue

5,500 euro
Antique bronze Thai Monk statue

Antique bronze Thai Monk statue

350 euro
Special large bronze Buddha statue

Special large bronze Buddha statue

15,500 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha

Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha

250 euro
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