Scroll depicting early life of Buddha goes on display for first time

Burmese manuscript is among 120 items at British Library exhibition exploring Buddhism

A vibrantly coloured 19th-century Burmese illustrated manuscript has gone on public display for the first time as part of a major exhibition exploring Buddhism.

The British Library is putting more than 120 items on display for a show, opening to the public on Friday, which spans 20 countries over 2,000 years.

They include silk scrolls of sutras, painted wall hangings and delicate scriptures written on tree bark, gold plates and palm leaves.

The majority of items are from the library’s abundant collection of Buddhist material. This includes the Burmese scroll, which is 7.6 metres long and shows scenes from the early life of the Buddha Amitabha.

Jana Igunma, the lead curator, said: “We have so many absolutely breathtaking Buddhist manuscripts in our collection and we change them frequently in our Treasures gallery.

“But there is just not enough space. It would take us hundreds of years to display everything that is beautiful.”
Igunma hopes the show will encourage people to find out more about Buddhism. “It is something which can sound very distant and people usually have in mind a Buddha figure sitting in meditation, but there is much more to it,” she said.

“We want to show the diversity of all the different traditions and the different cultural influences and different aspects of Buddhist practice.”

Other objects include a copy of the Lotus Sutra in a lavishly decorated scroll, written in gold and silver ink, and a Chinese illustrated manuscript of the Guanyin Sutra, which dates from the 9th-10th centuries and has a rare early depiction of a woman giving birth.

The show also shines a light on mindfulness, with an early morning meditation session in the library for visitors who want to fully prepare themselves for the exhibition.

“Meditation has become mainstream,” Igunma said. “You don’t have to be Buddhist or religious, these are practices that are open to everyone.”

Buddhism is at the British Library from 25 October to 23 February

How to Invoke the Medicine Buddha

by David Michie|

David Michie teaches us a healing meditation to purify karma and cultivate well-being.

It is no coincidence that the words “medication” and “meditation” are only one letter different. They both come from the same Latin root word, medeor, meaning “to heal or to make whole.”

In the West, our medical focus is on the external—on the curing of physical symptoms—while Eastern traditions focus more on the internal, that is, addressing the mental causes of illness. It is our good fortune to be living at a time when we can access the best of both worlds.

Medicine Buddha meditation is a healing practice treasured by many in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. We can practice it for ourselves, or for someone we care about who is ill. The oldest Medicine Buddha sutra we know about dates from the seventh century. In that sutra, we are told the story of a bodhisattva, Medicine Buddha, who made twelve vows about how he would help living beings after attaining enlightenment. The holistic healing of mind and body was an important focus of his vows: he promised to help eradicate pain, disease, and disabilities of all kinds, as well as promote good health and optimal flourishing.

When we practice Medicine Buddha meditation, we do not do so to replace mainstream medical treatment, but to complement it. The practice purifies and removes the underlying, karmic causes of disease and cultivates the causes for holistic well-being. Such may be the power of our practice that we experience significant improvements in the symptoms, too. But we need to be clear about what we are doing.

Medicine Buddha is as much about mind as it is body. Empirical evidence shows that when we meditate, it triggers a self-repair mechanism in our own bodies. We stop producing cortisol and adrenalin, and instead enhance the production of immune-boosting endorphins and seratonin, arming our body against invasive bacteria, viruses, and other imbalances. These changes also promote positive mental states.

An element of confidence in the practice is helpful. The placebo effect is said to account for more than a third of all healing. Medicine Buddha meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. If we have confidence that it can work for us, then we’re off to a very good start.

Resonance may also account for the powerful impact of Medicine Buddha practice. On one level, we may be sitting alone in a room meditating, but in a different way we are resonating with the many hundreds of thousands of people who have done exactly the same thing before us. We’re benefiting from their experience and contributing to the experience of those who follow.

When doing this practice, it’s important to retain an awareness that you are not an inherently existent person asking an inherently existent buddha to get rid of an inherently existent illness. This would be little different from a theistic or shamanistic approach. It is precisely because nothing has any true, separate, or independent existence—including illness—that practices like this have power.

We invoke Medicine Buddha through the use of specific imagery and sound, reaching out to the consciousness of those numberless beings who have already attained enlightenment and who have chosen to manifest Medicine Buddha’s qualities.

The minds of buddhas are understood to be all-seeing and all-knowing. Buddhas react to their mantra in the same way we react when we hear our name mentioned, so we pretty much have a buddha on speed dial when we use their mantra. To borrow a metaphor from the late Tibetan teacher Gelek Rinpoche, when we recite a buddha’s mantra we are providing a hoop through which they can hook us into their energetic influence.

Note that Medicine Buddha is a Kriya tantra practice. As such, it is helpful that you first have some familiarity with the sutra tradition, as well as receive proper initiations and teachings from a properly qualified teacher, if you wish to fully embody the precious Medicine Buddha lineage.

Ancient ‘Lost City’ of Khmer Empire Rediscovered Hidden Under The Cambodian Jungle


Scientists have rediscovered an ancient city of the Khmer Empire, hidden for centuries by the lush jungle topography of modern-day Cambodia.

Mahendraparvata, sometimes dubbed the ‘lost city of Cambodia’, was an early capital city of the Khmer Empire, a Hindu-Buddhist regime of Southeast Asia that lasted from the 9th to 15th centuries of the common era.

Archaeologists and historians have known about the existence of Mahendraparvata for decades, but surviving archaeological evidence of this Angkorian city has proven scant, until now.

In a new paper – collecting the results of an ambitious, years-long research campaign – an international team has published what they say is the most definitive identification of early Angkor-period capital, thanks to airborne laser scanning (Lidar).

012 mahendraparvata 2The grid-like axes of the urban network. (Chevance et al., Antiquity, 2019)

In conjunction with a ground-based survey, the research team mapped an extended urban network that they say dates from the 9th century, located in the Phnom Kulen plateau, to the north-east of the city of Angkor (the predominant capital city of the Khmer Empire, as recorded by history).

“The mountainous region of Phnom Kulen has, to date, received strikingly little attention,” the researchers, led by first author and archaeologist Jean-Baptiste Chevance from the Archaeology and Development Foundation in the UK, explain in their paper.

“It is almost entirely missing from archaeological maps, except as a scatter of points denoting the remains of some brick temples.”

Screen Shot 2019 10 16 at 5.24.39 pmAerial view of Mahendraparvata. (Archaeology Development Foundation)

In research efforts that commenced in 2012 and lasted until 2017, the team commenced a series of Lidar survey flights above the region, building up an extensive map of thousands of newly detected archaeological features that had previously escaped notice on the ground – due to centuries of encroachment by nature.

“The Ancient Khmer modified the landscape, shaping features on a very large scale – ponds, reservoirs, canals, roads, temples, rice fields, et cetera,” Chevance told Newsweek.

“However, the dense forest often covering the areas of interest is a main constraint to investigating them.”

012 mahendraparvata 2A newly documented temple site. (Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative)

Thanks to the aerial survey, though, the team was able to see past the layers of vegetation and dirt hiding Mahendraparvata from view, uncovering a complex urban network of city features designed in a grid-like pattern of linear axes, and spanning up to 50 square kilometres in total.

“Numerous other elements of the anthropogenic landscape connect to this broader network, suggesting the elaboration of an overall urban plan,” the researchers explain.

“Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighbourhoods and even the royal palace abut or coincide with the embanked linear features.”

Despite the elaborate design and sophistication of the lost city’s engineered footprint, it did not survive long.

In the years to come, the Khmer Empire moved its centre of operations to the new capital, Angkor, perhaps due to better conditions for growing food in a less mountainous and challenging environment.

“The city may not have lasted for centuries, or perhaps even decades,” one of the team, Damian Evans from the French School of the Far East, told New Scientist.

“But the cultural and religious significance of the place has lasted right up until the present day.”

The findings are reported in Antiquity.

Bodhisattva statue unearthed

The Apsara National Authority technical team uncovered a sandstone statue of a Bodhisattva while carrying out excavation work at the east entrance of the Ta Nei temple on October 8.

The team was trying to find the temple’s roof stone, which had fallen into a pile of stones in land covered with anthills.

Ta Nei temple’s restoration project leader Sea Sophearun, who is also an archaeologist at the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said his team had only uncovered the head of the statue.

The right ear is still intact but the left one is missing and it has a scraped nose with one side of the cheek damaged.

“Firstly, we cannot determine what caused the damage to the cheek. It might be a result of the statue crashing into something. Although the statue was uncovered at the location, there is no evidence to show the torso of the statue lies in the spot where we uncovered the head,” Sophearun said.

Chhouk Somala, an officer in charge of archaeological registration at the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said the head is 54cm in height, 27cm in width and has a depth of 36cm.

Somala said the Bodhisattva statue’s head was carved in the Bayon style during the late 12th and early 13th centuries, during the reign of Jayavarman VII.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the statue head is known as the Avloketesvar Bodhisattva, also known as “Guanyin” who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

In Khmer art, this kind of statues has two, four, or eight arms, holding Buddhist strings, books, a rose, and a vase. Also, the statue was carved like Bodhisattva Buddha.

Apsara National Authority spokesman Long Kosal said experts have kept the statue head temporarily on the premises of the Apsara National Authority. Then, it will be registered and have its photo taken as part of the documentation process.

Besides, experts will prepare the request to have the statue stored at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB).

“After we have cleaned the statue’s head, we will study more about it. Then, in future we will exhibit it to the public,” said Kosal.

He said the Apsara National Authority team had always uncovered artefacts and statues in the Angkor area, but he could not provide the total number of such findings.

Unique in the Kingdom: Preah Vihear province’s ancient Buddha statues

Chaktomuk Temple, a unique ancient Buddhist shrine in Cambodia, is gradually regaining its popularity as a heritage site destination as more tourists visit the attraction following its restoration last year.

The temple’s four surviving back-to-back Buddha statues – facing north, south, east and west respectively – are regarded as unique in Cambodia.

Chaktomuk Temple is located within the vicinity of the Bakan temples, also known as the Preah Khan Kompong Svay archaeological complex, built between the 11th and 14th century about 100km east of Angkor in Preah Vihear province.

Prior to restoration, the upper half of the Chaktomuk Temple structure had collapsed, with the four back-to-back Buddha statues covered by overgrown plants which had eroded their surface.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has designated Chaktomuk Temple as one of Cambodia’s rarest and most unique. At an honorific ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, who was appointed to lead the temple’s restoration, said the work was carried out with four purposes.

Firstly to precisely identify the structure’s construction date; secondly to prevent people damaging the collapsed Buddha statues further; thirdly to promote cultural and religious tourism; and finally to attract more visitors to increase local income.

Chaktomuk Temple’s design is remniscent of the world famous Bayon Temple’s four-smiling faces statue in the Angkor Archaeological Park, built as a dedication to the four-faced Avloketesvar (a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas).

“The four directions each Buddha statue faces are about the four Brahmavihara: Metta [loving-kindness], Karuna [compassion], Mudita [joy with others] and Upekkha [equanimity],” Royal Academy of Cambodia archaeological professor Thuy Chan Theoun told The Post.

“As far as I know, Chaktomuk is the only temple with surviving joined back-to-back Buddha statues in the country. It is a unique temple.”

He continued that Chaktomuk Temple was built in 12th century during King Jayavarman VII’s reign. In that period, the king led his men to the Bakan temples to fight back Champa’s troops before recapturing Yasodharapura (Angkor city) from invading Chams in 1181.

“Bakan Kampong Svay [Preah Khan Kompong Svay] is the largest ancient city in the Kingdom. The former city is where King Jayavarman VII’s troops stayed,” said Chan Theoun.

Content image – Phnom Penh Post
The statues are located among the Bakan temples, also known as the Preah Khan Kompong Svay archaeological complex. Hong Menea

However, Chan Theoun said he has found the remains of more destroyed back-to-back Buddha statues in other temples: “I found four back-to-back Buddha statues in Wat Tralaeng Keng in Lungvek commune [Kampong Chhnang province], which is another former city [1528 to 1594] built after the Angkor Era.

“Now at Wat Tralaeng Keng, we can only see the statues’ feet. According to locals, the Buddha statues were dragged to Tonle Sap lake at the east of pagoda.

“Locals claim that they found the Wat Tralaeng Keng statues in the Tonle Sap lake, saying Siamese troops dragged them there. Fishermen say that they know it is the statues, but they are not capable of lifting them out of the water.”

Chan Theoun now plans to resurface the statues from the lake.

“It is an initiative of my own. I stood on the river shore to look at where locals claimed they made the finding. I want to hire a sand dredger and a crane to lift the stone back to its original location. However, I have yet to realise my dream as I don’t have the time or the budget,” he said.

There are many temples in Preah Khan Kompong Svay, such as Preah Domrei, Preah Thkoal, Preah Stung, Mebon and Chaktomuk.

The heritage site was left abandoned for many years, but after restoration the Chaktomuk Temple structure was restored to its original height of ten metres.

“Because the road condition is not very good, we don’t see many people visiting on weekdays. But on weekends and especially national holidays, there are many visitors.

“Now, no one drives past without visiting Chaktomuk Temple. They will make a stop to take photos and place offerings for prayer,” said Heritage Authority officer Lee Phearum, who is stationed at the temple with other rangers.

Chaktomuk Temple is located to the east of Bakan Temple, about 100km from Angkor Archeological Park in Ronakse commune’s Ta Siang village, Sangkum Thmei district.

Thai’s ‘Ultraman Buddha’ draws fire

BANGKOK (Reuters) — A group of Buddhist hardliners in Thailand filed a police complaint against a young female artist on Wednesday over paintings that depict images of the Buddha as the 1960s Japanese superhero character Ultraman.

The complaint over four paintings, displayed earlier this month at a shopping mall in northeastern Thailand, highlights how ultra-conservative Buddhist groups have been emboldened to go farther than establishment religious authorities in combating perceived threats to their faith.

Buddhism, followed by more than 90 percent of Thais, is one of three traditional pillars of Thai society, alongside the nation and the monarchy.

The paintings were removed from the exhibition and the artist — a fourth-year university student whose name has been withheld for her safety — had to publicly apologize to northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima Province’s chief monk in front of the provincial governor.

In the past, that might have been the end of the incident.

But on Wednesday, the hardline group Buddhist Power of the Land said it had filed a police complaint against the artist and four others involved in the exhibition, on the grounds that comparing the Buddha to an action figure was disrespectful.

The group wants the five prosecuted under a law against insulting religion that allows imprisonment of up to seven years.

“The paintings dishonored and offended Buddhists and harmed a national treasure,” Buddhist Power of the Land representative Charoon Wonnakasinanone told Reuters.

The group also wants the paintings destroyed.

Under Thai law, police must investigate a complaint and recommend whether there are grounds to pursue criminal charges, a process that usually takes at least seven days.

Thailand’s official Buddhist authorities oppose criminal charges against the artist.

Pongporn Pramsaneh, director of the Office of National Buddhism, told Reuters he considered the matter closed after the public apology.

“Whoever wants to take legal action, we will not get involved,” Pongporn said.

Few have been jailed under the law, though there have been some cases of fines, including against tourists with Buddha tattoos or souvenir statues.

Iran’s historical relics return home after major China exhibit

The objects along with hundreds of others from various countries were put on show at the three-month exhibit titled “The Splendor of Asia: An Exhibition of Asian Civilizations”, which opened its doors to the public on July 13 at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

“15 pieces of historical-cultural artifacts exhibited at ‘The Splendor of Asia’ were flawlessly returned home,” CTHN quoted Jebreil Nokandeh, director of the National Museum of Iran, as saying on Wednesday.

The Iranian objects, dating from Achaemenid era (550-330) to Safavid era (1501–1736), included clay works, inscriptions, sculptures and glassworks, which represent the [long-lasting] relationship between Iran and China.

The major exhibit, which came to an end on August 11, offered visitors a journey across the vast lands of the continent and travel through its long history by presenting 451 cultural relics from 49 countries.

“Such a large number of top-level exhibits and participating countries have never been seen before in one exhibition in China,” according to Guan Qiang, deputy director of China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration.

Currently, a collection of centuries-old celadons, which are on loan from the National Museum of Iran, are on show at Beijing’s Palace Museum that is hosting a vast exhibit of such potteries from several countries.

The National Museum of Iran is somewhat chock-full of priceless relics that represent various eras of the country’s rich history. Massive and tiny statutes, ceramics, potteries, stone figures, bas-relief carvings, metal objects, textile remains, rare books and coins are amongst objects that build up the innumerable collections inside.

Asia is home to the largest area, population and most ethnic groups in the world. It is the birthplace of Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese civilizations.

Buddha sculpture from 11th Century found in Ariyalur

CHENNAI: A ruined granite Buddha sculpture dating to 11th Century AD was found among two Lord Vinayaka idols under a peepal tree in Pallipalayam, a remote village in Ariyalur district. A team led by Buddhist expert B Jambulingam identified the sculpture which was unearthed during the construction of the nearby Pandyan lake 15 years ago.
No one, however, knew the importance of it and it eventually became part of the Hindu style of worship.

1,000-year-old Sarapleng stupa to become tourist attraction


A local politician along with archaeologists from the Fine Arts department are in Nakhon Ratchasima to survey a thousand-year-old Sarapleng stupa build in ancient Khmer style.

Bhumjaithai MP Apicha Lertpacharakamol said that Ministry of Tourism and Sports wants to support local attractions and the economy in the area including the stupa, which boasts a sandstone lintel and was constructed next to a pond to its northeastern and a Baray, an artificial body of water common to the architectural style of the Khmer Empire. The Fine Arts Department registered the area on which the Sarapleng stupa stands in the Government Gazette, Book 53, Chapter 34, September 27, 1936, and in Book 98, Chapter 104, June 30, 1981, listing the size as 32 Rai 3 Ngan 96 Wah. The department will propose a budget in order to investigate further and develop the area as a tourist destination.

He added that this topic was discussed in a local community meeting and that agreement had been reached to cooperate with the fine art department to develop these abandoned historical remains.

Chamnan Kritsuwan, director of the 10th regional office of the Arts department at Nakorn Ratchasima, said after surveying the area that the archaeologists have to research and identify the origin and history of the area before restoration can take place. Early investigations show that the remains were built around the 16th – 17th Buddhist century and influenced by Mahayana Buddhism in the reign of Jayavarman VII. The restoration budget is expected to be at least Bt2 million not including the tourism promotion budget.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Will Sell 300-Plus Chinese Works of Art Donated by Florence and Herbert Irving

More than 300 Chinese works of art gifted by philanthropists and Asian art collectors Florence and Herbert Irving to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will be offered during Sotheby’s Asia Week in September.

Proceeds from the sale will fully benefit an Irving Acquisition Fund established by the museum to diversify its art collections. Sotheby’s didn’t disclose the total estimate of the collection.

In March 2015, the Irvings donated almost 1,300 works of art to the museum’s Department of Asian Arts for its centennial. At that time, they agreed that the Met could sell any of the works as long as the proceeds went toward future acquisitions.

READ MORE: Qing Dynasty Jade Washing Bowl From the Irvings Collection Sold for US$3 Million at Christie’s

Herbert Irving, one of the founders of Sysco Corp., the world’s largest food-services provider, died at his Manhattan apartment overlooking The Met in October 2016, at age 98. Florence died in July 2018, also at 98.

The Irvings made generous donations through the decades to the Met, which named its Asia art wing for the couple in 2004. Additionally, the Irvings donated more than $300 million to Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

“Our sales are representative of the Irvings’ exceptional taste in Chinese art,” says Angela McAteer, head of Sotheby’s Chinese works of art department in New York, “which features a strong emphasis on organic materials and works hewn from nature, as well as extraordinary Chinese jades produced during the reign of the Qianlong emperor.”
A white and apple-green jadeite “Landscape” table screen is expected to fetch up to $120,000 at Sotheby’s this September. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Leading the sale is a finely carved spinach-green jade brush pot, formerly in the collection of English businessman and art collector Alfred Morrison (1821-97), and kept at Fonthill, his famed English country house.

The brush pot is an extremely luxurious item for the scholar’s desk. It was made from a large, high-quality boulder that would not have been easily available before the Qianlong Emperor’s 1759 conquest of the Western Territories—areas where such jades were produced.

The carvings feature immortals surrounded by auspicious elements, such as deer and lingzhi, a Chinese medicinal herb that is regarded as the “herb of spiritual potency.”

The brush pot has a presale estimate of between $500,000 and $700,000.

Including the brush pot, over 120 archaic and Qing dynasty (1644-1911) jades along with porcelain, sculptures, and objects for the scholar’s studio will be auctioned in a dedicated sale on Sept. 10 at Sotheby’s New York.

Additional items will be sold at Sotheby’s Asian Art auction on Sept. 14. Public exhibitions will open in Sotheby’s New York galleries on Sept. 6.