Syncretism and Cultural Diffusion in Religious / Cultural Art Cultural diffusion Main Entry: cultural diffusion Part of Speech: n Definition: in anthropology, the process by which a cultural trait, material object, idea, or behavior pattern is spread from one society to another Syn·cre·tism –noun 1. the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion. 2. Grammar . the merging
Siddhartha Gautama • Born approx. 563 B.C.E. • Northern India • Kshatriya Caste –Hindu society • Lived as a Prince • No exposure to life’s realities • Sickness • Old Age • Disease • Death
Siddhartha seeks “meaning” and • an end to suffering in life • Asceticism and extreme self-denial • Meditation (lotus position) • Discovers the path to enlightenment • is through the “Middle Way” • Point of Siddhartha’s enlightenment is • indicated by the “nimbus” (halo)
Emaciated Siddhartha in the Attempt to find the path to Enlightenment in his period of extreme asceticism and Renounciation. (Indian art)
Hotei “laughing Buddha” in China (technically not a Buddha) Amita Buddha (really a Bodhisattva) Representing Pure Land sect of Mahayana Buddhism in Kamakura, Japan Buddha in India. Mudra Represents teaching, or Law of Dharma.
Tibetan art of the Buddha with “earth as witness” mudra (hand gesture) Representation of the Buddha in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, 1st century AD. Blend from spread of Hellenistic style of sculpture by Alexander’s empire.
Gandharan Buddha 1st or 2nd Century CE The ancient kingdom of Gandhara stretched across parts of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was a vital commercial center of the Middle East many centuries before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. For a time, Gandhara also was a jewel of Buddhist civilization. Scholars of Gandhara traveled east to India and China and were influential in the development of early Mahayana Buddhism.
A Buddha in Borobudur, (island of Java) Indonesia.
Bodhisattva from SE Asia or Tibet Asia . • Bodhisattvas represent an intermediary between • lower and higher planes of existence in the effort to • help others attain enlightenment. • Mudra depicts charity and / or fulfillment of wishes.
Shakyamuni Buddha: Represents Siddhartha The mudra suggests absolute balance, of meditation. The hands are relaxed in the lap, and the tips of the thumbs and fingers touch each other.
What did these statues and images have in common? Why were some different then others? What other religions demonstrate the qualities of cultural diffusion and syncretism in its art?
Buddha statues are shown in various poses and forms .While Buddha Statue come in a wide variety of poses, the most common is the Buddha in Lotus Position. This is a position of meditation that symbolizes perfect balance of thought and tranquility. Many Buddha statues sit on a pedestal in the form of a lotus blossom. The lotus represents the Buddha Mind because, though growing in mire, it puts forth beautiful, immaculate flowers. • Commonly seen designs include: • the Seated Buddha • the Reclining Buddha • the Standing Buddha • Hotei or the obese Laughing Buddha, usually seen in China (This figure is believed to be a representation of a medieval Chinese monk who is associated with Maitreya, the future Buddha, and is therefore technically not a Buddha image.) • Markings • Most depictions have markings, which are considered the signs of his enlightenment. These signs vary regionally, • but two are common: • a protuberance on the top of the head (denoting superb mental acuity) • long earlobes (denoting superb perception) • Hand-gestures (Mudras) • The popularity of any particular mudra or asana tends to be region-specific. • The subtle differences in style, but overall similarities are prime examples of • “cultural diffusion” throughout world history!