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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
©Kimbellartmuseumap1966.09 wears a crown. Such initiations are still an important feature of Vajrayana Buddhism. The earth-touching gesture of the central Buddha’s right hand alludes to the moment in Siddhartha Gautama’s life when, challenged by the forces of evil, he called upon the earth to witness his right to seek enlightenment. After the earth thundered her acknowledge- ment, Siddhartha resumed his meditation, and became the Buddha. Additional buddhas fill the top of the arch and the top and sides of the supporting pillars. These buddhas, which illustrate the existence of past, future, and current buddhas, provide a broader tempo- ral background for this seminal moment in the lifetime of the historical Buddha. They also reiterate the promise of enlightenment for all, which is inherent in Siddhartha’s life and in imagery recording key moments from that life. A small buddha, who also holds his right hand in the earth-touching gesture, is seated in the center of the arch encircling the Bud- dha. The small buddha may be understood as Akshobhya, one of the most important buddhas in Vajrayana, and the only other buddha identified by the use of this gesture. His presence in this sculpture further links it to the development and spread of esoteric practices. As one would expect of a work of art cre- ated centuries after the Buddha’s enlighten- ment, this sculpture serves both as an iconic reminder of his teachings and as a reference to the many ways in which Buddhism evolved as it spread throughout Asia. 71 fall 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly