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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
57 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly these carvings. These statues too have been colored. Cave 6, which holds over three thousand statues of all sizes, is espe- cially beautiful. Another feature of these later caves is that the rock around the central figures has been removed all the way down to the floor so that worshippers can circumam- bulate them, an essential part of any ceremony involving the Buddhist faithful. As with some of the earlier caves, large windows carved out of the rock expose the buddhas’ faces—but only the faces— from a distance. When we think of a person, we think of the face. The face reveals who we are. Thus Zen masters ask their disciples to show them their original face, their face before they were born—not their original hand or their original foot. At this point, the guide left us to continue by ourselves to the caves at the western end, which were carved out dur- ing the T’ang dynasty (618–906), long after the Toba had departed. By that time the buddhas had become Chinese—not as muscular or austere as the Toba images. Finally, the caves petered out in a series of undistinguished buddhas carved by local nobles after Tatung’s glory years were long gone. Before leaving, I took a picture of the big T’ang dynasty Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, which looks out from the bluff. This statue, a weighty testament to our quest to portray the sacred, is great art on a great scale. I feel honored to have seen it. But I couldn’t help wonder if such representations help people on the road to liberation from the world of red dust, or if they only further their enslavement to objects of sensation. I could hear Subhuti answering the Buddha’s question, say- ing that the Buddha cannot be seen by means of the attributes he had acquired. And I can hear the Buddha adding, “Since the acquisition of attributes is an illusion, Subhuti, the non- acquisition of attributes is not an illusion. Hence, by means of attributes that are not attributes the Buddha can, indeed, be seen.” In Tatung, all I saw were buddhas with attributes. The attributes that were not attributes would have to wait for another day. m.mienik