This monumental stone image of the seated Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of the West, sits with his hands held in the meditation gesture (in Sanskrit known as 'dhyana mudra'), his feet in the 'vajrasana' position of both soles upwards, and wearing the thin diaphanous robe of a monk. Deeply immersed in meditation, the Buddha emanates the serenity, wisdom and spirituality expected of the central icon of Buddhism. It is likely that originally this Buddha was part of a specific grouping. For example, Amitabha, together with Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, and Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, constitutes the powerful triumvirate of Past, Present and Future Buddhas. As well, Amitabha as the Buddha of the West, appears in mandalas on the western quarter.
The concept of the mandala, a diagrammatic representation of the invisible forces that govern the cosmos, was brought to Indonesia with Vajrayana Buddhism. Vajrayana mandalas commonly have five Buddhas: the Buddhas of the Four Directions, presided over by Vairochana, the Buddha of the Centre. The largest three-dimensional mandala, and a site of world cultural significance, is at Borobudur, an astounding 9th century monument that contains nearly 500 Buddhist statues. Stylistically this Buddha is close to those at Borobudur, and presumably belonged to such a set that once constituted a temple mandala, with Amitabha Buddhas presiding over the west.
The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.339.
late 8th century-mid 9th century
105.0 x 88.0 x 65.0 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2000
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Buddha: Radiant awakening, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Nov 2001–24 Feb 2002
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–13 Mar 2016
Travellers and Traders in the Indian Ocean world, Western Australian Maritime Museum, 21 Oct 2016–21 Apr 2017
Referenced in 10 publications
Edmund Capon, Orientations, 'Asian Collections in the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 76-79, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 79 (colour illus.). fig.6
Jackie Menzies, Look, 'Icon of the spiritual', pg. 18, Melbourne, Oct 2000, front cover (colour illus.), 18 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'Asian Treasures', pg. 57-59, Sydney, May 2003, 57 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, Arts of Asia, 'New Dimensions', pg. 54-63, Hong Kong, Nov 2003-Dec 2003, 59 (colour illus.). no.12
Jill Sykes, Look, 'New Era for Gallery's Asian Art', pg. 22-23, Sydney, Sep 2003, 23 (colour illus.), 23 (detail).
Alejandra Szczepaniak, Look, 'The year of giving generously', pg. 22-23, Melbourne, Dec 2000-Jan 2001, 22 (colour illus.), 23.
Judith White, Look, 'Joining the circle', pg. 11, Sydney, May 2006, 11 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 339 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), Buddha: Radiant awakening, Sydney, 2001, 104 (colour illus.), 186. cat.no 76
Unknown, Inspirations - Art ideas for primary and middle years, Carlton South, 2004, cover (colour illus.), 4 (colour illus.). card 4