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Buddha Charita – The Life of Buddha

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”

The Buddha introduced into the world a philosophy which helped mankind navigate through his suffering. The life he led and the experiences that made him confront suffering also guided him to his final destination – the attainment of enlightenment. Buddha symbolizes a path to liberation and detachment from the triviality of the material world.

The most well-known historical account about the Buddha is the story of his life. It is this divine narrative that has become the inspiration for my latest artwork titled “Buddha Charita”, which is also the culmination of my new series – “Buddha Sutra”. Here’s an image of the artwork I have created:

Buddha Charita

Link to a video clipping of the painting – https://www.instagram.com/p/CdSddp6JL2k/

This watercolor artwork is a visual narrative linking several events in the life of the Buddha from his days as Prince Siddhartha Gautama, his confrontation with suffering, his quest for a path towards the cessation of this suffering and his final liberation in the form of his “awakening”.

The first embodiment of the Buddha as the royal Prince Siddhartha has been represented in the right-hand corner of the artwork by an image of him, resplendent with royalty. This is followed by the next stage in his life, where he comes across the sight of a decrepit old man, a sick man, and a corpse which have all been portrayed one below the other in the artwork. These sights changed the perspective of the prince and opened his eyes to all the suffering that accompanies life. Also depicted in the painting, is the image of an ascetic that Gautama encountered, who had learned to seek out spiritual solace in the midst of these worldly miseries and sorrows. Determined to find the same enlightenment, Gautama turned towards the path of renunciation.

After exploring asceticism, or restraint from all physical needs and desires, he discovered meditation and used the practice as a path toward enlightenment. This led to the third stage in the life of Siddhartha, which is displayed in the artwork as the central image of the Buddha, “the awakened one”. The tree on the extreme left of the painting represents the sacred Bodhi tree or the fig tree (Ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha meditated and finally reached the highest state of enlightenment or “nirvana,” which simply means “awakening”.

In addition to the figurative representation of the Buddha himself, his teachings have also been represented in the artwork through iconographic symbols of the likes of the Lotus flower and the Dharma Wheel. Other icons displayed in the artwork include various Buddhist monuments like pagodas and stupas, specifically the Sanchi Stupa, which is considered to be the most sacred monument of Buddhism, as it represents and displays various Buddhist ideals.  

Through this artwork, I wish to honour Buddha’s life, for it is a reminder of the basic Buddhist principles that form the stepping stones to a higher spiritual level.  It is these principles that serve as a source of strength in the grief-stricken world. It is my attempt to convey the philosophy of Buddha by reflecting on his life’s experiences and pledging to practice inward reflection to overcome sorrows, just as he did.  

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“Moksha” – The Moral Compass

Hey all! I know I have been MIA for quite some time but I’m back now with a new post about my most recent artwork. This too has been long overdue, as I allowed procrastination to get the better of me, but finally, I have succeeded in completing it!

In one of my previous posts, I had talked about how a book can become the source of inspiration for my art, in particular the third book of the Ram Chandra Series – Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta, by the Indian author Amish Tripathi. This work of fiction chronicles the life of Ravan and portrays him as an artist among other things. One of the excerpts from the book describes a painting made by him that is not only a character sketch of himself but also a logically befitting description of the concept of “dharma” or the “righteous path”. (Click on the following link to read this post – https://theartdungeon.blog/2021/06/06/inspiration-calling/).

The beautiful artwork created by Ravan and described in this excerpt was not just a vivid description of Ravan’s psyche, but also a profound portrayal of his struggle to attain the right direction through the “moral compass” called dharma.

This one-of-a-kind piece of art became my muse purely because of the distinctive way in which it brings out the true essence of Ravan. I was so enamored by his narrative that I couldn’t wait to interpret it in my own way and create my very own version onto my canvas. Finally, I managed to do that and here I present to you, my acrylic painting titled “Moksha”.

In the book, Ravan describes a painting created by him that depicts his struggle to attain enlightenment. I have attempted to depict his mental turmoil and his desperate attempts to scale the wall of the Nine emotions or the Navrasas that hold him down. The ten heads in my artwork correspond to the ten heads of Ravan himself. Out of these, 9 represent the Navrasas, one for each emotion, whereas the tenth head is the state of spiritual awakening that Ravan is striving to achieve.

I have further attempted to add on to the concept by depicting the 7 chakras or the main energy centers that control our body. My endeavor is to reaffirm that one can only transcend the wall of emotions by opening up all the chakras, allowing energy to flow freely, thereby harmonizing the body, mind as well as the spirit.  It is only this equilibrium that can help one attain physical, emotional and spiritual “moksha” – which was not just the “righteous path” being pursued by Ravan, but also the “dharma” attained by the Buddha.

Hope you all like my approach towards Ravan and his “moksha!”

Awakening(Commissioned)

The second and final installment of the Buddha series is a painting titled Awakening, which was made to order for an office space. The brief was to create an image of the Buddha in the highest state of consciousness, that is, Nirvana.

I had been specifically asked to use muted colors, hence I restricted my palette to earthy tones, comprising of warm hues like yellow, orange and brown, with just a hint of red.

Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness and the realization of this state is the awakening. The path to attaining nirvana is meditation, which was practiced by the Buddha himself. Hence, in my painting as well, I have depicted him in a meditative pose.

The look of serenity on the Buddha’s face in this composition symbolizes the joy and contentment he experienced after he awakened to nirvana. I have attempted to highlight the two important aspects of Buddha’s Awakening here, namely, the “what” and the “how”. The former is what the Buddha awakened to, which is the fact that immortal happiness does exists. The latter refers to the means of achieving this eternal happiness, which is human effort.

While painting this piece, the biggest challenge for me was to portray not only the tranquil expression of the meditating Buddha, but also  a vision of the ultimate reality that he was able to see once he awakened to nirvana. I have tried to illustrate this vision in the form of the Buddha’s reflection in the flowing stream. This image of the Buddha himself in the water is symbolic of the eternal happiness that was within him. In order to realize it, all he needed was the right perspective.

In other words, you don’t need to see different things, but rather see things differently and the undying happiness that we are looking for in worldly delights can be found within ourselves.

I have also attempted to capture some of the other important aspects of nirvana in my painting. One of these is mindfulness, that is, an awareness of reality around us. The background of the painting, specifically the negative space and the flower buds around the Buddha, represent this reality.

Another factor is concentration, which is evident through the calmness in the face of the Buddha, thus displaying that one pointed state of awareness.

Yet another facet that I have tried to bring out is tranquility of both body as well as soul, by rendering an aura around the body of the Buddha and a warm glow in the center of the torso. The former denotes calmness of the bodily form and the latter, serenity of the mind and soul.

The Buddha’s look of contentment personifies equanimity, wherein the body, mind and soul are in equilibrium and accept reality as it is, without any craving or aversion.

I have once again used my favorite medium to create this composition. Yes! Oil paints!! But, to bring about a tactile feel to my work, I have also combined it with the technique of impasto, which I have discussed in detail in one of my earlier posts (Dragon-Resurrection, dated, July 6, 2019).

I have applied the impasto in the flower buds and their stems in order to give them a 3D effect.  Previously, I had used it in combination with acrylics but this time, I have taken the conventional approach with oil paints.

One thing that I realized is that the end result obtained with both mediums is entirely different. While acrylic impasto gives a matte effect, impasto with oil paints has a glossy sheen to it.

Now I am not saying that one is better than the other…that is a matter of personal choice. So try both and take your pick!

A Tryst with the Divine

Hey folks! Now that I am through with the Dragon Series, let me introduce you to the next couple of paintings, the subject being, Divinity. For this set of artworks, I have attempted to capture the essence of the Buddha onto my canvas.

Enlightenment

The first painting, titled “Enlightenment”, is a portrait of the Buddha. The word Buddha is not a name, but a title, which means the enlightened one or the awakened one. It is a Sanskrit word that means “a person who is awake”. What a Buddha is awake to, is the true nature of reality. When the Buddha passes into the peace of Nirvana, it is like a transformed state of existence.

This perfect state of existence, where knowledge or wisdom co-exists with compassion, is called Enlightenment. Knowledge here does not means worldly knowledge of things around us, but a true understanding of reality and the intrinsic nature of things surrounding us. Enlightenment is so much beyond the realm of outside ordinary experience that it cannot be described, but only be realized and felt within ourselves. If I were to put it in words, it would be a paradise within us.

I call this painting a partial portrait, wherein I have painted only half of the face of the Buddha, representing that true reality He sees upon attaining Nirvana. Once enlightened, He is oblivious to all external influences, thus the other half, which symbolizes a superficial exterior, ceases to exist.

The medium I have used for this portrait is oil paints. However, I have been a tad bit adventurous with the background of this artwork! I am greatly inspired by the palette knife technique of my all time favorite artist, Leonid Afremov. He is a Russian–Israeli modern impressionist, who works mainly with a palette knife and oils. Using his unique knife painting technique, he dabs paint onto the canvas in relatively thick and small strokes, creating paintings that seem to be a burst of countless bright colors.

Using a palette knife to paint is very different from a brush. A brush bends and flexes as you move it. The palette knife is a more rigid tool. It can be used to carefully add a straight line or toss on a huge blob of paint. While Leonid possesses his own signature style, I have attempted to reproduce similar effects using a brush instead of a palette knife in my painting. Also, instead of using several colors (like Leonid does), I have used different tones of blue to create an Ombre effect as part of the background of this artwork. Ombré (literally “shaded” in French) is the gradual blending of one color or hue into another, usually moving tints and shades from light to dark.


Sounds Greek and Latin to you? I shall attempt to “enlighten” you all in detail on these terms some other time. For now, it’s Adios till my next post!!