Monday 8 October 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 9

Early Buddhism has thus had two products : the portrait-statue and the iconic Stupa. The Stupa in its turn has given birth to the Shiva emblem and to the image proper. The image has developed itself as Buddha, and also borne as an offshoot the image of Narayana. But with this extraordinary energy of modification, only to be credited when we remember the wonderful theological and philosophical fertility of the Indian mind, it is not to be supposed that the Stupa as such had ceased to develop. There was at least one well-marked phase before it yet. The world, for the monk, was peopled with meditating figures. The church was ideally a great host who had he sat enthroned had many branches. This thought also found expression in the Stupa. The same idea is laboriously sculptured on the walls of the shrine in Ajanta Seven. And on reaching more distant parts of the order, no doubt it was this development that gave rise to the multiplication of small meditating figures and their being placed even on straight lines, or amongst leafage, wherever the architecture gave the slightest opportunity or excuse.

Al this goes to show that Magadha remained (as she began), throughout the Buddhist age the source and creative centre, alike for theology and for the system of symbolism which was instrumental in carrying that theology far and wide. Waddell some years ago communicated a paper to the Royal Asiatic Society in which he urged that the original types of the Mahayanist images of Tibet must be sought for in Magadha. He was unboubtedly right, and the conclusion is forced upon us that the doctrine of the Bodhisattvas must have been born in Magadha, and from there have been poured out upon the Council of Kanishka, at Taxila, or Jalandhara (Jullundur), or Kandahar. The Kanishkan council thus would only give effect to the opinions and speculations that had long been gathering in the eastern centre. The doctrine of the Bodhi-sattvas came ful blown to jalandhara and there gathered the force that carried at over the Chinese Empire. Indeed the very fact that the commentaries of this Council were written down in Sanskrit is strong presumptive evidence for the vitality and force of the eastern elements at the Council, an added witness to the prestige which their presence conferred upon it. This Council is said to have sat some months, and we are expressly told that its work lay in reconciling and giving the stamp of orthodoxy to all the eighteen schools of Buddhism which by that time had come into existence. That is to say, it did not profess to give currency to new doctrines. It merely conferred the seal of its authority on phases of the faith which would otherwise have tended to be mutually exclusive. This in itself is evidence of the way in which its members were saturated with the characteristic eastern idea of Vedantic toleration. And Buddhism stands in this Council alone in religious history as an example of the union of the powers of organisation and discretion with those of theological fervour and devotional conviction inthe highest degree. Evidently we ahve here a great body of monk-pundits, imported for the summer into Gandhara. Probably many of them never returned to their mother-communities, but remained, to form the basis of that great monastic development which Gandhara was afterwards to see.

The priority of Magadha requires little further argument. At the time of the Council the synthesis of the Mahayana was already more or less complete.. And in accordance with this is the fact that on the recently-discovered relic casket of Kanishka are three figures-Buddha and two Bodhisattavas. In harmony with this is the further fact that the few inscriptions hitherto discovered in the Gandhara country are all dated between A.D. 57 and 328. We can see that after the evolution of the ornate and overmultiplied style of Gandhara, Buddhism could not have had the energy to begin over again in India to build up a new art with its slow and sincere history of a growing symbolism. As a matter of fact, Gandhara was in the full tide of her artistic success in the fourth and early fifth century, when Magadha had already reached the stage of pre-occupation with images of Narayana.


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