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Amit'a (Amitabha) with Six Bodhisattvas and Two Arhats

Catalogue Description:
From "Korean Art Collection in the Brooklyn Museum" catalogue: Hanging scroll mounted on panel This Buddhist painting features Amitabha Buddha attended by: four bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara, Mahasthamaprapta, Maitreya, and Ksitigarbha; two disciples, MahaKasyapa and Ananda; and two devas, Brahma and Indra. The principal figure, Amitabha Buddha, is seated cross-legged on a low square lotus seat, making the dharmacakra mudra, indicating that he is giving a sermon. Panduravasini wears a white robe with bejeweled crown, while Mahasthamaprapta holds a white porcelain bowl. The third attendant Kshitigarbha is wearing a hood and holds a magic pearl (cintamani) and a staff in his hands. The two guardian devas have third eyes on their foreheads and have their hands pressed in prayer. Unlike Bodhisattvas, who wear "heavenly robes" that expose their chests, the guardians wear robes that cover the entire body below the neck. MahaKasyapa and Ananda, who appear as an old and a young man, respectively, face each other with their hands clasped in prayer. From Accession Card: Amitabha (Buddha) with Six Bodhisattvas and Two Arhats Seated Buddha flanked by a group of four standing Bodhisattvas on each side, mainly in bright mineral colors of red, green and dark blue. The Buddha and Six Bodhisattvas in this painting also represent Ch'il Song, The Seven Star Spirits. Confucianism was the official state religion of the Yi Dynasty. Although the government persecuted Buddhists severely, Buddhism survived in Korea as a kind of folk religion with a large admixture of Shamanist and Taoist elements. The Seven Star Spirits were Taoist deities assimilated by Korean Shamanism and subsequently by Korean Buddhism. The Seven Stars are those of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, which is visible throughout the year from the northern hemisphere. Several other stars and constellations were deified by Chines Taoists, but the Big Dipper was the most important because it was thought to bestow good and bad luck. Seven was considered a lucky number in the Far East. The Big Dipper's seven stars were paralleled by the seven "stars" of the face: Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and a mouth. A person's destiny was thought to be controlled by the Seven Star Spirits. Therefore, it was important that a Korean Buddhist pay his respects and make a monetary offering in the Seven Star Shrine inside the compound of a Buddhist temple.


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