Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.
Upcoming SlideShare
Resurrection or resuscitation
Next
Download to read offline and view in fullscreen.

1

Share

Sacred Images

Download to read offline

A talk on religious icons by Richard Maidwell, assissted by Graham Williams

Related Audiobooks

Free with a 30 day trial from Scribd

See all

Sacred Images

  1. 1. SACRED IMAGES Notes from a presentation given by Brother Richard Maidwell as part of the Exploring Consciousness series at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town, December 2012 Brother Richard belongs to the Catholic Redemptorist Community in Cape Town, and his speciality is the study, restoration and production of religious icons. He believes that icons are more than a religious work of art, and are a source of grace, enlightenment and merit. Graham Williams, owner of an original Christ and the Buddha Meet icon by Richard, assisted.
  2. 2. An image is part of what it means to be human, enables us to go beyond ourselves and access our spiritual nature; and to express ideas and concepts beyond verbal language and intellect.
  3. 3. Images have the power to move us to wonderment. Give us a „transcendental perspective.‟
  4. 4. I hear babies cry...... I watch them grow They'll learn much more.....than I'll never know And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world
  5. 5. A natural labyrinth in nature.
  6. 6. The previous slide brings to mind a story told by Anton Osler (Stoep Zen): Louis van Loon who established the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo, Natal was asked to do renovations at a nearby Catholic convent, badly in need of repair and brightening up. One of his actions was to embed a large, colourful, tile flower in the passage between the bathroom and sick bay. Years later he learnt that Sister Magdalena had stayed in her bed staring blankly, ignoring her bible, being sick and depressed, near death for ever so long............... One day a nurse found her singing in the passageway, tracing the tile flower with her walking stick. Mother Superior commented: "Maybe it was the Buddhist flower that helped her find her faith again".
  7. 7. Pre-historic rock art, around 20 to 30,000 years old, signify a leap in human evolution, a creative explosion.
  8. 8. San rock art may be the result of altered states of consciousness or images seen in hypnotic states. The relationship between image and religious experience is certainly the case in Christian and Buddhist iconography.
  9. 9. Image of Chauvet cave, France. (30 -35000 years old) S. Mitten writes in “Thoughtful Foragers: A study of prehistoric decision making”. : “...this art was a part of modern human ecological adaptation to their environment. The art functioned to extend human memory, to hold concepts which are difficult for human minds to grasp and to instigate creative thinking about the solution of environmental and social problems”.
  10. 10. 12,000 years later, an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh‟s image gives the text authority. Word and image used simultaneously
  11. 11. The Rosetta stone illustrates well that even our modern written language began as image.
  12. 12. The icon or image - whether Christian or Buddhist - is not the personal expression of an individual artist. It is the expression of an ancient tradition which has been distilled over time through prayer and inner experience of a community of Faith. The Icon is therefore a sacred space which one enters into …. carefully and with the right attitude. “Take off your shoes for this is holy ground.”
  13. 13. With both Tibetan Thangkas and Christian Icons we have less of a feeling of looking into a picture than that the person portrayed looks out at us. Their respective traditions have much more in common. Icon gazing has for ages applied to both traditions. Buddhist monks gaze at mandalas until the images come to life for them. Catholic priest Henri Nouwen wrote on the subject (“Behold the Beauty of the Lord: praying with icons”). Icon gazing is a way of entering into sacred space and seeing with the heart, receiving wisdom that cannot come any other way. It‟s akin to walking a labyrinth. Unlike a maze there are no dead-ends, puzzles, problems to solve. One follows the path to the centre, and then leaves refreshed and with new insights.
  14. 14. Contemplation, meditation and ultimately transformation are what these images are really made for. The Christian Iconographic tradition has a turbulent and interesting history resulting in a highly worked out theological basis for its existence. It also shows how the human need for the religious image survived huge opposition in its formation.
  15. 15. The most comprehensive examples of early Christian art come from the Roman catacombs. They show a 300 year journey of discovery in understanding the faith and its implications. For the then mainly illiterate these simple images reminded them of the verbal teachings they had heard, about eternal life. Many of the symbols were taken directly from pagan art.
  16. 16. Catacomb of Priscilla…..Orans figure, dove with a branch in its mouth….divine intervention…...Good shepherd
  17. 17. The God Orpheus for instance who‟s history had many parallels to the life of Christ, was adopted from pagan imagery as the good shepherd. The fish which became a cryptogram for the name of Jesus was also a pagan fertility symbol of the Goddess Atagartis.
  18. 18. Dove with olive branch – symbol of divine intervention. Woman at the well, Orans figure and Chi rho, Jesus the good shepherd portrayed as Orpheus. Other symbols which gradually replaced earlier themes show Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, talking to the woman at the well, feeding the multitude.
  19. 19. . The prophet Jonah being regurgitated by the whale – symbol of resurrection. The loaves and fishes, feeding of the 5000 - symbol of the Eucharist.
  20. 20. Head of Jesus. Catacomb of Comadilla Rome 4th Century. By the later part of the 3rd Century we see the Symbolic Christ being replaced by the bearded face which associate with Jesus.
  21. 21. The image Of Jesus we have come to know and recognise soon overtook all others of a symbolic nature. It soon became apparent and agreed that this is what Jesus of Nazareth looked like. This was later corroborated by the appearance of the “Holy Cloth” or the „Sudarion‟
  22. 22. Fayum portraits
  23. 23. The previous slide shows the presentation of the Mandylion to King Agbar. Acheiropoietos – an image not made by human hands. Thaddaeus one of 70 unnamed Apostles. Luke 10; 1-20. King Agbar. 4 BC – AD 13-50. A legend tells of A King Abgar of Edessa who‟s Capital Edessa would be modern day Orfu. King Agbar was a leper and had heard of the healings of Jesus. He sent a servant to Christ to invite him to come and heal him. Christ declined saying he had been called first to the lost sheep of Israel. It is said he took a cloth and touched it to his face which gave to the servant to take back to the King. As soon as the King touched the cloth he was healed. The cloth was revered in the city until The Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus brought it to Constantinople in 944. It disappeared during the Crusader attack on the city in the 12 Century. This about the time the shroud appeared in Europe.
  24. 24. The shroud which appeared in Europe in the 12 Century underwent a carbon 14 dating test a few years ago. They came up with a 12 century date. However this has been challenged as linen is reported to be notoriously difficult to date using this method.
  25. 25. In the West we have a similar legend called Veronica‟s veil (or sudarium) which made its appearance. The name Veronica being a play on the words „Vera Icon‟ or „The true Image‟.
  26. 26. If we look at the shroud superimposed on the famous 6th Century Icon from Saint Catherine‟s in the Sinai, we can see that there is a remarkable similarity and fit. This then has become the fixed format of features for Christ till today, and is obviously part of the cannon.
  27. 27. The Icon soon became fixed according to style and subject matter. During this time the Christian Church was undergoing huge changes. By the Fourth Century and the peace of Constantine a new flowering of Christian art began. However not an adaptation of Pagan Greek and Roman art but the development of a new style, obviously with elements of the old but with a new shift best able to express the new faith. As the church grew and evolved in the faith and deepening understanding of Gods revelation in Christ the Icon reflected the dogmatic decisions of the councils. The next slide shows a Mosaic of Christ. Hagia Sophia. Constantinople. 13. c.
  28. 28. Subtle differences, but the same depiction
  29. 29. Church of S. Maria in Domnica. 817 – 24.
  30. 30. At the council of Ephesus (431) Mary was proclaimed „Theotokos‟. Which meant that she was the Mother of Jesus who is both human and divine without „confusion. We cannot separate his human nature from his divine and visa versa. The use of Theotokos was formally affirmed at the 3rd Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431. The competing view, advocated by Patriarch Nestorious of Constantinople, was that Mary should be called Christotokos, meaning "Birth-giver of Christ," to restrict her role to the mother of Christ's humanity only and not his divine nature. Nestorius' opponents, led by Cyril of Alexandria viewed this as dividing Jesus into two distinct persons, the human who was Son of Mary, and the divine who was not. To them, this was unacceptable since by destroying the perfect union of the divine and human natures in Christ, it sabotaged the fullness of the Incarnation and, by extension, the salvation of humanity. The council accepted Cyril's reasoning, affirmed the title Theotokos for Mary, and anathematised Nestorius' view as heresy.
  31. 31. More and more Icons appeared with her holding the divine infant and the letters; Mary now became the empress to denote her exalted dignity as the Mother of Jesus the King. Mary wears purple reserved only for the Emperor and Empress. In this 6th Century Icon from Saint Catherine‟s in the Sinai Mary is seated in Imperial majesty surrounded by her court – angels and Martyrs. The Icon became a dogmatic statement, a teaching tool.
  32. 32. Theotokos. The Virgin Hodigitria. She who shows the way. This slide shows a contemporary Icon in the same style and format as laid down over a thousand years ago.
  33. 33. In former times God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take his abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. St John of Damascus
  34. 34. At the last Council before the great split between the East and West church, the council stated that Holy Scripture and the Holy image are “mutually revelatory.” Thus the visible image is equivalent to the verbal image. Just as the word of scripture is an image, so is the painted image a word. No less than the written word, an Icon is an instrument for the transition of the Christian faith and tradition. Through sacred imagery the Holy Spirit speaks to us, revealing truths that may not be evident to those using only the tools of reason. Icons are an aid to worship. Wherever an Icon is set, that place becomes more easily an area of prayer. The Icon is not an end in itself anymore than the Scriptures are but it assists us in going beyond what can be seen with our physical eyes into the realm of mystical experience.
  35. 35. What brought about for me the interest in elements of Buddhist Iconography was the execution of the Christ meeting Buddha icon. Particularly Himalayan Buddhist iconography. Christian iconography has a very rich theological and historical history which made the icon what it is today. I had always had an attraction to Buddha images as I had for icons from a very early age. As images they spoke to me. I wanted to know why. As a Christian I studied Iconography but only later as I said did I begin to study or look into Buddhist iconography. And the role of religious imagery in general. This talk is not primarily an analysis or history of religious art works but about the spiritual experience that went into their creation and the spiritual role they play in our spiritual growth and experience. The Icon is an art at the service of the faith and dogma of the community of the church and not the personal expression or interpretation of an individual visual artist.
  36. 36. Now we turn to the Buddhist Thangka which I believe resembles the Christian Icon in so many ways. In his book „Sacred Buddhist Painting‟ Anjan Chakraverty has this to say about religious painting. “In Tibet, to paint is to evoke. Every painting and sculpture is an evocation. The artist is led to a state of ecstasy through yoga. He sees the image of the deities with the eyes of the spirit. Only one divinised may paint. The artist identifies himself with the supreme, the immutable the eternal...by meditation and ritual the artist projects the infinite. Thereafter the materials are gathered, the rights of purification are performed so that the artist can begin to paint. Iconometry regulates their design. The canons for various deities differ according to their aspects. Manthangpa, the great art theoretician, prescribes eight aspects: monastic (nirmana- kaya), shravakas (listeners) and pratyeka Buddhas. The treatise of Manthangpa has been standard for centuries and it has been law to artistic schools. No transgression is possible, as the Thangkas are plains of heavenly bliss, spheres of meditation to which the devotee ascends when turmoil and passion cease”. There in a nutshell gives a good idea as to what a Thangka is and its function. However like the Christian Icon there is a wealth of history and influence that have brought the Thangka to this point in time and „fined tuned it‟ making it what it is today. The traditions of Buddhist art were introduced into Tibet from the eastern parts of India and then continued by Nepalese artists. There are two schools of thought within Buddhism regarding the creation and use of images. One school say that Buddha was not in favour of images being made of himself. One theory suggests that he did not want to be venerated as a person. There are therefore no Images of Buddha until around the first century B.C.E. Up until this time the Buddha was indicated by symbols.
  37. 37. These were, The eight spoked wheel, the Bodhi tree, Buddha‟s footprints, an empty throne, a begging bowl and a lion. The most significant Buddha images, where Buddha is depicted as a human being emerged, 2000 years ago in the Kingdom of Ghandara in what today stretches over Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. This area had earlier been conquered by Alexander the great in 320 B.C and further under Demetrius 1 of Bactria in 180 B.C. In the 2nd Century the Yueh – Chih Mongolian tribes subdued Bactria. They established the Kushan nation. They traded with the Romans down the silk Road and minted their own coins.
  38. 38. 8 spoked wheel (dharmachakra) symbolises Buddha‟s turning of the wheel of the law. 8 spokes...8 noble truths. Centre represents Buddha, Dharma and Shanga. Stupa symbolises the enlightened mind, also Royal status as well as the elements...earth (base), dome (water), canopy (air), volume of stupa (space). Bhodi tree – Buddha‟s enlightenment.
  39. 39. Earliest Buddha image found on coin. Kushana dynasty 100 B.C.E In this slide we can see a Gold coin with an image og Buddha with typical attributes: Extended earlobes, Right hand raised in blessing, A halo. Around the first century A.D the Kushan king Kanishka converted to Buddhism spreading Buddhism throughout Central Asia and China. The Kushans employed Roman and Greek sculptors to produce new images of the Buddha. This style became known as the Ghandaran style and the Greek influence is quite obvious. The clinging robe. Robe also precise but stylised. Naked torso. Wavy hair. Stark frontality. Deliberately realistic.
  40. 40. Ghandara – ancient kingdom of Kushan Kings situated in N. Pakistan and East Afghanistan. Buddha images. Greek influence.
  41. 41. Good example of Ghandaran Buddha. Heavy Greek influence They copied earlier characteristics seen on coins in stone. They also depicted him in a frieze depicting the four stages of the Buddha‟s life in the 2nd Century. Now all the classic elements of the Buddha image had at last come together. From here Buddhist art further developed in the Gupta Empire around A.D 30.
  42. 42. GUPTA images 5TH Century
  43. 43. Painted Buddha. Ajanta caves. 6 – 7th Century and early Tibetan Thangka of green Tara 13th Century. Although this style developed from the previous Ghandara style a new development was the serene downcast gaze as if in meditation as well as „the wet‟ look treatment of robes. It was in the Ajanta caves begun in the 2nd Century A.D that we come across wall paintings which we can see are the direct ancestors of the Mahayana Himalayan Thangka.
  44. 44. Thangka painting originated in Nepal, where it is said to have begun began in the 11th Century, and was introduced into Tibet
  45. 45. Thangkas were convenient for travel and missionary expeditions, as they could be easily rolled up and transported. The art of Thangka painting can also be applied to walls as well as manuscript covers and other small devotional objects. The earliest Tibetan texts on Iconography date back to the fifteenth century. A Thangka is defined as an embroidered banner which was hung in the Monastery or the family altar and carried by Lamas in ceremonial processions.
  46. 46. By this time a complex visual language had grown for the Buddha image and other deities. The complex pantheon of Tibetan Buddhism is hard define or classify.
  47. 47. Tibetan Buddhism adopted Tantric Buddhism with its vast and complicated system of Deities, rituals, and symbolism. As well as the Tibetan Vajrayana deities there are more than 500 deities of Tibetan conception. We will stick to Thangkas of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni as they will best illustrate our subject
  48. 48. Apart from the Indian influence on Thangka painting, the painting traditions of Nepal, China, Khotan and Persia all played a part in the creating of a national style. These styles are further influenced by differences within differing geographic areas in the Himalayan region. As we noted concerning The Christian Icon the Tibetan Thangka are a focus for meditation and prayer. They are meant to serve as a record of, and guide for contemplative experience. For example a teacher might instruct his pupil to imagine/visualise himself as a particular deity in a specific setting. The Thangka would be used as a reference for the details of posture, attitude, colour, clothing. Etc. They convey iconographic information in a pictorial manner.
  49. 49. The next slide shows a contemporary Thangka painting. Buddha Shakyamuni. Late 20th Century The image of the Buddha, who was called the greatest yogin of all times, expresses tranquillity. The harmony of his physical proportions are meant to convey this harmony and physical beauty. The required measurements are laid down in the cannon (or standard pattern) of Buddhist art. The span, according to Buddhist artists is the ideal for physical proportions.
  50. 50. What follows is a Shakyamuni Buddha accompanied by Christ pantocrator enthroned with Saint Veronica and Saint Theodore. Everything, the spot between Buddha‟s eyebrows, marking the eye of wisdom, as well as the tip of the nose, has its own special place. The nose has a specific length just as the ears have their own exaggerated length. The symbol of the Buddhas greatest enlightenment is the so called „enlightenment elevation‟ (Ushnisha) on top of the head. It represents the visible symbol of the spiritual generative power that strives towards heaven. The cononic prototype of the Buddha shows him seated with his legs crossed and the soles of his feet visible. A pupil learning to paint will have to practise drawing for at least three years before he picks up a brush. As in Christianity certain images were venerated as possessing miraculous powers.
  51. 51. 18 century icon of the prophet Elijah being fed by ravens at the wadi Cherith. And Milarepa, Tibets most famous yogi. Both depictions have similar ways of portraying the wilderness or cave.
  52. 52. Following: Kalachakra. Considered as a device that shows the path away from life to Nirvana. Based on the ancient Tibetan ideology it tells you the method to reach the nirvana. It is considered a meditational device. It is used for the positive energy and happiness in the house. Kalachakra can be explained from the above picture of the kalachakra mandala, working towards the centre. The fire line is the present life - where we suffering pain,sorrow and grief. We cross the line and reach the moment when we die. Then we reach to a time where there is complete darkness. After this we come across a door of Om Mane Padme Hum. After this we come across an ocean where we need to immerse ourself and clear our sins and clear our minds and thoughts. We reach to a castle where there are four doors with four different colours. Each colors represent specific quality of person. if you have a peaceful and cleared mind then you enter from the white gate. if you have a meditative mind then you enter from the yellow gate. if you have graceful mind then you enter through red gate. And if you still have dark mind then you enter from the black door. After this there are 14 different rooms in the castle representing 14 different steps to reach nirvana. And when you complete all the different steps then you reach to the center to nirvana.
  53. 53. Role of monasticism in both the art of Christianity and Buddhism.
  54. 54. Buddha Statue at Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka 11 Century. Trappist monk Thomas Merton, overwhelmed by this art: “ I don’t know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination”.
  55. 55. A „take away‟ thought that you may start out with when contemplating the Buddha and Christ icon in your own time: When Christ and the Buddha meet, there is no need for them to speak. In the face of God there is nothing to say, but allowing God to be. In the icon they are silent but touch and embrace. And indeed, according to Nobel Peace Prize nominee Tich Nhat Hanh, who sees the Buddha and Christ as brothers: “Not only have they met today, but they met yesterday, they met last night, and they will meet tomorrow…..Their meeting is the hope for the world. The Buddha and Jesus have to meet every moment in each of us”.
  • haloandnoose

    May. 21, 2013

A talk on religious icons by Richard Maidwell, assissted by Graham Williams

Views

Total views

1,356

On Slideshare

0

From embeds

0

Number of embeds

2

Actions

Downloads

15

Shares

0

Comments

0

Likes

1

×