Image of Buddha with attendants

c. 4th century CE
Gray schist
Overall: 8 1/4 x 9 1/4 x 2 in. (20.955 x 23.495 x 5.08 cm)
Arts of Asia
Not On View
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

This gray schist relief from the Kushan period in Gandhara shows Budda Shakyamuni engaged in his daily activity of giving his teachings to disciples and ordinary people. He stands with his robe slightly gathered up, its corner held in his upraised left hand. This representation of the Buddha is very common in Indian Buddhist art. With this posture, the Buddha arises from meditation and goes forth in to the world to bestow spiritual vows and teachings. In the present day throughout the Buddhist world, monks still stand holding their robes in this manner for ritual purposes, when they act on behalf of the Buddha to administer vows and precepts.

This stone panel would been one of many originally carved and set into the wall of a stupa or shrine. In this tableau, the Buddha interacts with several people. A woman and two children are to his right, and a youth to his left. the The woman and the youth seem to be holding agricultural implements, indicating that they are farmers, and the two children approach in a prayerful manner. The Buddha holds an alms bowl in his right hand and receives alms from this family. In Buddhist culture, the educated, pious monk serves the lay community by giving teachings and by providing an opportunity for the layperson to acquire merit by giving alms to an authentic spiritual master. Merit is seen as the basis for success on the spiritual path and for happiness in this and future lifetimes.

Excerpt from

Robert Warren Clark, "Buddha receiving alms," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 47.